Identify What Is Stopping Your Business Progress

What I know is this, it’s often hard to shift to an entrepreneurial mindset, learn effective marketing strategies and try to balance life as a new business owner, never mind like in my case as a Mom Solo Entrepreneur.

Let me ask you, does this sound vaguely familiar?

“Everything would be so much easier if I could just focus on one thing only and that’s to grow my business!” Or how about this, “Do I really have what it takes to make a living doing what I love? I’ve never done this, what if I don’t make it?” Or what about, “I’m pretty sure I can do this but I feel like I’m all over the place with ideas and I don’t know where to start!”

Growing a business is challenging but when there are physical barriers or signs of strong self-doubt it’s that much more difficult. But let me offer one key to building a sustainable business which helps you keep taking steps forward vs. side to side and all over the place and that’s to address your barriers and obstacles as they show up.

Identify anything that is stopping your progress

If you can’t eliminate the obstacles that tend to block your progress then they are going to continue to appear until you do. It’s like you can’t expect your car to start if your battery is dead. It’s the same with your business, if your biggest struggle is finding enough time in your day to work on your business then you need to look at how you can make the necessary adjustments to fit the business building activities in. Let me be very clear with you on this, business building isn’t optional it’s a mandatory part of a sustainable business.

So how do you fit business building activities like networking, blogging, writing a newsletter and creating programs into your routine if you can’t seem to move forward to make them happen? The secret is in your schedule, systems and mindset.

Here are a few tips to handle some barriers:

Schedule

Most of my clients are limited on how much time they actually have each day to work on their business but I know exactly how to work around another job and kids schedules. Often times it comes down to how you’re spending your time and what you’re spending it on. One of my clients was upset because she wasn’t making money in her business but when we looked at her schedule a great deal of her time was spent on volunteering and activities that weren’t generating money or contributing to it.

Quick Tip: Start batching your errands, your work and your business time. Have set time on your calendar weekly for your business building activities and think very carefully about what you’re volunteering for and doing that isn’t serving you, your family or your business.

Systems

It’s very common to not follow routines but the very thing we need most is to follow a plan to progress. Systems can help you move forward in your business and help organize your personal life. Do you have a system for marketing your business? Do you have one for when you pay your bills? Do you have a system for cleaning your house?

Quick Tip: Use checklists. I recently had a preview call for a teleclass. I didn’t just hop on the phone that night and expect everyone to be there I followed a system and used a checklist to make sure I covered all of my bases to give myself the best chance for success. Using systems and checklists help you organize every area of your life.

Mindset

How often have you let doubt get in the way of your progress? You wouldn’t be human if you didn’t. But having the right mindset is key to your long term progress.

Tip: There have been dozens of times that I’ve thought I’m not good enough, different enough or interesting enough and in those times I’ve wanted to give up. But when I begin to feel that way I recognize it and spend the time to sort out where it’s coming from and how I can move past it. So remember that when doubt creeps in that the best way to handle it is to acknowledge it and then take action so you move through it.

A Small Business Revolution

Now that you have returned from your holiday season and have begun your New Year… the question is how much of your work and life is actually going to be “new” for 2012?

Are your business expectations and self expectations genuinely optimistic, guarded or rather uncertain? Your answer to this question lies entirely in your beliefs of what is possible for you in the coming year. Whether you choose to believe for a little or a lot is entirely up to you. The key point to realize is that it is first and foremost a conscious “choice”.

Moreover, will you make the choice to become part of the economic solution?

I would ask you to consider that again in 2011 the casualty list for “big business” has been enormous. Just over a week ago Sears/K-Mart announced the closing of 100+ locations. The other brand names that went out of business or closed retail outlets in the past year include Blockbuster, Borders, GAP, Anchor Blue, F.Y.E., Foot Locker, Talbot’s, Friendly’s, Pier One and Lowe’s. Even Macy’s, J.C.Penny, Walmart Marketside and BJ’s found themselves having to shut down many store locations and substantially reduce their staffing. And as of late this afternoon… the Hostess brand that manufacture’s Twinkies and Hostess Cupcakes has also filed for bankruptcy.

The obvious media storyline revolves around how bad the economic recession has been, how so many workers have lost their jobs and the resultant impact on both the uncertain economy and the wary consumer. However, there is a whole other not-so-obvious side to these big business events than you may be missing and which the main stream media is not covering.

What I’m driving at it this… big business is exactly what it says it is… BIG. In many ways too big for its own good. It’s all in how you choose to look at it. Big business is cumbersome in that it is slow in being able to deal with and respond to change. Its decision making processes are complex and slow. Retooling costs a fortune and takes time. Big business is laden with heavy debt and economic structures. Its ability to innovate is bogged down in lengthy and often questionable research and development projects. What’s more customer service, satisfaction and loyalty are continuing to decline.

Conversely, small business owners are agile and lean by comparison, and are therefore far better able to respond to changing markets and trends. You are able to make more expedient business decisions that are free from the procession of endless management and committee meetings. Small business has always been able to innovate and bring new products and ideas swiftly to the consumer market. The garage based small business start-ups like HP and Apple have clearly demonstrated this ability and the innovation capability of the budding entrepreneur.

Of equal significance is the fact that small business is historically responsible for creating 60% – 80% of all new jobs. The reality is that it is you the small business owner that holds the key to economic growth and future prosperity.

There has never been a more perfect time than now to raise your business expectations and performance bar to the extreme. This is not the time to hang back and wait for things to turn around in their own good time. Especially with the fact that there are more no cost and low cost ways to promote your business than ever before! So, why not get more aggressive about the results that you want to achieve in 2012?

The other important factor that you need to realize as a small business owner is that you have the direct ability to build and maintain meaningful relationships with your prospective customers and existing clients. As well, you have the capability to provide a level of personal service that big business for all intents and purposes is incapable of delivering.

When you take the time to really consider the big picture for business in 2012 and beyond… It is the small business enterprise that is going to fill the void of the big business organizations that have gone under or have been forced to downsize.

It is small business that is going to create the jobs, reshape the business landscape, invigorate the economy and fuel future prosperity.

I encourage you to make the conscious choice to be part of the economic solution and become a vibrant member of the small business revolution that radically grows their business in 2012!

Copyright © 2012 Developing Forward | Thomas H. Swank, CBC | All Rights Reserved.

Your Business Really Needs A Website

These days, a website is like a phone number; it’s simply expected that every business has one. Even among the Amish and other communities which typically shun technology, most businesses have come around to the idea that having a website carries great benefits. Worse, not having one may be holding your business back in ways you probably don’t even realize.

When customers and potential customers want to find basic information about your business, the first place they will turn is online. Such basic information includes:

  • Your phone number(s)
  • Business address(es)
  • Directions to your location
  • Hours
  • Information about the products and/or services you offer

Don’t make it hard for customers to do business with you. If I’m looking for a plumber and I remember seeing a truck out on the road but only remember the business name, I will look online. If that business has no website or makes me “work” to track them down but another local plumber’s website pops up right in front of me, chances are very good that I’ll simply use the one which was easiest for me to find. The same is true of just about any business I patronize.

Not having a website may be costing you in other ways too. Say I need to find your location. I could call and you or one of your employees could take time away from other productive tasks to give me directions, or I could simply look at a map on your website.

Your website is your 24 hour storefront. Even if your real business hours are more limited, if I want to look up information about your business at 2am and no one is there to pick up the phone or answer my questions, a good website will take care of my needs. If you engage in e-commerce, I may even be able to buy what I want right off your site while you are asleep.

What kind of site should you have?

At the very least, you should have your own domain name (also known as a “URL”) and a static page with the basic business information listed on the previous page.

Of course you can get progressively more fancy with multiple pages, regularly updated content, a searchable online catalogue and even a shopping cart which enables customers to buy from you online. Each of these things can be added incrementally when you come to need or want them as part of your online presence.

By integrating some of your existing systems such as inventory tracking, your employees could simply look up product availability or technician’s schedules by pulling up your web site right in your store or office. At the same time, you also give your customers the ability to do the same thing for themselves.

A word about URLs

A URL is your domain name. (The acronym stands for Universal Resource Locator, but that isn’t important.) A good domain name has several very important characteristics:

1. It is clear and easy for you to give out both verbally and in writing.

Very often you may find yourself out somewhere such as at the park or grocery store when a casual conversation turns toward business. If you do not have a business card with you, you are better off giving out just your web site URL than expecting someone else to remember a bunch of information about you or your business. The caveat to that is that a weird or complex name, especially if it has nonstandard spelling or unusual characters, may be both difficult for you to share and for others to remember.

Examples of (fictitious) bad URLs:

  • Try2win$.com
  • Gr8dealsonstuff.com
  • Cheepflytes.com

2. It is easy for others to remember.

Don’t make things hard on your customers and prospects. Give them a simple, memorable URL and make it easy for them to find your web site. This is especially true if you merely tell someone the domain name.

Even if you hand it out on your business card, it may still be garbled. Say you meet someone at a business meeting where they have collected dozens of business cards. Chances are they won’t “read” your business card. Instead, they may look over it or use it to jog their memory of their interaction with you and then look up your web site using your card merely as a reference.

3. It isn’t difficult to spell or likely to be misspelled.

Let’s say that your name is John Doe and you are the owner of John Doe’s Limousine Service. A domain name like JohnDoeLimousine.com seems like a good bet. The problem is that many people don’t know how to correctly spell the word “limousine”. Call it a testament to the sad state of education but if it hurts your business then the reason doesn’t matter. A simpler name like JohnDoeLimo.com might be better.

Alternatively, you can also purchase all the likely misspellings and have them all redirected to point to your correct URL. This is a relatively simple and inexpensive solution.

4. It fits the tone and image of your business.

Your URL doesn’t necessarily have to be the same as the name of your business, but it should be reflective of your business. A name like FunForAll.com could be great for a family fun center with activities for kids. It would be less fitting for a dentist, though GreatSmiles.com would be descriptive and memorable.

Understanding “CMS”

There are lots of different platforms on which your web site could be built but the easiest way to get a site up and running without having to hire a programmer is to use a Content Management System, or CMS for short. These are the software architecture platforms that make building and maintaining a web site user- friendly.

CMS systems go by some unusual names, many of which may not be familiar to you: Joomla, Drupal, WordPress, Tumblr, FrogCMS, Moodle, Mambo, Habari, Tango…

All share some common characteristics. They all build multi-page web sites. They all enable some form of blogging or article publishing. All have an extensive library of plugins or extensions to add new functionality that isn’t native to the base CMS. All are also available free of charge.

By and large, the CMS interface is a bit like a word processor for writing internet content. They are usually not 100% intuitive but they also aren’t hard to learn and you don’t need to know anything about internet code to make them work.

Where can you get a domain name and website?

There are literally dozens of companies where you can reserve a domain name and get web hosting. One of my favorites is HostGator.

Not only is Host Gator one of the least expensive hosting services around but they don’t require a contract commitment, won’t try to sell you a lot of extra services you don’t need and they’re environmentally friendly. (The parent company owns a windmill farm which generates 120% of the electricity used by their computer operations.)

How much will it cost?

The cost of web hosting will vary based on many factors: the number of URLs you purchase, your contract term, extra features, etc. For a single URL and basic web site, it should be less than $25 to get started and less than $10 a month to keep the site up and running.

This assumes that you do everything yourself. If you hire someone to set up your site, write content or perform other tasks for you the cost for those services will be in addition to the basic hosting.