Tuesday, August 27, 2013

6 Tips to Help You Set and Reach Your Goals!

"Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing." --Theodore Roosevelt

I have been lucky to find work that I really believe is “worth doing”.  I find great fulfillment in knowing I am truly helping others and work diligently to make sure the information I provide is of high quality.

To that end, every year I look at what I am doing, personally and professionally, with a fresh perspective.  I decide what I am happy with and what I need to change.  It is then that I list my goals for the coming year.

While most people practice this reflection at the start of a new year, I choose differently.

For me, the start of a new school year and new beginnings go hand in hand.

This began when my children were younger.  I started my business when my two children were 9 and 10.  Their summer vacation was my own “down time”.

While I didn’t take the whole summer off, I did scale back.  Work for clients did not lessen, but extras like developing new marketing strategies or networking meetings were put on hold.

However, when summer break was over, it was time for all of us to “get back to work”.  Despite no longer having children heading back into the classroom, this time of year still feels that way to me. 

To make that transition, at the end of every August, I write a new list of goals.  This list keeps me on track and helps chart my progress.

When forming my list, I follow these 6 Tips.  These steps continue to help me, and I think they will also be valuable to you.

Think Big- Set your own bar high and reach for what you truly want.

Visualize - Picture yourself in 1 month, 1 year, 5 years from now.  Where do you want to be?  Now decide how to get there.

Be Specific - The more precise your goal, the more likely you are to achieve it.  For example, instead of listing “get new business cards” as my goal, I wrote “consult with Penny on new logo”, “look for small business to design my cards”, etc. 

Be Realistic - Understand and recognize that achieving your goals will take hard work.  Nothing can be accomplished overnight.

Care - Reaching a goal you really don’t care about is near impossible.  Make sure it is something that will truly make a difference to you and your business.  It is also important that it is consistent with your core values.

Write Them Down!  - Keep your goals handy and read them daily.  I type mine on the “notepad” of my laptop and it is the first thing I open up each morning.

No matter when you choose to set your yearly goals, make sure they are in line with the kind of person you want to be and the kind of business you want to run.

If you keep that in mind, you can’t go wrong.  I wish you success!

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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Why You Need to Convert the “Fair Weather Fan”!

Small Business Tips & Information

I am lucky enough to be from a city 
where we have wonderful professional and college sports teams.  

Year round you will find me totally focused on any number of games and wildly cheering my teams on.  Win or lose, they have my support.

Simply put ~ I am not a “fair weather fan”.  I believe in supporting my teams no matter what.  I will wear their team shirts, follow their fan pages, and read their latest articles.

For many years our baseball team had not garnered the same attention our football and hockey teams have enjoyed.  They had not been over .500 in years.  But these past few years have been different.

Now we are mentioned on sport’s news channels.  Our players are gaining national fans, not just local ones.  It has been fantastic and exciting.

While I understand the previous disinterest 
on a national level, 
where have these “new” 
local fans been?  
Where were they when times were tough?

Even in those “lean” years, I have watched many wonderful and exciting baseball games from my team...and I have enjoyed each and every one of them.  

This started me thinking about 
how often this same thing happens in business.  

Many are drawn to the “next big thing” or the latest fad. Companies can seem to be overnight sensations.

This sudden surge in sales or interest is certainly to be enjoyed and relished - after all, it happens infrequently.  There is understandable excitement in suddenly reaching a larger audience or gaining new customers.  Any business would welcome this new found interest.

The problem is that many times the “fair weather fan” is fickle. Just as quickly as they came in, they will move on.

Top Value is Found in Your Long-time Clients!  "Tweet This"!

However, Real Value can be found in those clients and customers that stand by you through thick and thin.

Many have been facing a “down” economy on a national and local level.  Companies are struggling to stay afloat.  Through it all, I have been able to form an even stronger relationship with my clients.

I am lucky.  My clients have stuck with me and I have stuck with them.  They know I have been flexible with their cash-flow issues and, in return, they have worked with me through my bouts with cancer and back surgery.

We share reciprocal loyalty!

That is why my ultimate goal is to convert any “fair weather fans” into loyal, long-term customers.  It should be your goal too.

It all starts with Stellar 
Customer Service!

My Top 4 Customer Service Goals
  • Always Go the Extra Mile ~ Just delivering the status quo will not make you stand out.  Find even one thing, and consistently do it better than your competition.  It will be noticed and appreciated.
  • Show Your Customers You Value their Business ~ Send thank you notes or little gifts (and not just during the holidays) to express your gratitude.  Offer good customers special perks. Even a little here can go a long way.
  • Keep Things Fresh ~ Update your services.  Start a blog.  Do whatever it takes to continue to move your company forward. Remaining stagnant, or even worse, loosing ground, will hurt you.
  • Respond Quickly to any Problems ~ Mistakes happen.  It is what you do after that will define you.  Be sure to put all your focus on making it right, and create a plan of action to keep it from happening again.  

While the excitement of something new is what may draw clients initially, keeping them takes more work.  You need to prove that you are not just interested in making that initial sale, but in truly helping them succeed.

“You don't earn loyalty in a day. You earn loyalty day-by-day.”  Jeffrey Gitomer (author, speaker)

Offering quality and service over the long haul is what will win out.  
You will find that converting 
the "fair weather fan" into a loyal fan 
is where true value lies!

API can Help You with Your Small Business! 

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Monday, August 12, 2013

Why You Should Start a “Service” Business!

When I first started my company, I was thrilled to be running a business selling Background Check services. 

As time has gone on, I have continued to be happy with my decision.  And I have found running a Service Business to be especially fulfilling.  

I am able to truly be a part of the success of each and every one of my client’s businesses.  Helping them hire safely and effectively has really given me a sense of accomplishment.

One advantage in providing a service is that you are able to draw on your own knowledge and skills and turn them into a marketable asset.  My background in professional writing is especially helpful to me.  I am able to write effective copy, create forms specific to my needs and write my business blog.

There have also been practical “pros”.  Having a business that provides services over one that sells items enables me to have a low overhead.  I do not have inventory, production costs, and storage issues.  Most likely my utility costs are also minimal in compared to companies that produce a “good”.

A service-based business is also easier to run out of my home.  I needed very little space to set up a work station - and also a minimal amount of equipment.  A computer (it was a desktop in the beginning!), printer, fax (which I have since eliminated), and office supplies, were all I needed - and I was in business!

This was especially helpful during my initial set-up phase.  Most of us that start our own businesses are “cash poor”.  Not having to invest a lot of my own money was invaluable.

(You can read more about running a business from home in my previous article, “The Challenges and Rewards of Running a Home Based Business”)

However, I also found some “cons” in deciding on a service-based business.

Selling services instead of products is definitely less “visual”.  

Because of this, using social sites like Pinterest is much more challenging.  I have had to be creative in finding ways to post that would appeal in a visual way.  I found including pictures in my posts to draw the eye or relevant infographics related to my article were crucial.

I also believe it is easier to grasp what it is you are selling when it is a product.  It is clear what it is and how that product will benefit you.  Instead, I have to continually work to illustrate the benefits of my background check services - especially to small businesses.

Of course businesses that sell “things” have to also deal with proving their product’s worth, but it is still more tangible and concrete than the idea of a service.  This is certainly a challenge I have to face.

Finally, it is easier to justify the price of a product over that of a service.  When setting your prices, you can take into consideration production costs like materials and labor.  Pricing my services is much more elusive.

I determine the costs of my services on less tangible factors.  I need to take into consideration my time and my knowledge.  When meeting with clients, this is much harder to convey.

I have second-guessed myself often over the years because of this. I have finally come to realize that I when I place more value in what I have to offer, so do my clients - but this was a long journey.

Despite these obstacles, I have found both enjoyment and fulfillment in running my own “service” business. 

Consider these words from Steve Farber;

“Do what you love in the service of people who love what you do.”

And I have found I love what I do, and I believe you can too!

If you have jumped into a "service-based business", let me know.  I would love to hear about your journey!

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