EnMast http://www.enmast.com Small Business Community | Small Business Tools, Templates, Help and Resources. Thu, 21 May 2015 21:40:20 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.2 5 Employee appreciation ideas you wish you thought of before http://www.enmast.com/2015/05/employee-appreciation-ideas/ http://www.enmast.com/2015/05/employee-appreciation-ideas/#comments Wed, 20 May 2015 13:00:12 +0000 http://www.enmast.com/?p=19210 Buying gifts for employees is often more difficult that figuring out what to buy your in-laws for birthdays or the holidays. So how do you figure out how to show employees your appreciation for their hard work? I’ve got a few employee appreciation ideas that’ll knock ’em out of the park. Let’s start counting down

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Buying gifts for employees is often more difficult that figuring out what to buy your in-laws for birthdays or the holidays. So how do you figure out how to show employees your appreciation for their hard work?

employee appreciation ideas

I’ve got a few employee appreciation ideas that’ll knock ’em out of the park. Let’s start counting down from 5:

5. What yearly subscriptions would they love?

Magazine subscriptions can be a really great way to recognize and reward employees because it comes every month. It comes for the whole year. It doesn’t cost a whole lot of money; it’s actually very personal. The whole idea of magazines is that they are about the things that we are passionate about; things about which we are genuinely curious, or in which we have some sort of real life investment (think travel, cooking, design, sports, yoga, hunting, even parenting).

If you’ve done it right, you’ve thought about what that ‘thing’ is for the people that you’re recognizing. Every time they thumb through it they think of you!

4. Don’t just give them a book, give them a Kindle.

Readers are leaders, and so I like to give books. For folks who have done stellar work for you, don’t just give them a book—give them a Kindle. The new Paperwhite is really a nice reading device. It runs about $80, so you won’t break the bank. Otherwise, just pick out a book you think they’d like. Again—it’s personal—you’re thinking about what it is they would like or that would be important to them to read.

The price point is modest, and if you do your homework you can appreciate and inspire your employees at the same time!

3. Get the team together and do something (other than work)

Show your employees you appreciate all of them by getting them all today. Especially if you have a highly virtual team, like some of us do. Investing in some plane tickets and getting everybody in the same room can go a long way building relationships and rapport. In or out of town, buy them a dinner. Take them to a game. Go out to a theater. Whatever it is that’s something that everybody would appreciate. Go have an experience together and create a memory for life. If you have remote people, you will have to test the limits of your imagination and your wallet.

If your team is local, you are freer to just do something wacky. You can do a Wally ball thing, or a Blue Man Group…you name it. If you are having trouble, think about things you might do with your family; and do that with your co-workers and colleagues. Those informal times help build the bonds that make office communication and cooperation easier.

2. Send something home (for their family).

This is especially helpful if you’d like to buy something that will be appreciated by the employee’s whole family. Buying a restaurant gift card, or some movie tickets, or a family museum pass (which can be pricey), and then sending it to them at home, is a way of saying, thank you to the whole family for sharing your employee with you. And sending a gift home (instead of getting all the glory at the office) is good PR for you.

Let’s just be honest here, sometimes our employees might gripe about their boss to their spouses. Sending something home is a way for you to put your best foot forward. Let your employee’s family know you’re the kind of boss that appreciates employees and rewards good work.

1. Give ’em da money.

My number one employee appreciation idea (and it’s my number one because I think it’s something that’s most appreciated )… is cash bonuses. Sometimes, what people really need is simply money. However, if a cash bonus is what your are thinking about, you need to think carefully because giving a cash bonus doesn’t send the same message that a magazine subscription does. When you give a cash bonus, your employees don’t necessarily hear “Thank you, I appreciate you”. They hear “This is how much I value the work you’ve done.”

Even if folks receive just one bonus, they start to count on cash. If it’s a discretionary bonus, if you just randomly decide, “I’m going to give $1,000 to this person and $3,000 to that person, and $5,000 to that person” folks begin to factor that bonus into their compensation.

If you don’t have a rationale for how you decide who gets how much, the dynamic of showing appreciation and getting better performance doesn’t work so well. It’s more like they won the lottery. In fact, you might as well just buy lottery tickets and hand them to everybody because that is less a part of their compensation. If you’re using cash, and if you can use cash, that’s a great thing.

Everyone loves cash. It only comes in one size. It fits everybody. The color is always right.

But a word to the wise: be thoughtful about who you give cash to and why you give it to them; you don’t want it to become an extension of their compensation—something they feel is owed to them, or that they take for granted.

No matter which option you pick (maybe you have a different one altogether) one thing is sure: you need to appreciate employee loyalty, hard work, and great performance. So find a way and appreciate your employees today!




How to Build Your Team Organizational Structure



Photo credit: stevendepolo

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6 ways business owners can clone themselves (without actually doing it) http://www.enmast.com/2015/05/6-ways-business-owners-can-clone-themselves/ http://www.enmast.com/2015/05/6-ways-business-owners-can-clone-themselves/#respond Mon, 18 May 2015 19:05:26 +0000 http://www.enmast.com/?p=19191 Every business owner who sets out to build a team really wants, not a team, but a CLONE. Cloning would effectively allow them to be in two (or three) places at once. Yeah. A clone and a few more hours in the day would make a lot of business owners very happy. Are you familiar

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Every business owner who sets out to build a team really wants, not a team, but a CLONE.

Cloning would effectively allow them to be in two (or three) places at once. Yeah. A clone and a few more hours in the day would make a lot of business owners very happy.

clone

Are you familiar with the song…”You can’t always get what you wa—annt….”? Well, it comes to mind when I hear business owners talking like this. Since cloning is not currently viable (for humans), I have 6 steps to take as you set out to build a team (or make a clone) that might help you, as the song says, “…get what you NEED.”

1. Extend your brain.

brainThe easiest, quickest, next-best thing to cloning is to get good admin support. A solid, experienced Executive Admin can, over time, become like an extension of your brain. There is a ton of stuff you are doing that a solid admin can do. They can help you with you’re schedule. They can help you clean up your inbox. They can put your newsletter together, get blog posts prepped in WordPress, and remind you of things you forgot.

A good admin will learn the ups and downs of your business and anticipate things that should go on your calendar. But there’s a catch: you have to train them!

How do you know how to hand off stuff to an admin now, if they aren’t yet working with clone-like proficiency? If they are not yet able to “read your mind”?


2. Let go of that schedule

let go of schedulingHere’s how it went for me: scheduling was the first thing I handed off. In my brain, I said, “I am no longer in charge of my schedule.” I go where she tells me. She’s in charge of my schedule. If, for some reason she books me back-to-back on meetings that are 30 minutes apart, I yell at her. It’s her problem. She screwed up my schedule. Right? That’s not my problem. So, mentally, I surrender it.

To make that work, I had to be really clear about what my parameters were. She needed to understand how much time I needed to block off to get work done. I had to explain what kinds of appointments couldn’t work scheduled back to back, whether I was simply talking about fighting traffic, or anticipating challenges with a client situation.

All you need to know is that I bought back a whole day a week by hiring some part-time admin help.

Clients often object to this. They insist they can’t afford admin help. If it looks too expensive, then you’re not charging enough; because you should be able to make more in one day than an admin costs in two. (If you need help raising your prices, here is a great resource.)


3. Make a “don’t do list”

categories-128Instead of cloning yourself, you can make a don’t do list. These are things that you are tempted to do—maybe even things you enjoy doing.Maybe, you’re good at doing them, but there are other people that can do them better, or quicker, or cheaper, and you just have to mentally say, “This is not my job anymore.”

For me, when I first started working with an admin, and with a team, I did a good job assigning tasks. But if I had five spare minutes… “I think I’ll just schedule this thing really quick”, or “I’ll just work on that email”. I was seeking out small tasks to do (tasks I had assigned) because it was easy for me to do them! There are lots of things that I’m good at and that I know I can get done; and that actually makes them attractive to me. I like to feel like I’ve crossed things off my list – who doesn’t? If I’m going to be effective working WITH my team, I have to close that door. I have to not do those things.

So. I don’t fix my own computer. I don’t research phone systems. There are other people out there that are phone experts. They’re going to do that stuff for me. I don’t plan parties. There are party planners who can plan parties better than I can. Once I wrote those things down on my “Do Not Do” list, I was forced to find the experts who could do that stuff. (If this is resonating, you should check out our Business Owner Job Description tool to help you figure out what you SHOULD do, and the things you shouldn’t.)

Start making this list before you hand stuff off to the admin. If the admin is in charge of my calendar, then I “don’t” set appointments. But it goes beyond that. Find a good IT person, find a good bookkeeper, and get out of the business of doing things that aren’t your job.

So, print your do not do list; and then don’t do things!


4. I know it’s hard, but DO LESS.

do lessAnother way to relieve stress and put more hours back in your week is to do less. Yes, I said, “do less.” You can choose a social network and say, “I’m not going to be on that social network.” I quit Facebook about 2 years ago and I never looked back.

I’m actually thinking about cutting way back on Twitter too. I love Twitter. Twitter is like my second home; but it’s not driving traffic like it used to. It’s not giving me business results… I’m not going away. I’m just saying I might cut back and see how that feels.

Instead of taking on 15 marketing tactics, I could pick two, and do a really good job at those two. If you focus on only a few things, you might do better just with those few things, than you ever did by spreading yourself really thin.


5. Figure out and set goals

set goalsInstead of getting a clone to run around and do a million things, get clear about your goals. Your goals are the things that you want to do—not just this year—but this week, or today. With the support of an admin and a strong team, you are free to focus on your actual GOALS. When that happens, you will find a clone is not necessary, because you are actually making progress toward them; having identified them and cleared a path for your energy, you get to actually DO the most important stuff.

To make this work, you need to set your goals in the morning. Not very many; 2 or 3 max. I ask myself, “What would make today great?” The answer to that one question helps me to set my goals for the day.


6. Do only what you can ONLY do

business ownerThis one is related to number five. Once we have space and energy to move toward goals, we can focus further by answering the question, “What are the things that ONLY I CAN DO?” Too often business owners are so bogged down by the myriad (and significant and important) tasks of running their business, that they feel like they CAN’T do the things that, in fact, only they can do!

But when we’ve done the work in numbers 1-5, and find we don’t NEED a clone, we are finally free to do the things that only we can do. Having that freedom is only meaningful if we take advantage of it.

For example: Hiring. There’s no one else that can hire but me.

I need to make the ultimate choice of whom to bring onto my team. But does that mean you have to take on the whole recruiting process? Think about it: there are lots of places where other people can step in. In fact, other people can write the job posting, post it, AND review resumes and do phone screens. Other people can assist with interviews.

You just have to step in when there are viable candidates and make the final decision. That’s the point. See how we took a big task and broke it down to the specific piece that belongs only to YOU?

 

So, from your calendar to your inbox, what’s the stuff you don’t need to do? What’s the stuff you flat out shouldn’t be doing? Make a “Do Not Do” list. What are your goals? What’s the one thing that you are really great at? What are the things that ONLY you can do? And finally, what would make today amazing?

Answer these questions. Do those six things, and I’m betting you won’t need a clone. 😉




How to Build Your Team Organizational Structure


Photo credit: pasukaru76

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How to build a top-notch team http://www.enmast.com/2015/05/build-team-organizational-structure/ http://www.enmast.com/2015/05/build-team-organizational-structure/#respond Fri, 08 May 2015 23:30:10 +0000 http://www.enmast.com/?p=19169 How to build a top-notch team  When we start to hire team members, we don’t need any specific person–we just need help. So we hire someone young, energetic and creative (oh, and cheap) because we really don’t know exactly what they are going to do. Over time, they start to do lots of things, mostly things they enjoy; and you are

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How to build a top-notch team 

When we start to hire team members, we don’t need any specific person–we just need help. So we hire someone young, energetic and creative (oh, and cheap) because we really don’t know exactly what they are going to do.

Over time, they start to do lots of things, mostly things they enjoy; and you are still stuck working on the parts of the job that no one enjoys… When they get stuck on something, they send it back to your desk (because they don’t know what to do) and now you are back doing that thing you hired someone to do. So you hire another young, flexible, creative person and the cycle repeats itself. This is strategy is less than ideal.

In fact, it’s all backwards.

When you are small, you can’t afford to have someone who just does one thing. Everyone has to be in charge of multiple things, right? We need people to pitch in and pinch hit wherever they are needed. However, the more flexibility our company structure has, the less accountability it has. And the less you can hold people accountable, the more their work ends up back on your desk. You end up having to pick up all the slack.

It’s time to put an end to this! The Building Your Team Structure exercise will help you do just that.

Here’s what to expect:

  • Arrow - Orangepdf iconYou’ll go through our 5-step process to organize and build your organizational team structure
  • How to get more work off your plate but still get those tasks accomplished
  • How to empower your team to own their roles and responsibilities
  • Get some note cards and a sharpie handy!


Are you a Free Trial or Pro Member? Login now and refresh the page and a download button will appear! Not either of those? Get this tool and a massive library of others when you go Pro! Learn more here »


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The business owner’s challenge: Building a top-notch team http://www.enmast.com/2015/05/business-owners-challenge-hiring-employees/ http://www.enmast.com/2015/05/business-owners-challenge-hiring-employees/#comments Fri, 08 May 2015 19:54:46 +0000 http://www.enmast.com/?p=19163 Nothing accelerates growth like excellent team members. I’m not kidding. I’ve seen business owners struggle to grow their business for years, until they finally get fed up and hire better team members and, bam! their company grows. Are you tolerating mediocre talent on your team, or do you hold off hiring employees because you don’t

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Nothing accelerates growth like excellent team members. I’m not kidding. I’ve seen business owners struggle to grow their business for years, until they finally get fed up and hire better team members and, bam! their company grows. Are you tolerating mediocre talent on your team, or do you hold off hiring employees because you don’t believe you can get good people? Either way, that decision is holding your company back. I’m 100% sure of it.

building a team

When I see a business owner hire better, it signals a shift in the confidence of the business owner (and the clients see it too). When you hire people who bring their own skills–who aren’t just young, energetic “arms and legs”– you know it’s time to get serious! Their salaries are higher; they expect more. Hiring better forces you to up your game.

What does it mean to “hire better”?

Small businesses are littered with young talented folks, who have no experience and no track record, or corporate cast-offs who, for many reasons, just don’t fit in big organizations. To hire better means to reach beyond that immediate pool of talent to find really great people with the experience and discipline your company needs. It means finding people who don’t just accept tasks, but accept responsibility for whole areas of your business. Not a bookkeeper, but a financial manager. Not someone who executes; but someone who thinks, and innovates, and gets results.

To find that better talent requires a different hiring discipline, and a different set of expectations from the start. It means that you have to give up control — but not to just anyone. You’re giving up control to someone you respect (who might do an even better job than you do).

But how can we afford to hire a top-notch team?

Ok, so you don’t have hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay out in salary; and you don’t have corporate benefits. That doesn’t mean you can’t recruit top-talent. In fact, folks that are looking for that kind of salary and benefits aren’t the ideal employee for your small company!

Instead you are looking for folks who want to make a difference.

Maybe this seems too obvious. But if you are really driven to make a difference, then corporate life is torture. The meetings, the committees, the fear and groupthink make really innovative, impactful actions almost impossible. You want to find the folks who can’t stand that.

The offer that you are making is different. It’s not, work for 30 years and retire with a pension. It’s more like:

“Come here where we can talk about something in the morning, implement it by the afternoon, and evaluate the results by the weekend. You want to make a difference? This is the place.”

But a job like that isn’t easy. It means you get your hands dirty. You get involved in things you never thought you would. You are learning new things all the time, but some of those things aren’t so glamorous. You get to make a difference; and you also get to make your own copies…

By telling the whole story–the opportunity and the challenges–you can attract people who want that and will drive your business forward.

Top team members need to be led, not managed

If that’s the “deal” you are offering, then you can’t try to control their every move. Top-notch people who want to make a difference need a different kind of boss. They need a leader; who defines the goals and boundaries, insures that there are resources to do a great job, and measures and rewards success. That leader doesn’t watch the clock, control process, or micro-manage. They inspire, direct, and hold people accountable.

People who want to make a difference actually love accountability. They need measurement and feedback to get better and make progress. I’m not saying that you need to be hands-off; just that you need to focus more on results than on process and details.

This is difficult. We don’t want to put our business at risk from someone’s careless mistake. That’s why it’s important that we hire employees with a track record of success. This is not their first rodeo–they know what they’re doing. We need to start out with frequent check-ins where they can learn how to tap into our experience and understanding of this business to help them to achieve the big goals that we’ve set for them.

Go get ’em

Are you getting excited? Does this seem like the next step for your business? Then it’s time to start looking for those better people who will take you further. But in order to make sure that we have the right people that we can really trust, we need to commit to a slower and more deliberate hiring process.

Only when we rigorously define what we need, develop a rich pool of viable candidates who can meet that need, and then deliberately interview and compare several of them to find the best fit, can we truly start to trust that they can accept responsibility for the area of the business we are hiring employees to own.

That’s what we’re going to talk about over the next few weeks–how to find those people who can (and will) take your business further.



How to Build Your Team Organizational Structure


Photo credit: Unsplash

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3 Reasons why it’s a good time to sell your business now http://www.enmast.com/2015/05/when-to-sell-your-business/ http://www.enmast.com/2015/05/when-to-sell-your-business/#respond Wed, 06 May 2015 13:00:18 +0000 http://www.enmast.com/?p=19113 Is it the right time to sell your business? According to business expert Gene Marks, the answer is, “Yes.” Marks explains his case for that statement in a video produced by The Hartford. He notes that the sales of businesses are up 50% this year over last–and the trend is slated to continue. But why

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Is it the right time to sell your business?

According to business expert Gene Marks, the answer is, “Yes.”

Marks explains his case for that statement in a video produced by The Hartford. He notes that the sales of businesses are up 50% this year over last–and the trend is slated to continue.

when to sell your business

But why is now the right time to sell your business? He outlines the three main reasons you shouldn’t hold off on the sale of your business (if you are ready to sell.)

1. Aging Population

By 2016, population projections show that the number of workers in the 65+ age range are expected to jump by more than 80%, which includes a portion that falls into the business owner category. And as the Baby Boomer generation enters that demographic, the number of businesses for sale is expected to increase as well.

“We can expect to see about 20% of our business owners in the 65+ age range within the next 10-15 years,” said Marks. That means that more and more business owners are going to be selling their businesses and retiring. As a business owner that’s looking ahead, you should plan now for that increase in supply and be ahead of the surge. Right now might be your best bet for selling high before the market becomes saturated with options and have to lower your price tag to get some biters.

2. Low Interest Rates

The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) just recently voted again to keep the federal fund rate at 0.25% to encourage and stimulate the economy, which it has been at since 2008 when the economy had an emotional breakdown.

So what does this all mean? It means that since it’s so freaking low, the Prime Rate still continues at super-low 3.25%, which it’s been at since 2008. The Prime Rate is like the ‘base-line’ used by all banks and loan servicing organizations to set interest rate amounts on loans/lending products and services to be at “a competitive and profitable rate.”  It’s kind of like how most all gas stations in your area have about the same price per gallon within a few pennies of one another, (thanks to OPEC who set gas prices). But to give you a point of reference, the Prime Rate has ranged from 1.75% (1947) – 21.50% (1980), with the average at a ~9.842%. So 3.25% is pretty darn good.

If things were picking up more in the economy, the Fed fund rate would raise the current .25%, and by a domino effect, it would raise the US/WSJ Prime Rate. They don’t vote again on this until June, and there’s no indication they’ll raise it anytime soon. My guess is it’ll be probably another or few years before they do that.

prime-rate-flow-chartEnough with the business talk — how does this affect my business?

This all means that business owners can borrow funds to grow their business for really low rates that we probably won’t see again in our lifetime. (That’s why it’s also a great time to buy as big of a house as you can afford and buy a car) Therefore, that cheap financing means it’s so much more attractive for people to buy your business now — getting financing is (getting) much easier (though some banks are still afraid to loan, but stats have showed they’re lending more and more the last few years), and there’s less risk for potential borrowers to get financing because it costs less to borrow money and purchase your company.

3. Low Inflation Rate

The current inflation rate sits at -0.1% as of April 17th, 2015, which means there are less alternatives for investments. Most bank accounts are only earning <1% interest, so more and more people are looking for ways to invest their money for a higher ROI. Entering the stock market is one option, but it’s been pretty volatile game. Many would argue that buying a business as a means of investment (depending on what industry, product, service, etc) because it has less risk and chances of a higher ROI.

Making the Sale

The stumbling block most business owners encounter when considering the sale of his or her business is that they let emotion influence their decision.

“You have to take a smart view of your business and remove the passion and emotion from the decision to sell,” Mark says. “Now is the time to get top dollar for your business, so it’s a decision that has to be made purely from a ROI perspective.”

Watch the video here:

Here’s another great resource to help you get more prospects and leads in your sales funnel:



The 2015 Guide to Using LinkedIn - Webinar


Photo Credit: Seattle Municipal ArchivesFedPrimeRate.comSM

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Most popular small business articles: March & April 2015 http://www.enmast.com/2015/05/small-busines-articles-march-april-2015/ http://www.enmast.com/2015/05/small-busines-articles-march-april-2015/#respond Fri, 01 May 2015 13:02:55 +0000 http://www.enmast.com/?p=19129 Hey there! It’s been a while since we sent one of these out! We spent two months on the topic of sales instead of just one, so it’s time to re-cap the top five. And…we worked real hard on a course we just launched. It will help you get more prospects in your pipeline in just

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small-business-articles

Hey there!

It’s been a while since we sent one of these out! We spent two months on the topic of sales instead of just one, so it’s time to re-cap the top five. And…we worked real hard on a course we just launched. It will help you get more prospects in your pipeline in just 30 days; it’s The New Prospect Challenge. (So far, feedback has been fantastic. I’m excited for you to try it out! Keep reading; you’ll find a way to sign up at the end of this email.)

There are some exciting things coming down the pike! We’ll be launching more courses for business owners like you that will focus on specific areas of your business; and, for our Pro Members, we’re adding a ton of new features and content which we CANNOT wait to launch! So pay attention. You won’t want to miss any of it!

Without further ado, here are the most popular articles from our 2-month focus on sales!

responding to linkedin requests1. How to respond to random LinkedIn requests

Do you get a bunch of LinkedIn Connection requests from people you don’t know? (You’re not alone). Brad shares a unique way to deal with these requests and use them to your advantage. Read on »

cold leads into hot sales2. How to warm up cold leads and turn them in to hot sales

When you meet a prospect or lead (online or in-person), following up is SO important. You have to strike while the iron’s hot! Leads can get cold so fast! Brad shares SEVEN ways to do that, without being a pest. Read on »

sales pipeline3. 5 reasons why your small business needs a strong sales pipeline

If there is one thing you can do to make your job easier as a business owner, it’s strengthen your sales pipeline. How are you going to do that??? Brad explains here! »

best mistake4. The best mistake I’ve ever made

Have you ever said “Sure! I’ll do it!” when didn’t know what you were getting into? Well, Brad’s done that too. Once upon a time, back when he was a young engineer, he took on the business operations of a company 1000 miles away. You’ll love this story. Read on »

how to fill sales pipeline5. 5 ways your website can help you fill your sales pipeline

Finding more qualified prospects to fill the top of your sales pipeline is the best way to accelerate the growth of your company. Here’s several ways you can get your WEBSITE to do all that work for you! With real examples! Read on »




The 2015 Guide to Using LinkedIn - Webinar

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5 Ugly truths about running your own business http://www.enmast.com/2015/04/5-ugly-truths-running-your-own-business/ http://www.enmast.com/2015/04/5-ugly-truths-running-your-own-business/#respond Wed, 29 Apr 2015 13:00:22 +0000 http://www.enmast.com/?p=19116 Most business owners have on rose-tinted glasses when they first start out. There’s nothing wrong with that—it happens to all of us. We’ve been there. You go into running your own business for lots of reasons. The flexibility. The freedom. The room to grow. Everything ahead is sparkly, new, and full of promise. But as

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Most business owners have on rose-tinted glasses when they first start out. There’s nothing wrong with that—it happens to all of us. We’ve been there.

You go into running your own business for lots of reasons. The flexibility. The freedom. The room to grow. Everything ahead is sparkly, new, and full of promise.

ugly truths about running your own business

But as time passes, that rosy hue begins to fade—and you start seeing the realities for what they are. This is the stuff no one really talks about when it comes to entrepreneurialism.

Today, we’re stripping back that shiny finish and talking about the five ugly truths of running your own business.

Falsehood #5: I can work at whatever hour I want.

Ugly Truth: You wish you could pick a few hours when you didn’t have to work.

When it comes to owning your own business, you can pick any hundred hours of the week you want—and then work them.

Why? Because running your own business takes a lot of time and energy. Rarely does it consist of a 40-hour work week. Sure, your schedule is flexible. But that means you might be working late into the night or waking up extra early to take care of all the things you didn’t get done the day before.

All of the responsibility falls on you as the business owner. You handle sales, marketing, and development—all while leading the business forward. It’s not easy or pretty, but it’s true.

Falsehood #4: I get to do something that’s all me. I make the decisions.

Ugly Truth: You rarely get to make any choices on your own.

Business owners have to handle lots of different working relationships, which means that their choices are influenced by the ebb and flow of the business itself. Everything from how their daily schedule is laid out to what material they’re going to work on each day is determined by clients and their respective needs.

You’ve got to keep lots of different plates spinning at the same time—all while continuing to live and enjoy your life. Finding that balance is a major obstacle for people running their own businesses.

Falsehood #3: This business will sell for a high price tag, and the profits will be my retirement fund.

Ugly Truth: Not every business is going to sell for a large sum.

Business owners who rely on the sale of their businesses in lieu of retirement planning are making a risky gamble. Think about it: Much of a business pivots around the owner…and they are essential to its success. So unless they can sell themselves, their businesses might not be worth much after all.

The unfortunate reality is that it’s smarter to plan for retirement just as you would at a “normal” job. If anything, it’s harder. There’s no employer investment match.

Falsehood #2: I get to be my own boss.

Ugly Truth: If you have lots of clients, you actually have lots of bosses.

When you work for yourself, you work for an insane person. Sometimes you over promise and you overbook your schedule. Juggling multiple clients and jobs, you get stressed out—and there’s no one there to notice how hard you’re working.

You never get a “Hey, great job.” Being your own boss doesn’t mean high-fiving with other entrepreneurs in a co-working space while you both revel in your freedom. It means you’re head down, working hard—all the time.

Falsehood #1: I’ll have more control.

Ugly Truth: There are still lots of variables to running your own business that make you very much control-less.

Control is an illusion. For example: One entrepreneur I know did a project for a company in London with a $100K price tag. But when she went to get paid, the client said, “Dear, I know we owe you a $100K, but I just have to tell you that our investor is Russian. Do you know what’s happened to the Ruble?” The international currency markets had made it impossible for her to get paid. What could she do? The situation was completely beyond her control.

Lots of business owners find themselves in similar situations. It’s better if you just take a deep breath and accept it.

Running your own business isn’t always pretty

So there you have it: The five ugly truths about running your own business. Behind every apparent advantage is that harsh reality, bringing you back down to Earth. Just like with anything else. Sorry to burst your bubble, friends.

What other ugly truths have you learned from owning your own business?




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The best mistake I’ve ever made http://www.enmast.com/2015/04/worst-business-decision-i-ever-made/ http://www.enmast.com/2015/04/worst-business-decision-i-ever-made/#respond Wed, 22 Apr 2015 19:00:25 +0000 http://www.enmast.com/?p=19094 In 1998, I was working for a division of Duchossois Industries as an engineer working on new product development. I was occasionally invited to be part of a team that evaluated acquisition opportunities (I was the token geek that spoke business or something); and so I was a part of the team that evaluated the

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In 1998, I was working for a division of Duchossois Industries as an engineer working on new product development. I was occasionally invited to be part of a team that evaluated acquisition opportunities (I was the token geek that spoke business or something); and so I was a part of the team that evaluated the spin off of several divisions of Nortek. One division–a small garage door opener company that they owned–was a no-brainer. We could buy it, shut it down, and by converting just 50% of their customers to our customers, we would more than make our money back.

worst business decisions

But there was another division–M&S Systems–that made “whole house audio” systems (think the kind of intercoms that were popular in the 70’s). It was a sleepy little company, in a category that I felt like was going to explode. If home audio went digital (MP3 players were just starting to be released) I felt like a company like this would be well positioned to take advantage of it.

So I pitched the idea of buying M&S systems to the Duchossois board. Surprisingly, they agreed, and then turned around and told me, “You’ve got such passion for this company Brad, why don’t you go run it?” Without thinking I blurted out, “Yes! I’ll do it.”

This was a phenomenal business mistake for lots of reasons.

1. I had never run a company before.

I was a 32 year old middling engineer. The only group I had ever led was a product development team of 8 engineers. I had taken an accounting class, but never been responsible for a P&L. In this new role I had to sell, I had to manage unions, cash flow, everything. I was in way over my head.

2. I didn’t have many of the skills and experiences that I’d need to be a success.

Did I mention I had never sold anything? I was now responsible for $20M in sales. $20 million! We had two manufacturing locations (one in Mexico). The management team was bickering and demoralized and the product needed a refresh. I was in way over my head.

3. I lived over 1000 miles away from the office.

M&S Systems was headquartered in Dallas. I lived in Chicago. I couldn’t move (for a lot of reasons) so I was going to try to do this by traveling down there 3 weeks each month. I was in way over my head.

When I got there, it turned out I was even further over my head than I thought. The seasoned management team–that (I’m guessing) my bosses were relying on to guide me through this shift–all quit! (5 of the top 8 leaders in the company left in the first two months). We had a wildcat strike in our Mexican factory (which I subsequently had to close). And our 3rd largest customer stopped paying their bills. It was anything but a smooth transition.

I was learning to swim by being thrown into the deep end.

I remember sitting at my desk in Dallas late one night (on my 13th hour of work that day), going over some sales forecasts & inventory listings to plan production. I looked up and thought, “This is crazy! What am I doing? I have no idea if what I’m doing is right, or even good!”

But I kept going. Not because I thought I was going to succeed. Not because I had some grand vision. Mostly because I couldn’t see any way out! I didn’t want to let the folks down who had given me this opportunity. There was no one else to do it. I had to keep going.

By the end of that year, our sales were up almost 25%. I had stabilized the management team with some key hires and some promotions from within. I was down to working 9 – 10 hour days and it felt good. I didn’t feel like I was in over my head anymore. I was leading a team, winning in the marketplace, and planning the next generation of products.

That huge mistake–pitching the acquisition of M&S–helped me to grow up. It gave me the skills and credibility to leap out of engineering into every job I’ve had since then. I knew that I had it in me to lead, to make solid business decisions, to form a strong team. It was the opening of a whole new chapter of my life.

It also taught me not to say “Yes!” quite so quickly…

What’s the greatest business mistake you’ve ever made?




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How to turn online connections into real world sales http://www.enmast.com/2015/04/how-to-turn-online-connections-real-world-sales/ http://www.enmast.com/2015/04/how-to-turn-online-connections-real-world-sales/#comments Mon, 13 Apr 2015 13:00:57 +0000 http://www.enmast.com/?p=19080 If you’ve been following along with our blog posts, or if you listen to our podcast you know that we are big fans of social media and online marketing. There has never been a better time to be prospecting for new client leads–they are all right out there! You can search for them, reach out

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If you’ve been following along with our blog posts, or if you listen to our podcast you know that we are big fans of social media and online marketing. There has never been a better time to be prospecting for new client leads–they are all right out there! You can search for them, reach out to them, make friends with them…it’s like magic.

make sales

There is a “dark side” to all this online networking though. You don’t make sales from behind your computer (very often). It’s rather compelling to spend time on social networks; it feels productive to connect with more and more prospects; but does online networking lead to actual sales? You can spend a lot of time and energy building up your social profile, creating rich, shareable blog posts, and at the end of the day, not have any business conversations that lead to sales! You’ve made friends–just not business friends!

If you find yourself in that predicament, here’s 3 ways to turn on-line relationships into real world sales.

1. Go to (or host) some events

Events are a great place to meet casual acquaintances and start building a deeper relationship. Notice which events seem popular among your online connections (especially the ones that look like real prospects) and sign up to go. When you are there your goal is to take relationships further–spend time with folks one-to-one, listen to what’s going on in their world, make connections between them.

networking

But the real work happens after the event. Go home and start doing some follow up. You’ve met folks, you’ve gotten their business card (right?), so start following up by phone or email. Talk more deeply about the needs you heard from them at the event, set up a time to go meet with them (and make a sale).

If you don’t see any events happening that your prospects are attending, make one of your own! It doesn’t have to be something fancy–just pick a local place and invite folks for drinks. Give them a reason to get out from behind their computers.

2. Co-create something with them

Maybe the folks you are meeting aren’t prospects, they’re referral partners. You don’t want to meet to sell to them, you want to sell to their clients. Invite them to co-create some content with you. Maybe it’s as simple as creating a guest post for their blog, or inviting them to be a guest on a webinar you are hosting. If you have a podcast (or if they do) you need guests; invite them to be on (or ask to be a guest on theirs).

co create content

If that goes well, you can keep going–is there a topic that is of interest to both of your audiences? Create an ebook or video about it.

Working with them helps to create a connection and deepen the relationship.

3. Pick up the phone

If you know someone well online, and you know that you can help them–that is, they are your ideal client–the most efficient thing to do is to pick up the phone and call them. If this is a business person you are getting to know, their phone number is on their website–just call them! Introduce yourself and remind them of the discussions you have had online. Let them know that you couldn’t help but notice that they were facing some challenges… Just the kind of challenges you’ve helped other businesses with…

pick up the phone

Sure, some of those folks are going to be put-off. They might already have a provider, or feel upset because you assumed they needed help. But way more of them are going to be happy to talk to someone who can help with their issue. Call them.

Even the most committed inbound sales people have to move the conversation from online to in-person (or on the phone) in order to sell. It’s a key skill that will make your work on-line so much more productive.

What works for you? How have you made on-line relationships work for you in the “real world”?




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How to respond to random LinkedIn requests http://www.enmast.com/2015/04/respond-random-linkedin-requests/ http://www.enmast.com/2015/04/respond-random-linkedin-requests/#comments Fri, 10 Apr 2015 16:11:49 +0000 http://www.enmast.com/?p=19076 If you are active on LinkedIn, your chances of “getting found” increase. You will get more inbound contacts from prospects, job seekers, potential partners and (unfortunately) random connection requests from people you don’t know. While some of these requests can be kind of puzzling, (“Why would the CTO of the country of Bangladesh want to

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If you are active on LinkedIn, your chances of “getting found” increase. You will get more inbound contacts from prospects, job seekers, potential partners and (unfortunately) random connection requests from people you don’t know. While some of these requests can be kind of puzzling, (“Why would the CTO of the country of Bangladesh want to connect with me?”) it’s also a sign that you are doing a great job of increasing your visibility. The issue of random connections gets further complicated because some people use connection requests as a sort of free InMail.

responding to linkedin requests

Instead of using InMail to contact people they don’t know (but with whom they want to do business) they just send a connection request with a (usually) vague message in it. So you will likely end up with an inbox on LinkedIn that’s filled with a mixture of people, some of whom you know–and with whom you do want to connect. And there will be some you likely don’t want to connect with, whether you know them or not; and a few that you’re just not sure about… Those usually end up being the tricky ones!

I find a lot of professionals end up with at least 10 – 20 connection requests in their LinkedIn inbox (though I’ve seen folks with over 100!) that they just aren’t sure how to respond to. They might be a good connection–but I don’t really know them! So they hesitate. The connections grow cold; and they just keep looking at them over and over…

I’ve found a way to deal decisively with these requests. It enables you to determine if there is any value in connecting quickly–and then ignore the rest! It keeps my LinkedIn Inbox clean, and doesn’t offend anyone (that I know of).

When I go through my LinkedIn Inbox I quickly accept the requests from folks I know, and ignore the requests from random people I can’t imagine connecting with. For the ones that are left, I hit the little down arrow to the right of the “Accept” button (it will say, “Reply (Don’t accept yet.)”) and I send them a stock reply that I have saved on my computer (so I can send it really quickly) that says:

Thanks for offering to connect with me. I usually only connect with people I’ve met and know well enough to recommend. I meet a lot of people and I may be having trouble recalling how we know one another, do you mind refreshing my memory?

If we don’t know one another, but you feel like there is some way that we could have a business connection that would be profitable for both of us, I’d be open to hearing about that too.

If you just enjoy the content I’ve been sharing maybe following @blfarris, or @enmastbusiness on Twitter makes sense?

This reply does three things:

1. It gives them a chance to remind me if we have met

Maybe I met them at a speaking engagement, or some other place where I met a bunch of people and I just forgot them; that’s possible. If so, then I want to give them a chance to remind me and renew the connection.

2. It gives them a chance to pitch me

Many of these folks are sending connection requests because they think there is something I can do for them, or something we could do together. I don’t want to turn those folks down without hearing them out. This gives them a chance to communicate what it is that they think we can do together.

(Of course, they are already starting out behind the 8-ball. If you have something to pitch, just send me an InMail and pitch me! Sending a connection request is a pretty passive and indirect way to do that).

3. It helps them to stay connected

There are a lot of people who use LinkedIn differently than I do. They may not use it as a way to curate a list of trusted partners; they may use it more like Twitter where they are connecting with content they find compelling.

I wish that there was an easy link I could send them to ask them to “follow” me on LinkedIn (Did you know you can follow people on LinkedIn? The only place I can find to do it is on one of their published posts); but since I can’t, I send them my Twitter addresses. This gives us a chance to stay connected (or at least they stay connected to the content) without making it hard for me to use LinkedIn the way it works best for me.

Of course your mileage may vary; you may want to just connect to everyone on LinkedIn. If that’s your plan, go ahead! But if you find yourself staring at a bunch of connection requests you aren’t sure about, this might be a way to make a decision about them without missing out on potentially valuable connections.

How do you deal with random LinkedIn connection requests?




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5 reasons why your small business needs a strong sales pipeline http://www.enmast.com/2015/04/5-reasons-strong-sales-pipeline-business/ http://www.enmast.com/2015/04/5-reasons-strong-sales-pipeline-business/#respond Wed, 08 Apr 2015 18:31:51 +0000 http://www.enmast.com/?p=19067 We all want to have a strong sales pipeline, right? Who wouldn’t want to have a consistent flow of prospects interested in engaging their company? But the value of a strong sales pipeline goes beyond the marketing and sales team. It’s like having a tailwind for your whole business. If there is one thing you

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We all want to have a strong sales pipeline, right? Who wouldn’t want to have a consistent flow of prospects interested in engaging their company? But the value of a strong sales pipeline goes beyond the marketing and sales team. It’s like having a tailwind for your whole business.

If there is one thing you can do to make your job easier as a business owner, it’s to strengthen your sales pipeline.

Yes you need to pay your bills, and keep your team in line, and deliver consistently to your existing clients, but none ofthat needs to be your #1 priority. You can, and should, hire someone to do that other stuff!

sales pipeline

But as the business owner, your priority needs to be filling the sales pipeline. Let me show you why!

1. When your sales pipeline is strong, you are more selective with your clients

One sure sign of a successful business is that they select the right clients. When your pipeline is strong you can say “no” to work that’s not a good fit–work that doesn’t align with what you are best at. By doing that, you have more work that moves smoothly through your organization. You aren’t learning new industries or trying to offer new services, but you are delivering your best work time and time again. This makes it easier to have the right staff and keep them consistently busy; it makes it easier to estimate correctly so that your business remains profitable. A robust pipeline that allows you to turn the “wrong” client away is an important key to your success!

But it’s not just about efficiency. When you’re able to be selective, that also means you don’t have to work for jerks. Clients who abuse your staff, or who are disrespectful, can be shown the door–and that does wonders for staff morale and engagement.

2. When your sales pipeline is strong, you don’t discount

When we have a strong pipeline we don’t feel the need to negotiate on price. When someone asks for a discount we know with confidence that we can get another client (at full price) to replace this cheapskate! So we say no. This means that we have the profits we need to invest in better tools, and improve our staff. It means we can make good money ourselves!

3. When your sales pipeline is strong, you don’t have to “break” your internal processes

When clients come by who want our help, but who want us to step outside of our normal processes, I always cringe. I want to say “Yes! Of course we can.” But I know that every special process means that it’s going to cost us more–and give us opportunities to screw up!

When our pipeline is strong I am more likely to hold to our process (which, I know, works); I’m not going to panic when the client tells us “it has to be done by” some unreasonable date, or wants to do things out of order, or by using some tool that is foreign to me. If they can’t work with our process, we have another client who will.

4. When your sales pipeline is strong, you hire better!

One of the hardest calls for any business to make is when to add more staff. Is it time? Are we busy enough? Or will business suddenly dry up right after I add a bunch of new salaries to the budget? When your pipeline is strong, you have more confidence that the work is coming in.

So instead of hedging your bets by hiring someone young and cheap, you can go for that talented, experienced person who will really do the job–because you know the work is there. Having a strong pipeline gives you the confidence to hire the right people (and fire the wrong ones)!

5. When your sales pipeline is strong, you have more confidence

Have you ever thought about how much your confidence in your business effects you every day? Almost every decision you make is influenced by your confidence. When you know your business is rockin’, decisions come easier, sales come easier, you don’t hesitate and second guess, you just do what you know is right. Your job is so much easier (and your days better) when your sales pipeline is full and you know that what your team is doing is working. Not that there isn’t room for improvement, but you know you aren’t going to go broke before you have a chance to fix it!

This is why it’s the business owner’s #1 job to fill the sales pipeline. If you can get new clients lining up at your door consistently, your job is so much easier! Make room in your calendar every day to do business development! Never let a day go by without following up, or getting a proposal out, or making some calls to prospects or referral partners. If you make it a priority, track your progress, and measure the results, you will have a booming pipeline in no time!

What do you do to fill up your pipeline?




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5 ways your website can help you fill your sales pipeline http://www.enmast.com/2015/04/5-ways-website-fill-sales-pipeline/ http://www.enmast.com/2015/04/5-ways-website-fill-sales-pipeline/#comments Thu, 02 Apr 2015 13:00:22 +0000 http://www.enmast.com/?p=19012 Finding more qualified prospects to fill the top of your sales pipeline is the best way to accelerate the growth of your company. Any action I can take to bring in more leads on a consistent basis, well, that’s action worth taking! You have a website. Everybody does. How hard is it working for you?

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Finding more qualified prospects to fill the top of your sales pipeline is the best way to accelerate the growth of your company. Any action I can take to bring in more leads on a consistent basis, well, that’s action worth taking!

how to fill sales pipeline

You have a website. Everybody does. How hard is it working for you? Do you regularly get calls or emails from prospects who have been to your website? If not, here’s 5 Ways your website can help you fill your sales pipeline.

1. Be clear about what you do, who you do it for, and the difference you make in their lives and business.

Make sure that when your ideal client lands on your website it’s clear to them–in the first minute–that they belong there. You need to know the signals that will let your ideal client know that you help people just like them. For some folks it’s easy; if an accountant has chosen to focus only on churches, her message is clear. How do you make sure your ideal client knows that they are in the right place as soon as they land on your site?

Not only will this clarity magnetically attract your ideal clients, it will also discourage prospects who aren’t ideal. And this is doing you a favor, because people who aren’t your ideal client steal the time you could be using to find and serve the ones who are!

Example: BizEase Support Solutions

sales pipeline

What do you think BizEase does? If you are a speaker or coach, what tells you this is the right place to be?

2. Demonstrate your expertise. Show, don’t tell.

When I am at a party meeting new people, I start to notice people falling into two broad categories. The people I notice first are those who are driven to tell me how impressive they are. They talk about their travels, their important job, their accomplished children, etc. Then I start to notice another group of people. This group is often quiet initially–they aren’t banging a drum about where they work or where their kids go to school. Instead, I discover these things as I talk with them. They don’t trumpet their accomplishments, but I experience their intelligence and wisdom through the quality of the conversation we are having. And that conversation isn’t even about them! These folks are always returning the subject of the conversation to me–it’s like playing catch! I enjoy talking to these folks much more than those from the first group.

That’s the experience I want to have on your website. I don’t want your website to announce how great you are and shove your signs of success in my face (though, when I want to verify your bonafides, I should be able to find them). Instead of puffing up yourself and your company with a bunch of buzz words (which you think will mean something to me, but they likely won’t), impress me with real stories of the problems you’ve actually solved for clients just like me. You don’t have to work so hard telling me how great you are; because when you show me, I see your expertise in action. Stories and a demonstration of your knowledge will not only stay in my head, but they make me more likely to become a prospect.

Example: Digital Third Coast

sales pipeline

What tells your story better than a whole page full of client case studies with real numbers? Don’t miss the video too. There is no greater salesman for you than a happy client! Let them speak!

3. Invite people in. Collect email addresses — and actually use them.

If prospects feel at home, and they get to experience your expertise, then they want to stay connected. Give them an easy way to do that by putting an email subscription form on every page of your website. Make it prominent, and make it simple. Just add a little text to let them know what to expect when they sign up. Better yet, offer them something of value that they can get in exchange for that email address.

Once you have those email addresses, make sure you send something to them! A simple monthly update that points folks to the best stuff you are reading and writing–material that gets right to the heart of the problems your ideal clients are stuck on–will build trust and make them part of your tribe.

Example: Kneen & Co

sales pipeline
There’s nothing fancy here, but the call to action is clear. I know what to put in the box and what I’m going to get.

4. Ask them to raise their hand.

When people know that they are in the right place, and see that you are helping them, they might just want to hire you! Make it easy for them to do that, too. Don’t make folks go to a contact form, or “Contact Us” page. Put your phone number on every page of your website.

Make it easy for folks to call you! Have a spot on the sidebar where you tell people what to do if they want to work with you. That could lead to a form that emails you, or even to a page that sells a package right on your website. Just make it crystal clear, and easy.

Example: Assessment Pros

how to fill your sales pipeline

Assessment Pros have their phone number on every page of their site, and in the side bars, they have two different calls to action to prompt you to take action to reach out to them.

ways to fill your sales pipeline

5. Build relationships with your referral partners.

A good referral partner is a precious thing. That respected associate who serves an audience that overlaps a lot with your ideal client, but isn’t in direct competition with you, who is willing to send their clients and prospects to you (and if you can reciprocate, even better!) can be a continual source of well qualified leads.

Give them some space on your website too! Maybe they publish a blog post on your site a few times a year; maybe you co-create an eBook or video together that can be on both of your sites. Finding a way to get your partners to help you create the content on your website makes the job easier and helps you cement the bonds of that important relationship.

Example: Ask it Forward

Go to a conference, ask all the smartest folks there to answer one question and ask one question. Edit it all together and you have a fascinating piece of co-created content.

If you are doing all of this, and your website still isn’t bringing in new prospects, maybe you aren’t getting enough traffic, or you aren’t promoting your blog posts effectively. It can be done. Your website can be an effective part of your sales strategy.

What does your website do for you?




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