Monthly Archives: March 2013

Are Your Business Operations Ruining Your Business?

Are Your Business Operations Ruining Your Business?
Are your internal company systems, software, processes, and tools creating barriers to acquiring, serving, and keeping your customers? Before your answer “NO WAY” consider the following:
Any organization that says its operations and overall business performance are fine should take heed. As a business owner, you may think you’re just fine but…your employees are the ones who likely cannot respond to your customer’s needs and cannot serve your top customers the way they (and you) want them to because of your existing outdated policies, procedures, systems, and/or lack of logical, effective and clearly defined standards.
How can you tell if you have problems that MUST be addressed? Consider the many examples of dysfunctional 20th Century dinosaurs like: Sears, Bank of America, A&P, the Post Office, JC Penny, the Gap, Dell, etc. Can you think of any others?
Some questions you can and SHOULD ask:
• Do you have a contact management system that provides complete customer purchase history that your customer care representatives can view?
• Have you entered any seasonal/promotional campaign discounts into your point-of-sales system so those discounts are applied to a customer’s purchase?
• How easy is it for your clients to return products they purchased from you?
• How hard is it for your clients to reach someone in your company when and how they prefer?
• What is it really like buying from my business? Why not hire someone to MYSTERY SHOP your business and provide you with their feedback?
• How frequently do your employees experience phone, email or Internet service outages?
• Do you update your client’s contact information on a regular basis?
• How (in)frequently have you surveyed your top customers to see how you’re doing in serving them?
What if your business is in EXTREME distress and requires turnaround expertise. Implement more serious control measures to fix your business.
So, if your processes need an overhaul where can you start? ASK YOUR EMPLOYEES!
After all, your employees are the ones that serve your clients, answer your phones, and rely on your systems. They should know exactly what needs to be done to improve your operations and achieve greater efficiencies in your processes.
Here’s to your success running your business in 2013.
Ethan Chazin, The Compassionate Coach

Work ON (Not) IN Your Small Business

  Grow your business by focusing on your strategic planning.
With all the many demands placed on you in running the day to day operations of your small business it can be extremely easy to get side tracked by managing the different tasks just to run the business. Instead of investing all of your invaluable time and effort working IN your business, it’s critical that you take a STRATEGIC approach to work ON your strategic planning and growing your business.
But how do you stop managing the details of your business and instead focus all your efforts on your business strategic planning to grow your company, you ask?
Following are a few very easy to implement strategies you can begin doing TODAY to get out of your business management so you can get INTO the planning to grow your business:
1. Outsource Non-core Functions: Outsource all of your administrative functions to an outside third party, also referred to as a “virtual assistant.” Any task you perform that cannot be directly attributed to generating sales, finding new clients, or obtaining referrals is a WASTE of your time and effort. Hire a vendor to manage your various administrative functions from billing/invoicing to your email programs, managing your social media accounts, running your emails, updating your prospect and client contact details.
2. Develop your Operations Plan: Create a detailed operations plan defining your business processes, policies, procedures, risk management, business continuity and other day to day operations SO THAT you can delegate these Operations tasks to employees, outside consultants, vendors, etc.
3. Empower Your Employees: I am constantly amazed at how few business owners I coach are willing to delegate tasks to their people. They believe their people are not qualified (a very dangerous sign!) or they simply do not know how to give up control of tasks they have done themselves. But your people are closest to your clients, prospects, operations and tasks. By empowering them you create a number of positive outcomes such as:
a. Employee satisfaction which leads to greater retention
b. Employee productivity gains – so you can get the full return on your people investment
c. New ideas to reduce your costs, increase your revenues, serve your clients, find new business, obtain referrals
d. New product/service offerings
e. Free up YOUR time to invest in the planning ON your future business growth
4. Plan for Growth: Develop a strategic networking plan so you can identify the events that all your top clients attend so you can plan a program for maximizing your networking investment.
5. Create Client Referral and Loyalty Programs: 50% of all new business comes from your existing clients. 35% of your new business is generated by new clients referred to you by existing clients. Only 15% of your new business comes from advertising. Thus, 85% of ALL your business comes from existing clients. How are you personally working on developing one time clients to repeat purchasers, from repeat purchasers to raving fans and how are you maintaining those Raving Fan relationships.
Here’s to your success in starting a new business in 2013. May it be the start of an entirely new path for you!
Ethan Chazin, The Compassionate Coach

Plan a New Business While You're Working

How to Plan Your New Business While You’re Working.
We are living in the age of the entrepreneur! More and more professionals that have become disenfranchised working in Corporate America and are between jobs or considering a career transition have been bitten by the entrepreneurial bug. Many people I know personally and others I coach are working feverishly RIGHT NOW to plan their new business.
If you are one of these budding entrepreneurs, how can YOU go about the arduous and intense process? How do you plan a new business while you’re fully committed to your day job? It’s certainly not easy, but there are steps you can take to increase the likelihood that you will successfully transition from employee to business owner. You CAN plan a new business while you’re working. Here’s how…
Time management is the key: Learn how to develop a plan of action and move forward aggressively with a focus of completing all your tasks and diligently stick to assigned deadlines. Set aside a predetermined amount of time EVERY DAY to dedicate to your business. Try VERY not to let anything interfere with your daily business start-up planning. If you can’t honor the time you committed to your new business planning on a given day, you MUST make up that lost time the following day or two.
Build a working prototype: You need to develop a bare minimum product/service offering that you can create a concept for and pitch to people in your social and professional networks to gauge their receptiveness to your offering. People have to feel it, hold it, touch it, smell it, try it on. If it’s a service they have to test it.
Build an ideal customer profile: Define your ideal customer in as much detail as possible. Don’t skimp on the details. How old is she, where does she live, is she married, what is the highest level of education she achieved, is she married, what’s her job, where does she work, how long has she worked there, does she have children, does she belong to a wine of the month club, belong to a gym, shop online? The extent to which you can define your ideal customer in as much detail as possible will go a long way towards being able to develop products and services tailored to her specific needs and challenges.
After you develop a product/service prototype and ideal customer profile start thinking about the people you know that match the profile and asking them if they would use your product/pay for your service.
Start saving. Since most of the funds required to start your business will come from you plus your closest friends and family, start thinking about the few people that you might ask for assistance.
Let the sleep deprivation begin: There is no way around it! You are going to have to get accustomed to making due with LESS SLEEP! Entrepreneurs work more, sleep less, and find themselves waking up at all hours because they are so deep in the planning aspects of their business.
Build a robust contact database: Begin building a list of relevant, useful contacts in your social and professional network. Be sure to include experts in Web development, social media, business coaching, administrative services, e-mail marketing, contact management systems, sales support platforms, financial management, accounting, intellectual property, customer care, etc.
Build your compelling brand online: Update all of your social media profiles, begin developing an editorial calendar for the blog you will write as a way to build your reputational brand as a subject matter expert.
Research, research, research: Learn as much as you possibly can about the industry you are going to enter. Follow the most popular bloggers, subscribe to their e-newsletters, research all the trade associations that serve the industry. You MUST become knowledgeable about all the latest trends and developments affecting your industry. Who are the new players, struggling competitors, rising star key executives, latest technologies.
Acquire business ownership skills: Begin acquiring a working knowledge in all of the key areas required to run your business including: accounting, financial planning, marketing, sales, human resources, and operations for starters.
Interview your fellow entrepreneurs: Start speaking with as many entrepreneurs and start-ups as you know to learn as much as you can about their lessons learned, get advice from as many people as possible on what to do, what not do to, best tips, advice, resources.
Become a “subject matter expert”: start building your reputation (brand) as an expert in your field. You can accomplish this the following ways:
* Get Published: write articles in any number of areas in your field and submit them to influential publications. Begin having dialogs with those noted media experts in your field, build relationships with them using your social media.
* Identify Your Unique Selling Proposition: what significant experience, skills, and expertise have you already acquired that you can begin to craft compelling messaging around for your own brand as unique, memorable, and invaluable.
* Define Your Features & Benefits: Again, what are your value propositions with respect to past work experience, technical expertise, relevant experience, professional affiliations and memberships, skills, accreditations and certifications.
* Identify Your Success Stories: create a list of the 4-5 major accomplishments you are most proud of and best capture the essence of your value proposition.
* Begin Promoting Yourself: Create a strategic plan of networking opportunities in your industry and start practicing your own brand story-telling when yo meet new people at these events.
* Monitor & Defend Your Brand: I tell all my clients to do a Google, Bing, and Yahoo search on your name once a month, and check your personal brand online through such services as Klout.
Enlist Your Loved Ones: very serious conversation with your spouse/significant other to discuss their emotional support you are going to need from them, the financial impact you’ll both experience, your time frame to launch the business and thus a tentative date that you will LEAVE your day job.
Start exercising: The stress and wear and tear your body takes when you start planning a new business is tremendous, so you need to start getting into shape so you have the energy that will be required to work those extra hours and deal with the toll that the stress will place on you.
Find Your Future Business Partners: Think about the partners you may be able to align yourself with. People whose skill sets compliment yours but also share your values and moral compass/ethics BUT are also the OPPOSITE of you from a personality standpoint. you want people whose experience, beliefs and temperament are a compliment to yours, NOT who match yours.
Set Your Exit Date: As you develop a calendar and time frame to launch and this begin thinking about an exit strategy to leave your day job you have to match that schedule with your personal and family calendar to ensure they are in as much synergy/alignment as possible.
Here’s to your success in starting a new business in 2013. May it be the start of an entirely new path for you!
Ethan Chazin, The Compassionate Coach

Strategic networking for business success

So, You Met at a Networking Event? Now What?
In my role as an executive coach and business consultant, I’m ALWAYS amazed how little advance planning most business owners and professionals invest in their professional networking. They receive an email from a MeetUp or LinkedIn group, or a professional trade association, Chamber of Commerce, or Merchant Association they belong to. If their schedule permits, they sign up to attend. In a previous post that I wrote about business networking, there were some great comments posted by others saying many people hate networking or simply don’t know how to network. The mistake most people make when they network is, they equate networking with selling. It’s not! Networking is all about making relationships and seeing if there is a way that you can help people to overcome their challenges.
As far as how to approach networking from a strategic standpoint, I advise my clients to treat any networking event the same way as you’d treat a marketing event. Approach each event you attend like it is a three-stage process. Here’s how…
STEP 1: The PRE Event:
The first step is the pre event. Find out who is going to attend, are there any speakers you want to hear or topics being covered that you are looking to learn more about. Next, as part of the PRE event reach out to the attendees, exhibitors, panelists, and speakers that are participating, in order to make an initial introduction. Do research on them to personalize your correspondence. Invite them to join you on your social media outlets. Next, promote the fact that you are attending the upcoming event by emailing folks you know who might like to attend, and let your social media contacts also know you’re going.
STEP 2: The EVENT Itself:
Then the second stage is the actual event. Seek out the people you contacted when you signed up, and make introductions. Spend time talking about THEM…not YOU. Why are they attending, what do they want to get out of the event, what are their key challenges. You should have as a general rule a strategic plan that you’ll talk to each person for about 10 minutes. If you feel that you can
hep them the goal of such a conversation is to schedule a follow meeting.
A long time ago I learned about an approach to networking which is simply BRILLIANT. Think of your approach to networking success as the “5-2-1” rule. In your introductions, what you say in the first five seconds you are talking MUST be so engaging and compelling that they respond: “Wow, tell me more!” During the critical next few (TWO) minutes you should expand on your introduction. After that two minute introduction, you let them talk about themselves and their challenges. The next step should be to set up a (ONE hour) meeting at a later date. That is the “5-2-1” rule, and it’s a great guideline for providing structure to any conversation you might have at a networking event.
STEP 3: The POST Event:
So, you leave the event. You spoke to a few great prospects, obtained their business cards, and maybe even scanned each others’ quick response code on your business cards. Now what?
Go to your social media and give a shout out to the particularly interesting (attractive) leads you met. Send them an email where you remind them what you talked about. Show you’ve done more research on their challenges, and invite them for coffee/tea (your treat!) to chat further. Send invitations where appropriate and always take the position: “HOW CAN I HELP THEM?”
Here’s to your success in starting a new business in 2013. May it be the start of an entirely new path for you!
Ethan Chazin, The Compassionate Coach

Is Social Media Making Us More (ANTI) Social?

Our ANTI-Social Society, Social Media, and Forging REAL Relationships.
By many indications, we have become a much more socially connected (oriented) society.
The signs are EVERYWHERE. You can’t read a magazine (or blog) without further proof that we are all more connected “socially” through social media, social corporate responsibility, social recruiting, social intelligence. We’re all kinds of social.
We have come to measure our “connectedness” by our social media relationships and our total collective online reputational brand (Klout, Reputation, SocialMention) and the number of people that follow us, “Like” us, and re-tweet what we say. Even our names can “trend.” Just follow yourself as a ### HASH TAG. It used to be only celebrities, artists, athletes, musicians had a Q score. Now the Andy Warhol prophecy that we are all famous for 15 minutes has become truth.
So how is it that we have evolved into this highly “social” society, when there still exist so many divisions between us? The great melting pot called American exceptionalism is rife with social divides. The “have’s” fight to keep what they’ve gained, while the lower class, upper lower, lower middle and upper middle class all jockey for that big slice of the remaining 98% of the income pie. A huge percent of our nation’s wealth is stockpiled by a microscopic 1-2% of the population. Hardly seems social at all.
People claim that the family institution is failing as evidenced by a divorce rate believed to be as high as 60-70% (the data is inconclusive on actual rates) and more people are searching for life partners online.
There is a battle being waged in the States and at the national level about our basic freedoms such as the rights extended in same sex marriages and treatment of immigrants.
Over in that hotbed of social dysfunction called the American workplace, employee disenfranchisement with their employers is boiling over. Now the popular trend in American business and industry is “re-shoring.” American businesses (especially car manufacturers) are bringing back jobs they have been sending overseas since the 1980s. Should we read that as a sign that the American enterprise has evolved and is much more socially compassionate towards workers? Hardly. Workers are ready to jump ship and leave their current employees in record numbers, according to Workforce Management.
Meanwhile, employers struggle to deal with their employees as an inconvenience to be tolerated, controlled and managed. They track employee Internet searching on the job, monitor what their employees are saying about them on their social media accounts.
It is more critical than ever that we stop and think what would happen if we truly embraced our social relationships, and extended those relationships online through social media. Social media can be leveraged as a powerful tool to stir the emotions, passions and drive towards action. Since the commercial adoption of the Internet in the mid 1990’s, the online world can be leveraged to create more direct interactions with many people at once, while customizing the message you send to each individual. As I’ve said before the traditional FIVE P marketing mix (product, price, placement, promotions, packaging) has inherited two new “I’s” (INTERACTIVITY & INDIVIDUALIZATION) in this age of digital media and interactive marketing that exists online.
Examples of the power of social media abound, from Occupy Wall Street to the Arab Spring movement, creating awareness for autism, the Travon Martin case and petition on, and updating people during/immediately after natural disasters like hurricanes and tsunamis (James Surowiecki TED conference “When social media became news.”)
Employees can and do go online to bash (or rave about) the experiences they have with companies they buy from. People receive offers, coupons, and discounts instantaneously anywhere they happen to be (and “check in.”) We can keep up to date with our immediate and extended families and friends all over the world. In this social era, an unlimited amount of data sits literally at our fingertips thanks to Google, Bing and Yahoo.
The question that begs asking is:”Is this always a good thing?” What do you think?
Here’s to your success in starting a new business or changing jobs/careers in 2013. May it be the start of an entirely new path for you!
Ethan Chazin, The Compassionate Coach