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Start a Business Successfully Demands Unconventional Wisdom

Starting a Business Successfully Demands Unconventional Wisdom.

“Visionary Business Leaders HATE Conventional Wisdom.”

 
To plan, launch and grow a successful business requires visionary start-ups and entrepreneurs to think and act counter-intuitively, by avoiding the old ways of approaching business start-ups, and bucking the conventional wisdom propagated by supposed experts.
 
As a business coach, I’m always asked by people looking to start their own business: “what rules should I follow” and “which experts should I talk to” or even “what are the Dos and Don’ts to starting a successful business.”
 
The one truism to starting a successful business in these transformational times that I can share with aspiring business start-ups and entrepreneurs is, throw all the conventional thinking
and old ways of doing things right out the window.
 
We live in transformational times. The 21st Century has ushered in an unparalleled amount of global competition, wild swings in geographic region for the cheapest sources of labor, mind-blowing technological advances (just look at what your smart phone can do) and international competition that creates 24x7x365 competition and business activity.
 
In the old days, the conventional approach was to find something you were expert at and pursue a business venture in that field. Due to the tremendous competition and pressure associated with launching a successful business that approach is no longer valid.
 

Today, you have to find the overlap between the things that you do really well and are technically adept at AND things that you are also extremely passionate about. It’s not enough to possess passion but not expertise. Conversely, no matter how proficient you are in a discipline or experienced in a given industry if you lack passion then you will ultimately fail. What do you do/have you done that you can safely claim you are expert in and passion about?
 
Conventional wisdom says planning a business requires developing a 100-page business plan that factors in all potential variables and forces and factors that will impact your success rate in starting a business. Unconventional wisdom says there is simply no way that you can plan for every contingency given the rate and degree of transformational change. In the past 4 years we’ve seen entire industries uprooted and businesses with 100,000 employees deemed “TOO BIG TO FAIL” fail! It used to be you HAD to pursue traditional (large bank) investors. Now the big banks won’t touch you and there is a sea of investors who can help you fund a start up plus non-traditional funding sources. In today’s transformational times you should be talking to investors FIRST. Ask what information they want, and how they prefer business owners to pitch them on new business to invest in. They’ll say a 1-page executive plan, 10 slide Powerpoint and spreadsheet showing operational costs (how many clients, revenues, commercial pricing, and other costs to launch and operate your business.
 
Conventional wisdom says thoroughly research your business idea, speak with numerous stakeholders,conduct extensive market research and complete a comprehensive business plan that addresses numerous contingencies and various foreseen changes. While today’s business climate still demands you conduct the required research, you should test the perceived demand for your products or services by giving people who resemble your ideal customer the chance to test your product/service and see if their demand matches what your own expectations are.
 
The converse also holds true. Most business owners apply failed logic of conventional wisdom to jump right into the “DO”ing part of the business. They build a website, speak to suppliers, look for investors and partners before they have done any personal assessment to see if they are even suited to start a business.
 
They don’t conduct a personal assessment to determine their strengths and skill sets, nor do they truly understand their areas for improvement or skills they may be lacking. Any new business owner MUST ask herself: “What do I have to offer that is truly unique?” What makes you uniquely qualified to start this business? By answering correctly you will have defined your very own unique selling proposition that you can use as your business start-up personal brand. Your personal brand represents your new business start-up brand. A brand is a promise that you will deliver something unique, invaluable and memorable. Is that what you and your business have to offer?
 
The average life of a Fortune 500 firm is 50 years…just 50 years! We are talking the largest multinational organizations in the world, and that’s it. The average life of an established is JUST 10 years. That’s it…a decade! Businesses don’t stay around long these days, due to the transformational change in markets, fickle consumer demand, mercenary customers, technological change, and competition. A business either folds within 10 years, or it gets acquired.
 
All the organizations that exist to support small business owners in planning and launching successful businesses do NOT know what they are talking about. Despite their best intentions entrepreneur support networks like the Small Business Administration, SCORE, Economic Development Corporations, Small Business Development Centers, often do not fully understand the complexities of specific businesses nor are they acquainted with the latest technologies, dynamics of global trade, skill sets of graduates of American universities affecting human talent/start-up staffing challenges, etc.
 
The most successful business owners and entrepreneurs have a keen sense of purpose, possess TREMENDOUS energy, are never happy with the status quo. They constantly question why things are done the old way, they never accept that good is good enough, and they are always looking for a faster and more efficient way to get things done. These successful business start-ups are the kinds of people who just love to constantly ask: “WHY” and “WHAT IF?”
 
In a word, they are visionaries. They are bold enough to think they can actually change the world, and hate to embrace conventional wisdom. These entrepreneurs take
a counter-intuitive approach to solving problems. Where are they heading? They know the way, they show the way and they go the way. They like to take the path least traveled.
 
Given today’s stagnant global economy, these are just the right kind of (contrarian) people we need to lead us. We should be doing everything in our power to empower them to achieve success in their pursuit of starting their own business. That is where future jobs growth will come from.
 
Here’s to your continued business success.

Do Your Customers Know You're Talking to Them?

Do Your Customers Know You’re Talking to Them?.

“How You Communicate With Customers Tells Them If You Care About Them.”

 
Do you have a formal policy for communicating with your clients and prospects. Do you strive consistently to get the right message to them at the right time, when they ARE most likely to hear what you have to say?
 
Do you make a concerted effort to communicate with your customers through your marketing, promotional, and communications campaigns both online and offline when your customers are most receptive to what you have to say? Have you researched how your customers (especially your raving fans) consume different types of content (media messaging) especially how they do (or don’t) respond favorably to your messages? This requires a business communications tracking campaign to monitor the results of your various messages to your external (customers, prospects, vendors, suppliers, the media) and internal (employee) audiences. Do you have a process in place right now to track all your stakeholder’s receptiveness to your messaging?
 
Stated differently, do you know what messages you send are getting through and making an impact, and the communications that you send that are missing the mark, not being received, or are getting “drowned out” by the deluge of messages we all receive daily?
 
Do you know how your favorite (most profitable) clients prefer to receive your messages? How do they feel about and respond to your stories? Do they ever get offended by your tonality? How favorably/unfavorably do they respond to your special offers, promotions, and incentives? These are the questions that you MUST be asking. Do your sales presentations have all the excitement and client engagement of watching paint dry or dust accumulate on venetian blinds? When you “pitch” a prospective client, do you go on and on in monotonous tones talking to a gazillion slides about what “YOU DO” but never focus on their challenges and how you can help them resolve the business issues that keep them up at night?
 
Do you know where they are when they get your communications? If you cannot honestly answer these questions, then all of your advertising, marketing, and communications with your customers is being effectively wasted.
 
Do you make an effort to reinforce your messaging by touching your customers in different ways? Do you combine a blend of different business communication such as personal calls, emails, your website, letters (yes, HAND-WRITTEN, person communication!), etc? Do you craft truly compelling and engaging stories based on how you can and do help your customers to solve their most immediate and a challenging business problems? Or, do you take the alternate approach of crafting generic messaging focused from your own organization’s perspective that screams: “This is what we do…now buy it!?”
 
This is an absolutely central issue that most organizations simply pass over in developing their business communication. Instead, they holler at the masses that they need to sell them your stuff. Instead, do you, your business, your organization to the time and make the significantly more challenging effort to talk about what you do that is truly unique and how you offer things that are invaluable and memorable. Do you talk bout WHY you do what you do, not how or what?
 
To learn how to REALLY speak to your customers in a compelling way, check out this Simon Sinek video about telling WHY you do what you do. People and organizations like Apple, Martin Luther King, and the Wright Brothers that are most successful at transforming our lives have always communicated at emotional levels that touch our hearts and inspire us. Do you?
 
Do you have a communication program in place that is designed to talk to your customers differently, depending on how valuable they are and how much business they contribute to your organization? The more valuable a customer is, the more direct, person communication should be made to them. Hand written notes and personal calls are only the beginning.
 
Do you go that extra mile to “connect” with your most profitable clients? For example, do you visit with them at their place of business, take a tour of their business, or take them out to breakfast/lunch to catch up on their challenges? Do you accompany them with sales calls to THEIR clients to see what challenges they face in selling their own firm’s products and services?
 
Do you host monthly, quarterly, or annual client breakfast roundtables, appreciations and town hall events to say “Thank you” for their support (business?) how do you share with your clients and partners all of the exciting things that you and your firm are working on, to serve them better? If you are not doing any/most of these things, then you really aren’t communicating in an effective way nor are you creating significant value so they want to keep you when times get tough.
 
If you aren’t communicating these ways, you need to understand that your competitors are doing these things. And in challenging economic times like we’ve had for the last four years, your most valuable customers will surely remember how well you did (or didn’t) make the effort to keep in touch with them.
 
Here’s to your continued business success in 2012.

The Art of Communicating Through Body Language

Great Communication Starts With Body Language.

“Your body language screams out, even when you’re silent.”

 
Whether you realize it or not, you send out messages all the time and communicate with others, without even speaking! The non-verbal cues you make reflect an unspoken language…it’s called “body language.” You communicate all manner of information about yourself including how you are feeling and what you think of them. You should be aware that you are sending out these non-verbal cues cues to others constantly. People are constantly attempting to read your body language for signs. So it’s crucial that you use your cues to make a positive first impression.
 
For example, avoiding eye contact with others conveys an extreme shyness on your part and/or a lack of trust in others. It also conveys that you are attempting to hide something from them
 
Folding your arms is an extremely defensive posture (unless you’re cold.) It has the connotation of protecting yourself. The act of folding your arms across your chest alerts others that you are angry with them, you feel threatened by them, or you don’t trust them/believe what they are saying.
 

 
The act of placing your hands in your pockets and playing with change indicates you might be miserly (yeah, cheap.) Twirling your hair in your fingers absentmindedly sends a message that you lack professionalism, are not paying attention to the person speaking to you, or you get bored easily. Many body movements we make are behaviors that we have been doing so long, we may not be conscious of them. This is extremely dangerous, because the people we are engaged with are looking for these cues to get a sense of whether they can trust us, like us, work with us, or do business with us.
 
For example, making rapid and/or sudden hand gestures like pointing, gesticulating, or waving hands dismissively to the side (swatting flies) is seen as not taking others seriously or not listening to them. In can also create an aura of agitation, anger, or losing temper/control. Eye-rolling is an obvious and pronounced turn-off.
 
Repeated face touching (esp. your nose) indicates deception. It’s an especially bad bluff in poker. They call it a “tell.” Repeatedly checking your watch indicates extreme boredom and rudeness! Good posture is a sign of confidence and leaning in towards others as they speak conveys an interest in what they have to say. Conversely, leaning back/away from others as they speak has the connotation of being aloof, cold, and distant.
 
Other non-verbal gestures can be offensive when seen through the prism of differing cultures or religions. An example would be a strange man trying to shake the hand of an Orthodox Jewish woman he was not married to or in the same family. Crossing one leg over another while you were in a seated position may come across as being engrossed in casual conversation. However, the same gesture of showing the bottom of your shoe to someone can also be very offensive. Likewise, turning away from someone that is hearing impaired who reads lips is another unintended way to offend another. In fact, consider it just plain bad form (rudeness) to turn away from ANYONE hat is speaking to you.
 
When Exchanging Business Cards Leads to Offense
 
Even the simple act of exchanging business cards bears an entire set of standards of decorum . For example, in Asian ans Hispanic cultures you would never see someone write on another person’s business card, or fold their business card or put it in their pocket. Why? Your business card has your name and title on it, as well as the name of the organization you work for.
 
By treating a person’s business card with a perceived a lack of respect you are seen to be disrespecting them, their stature (as defined by the position they hold in their current organization) and their career accomplishments. When someone hands you their business card, take it into both hands, and take the time to actually look at it. You might even consider getting a sleek business card holder to put people’s cards in when you meet them. by treating a person’s card with respect, you are bestowing respect on them by association.
 
Another way to avoid offending others is to understand and practice the art of giving people their “personal space.” Different cultures have different unspoken rules about how much personal space to give. Americans as a general rule like pronounced distance. Ever have someone invade your personal space by getting within 6 inches to a foot of you? It’s creepy. Other cultures don’t practice the same social conventions about having as much space between us humans as a “buffer.”
 
One technique that you can use to put others at ease is called “mirroring.” Mirroring is a technique in which you match your body’s positioning and movements to coincide with the person across from you. The trick is to be as subtle as possible. You definitely don’t want it to be obvious, or they’ll be thinking: “What are you doing, mocking me?!” Why practice mirroring? It’s simple…research shows that by assuming the body posture of the person across from you, you put them at ease which leads to greater trust. This is an especially important goal to achieve during interviews.
 
Following are informative resources for advice and best practices on perfecting your non-verbal cues and body language to exude an aura of trust, likability, and professionalism. Here’s to your continued career success and professional development.
 
Understanding Body Language. written by Kendra Cherry.
 

Seven (7) Non-Verbal Cues & What They (Probably) Mean.

 
Body Language Actions to Avoid.
 
Examples of Body Language.
 
Top Ten body Language Tips
 

Eighteen Ways to Improve Your Body Language.

Understanding Body Language, list of resources on Changing Minds.

Great Business Leadership is Critical for Success.

Great Business Leadership is Critical for Your Business Success.

“In transformational times only true leadership ensures business success.”

 
To find the true DEFINITION of leadership, you should ask: “What makes a leader?”
 
It is extremely difficult to provide an adequate answer, because the word has such drastically different and heart-felt meanings depending on who you ask. Descriptions abound from noted figures from the political domain, heads of state, leaders of business and industry … everyone seems to have a different opinion as to what makes a GREAT leader.
 
Margaret Meade alluded to the power of change that a small group of passionate people can achieve when she said: “Never doubt that a small group of committed individuals can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
 
My personal favorite…”A leader knows the way, shows the way, and goes the way.”
 
Napoleon Bonaparte said: “A leader is a dealer in hope.” In his estimation, leadership could be summed up as providing encouragement to others that you will lead them to the bright future of tomorrow. When you give people HOPE, you have provided them with a very powerful gift that will see you through turbulent times.
 
Elaine Agather, CEO of Chase Manhattan bank said: “The leadership instinct you are born with is the backbone. You develop the funny bone and the wishbone that go with it.” In this definition, leadership means having the strength to pursue your goals even through the most challenging of times, while keeping a sense of humor and the ability to hold out hope for the best outcomes.
 
It was St. Augustine who said: “Do you wish to rise? Begin by descending. You plan a tower that will pierce the clouds? Lay first the foundation of humility.” Such a definition of leadership touches on the very essence of what a true leader can become.
 
When you analyze the great contributions of others and try to explain the meaning of great leadership, you come away with the feeling that to be a truly great leader, you MUST inspire others to accomplish great deeds by exhibiting yourself the kind of qualities that you would expect from others. It means consistently striving to achieve greatness by taking risks. The most effective leaders share a common attribute that they have had a “positive” impact on the lives of the people that they came into contact with. It entails nothing less ambitious than touching other people’s lives.
 
Applying Great Leadership to Business
Most of my small business clients want to know how they can become great leaders. They ask what it takes to successfully lead a business. I explain that there are certain clearly identifiable traits that all great leaders demonstrate. Successful business leadership begins with an inherent desire to follow an ethical code of behavior, doing what you know is right. Entrepreneurs, start-ups and established small business owners are in a unique position. The organizations they are creating can be strongly influenced by their own personal moral compass and belief systems. When you start out as a new business owner, your value system becomes the culture of the organization you are creating.
 
Unfortunately, we have had MANY examples of what happens when leaders set aside morality in the pursuit of profit, power or act as if they are above ethical behavior. What can be learned about the value of ethics in defining leaders when we look at the behavior and impact that people like Bernie Madoff and the executives at companies like like Enron, Worldcom, Arthur Andersen, Tyco, Lehman Brothers, Halliburton, British Petroleum, Phillip Morris, Global Crossing, Countrywide, Goldman Sachs, Adelphia have had?
 
These “leaders” stole hundreds of millions of dollars from their businesses, which drove their companies into bankruptcy and harmed their employees and investors. Other organizations like AIG, Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, were woefully mismanaged due to a pronounced lack of leadership. Some produce deadly products that kill millions of people every year.
 
For Starters, Believe in Yourself. You have to have an absolute belief in your abilities which will come in time from achieving success in leading others. Your vision consists in seeing future outcomes before others can. You must gain experience working in and driving Teams comprised of people from different backgrounds who have different values, beliefs, and personalities towards a common set of goals. Start by taking advantage of any and all opportunities to lead Teams either in work settings, volunteer work, PTAs, Girl/Boy Scout clubs, wherever the opportunities arise.
 
Strive to achieve excellence in everything you do. And with everything you do in business as in life, be passionate. Life is too short to settle on an uninspired existence. Another universal quality shared by all great leaders is a concern for the well-being of those they have led.
 
Leadership and Management Are NOT The Same.
Management is detrimental; leadership is critical to organizational success. HERE’S WHY…
 
MANAGEMENT
 
“Management” (from Old French ménagement “the art of conducting, directing”, from Latin manu agere “to lead by the hand”) characterizes the process of leading and directing all or part of an organization, often a business, through the deployment and manipulation of resources (human, financial, material, intellectual or intangible.)

LEADERSHIP

 
* Possess a VISION
* A person who builds consensus, guides, or inspires others
* The ability to get people to follow willingly
* About behavior first, skills second
* Creates “buy in”
* Generally refers to the position or office of an authority figure
 
Becoming a Leader Means:
Check Yourself. Who Are You?
Make people want to follow you. A quality of all great leaders is an ability to make others believe you are the right person to guide them. You do that by valuing them, soliciting their ideas and sharing decision-making, encourage them to achieve great results, and always portray an aura of confidence and positivity.
 
To read more about becoming a GREAT leader, download our e-book on GREAT LEADERSHIP.
Here’s to your leadership success.

How Grandma Would Transform Your Business in JUST ONE DAY.

Embrace an Entirely New Business Leadership Style.

“My, What Big Business Plans You Have Grandma.”

 
I have been thinking (and writing) a lot lately about ways that entrepreneurs, start-ups and business owners can improve their business (go from good to great) by practicing exceptional business leadership skills. To transform your business, now is the perfect time to go back to your start-up roots and rekindle the passion you had when you first launched your business. Go “old school” to revisit the time-tested to grow a successful business that you may have gotten away from in the hustle and bustle of operating your business.
 
You can’t get any more “old school” then asking: “What would grandma do to transform my business if I put her in charge for just one day?
 
Embrace the Art of Gift-giving: Grandma would come to the office with gifts. Did you ever bake and bring in a homemade apple pie (yum, pie!) for your employees? Did you ever knit a sweater to celebrate an employee’s birthday, or a special accomplishment? Grandma always knew how to welcome people in her home with open arms. She made us feel special, wanted, and appreciated! How do you make your employees, clients, vendors and partners all feel special, like grandma?
 
Do you make your newly hired employees feel good about joining your team? Do you welcome each and every one of your new hires? I’m not talking about shaking their hand as you lead them to their cubicle (cage) but MUCH more. Do you take them out for breakfast their first day on the job?? How about taking the time to walk them around and introduce them to everyone? Do you check in with them in the middle and end of their first day on the job, to see how they are doing? Do you ask new employees what their experiences were like their first day on the job?

 
Hug Your Employees: We’re not talking about physically hugging. In today’s politically correct business culture that would mean opening yourself up to a sexual harassment claim. Do you emotionally embrace your people, make them feel good about you as their leader? After all, your people spend more time at your place of business then they do in their own homes. Show them how much you appreciate them. Grandma cooked us our favorite meals. You can certainly reward, recognize, coach, mentor, and promote people. Give people increased responsibilities. Make all your employees feel equally special. DON’T pull a grandma and show favoritism to that one most favored grandchild. In the grandparent business, it’s called providing unconditional love. In best business practices, it’s called visionary business leadership.
 
Love Your Family Unconditionally: Your people are going to make mistakes. Instead of punishing them, follow grandma’s lead. Encourage them to be their best, take risks, embrace the discomfort of tackling the unknown. challenge them to fail greatly. Grandma would go even farther. She would get to know their hopes and fears, talk to them often about the very real challenges they face in balancing their home and work life. Lend a shoulder to lean on, and provide an ear to bend as you truly LISTEN.
 
Sit Up Straight, Make Eye Contact, and Behave: Grandma would provide much-needed executive coaching and professional development best practices to your management team. She’d start by telling you to stop slouching, sit up straight and make eye contact! Be proud of who you are and your accomplishments “deary” and always look others square in the eyes so they can trust you.

 
Grandma would remind you that your word is a promise, and trust is absolutely critical not only in business, but in life. She would then lecture you (lovingly) about how we could all do with a bit more trust in one another these days. She’d also add that it’s important to say “please” and “thank you.” She’d also remind us the business world wouldn’t have had to deal with Bernie Madoff, Enron, Adelphia, Global Crossing, Halliburton, British Petroleum, etc. if more of us business owners acted with the highest ethical standards. She would pinch your cheek and suggest that the most profitable businesses operate in the highest ethical standards and true leaders take their business along a course guided with a strong moral compass you summarized as “DO GOOD.”
 
No Pink Slips, Just Pink Booties: Grandmas don’t fire, layoff, right-size, down-size, re-engineer, off-shore, or outsource their people…ever! Once they bring you into the family, you’re family. If an employee was valuable enough to bring into your organization, then they should always be able to contribute especially if you develop them professionally. Every grandma know that! They don’t believe in pink slips, but they may just knit your infant a pair of pink booties.
 
Understand the Value of a Dollar: Grandma survived the Great Depression. Could you? Manage your business finances with a militant view towards keeping your debt down. Watch your cash flow and manage your business expenses. Take advantage of limited time free offers, make purchases using bonus points, take advantage of promotional offers, and use coupons. Have you ever heard the phrase: “Watch your pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves?” That’s a grandmother speaker. They also like to say: “penny wise, pound foolish.” That means NOT cutting back on the expenses needed to take care of your people. In fact, a grandma would know it makes brilliant business sense to spend money for special gifts on your employees to make them feel special and appreciated.
 
Conflict Resolution With Fresh-Baked Cookies: If two co-workers aren’t getting along, Grandma would make them sit together and work through their issues over her freshly baked cookies and home made hot cocoa. Honestly, how could ANYONE stay angry after enjoying piping hot chocolate chip cookies served with steamy homemade hot cocoa (and whipped cream?)
 
Well, the workday is winding down and Grandma’s work is done. Your people are happier than ever, your customers feel a lot better about you and your business, and things are humming along. Grandma would love to stay, but she has to get home to watch Wheel of Fortune and Skype with her grandson, who just left for his first year of college.
 
She’s turning your business back over to you, and ask you when you are coming to visit. You tell her “soon grandma” but first you have to plan employee appreciation luncheons, client roadshows, a town hall meeting, and find worthwhile causes for you and your employees to get active in. Watching her treat people the way she does all day long really affected you. You promise her you’ll change as a business owner. She just smiles, pats you on the cheek and says: “of course you will.” Because that’s what grandmas do.
 
Here’s to your continued business success.

Improve Business Performance in ANY Economy

Improve Your Business Performance in ANY Economy.

How Entrepreneurs, Start-ups and Business Owners Can Achieve Business Success.

 
If you are an entrepreneur, start-up, or small business owner, chances are these last 4 years have hit you hard. Are you struggling to improve your business performance? Have clients stopped buying your products and services, or they are cutting back drastically on the business they used to give you. You might be struggling to find qualified leads that you can close to generate new business, or you are having a tough time converting repeat customers into raving fans.
 
Are you struggling to find creative ways to engage your employees? Do you ask yourself how you are going to motivate your people to find creative solutions to your business challenges? Perhaps you have lost suppliers, or vendors you relied on have gone out of business? Do you feel like every networking event you go to is a room full of financial advisers and sales reps from that legal services MLM? Most likely, it’s been a combination of “all the above” as you grapple with strategies to turn your business around and improve your business performance.
 

Fear not! Following are proactive steps you can take to improve your business performance, unstick your business and get on the fast track to renewed progress heading into the fourth quarter of 2012
 
Take a fresh NEW look at your client list: Identify those clients that are your most profitable. Come up with a “Best Customer Profile” and write down in as much detail as you can all of the qualities, features, and attributes of your ideal, most valuable customer. Where are they located, why do they buy from you, why do they stay with you, what if anything special do you do to service and maintain their account (and keep their loyalty?) This ideal customer profile will serve as your target / “bulls-eye” for identifying highly qualified SIMILAR contacts at organizations for you to aggressively target. Be as specific as possible to build a complete picture of your most profitable client.
 
Identify your most valuable (profitable) clients: Chances are, they are your most loyal customers. They always refer new business your way, speak well about the service you provide, have given you testimonials. They are your “Apostles.” Make an apostle appreciation tour, take these clients out to lunch and let them know you’re here for them. DON’T ask for referrals. It’s a “Thank you for your support” lunch, not a shakedown.
 
Change your approach…if it ‘aint broke…BREAK it!: There is a word for doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome. It’s called INSANITY. Re-evaluate ALL of our systems, processes, and procedures. Why do you continue to do things the way you used to? If your answer is laziness, sheer habit, or that’s how it’s always been done then it’s time to find a new approach. There are no SACRED cows in today’s 21st century global contract workplace. When organizations with 100,000 employees can go out of business seemingly overnight and entire industries implode, the old ways of doing things are not a safeguard but a recipe for disaster.
 
Create a networking plan: When you created a profile of your most profitable client you should also capture information on where these individuals meet, through their professional Associations, business clubs, organizations. You must identify these key annual trade shows, conferences, and events. Make a point of attending as many as you can.
 
Become a subject matter expert: Write! Write! Write! Become an authority of any and all subjects that are near and dear to the hearts of your target profiles. You want to author blogs, articles, white papers, anything you can to get your name in front of your ideal client profiles. While you’re at it…SHAKE THINGS UP! If you spend a lot of time in your office, GET OUT! Schedule as many meetings out of the (home) office as you possibly can. While you’re out, spoil yourself. Buy yourself something nice. Go to an afternoon matinee. Do something you wouldn’t normally do, as a way to say “thank you” to YOU!
 
Revisit your partner strategy: Identify the organizations in your professional network with complementary products and services that fit nicely with your offerings. If you already have partners and there is no synergy then cut those relationships loose. While we on the subject of products and services. Now is a great time to rethink your product and service offerings. Is there something you can offer that you aren’t? Ask your apostles on your appreciation tour. Take an END-OF-YEAR look back NOW. Don’t wait for the holidays. You’ll be drowning in eggnog, Depression, and holiday distractions. Volunteer what little spare time you have to charitable organizations, not-for-profits, your local church, synagogue, homeless shelter, senior citizen center. Go back to school! Take a class, learn a new skill, attend a Webinar. You should always find time to develop new skills.
 
Re-engage your industry: Pursue the trade Associations that serve your industry with renewed vigor. If you haven’t already done so, consider renewing your membership in your local Chamber of Commerce, Kiwanis Club, Toastmasters, Rotary Club, whatever! Become active on a Committee, help plan their end-of-year gala. Now is NOT the time to stick your head in the sand, and hope that things will get better. Stay focused, re-evaluate your business, keep active but working aggressively. Channel your efforts towards re-discovering your clients and the reasons you started your business.
 
Here’s to your continued success.