Who’s on #Smallbizchat September 2017


#Smallbizchat is a weekly conversation where small business owners can get answers to their questions. The focus of #Smallbizchat is to end small business failure by helping participants succeed as your own boss.

Please join us live on Twitter every Wednesday 8-9 pm ET. Here’s how: follow @SmallBizChat on Twitter and follow the hashtag #Smallbizchat and click here for directions to join the weekly conversation.

This month, we’ll be on Twitter talking about launching and growing a product based brand, having a greater impact, creating a brand experience, and getting your business unstuck.

Here is a list of who is on #Smallbizchat in September.

September 6th – How to Launch and Grow a Product Based Brand, @INDIEbusiness

Donna Maria Coles Johnson is an attorney, author, and entrepreneur mentor. She is the founder of the Indie Business Network, which trains the next generation of entrepreneurs who make the products they sell.  Visit her site at http://ift.tt/LknhJn.


September 13th – How to Have a Greater Impact in Your Small Business, @jsonenshine

Joanne Sonenshine is Founder + CEO of Connective Impact, a company focused on bringing like-minded organizations together to improve how we utilize resources and address the crises of our time. She is also author of ChangeSeekers: Finding Your Path to Impact.  For more information, visit http://ift.tt/2tB4Wyk.


September 20th – Be Unforgettable: 6 Tips to Creating A Brand Experience, @Kreative_Eye

Teanna Ross is the CEO of Kreative Eye.  She works with entrepreneurs and small business owners to brand and market their business.  Learn more at http://ift.tt/2we06LO.



September 27th – How to Get Your Business Unstuck, @barrymoltz

Barry Moltz gets business owners growing again by unlocking their long forgotten potential.  With decades of entrepreneurial experience in his own business ventures as well as consulting countless other entrepreneurs, Barry has discovered the formula to get stuck business owners unstuck and marching forward. After successfully selling his last operating business, Barry has branched out into a number of entrepreneurship-related activities.  He founded an angel investor group, an angel fund, and is a former advisory member of the board of the Angel Capital Education Foundation.  Barry’s fifth book  “How to Get Unstuck: 25 Ways to Get Your Business Growing Again” is currently available on Amazon. For more information, visit: www.barrymoltz.com

Every Thursday morning on Melinda’s blog, a complete Q&A interview from each #Smallbizchat is posted as a recap http://ift.tt/17XI5jd

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How Does Your Business Change Once You Hit $1M in Revenue?

We all dream of it: making $1 million in revenue. This arbitrary number has become a symbol for success for small business owners, and while struggling to reach this major milestone, realize this: once you get there, the way you run your business will change. In fact, it probably will have evolved over time as you crept closer to that revenue goal. I always think it’s important to prepare for the next level in your business. I interviewed several business owners who have made $1 million or more in revenue, so that I could share insights into how things will change.

You Let Go of the Micromanaging

Rahul Alim, President of Custom Creatives, a digital marketing agency, said that growing his business to $1 million in revenue meant he had to let go of trying to do everything.  “I went from doing 100% of everything in my business to letting things go and stopped micromanaging everyone as we grew by headcount. It gave me flexibility to delegate and focus on high priorities rather than cold calling, filing, or other administrative tasks.”

You Work Harder

Understandably it’s thrilling to reach that point of knowing your little business is secure financially. It validates your hard work and lets you know that anything is possible. Blair Critch, Le-Vel Brand Promoter, started out as an entrepreneur simply wanting to help support her family. But once she hit the million-dollar threshold, she began working even harder, with no obstacles in front of her. “When you see yourself accomplish something of this magnitude you become unstoppable and truly understand what ‘the sky’s the limit’ means.”

Your Perception of Money vs. Time Shifts

Most small business owners go out of their way to save a buck, and that’s understandable when budgets are tight. But as you grow, Marcio Souza, CEO and Co-Founder of Clutch Prep, said that how much energy you put into saving money will change. “One way in which we have had to adapt continuously, as we grow, has been with regards to calibrating how we value cash vs. time: whereas in the early days it made sense to spend days to save a few hundred dollars, now that we have more revenue, it’s often wise to ‘pay’ more to save staff time to move faster.”

You Must Stay Willing to Adapt

Lisa Chu, owner of Black N Bianco clothing retailer, said yes, hitting her first million was a huge deal. “I worked very hard and for many years to achieve this success. Things remained the same because I value the importance of staying humble. In business, things can change in an instant, but by staying humble it keeps me sharp and willing to adapt and learn.”

Critch agreed.

“Absolutely, it is a big deal. My lifestyle stayed the same. But now it just makes traveling with your loved ones and treating yourself easier. We definitely have been taking the kids on more trips so that they can experience what the world has to offer.”

How to Grow to $1 Million in Revenue

Naturally, the question on your mind is “how in the heck do I grow my business to $1 million?”

Here’s how these entrepreneurs did it, so take notes.

Focus on Attracting New Customers

Alim of Custom Creatives said his team spent a lot of time focusing on how to attract new customers, as well as developing solutions to grow their clients’ businesses. They also expanded their offerings to encourage clients to spend more with them.

Build Brand Awareness

Chu said she put in many years of hard work trying to build credibility for her brand. She provided excellent products and customer service, which eventually created more brand awareness purely through word of mouth. “Being a small business that had a personal connection with my target audience was the catalyst to my success.”

Make Yourself Replicable

Critch has more practical tips to grow your business. She said that in addition to making sure you love your business enough to work hard over time, you should also make yourself replicable. This doesn’t mean you will be replaced; it just means that you’ve trained your people to ‘think as you do’ so they can function independently, leaving you more time to find creative ways to grow the business.”

Invest Outside of Your Comfort Zone

Changes in how you operate your business don’t just start at the $1 million threshold. Jeff O’Hara, President of AlliedPRA New Orleans, said that it’s easy to find yourself stuck at a certain revenue level unless you invest outside of your comfort zone. “Bring on new sales people and team leadership before the revenues justify the expense, that’s what we did. In other cases, in means investing in new products or inventory, or upgrading technology. It’s scary, and it happens before you get to $1M, happens again before you get to $3M, and on and on as the business grows.”

Grow Your Profit Margins

It wouldn’t be the SmallBizLady, if I didn’t add my own advice to get to one million in revenue. Dig deeper in your niche. Figure out how to become the #1 resource for what you sell. Stay focused on increasing the profitability of your company. It’s not just about your revenues and build a processes and systems that will allow you to sell your business one day, if you want too.

But…Is Hitting $1 Million Even a Big Deal?

Yes, for some. But it is an unscientific measure of success. It does signify that a business has a sustainable business model, it can be a false sense of success too. At the end of the day, it’s not what you make, it’s how much you keep. Back in 2007, when I was writing my first book, Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months, I almost didn’t finish the book because I didn’t think I was successful enough. Imagine all the people who would not have been helped to grow their businesses had I bought into that ideal.

Grossing $1 million in revenue is a major accomplishment. And when you get there, pat yourself on the back. It’s a milestone that relatively few small businesses ever reach, so be proud of yourself and your company. Then develop a strategic plan to hit $3 million. It never stops….

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6 Principles to Becoming a Happy Entrepreneur


Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9 pm ET.  This is excerpted from my recent interview with Che Brown who is the Happy Entrepreneur.  He helps people to reduce their time, take back their lives and leave a legacy.  For more info: www.SalesCourage.com

SmallBizLady:  As one of the biggest producers of black entrepreneurs, what’s one of the biggest challenges that your clients face?

Che Brown:  Figure out where the time is going now! Try tracking your time for a week. You can use an app, a spreadsheet, or a notebook. Without knowing where the time goes, it’s hard to know if you’re changing the right things. Maybe something you think is a problem isn’t. Or vice versa.

SmallBizLady:  You think lots of people have blind spots with time — even you! What are some of those?

Che Brown: Like many entrepreneurs, our clients are dedicated to making both a difference and a dollar. They have big business goals, and they’re dedicated to reaching those goals. This isn’t a problem on its own. However, we’ve seen a lot of entrepreneurs sacrifice their health, relationships, and well-being to realize those goals. This seems like a worthy sacrifice to many entrepreneurs, but there are often unintended consequences. The first is that they end up making what should be a short term sacrifice turn into a way of living. They end up feeling unhappy and under pressure, and it’s difficult to turn it around without some major changes.

SmallBizLady:  What kind of unintended consequences do these entrepreneurs face? How does this affect their business and life?

Che Brown:  The big consequence is that an entrepreneur can fall into the trap of living out of the need of immediacy, and not out of abundance. What we mean by that is, they’re constantly putting out fires. Because the entrepreneur has ignored some vital areas of life and business, they’re now spending their time focusing on what needs to get done “now” just for the survival of their business, health, relationships, etc. This isn’t a good place to operate from. And this is what ultimately leads to unhappiness. That’s why we’ve created The Happy Entrepreneur.

SmallBizLady: What’s the idea behind the Happy Entrepreneur?

Che Brown:  The Happy Entrepreneur is a movement that’s based on one big idea: the results that show up in our lives are just as important as those that show up in our business. Too many entrepreneurs get stuck focusing only on their business and ignoring their personal lives. Not only does this lead to unhappiness, but it also means that the success we see in our business will ultimately be limited.

SmallBizLady:  How does someone determine whether they’re ignoring their personal lives, or if they’re just doing what’s necessary and making sacrifices along the way?

Che Brown:  1st start out by doing an assessment of your time.  In 1st column, list all of your priorities, including your family; 2nd column share how long it will take, 3rd when you will do it.  If you find that your priorities are written, but not included with a deliverable, then they are simply wishes.  Now you can recalibrate your priorities that include the things that mean the most to you and eliminate unnecessary tasks.

SmallBizLady:  How would someone use The Happiness Scale?

Che Brown: Each week, you’ll commit to doing an equally positive action in both business and life. For example, you may decide that working out is a priority in your personal life. In your business, maybe speaking with 5 prospective clients is a priority. If you decide those should be paired (because they’re equally important), you’ll commit to doing them both as a pair and assign a point value to them. If you complete the pair, you get those points. If you don’t do either task, you don’t get any points. If you do one but not the other, you get negative points. The goal is to exceed 100 points each week, for as many weeks as possible.

SmallBizLady:  How does a small business owner find the time to get through their entire to-do list and still spend so much time on their personal lives?

Che Brown: That’s where a lot of entrepreneur’s struggle. They lack time and energy to get it all done. And usually, our personal lives are the first to suffer. The Happy Entrepreneur focuses on 6 core principles designed to rescue our time back, to include:  systems, automation, and collaboration among other tools to make this happen.

SmallBizLady:  What are the 6 core principles and how do those principles help us rescue our time back?

Che Brown: The six core principles are systems, automation, collaboration, people, processes, and performance. When used together, these principles help us get more done in less time

SmallBizLady: What’s the biggest challenge with utilizing these 6 core principles?

Che Brown:  Any time we implement a new system; we’ll experience challenges at first. The biggest challenge here is understanding that “The answer to who doesn’t always have to be you.” That is, just because something needs to get done in your business or life, doesn’t mean you have to personally take the time to do it. For example, automation can handle a lot of your sales and marketing. Collaborations can help your business grow. People on your team can handle daily tasks. Once you accept that you don’t have to personally handle every detail, you’ll start to rescue your time and have a lot more choices for what you do with that time. We prefer to use it to get our lives back and work on leaving our legacy.

SmallBizLady:  Can you talk more about leaving a legacy?

Che Brown: Legacy can really refer to anything you want to leave behind. Maybe you’re building a community. Maybe you want to leave your family wealth. Maybe you want to write a book, or impact a group of people. Whatever it is, you’ll never have time if you’re constantly living out of the need of immediacy. Your legacy will never feel urgent until it’s too late.

SmallBizLady:  You mentioned that People is a core principle. What can someone do if they can’t afford to build a team?

Che Brown: Building a team is just one way to use the power of people. First, it’s important to acknowledge that help come in all shapes and sizes. In your personal life, you might get creative and find friends or family to help in exchange of something that isn’t money (an exchange of favors, possibly). In business, you don’t have to hire a full time employee to get help. Look at working with a professional for one time projects, or hiring an assistant that works a couple hours a week for recurring admin tasks. This principle is also tied to collaboration – meaning, you can collaborate with piers to work out a win-win.

SmallBizLady:  If anyone out there is struggling to find happiness in their business and life, what’s your advice?

Che Brown: When you can master the art of making a dollar and a difference at the same time, you’ll find happiness. It’s the reason many entrepreneurs went into business in the first place.

If you found this interview helpful, join us on Wednesdays 8-9 pm ET; follow @SmallBizChat on Twitter.

Here’s how to participate in #SmallBizChat: http://bit.ly/1hZeIlz

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How to Turn Your Book into an Online Course

Guest Article

All books require explanation, even the #1 Book in the World – the Bible. So, why not explain your book? People oftentimes want to “hear” or ask questions about a particular statement, chapter, etc. Wouldn’t it be great to give them an opportunity to get their questions answers by turning your book into an online course?

Let’s face it, you’ve written the book, published it, but no one is buying it despite your repeated marketing efforts. Don’t fret, there’s good news and there’s great news about turning your book into a course.

How would you like to charge $97 to $297 for your book? You may be thinking, ‘you’ve gone mad woman’! It’s a hard to peddle books out of your trunk as a vendor at an event and not yield a great return. If you turn your book into a course you can sell your course designed by you book in your sleep and make three to five times as much.

People that purchase books will say they love it, but they may have questions on how to apply a certain portion of the book to their life and/or business. This may get you thinking like I did years ago – “wow, I need to answer their questions, but more importantly, what if other people had the same questions that went unanswered.”

Ultimately, you can turn your book into a 4 to 6-week class with worksheets, audios and full interaction with the participants! And, here’s the great news, as a starting point, you can charge up to 5 times the cost of your book!

Now that I’ve made the business case, let’s dive into the 5 Steps for Turning Your Book into an Online Course.

  1. Select an engaging topic. You might not need to use the title of your book, you might want to pull out a section of the book to build your course. Do your due diligence and select an attractive topic. A good topic acts as an attractive force that pulls in your target audience because it relates to them and solves a problem. Drawing the attention of the reader should be your first priority. You should consider the following points if at all you are in the research stage.
  • What about your book solves a problem?
  • Do you know your target audience?
  • Where can you find them online?
  • Do they have the capacity to invest in your course?
  1. Draw up an appealing outline. Don’t just jump into content creation but rather filter out your course outline like a sales document. You need to make each week’s course content appealing to your target audience. A well-planned outline will engage your audience in a most dramatic fashion. Try to be as concise as possible to stimulate your readers to action. You can do this by:
  • Trying to stimulate their aspirational goals or solve a specific problem
  • Tease important strategies and concepts they will learn
  • Order your thoughts in a logical manner
  1. Create an eye-catching title. Your title should act as a package that meets the needs and wants of your target audience. What is it you are trying to teach your target audience? Does it provide a solution to their problems? Most readers are always interested in the title, it’s how they make the decision to keep reading. For example, a good title could read like: How to make more money online. 
  2. Create captivating content. Your content should reflect the same quality and attractiveness as your title. The best strategy to use is to create content that appeals to all the ways people learn, You can start with walking your talk, or an audio course. Then your need slides for those who want to read the information and then you can add video elements to build connection with your audience and for those who you rather watch and listen. You can even go an extra mile by adding PDF worksheets and Word documents so they have homework to practice each week’s lesson.
  3. Be profit-oriented. You are providing a service to your audience by creating an online course. You are packaging your content to make it easy for your clients to get access to it. Don’t be afraid to charge for it. you can charge $97 to $497, per course and include the book. You can use great online platforms to upload and share your course. After doing all these, you will now be ready to launch and sell your online course.

Don’t just stop at writing the book. Maximize that content by creating an online course. What a great way to get some of those books off of your shelves, out of the boxes in the garage and into the hands of people that need your information!  And you’ll make money too.

About the author

Joan Wilson is known as the Online Content Champion.  She lands a knock out each time with her clients by utilizing her 1-2 punch combination to help them creatively sort out business branding ideas and uniquely package their content into profitable products.  She is best known for her 6-figure content launch services. http://ift.tt/2g1xfEQ

Don’t miss Joan’s message at this year’s Reinvention Weekend 2017 Conference Oct 6-7, 2017 in DC – http://ift.tt/2wlQnBd



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How to Build Corporate Sponsorships for Your Small Business

If you’re looking for additional streams of revenue, corporate sponsorships could be a viable revenue stream. Now please don’t think this is FREE money. Major companies only do sponsorship if there a clear ROI. If you have something to offer (like an engaged niche audience) this could be a realistic business opportunity for you. Corporations are looking for ways to reach their target customer, if you have a tribe in their sweet spot, they could be willing to pay to engage you as a channel partner.

What Corporate Sponsorships Look Like

There are a lot of different types of corporate sponsorships deals, so know that you’re not limited to the following ideas.

A brand might invite you to be a “resident expert” on its blog, contributing content and sharing it with your audience. You could also publish several sponsored blog posts from the brand on your own blog, helping them reach your audience. You might be engaged in a social media marketing campaign, talking about the brand’s product launch or pushing a contest. You could also host product giveaways through your various social channels. Corporate brands might also want to advertise on your website. Or you could represent the brand as a speaker at industry events.

Often when you build a corporate sponsorship package, you might include several of these different options. Always consider the customer’s goals and offer your best suggestions to help them with their marketing challenge. You want to make sure you give them what they ask for but, be sure to include some additional offers that might also be appealing.

Are You Ready for Corporate Sponsorship?

Not every small business owner is positioned to offer something of value to a corporate brand. Ask yourself the following questions to determine if pursuing sponsorships is the right next step for you.

How significant is my social media following? Social media is typically a large part of any sponsorship campaign, so brands considering investing in you will want to see that you have tens of thousands of followers across Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook. Also, how engaged are your followers? How much do you know about your target audience? A brand should be able to look at your followers and see that the audience it’s trying to reach frequently sharing and responding to your social updates.

What am I known for? For me as the SmallBizLady, it’s clear that I have the ear of small business, and so I tend to attract corporations that are looking to connect with that target audience. But what about you? What niche do you serve that would appeal to a corporation? Where do you demonstrate your expertise? On a blog, Youtube, Instagram, etc.? Content is often how these connections are made, so where are you doing it?

What’s my unique value? How would a corporation benefit from working with you? Realize that there are many, many experts doing nearly exactly what you do. What makes you better than the rest? What value can you offer that beats out the competition? Give sponsors a clear reason to choose you rather than shopping around to another influencer.

Do I have time to take on additional work? Sure, you want to boost revenues, but do you have the time to do the work required for a corporate sponsorship? Depending on what you agree on with your customer, you could be spending 20 hours or more a month writing content, making public appearances, or scheduling additional social media content. Make sure it’s financially a smart move for the amount of time it will take to do the work.

What would I get out of it? You will get a financial reward from a corporate sponsorship, but sometimes there are other perks such a FREE products and services. But don’t just get excited about a free printer, you should be getting paid too.  Working with a large corporation might open the door to other business opportunities. Always look for the long-term relationship: rather than a single blog giveaway. Try to build out at least six-month sponsorship package. The more value you can provide long-term, the more indispensable you become to that company.

Does this brand align with my business’ values? If you’re a vegetarian, it doesn’t make sense to take on a fur coat sponsor. You get my drift. Because you’ve worked so hard to build trust with your audience, it’s of the utmost importance to only work with brands that you feel comfortable standing behind. Don’t promote anyone you wouldn’t buy or use. It’s easy to lose trust with your audience if you end up sounding too salesy when talking about your corporate sponsor. If any brand pushes you to send overly promotional marketing messages, push back or move on. You must always remain genuine and true to your own brand.

Final Tips for Corporate Sponsorships

Make sure you clearly understand what is expected of you before you sign any contract. Know exactly what deliverables the company wants from you, and how you will be paid? Also make sure you know how long they can use your content and likeness in connection with their brand. Use a lawyer to help you with any contract

Know your worth. As entrepreneurs, sometimes we tend to be shy about charging what we’re worth, and believe me: a giant corporation that can afford to pay you triple isn’t going to tell you you’re undercharging. Unless the brand approaches you with a budget number, quote a price that makes you just a little uncomfortable, but that’s still reasonable. The corporation will likely come back with an offer that you can then consider.

If engaging corporate sponsorships fits with your business model, it can be a fantastic way to not only boost your bottom line but also extend your business contacts and boost your brand. Who knows? You might end up with customer for life as a result.

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How to build a profitable business while working your full-time job

Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9 pm ET.  This is excerpted from my recent interview with Audra Upchurch who inspires career women to embrace their authenticity and thrive in their personal lives.  She is also the owner of Xpress Mail that provides packing, shipping, printing and business services.  For more info: www.xpressmbs.com.  

SmallBizLady:  Audra, I want to start a business but can’t afford to quit my job.  Where do I begin?

AuthenticAudra: Start with something you’re good at and passionate about.  If you’re working a full-time job that you’re already not happy with, no need to do the same with your business.  Do something that excites you!  That’s going to motivate you when you’re tired at 2am and working on a customer deadline.  Also, make sure there is a need in the market for your business idea before you jump in; but most importantly, sit down and discuss it with your family.

SmallBizLady: Should I inform my boss that I am starting my own business

AuthenticAudra:  You’ll want to review your employee handbook and policies to confirm if it is a requirement or if there is a non-compete clause.  Also, consider your relationship with your boss.  If you think your boss will feel like you’re hiding something then you may want to share it.

SmallBizLady:  What if my boss is uncomfortable with the idea of me starting a business?  I still need a paycheck.

AuthenticAudra:  Have a candid conversation with your boss. Share your schedule and ensure him that you are not working on company time.  Your boss may not be aware of the automation and outsourcing options available and that your business can run efficiently while you are at work.

SmallBizLady:  Will my family and friends support me?

AuthenticAudra: They may, but don’t count on it.  Your vision of entrepreneurship is your own.  Family and friends mean well but if you are truly building a business, and not a hobby, you must build a customer base to sustain your business. If your idea is solid, there are customers out there, but you must do the work to find them.

SmallBizLady:  Where do I find customers?

AuthenticAudra: Networking is the easy answer but it’s so true! Develop a blueprint of your target customer (their likes, dislikes, habits, etc.) and network in those key areas.  Also, partner with another small business to pool resources so you won’t have to take so much time away from work.  You’ll also want to register at sam.gov (System for Award Management) for possible federal contracts, depending on your products and services.  Also, register with your state and local procurement offices as many of the contracts have small business requirements.

SmallBizLady:  What should I do to prepare?

AuthenticAudra: Your business will require time, attention and focus to be successful.  After giving your job 8 hours of your day, you’ll still have family obligations so your time will be tight.  Sit down and assess what items you can remove from your schedule.  Everything should be on the table from tv time to chores.  Discuss the schedule with your family to see who can pick up the slack.

SmallBizLady: How do I get my family’s buy-in on my new schedule?  They feel like they are being neglected.

AuthenticAudra: I have 3 tips for getting their buy in; 1- be consistent in your business.  If you’ve scheduled to work 4 nights a week in your business then work 4 nights a week.  No going to shoot pool instead of contacting customers.  2- show up for them when you say you’re going to show up.  If it’s family night don’t keep your family waiting while you finish up a conference call.  3 – let them in on your end game.  Let them know this is not forever and that you have a plan.  Set an actual date, even if it’s years out.

SmallBizLady: What if I can’t do it all?

AuthenticAudra: You can’t.  No one expects you to.  Along with leveraging other small businesses, don’t be afraid to outsource.  In this dual role, your time should be spent on the revenue producing activities.  Administrative, financial and ever marketing actions can be outsourced so your time is well spent.  Automation is your friend.  Schedule social media posts and invest in a good customer relationship management tool (CRM) that will work while you sleep. In fact, utilize your spouse and kids to help with stuffing envelopes, sending emails or scheduling your social media posts so that they feel involved and save money on outsourcing those tasks.

SmallBizLady:  How should I pay myself?

AuthenticAudra: You don’t.  You should be reinvesting in your business until you are generating a profit.  Generally speaking, profit is what’s left after expenses.  Since you have the benefit of your full-time job to cover your household bills, it would be wise to reinvest in your business to expedite growth if your intention is to quit your job one day. For the time being, your job is funding your business.

SmallBizLady: I have years of experience in my field, should I still invest in a coach?

AuthenticAudra: Working for a business and running a business are two completely different animals.  Although you may have the technical expertise, you still need someone to show you how to set up your business systems, marketing, forecasting, etc.  A coach can help you do that and avoid costly mistakes that your small business cannot afford to make in its infancy.

If you found this interview helpful, join us on Wednesdays 8-9 pm ET; follow @SmallBizChat on Twitter.

Here’s how to participate in #SmallBizChat: http://bit.ly/1hZeIlz

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How Your Small Business Can Create a Highly Engaged Organization

Guest Article

I’ve always had a keen interest in helping small, diverse and disadvantaged businesses. I’ve found that when given the opportunity to compete in a fair and transparent environment, these companies are very successful at winning new business when going “head-to-head” with larger organizations.  And it makes sense that they would.  Their very makeup allows them to be much more entrepreneurial and responsive to customer needs.

A few years back, I worked with a small business (around 200 people) and helped them put in place many strategies and methods that transformed the business. Now I want to share these tools with other small business owners. In my new book, Engaged: Creating a Great Organization through Extraordinary Employee and User Engagement, I outline how within six months the company culture and employee engagement dramatically improved and many great new ideas were put in place. These efforts not only provided greater customer satisfaction but also significantly reduced cost.  The whole company reverberated with renewed enthusiasm.

Here are some of the actions that small businesses can take to create an engaged organization where people are able to make a difference.

Become a servant leader: If you are a manager in a small business you can help your subordinates be more effective by viewing yourself as at the bottom of the pyramid rather than at the top. Instead of trying to control your employees, you should view your role as empowering and supporting their success. Instead of viewing yourself as having “power over,” view yourself as giving people “power to do.” Your employees will be grateful and will go the extra mile.

Avoid the pitfalls of internally-focused metrics and quotas: Departments in many large companies create internally focused metrics and quotas that they evaluate employees on. Too often, these pull the employees away from doing what they know is right for the customers. They can also lead to silos and losing sight of the big picture because employees become so focused on only meeting the requirements of their own department. Small businesses can avoid this by understanding that humans are intrinsically motivated to make a difference, to serve the customer. If metrics must be used they should be applied with caution and be focused on external factors such as on customer delight or customer intent to recommend your company to others.

Work backwards from where you want to be: Instead of trying to make improvements on what you have in place today, get a group together and take a few hours. Pretend that your services, systems, products, facilities, organization, etc. was destroyed last night and you are free to design what you ideally like to replace it with today. This can serve as your north star and can open up new ideas. Perhaps more importantly, when the group comes up with ideas together, this tends to create much stronger buy in, resulting in successful implementation of the desired improvements.

Focus on creating a great culture: Many small businesses accidentally develop a dysfunctional culture simply because they don’t know to focus on creating the culture they want. One powerful approach to creating a desirable culture – used by Zappos.com when it was a fledgling small business – is to define the principles you want your company to be guided by. For example: we help each other be successful; we regularly appreciate people’s contributions; we are forever improving; we support a healthy community; we embrace learning; we seek out customer problems that we might solve. This reduces unhealthy conflict and organizational paralysis.

Don’t try to be the hero: In his autobiography, Benjamin Franklin observed how little he achieved when he presented an idea as his own. Instead, he found he was much more successful when he presented an idea as coming from a group. So, instead of competing with your colleagues for the glory, come up with and then implement ideas together, and you are more likely to see cooperation rather than resistance.

Make it easy for customers to submit “wishes”: Starbucks began in 1971 as a single coffee shop. As of November 2016 it was in 23,768 locations worldwide. To take advantage of customer ideas, in 2008 they implemented an online customer idea submission website named My Starbucks Idea. This “crowdsourcing” site enables customers to submit their own ideas and see and evaluate those of others, allowing Starbucks to assess support for an idea. As a small businesses, you could implement something similar in order to continually enhance your service to your customers.

Stay connected with your customers’ problems: In small businesses a higher percentage of employees have direct contact with a customer. As your company grows, avoid the pitfall of more employees losing connections with your customers. You can emphasize and put in place practices wherein employees observe and interact with customers in person to learn more about problems and unmet needs the company might address.

About the author

Jason Magidson is a workforce development expert. His new book, Engaged, can be found on Amazon.com – http://amzn.to/2vF6tVe

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How to Run a Successful Food Truck Business

No matter where you live, you’ve likely seen or eaten at a food truck. There are some great reasons why savvy entrepreneurs are opening restaurants on wheels: the overhead is low, and they can go where their customers are. Operating a food truck is also a great way to test out a restaurant concept or menu to see how diners respond before investing what can be millions in a brick-and-mortar restaurant that you’re not sure will succeed.

If you’re considering launching a food truck business, there are a few things you should do first to ensure success.

Research the Market

All food decisions are local. Smaller towns may have just one or two food trucks, but that might be because it’s hard to attract business. Larger cities are filled with food trucks catering to every taste, and the competition is fierce.

Talk to food truck business owners to get a sense of what the market is like. Would they do it all over again? Do they make a living at it? Getting insight into what it is to run a food truck business in your city is invaluable, because it might keep you from making a bad business decision.

Determine Your Niche

It’s not just about what you serve, it’s also about where you will do it. I live in Philadelphia, PA where Insomniacookies started on college campuses around town.  Their niche was warm fresh chocolate chip cookies until 3am. They had a two prong niche, they focused on late night sweet cravers, and they always located their trucks on college campuses, a target rich environment. These days they have store fronts and even deliver warm cookies to your front door, but they knew their audience, and no one had that niche when they started.  What will your niche be tacos, sushi, cupcakes, or cheese steaks? Look at your competitive landscape and pick a niche food focus and location area.

Find Out What’s Required

Just like with a standard restaurant, you’ll need a business licenses and a parking permit to operate your food truck business. You will likely need a separate license for preparing and selling food as well, so check with city, county, and state to ensure that you know what is required. And just like any other restaurant, you’ll have a health inspection, so make cleanliness a priority from the start.

Keep in mind: you may move around to find the right location your food truck, so map out a few locations that are easy to get to where the locals will support your presence, not fight it (maybe parking in front of another restaurant isn’t the wisest idea).

Buy a Truck

Your food truck business has one central theme: a food truck! You may be able to find a recently-used truck that’s been outfitted with a modern kitchen that will stand up to health codes for under $40,000. Otherwise you can buy a new truck and do the customizing yourself, though it will cost more, a lot more like $100,000+.

Protect Your Business

Anything you can do to protect both your business and your personal assets, you should do. Start by considering your business structure. Setting up your business as an LLC or S-Corp will separate your business from your personal assets, so that should someone sue your business, they can’t touch your personal assets. There are also some tax benefits to choosing certain business structures, so contact your accountant or tax prepared for advice on this.

You may be required by local government offices to carry certain types of business insurance. It can cost between $500 and $3,000 a year, but should anything negative happen, you won’t go in the hole paying legal expenses or doctor bills.

Also be aware: your city government may require you to have specific types of business insurance, such as general liability and commercial auto insurance, says Ted Devine, CEO of Insureon. You may even need additional coverage if you plan to sell food at events like festivals or football games.

“Most event organizers and venues will require food trucks have $1 million in general liability coverage. Even if you don’t have any upcoming events, research ones you may want to attend and take note of their insurance requirements. Carrying those types of coverage will give your food truck the opportunity to land more venues in the future, while also giving it the freedom and mobility to grow.”

Build Your Budget

Before you launch your food truck, make sure you’ve budgeted for your first year of operations. You’re not guaranteed to turn a profit within the first few months, so it’s important that you have enough cash in the bank to cover both business and personal expenses.

Make sure to include in your budget:

  • Startup expenses (truck, graphic design, equipment)
  • Labor
  • Food and supplies
  • Gas
  • Your own salary
  • Business insurance

Be Ready to Leverage Social Media

Because yours is a business on the go, you’ll need to rely on your social media to tell your hungry followers where to find you, especially if you are not going to be in the same location all the time. Before you launch your business, work on building your following by providing teasers of what you’ll be cooking up for locals. Then as you set a schedule for your business, be sure to keep followers updated on where you’ll be serving up meals in real time.

Just like you’d prepare for launching any type of business, take extra care with your food truck company. Spending more time prepping up front the more likely you’ll be and set up for a thriving business.

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How to Enjoy Your Life More as a Woman Entrepreneur

Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9 pm ET. This is excerpted from my recent interview with Laura Vanderkam who is the author of several time management and productivity books, including I Know How She Does It, What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast, and 168 Hours.  For more info:  http://ift.tt/1h9l02w  

SmallBizLady:  If I want to spend my time better what’s the first step?

Laura Vanderkam:  Figure out where the time is going now! Try tracking your time for a week. You can use an app, a spreadsheet, or a notebook. Without knowing where the time goes, it’s hard to know if you’re changing the right things. Maybe something you think is a problem isn’t. Or vice versa.

SmallBizLady:  You think lots of people have blind spots with time — even you! What are some of those?

Laura Vanderkam: Most of us think we work more hours than we really do. Entrepreneurs think about work a lot, so we may feel we’re always working. But that’s not true. I used to think I worked 50 hours/week. Then I tracked my time for a year and found I worked 40. Big difference! And I write about this topic!  The good news is that even long hours allow space for other things. There are 168 hours in a week. Work 60, sleep 8 per night (56 per week) and you have 52 for other things.

SmallBizLady:  People think time management is about saving bits of time here and there. You disagree — why?

Laura Vanderkam:  You won’t change your life by saving 2 minutes in the shower, or 3 minutes getting coffee. Put the important stuff in first, and everything else will naturally take less time.

We don’t build the lives we want by saving time. We build the lives we want, and then time saves itself.

SmallBizLady: I oftentimes hear people say “I don’t have time,” what do they really mean?

Laura Vanderkam:  I don’t have time really means “It’s not a priority.” I could tell you I don’t have time to iron my sheets, but that’s not true. If someone offered to pay me $100,000 to iron my sheets I would find the time!

Using this language reminds us that time is a choice. There may be consequences to those choices, but we have more control than we often think.

SmallBizLady:  Women entrepreneurs always tell us there aren’t enough hours in the day. What do you think?

Laura Vanderkam:  There aren’t enough hours in the day to get to everything, but we don’t live our lives in days. We live in weeks. Think 168 hours, not 24, and you’ll see how much space you have.

Things don’t have to happen daily, or at the same time every day, in order to count. If you travel two nights a week for work, focus on the 5 you’re home!

SmallBizLady:  What are some strategies women can use to make time for relationships and personal priorities?

Laura Vanderkam: Try planning your priorities for the next week each Friday. Consider making a 3-category list: career, relationships, self.

Using all 3 categories will remind you that there should be something in all 3 categories! That right there can help you build a more balanced life.

After making the list, look at the next week, and see where these priorities can go on your schedule.

SmallBizLady:  How can busy women entrepreneurs build space into their lives?

Laura Vanderkam: Be careful with the word “yes.” Saying yes to one thing is really saying no to something else.

If someone asks you to do something far in the future, ask yourself if you would do it tomorrow. If you wouldn’t, you won’t be happy about it 3 months from now either. So, your answer should be “no.”

Also, each Friday, look at your calendar for the next week and see what you can ignore, minimize, or outsource. At work, and at home! You don’t have to do everything

SmallBizLady:  Why are weekends the “secret weapon” of successful people?

Laura Vanderkam: Weekends can rejuvenate you, so you hit Monday ready to go. Successful people make sure that they create weekends that don’t disappoint them, or exhaust them.

SmallBizLady: How should women entrepreneurs plan their weekends to enjoy life more?

Laura Vanderkam:  A few days ahead of time, think of 3 things that would add to your energy levels. Look at your weekend, and see when you could make these things happen.

They can be simple things: coffee with a friend, a bike ride, worship services, volunteering. Putting a little thought into the weekend ensures it will be energizing.

SmallBizLady:  When we have bits of time we all check email or social media. What else could we do with that time?

Laura Vanderkam: Try using bits of time for bits of joy! I like to read on the Kindle app. That way I’m reading real literature instead of headlines. You can call or text a friend. You can meditate, or stretch. Little bits of space can make life seem calmer and more enjoyable.

If you found this interview helpful, join us on Wednesdays 8-9 pm ET; follow @SmallBizChat on Twitter.

Here’s how to participate in #SmallBizChat: http://bit.ly/1hZeIlz

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