“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”
This is a quote in Stephen Covey’s book The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People that I’m currently reading.
When I read this, a memory immediately came to mind that happened about 20 years ago. It was when I was in a meeting which was getting rather heated. I was one of the vocal ones (surprise surprise!) and when one of the other people in the room was in the middle of arguing with me, I was eagerly leaning forward attempting to jump in with my response.
Suddenly, the chair of the group stopped us. She turned to us both and said “I want you to both stop and listen to each other rather than waiting for your turn to reply. And I mean really listen!”
This stopped us both in our tracks. Well, it certainly stopped me. I realised instantly that I hadn’t really listened to anything the other person was saying as I was so intent in listening for a gap in the conversation to jump into and take over.
I have never forgotten this moment and when I have a strong opinion on something and want to get my point across, I now have a totally different stance. I now sit back. And listen.
Because I may just hear a different perspective that I hadn’t considered before, and this may just change my viewpoint. And if not, I can honestly and calmly say when I get the chance that I have listened carefully to all views put forward and would now like to put forward my own. This commands much more respect than being the one who shouts the loudest.
If you really want to get your point across, take a tip from Stephen Covey. Seek first to understand and then to be understood. It makes a huge difference, I promise you.
If you want to read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People you can buy it here on Amazon.
How to stay motivated when you’re stuck in the day to day operations of your business.
You’re running your business, but you want to move it forward with your next big idea. You have a lightbulb moment and know exactly what you want to do and how to do it.
You are so busy working in your business as it is there is no time to do anything different. You end up feeling completely stuck which leads to feeling totally demotivated and losing the love.
Don’t despair. There is a way. But only if you want it badly enough.
Change your words.
When we find ourselves in a situation like this it’s all too easy to sit down and say “I can’t” and “I don’t have enough time”. This negative chatter eats away at us and gets us starting to believe it.
Change “I can’t” to “How can I?”
Change “I don’t have enough time” to “How can I free up more time?”
These simple changes put us back in a feeling of control and create a positive mindset which will help get us motivated to find a way forward.
Create a plan
Make sure you sit down and write out exactly what your new idea is and when you want it by. Create a plan and a timeline. Start with the end in mind and jot down what you need to do by when. If you want to take a course which will give you new skills in your business, when is the exam date? How many modules in the course? How much time will each module take? Map it all out.
Breaking it down into small chunks will allow you to see realistically how much time you are going to have to put into your new idea each month or week. It’s then up to you to find out how to free up this time to put ideas into action.
Manage your time
- Get out of bed one hour earlier each day to spend on your new idea
- Cut back on social media time which can literally waste hours each day
- Forfeit mind-numbingly mundane tv that you have gotten into the habit of watching
- Take an objective at your business. Are you working effectively or could something be streamlined? Are you doing something out of habit which really won’t have much impact if you stop doing it altogether?
- Do you spend hours cooking in the evenings? Find some quick and easy recipes that take just 30 minutes to prepare and cook. Get the family to do the clearing up after the meal.
If you want your new idea badly enough you will find a way. If you don’t, you will find an excuse. The choice is yours.
I’m a huge fan of having systems in place in my business to save me huge amounts of time, money and stress.
But why do so few small business owners that I meet have them?
Usually, I find it is because it takes time and a level of new learning to design and put together any new system. There are always more pressing things to do. And whilst you have fewer clients in the early days, muddling along like this can be ok.
However, when your business starts to grow, trying to carry on without an effective system in place can cause chaos, headaches and a huge amount of lost income.
Systems get you organised. They help you document everything you do, what you need to do and send you reminders when to do things. They help you to be more professional and to scale your business more efficiently. As your business grows, you can use systems to outsource tasks to others.
If you don’t have any systems set up, I really encourage to set aside some time and get it done. Look at any leaks in your business.
- Have you forgotten to chase up an enquiry or an outstanding payment which has resulted in losing you money?
- Have you lost track of what marketing has worked and what hasn’t?
- Have you lost control of your income and expenditure – a very dangerous place to be!
There are so many easy to use online systems on the market, many of which are free to use. Research some and see what fits best with your business. Stop trying to keep everything in your head which will result in failure and lead to massive stress.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
If you only have a few clients, a simple spreadsheet may do but have a look at online CRM systems such as Capsule or Zoho. These help organise your clients, hold all their notes, emails and documents in one place and set you follow up tasks.
It will take time to get your head around some of these systems, but start slowly and simply and you will soon end up wondering how you ever coped without them. And many systems integrate with each other so you always have access to all your information in one place.
Here is a basic list of marketing mediums, both free and paid, that could be useful to your small business. Before you start on any marketing think carefully which are best for your business and which are going to get your marketing message in front of your ideal customers. Don’t just blindly follow the crowd and do something because others are doing it. They may just be throwing their money down the drain or may have a different ideal customer to you.
Free marketing ideas
I want to put a disclaimer here. Whilst I have said the list below is ‘free’ please remember that there is still a cost element due to the amount of time you will take to implement your marketing through these channels.
Most online directories offer a free listing. Research the better ones and get yourself listed
Set up a free blog and post new articles frequently to build up a following of people who may become your future customers
These can be sent by email to your subscribers or posted out to potential customers, again dependent on your business and your ideal customer.
There are so many social media channels to choose from. Start off setting up pages on just a couple of social media sites until you are comfortable with them and don’t become overwhelmed
Ask people to refer customers to you. If you don’t ask you don’t get!
Offer to do a free talk at local events to raise awareness of what you can do for potential clients
Send your details to as many publications as you can think of. You never know who may give you some free publicity
If you have a phone contract and you don’t use all your minutes, take some time to call prospective customers to introduce yourself (don’t cold call though – a big no-no!! You must have a connection with them first and permission to speak)
Attend networking events and turn up everywhere that your target audience hangs out. Remember to take your business cards.
Create an E-book that is branded with your company details. Offer as a free book to draw attention to your business.
Carry out surveys online or in person to find out information about customer buying habits whilst raising awareness of your brand at the same time.
Run a contest or competition where the winner can get a free product or service or a discount on a purchase. Raise awareness of your brand with all entrants.
Direct mail marketing
If done correctly, direct mail can still be a lucrative way of gaining new customers.
Paid for marketing ideas
Print can still work for many businesses and print tends to get read more in-depth than online ads.
Pay per Click/Advertising on complementary websites, social media adverts etc. all form part of online advertising
These can be professionally designed and printed or created from home. Always do a test run on just a few before printing hundreds.
Don’t leave home without them! You never know when, or who, you are going to meet so have them ready to hand out.
Both print and online. You can pay for a banner ad in directories that put your business at the top of the listings ahead of the free ads.
From high-end trade events to setting up a stall at your local village fete.
A website is essential for any business these days. From a low cost ‘free template’ site to a professionally built site, just make sure your site will be able to grow and be changed in line with your business in the future.
This can be expensive but if your business requires it, hiring a professional PR company can get great results and reduce the need for other forms of advertising.
Do you have products that would suit being put into a catalogue? Catalogues can be digital or printed and then mailed to your prospective and existing customers.
Pens, mugs, bags and notepads. In fact, just about anything can be printed on.
Get others to do the marketing for you and then pay them a small fee for each sale they make. There are many affiliate sites online that can help you get set up.
This can be from a single one-off event to sponsoring a team or organisation long term.
Think of where you might get seen by your ideal client. From car stickers to roadside signage to billboards at sporting grounds or on buildings, start to take note of the different signage out there and where yours might fit in.
So there are just a few small business marketing ideas to get you thinking. If you have any to add, pop them in the comments box below.
12 months ago, my daughter got engaged and this past weekend, she finally tied the knot with the man of her dreams.
When they got engaged, I had a vision of how the day would go and the décor that would suit her relaxed style. I knew it wouldn’t be easy to pull off so I spent a lot of time researching and planning to see if I could get together everything I needed.
It was stressful at times, there were tears, but I persevered and cannot tell you how happy I was the day was simply beautiful. From the trees I hired in and had lit up, to the festival style food and the exquisite decorations, everything was perfect.
But why am I telling you this?
Fail to plan, plan to fail.
Because the same principle applies to building a successful business.
- Research and planning are critical.
- Having a timeline in place and constantly working towards that is what turns dreams into reality.
- Not giving up when the going gets tough or when someone tells you what you want isn’t possible.
Only this week, yet another new business in the town where I live closed its doors after just a few short months. Everyone blames the locals for not supporting it but I have to disagree.
I put it down to bad planning. When building a business, you cannot expect to open your doors and have a flood of people come running through to spend their money with you.
- You have to plan for the long term.
- You have to work out your finances to see you through the early days.
- You need to build trust and rapport with your ideal clients which is going to take time.
Blaming others for the failure of your business is burying your head in the sand. If your business fails, I’m sorry, but it’s down to you! Harsh but fair! Yes, external factors come into play, but I have yet to see a business fail where the owner has planned, researched and stuck with it through thick and thin.
I know my thoughts may jar with some and await the replies with reasons beyond control why businesses failed. And I’m looking forward to them. Tell me if you agree or disagree in the comments box below.