Streamline Your Business for 2021! Part 2 of 3

What is the VISION FOR YOUR BUSINESS?

When you see yourself and your business a little more than a year down the road, the end of 2021, what do you want to see?

A big office with a gorgeous view, a happy and engaged staff, doing important work changing the lives and/or businesses of your clients?

Traveling the world, working from anywhere, with clients who clamor for your work?

Working with a small but passionate-about-their-work group of solo business owners. Sitting on the deck of a cottage on a Lake Ontario, working with clients virtually, and near enough to a vibrant community to be able to network and work in person as well. (yep, that one’s me)

What about you?

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Streamline Your Business for 2021! Part 1 of 3

The clocks changed last night, it’s a blustery Fall day, and the Buffalo Bills are leading the Patriots on TV (barely, gulp).

You know what all of that means? We are solidly into Q4 of 2020! And what a year it has been . . .

Regardless of your feelings for 2020, it’s time to put forth best efforts to wrap the year up strong and prepare to start 2021 raring to go.

In this first of a three part series, I’ll be leading you through process – starting with assessing 2020 for your business to date.

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National Nonprofit Day – The G.R.O.W. Story (Chapter One)

In honor of National Nonprofit Day, I wanted to share the story of how, within four short months, a Facebook group started by three individuals with a few ideas for helping the local Buffalo, New York business community, grew to over 1000 members and became a nonprofit organization with big future plans to support the business community in Western NY and beyond. It’s just the beginning but is a unique story nonetheless and one I hope will inspire others to pursue their own nonprofit dreams.

The first quarter of 2020 started off business as usual for most business owners in Western NY and across the country. By mid-March, however, New York State had gone into pandemic lockdown, with only essential businesses remaining open. Small business owners and entrepreneurs were put into positions for which most would understandably not have thought they’d need to prepare.

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Relief from Overwhelm

I don’t have to get into the detail of how so many of us are stressed and overwhelmed. Electronic communication has become both a blessing and a cause for anxiety.

I realized today that, after close to three straight weeks of being primarily on the computer and phone, I needed a break. I imagine I’m not alone.

Come join me in stepping away – whether it be for just a few hours, a day or longer.

Here are some suggestions for healthy, calming use of this time. What appeals to you?

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COVID-19 RELATED SMALL BUSINESS RESOURCES AND REGULATIONS FOR WESTERN NEW YORK EMPLOYERS

Contents:

  • Small Business Loans
    • Paycheck Protection Program
    • Economic Injury Disaster Loan
    • Economic Injury Disaster Advance Loan
    • SBC Debt Relief
    • SBA Express Bridge Loans
  • New York Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)
  • New York Insurance Premium Deferment
  • Food and Beverage Industry Relief Fund
  • James Beard Foundation – Food and Beverage Industry Relief Fund
  • Family First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA): Expanded FMLA Requirements
  • NY State Paid Leave
    • NY Paid Sick Leave
    • NY Paid Family Leave
  • Technology Tools for Small Businesses
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Who Loves Ya Baby?

Testimonials, recommendations, and reviews remain an untapped marketing resource for many businesses. Often people are hesitant about asking for positive feedback of their work, yet these same people may be the first to sing the praises of others. I love spreading the word when I am impressed with the service I receive.

So why hold back on asking for positive feedback for your own business?

Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

Testimonial Placement:

In-Person:

Recently, I attended a meeting of a local business networking group. Each meeting, one member is allotted extra time to discuss their work. This week, it was my turn. Instead of talking about myself, I asked another member with whom I had recently done some consultative work to instead describe his experience of working with me.  (of course having asked permission beforehand)

I may speak until I’m blue in the face about what I do and it will not have nearly the impact of someone else describing my work with them. This gentleman provided a glowing review that also resulted in a vibrant discussion of business coaching (and testimonials) among the group. 

Social Media:

Begin with your LinkedIn profile.  Ask for a recommendation of your work and, at the same time, request permission to use the recommendation in other materials. Multi-purpose!

Don’t stop there. Take your best recommendation (or testimonial from elsewhere) and place it at the top of your profile summary. Your best review is the first thing someone sees when he or she looks at your profile.

Here is an example of mine: http://www.linkedin.com/in/conniewhitesell

Facebook also provides the option to place reviews on business pages. These appear right at the top – prime Facebook real estate!

Website and Promotional Materials:

Place testimonials throughout your website and promotional materials so people looking at your site may, right away, see descriptions of others’ opinions of your work.

Online review sites:

For any of these review sites, you will want to regularly check your reviews and respond, thanking people who praise your work. Even a reasonable, problem-solving response on a bad review can be helpful. Encourage your happy clients and customers to post reviews here.

Non-industry Specific:

Yelp.com is a free site that helps people find local businesses. Yelp was critical for me during our moves to four different cities in the five years. Do you know how difficult it is to find a new veterinarian, mechanic, hair stylist, and even restaurants with each new move?! Yelp made it easy.  Join me there: http://cwhitesell.yelp.com/

Google.com and Yahoo.com reviews are posted for every type of business imaginable. Reviews on these sites are critical because they appear in Internet search results without people even having to click on the company link.

Ask, Ask, Ask for those reviews!

Industry Specific Sites: Look for online review portals specifically tailored to your business industry. For example, if someone wanted to find help with home repairs, they might begin with Angie’s List or Home Advisor (owned by the same company, BTW). Doctors reviews may be found on webmd.com or healthgrades.com.

Next Steps:

  1. Review these sites (and others!) to determine where the best fit is for your business.
  2. Make sure your business profile on online sites is complete and attractive. 
  3. Ask every satisfied customer or client for a testimonial, recommendation, or review!
  4. Bask in the love . . .

BTW – How badly did I date myself with that Kojak photo?

1 Year/12 Weeks: Your 5 Step Best-Year-Yet Business Plan

Business owner – Executive – Team member

No matter what you do or what role you play, if you seek to reach new heights in your work, pulling together your annual business plan is critical.

One Day – Solitary Place

If you have not already, set aside one day completely devoted to your planning before year-end. Mark it on your calendar. Decide where your planning will take place and book it, if need be. Often people take themselves on mini-retreats to accomplish this. One year, I booked a quiet room with a desk in the Hamptons. Glorious view of the ocean and a great rate as it was off-season. Make this planning day inspiring.

5 Step Business Plan Outline

When you are settled in and ready to create your Best Year Yet Plan, follow this simple outline.

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FREE! and Low-cost Small Business Resources

Starting a business typically requires a significant investment of monetary resources. Creating your initial business plan does not have to!

Think I’m shooting myself in the foot here? Read through to the end and you will see when it IS appropriate to invest in a business coach for help with your planning.

Below, you will find listings of some of my favorite free and low-cost resources for small businesses to use both in their planning and for start-up support. Start exploring and you’ll be gob smacked by what great and in-depth information is available. 

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Is your business idea a good one?

I often speak with people who want to start a business but question whether their idea makes sense. Thank goodness they usually ask this early on before spending tremendous amounts of time and income on a business idea that might just end up not making sense – or income. Laxative Potato Chips anyone? 🤢

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