How to Be a Creative Entrepreneur

There’s a great line in Alice in Wonderland when the Queen says, “Sometimes I think of 6 impossible things before breakfast.” I think you’ll agree that this has to be creativity at its best! As a small business owner you want to be as creative as possible but how on earth can you open up your mind to get to the point where ideas just spill out?

There’s a great line in Alice in Wonderland when the Queen says, “Sometimes I think of 6 impossible things before breakfast.” I think you’ll agree that this has to be creativity at its best! As a small business owner this is an ideal you really need to strive for … but how on earth can you open up your mind to get to the point where ideas just spill out?

Small business owners are expected to be creative and inventive, otherwise how could they run their own firm? If you have a sneaky feeling that creativity is not one of your strong points what can you do to stimulate your brain and get it kicked-started?

Be Unlimited

Too many people are ‘limited thinkers’. They have their world placed squarely in a box and nothing can exist outside of that. If the newspaper reports something then it must be right. If Joe next door says that something is impossible then he must be right. As a small business owner, you cannot afford to be a ‘limited thinker’. You have to be an ‘unlimited thinker’. Get into the habit of seeing no boundaries; decide that there are no taboos. Have the belief that with a bit of focus you can find a creative solution to all of your problems. This is the foundation for a creative thought process.

Be Future-Focused

Creative ideas invariably come when you ‘look’ into the future. The feeling of propelling yourself forward and seeing the problem solved is a great motivator. Do you think you could achieve the same result if you were backward focused? I don’t think so! Train yourself to be future-focused, always looking ahead, not a traditional thinker who tries to find answers in today’s world. 

Be a Writer

Once you open your mind to the joys of creativity the ideas will quickly start flowing, as if someone has opened the flood gates! Just like flood water, unless you catch it the ideas are lost for ever. Capture all your ideas by carrying a small pocket notebook with you. As soon as an idea pops into your mind, write it down. It doesn’t matter how outlandish it is, you can look at it in the cold light of day later on.

The fact you are responding to the ideas by noting them will further encourage you to be even more creative – good deeds encourage more good deeds!

Be Clutter-Free

If you are naturally an untidy person, then get out of the habit! A cluttered office will lead to a cluttered mind. You cannot expect your brain to work efficiently when all it’s doing is constantly reminding you how untidy your office is. To be creative remove all the clutter from your life and free your mind.

Be Action-Oriented

All of these points are great, but if you don’t take any action with your ideas, then you may as well not have bothered. An idea is nothing but a thought unless you take a specific action to help bring it to life. Periodically review your notebook and see if there are any hidden gems, or ideas which can be quickly actioned. A lot of your ideas may not suit at all but in there somewhere is probably an idea, which if acted upon, could change you or your business. Commit fully to move forward on as many of your ideas as you can.

Don’t be afraid to break down the boundary walls. As John Stuart Mill said, “That which seems the height of absurdity in one generation often becomes the height of wisdom in the next.” 

Let me close with one question – can you be creative enough to be dismissed as a dreamer? No? Then get practicing!

4 Better Ways to Handle Complaints

Photo by Alicia Zinn from Pexels https://www.pexels.com/photo/assorted-business-desserts-display-159991/

If you fail to meet the customer’s expectations at the Moment of Truth , customers are very likely to tell 11 people about the problem they had with your company.

If you WOW a customer at the Moment of Truth , the average customer will walk away and tell 5 people about the experience. If you fail to meet the customer’s expectations at the Moment of Truth , customers are very likely to tell 11 people about the problem they had with your company. If you drop the ball with customers at the Moment of Truth , but rebound with a quick customer recovery, research shows that the customer will tell up to 17 people about your service recovery. 

Did you get that? Customers will tell 5 people if you WOW them, BUT if there’s a problem and you quickly fix it, they will tell more than 3 times as many people as they would if no problem had occurred at all. One of the fastest and easiest ways to grow your bottom line is to equip your front line employees with skills to respond to complaints and problems in such a way that they completely regain goodwill and restore the customer’s confidence. 

Read on to find out exactly how to do this.

  •  1. Resolve problems as quickly as possible. The faster the resolution, the better the chances for maintaining loyalty. TARP, Inc. found that ninety-five percent of complaining customers would remain loyal if their complaint was resolved on the first contact. That number dropped to seventy percent when the complaint was not immediately resolved. In fact, the speed of resolution has a greater impact on future loyalty than the resolution itself. Strive to resolve complaints on the first contact and when that isn’t possible, final resolution should occur within 5 – 10 business days in order to maintain and build loyalty.
  • 2. Give Them Something.Coupons, product samples, and other freebies have a definite impact on loyalty after a service failure has occurred. Years ago American Airlines gave me 7000 frequent flyer miles after I experienced a gruesome delay. And that gift of miles, was enough to make me come back. But don’t take my word for it: A study conducted for the Society of Consumer Affairs Professionals (SOCAP) found that 58% of complaining consumers who received something in the mail following their contact with consumer affairs departments were delighted, versus only 40% of those who did not receive anything. Giving customers token items, such as coupons or product samples, after a service failure both increases the perception of value and serves to maintain loyalty. 
  • 3. Only allow the friendliest, most helpful, and diplomatic employees to talk to customers. Employee courtesy and attitude are critical factors in regaining the goodwill of customers who have experienced a problem. Customers contacting a company with a problem want to talk to a person who is courteous, professional sympathetic and understanding. Additionally, employees must be skilled in communicating with diplomacy, expressing empathy, and representing the company credibly and convincingly during times of consumer distress. The attitudes and behaviors of front-line professionals form powerful lasting impressions with customers whether these impressions are positive or negative. 
  • 4. Encourage your people to “Be Gumby”. You remember Gumby don’t you—the green rubbery figure that Eddie Murphy portrayed so hilariously on Saturday Night Live? In my seminars I teach employees to “Be Gumby” when it comes to dealing with customers. By being Gumby, I mean do whatever it takes to service customers. This includes being flexible, bending over backwards, making a 180 degree turn when you were heading another direction on a non customer-impacting task. It might even mean standing on your head. The idea is to be completely customer focused. Being Gumby guarantees you’ll always make customers happy.

3 Myths That Ruin Meetings

Every year these myths waste billions of dollars in payroll money.

These myths have cost companies billions of dollars in wasted payroll money.

Myth #1 Structure spoils spontaneity. 
I once attended a two-day long disaster that easily cost over $40,000. Thirty people spent the first hour seeking an issue to discuss, then spent the next 15 hours arguing over insolvable problems. When I asked the manager who called the meeting, “Where’s the agenda?” the reply was, “I didn’t want to spoil the spontaneity by imposing a structure.”
 
Reality: If spontaneity were a universally sound business practice we would build buildings without blueprints. Of course, no smart business leader works without a plan.
 
The Fix: Set a goal and then prepare an agenda. Ideally, this agenda should be so clear, complete, and specific that someone else could use it to lead the meeting to obtain the accomplish the goal.
 
Myth #2: Since it’s my meeting I should do all the talking.
Some meetings are run like a medieval court. The chairperson sits on a verbal throne while the subjects sit in respectful silence. The big talker justifies this by thinking: if the other people in the meeting knew anything worthwhile, they’d be leading the meeting.
 
Reality: If you’re the only one talking, you’re working too hard. In addition, realize that most people protect themselves from extended monologues by sending their thoughts off on a holiday. That is, no one is paying attention to you: they’re busy daydreaming, doodling, or dreaming.
 
The Fix: Convey large amounts of information by a memo or email. Then call a meeting based on participant driven activities that test or reinforce comprehension.
 
Myth #3: Meetings are free.
Most meetings are paid for with soft money. That is, it’s money that has already been spent for wages. In addition, no purchase request is necessary. No budget needs to be approved. All someone has to do is call a meeting.
 
Reality: Meetings are very expensive. They use people’s time, and payroll is the largest part of running a business. When people hold bad meetings, they waste the most important resource in a business – the time people that spend working to earn a profit for the company.
 
The Fix: Design meetings to earn a profit. After all, a meeting is a business activity, not a company picnic.
 
 

5 Good Reasons a Self-Employed Professional Should Take Vacation

So you think you’re not justified in taking time away from your business because you’re self-employed? Here are five great reasons why you should definitely take a vacation.

So you think you’re not justified in taking time away from your business because you’re self-employed? Here are five great reasons why you should definitely take a vacation: 

1. Physical down time

You work hard to grow and maintain your business. Trying to be superhuman will certainly take its toll if you allow it to. Give your body a break by taking in some R&R. 

2. Mental down time

Your days are filled with busy, sometimes even hectic, day-to-day activities related to your business. If you don’t allow yourself to get away from it once in a while, your peace of mind and general well-being will most definitely suffer. Get out and play. Your mind will thank you! 

3. Spend time with loved ones

Your family and friends see you working, working, working, sometimes rarely coming up for air. Both you and they will appreciate spending some quality time together. 

4. See the world (or your own back yard)

The important thing is to do something you enjoy, whether it’s traveling or, if that’s not your cup of tea or you don’t have the budget for it, spend time at home. If you also work out of your home, this could be challenging. The key is to stay out of your office during your vacation time. Try getting creative with this. Make your office “off limits” by closing the door and placing a sign on it. Do whatever it takes to keep your mind off working. How about a hobby or a day trip to the beach? Think of what you can do within your budget that’s fun. Or do nothing at all! 

5. You have a life

Although this one is a no-brainer, it surprises me how many small business owners don’t feel as if they deserve time off. There is too much to do, and not enough hours in the day to get it all done. Well, I’ve got news for you. It’s always going to feel that way! Only you have the power to allow yourself time off. Even if you prefer only to take a day here and a day there instead of a week-long (or longer) vacation each year, that’s a whole lot better than never taking time off. Trust me, you’ll feel better about yourself and your work if you take regular vacation time. You’ll be healthier, too!

4 Rules For New Entrepreneurs – Practical Tips For Starting Right

It’s a great time to be an entrepreneur—in the last decade, technology has leveled the playing field and propelled an entrepreneurial revolution. As an entrepreneur, you now have more access to information that enables you to make more intelligent choices more quickly.

You have an advantage over big businesses in that you’re lighter, more flexible, and faster on your feet. You can target new markets more quickly, and you can turn on a dime.

But being a successful entrepreneur requires that you look at the big picture and follow a plan through from beginning to end. Rieva Lesonsky, editor-in-chief of Entrepreneur Magazine gives some practical guidelines that can help you when beginning your own enterprise:

1.Don’t Quit Your Day Job.

Consider starting your business part-time, especially if it’s online, while you’re working and have a steady income. It usually takes six months to a year to get a business going and you don’t want your ability to make your house payment to hinge upon your company being an overnight success. Start with what you can manage, financially and time-wise, and scale up as your business grows.

2.Find Your Niche.

The days of general stores are over. Particularly online, consumers are looking for stores that specialize. You have to find a need—something a specific group of people want, but can’t get at the big chain stores—and fill it. Advises Lesonsky, “You can’t compete with the big guys, so you have to find where the big guys aren’t and go into your niches.”

3.Have an Online Presence.

Even if you’re not planning to start an online retail business, consider that the internet can still play a valuable role in your company. Having an online presence eliminates the limitations of physical location and broadens your customer base by, literally, millions. It’s also a great tool for promoting yourself and letting people, even in your own area, know that you’re there, and what you’re doing.

4.Refuse to Quit.

Successful entrepreneurship requires creativity, energy, and a drive to keep going when you fail. Few people realize that before Bill Gates created the extremely successful Microsoft 3.0, he created a Microsoft 1.0 and 2.0, both of which flopped—but he kept at it. And that determination and refusal to give up is what will separate successful entrepreneurs from unsuccessful ones. Says Lesonsky, “Arm yourself with optimism to get beyond the ‘No’ or the trouble. There’s nothing wrong in failure—just don’t repeat the same mistake!”

5 Things to Consider Before You Hire a Virtual Assistant:

I hear the term “Virtual Assistant” more and more in business. Did you know that you could possibly hire someone from another continent that works while you sleep and maybe for $8 – $12 Dollars. Most of the VA’s I work with have degrees and one an MBA in Business Admin. I pay her a pautry $15.00 per hour now thats waht I call a bargain!

Understanding What a Virtual Assistant Can Do

I hear the term “Virtual Assistant” more and more in business. Did you know that you could possibly hire someone from another continent that works while you sleep and maybe for $8 – $12 Dollars. Mos t of the VA’s I work with have degrees and one an MBA in Business Admin. I pay her a paltry $15.00 per hour and what a bargain that is.

With the growth of virtual assistants has also been a change in what it means to be a virtual assistant.  The leaders and founders of this particular entrepreneurial job have made distinctions between what it means to be a virtual assistant, and what it doesn’t mean.  When you are explaining your business to others, you want to make sure to keep this standard.  

Being a virtual assistant is becoming a distinct definition of a specific home owned business.  It is expected that the standards will be upheld of a virtual assistant for all others who are working in this profession.  This means that a virtual assistant is someone who provides a variety of services to businesses and individuals following the standard that has become formalized in the past decade. 

The first angle that is taken towards approaching what a virtual assistant is includes the idea of being virtual. If you are not working out of your home, or remotely, then you are not considered a virtual assistant.  Instead, it is considered to be a temporary job or a telecommuting job.  One of the standards for being a virtual assistant is having the freedom to work where you want. 

The second part to being a virtual assistant is the distinction that is made in the job description.  Most virtual assistants will cringe at the idea of being called a secretary or freelance worker.  Technically, a freelance worker is one who only does the job for extra income.  At the same time, a secretary is one who doesn’t do the work continuously with only one client.  A virtual assistant is provided in order to create a substantial and long term relationship with a business. 

Here are 5 things you should consider in a Virtual Assistant?

1. Professionalism. Does the VA answer her or his emails, voice mails and other correspondence in a timely and professional manner? It is important if this person is to work for you has the right skills to not keep you or a deadline waiting. Make sure you give a covert task to her or him to pass that shows commitment to deadlines.

2. Project Management. Juggling tasks nowadays is vital. We now tap out feet in front of the microwave so things need to get done. If a person cannot work with a few projects on the go you might want to move on. I guarantee you will only find out that they have a project management problem when you lose “the big deal”.

3. Availability. Many of these people work for several people at the same time. It is not uncommon for you as an employer to be in a funnel system for the VA. You slowly move down the funnel as they take on better contracts from new virtual employers. Be aware that you and your project will get dropped at the most time you least need it. You also need to be lining up new VA’s. Try to split your work between 2 or more VA’s to combat this problem.

4. Test. Give the VA a mini project before going ahead with a contract.  I also give a minimum of 2 tasks that cost no more than $30 -$40 to complete. I need them done correctly and to my total satisfaction before I even consider this person. It is simple to hire one of the first few people to come along but please shortlist at least 10 and give the tasks to 2 of the 10 you shortlisted. Obviously make sure these tasks are something you actually want done, don’t waste any money.

5. Get References. Can the VA give you a list of people whom you can contact who will tell you about working with her or him? 

The main distinction that most virtual assistants will work towards creating is the idea of being in a relationship with a business, and making this their business.  This goes beyond the Expectations of any temporary work or telecommuting job.  It also means that the services a virtual assistant can provide will go outside of job descriptions that are made in the office.  By understanding the standards for being a virtual assistant, you can best approach this in your own relationships with businesses.

Buying A Franchise

There are many good reasons to pursue your dream of owning a successful franchise. For starters when you buy a franchise you are buying a proven system.

Buying a franchise can be a life changing experience. There are many good reasons to pursue your dream of owning a successful franchise. For starters when you buy a franchise you are buying a proven system. Buying a franchise comes with the advantage of knowing that the business has been successful in other locations. The idea and process of running this business has already been proven. Therefore the learning curve in operating the business can be virtually eliminated.

When you are buying a franchise your are also buying an established customer base or brand name. Most franchises are already recognizable to consumers. The brand awareness provides security and trust to the customer who expects uniform quality to be provided. Therefore a customer base is already established.

You can also benefit from any advertising or promotion that the franchiser (owner of the franchise) does at the national or local level, without absorbing the cost. The franchiser can also provide input to the franchisee on a local marketing plan.

If you buy a franchise you also receive ongoing support. Training and support is usually always part of the deal. Since the franchise company has a vested interest in how well you do, ongoing training, system upgrades, product enhancements, and question and answer resources are provided. The franchiser offers experience to franchisee in such areas as accounting procedures, personnel and facility management, and business planning.

Also, many times obtaining financing for buying a franchise is easier since the franchise name and reputation are usually recognized by the lenders. Therefore, banks are more likely to fund the franchisee. In addition, relationships with suppliers are already established; affording the opportunity to buy in bulk, enabling a great deal of savings for the business.

The first step when buying a franchise is choosing an industry you are interested in or have prior experience in. There are many great franchises out there to choose from. Auto franchises and coffee franchises are very popular franchises but it is important to research the each opportunity before investing. It is recommended you sit down with a Franchise Consultant and decide if buying a franchise is right for you.

Blend Your Strengths with Small Business Needs

If you are looking to start a small business of your own, there is a proven process that is necessary to start off with. Many creative people have great business ideas, but their approach to planning is ineffective and eventually flops. First and foremost, you have to find a market that is a good size. Now what does this mean exactly? Finding a niche market that is a reasonable size entails pinpointing one that is big enough to make a profit but small enough for the resources of a small business and one that does not compete with large corporations.

Two main mistakes that entrepreneurs make in finding small markets are targeting a market that is too broad and targeting a niche that is already heavily exploited. What you decide to sell must connect product to target audience or you will not be successful.

To start off with, choose your own unique area of expertise. What are you good at? What do you have experience in? Use your education, your skills and the people you know who could help you transform your idea into reality. If you have many areas of interest and are not sure which one would be the most profitable, a little more research will be needed. Consider how it will be possible to convert your education and skills into money-making opportunities. Research your surrounding marketplace to see what is needed in your area.

Now if you are trying to find small markets online, be forewarned that this can be tedious and time-consuming. You will first have to think of a list of possible target audiences, then take your first idea and research an exhaustive list of keywords and keyword phrases that people in that target audience are using for information on their desired product. Next, one must research all keywords and phrases for relevancy and then study which keywords on your list might lead to other niches that will need future researching. Then, you need to compare all your keywords to web pages to evaluate the present competition. You will use all your information to narrow down your list to keywords and phrases that have the most online traffic and those that are the least exploited. If your small market does not appear to be profitable, you must start the entire research process over. If you do find one that seems to be a money maker, you then must focus on finding ideas to profit from.

Photo by Victor Freitas on Unsplash

3 Worst Mistakes People Make in a Presentation

A bad presentation can ruin a career. Here’s how to avoid the three worst mistakes that people make.

Truly memorable disasters don’t just happen. They require a special blend of misunderstanding and misguided effort. Here are three ways to guarantee a disaster in your next presentation, and how to avoid them.

Mistake #1: Believe in Magic. 
Show up hoping that a coherent, eloquent, useful presentation will magically appear once you start speaking. Avoid any type of preparation. Just wing it.

What Happens
Everyone is amazed by the presentation because they expected more. They are also bored and disappointed. They may even become upset because an unprepared presentation insults the audience by wasting their time. Unprepared presentations sound like, well, unprepared presentations.

Instead
Prepare. Identify the goal for your talk. Design a presentation that achieves that goal. Talk with key members of the audience about their expectations. Rehearse.

Mistake #2: Memorize your speech
Spend untold hours committing every precious word to memory so that you can recite it even if awakened in the middle of the night.

What Happens
You sound like a machine. And if you stumble on a word, you can become stuck–speechless. I’ve seen this happen, and it’s painful.

Instead
Learn your presentation. Yes, write a script. Memorize the first and last sentences and then practice giving the presentation without looking at the script. Practice many times. Eventually, you will learn how to convey the key ideas in a natural, normal way.

Mistake #3: Talk About Yourself
Focus entirely on yourself. Tell about your background, your credentials, and your history. Tell your story. Just talk about yourself. Make the presentation all about you, yourself, and your life.

What Happens
They listen politely. If you manage to be entertaining enough, they may actually pay attention. Otherwise, the audience reacts by thinking, “So what?”

Instead
Talk about the audience. That is, talk about what they need and how they can achieve it.

 

“Why Business Credit Is A MUST For Every Business Owner!”

Entrepreneurs typically make one or more financially devastating mistakes when financing the launch, operation and/or growth of their businesses. In most cases, they don’t realize that they’re making a mistake.

As an entrepreneur, you’re hardwired to enjoy a greater level of risk than the average person. But do you enjoy the thrill of business and investing so much that you’re willing to risk: 

-Being hounded by creditors?
-Declaring bankruptcy?
-Being denied a mortgage?
-Paying more than your fair share of interest on your loans?
-Losing your house?

If you answered “no” to one or more of these questions, this may be the most important report you’ve read in a long time. Because, if you’re like most entrepreneurs, investors, and business owners I’ve met over the past 28 years, you’re in danger of facing all of these horrific problems. And it’s all because of your business.

You see, entrepreneurs typically make one or more financially devastating mistakes when financing the launch, operation and/or growth of their businesses. In most cases, they don’t realize that they’re making a mistake.  And to tell the truth, even when they do realize they’re making a mistake … they lull themselves into thinking that the consequences will be a minor annoyance. 

Until, one day, they can’t qualify for a mortgage. Or they can’t get the to-die-for financing offered on the new car they’re buying. Or they’re hounded by creditors and eventually have to declare bankruptcy. And it is all because they use their personal finances to fund the launch or expansion of their business. They then use personal credit cards to pay for business expenses. If you are in business or thinking about starting a business, business credit is a must. 

Let me explain, most business owner have no idea that they can establish business credit and even fewer know how to how to establish business credit. If owners would take the time necessary to educate themselves about establishing credit they would no longer have to use their personal funds for start up capital or working capital. They would also be able to use business credit cards which don’t report to their personal credit reports, therefore, not lowering the personal credit scores.

The most important goal of business credit though is to obtain unsecured business lines of credit, which can be done once the business credit profile is set up properly. Once a business obtains unsecured business lines of credit, they then have the working capital they need to start a business or expand their business. The business owner has check book control to use the business lines of credit as they wish. And best of all, the business lines of credit don’t report to the business owner’s personal credit report.

If you have set up your business profile correctly there are a number of banks that will lend to brand new start up business. That is right, brand new start up business with no track record whatsoever. The banks will extend unsecured business lines of credit so they can have the start up capital they need to finance the business of their dreams. 

Make no mistake about it; business credit is a MUST for every business owner. Don’t put your personal assets at risk finance or fund your business!