Time Out!

For most of us, June starts the busy summer season: making school break activity plans for the kids, celebrating dads and grads, family reunions and vacations. This is in addition to the ongoing challenges of keeping a business going and growing.

In all the bustle of extra activity, one thing that usually gets left off the to-do list is time for relaxation. Vacations with the family turn into another set of tasks to accomplish so that the end of your trip -if you can actually take one – finds you as tired as you were at the beginning.

No matter how much you enjoy your work, your mind and body do get stressed. You need to take regular time out to relax and recharge. Not just for yourself, but for those you care about and for the health of your business. Here’s why:

Lower stress. Every job has at least a few parts that create frustration or anxiety. And even the fun parts require effort and concentration. Both of these conditions can cause both mental and physical stress which slows you down and eventually takes a toll on your health. It’s important to have a regular release.

Dream and Create. Have you ever had the experience of solving a problem as soon as you quit thinking about it? Ideas and solutions come faster and easier when you get rid of tension.

Evaluate and Plan. Get away from the pressure of day-to-day operations so that you can see the big picture. Let your mind drift a little and contemplate where you are and dream about where you want to be. This is where goals come from.

Remember the Joy. You started your business for a reason. Keeping in touch with the happiness and anticipation you felt at the beginning will help maintain your motivation and keep you in tune with the adventure.

Celebrate. Like we discussed last time, it’s important to acknowledge and take pleasure in your progress and accomplishments. It helps keep you moving forward, and it feels good!

Now obviously you can’t just pack up and spend a week on the beach every month (at least, most of can’t). But there are many ways to take regular, rejuvenating breaks. For example, you can limit the length of your work days, automate or outsource routine duties to free up time, and set aside a day or a portion of a day each week to spend in worship or meditation. Find a way that fits your business and lifestyle, and stick to it.

Regular time outs will make your time in more effective and enjoyable.

 

Relax

Setting The Mood

You can’t deny that mood influences behavior. When you feel like doing an activity, you’ll usually do a better job and enjoy it more. If you don’t feel like it, you may still do it if you absolutely have to, but you will probably do only the minimum that’s required and there will be no joy in it.

As a business owner your main goal is to convince people to buy your products and services. So anything that can cause your prospects to have favorable moods and impulses is a tool you can use if you understand how it works.

Here are a few things that influence mood, and ways you may be able to use them in your business.

Sound – According to studies, different types of sounds, especially music, have various effects on both mood and behavior. For example, the tempo of background music can affect how much time a customer spends inside a retail store. Customers tend to move slightly slower when slow music is played and therefore spent more on average than with faster music.

Music is also used to create atmosphere and promote a certain feeling about a brand. Think about upbeat music that can make customers feel more energetic, and perceive your business as an energetic place. For businesses like spas, massage therapists and professional or medical practices the music – and therefore the atmosphere – is usually soft and soothing.

This doesn’t only apply to retail space either. Music (and other sound effects) can be used to help create a specific mood with your advertising, on social media and on your website.

Color – Scientists have been trying for years to analyze and define how specific colors, shades and hues affect emotions and perceptions. Of course, there are no absolutes because every reaction is to some extent based on individual tastes, but color does affect mood.

Since color is all around us, there are nearly infinite possibilities when it comes to using it to create the ambiance you want. Again, it all comes down to your brand identity and the mood you want to create in your customers and prospects. This applies to all visual elements of your business from packaging to logos to decor.

Decide on the mood you want to create and find colors that match those emotions.

Language – The way you talk and write about your business has a definite effect on how prospects view and react to you. Whether you’re writing ads, website copy, or social media posts, your words and how you use them can make all the difference.

Youthful modern slang. Scholarly, academic and intellectual. Friendly, casual and conversational. Precise, technical and detailed. Each of these conveys a unique point of view for a particular audience. Pay close attention to verbs and descriptions.

The right words can paint any picture you want and let you direct the attention, and often the action.

Setting The Mood

Happy Mother’s Day

Video created by my partner Winslow

Break Some Rules, Have Some Fun

Following the “rules”, or doing the same things in the same way everybody else is doing them will most likely only get you the same things you already have. If you want something new and different you’ve got to break a few rules.

This doesn’t mean you can operate in chaos, just that you don’t always have to follow standard practices. Have a little fun. Exercise your creativity! Be unique! After all, that’s what makes business success.

Break Some Rules, Have Some Fun

Plant a Seed, Grow Your Business

“April showers bring May flowers”. As the weather gets warmer and the earth turns greener it’s only natural to think of growth. Of course when you run any kind of business, thoughts of growing – and managing growth – are never too far away.

Plant a Seed, Grow Your BusinessIn the same way you’d plant seeds to begin a garden, there are also seeds you can plant to encourage growth in your business. Just be sure to have a goal, and plan in place to handle the new business. Here are a few “seeds” you can plant.

Widen your social media activity. These days most businesses have profiles on at least a couple of social sites. But how well are you using them? Do you spend a lot of time reading and “liking” other people’s posts or are you making your own? Instead of reading articles, write some. Join groups and participate! Reach out to new people; engage and make connections. Explore the blogs and comment on the ones that your prospects are likely to be following. In order to get more business, you have to reach more people. Social media is a great way to begin that process.

Invest in making yourself unique. No matter what business or industry you’re in, there are literally hundreds and thousands of others doing much the same thing that you do. In order to get ahead you have to find a way to stand out. It may be your tagline, your logo, the combination of products and services you offer, or your method of delivery. Even a business has a personality. Use your creativity to find ways to be different and memorable.
(Shameless plug – A Top 6 Productions Your Intro With Video is a great start!)

Get affiliates to sell your product/service. Open a new location. If your operation is big enough you could even consider franchising. If you’re looking for big growth, more is the way to do it.

Teach or write about your industry. Whatever you do, you want to be seen as an expert if you want more people to pay you for it. Writing a book or teaching classes certainly helps put you in that category. You’ll improve your reputation and likely make new contacts who are already interested in your field.

Expand your target market. When you are beginning your business, one of the best ways to get established is to have a very tightly defined niche. You have to be very specific about who you are trying to sell to. But once you’ve conquered that target it’s time to loosen the target a bit and sell to an adjacent market. For example, if you make a product aimed at young parents perhaps you can adjust the product – or the message – so that it appeals to grandparents as well. A B2B (business-to-business) company may find that their service can also be used by retail customers. Looking at what is (or could be) beside you is another good way to grow.

What seeds will you plant this Spring?

Time To Get Clean

(Article for the Top 6 Productions Newsletter)

Although you might not be able to tell by looking outside right now, Spring is coming soon. The days get longer and March winds blow in to chase away the winter chill. We start getting ready for brighter and warmer times.

It’s time for making plans, getting organized, and the traditional spring cleaning.

Usually that means closets, windows and carpets. But this is also a good time for “cleaning up” your business as well. Tax time is right around the corner and after that comes the active summer season. You and your business need to be ready.

Here are a few areas to look at:

1. Your web presence. Your social media profiles, blog and website are not only the image you project to the world, they’re also a major asset of your business. Your site is the first (and Clean Up Your Businesssometimes the only) reference and source of information about what you do. But the web changes fast and your business changes too. What was fine last year may be outdated and inaccurate and need freshening up now. (The article in the “Producer’s Corner” below has some good tips to begin with.)

2. Your finances. If you’re not making money you don’t have a business, you have a hobby. Your work may just be a sideline and not intended to fully support your family. You may be an artist who’s in it for the love of creating and want to share your work with others. Or you may be in a helping enterprise and want to make the world a better place. There’s nothing wrong with any of those. But even a “non-profit” has to take care of money issues. Now is a good time to start gathering the info you need for taxes, and to put a system in place to keep it that way.

3. Your inventory. You probably think of inventory as the products on the sales floor and in the storage rooms of a physical store, but that’s not all it means. It’s also the catalog of projects you’re still working on – whether that’s books you’re still writing, programs you’d like to offer, new products you want to sell, or unfinished songs or pictures. And it includes the dreams and goals you have for the future. Maybe it’s time to dust them off and get them ready.

4. Your files. Even the smallest or simplest business generates a certain amount of physical and digital “paperwork”. And sometimes it seems all but impossible to keep up with all the contacts, ideas, emails, forms, bills, pictures, etc. If you don’t have an organizing system in place, now is a great time to get one. If you do already have one, it’s time to collect all those scraps of paper, business cards and digital files and put them where they belong – and where you can find them when you need them.

Get clean and get ready. And let us hear about your plans for this Spring!

Offbeat Marketing Ideas for March

Having trouble figuring out what to put on your editorial calendar or how to grab some attention with your marketing in March? Try searching for unusual holidays or celebrations, such as:

March Holidays for Offbeat Marketing Ideas

March MarketingNational Noodle Month and National Sauce Month
March 1: Beer Day
March 5: Multiple Personality Day
March 9: Barbie Day
March 6: Employee Appreciation Day
March 14: National Pi Day
March 17: St patrick’s Day
March 23: National Puppy Day
March 27″ National Kite Flying Day

 

Any business owner can come up with a tie-in to what they do and make it memorable. Write an ad or blog post,create a funny meme, or hold a contest. All you need is a picture, phrase or piece of music to personalize the message. Just be creative and have fun.

Getting it Started and Keeping it Going

(This post is an article I wrote for the Top 6 Productions Newsletter.)

Let's Get StartedThis month we’re talking about beginnings. Once you’ve set goals for your business, it can still be hard to figure out how to get started. Even when you know where you want to be, those first few steps are often the toughest – especially when you don’t know exactly what to do first.

Then there are the times in an established business when the flow just stops for one reason or another. It happens to everyone from time to time. Financial problems or illnesses can slow things down. And sometimes we just lose the passion. Everyone occasionally experiences those low-motivation days that make it difficult to get anything done.

So how can you get started (or start again) when things have stopped?

First of all, don’t beat yourself up about it. Learn to accept that business cycles fluctuate, as do our interest energy levels. You aren’t going to feel the same way every day and that’s to be expected. Remember, too, that unpredictable things happen in life. You will recover, and move on eventually.

Next, be prepared. Make a list of things to think about and do that you can refer to whenever you get stuck.

For example, most business owners blog, and everyone who blogs occasionally has times where they either don’t feel like writing a post or can’t think of a single thing to write about. So, keep an idea file. Whenever you see, hear or even think about something interesting, write it down. It doesn’t necessarily need to have anything to do with business, and you don’t need to write a lot of detail; just a sentence or two so you’ll remember whatever it was will do.

Here are a few more things you can put on that list:

  • Write thank you notes to clients and people who have helped you with your business. Positive communication is always good for business, and the act of expressing gratitude can help you overcome that “blah” feeling on your low motivation days.
  • Organize. Most folks don’t enjoy filing and “paperwork”, but it’s a necessary part of all businesses. Use one of those slow times to make sure your systems are properly set and up-to-date. Then keep the routine going so it doesn’t pile up into an unmanageable mess.
  • Go For the GoalRead. Somewhere on your computer or in your work space, you have a bookmarks file that contains links to interesting stories and videos, or a folder of how-to articles, or a list of business books. Not only is this a better use of time than games and net surfing, you might just find the spark that gives you your next big idea.
  • Review your website and social media profiles. Are they up-to-date? Are they complete? Are they compatible with each other? Do you need an overhaul? You may not have the time, money or inclination to do these things right now but it never hurts to know what’s needed so you are ready when you’re able.
  • Daydream. Your fantasies can help you get back in your groove. And when you’re building that mental image of the perfect situation, try to see it clearly in as much detail as possible. This will usually help clarify your goals and the steps you need to take to get there.

Even downtime can be productive if you keep your eyes, and your mind, on the prize. Keep going until you reach your dreams!

Lighting the Spark

It’s not easy running a small business. Economic conditions change. Technology changes. Trends change. And sometimes it gets hard to hold on to your motivation. It’s no wonder a lot of people give up on their dreams.

The fact is, even if you are lucky enough to have great helpers, keeping yourself moving toward your goals is still up to you.

The first thing you need to do is set short, medium and long-term goals. Write them down and review them from time to time to see the progress you’re making. Celebrate your achievements, no matter how small they may seem. Keep in mind that there are many ways to measure success.
Lighting the SparkDecide what matters to you. Ask yourself why you started, and what part of the business gives you the most satisfaction. Then you can make decisions with priority on the part that means most to you, and stop stressing yourself out over things that are less important. This doesn’t mean you can ignore the tasks you don’t like, but they don’t need to be the focus of all your attention.

Nobody is good at everything. In every business there will inevitably be some requirements you simply can’t meet on your own. Trying to do these things makes you focus too much on your weaknesses and can drain your enthusiasm and commitment to the business. When you need help, be smart by choosing people whose strengths allow you to make the most of YOUR strengths.

Stay connected. No matter how much you like being in charge, you still need the stimulation and companionship of other people. Privacy is often important, but ideas can’t grow or develop in complete isolation. Support groups, whether online or off, allow you to learn about new trends and provide opportunities to connect with others who are in similar businesses as yours.

Keep up with what’s happening in the world around you. Follow the news, talk with people inside and outside your industry, and stay abreast of changes that could affect you. You may notice opportunities you wouldn’t have seen before. You may realize that things are better than you thought once you see how others are doing.

And finally, make sure that you’re doing something you’re passionate about. Love is the best motivator of all!