5 Tactics to get your business train movin’ on the tracks

train-781000_1920When you are building and running your own business and you have no staff to delegate to, it can feel a bit overwhelming at times. I don't think I am alone in this. I mean I can't be that unique an remarkable that I am the only one who still, after almost a decade as a solopreneur / entrepreneur, struggles with the plight of too much to do and not enough time to do it in. Or the underwhelm of boredom (yes, some tasks just bore me to tears). True, I have three companies, but I can coast one or two for a few days and still not miss a beat (thanks to the tools I use). But every once in a while it's as if I experience a train car pileup and I need to get the trains back on the track and moving forward.

You gotta' shovel the coal to keep the steam engine running. But yet, there are times when there seems to be to much to do or no enthusiasm to do it. What happens to me in those instances is that the feeling of drudgery sets in and motivation is, well, nowhere to be found. But you still have a business to conduct. It's not like there is a staff to take over while you are on a “mental break”. You need to keep things going forward right?

vias-784139_1280In business you never know “the” breakaway moment until it has already happened and for a sustainable business you need forward momentum.  Forward momentum is critical to company growth. It doesn't have to be fast, it can be slow and steady at times, just as long as you are moving forward. So what can you do in those times where you just feel like you have a list that can never be completed or you are just flat out bored with the tasks? How do you get things back on track and moving forward?

Here are five tactics I employ when I get in this predicament. I hope they will help you as well!

  1. Work on what matters the most at the time and make every effort to get that off of your list before you take on the next task. Some days, if all you could do is get one task done but it was completed and done very well, there is a great relief.
  2. Create a written list and rank order the tasks. Check off the task once it is done. I mean literally physically write it down with pieces of paper and a pen. There is a feeling of true satisfaction and a reward for getting it done and actually crossing it off the list.
  3. Organize the workspace. Either the digital one of the physical one. I find if I am feeling overwhelmed, chances are something around my work has gotten out of order or has gone to ciaos. I have a specific file folder on my computer, it's like my junk drawer. So I usually need to go in and delete or move files to their permanent location. I always feel better after purging and cleaning my disk space.
  4. Unless someone's life hangs in the balance,. don't be afraid to walk away for a few hours and do something completely different. Something you don't normally get the chance to do. Don't worry, what you need to get done will still be here when you get back, but you will be able to approach it with a fresh perspective.
  5. Create a game. I have played several games. One of my favorite ones I have task cards and I have organized my days around them when things get really backed up. I delegate a set amount of time (usually an hour)and sprint through as far as I can go then I move on to the next task card. This frees me up for having to “think” about it, I just Do It. Action creates a momentum of its own and before I know it, the day is done and I have hit on all of my priorities.

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When is the right time to start Branding You?

timebrandinguIn my book, the sooner you get in touch with your brand the better. Notice I said “get in touch with your brand”?! That was not a typo. You already have a “brand”. You have had one for some time, long before you ever thought of making a business for yourself. In fact, everyone you know has one they just don't realize it. Once you realize yours, you can use it to your advantage as you begin to build.

After all, what goes into a brand? A brand is the artful combination of words symbols and signs that transmit (or reinforce) the customer or consumers perception of a product or a service. The value and the quality of the goods or services become closely aligned through reputation to the point that the consumer or customer may build a deep attachment and an unflappable loyalty to the company behind it. That connection is the ultimate driving goal for anyone in marketing or sales efforts. It usually means you have done really well at establishing brand loyalty. When you are getting started in your business, chances are you are wanting to be financially successful. In order to do that, you need to get noticed and what gets you noticed is your unique brand.

So if you translate brand to look at what a personal brand would be, you could say it is your image, your speech, your inflection, your associations, your behaviors and the combination of them that transmits who you are as an individual to the world around you. It lets others know if you would have any common interests or values, if you share enough to build a bridge to really connect with them. brandurockstarThink about the last time you went to a concert or a large outdoor festival. Remember back to all of the people there. Did you notice how much you had in common? How many were dressed alike? How everyone could sing along with every song as if it were their own. How similar people were (even though they were individuals). How “At Home” you felt in a massive crowd of strangers. That is Brand Affinity in action, or should I say “Band” Affinity!

Imagine harnessing that for yourself as you build a sustainable business. That is why so many smart business‘ work on the brand from day one and carefully nurture it in every action. It does mean that you pay very careful attention to what you say and do. It is the colors they choose, the image or icon, the font they select, the website look and “feel” (layout and navigation), in every piece of content from the smallest of tweets and meme's to the content rich blogs and website. It is reinforced in every bit of the product or service they provide.

So when do you think you should start branding yourself?  The sooner you start the process of aligning with your customers the sooner you can build a sustainable business. I coach my customers to set a solid foundation and we weave the brand with the product and/or service. The result is a more cohesive presentation to potential customers. So the real question you should be asking yourself is when do you want to start building? That's when you start branding.

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Build your business on bedrock not sand

3500 to 2500 BC, the Megalithic Temples of Malta
3500 to 2500 BC, the Megalithic Temples of Malta

I place a great deal of emphasis on foundations in building a business. It's equally important for those just starting out as those already in business and maybe looking to rebuild. Personally, I know I function better if I have the basics in place and I know I am not alone. And yet, so many people go rushing out full tilt and they haven't taken the time to consider the basics. There are even those, with good intention, who would council others to just start taking action. Just jump in and start acting without too much strategy. In the long run, this is a disservice.

I get why they would encourage this. We all like to see results and the philosophy is that a person could get some fast action which would encourage the new business builder to stick with it longer if they get some fast “wins”. Who wouldn't like to get some fast wins. Heck we are all in it to win, so fast slow or anything in between are wins. But fast wins are short lived and eventually that mistake can catch up with you, but not until it has cost you dearly.

The allure of the fast win is that it can seem easy but if things get tough, and they always do, you might give up. That would be tragic. So why not avoid the hazards of playing fast and loose and invest in a little extra effort up front to make sure you build on a solid foundation. Then nothing can shake you. The rafters may quiver in the storms but the foundation will keep you standing.

So what are the foundation cornerstones you need to have for your sustainable business?

  • An unshakable vision of where you want to take your business because without it you are aiming at everything and anything.
  • You need to have a solid understanding of who you are and what you are about as a person as it relates to your business vision so that you are grounded.
  • What your purpose is and who you serve in business so you can align your actions appropriately.
  • Lastly, you need to have a plan to get you to where your vision is. It doesn't have to be a “set in stone” plan. But it should be solid enough to build on.

sand-867567_1920Sand castles and sculptures are pretty cool to look at, but they don't last. You can't build very big on shifting sands so if you want to go large and sustain your growth in business then take your time to set your foundation on rock.

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Are you selling yourself short? You may be killing your business & brand

SalesKillingAre you selling yourself short? Stop it! You may be killing your brand.

Do not read this if you are a discount dealer and your desire is for fast cash at any cost. If you are looking to build a solid sustainable business, then this is for you!

You may or may not know that I have a couple of consumer product companies that I own and operate. Every year, like clockwork, I start seeing the alerts from advertisers and promoters telling product producers to hurry up and get on the super sales train. They come several times a year and they come on strong during one particular time of year. Every year I let that train pass me by.  But why would I do that when it seems like everyone else is doing it. Am I doing the “right thing”? Yes, for me, and let me tell you why I know this. I hope that it can help you answer the question for your own business.

The right thing is situational and it all depends on a great deal of questions you need to answer for yourself. It also depends on the industry. But perhaps the most important question it depends on is; who are the customers you want to attract and serve.  If you have been in my community then you already have worked out who you serve, you know who you are, and you know your uniqueness in the business world.

For consumer products, I can see where this is very tempting and even necessary at times. If they have over manufactured or the products have a self life, they need to move the inventory. With technology, they usually need to make way for the newer technical gadgetry. No one ever wants the phone from 2 to 3 years ago. So consumers and innovation are behind that. For the person selling, it means they are forced to cut into their profits and even suffer a loss.  For consumable products, it is a way to move stock with a shelf life and the “Sell By” date is approaching fast or the labels are off a bit (it happens).

There is an actual grocery store chain that opened up in my state that has the short shelf life as their core business. So you know when you go there, they are the cheapest. In the cyber world, there are several large brand “eTailers” that built their empires based on offering the lowest retail prices for products to the consumer.

As a consumer, I love a good deal and I love saving money when I can. As a consumer, I'll shop bargains so will anyone I know and we will tell others where the cheap deals are. The consumer mindset is “We all work hard for our money and we want to stretch it as far as we can”. As a consumer, I need to feel that the value of what I receive is greater than the money I am spending.

Let's look at this from an elevated vantage point. For a business owner, you need customers. Once you have your customers you want to keep them since it is easier to sell to someone who has already purchased from you. Those who buy from you once, stand a better chance of buying from you again.To gain and secure loyal customers you need to asure them of three key things.

In my lifetime as an entrepreneur and the corporate careers I have held, I have  been directly or indirectly involved in sales and marketing. Suffice it to say that I have a fair number of years in the arena. I can tell you from my personal experience that these three facts have never changed

1) People do not buy products or services. They buy solutions

2) Loyalty is given to those who earn it.

3) The consumers perception of value drives their decisions.   

No matter what your business is (product or service) or the model you operate under (you own it or are in a home business). You are not selling your time, your knowledge, your product, you are selling the VALUE of the result you can deliver for them. This is what they are paying for and value is perception! I rarely if ever run sales or discounts. It's not that I am cheap or miserly, in fact I can be generous to a fault. The reason I never run seasonal slashing sales is because of the value of what I create and my desire to protect my customers perception of that value.

I will find other ways to reward or gift my loyal customers and clients to let them know how much they mean to me. My prices are fair and the quality of what I deliver is very high so my customers and clients know they are receiving a high value return for their investment. You won't find my products or services 50% off. You won't see sales sheets where I pump up and inflate only to offer things at super low bargain basement price. I do love to “bundle' though and this is where I usually give the discounts, but they are discounts in exchange for a deeper or more expansive relationship with my customers.

I had read somewhere, long ago, that high prices reassure the consumer that you are the best and buying the best feels great for the consumer. There is also the fact that those who are more invested (willing to pay more) tend to drive more results (loyalty and future purchases) and are more responsive and engaged (customer feedback and participation). Think about yourself and how you would be if you purchased a Bentley vs a Pinto.

Who do you want to work with?

There is nothing wrong with bargain hunters and bargain business, just know that their loyalty is based on how “cheaply” they can get what they are looking for.  The solution can come from anyone (any brand will do), their loyal to the lowest bidder, and the value is how much money they can keep in their pockets

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If You Can’t You Won’t

WordsPowerGet rid of this one word if you want to be wildly successful.

So why do I pay so much attention to words. Because words do have power. They have the power to build and the power to destroy. You know this. Have you ever paid someone a compliment and watched their face light up? Why do you think this happened? It's because they heard the words you chose to send them and they believed you. Your positive words of encouragement created a warm feeling in the receiver and that warm feeling built their self confidence. Just as easy as it was for you to build up a person with your words, you can take them down. We have all felt the stinging blow of being insulted or ridiculed by other peoples words.

Words define you and guide you whether you are aware of them or not. They play in your subconscious all the time. But the most important words, more than any that come at you from others, are the ones you tell yourself. The words you tell yourself cannot be escaped. In fact the words you tell yourself are constantly reinforced by you.  They  be so pervasive that they sneak in during times you least expect them. I have often caught old negative words invading my mind when I am still and in meditation. Of course, when I catch them I immediately cancel and replace*. The thing is, these words you are constantly reinforcing and telling yourself are the ones that shape your core beliefs.

It's very hard to soar to the highest heights when you keep anchoring yourself with debilitating words.

As a coach and mentor, I rely heavily on my skills to listen and observe my clients,  then to use that information to help guide them to greater achievement.  I work with people who have a good idea where they want to go but need to “fine tune” to get there. One of the things I watch for and listen for in all of my conversations is the natural speech.  The words you choose are so telling that you can predict future results based on the context and content of the words you choose. Cannot Do It

The word that gets my proverbial goat more than any other out there is the word “Cannot” and it's contraction “Can't”. Maybe there is a time where the word  ‘can't' is legitimate, but I honestly can't think of one. From what I have heard, the word is over used and often times it is used to create a deeper resistance to taking action. Whenever I have probed deeper with my clients that have chosen to use this word with me, they were using it as an excuse or a smoke screen to hide a deeper fear or uncertainty. But what they were doing to themselves in the process was killing their chances to be successful.

You tell yourself you can't do this or that and I can almost guarantee you will never get ahead. You will never rise to your full potential. The word ‘can't' becomes your mantra and you are frozen from taking action. The words you tell yourself shape your beliefs and your beliefs cause actions so it only stands to reason if you have told yourself you cannot achieve, then how could you ever get ahead?

Don't believe me? Then ask any successful entrepreneur with staying power what they think of this word. I am willing to bet you will hear the same from all of us, it's just not a word we use. When successful entrepreneurs run into a challenge, we look for a solution. not an excuse.

When you catch yourself saying “Can't” simply acknowledge and change it. I will literally mutter the words “cancel that” and follow that with a positive phrase. For example; I may say “I can't do a video” but I would rapidly replace it with “I need to practice what I want to say and record it.” Everyone can do a video. All you need is a smart phone, your computer,  or a camera. The real issue is overcoming our fears to do one and the best way to do that is to practice. Eliminate the word cannot and the contraction can't and replace it with positive action phrases. It may take a great deal of conscious effort in the beginning but if you keep at it, eventually you will eliminate it from your vocabulary and you will stop programming your subconscious with the negative influence.

Soon you will discover the truth, you can do anything you set your mind to do and believe you can do.

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