Tuesday, December 31, 2013

5 Common Business Process Mistakes

Happy New Year!  Is your business ready for a great 2014?  Having great business processes is crucial to business success. That said, if you do it wrong, the creation of business processes can actually hinder your success.

How can you ensure that your business processes actually help rather than hurt you? Make sure you avoid these five mistakes.

Mistake #1: No Overall Model, Only Details

It's common for people to only focus on the details of how to perform specific tasks. Unfortunately, if your business processes don't have an overall model or goal, the details will be disjointed and inappropriately applied by staff.

Every business process should be part of a bigger business model or philosophy. The process is the "how" of running a bigger system. Just having a bunch of "hows" without a "why" is a recipe for disaster.

Mistake #2: The Processes Are Technology Based

Great businesses use technology. Writing businesses for technology is important. That said, if your processes are completely reliant on technology to work, then you're laying a very weak foundation.

Let's say you have an expense tracking process. The process should focus on the step by steps of tracking expenses, rather than the software itself. That way if the software ever fails or if you ever switch to a new system, your employees will know how to perform the actual tasks, rather than just push the right buttons.

Mistake #3: Not Enough Details

Your business process documentation should be detailed enough that a person new to the job could operate the process with a little guidance.

It's common for people who're competent in a task to write documentation for others in a way that could only be done by people who also have competence in that task.

Instead, documentation should be written in a very step by step manner. It should be written for a new trainee, not for someone who's more experienced.

Mistake #4: Documenting Untested Processes

Not everything in your business should be documented. In fact, you should only document a process once it's been proven and refined to its most efficient form.

If you spend time documenting processes that haven't been proven to work yet, you'll spend a lot of time documenting things and then throwing them out.

Documentation should be done to help train people on things that work. Wait until your processes are proven before doing this.

Mistake #5: Neglecting Human Relationships

Finally, remember that processes often involve human beings.

Say you have a process for handling fulfillment when you're shipping a new product. The documentation might cover how you handle order volume, how to get samples from fulfillment and so on. However, the documentation might not include how to actually interface with the people who run your fulfillment house.

The human element in processes is a crucial element. Make sure you're not neglecting it.

These are five of the most common mistakes business people make when they're automating, documenting or designing business processes.  What do you think?

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Top 3 Tips For Getting Facebook Fans

When it comes to advertising and marketing online, there is nothing like having a Facebook fan page that has a lot of fans.  Facebook fans will make your company look very trusted and it is a great way to draw in more potential customers.

Most people will admit that they will often go towards companies that have more fans because they feel like
it is a great way to determine if they are a trusted brand or company. If you are looking to learn how to get more Facebook fans, here are a few tips I have to share:

Tip #1 - Create Contests

This is a strategy that has helped other companies that are trying to get more fans. These contests will help you stay connected with your fans and to create a relationship that will help build your online presence.  You can give away little items like t-shirts or you can even give people discounts. The only thing that they will need to do is share your Facebook page and to tag a photo to your fan page. This causes their friends and family to see your page and thus gaining more fans.

Tip #2 - Utilize Other Sites Besides Facebook

Focusing exclusively on Facebook as this is not the best strategy for internet marketing. You will need to go over to websites like Twitter as a different source of traffic. You will then need to post about your Facebook page and have people join you on Facebook as well. Most people are members on both social networks and so it is a good idea to target them on both sides.

These are just simple ways to get more Facebook fans and to really increase your overall presence on the internet. Do these two things and you will start to see a big increase of fans on Facebook.

Tip #3 - Post Consistently

I recently attended a great Webinar with Mari Smith, a leading Social Media Strategist on Facebook where she shared her 7 Steps to Facebook Success.  One of the tips she gave in the Webinar was to be sure to post several times a day. Different people are online at different times and while you do not want to overwhelm your audience, posting consistently is just smart.  If you're interested in watching the Webinar (there is no cost) You can find it HERE

That's it for this week!  If you are a DIY kinda person and want to really ramp up your Facebook Marketing check out Mari's new program, "Extreme Fanbase Growth 2.0" she really is an expert and who I've been learning a lot from. (and yes, this is an affililtate link, but if you know me, I make very few recommendations and she really is good.)

Saturday, May 25, 2013

How to Have Facebook Advertising Success

Lately I have been playing around with Facebook Advertising.  At first it was a little daunting, but once you get in a groove and do it a few times, it is pretty simple.  The key is to keep it short, simple, and sweet -- that's how we've built a business at LearnEASE and it works on Facebook, too. Here are five ways to make Facebook work for you, without rearranging your lunch breaks:

  • Use the Facebook Power Editor. Ok, it's a little buggy. But it gives you options that let you track your advertising, set up news feeds and mobile adds, and do bulk editing. It's simple to understand, and there is a nice tutorial, so you won't waste tons of time on the learning curve. 
  • Love Content. Share photos. Link to your site or to news or related blogs. Keep it simple. Re-share things your followers have posted, check the morning news, or share things that come across your feed that seem relevant. Fresh, relevant content drives ad conversions. 
  • Place ads. If it's in your budget, those ads can make a difference. Target them for certain demographic or geographic sectors (or by likes, connections, interests, etc.), so you're only advertising in areas that work for you. Text ads, display ads with images, or super-hefty Facebook engagement ads are your three options in the Facebook universe. 
  • Be organized. From the beginning, set up an organized ad campaign. Know what you want to achieve, so you can measure your results against your goals. Plan how often you'll post content on Facebook or how often you'll set up new ads -- and then stick to that schedule. 
  • Minimize time, maximize results. If you only have five minutes a day to spend of Facebooking, make it count. Plan posts in advance so you can cut and paste in two minutes when the day comes, or schedule your posts, then spend three minutes responding to messages. If you only post three days a week, that gives you two other work days to work on ads. It doesn't have to be a headache. 

Expect a learning curve at the beginning, and start in a week when you can build in some extra time to figure out exactly what you're doing. Set aside time once a month to put together a calendar. Once you're conversant with the software you'll find you have plenty of time to do what you need to do without extra stress.

Happy Facebooking!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

5 Tips On Becoming SuperWoman

I am super woman.  Yes, that sounds very conceited and I swear that is not my intention.  But I get asked a lot by various clients, colleagues, co-workers, friends, family, “How the heck do you get so much done, do you not sleep”?   Well, since I do sleep, and actually I sleep more than most I think - at least nine hours a
night – I decided maybe I should ponder this question and see if I could figure out why.  Maybe, just maybe,  I have some sneaky tips on what makes me so productive. So here is what I came up with:

#1 Get Plenty of Rest 
I know this is not exactly a productivity tip, I’ll get to a few of those too, but I do firmly believe getting enough rest allows for longer periods of concentration and focus. I’m sure there is some deep rooted science proving this too, but for me it’s based on experience. When I’m rested, I am energized, happy, focused and productive.

#2 Eat well and Eat Often
After I had both of my kids I did weight watchers and I have to say I liked it a lot and it taught me some good eating habits.  I’ve carried those with me and I’ve noticed that when I eat healthy and snack at regular intervals, my energy stays up.

#3 Have a Schedule
I follow the same schedule pretty much every day.  Now there are huge blocks of time that are not, “scheduled” since my work is very busy and always changing, but there are cornerstones throughout the day that stay the same.

For me it falls at 8am, 10am, 12pm, 2pm, 5pm, 8pm.  I have specific things I do at these intervals (i.e. check email, log in/post/check social networks, have a snack, check my ToDo list, etc.). This frees my blocks of time up and allows for flexibility in my schedule but still time to get things done.

#4 Make a ToDo list
Prioritize. Stick to It – this is one of my biggest tips.  I do not live out of my email in-boxes (yes I have several).  Every day I make a priority list of what needs to be done and prioritize.  I allow for le-way time for things that do come up in my email and I block out time to get certain things on my list done.  This leads to tip #5:

#5  Block Out Time
Block out specific time on your calendar to get things done.  I cannot tell you how many task/productivity apps I’ve downloaded on my iPad, but there have been a lot, and none work as well as the one I am going to share with you right now.

Now, in case you are hoping I will tell you what the best one is and I am, but don’t get too excited, you might be disappointed.  My biggest productivity application is (drumroll here). Outlook. Yes. Outlook.  Here’s why.  For me I am booked constantly with meetings and calls, so I’ve found that blocking out small chunks of time (15 – 30 minutes) on my calendar throughout the week allows me to get the top priority things done.  This really works well for me, but you definitely have to stick to it and hold yourself accountable.

There you have it, the top 5 things I do to be super woman productive.  What do you do?

Monday, May 6, 2013

Top 6 Reasons To Have A Facebook Business Page

Recently we have really seen a large influx of businesses asking us to design their Facebook Business Page.  I love this!  But it occurred to me that it might be a good idea to share some of the reasons and statistics as to why it is a good idea.  
So here it is, the Top 6 Reasons Why Business' should have a page:

#1.  Your Current Customers and Future Customers are on Facebook
According to GeekyGadgets this week in Technology News, there are 1.1 Billion Monthly Active Users! That's a lot of reach.  That includes 665 million daily active on average in March 2013

#2.  Your Customers are looking for you
I know I do.  When I find a company/service I like, I'm looking to "like" them on Facebook

#3.  It allows you too stay connected with your customers.
You can provide relevant information about your industry and quickly alert your customers of special events, offers and discounts.

#4.  Referrals. Referrals. Referrals.
Posting interesting and relevant content, offers, special events and discounts allows your fans to spread the word to their friends.

#5.  Your Competitors are on Facebook
Over 15 million businesses, companies, and organizations now have a Facebook page

#6.  Search Engines Like Facebook.
Google a few, when searching for a company, if they have a Facebook page, it's near the top of the search

In my mind, Facebook is a marketing vehicle, it's one component of a strategic marketing plan and should be targeted to the business' audience.  All marketing activity should fit together, like a puzzle, to create a whole picture of your business, who you are and what you stand for.  What do you think?

Saturday, April 27, 2013

How to Have a Healthy Life

One of the best things I love about my business is meeting new people and hearing their stories.  Lately I have been so inspired by my new "virtual" acquaintances that I was drawn to share.  As busy moms and business owners it seems like everyone I know is leading a crazy busy lifestyle and sometimes, among all the work, family, life juggling we forget that a healthy life also means a happy life.

So this week I asked my new friend Bess Blanco to share some of her insights on why she started her blog, "The Intentional Lifestyle" along with some tips and advice about running a business.  Here is what Bess had to say:

What Inspired You to Start "The Intentional Lifestyle"?
"I began The Intentional Lifestyle blog after I embarked on my own healthy lifestyle change with my own family of six.  I discovered as I began to shop & cook healthier for my family, that the help I needed was not to be found - at least not in one place.  I also couldn't find the resources I needed for my own situation - ideas that would work for picky eaters, a tight budget & realistic methods for a busy family.  So I began to hunt, gather, research and apply - and viola!  The Intentional Lifestyle was born!"

Tell us about your Biggest Challenge you faced in your business?
"Having enough TIME - time to work on the business, time to be mom and housewife and all that comes with that, time to serve others, time to goof off!   It has truly been my biggest challenge to find a realistic balance between it all - a challenge that I face and MEET everyday!"

If you could share one bit of advice, what would it be?
Bess Blanco
"Never, ever, ever, give up!'
I once won an award that was titled, "Miss Bounce-back-ability" because of my stubborn ability to "never give up" and come back from challenges!  Having a stubborn spirit in "keeping at it" even in the hard times will take you to success!

Are you looking to learn more about leading a healthy lifestyle?  Bess has recently published a book called, "Fresh Start for Health",  you can also find great recipes, articles, learn more about her and read the blog on the website.

Do you know a great Leading Mom in Business?  Tell us!  We would love to hear from you.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Savvy Moms Make it Happen

Startupnation's Leading Moms in Business.

In honor of Leading Moms in Business and Startupnation's Americas top mom contest, we are featuring businesses on our Facebook Business Page.  There are some really neat businesses out there run by amazing Moms!

Here are a few we highlighted this week:
  • Black Pearl Bakery www.blackpearldogbakery.com
    Healthy, homemade dog treats made in the U.S.A.  All treats are handmade from start to finish.  All human-grade ingredients with only natural preservatives.  We offer cookies, celebration cakes, "mutt"-fins, and much more!
  • Ink'd Content www.inkdcontent.com
    Ink'd Content provides content marketing services, helping to develop one of the most important aspects of a marketing strategy for any business -- after all, "content is king."
  • iBetterAccessorize http://www.facebook.com/ibetteraccessorize
    iBetterAccessorize.com offers couture hair accessory supplies at wholesale prices. We have a low minimum of $5 for regular orders and the majority of the items are sold by the piece, not by the dozen. We provide tutorials, written by our customers, 10% rewards on purchases and recently raised over $440 for Wigs for Kid
  • Women's Elevation Magazine www.facebook.com/womenselevationmagazine
    WE Magazine looks to promote, inspire, and elevate the mind, body, and spirit of women.
  • Family Focus Blog www.familyfocusblog.com
    Family Focus Blog reports on parenting tips, family fun activities, eco tips, family food, family travel, decor, discounts, and giveaways.
  • VirtuallyNSync www.virtuallynsync.net
    VirtuallyNSync, LLC was birthed to help those who are desiring to work at home find legit job listings and/or work opportunities that fit their lifestyles.
  • DWD Designs https://www.facebook.com/pages/dwdesigns/119348638082108Interior Design business although not limited to! Holiday decorating is my passion, as well as event decorating, and public speaking on design!
  • Party Plan Companies www.Facebook.com/partyplancompaniesinc
    The place to search for direct sales companies, home based business opportunities, cost effective advertising, and party plan consultants near you.
  • Synergy Communications, LLC www.synergycommunicationsllc.com
    At Synergy Communications, we believe that our client's reputation is EVERYTHING!  Superior service is personalized to meet each client's needs and wants.
  • Angela Brooks http://angelabrook.com/
    Angela Brooks is a mental health nurse educator who spent the last 22 years working in a state funded mental hospital. She is the author of “The Nurses Voice” who exposes raw truth as a nurse. She is transitioning from nursing to one of the top positions in a health company changing life’s one oil at a time.
  • Jungle Gym Cafe The Jungle Gym & Cafe is a unique 8000 square foot hybrid of a fitness center, indoor playground, cafe, birthday party center and medical spa. 

If you know of a great business that we should feature, let us know!  Better yet, what is your favorite business?

Friday, April 12, 2013

3 Risks Worth Taking In Your Business

Yes, it may be a cliché, but I believe it really is true, change maybe scary at times but more often than not, it is totally worth it.  I was recently reminded of this just this week when I completely stepped out of my comfort zone, took a risk and made a change.

What did I do?  Well, I cut my hair.  Not just trimmed, not lightly shaped, but cut cut cut.  I had a good six inches cut off.  There I was, talking to my hair dresser, telling her I needed a change.  We agreed, a shorter style…not too short, but fun and easy.  And I will tell you, when she started snipping, I started to panic a little bit.  But I trusted her and I really did want something different.

So now instead of blonde, it’s dark brown.  Instead of long, it is now pretty darn short.  And you know what?  I love it.  Everyone that knows me loves it.  The change, and the risk, really was worth it.

So what did cutting my hair teach me? It taught me how to take a risk, push through the panic, and enjoy the rewards.  So here are my top three risks that I took and that I believe will change your business:

Risk #1. Jump into Social Media.  
If you’ve been hesitant to engage on social media, now is the time. Start slow, and if you want, pick just one to get started with. Get a Facebook business page, create a company profile on LinkedIn, update your website, get a twitter handle.  Just start.  I promise you will not regret it.

Social Media should be part of your overall strategic marketing plane for your business.  It may not replace all your marketing but it is a great wway to build and reinforce ongoing relationships with your clients and prospects.

Risk #2. Invest in yourself.
This does not necessarily mean spending money, but can if what you need to accomplish warrants it.  This means taking the time you need to and invest in your own growth.  Read books, blogs, newsletters, watch podcasts attend Webinars/teleseminars.  Mark time on your calendar specifically to invest in yourself and gain the knowledge you need to succeed and take your business to the next level.

One thing I really have found extremely helpful was to work with an executive coach.  Actually, I worked with two, and yes sometimes both at the same time, but on different things. It changed my mindset and my business.  So I highly recommend finding a Mentor or Coach.  Ask someone you admire for advice.  Work with them informally or formally.  It could be as simple as having lunch once a month to a very detailed plan.

Risk #3. Don’t do it all yourself.  Delegate.
In my small business several of my everyday tasks are regularly delegated to virtual assistants around the US.  I love it because it allows us to give them a lot of flexibility.

When you consider delegating, it is important to visualize specifically what the virtual assistant can execute for you in relation to the cost it would be if you did it yourself.  I like to think of my hourly rate versus there hourly rate.  I calculated this by taking my salary and divided by 2080 (the number of working hours in a year, less vacation, etc). This number crunching exercise should also probably need to include the added cost elements associated with full-time or even part-time employees, the benefits, pensions, insurance costs, productivity and so on.

So there you have it - my top three risks, not counting the hair cut, that helped to change my business.  Sometimes taking a risk and trying something new is fun, and who wouldn't enjoy a bit of fun in their business?

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Are You Making LinkedIn Mistakes?

Do you have a targeted strategy in how you handle your LinkedIn profile?  

Keeping up on everything is hard.  I recently took a look at my own LinkedIn profile, and while it had only been a couple of months, it already needed some updating.  I can only imagine how many small
business owners tend to pass up this social media platform because of their busy schedules.  But what I've realized is this really can be an error in judgement since LinkedIn can be a great way to build your online presence, network with others and discover potential prospects and opportunities.  Just in a matter of days of updating my own profile, I began receiving new visits to my page, new endorsements and new invitations.  Who knew what else I was missing?

LinkedIn really is a great way to network, and like me, even if you do have a LinkedIn presence, do you keep it up to date?  Here's some homework:  Take a look at your current profile right now.  How current is the photo?  When was the last time you updated your skills?  I am regularly surprised to see how many profile pictures are low-quality photos that were just pulled up from their desktop and just uploaded.  For me, I use the same photo of myself everywhere.  LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, About.Me, all have the same photo. Which, I had professionally taken.  Not only is it my favorite picture of myself, but it was not that expense to have done.  (Unfortunately my hair has now completely changed so I need a new one, but that's another story...guess I need an update :)

Your photo is your first impression with Social Media, and your profile on LinkedIn is no exception.  This is a great opportunity to make sure your photo is expertly edited and uploaded to your profile.  You can easily outsource or delegate this job to an online manager and you certainly do not need to take the time yourself.   Any good online manager or virtual assistant should be able to do this for you within an hour or so.  Even I am learning to delegate more, and once you get the hang of it, it really is great.  I am so much more productive with my time.

Back to photos, as I mentioned before, one benefit of a great photo is you can then use it everywhere.  Consistently using the same one across all your social media will help you become more recognizable and builds your brand.  Then as you attend networking events, chat or comment in online groups, etc people will begin to feel familiar with you and develop a trusted connection.  Imagine when a potentially prosperous contact reaches out to you, all because of your LinkedIn profile.

Have you been deprived of exposure lately just because you have less than a complete profile?  What will you do?

When you are really ready to maximize LinkedIn, update your profile to reflect all your current experience.  Again this is something you can easily delegate and any good virtual assistant or online manager can help.  Give them a copy of your resume and let them take a stab at it.  It doesn't have to be perfect, and sometimes someone else's perspective can be really beneficial.  Then you can take a look at it yourself and make personal edit adding information relevant to your industry.

Don’t hesitate to promote your individual accomplishments and remember that your current updates posted will be shared and read within the networks you belong.  I link a lot of my social media posting together, so when I post in Twitter it ties to my Facebook and/or LinkedIn.  I do try to keep LinkedIn more business related and relevant.

In essence, Linked in could easily be one of several sites that you delegate the upkeep to a virtual assistant or online manager. They can easily keep it updated for you  and send to you for review before they post on your behalf.  Monitoring your social media, including LinkedIn, your blog, website, Facebook Business page, Twitter, etc. and keeping them current, fresh and relevant, you will build your online presence and attract new leads and prospects to your business.  And who wouldn't want that?

I'd love to hear your thoughts on LinkedIn.  It would be great to connect!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

3 Things Girl Scout Cookies Remind Me About My Small Business

It has been that time of year, cookies, cookies, everywhere!  Yes, I am referring to Girl Scout cookie time. This is the time of year when every grocery store, hardware store, favorite coffee shop and more has those happy girls selling their yummy cookies.

For the past two years I have participated with my daughter in her endeavors to sell cookies that her troop then gives to charity and helps them earn money for their local troop.  I love to see the kids energy and excitement and total openness when they sell and it reminded me of three simple but easy things about my own small business and maybe yours too.

Reminder #1 – They Want What I Have

There are people out there that really do want what we have. Whether it is a product or service when you have something great to offer there are most certainly people out there that need and want it.  Not everyone needed or wanted the Girl Scout cookies the girls were offering, but that was completely O.K. because there were plenty of people that did want them. The same is true about us.  If you offer a quality product or service, there are definitely customers that want it and need it.

Reminder #2 – Always Ask

I cannot tell you how many times someone walked by our cookie table looking like they were not interested at all up until the point they were asked, “Would you like to buy some Girl Scout cookies?”  Not the best sales question on the planet, but still effective and what a great reminder to just ask.   If you don’t ask you won’t know.  It is super simple, but something I tend to forget.

Reminder #3 – Do The Math For Them

This is my favorite reminder, “ah ha” moment from this experience.  Once the girls got into the groove of asking, “Want to buy some Girl Scout Cookies?” and someone interested approached the table, the next thing that typically happened  was they would get asked about how much it was for a box of cookies.  The Girl Scouts’ reply,  “It is $4.00 per box, or….5 boxes for $20”.  And I will tell you that based on what I experienced, at least 1 person out of 4 bought the 5 boxes.  Somehow even though the price was the same, the concept of doing the math for them, gave them the idea and it worked.  Similar to always asking, when you have a great product or service, give them choices, it helps move the decision along.

So those are the three “ah ha” reminders that hit me over the head, given to me by a group of eight year old girls no less. But hey, I'm fine with that.  Sometimes it is good to be reminded and given a reality check.  What do you think?

Saturday, March 16, 2013

6 Tips For Making Your Website More Mobile Friendly

These days it seems like everyone is mobile.  As part of our business it is common for us to get asked about ways to make a website mobile friendly.  There are a few different ways to go about this, but if you are looking for some quick tips here are a few to consider:

Tip #1.  
Be Simple.  A showy website is not going to reflect very well on a mobile device.  Stick with easy and simple designs that will translate well onto mobile platforms.

Tip #2.  
Be Innovative.  Uncover the type of platforms that are viewing your content.  Learn about any special coding or formatting that you can use for your content to make sure that it knows what type of device it is and optimizes for that device.  Some mobile devices are better than others in different ways.  Ask some of your current customers what they use so you can get a feel for what is most often used by your target market.

Tip #3.  
Be Your Customer – Consider exactly how your mobile customers and prospects will see your content.  Look for yourself on several types of mobile devices to make sure that you are placing your content in a way that reads nicely on the device.  You can’t know for sure without looking at it yourself.

Tip #4.  
Be Short.  Make your links on your site short and easy.  Typing on a mobile device can be challenging so be sure to make it short.  The last thing you want is someone visiting your site, hating it, and then never returning again.

Tip #5. 
Be Easy.  Keep your main information front and center where it is easy to see and read.  Place the newest information in the center to make sure that those that are reading on a mobile device viewers notice it right away.

Tip #6. 
Be Small.  Mobile devices are small.  Be sure to take that into consideration when you are developing your website content. Make the navigation simple and easy and think in terms of how much space is on a mobile device and make your content friendly for that.

Remember, your customers and your target market are all on their mobile devices, playing games, reading books, surfing the web and making purchases.  By making sure your site is mobile friendly you are giving potential clients and customers one more way to connect with you.  And really, isn’t that what it’s all about?