5 Outdated Beliefs That Are Hurting Your Business

Take your time.  Read through the list and see if you had or still have any of these beliefs.  No shame in being honest, all of us have probably had at least one one of the listed items pass through our minds as we begun to conduct and operate our business.   So much has changed over the course of a few years and over various industries that we cannot continue to hold onto outdated beliefs, especially as business owners.  Everything goes through cycles, phases and re-boots.  Holding onto what we think is right is because it’s what we’ve known all long is the equivalent to throwing money away.  And no one I know is in the business of doing that.

OutDated

  1. Your customers can and will find you — The Great Recession (I love still calling it that) turned many people into obligated self-employed persons.  People started their own businesses because they had to in order to continue to earn a living.  Skipping over the personal metrics of what that all means — you are not the only person doing what you’re doing or offering what you’re offering.  I don’t care how well your website was designed, how quick you launched the business or how much money you invested.  You don’t exist until you let people know you’re in business.  Which means, you have to find your customer, not the other way around.  Ideas: marketing — traditional and online, networking, community partnerships and word of mouth.
  2. There is no “free” money out there for small business owners  – It seems like it’s no money out there, but there is.  A lot of the times, it’ll be in the form of a contest, and other times it can be a private grant.  Either way, if you want to raise money that you’ll never have to pay back again, just be willing to put in the time.  I probably shouldn’t say this, but I suggest staying away from the SBA and Grants.gov.  Most business owners aren’t professional grant writers, cannot afford a grant writer, don’t have the time and energy to read through the mess they call eligibility requirements and will not meet the guidelines imposed to receive the government funding available.
  3. The customer is ALWAYS right — If the customer is always right, then why are they coming to you?  No, seriously, think about it.  If the customer had all the answers and knew where to find all the resources, why are they knocking on your door?  This is not said to inflate our own egos, but just to help put things into perspective when we’re questioned by a customer or client about our capability and knowledge.  We never want to approach them defensively, but with a bit of enlightenment.  A reminder, so to speak, that we can do what we do because of how long we’ve been doing it, how trained we are at doing what we do and what we know about what we’re doing.
  4. If it worked then, it will work now  — Nope, nope, never.  The problem with this belief should be obvious, but maybe it isn’t.  If you haven’t heard it before, let me share it with you now:  The only constant in business  is change.  Your customers will change, your prices will change, your hours of operation will change, your employees will change and yes, how you do and conduct business will change because the economy and market are always changing.  Don’t believe me?  Fine, don’t change.   Come find me in six months to a year’s time.
  5. Working smart outperforms working hard — Uh, no.  You can work smart, but you still have to work hard.  There’s no way around that.   And we’ve all heard it before: Work smart, not hard!  Let’s be honest, someone had to work hard to come up with that, so what does that tell you?  There really is no substitute for working hard and working smart just means you’ve taken all that hard work and created a system for it.   That’s truly what it is.  Yes, many of us have been working hard only to spin our wheels and get nowhere.  So how do we avoid that trap?  Direction.  Work hard towards something, not just for the sake of working hard.

It’s easy to hold onto what we know and what we believed was working for us when there’s so much new untested crap being thrown our way.  However, we have to be wise and responsive enough to separate what sticks and what sticks to the fan.  The times are always changing.  We need to make we adjust, set sail and flow with it.

Social Media Isn’t Your Problem

Social media isn’t your problem.  You think it’s your problem, but it really isn’t.  If someone sat you down and showed you how to set of a few platforms, upload videos and photos, schedule posts, ask for likes and comments, and return the favor, you could do it.  It is much simpler than what business owners imagine it to be.  Granted, it does require a little finesse, above average writing skills and time –obviously — but, social media isn’t your problem.  Knowing how to engage with social media… that’s your problem.

Be honest, how many of us thought that just setting up a Twitter account and a Facebook account was going to be enough for our business?  We thought if we had one or two pictures, the business contact info and a little somethin’-somethin’ about the business, people would visit and magically all on their own, convert themselves from visitors to customers.  How well did that work out for us?

First off, “enough” is the word we never want to use in business.  Businesses that are doing just enough are going out of business.  So, let’s unwrap our heads around this idea of “enough”.  Secondly, treat social media like a person.  A person who we are conversing with — well, in person.  Aside from the spam bots, there are people out there behind those profiles, likes and comments.  Talk to them as if they were sitting right across the way.  Social media and online marketing are such a staple in conversations for businesses that I feel like I’m beating a dead horse when I bring it up.  But so many business owners — home kitchen chefs, garage engineers, bathroom mixers, attic artists, and back yard scientists — are not even giving their ideas and businesses a chance because they’re failing to use social media the right way.

LinkedIn — Don’t just accept or extend an invitation to connect.  Communicate.  Yeah, we may have over 500 connections, but if you don’t message, endorse or share worthwhile information, then those 500 plus connections are meaningless.

Google + — Yeah, many of us have added someone or something to a circle, but what does that mean?   What makes that circle and those group of people special or relevant?  Get personal and personalize.  Not everyone wants the same thing even if it’s from the same company.

Twitter — Just about everyone and their mama has a Twitter account.  But it sucks when people start un-following us and we have no idea why.  Maybe you’re not conversing enough or at all!  Twitter is all about the conversation.  So get to talking.  Ask questions, answer questions, search what your customers are looking for and share — again — useful info.

Facebook — The Godfather of social media, right?  If that’s case, then this is the social media we should be crafty with.  Visually.  If we don’t know exactly what to share on Facebook, log on into our personal account and see what our friends are sharing and reading.  Then see what their friends are sharing and reading.  We’ll find memes, photos and videos dominate Facebook.  So, get visual but remain informative.

Social media isn’t the problem, it’s all about how well we use it for our business.  If you took the time to build the business, take time to market the business.

You And Your Crew

I’ve had the pleasure — even displeasure, if we wanna keep it real — of working for a number of small companies; small business owners.  And I’ve taken every lesson I’ve learned from each employer into my own business.  I’ve watched them studiously as they conducted business, formed relationships and grew — and I’ve retained as much as could about all they were doing right and much of what they’re were doing wrong.   And it seems like whenever employees are introduced into a growing established company, problems arise.  In other words, people make things crazier —who knew!  But the important takeaways that I gathered about owners and their employees were:

  • Hire people who have the potential to grow as your company grows and not just someone looking to fill the position.  Hell, with the right training, anybody can do a job.  That’s how most people got to the jobs they have now — by being trained, or taught or schooled, or whatever you want to call it.  But ambition to grow — that’s not something you can teach, that’s inherently in select individuals.  Hire those folks.
  • Keep your word.  I remember a company I use to work for; we were a staff of 14 people including the owner of the company.  For some reason, we were  unable to have our annual holiday party in December, so the owner decided to move it to January and call it an “Employee Appreciation Dinner”.  The date was set for the middle of January.  Well, when  January came and gone, we started to passive-aggressively joke about how little we were appreciated because there was no mention of the dinner anymore.  Although it was just a dinner, people became a little resentful of the fact they were promised something and it wasn’t delivered. Deliver or don’t promise, but you can’t do both.
  •  Know what the gossip’s about.  I don’t care how small a company is, there’s always  gossip.  And 9 times out of 10, it’ll be about you, the owner.  So as they owner, know what’s floating around the office.  Check in with each employee on a regular basis.  Create an atmosphere in which your employees can feel comfortable with approaching you with what they need to make your business better.  You might even find that the open-door policy reduces the noise of gossip.
  • Say what you mean.  No one’s a mind reader. I don’t believe mind readers are mind readers.  And neither are your employees.  Don’t have them guess what you’re thinking or try to figure it out.  If you don’t know what you mean, they don’t know.  And don’t punish them for not knowing.  That’s so dumb.
  • Be the first with a greeting.  I know it sounds trivial, but you’ll be surprised how sensitive people are in the work place.  Not receiving a hello from their boss in the morning can start the day off all wrong.  Listen, I said nothing about being buddy-buddy.  I said say, ‘hello’, ‘good morning’, ‘good evening’ or whatever the time of day calls for.  This goes along with acknowledging your employees.  You may not be saying ‘job well done’, but a ‘hello’ can simply translate into ‘hi, thanks for coming in today and giving me your time today’.

Listen — the people that work for you are your crew.  They’re there building your dream.  They don’t have to be there.  They could be working for someone else who doesn’t mind showing them a little appreciation.  You have a relationship with your employees, no matter how badly you’ve neglected it.  And just like any relationship, it’s about the little things.

Lucky In Business

Are you lucky in business? Or just very business savvy?

Is there such a thing as ‘luck’ when it comes to business?

Or just good common business sense?

How does one get lucky — how do we find it, attain it, created it, produce it, harvest it?

How does one get lucky in business?

If most businesses fail, how do we beat the statistics?

If all businesses struggle, how can we thrive?

How can we get lucky in business?

Lucky In Business

If Luck was attainable, there be no need for effort —

for strong will, or patience, or hard work, or determination

You could delegate everything to Luck and watch Luck go

But Luck wouldn’t work

Luck wouldn’t use a business plan or a financial forecast

or a marketing strategy

It wouldn’t try, it wouldn’t plan, it wouldn’t pith or raise

Luck would just wait — for a chance to be to lucky

It wouldn’t care about time or available resources

it wouldn’t care about savings or needed capital

Luck would just wait for — Luck

But if Luck ran a business, Luck would run out

Luck didn’t plan, or try, or pitch

It didn’t manage, or recruit or build

Luck just rested on the idea of lucky

And there’s no such thing as being lucky in business

 

Profiling

Everyone knows not to add or follow the “egg” accounts on Twitter.  Those are the people –or things, who knows –who seem to spam others with links, dirty photos, fake notices and crap.   And we all know not to open emails from people and companies we’ve never heard of or didn’t sign up for.  Another “no-no” — creating empty or skeleton profiles to start off your social media and online presence for your company.

twitter-white-icon

Would you build a store — for profit — and never open the doors?  No?  Exactly!  What would be the point?  The same concept is applied to those who think that just creating an online social media account is good enough.  They say to themselves, they’ll come back to it later and update it.  But days turn into months and they still have that egg picture account on Twitter –wondering why no one’s following them.  In business, it’s said, if people don’t know you’re there, you don’t exist.  It doesn’t matter how evolutionary your products are or how ground-breaking your service is, if people don’t know it’s there, it doesn’t exist.  If you social profiles are empty — you’ve written or added nothing there — you don’t exist.

People like to Google — EVERYTHING.  If you’re networking and you happen to bring up you have your own little boutique business and you do this and that, people are going to search for you on the internet.  It doesn’t matter if you gave them a business card or not, people are going to want to find out as much about you as they can.  And the more they can learn, the better they feel about you and your company.  But, if in their search, they stumble upon half-filled and empty profiles you’ve set up but never completed, they’re going wonder.  Wonder about the legitimacy of your business (yes, for real! because every business should have a carefully placed social media presence) and about your work style.  If you can’t complete something for yourself, how are you going to complete something for a colleague or a client?

But people do this all the time.  The hear of a new social site, join it — reading very little about it — create a profile with a little information and that’s it.   Really.  They give 30 seconds because they think that’s all it takes rather than spend the seven minutes to make their profile something worth exploring.  Some may say, ‘who cares, it’s just a profile’Your company cares.  Your company needs to be found and do business and make money.  Every business, even non-profits and religious organizations — are businesses and their goals are to make money (that might sound sacrilegious to some, but it’s the truth.  Think of the collection plates and “building funds“).

It doesn’t take a whole lot to make a nice and searchable profile, but you gotta put more in it.  Company name, logo/ photo — give an image to the name, something about the company or yourself  — why did you start your business and what is it’s primary mission– it’s general  location, ways to contact the business.  Definitely include a website or blog site link.  Give people a reason to touch base with you.  Get out of the habit of half doing things, even social media accounts.  They matter because they reflect your image and brand.  And if you think that doesn’t matter — you’re not in business.

{photo credit: http://www.iconarchive.com}

3 Of The Worst Words Used In Business

JOB

CAN’T

MONEY

These by far are the worst words use by people in business and yet, they use them everyday.   And then they have the audacity to wonder why they’re stressed out about the economy, worried about their businesses or continuously contemplate going back to work for someone else.  It’s because they haven’t eliminated these three words from their vocabulary.  At the very least, reduced how often they used these words.

Job is probably the worst word on the list (hence, why it’s at the top).  Nobody likes their job. I’ve never heard  the word “job” used in a positive light unless it pertained to someone getting a better job (in which they’ll soon learn to hate) or they just got a job after being out of work for so long.  Those that do like their jobs, don’t think of it as a job, but part of their careers.  Their minds are set on building careers, not job-hopping.  Now, why as business owners would we care about jobs?  We’re self-employed.  We left our 9 to 5 jobs for something we believed was better.  But we’ll be — if we’re not already there — in a position to offer jobs; put people to work.  With all the hard work and sacrifices we’ve made to get our businesses up and running, do we really want to give someone a job in our company knowing there’s a high chance they’ll hate working for us or the company because it’s just  a job to them?  Skills gets someone a job, while talent creates careers.  Focus on recruiting talent.

Can’t.  Such a crippling word.  If we had a dollar for how many times we said “can’t” we wouldn’t need to be in business for ourselves.  But you don’t make money from can’ts.  There’s a lot of things we CAN’T do because we’ve already told ourselves we can’t.  But, what it we could?  What if we replaced “can’t” with “why haven’t we?” How many external “can’ts” have we’ve heard and endured?

  • You can’t start a business without money
  • You can’t go into business without education
  • You can’t be successful without being mean
  • You can’t trust people once you’re in business
  • You can’t rely on everyone to support your business

Which of these can’t have we’ve already disproved?  Can’t.  A useless word.   Anything that doesn’t offer value needs to be removed.

Money.  This is a frequently used bad word for all the wrong but common reasons.  I even used it when talking about “can’t”.  And that’s how bad “money” is.  It always creeps up.  Whether you’re talking about it with your bookkeeper, banker, investor, spouse or thinking it to yourself, money always creeps in.  Why?  There never seems to be enough of it.  Money goes out more than in comes in.  That creates bouts of worry.  Will we have enough money to make it to the next quarter?  Is there enough money to keep the business open?  Where is the money going to come from to pay this month’s notes and bills?  Money, money, money!  What we need to learn to do is focus more on resources than money.  We already know money comes and money goes, but resources, we can stockpile (oh, yeah, we can!).   There are a number of free and quality resources out there to help us better our businesses with little to no money.  We just have to know — or know someone who knows — where to look.  Money is a tool, not a force.

Just three little words and yet, behind them, they hold so much power that they create emotional stress, uncertain and doubt.  Are you going to let three little words doom your business or make a fool out of three little words?

 

 

The Good With The Bad

I’ve had the opportunity during my employment experience to work for half dozen small business owners or so– graphic designer, loan modification agents, caterer, writers/authors, financial adviser, real estate agents.  That’s partly how I created Intel Boutique, through my service with them, I started seeing the needs of business owners in a whole new light.   But not all my experiences were positive and rewarding.  Some of them were a warning of who not to do business with and how not to manage my business in the future.  And because my goal had been to go into business for myself, I kept my eyes peeled all the time, observing as much as I could and learning my lessons vicariously through them.  And boy, oh, boy — there are some lesson I’ll never forget.  But just as in life, you gotta take the good with the bad and even with the ugly.

Loan Modifications – I didn’t know how off centered this entire operation was until I was a month deep into it and those who had been there longer started revealing all the you-know-what that had hit the fan.  Needless to say, I was there for 3 months and was happy to say good-bye.  What I took with me:

  • Never EVER make a client feel your absence.  I don’t care if it’s some kind of ploy or tactic, it’s just bad practice.  And it makes the client feel uneasy, especially when you’re handling their personal financial records.  And anytime a client feels that uneasy, they bring in a lawyer to make you feel that uneasy too.
  • Don’t change the rules/policies with your employees every 2-3 weeks.  It’s ridiculous and it’s unprofessional.  If something needs to be changed give them ample warning and reasons as to why you’re shifting gears.  Bring them into the process rather than keep them from it.
  • No micro-managing…EVER.  If you can’t trust your staff to do their job, then you shouldn’t have hired them.  Make the competent so you feel assured in their work.

Writer/Author– Such creative spirits to be around.  But creativity doesn’t substitute for business sense or time management.  What I learned:

  • Always agree upon working schedule in advance — depending on works best for you and them .  If they always need reminders the day of — it becomes more of a burden and not worth your efforts.  Time is money, on both ends.
  • Do not work outside the scope of which you were hired.  You’ll be doing multiple jobs and getting one check.  If they wanted you to handle more, then they need to compensate you adequately.
  • Agree on a productive working environment condusive for success.  Yes, you’re there to do a job, but you’re also there to do the best damn job possible.  Keep your interest in mind too.

Financial Adviser – Talking about multi-tasking, this guy did it all from financial services, to managing commercial retail property in another state and to being health agent broker.  I’m a firm believer in creating multiple income streams, so I don’t knock him there, but without help, he almost always seemed lost.  What I saw wrong:

  • Don’t let your staff create the systems you run your business with.  When they go, so could those systems.
  • You may not have the best memory, so take good notes. Keep track and follow up.
  • Train all staff to do all tasks, or assigned specific tasks to specific staff members,  Giving unfamiliar duties to staff members will lead to errors.   Make it so that their jobs can run smoothly and that your business can run smoother.

You’ll find that in most of your work, whether it be for someone else or yourself, there are more lessons than there is actual work.  Look for the lesson and see if that improves you work at all.  You might just find a golden opportunity to be your own boss, too.