How to Develop New Ideas and Opportunities for Your Business

How to Develop New Ideas and Opportunities for Your Business

If your business has been running smoothly and growing steadily, this may be the perfect time to think about exploring new opportunities. You’ll enjoy the luxury of brainstorming possibilities without the real-time pressure of having to immediately find a solution to a problem.

Sitting down with a blank pad of paper and waiting for inspiration to strike generally doesn’t lead to breakthrough ideas. You need to prime the pump by gathering news, trends, data, and other information about your industry and the products and services you provide. Start by scheduling a date and time on your calendar for brainstorming, allowing time for some prep work.

Set the stage for creative thinking

The reason it’s helpful to gather precedents, or existing ideas and trends is that it’s actually quite rare for new ideas to come out of nowhere. Many innovative ideas build on existing ideas.

Some industries have formalized this approach by introducing new ideas through a comparison to older ideas. For example, when writers pitch a new movie script, they use the “X meets Y” phrase: “It’s Out of Africa meets Pretty Woman.” A version of this formula is used to come up with new ideas for apps: “This new app is like Uber for ______.”

Build an archive of precedents, trends, and comparisons by reflecting on recent conversations and experiences. When you read an article or receive an email with an idea that intrigues you, save it to an idea folder. Make a list of any pain points you’ve observed in interactions with your customers and other businesses. Note examples of people talking about something new or doing something differently. Even if an example seems unrelated to your business, it might spark relevant ideas.

Compiling a list of your business’s strengths will also prove useful for brainstorming new ideas. Include the most popular services or products you offer, your most efficient internal processes, and a selection of customers’ reviews.

Brainstorming guidelines

You can definitely brainstorm ideas alone, but having others who understand your business join you will produce more ideas. Potential collaborators for a brainstorming session might be employees, vendors, and even customers. Consider how you might compensate them in return for their time.

Focus your brainstorming session with a prompt or several prompts. A prompt is a high-level, open-ended question like, What new service or product can I offer customers? Another formula for a brainstorming prompt is, What if we …?

For each of the precedents and examples you’ve gathered, come up with an idea of how you might adapt or modify this example to your business, drawing on your knowledge of your business strengths.

It helps to use Post-It notes to capture ideas. That way you can put one idea on one piece of paper. Later on, you’ll use the Post-It notes to sort, rearrange and discard ideas.

Set a specific amount of time to brainstorm, either an hour or 90 minutes. Having a limited amount of time can help you focus better on the task at hand.

Stop brainstorming about 15-20 minutes before the end of your scheduled session. Use the remaining time to sort through the Post-It notes you’ve created. Group related ideas together and separate ideas that seem impractical – but don’t discard them yet.

This activity brings your brainstorming session to an end, but your work isn’t quite over.

Synthesizing your ideas

Take a day or two to let the ideas simmer in the back of your mind before you tackle the synthesis phase. Giving yourself some space allows you to approach the ideas you generated with a fresh lens.

Select ideas that seem worth further consideration by ranking them in terms of the ones that seem most viable. You might use a numbering system with 1 for the most viable and 5 for the least.

Starting with the ideas your ranked 1, answer these questions:

  • Does this idea align with your business values and goals?
  • What additional knowledge do you need to evaluate the potential of this idea?
  • What funding and resources might you need to successfully implement this idea?
  • What are the potential roadblocks?

Depending on the quantity and quality of ideas you generated, you may wish to repeat the process with the remaining ideas and discard the ideas ranked 5.

Will any of your ideas generated through this brainstorming process become a reality? Time will tell. But trust the process to jumpstart your thinking about new opportunities: the ideas you came up with may stick in your mind and evolve into something new that could transform your business.

If you would like to learn more about how this might apply to your business, let’s talk:

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When It’s Time to Hire Your First Employee

When It’s Time to Hire Your First Employee

As your business expands the need to hire your first employee will arise, marking a significant milestone in your business growth. Here are tips to get you started.

Identifying when it’s time to hire your first employee

Recognizing when to bring in additional help is crucial. Here are some indicators:

  • If you’re consistently struggling to meet deadlines and maintain quality, it’s time to hire.
  • Increased revenues are good, but if it comes at the expense of your personal life or leisure, consider hiring help.
  • Your business requires specific skills or expertise that you’re missing.

Defining your needs

Understand what role your new hire will fill and the required skills and qualifications needed to perform the job.

  • Clearly define the must-have qualifications for the open position. If a skill can be measured, identify a range of competency rather than a fixed measurement.
  • Consider the type of person best suited for the open position. Think about whether the role requires interaction with the public or the ability to take care of details.
  • Determine a range for compensation, with the lower end corresponding to less experience, and the higher end to more more experience.

Recruiting top talent

Start by believing in yourself and in the great opportunity your business offers a candidate. Your positive attitude will inform your search and interaction with candidates.

  • Spread the word to everyone you know. Put the opening on your website, post it on social media, add it to your email campaigns and use community resources.
  • Explore whether a recruitment agency might work for you. It’s not inexpensive, but you will likely get a wider pool of candidates.
  • For employers seeking to hire, it’s a candidate’s market, so think about how you can make a good impression.

Conducting interviews

This is one of the most important moments on your journey to hiring your first employee. The candidate may look perfect on paper, but you won’t know if he or she is a good fit until you meet.

  • Plan the interview in advance. Make a list of questions and decide if you want to test competency in any area.
  • Go deeper into the job description. Now is the time to discuss expectations, discuss a variety of scenarios, and highlight critical tasks. 
  • If the position requires decision-making, give the candidate an opportunity to make decisions about hypothetical situations during the interview.

Ensuring a smooth and efficient onboarding

Successfully integrating your new hire into your business is as significant as the hiring process.

  • Provide a written onboarding process that lays out role expectations, introduces company culture, and identifies training needs.
  • Provide email access, necessary tools, and other resources required to perform the job.
  • Provide checklists for routine tasks and processes.
  • Provide constant feedback to ensure issues are promptly addressed.

If you’re thinking about adding a person to your team — whether it’s your first new hire or your tenth — I can help at any stage of your journey. Connect today for a free consultation.

If you would like to learn more about how this might apply to your business, let’s talk:

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Summer Is Calling: Reset Your Work-Life Balance

Summer Is Calling: Reset Your Work-Life Balance

Achieving the perfect work-life balance as a small business owner is easier said than done. Of course, you know taking time off for family and friends will reduce stress and boost your overall happiness, but do you know how to re-establish that balance between your work and your personal life?

Working hard to reach your goals is a good thing. You would not be where you are today if you hadn’t been ambitious, driven, and willing to work hard in order to achieve your goals. However, ambition often comes with a price tag: stress, burnout, and working too many hours in an attempt to keep up with your own expectations of yourself as well as the expectations of others.

Work-life balance is about managing your time and energy effectively so that it’s not all spent on one thing or another, but rather in equal parts. It takes time to achieve the perfect balance, but you can get started now with these simple strategies.

Take stock and define your priorities

  • Identify what is truly important to you, both in your work and personal life.
  • Make a list or use the Eisenhower matrix or another decision-making framework to help you determine what is urgent and what can be put off.
  • Use your calendar to schedule the important work items and your out-of-office times for the next three months to ensure you’ll have the summer fun you deserve.

Set clear boundaries — and stick to them

  • Determine your working hours: Define your regular office hours and try to limit work-related activities to this time period.
  • Create a dedicated workspace: If you work from home, use a designated space for work to separate your professional and personal environments.
  • Communicate your boundaries: Inform your employees, clients, and family of your working hours to help manage expectations and minimize interruptions.
  • Be fully engaged with whatever you are doing when you are not working: Resist the urge to check emails or tend to business matters outside working hours.

Outsource and Delegate Tasks

  • Identify tasks that can be outsourced: Determine which tasks do not require your direct attention, such as scheduling, bookkeeping, web design, or content creation, and consider hiring contractors, freelancers or a virtual assistant to handle them.
  • Delegate, delegate, delegate: Train and empower your staff to take on additional responsibilities, allowing you to focus on strategic aspects of your business.
  • Harness the power of technology: Explore new tools and technologies that can help streamline and automate various aspects of your daily operations.

By working smarter, not harder, you’ll be able to make time for what really matters this summer and beyond.

If you would like to learn more about how this might apply to your business, let’s talk:

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Davids vs Goliaths: Advantages Small Businesses Have Over Larger Companies

Davids vs Goliaths: Advantages Small Businesses Have Over Larger Companies

At times, you may find it discouraging to look at the capacity of your small business compared to the resources of a much larger company. However, as the “David” in this uphill battle, you have several key advantages that can help you not just survive but thrive in the face of the “Goliaths.” Let’s look at four of the advantages you can use to compete more effectively.

Advantage 1: Superior customer service

One significant advantage is your ability to provide superior, personalized customer service. For example, our local hardware store has knowledgeable salespeople who will not only find the products and materials I need for a DIY project, they will also give me tips on how to do the project. To leverage this advantage, look for ways you can build strong relationships and create personalized interactions with your customers. 

Advantage 2: Faster decision-making

As a small business owner, you can make decisions in every area of your operations faster than the leadership team of large companies. Look at the hiring process at some major corporations as one example. It can take several months for a company to make an offer. At that pace, they risk losing qualified candidates to other jobs. 

Advantage 3: Greater agility and flexibility

An advantage related to faster decision-making is your ability to rapidly respond to change. In general, a small business can conduct a cycle of developing, testing, and refining new services, new products, and new processes much faster than larger businesses. That means when the needs of customers change suddenly, as they did during the pandemic, you respond faster than the Goliaths. To take advantage of this competitive edge, keep informed of market trends and local news. Read the comments on your business’s social media feed — your customers may be telling you what they like and want!

Advantage 4: Deeper connections with the local community

Lastly, you can build stronger and more authentic connections with your local community and your large competitors, especially if you live in the same community that your business serves. Form relationships in the community outside your business by volunteering to serve on civic groups and supporting local charitable events, community celebrations, and youth sports teams. Also, actively participate in the local business community through the chamber of commerce and cultivate partnerships with other businesses.

In conclusion, don’t underestimate your power to beat the giants. By recognizing and leveraging these and other competitive advantages, you can compete effectively against bigger businesses and carve out a niche for your business. 

If you would like to learn more about how this might apply to your business, let’s talk:

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Starting a Second Business

Starting a Second Business

Now that you have a business up and running, have you thought about starting a second business? You’re not alone: one out of four entrepreneurs own multiple businesses.

Whether you are looking at starting a business in a similar industry or one completely unrelated to your original business, you won’t be starting from zero. In addition to leveraging the knowledge and experience you’ve gained in launching one business, you may be able to maximize resources between multiple businesses. On the other hand, if your work/life balance is out of kilter, the stress of owning more than one business may outweigh the rewards. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of starting a second business.

The Pros

  • Realize your dream
  • Leverage shared learning from one business to the other
  • Use proven vendors
  • Earn diversified income
  • Leverage synergies across your businesses
  • Economies of scale

The Cons

  • More working hours
  • Requires new investment
  • Exposed to greater financial risk
  • Increased stress

Are you ready?

Here are four questions to help you decide whether the time is right for you to start a second business:

  • Do you have a high-performing team running day-to-day operations for your original business?
  • Do you manage your time well, and do you currently have free time?
  • Have you been “noodling” a business idea for some time and has the idea become increasingly exciting to you?
  • Have you considered the financial and personal costs?

If you answered yes to all four questions and would like to explore your idea in more detail and develop a plan to realize your vision, reach out to schedule a consultation.

If you would like to learn more about how this might apply to your business, let’s talk:

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 Writing a Business Book to Hook New Customers

 Writing a Business Book to Hook New Customers

I’m thrilled to announce the recent publication of my book, Build a High-Performing Home Care Business (without losing your mind). The reason I’m sharing this exciting news is not because I am trying to convince you to buy it, though you can find it on Amazon. Instead, I want to tell you about the power of a business book as a marketing tool.

I targeted a niche market with my book: owners of home care agencies. The subject won’t appeal to everyone, but it is highly relevant and useful to everyone who owns a home care agency. That’s a huge audience, and the industry is growing every year.

To ensure my book will continue to appeal to that growing audience year after year, I focused on an “evergreen” topic — building a high-performing organization — which means this book will not go out of date any time soon.

Selling books is just one reason to become an author. A published book also provides a platform that allows you to grow your business. 

Instant credibility

A published book positions you as an expert in your field, even if you are somewhat new to your business. 

Speaking engagements

Addressing a professional group at a conference is a great way to get exposure to many potential customers at one time. As an author you are more sought after as a speaker, because you’ve already proven your expertise.

Once you’ve secured a speaking engagement, the opportunities to drive awareness of who you are and what you do only multiply. Your name and your bio, including the title of your book, will appear in promotional mailings, on the event website, and on handouts at the event. During your talk, you can mention your book to further drive sales. Some events will arrange for book sales and invite you to have a book signing after your talk. Once people have bought your book, you’ve given them a great way to remember who you are when they are in need of your services.

Networking tool

At a networking event, your business book is your business card on steroids. Your book tells people so much more about who you are, what you know, what you do, and how you can help them.  Always bring along a copy or two to your networking events.

Promotional giveaway

Copies of your book make a practical, memorable, and unique gift to the right prospect or customer.

If you’re interested in learning how to get started writing your own book, reach out and I’ll share my journey to publication with you.

If you would like to learn more about how this might apply to your business, let’s talk:

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Turn Business Rejections into Success Opportunities

Turn Business Rejections into Success Opportunities

Rejection happens to all of us. Even the best in the business have been rejected at some point. Don’t take it personally; instead, allow failure to spark new thinking.

Every no you receive is your ticket to yes. Maybe not with the same customer, but you can learn from rejections, make improvements and uncover new opportunities. Your next pitch will be better than the last one.

We all want to win. Moving on when we lose a customer is easier said than done. Whether it’s a major deal or a small one, it’s hard not to feel disappointed. Here are ways you can manage your feelings and get back on track fast.

Articulate your feelings

Whether you feel comfortable talking to yourself in the car or writing down your thoughts, you’ll feel much better when you state how you feel about the rejection. Left unstated, rejection forms a vaguely defined feeling that can easily spiral into bigger things. The sooner you take the time to define exactly what went wrong, you are controlling the damage.

Evaluate the reasons for rejection

If a customer has rejected your pitch, your first move is to understand why. Listen carefully to the customer’s reasons behind the rejection. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Does it have to do with your offering or something with their business?
  • If it is your offering that presents the obstacle, is it an aspect of your offer or the entire offer?
  • Did they reference price?
  • Did they say they’re happy with a competitive product or service?

Once you’ve learned more about the reasons for the rejection, focus on what you can change and what you can’t. If you see a path forward with that customer, put time into making the changes that may make your offer more appealing. If the problem lies within their current situation, then move on to your next prospect — but stay in touch with the person who rejected your offer. No is not necessarily no forever. In time, their situation may change and your offer may look more attractive. If you’ve cultivated the relationship through consistent touches, despite their initial rejection, you’ve laid a strong foundation for a sale.

Plan your next steps

Once you’ve vented your disappointment and analyzed the reasons for the rejection, you’re ready to pick yourself back up and get into action. Practice your pitch to give yourself confidence. If you identified room for improvement in your analysis of the rejection, make a timeline to complete those changes. It may be a good time to reach out to your network and seek advice from a fellow business owner: an outside perspective could inspire new ideas.

When you experience rejection in business, remember that there’s no limit to how much you can work to improve and grow your business. A temporary obstacle can spur future success.

If you would like to learn more about how this might apply to your business, let’s talk:

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How to Manage Frustration in the Workplace

How to Manage Frustration in the Workplace

There’s probably no limit to the number of things that might cause employees to become frustrated with their co-workers, but fortunately you can prevent frustration from festering into more serious conflicts with these key actions.

Stay calm in the face of others’ anger

Your composure models positive behavior for the employees involved and will help them de-escalate their emotions.

Allow employees to vent

Create a safe space for upset employees to express their feelings to you. Practice active listening and demonstrate you genuinely care about their well-being and are committed to working with them towards a fair solution.

Ask for information from everyone involved

Don’t rush into a solution before all parties have had an opportunity to talk with you privately. When employees feel they haven’t been heard, their resentment increases;  their anger with a co-worker may become refocused on you.

Begin managing frustration as soon as it occurs. In some situations, due to schedules, there may be a lapse in time before the conflict can be addressed. Let everyone involved know they will have an opportunity to express their view of the conflict as soon as prior commitments have been met.

Maintain neutrality

While one employee may be completely right and the other totally wrong, avoid giving an impression of favoritism. Provide reasons for your thinking that are grounded in the overall interest of the business, so everyone understands you are being fair to all. Keep everyone focused so the issue at hand doesn’t become amplified into a multitude of other problems.

Own your part

In some cases, the source of frustration may result from conditions in the workplace that sets co-workers on a collision course. You may not always have the luxury of changing those conditions, but you can take on responsibility for the source of friction and show the co-workers you are in this with them. When you do that, you help to redirect the frustration between the co-workers to an issue outside their relationship. That sets the stage for them to work with you toward a solution instead of battling each other.

Bring everyone together

While you’re gathering the facts, it makes sense to meet one-on-one, but when it is time to develop a solution, you want everyone in one room. This reinforces a perception of fairness and requires the co-workers to cooperate and engage in calmer discussions.

Once the solution has been implemented for a trial period, bring everyone back together for feedback. Thank them for their efforts to resolve the problem and allow them to suggest refinements to improve the solution.

Festering frustration can derail an entire office culture if not addressed promptly.  Meet regularly with your team as a group and in one-on-ones to ensure the channels of communication remain open.

If you would like to learn more about how this might apply to your business, let’s talk:

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What Commitment Means to Your Business

What Commitment Means to Your Business

You make a commitment to turn your dream into a reality. You put in long hours, invest money, and sometimes sacrifice other areas of your life in order to fulfill your business’s potential for future success.

That commitment is a way of promising yourself, your employees, your customers, and your community that you are in it for the long run.

But it takes more than your personal commitment to achieve your vision — your employees also must share your commitment to that vision. When you focus on building a culture that aligns with your vision, mission, and core values on every level and in every aspect of your business, you inspire commitment in your team members.

What does your commitment mean to your employees?

When employees see you demonstrate commitment to your business, they understand they are part of something bigger than themselves and their work has meaning. A sense of purpose inspires increased productivity and performance.

Your commitment also lets employees know you are fully invested in the future of the business, which boosts their confidence in the future of their jobs and makes them less likely to look for other opportunities.

Lead by example

When you set standards for your employees to follow and live up to those standards yourself, your employees have a compelling reason to follow in your footsteps. When rules don’t apply to everyone, no one feels motivated to follow them.

Your professionalism, fairness, positive attitude, and gratitude for others are also ways you can inspire a culture of commitment among your employees.

Share the vision

Keep your employees informed and involved in your company so they feel it’s more than just a job. Take time regularly to provide general updates and establish a pattern of communication. Employees feel valued when leaders discuss the big picture and explain plans to ensure the ongoing success of the business. Introduce and manage changes in a way that ensures employees understand why the changes are important.

An open door

Trust motivates employees to stick around long-term. To strengthen your relationships with employees, talk to them regularly, welcome their feedback — positive or negative — and show empathy when they face a challenge at work or in their personal lives.

Make time for fun

Engaging socially with your team strengthens your relationships and helps your team cultivate relationships among themselves. Find something that works for your business and make it a company ritual. Think about activities such as Friday pizza lunches, birthday celebrations, holiday parties, volunteering events and other experiences.

Commitment breeds commitment. When you foster a culture where employees care deeply about their jobs and the people they work with, it’s easier to get things done.

If you would like to learn more about how this might apply to your business, let’s talk:

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Roadmap to Recession-Proofing Your Business

Roadmap to Recession-Proofing Your Business

The Bloomberg Wealth newsletter recently reported the probability of a downturn in the next year is now 65%, up from 60% in February. In a recession, the economy slows down and people have less money to spend on products and services, but you can take steps to keep your business thriving during a potential recession.

Improve Your Cash Flow

  • Review your financial statements, including P&L, balance sheet, and cash flow statement.
  • Submit invoices promptly and work with customers to resolve outstanding payments.
  • Downsize or share office space.
  • Increase automation.
  • Eliminate overtime hours.
  • Respond to price changes in the marketplace quickly.
  • Adjust pricing strategy where needed, not necessarily across the board.
  • Look for opportunities to streamline your operations.

Focus on Core Competencies

  • Invest in keeping your core product and services relevant and competitive.
  • Monitor trends and customer behavior changes in your industry.
  • Continue or increase your marketing efforts.

Boost Customer Retention Rates

  • Don’t skimp on customer service
  • Demonstrate goodwill towards your customers.
  • Reward loyalty.
  • Ask customers to post reviews online.
  • Communicate the value of your products/services.
  • Participate in community events.

Manage Inventory Efficiently

  • Review order quantity and frequency against cost to identify opportunities for having less stock on hand.
  • Knowing what products you offer are most essential to your customers can inform your stocking decisions — customers may have less to spend on nonessential items.
  • Explore inventory management software if you aren’t currently using it.
  • Use warehouse space rather than more expensive office space for storing goods and explore shared warehousing options.

Preparing your business to weather a possible recession isn’t all that different from following best practices in other times  — you just need to be more diligent and rigorous about it.

If you would like to learn more about how this might apply to your business, let’s talk:

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