7 tips for a successful small business

7 tips for a successful small business

Discover the secrets to small business success by watching a marathon

Yesterday it was my birthday.  It was also the day of the 2016 London Marathon.  And I should have been running it.  But instead, I was sat on my sofa with tears of disappointment rolling down my cheeks as the race started due to my being injured.

I sat and watched the marathon and during the race it dawned on me the number of similarities between running a marathon and running a business.

Let me share them with you here:

Preparation

Firstly, the preparation.  If you just rock up on the start line of a marathon with no prior preparation, you are going to be in for a big shock and it is highly unlikely that you will make it to the finish.  Remember the old adage, ‘fail to prepare, prepare to fail’.  And it is the same in business.  Before jumping into a new business venture with both feet, you really do need to do some prior preparation to test if your small business idea is viable, find out where there are weak spots and then do something about those weak spots to make them stronger.

Planning

Next comes the planning.  With running a marathon, you are going to need to plan what resources you are going to need such as kit, hydration, training plan etc. and are likely to want to plan what time you want to finish in.  In business, you need to plan the resources you are going to need so that your small business will run efficiently and you also need to plan what you want to achieve over what time period so that you can put steps in place to achieve this.  Without planning, whether running a marathon or a business, you are going to fall by the wayside, particularly if you don’t have the correct resources.  And without a timeline and goal, you will just drift along with no idea if you are on track or not to achieve your best.

Be prepared for the unexpected

It is inevitable at some point that something is going to trip you up and scupper all your long-held plans, quite literally!  In my case, when out on a long training run for the marathon I did exactly that.  I tripped and broke my ankle!  My marathon plans were dashed as there was simply not enough time for the bone to repair and for me to get my training back on track.  Yes, I sat and sulked, got angry and felt sorry for myself.  And then I decided that I would just have to adjust my plans and aim for next year.  In business, we can easily get thrown off track and this can be the critical point of whether you pick yourself up, dust yourself off and get yourself back on track, or whether you simply throw in the towel and give up.  It invariably takes far longer to have a successful small business than we initially hoped, and has far more heartache and tears along the way than we ever could have ever imagined.  But when you finally succeed, there is no other feeling like it.  Just as it feels to cross that marathon line and take your medal.

Support

If you try and train for and then run a marathon alone it is incredibly lonely and the likelihood is that you will lose motivation along the way and give up.  You will make so many mistakes and waste so much time and money that you could have easily avoided with the right advice.  The same goes for running a small business.  You need to find someone that you can discuss your ideas and goals with and who is there to support you when the times are tough.  Those who do best in marathons and business are those who get professional coaches who have been there, done it and have the experience to guide you on the right path and stop you making all too common mistakes.  We all that helping hand if we are truly going to be the best that we can be.

Be aware of unseen opportunities

We may start out on our path with a very clear idea in our mind of what we want to achieve, but we must be careful not to become blind to opportunities that may appear under our noses.  It was heart-breaking this year to see Eliud Kipchoge come across the finish line in first place, achieving his goal, but then looking back at the clock to realise that he had missed the world record by a mere 8 seconds.  The disbelief and despair on his face were palpable.  He had been so focused on his goal of finishing first, that he simply not realised that he could comfortably have taken the world record title by speeding up a few hundred yards earlier at the finish.  In business, yes, you want to keep focused on the end goal but always be open for any other opportunities that may come along to help you succeed even further.

Celebrate achievements

As the marathon runners get given their medal as they cross the finish line, you need to reward yourself for your achievements in business.  Running a successful business is not easy.  If it was, everyone would be doing it.  It is tough.  As with marathon training, there and many highs and many more lows.  With each step forward that you achieve, stop and realise how far you have come and reward yourself for sticking with it and making it work

Know when enough is enough

Whilst I am one for saying never give up, if you really have given it your all and your health or relationships are now suffering because of it, you may just need to realise that your dream is going to have to take a different route.  This does not mean that you have failed, but simply means that you are going to have to find something different to fulfil your passion for success.  Whether it is constant injuries whilst running, and you realise your body simply isn’t suited to constant pounding of the streets, or your small business is simply not working, bills are not getting paid and you are in danger of losing your home, sometimes you have to face the hard truth and find a different way of doing things.  This may be switching from the long distance marathon to competing in a triathlon with a shorter run or taking your business down a different route that will generate more income for you.

 

So there you have my similarities between running a marathon and running a small business.  I would love to hear of any others that you may have so please leave a comment below.

10 top tips to stay motivated when working from home

10 top tips to stay motivated when working from home

It happens to the best of us.  We are striving away running our home based business but one day we get up but find that our motivation has decided to take a day off.  We know what we should be doing but the body and mind simply aren’t willing.

Half a dozen cups of coffee later and even the caffeine isn’t helping.  All we want to do is crawl back into bed and hide.  No amount of staring at the laptop screen is producing any sort of work of an acceptable standard and the clock is slowly ticking away whilst you feel like you are swimming in a vat of treacle.

You scroll through your emails half a dozen times and can’t muster the energy to reply to any of them.  They will have to wait until later, or perhaps tomorrow.  The phone calls you need to make get left for another day as the effort required to speak to another person in even a slightly engaging manner is simply too much.

When you get a day like this, follow these ten tips to get your motivation back on track and get moving forward once again.

  1. Have a welcoming workspace

Having a clear, decluttered workspace that makes you feel good when you sit down can help you get motivated to get on and do some work.  Only have things that you need on your desk along with a couple of personal items that you love looking at such as a vase of flowers or favourite picture.

  1. Find an accountability partner

Get someone who will chase you up and make you accountable for getting those pesky tasks finished.  Knowing that someone is going to be checking up on you to see what you have done can help spur you into action.

  1. Review your goals

Take a closer look at your original goals and make sure you have not gone off track which is leaving you feeling somewhat demotivated.  Re-define your goals if you need to and also take time to realise how far you have come since you started.  This can help make you feel good and give you the oomph to get moving forward again.

  1. Define your why

Why did you start your business?  What was that burning passion that you wanted to fulfil?  Go create yourself a vision board of what you want to achieve and realise that if you don’t get off your butt and do some work these things are going to slip you by.

  1. Network

Working from home can be lonely and it is easy to sink into a lull.  Get out and mix with other like minded people who understand what you are going through and can help lift you up again.  Find a local group that you connect with and make it a habit to meet once a month to help lift your spirits and get inspired.

  1. Find a hero

Who do you admire?  Who would you love to be like?  Go print off a picture of them and pin by your desk.  When you are feeling out of sorts and de-motivated, take a look at their picture and ask yourself what they would do.  Put yourself in their shoes and model yourself on their behaviour.  They wouldn’t have got to where they did by not putting in the effort so think about the action they would take in your position and go do it.

  1. Get off social media

One of the biggest de-motivators in this day and age can be social media.  You constantly see a raft of your competitors who are all professing to be raking in the money whilst sipping cocktails on the beach whilst you are still slogging away trying to make ends meet.  Well, stop looking at them!  Have a social media detox for a couple of days and start to see how much better you feel.

  1. Exercise

When you are feeling low and de-motivated, one of the last things you feel like doing is exercise.  But just going for a simple walk in the fresh air can help clear your head and make you feel so much better.  Doing energetic physical activity releases endorphins – the happy bugs – which give you energy and make you feel full of life again ready to tackle the world.

  1. Dress the part

Slouching around in your pj’s all day is not going to help get you in the right frame of mind for doing your best work.  So get up, get dressed, slap on the lippy and act as though you are going to a high level board meeting or to meet your idol in point 6 above.  Dress up and show up!  It is incredible how by just dressing the part can help change your mood and your attitude.

  1. Take a day off

Sometimes the simple fact is that you just need to take a day out to chill, read a book, watch a movie or hide under the duvet with a box of chocolate.  Everyone needs a down day sometimes.  The world won’t end if you take a day out.  Just go easy on yourself, take a break and promise yourself you will get back on it again tomorrow.

 

P.S. If you really are struggling and would like some one to one support to get you back on track, become a member of The Small Business Kit and let me help you out.

Essential do’s and don’ts when a customer complains on social media

Essential do’s and don’ts when a customer complains on social media

Have you ever had a complaint on social media?

Today, more and more people take to social media to make a complaint.  But there is such a huge difference in how businesses deal with these complaints.

If you get a complaint on social media, do you want to keep that client who complains (and create a raving superfan for your business) or just get rid of them (and take others with them)?

Things go wrong.  If they don’t, you probably aren’t that busy or aren’t trying hard enough.

And this past week two retail giants had major problems.  Their websites broke!  Sainsbury’s was online but whatever search went in ended in ‘no results’ available.  Boots UK site was completely down and simply couldn’t be accessed.

Sod’s law dictated these problems happened on the very day that I was trying to do some online ordering.  After numerous frustrated attempts to order what I wanted, I gave up and took to Twitter to ask when they would have their problems rectified.

Within minutes of my tweet to Sainsbury’s, they responded to say they had checked and yes, there was a problem and would report back to me.  In a short while, they tweeted me again to say they were doing their best to rectify the problem and would I bear with them and try to order in a few hours time.

Boots?  The silence was deafening!  No response at all.

Later that evening Sainsbury’s asked if I would send them a contact number so they could speak to me direct.  I duly sent this and they called me to say the site was back up and had I managed to place my order.  I told them that I hadn’t placed my order as time had run out and I had gone elsewhere.   They apologised profusely for the inconvenience caused, told me how much they valued my custom and immediately sent me an e-voucher.

I was impressed.

Boots?  After sending a second tweet they responded 48 hours later to say their site had only been down for one hour.  Utter rubbish, it was down for over 6 hours!  And no further correspondence was had from them.

So what can you learn from these two companies and the way they handled a problem?  As I am sure you can guess, it’s not rocket science.

What to do when you get a complaint on social media

If you get a complaint or a client/customer flags up a problem try the following:

  • Immediately acknowledge there is a problem and it will be looked into
  • Ask for contact details to take the complaint off line
  • Inform the client of when they can expect a response
  • Respond
  • Let them know what went wrong and what has been done to rectify the problem
  • If you and your business were not at fault, there has still been a misunderstanding of some sort so acknowledge this and look into ways of ensuring the misunderstanding or problem does not happen again
  • Let them know how much you value their custom and apologise for inconvenience caused
  • Go over and above to make them feel special and offer them a freebie/voucher or similar to show you genuinely care

This is an effective way of regaining trust and credibility with the client and retaining their custom.

It is also possible they will be so impressed that they will turn back to social media to say how impressed they were with how your problem was handled, raising awareness of your business to others.

 

What not to do when you get a complaint on social media:

  • Ignore them
  • Deny there was a problem – this is basically calling them a liar – not recommended as insult will be taken
  • Get into a public argument
  • Do absolutely nothing to let them know you value their custom

If you do the above, you are most likely to lose their custom forever (there are plenty of other places to buy the same products and services from).

It is also quite probable that the client will take to social media to highlight your poor attitude giving a bad impression of your business to others who may have been thinking of buying from you and will now go look elsewhere.

 

Create a customer care policy

If you don’t have a customer care policy in place, go create one now.  It doesn’t matter if you are a one woman band or a multi-million corporation.  The principle is exactly the same.

Hopefully, you will never have to use it but as the boy scouts famously state, it is always good to be prepared.

 

 

Are you a social media friend or foe

Are you a social media friend or foe

Social media friend or foe

For those of you who have got to know me you will be very much aware by now that I am a stickler for social media etiquette as illustrated in many of my previous posts such as ‘A key tactic when your content is shared on social media

In my opinion, far too many lose sight of the word ‘social’ when using social media.  They rely on auto responders to send messages to followers on Twitter and use auto scheduling software such as Hootsuite and Buffer to post out messages but then fail to check in to reply to comments or questions.

Well Jeeves, it simply is not good enough.

And now there seems to be another abhorrent trend doing the rounds.  This has become apparent on Facebook where certain people feel the need to send a personal friend request to some poor unsuspecting victim to then, once the friend request has been accepted, automatically add them to a group without their permission only to bombard them with sales messages.

Jolly bad practice!!  And personally, one that I think Facebook should look into banning.

I am selective as to who I accept as a friend as I prefer to keep my personal and professional life separate.  But on occasions, where I have built a relationship with someone in a group, then yes, I also will accept them as a friend.

But if they are then so rude as to add me to their group with no explanation or introduction it just illustrates to me what an unprofessional person they are and one that I never want to do business with.  They have used an unscrupulous practice to entice me as a social media friend under false pretences.

Due to my selectiveness with my friends, this has only happened to me on a couple of occasions but I know of others who have been bombarded with new found ‘friends’ not only adding them to wholly unsuitable groups but also posting on their own personal walls!

This is the height of bad manners and I suspect started from some low-level MLM pundit or desperate business coach (and before you start I am not anti-MLM, far from it as there are a few very good companies out there).  It is exactly the same as me accepting to meet a new friend for a coffee only to be taken completely unexpectedly to a timeshare talk.  Not the way someone should treat a friend in any way, shape or form.

Which are you?  A social media friend or foe?

If you are an offender and guilty of this practice may I suggest you cease it now?  There are far better ways to market your services and this is not one of them.  You will only end up getting yourself a bad name and believe me, bad news travels fast.