How Outsourcing Marketing Can Hurt Your Small Business

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 Jill Brennan, who is a marketing consultant for small businesses that think differently. She is a mentor and the founder of Harbren Marketing and has been in the small business trenches for around 20 years. She helps businesses to discover the top mistakes that small businesses make with their marketing and how to fix them.  For more information:  www.harbren.com.

SmallBizLady: WHY DO SMALL BUSINESS NEED TO STOP OUTSOURCING THEIR MARKETING?

Jill Brennan: Many small businesses leave a lot of their market intelligence strategy and implementation with outsourced marketing providers.  Outsourcing skills that you don’t have available within your business makes sense, particularly as you can access a broad range of skills that your small business doesn’t need on a full-time basis.

However, not all outsourcing is a good idea.  And there comes a point in the lifecycle of your business when you need to develop your own marketing expertise.

SmallBizLady: WHAT DIFFERENCE WILL IT MAKE IF I HIRE MY OWN MARKETING PERSON?

Jill Brennan: It will be easier to learn from your efforts and improve what you do.

One of the biggest problems with outsourcing marketing is that the nuances of a particular activity or campaign – what worked, what didn’t, split-testing different aspects – usually remain with the outsourcing agency or contractor.  This is often valuable information that can be used to tweak future campaigns, explore new opportunities and products and modify existing products.

SmallBizLady: BUT THE MARKETING AGENCY PROVIDES ME WITH REPORTS ON WHAT THEY DO.  ISN’T THAT ALL THE MARKETING INFORMATION I NEED?

Jill Brennan: Even if the outsourced agency provides reports on what they’ve done and the results they’ve achieved, these tend to be numbers based rather than contained detailed qualitative information.  One of the reasons for this is that many small business owners don’t know what information to ask for or how to make sense of the information they do receive.

SmallBizLady: CAN’T I JUST ASK THEM TO GIVE ME MORE DETAILED INFORMATION?

Jill Brennan: You can but it’s not in their interests to share all they do as it may mean they lose work.  Agencies and contractors tend to guard the exact details of what they do.  This is usually because they believe that if they provide detailed information on exactly what they’re doing and how they’re doing it then they will be giving away their intellectual property.

And you may then decide to do it yourself or shop the information around to another agency that is prepared to do it for a lower price.  Or perhaps it will become evident that the marketing they are doing for you is just ticking over and mostly running on autopilot.

SmallBizLady: WHAT ARE SOME OTHER REASONS WHY I SHOULD STOP OUTSOURCING MY MARKETING?

Jill Brennan: It will help you get closer to your customers. Your customers or prospective customers could be giving you feedback via your marketing activities that would be meaningful to you if you knew about it.  But the 3rd party you’re outsourcing to doesn’t know your business like you do.  To them the comments seem unremarkable and not worth mentioning.

SmallBizLady: NO ONE IS AS PASSIONATE/KNOWLEDGEABLE ABOUT MY BIZ AS ME/TEAM, SHOULD I CAPITALIZE BY DIRECTLY CONTROLLING THE MARKETING?

Jill Brennan: Yes, an agency or contractor can be slower to react to changes.  And if valuable marketing intelligence is being ignored then you’re not only giving away your power to react but also foregoing your ability to adapt to changing customer demands and market conditions.  It can also hamper new product development and ultimately the future growth of your business.

SmallBizLady: ARE THERE ANY OTHER REASONS WHY I NEED TO BE CAUTIOUS ABOUT WORKING WITH OUTSOURCED MARKETING PROVIDERS?

Jill Brennan: I’ve worked with many businesses that outsource marketing and when they switch agencies or the contractor they have working for them leaves, they typically have very little knowledge of how marketing works.  Often this includes basics like not being able to login to the backend of their website.

You might be happy with the results you’re getting from an outsourced provider and don’t feel like you need to know all the details.  Afterall, if you were comfortable with the ins and outs of marketing you wouldn’t need to use them.

However, this approach is not a sustainable way to insulate your business from changes.

SmallBizLady:  WON’T HAVING MY OWN MARKETING COST ME MORE?

Jill Brennan:  Not necessarily because you’ll likely be getting better value for money.  And hiring your own marketing person doesn’t mean they need to be full-time or an experienced manager with 10+ years experience.  One option is to hire a junior and bring in a marketing consultant/trainer who provides guidance and training as required.

 

SmallBizLady:  SO LET’S SAY A BUSINESS OWNER HAS DONE THAT AND NOW KNOWS MORE ABOUT MARKETING AND WHAT’S POSSIBLE, WHAT’S NEXT?

Jill Brennan:  Next you need to create a plan to bring your main marketing activities into your business and begin implementing.  The best option here is to get help to manage this process and ensure you have the marketing strategy, training and support you need to make the arrangement a success.

SmallBizLady:  WHAT SHOULD I LOOK FOR IN HIRING A MARKETING PERSON?

Jill Brennan:  There are 4 key attributes that you should look for, the rest can be learned on the job or from training courses.  They are:

  • Be able to write well
  • Have a good eye for design (they don’t need to be a graphic designer but need some appreciation for what looks appealing)
  • Have empathy and be able to put themselves in the ‘shoes’ of your target customers
  • Have a testing mindset – marketing is about continually improving your results, its not a set and forget activity and to get the most out of it, having an attitude of continuous improvement is important.

SmallBizLady:  WHERE CAN SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS FIND OUT MORE ABOUT WHAT THEIR OPTIONS ARE FOR GETTING HELP?

Jill Brennan:  On my website, Harbren.com, you can find a few download called the Marketing Kickstart Kit.  This covers the 7 common missteps that small business owners make with marketing and also goes through your options for getting marketing help.  You’ll find information on the pros and cons of each as well as other variables to take into account.

The first is becoming better educated about the basics of marketing so that you can make knowledgeable decisions around what you need.

There are lots of other marketing guides around to pick from.  I’ve written a book on this topic called Get Smarter Marketing: The Small Business Owner’s Guide to Building a Savvy Business.  The idea behind the book was to give you the information you need without trying to turn you into a marketing manager.

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

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

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Why Most Small Business Partnerships Fail!

Guest Article

Are you or your company going into strategic partnerships with another company? Entering into a partnership will allow you to reap numerous benefits without having to make large investments such as in acquisitions. But this only works if both companies are willing to share the burdens of the partnership. Advantages of entering into this kind of partnership are to leverage marketing, supply chain, technology, financial resources, or some combination thereof. Such an agreement might exist between a digital ad agency and a graphic designer, a hair stylist and a makeup artist, a photographer and web designer, or an Internet service provider and an email automation firm, just to name a few possibilities.

Simply put, companies enter into strategic partnerships in order to grow their business and bring more value to their customers while reducing their financial risks.

Benefits of entering into a partnership include: 

  • Strengthening Innovation
  • Public relations
  • Deeper and wider contacts within your marke
  • Adding more capacity to your business
  • Adding competencies and other skills to your business
  • Improved competitive advantage

Unfortunately, many alliances do not end on a happy note. More than 50% of all strategic partnerships end up leading to frustration, misunderstandings, and financial losses.

As I’ve noticed, many companies do not have clearly defined goals and expectations written down so that everyone involved knows what all parties are expecting. Without procedures in place for how the strategic partnership will operate, including what resources that you’ll invest, and what will happen in the likelihood that things will not go well.

Often, each party has their own purposes, desires, and expectations for the alliance. Therefore, there are as many agendas as there are partners in the alliance. The biggest challenges with strategic partnership are known as C.C.G.R. The 4 most significant challenges are Culture, Chemistry, Goals, and Rewards.

  • Culture– the culture between the participating companies
  • Chemistry– the chemistry between the persons who are to maintain the alliance
  • Goals– all parties must be clear about the goals of the alliance – there must be a strategic fit between them
  • Rewards– the partners are involved in the alliance for specific rewards.

It is a very bad foundation for a partnership if any information is held back. If your goals or motives are not shared with your alliance partner, you are setting the business arrangement up for failure. The problems appear when there are hidden agendas being kept secret. This will be the source of conflicts in the alliance.

How to have a successful partnership:

Depending on the size of your organization, you should allocate resources and staff for your alliance venture

Run the partnership professionally. Set up clear and distinct goals so that both parties know the purpose and goals of the alliance.

Have patience with your strategic partner. Big results often take time! You must learn how to work together, and trust must be built between you. Trust takes time. Don’t give up when big results do not appear from your partnership right away.

  • Be a good match. Do your due diligence to make sure your organization is partnering with a company with an excellent reputation in the marketplace. You must be headed in the same direction at matching speeds. Too many have tried to save each other by having the strong one take care of a smaller weaker company. That rarely works out well. There must be some sort of equality in the partnership.
  • Pick your employees who work on the alliance carefully.Make sure your team has the soft skills and professionalism to run such a partnership
  • Be honest. Create a method for communication and file sharing/project management software so that the partners are motivated to share knowledge and that all critical documents are in one place where everyone can assess them. Schedule weekly calls so that everyone can keep kept informed. Share experiences with each other. Thoughtfully discuss mistakes so that both teams may learn from them.

Participating in strategic alliances will help your business grow because you can learn from other business owners and by working on a joint contract both teams will get smarter.

Soulaima Gourani is CEO of CetCapitalAid. She is a lecturer, corporate advisor, and author. In 2012 she was named a Young Global Leaders by World Economic Forum. And in 2014 chosen as one of the “40 under 40” European young leaders. She was elected as a TED mentor in 2016. For more information visit www.soulaima.com

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Does Your Business Needs a Talent Management System?

As the saying goes, the team (or business) is only as strong as its weakest link. But as a business owner, do you have any idea which employees are weaker (or stronger) than others? Or why that’s the case? Or how you can improve the way they do their jobs?

If you’re unsure about the answers to these questions, then your business probably doesn’t have an adequate talent management system. According to a study by the Association for Talent and Development, “High-performing organizations tend to integrate talent management components more than low performing organizations.”

So what are the components of a successful talent management program?

  1. Organizational goal and priority identification.Before you begin managing your talent, you have to figure out where you want your business to go and what they need to do to help your business get there.
  2. Create of job descriptions.Imagine the ideal employee in your company and/or in a specific role, and then list the skills, traits, qualities, abilities, and experience that you want that employee to possess. Be exhaustive with your list, but also think about tasks that will make this person feel like an integral member of the team.
  3. Develop a hiring process. How will you collect resumes? How will you screen applications by phone/email interviews, Will you do panel interviews so that many people in the company can meet the candidate? Not only do you want to hire qualified employees, but you also want them to fit into your company’s culture so that they can more easily become an integral part of the team.
  4. Establish an onboarding process. Training for new employees is critical to their long-term success.These practices should educate new hires about the company’s mission, values, and vision as well as adequately prepare them for their specific positions. The more time you spend training new hires the higher the likelihood they’ll be successful and know your expectations.
  5. Utilize outcome-based performance standards.These benchmarks must be accomplishment-centered, realistically attainable, easily measurable, and perfectly aligned with the organization’s goals and principles. They must also be communicated so that everyone knows how they’ll be evaluated.
  6. Provide proper mentoring and coaching. Are you mentoring your employees? Employees will perform better if they know they are on the right track and when they receive useful feedback from their managers. Positive feedback is just as important as corrective feedback too.
  7. Design effective compensation structures. It’s vital to pay employees what they’re worth (and more, if you want to retain them in the future), but it’s also important to provide numerous avenues for non-monetary recognition as well. You must take the time to understand their love languages such as visibility, business travel, time off, or bonus checks. You must know what works best for each employee.
  8. Implementation of staff meetings and annual reviews.You need to give everyone an opportunity to know what the other team members are doing and if additional resources are needed.  Also it’s important to do one on one review at least annually. Use these discussions to discuss past performance, but also assess each person’s interests and desires for career advancement within the company.
  9. Support career development opportunities. Inform your staff about the relevant career development, and cross-training opportunities within the company, and identify and encourage individuals who have the potential for advancement.
  10. Utilize exit interviews.When someone leaves the company, it’s essential to figure out why and then to identify and address any internal shortcomings that have been revealed during these interviews. People don’t leave jobs, they leave people. If you have a potential bad manager, you must address it quickly.

As a small business it’s tough to manage all these area of human resource management, you should see if you can hire an HR consultant or utilize the HR services offered though your payroll service provider. While some companies may have more resources to allocate toward these areas than others, it still doesn’t diminish the importance of proficient talent management within an organization.

Strong talent doesn’t just grow on trees. It must be nurtured, encouraged, and valued on an ongoing basis if it is to have a positive impact on the company. So make sure your business prioritizes talent management – or else your talented employees will find an organization that does.

For more small business advice, including insights about talent management, follow me on Twitter.

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How to Make Your Family Business Last

This Thanksgiving, the perfect time to focus on family businesses. Working with the people you love is tough. I recently had a chance to speak with Mitzi Purdue. She is the daughter of Sheraton Hotels co-founder and the wife of the late entrepreneur Frank Perdue. She is also the author the of the bookHow To Make Your Family Business Last” and “How to Communicate Values to Children—So They’ll Love it.” It’s a practical guide to keep families and business together through the predictable issues all businesses face. For the holidays, Misti has discounted her book to $10 at  http://ift.tt/2hM0UiW.

  • What do family businesses need to focus on legacy building early?

I’ve seen so many family businesses ruined. When I learned that only 30 percent of family businesses endure beyond one generation, I wasn’t surprised: How can family businesses last when there isn’t a strong family culture to sustain them? I wanted to use my experiences to help families avoid court battles and family strife when its time for the next generation to take over the business.

  • Why did you structure the book as you did?

Everyone loves a good story – but those stories only matter if we can bring their lessons to life. Throughout the book, I combine anecdotes from my personal experience with checklists, tips and tricks so that readers have clear-cut applications and advice for their own families and businesses.

  • You place tremendous value on the power of story. Why is that?

Quite simply because we are the stories we tell ourselves. It is stories – not principles, statistics or arguments – that shape the way we live our lives. Telling the family story acts as a sort of relational glue: It reminds members of how deeply their identity is founded in the family, and it gives everyone a shared sense of “what it means to be us.”

  • How can families come to understand their own stories better?

There are dozens of ways! One of them is family traditions – another kind of relational glue. In the Perdue family, we have all kinds of traditions. Some fall on holidays, like our Thanksgiving gathering when we wrap presents for disaster victims. Some center on major events, like weddings, when we give the bride a coin from a sunken treasure ship whose finding Frank backed financially. And some of them don’t have any particular purpose at all, like our annual talent show and annual vacation, when we just get together and enjoy one another’s skills and gifts.

Another is just simply asking good questions. Do you know what your parents’ first jobs were? Do you know about any major injuries, challenge, or struggles in your grandparents’ lives were? Do you know the origin of your name?

Telling these kinds of stories can itself be a bonding experience – and if you record them, either via a coffee table book, as we do, or with a video, you’ll be able to remember and reflect on the answers for years to come.

  • What are the most common issues you’ve seen among family businesses?

Oh, there are just so many! But I would say fortune hunters are a big problem, especially if you’re a high profile business. Learning to trust yourself and your intuition on these matters is crucial. Legal trouble is a big problem as well. Too often, family members are too quick to move a dispute to the courtroom rather than settling it privately – a decision that is incredibly costly, both monetarily and emotionally.

  • You insist that both philanthropy and frugality are important. Tell us more about this.

 Yes, it does seem contradictory, doesn’t it? Frugality means holding onto your money; philanthropy means giving it away. But both these things are a way to combat selfishness, showiness, and the temptation to a “the world revolves around me” attitude. Frank always impressed me with his frugality: He absolutely refused to live beyond his means, and constantly was looking for smart ways to save, whether flying economy or living in a home far less expensive than he could afford.

  • How can leaders expand the family culture beyond the family and into the company itself?

This is another thing Frank was a master at. For him, running a family business meant not just treating family members like employees, but treating employees like family. He knew the names of countless individuals – even the hourly workers – and made a point of attending weddings and funerals and visiting people in the hospital. He also wrote hundreds of handwritten notes to supervisors, using this as a way to ensure that the company’s values were always being realized in every aspect of its operations.

  • What can business leaders do ensure the family culture continues after they pass away?

I highly recommend creating an ethical will. It binds family members to one another and to the memory of the deceased, and it reminds them that their inheritance is far more than dollars and assets – it’s an attitude and an approach to doing things.

  • What is the best thing young people who want to continue the family business can do?

Shut up and listen! You will learn far more by observing than by talking. Make a point of listening 90 percent of the time and not ten. There’s a reason your relatives are where they are. Listen to them, and take notes – literally. The more information you can glean to inform your decisions – business, career, or personal – the better.

  • Should a family business ever get outside perspective on a family quarrel? If so, when and how?

Ah, this is a tricky one! My answer is yes and no. On the one hand, as I’ve said, make it a rule to solve family problems within the family, as opposed to bringing in lawyers.  Hiring someone whose MO is litigation, in my observation, regularly leads to family disaster. However, if a conflict is intractable and you need outside help to help you sort through the mess, there are many resources to turn to including family business therapists, and professional mediators. By all means get the help you need. It’s a worthwhile investment, and can prevent you from spending thousands on legal fees, not to mention extraordinary emotional anguish.

  • What is the best advice you can give family businesses?

It’s so easy to get caught up in practical matters like growth, operations and product development and skimp on subtler things, like family get-togethers and trust. But this is a mistake that can have devastating consequences, both personally and professionally. Develop a supportive culture that can sustain your family business for generations. Always remember: You were family before you were in business, and acting in the best interest of your family is ultimately acting in the best interest of your family business. After all, what good does it do to succeed financially and fail as a family?  The deepest joys and worst pains in life come through our intimate relationships, so put the time, effort, resources, and love to protect and nurture these relationships.

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

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

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8 Habits to Become a Successful Young Entrepreneur

Guest Article

Are your walls adorned with the images of Richard Branson, Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg? Do you find yourself constantly dreaming about running a small business? Do you love discussing ideas and coming up with something new? Then it wouldn’t be wrong to say that you want to be an entrepreneur and start your own business some day. To fulfill that dream at a young age, it is important to develop entrepreneur skills early.

Here are 8 tips for young entrepreneurs that will help in developing important entrepreneurial skills that will help you navigate through the business world.

Be Open to New Experiences

Nobody achieves anything great by sticking in their comfort zone. As an aspiring entrepreneur, it is important to stretch beyond your comfort zone and keep your mind open to new ideas. Make a habit of seeking new experiences as it will expose you to things, people and ideas that will help you grow as a person.

Dare to Take Risks

One common trait amongst successful entrepreneurs is that they are not afraid of taking risks. They understand that calculated risks often lead to success. Make a move from being an aspiring entrepreneur to actually launching a business will require some calculated leaps. You can’t step into the business world just by dreaming and wishing about it.

Never Stop Learning

The most successful entrepreneurs are those who never stop reading and learning. They never consider themselves as the smartest people in the room and are constantly seeking ways to learn new things and surround themselves with people who are smarter. The more you keep your mind open to learning new things, the more skills you will develop and that will help you develop key entrepreneurial skills such as being a leader, a visionary, and a salesman.

Be Consistent

Young entrepreneurs should understand the importance of being consistent. Running a business is unpredictable, challenging and unlike the regular 9-to-5 job. You have to make a schedule and stick to it. Don’t just become a success overnight, you must create a plan for success. Follow your schedules, create goals and consistently perform the tasks that are required to execute your plan.

Remember that being consistent is not just limited to your professional life. You have to be consistent in your personal life too. If you have chores and homework for school you need to make sure that you get those things done, so that you can work on your business idea.  Do what you have to do, so that you can do what you want to do.

Be Self Motivated

How many times have you heard companies seeking to hire people who are self-starters. This is just a fancy word for those who don’t need constant supervision. If you approach each day enthusiastic about starting your tasks and can stay motivated enough to see through them, you will be a success. You can’t run a business if you lack the drive to do the work or tackle problems. Your leadership skills must guide your business. One day when you have employees they will look to you as the example. It is important to develop this habit while you are young, do not wait to be asked to do your homework or take your dishes off the table. Making it a habit to ask how you can help.  Self-motivated leaders, make the best entrepreneurs.

Be Aware of your Strengths and Weaknesses

If you don’t know your strengths, you can’t take advantage of them and when you aren’t’t aware of your weaknesses, you won’t make an effort to overcome them.  Overlooking either can hindering your progress in like and in business. Successful entrepreneurs know their strengths and weaknesses, and they keep honing their weaknesses and they hire people who are strong where they are weak. They leverage their strengths too, but that is much easier.

Learn to be Emotionally Intelligent

Customer complaints are common in any business, but how you react to it will make the difference in retaining customers or losing them. At the same time, entrepreneurs face a lot of criticism and rejection in various forms, especially in the early years of a business. As an aspiring business owner, you must be emotionally intelligent to learn from every situation without getting dejected, loosing confidence or destroying a relationship. Learn to develop a thick skin and tackle rejection in a calm and reflective manner. Look at criticism as honest feedback which is a gift and an opportunity to improve your skills and move on.

Identify Opportunities

Every successful entrepreneur got their because going they identified an opportunity that no one else noticed or took advantage of. It would be beneficial if you get into the habit of identifying opportunities at a young age itself.

To develop habits of an entrepreneur, you must start young.  Your teen years are the perfect time start molding yourself into an individual who is prepared to take on running a small business later in life and succeed in it.

About the Author:

Dana Jandhyala is the co-founder of MySchoolPage in Bengaluru, India. She specializes in making education simple and easy to comprehend through online tutorials. She writes to help students study better, and to coach parents so they can facilitate the success of their children.

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Protecting Your Intellectual Property Is More Important than Ever

When you see or hear the abbreviation “IP,” it stands for Intellectual Property.  IP is a key asset in a small business. Simply put, intellectual property is the ownership of concepts, processes and ideas, as opposed to physical property which characterizes a tangible asset. IP is fast becoming the major delineator among business owners who are competing for market share and customers.

There are four basic types of IP that small businesses often rely on.

Copyrighted Material

This category encompasses everything from literary and artistic works to video and audio recordings to architectural drawings and computer code. Although a copyright is the most common form of IP, it does not cover ideas or concepts unless they are written down, creatively rendered, or recorded in some other fashion. However, you can not copyright a book title unless it’s a book series. Though technically speaking, you don’t have to register a copyright in order for it to be valid, doing so is relatively inexpensive and gives you more solid legal footing should a dispute ever arise.

Trademarks

While copyrights focus mainly on creative works, trademarks protect anything that is related to branding. Things that can be trademarked include company symbols (like McDonald’s golden arches), names (like the Super Bowl), or logos (like the blue and white F for Facebook) – as long as it is distinctive (for instance, the name “AAA Plumbing” probably couldn’t be trademarked). Trademarks can be filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for a few hundred dollars or a bit more if you utilize a lawyer.

Patents

These days, patents are the least common types of IP among small business owners. That’s because patents only apply to invented products, processes, and methods which are determined to be “novel,” “non-obvious,” and “useful” according to federal statutes. Also, the patenting process with the USPTO can take months or years and cost thousands of dollars, and it always involves securing the services of a patent lawyer.

Trade Secrets

This is a more nebulous classification which covers any type of process, recipe, formula, or design that gives your business a competitive advantage (like a family secret pie recipe, your unique 3D printing process, or Coca-Cola’s secret formula). Here’s the problem: the government doesn’t provide any registration process for trade secrets (which would defeat the purpose, after all), so it’s up to the small business to restrict access to its trade secrets. Legal relief only comes if the IP is leaked or stolen (which is theft) or an employee violates a non-disclosure agreement (which is a breach of contract).

Intensely Protect Your IP

Though the process for safeguarding or registering various forms of IP can differ depending on the company and the context, here are some general guidelines for how to protect your business:

Do your homework. Identify your IP, categorize it properly, and know your rights and limitations.

Don’t procrastinate. The USPTO operates on a “first to file” system, so even if you come up with the idea first, you’re out of luck if someone else registers it with the USPTO before you do.

Seek expert advice. For complex IP types like patents and trademarks, hiring a who specializes in IP law to help you navigate the process.

Monitor your IP rights. Once you have registered your IP, it’s up to you to watch out for infringements; the government won’t do it for you.

Handle disputes wisely. If you find someone using your IP improperly, don’t automatically run to the courthouse. Consider sending a notification letter to the perpetrator; or if the revelation might actually boost your business, it may be prudent to ignore it altogether.

Overlooking your IP could have negative ramifications for your business. But don’t wait to find out you’re wrong by watching a competitor leverage your creative ideas or logo to make money for their business. When it comes to IP, Prevention is worth a pound of cure.

For more insights on running your small business, follow me on Twitter.

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How to Handle Conflict in Your Life and Business

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 R.W. Burke who is a Certified Professional Coach through the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching and is the top coach on Ford Motor Company’s Consumer Experience Movement (CEM) project.  He is also the author of a self-help book for business executives – Quiet the Rage:  How Learning to Manage Conflict Will Change Your Life (and the World).   For more information:  www.quiettherage.com.

SmallBizLady: HOW DOES UNMANAGED CONFLICT IMPACT THE EMPLOYEES OF BUSINESSES?

R.W. Burke:

  • 85% of employees at all levels experience conflict to some degree; U.S. employees spend 2.8 hours per week dealing w/conflict, which translates to 385 million working days, or $359B paid hours.
  • 27% of employees have seen conflict lead to personal attacks
  • 25% saw it result in sickness/absence.
  • 70% of employees see managing conflict as very/critically important leadership skill
  • 43% of non-managers think their bosses don’t deal with conflict as well as they should
  • 67% of employees have gone out of their way to avoid a colleague because of a disagreement at work

SmallBizLady: WHY IS IT IMPORTANT FOR BUSINESSES TO MANAGE CONFLICT?

R.W. Burke: Most companies are all aiming to lift the collective performance of their employees. Why? To establish a sustainable competitive advantage. Managers at all levels have the same concerns: “How do I move my organization forward by getting more out of my people?” They do that by elevating employee engagement.

According to Gallup, employee engagement is at an all-time low—only 27% of employees are “highly engaged.” Employee engagement is a direct result of the health and the strength of the relationships that exist between people. Unmanaged conflict jeopardizes those relationships.

SmallBizLady: HOW CAN MANAGERS BECOME BETTER MANAGERS OF CONFLICT?

R.W. Burke: Most managers struggle with trying to change behavior…his own, or someone else’s. And it’s usually someone else’s.

The struggle with that behavior is mostly caused by the lack of understanding of it.

Once a basic understanding exists, managing it becomes easier. The same is true of managing conflict.

Managing conflict is not only a state of mind, but a state of understanding.

And it’s easiest to learn to manage it within yourself before trying to manage it in others.

SmallBizLady: WHAT ARE THE KEY INSIGHTS MANAGERS MUST UNDERSTAND TO EFFECTIVELY MANAGE CONFLICT?

R.W. Burke: Some keys to addressing conflict between employees, managers and employees, between departments, divisions, etc.  Understand that all human behavior is a function of personal values.  Recognize that conflict exists when someone feels as though one of their personal values has been offended; or, when someone feels like another is imposing their personal values on them.  Realize that we sometimes create the behavior in others that we don’t want. Learn about the specific situations that are prone to offend our personal values to anticipate them, manage them, and proactively avoid them.

SmallBizLady: WHY DO PERSONAL VALUES MATTER IN A BUSINESS ENVIRONMENT?

R.W. Burke: When one of our personal values is offended, we become emotionally reactive.

When we’re reactive, we’re not our best selves, nor do we produce the best outcomes. We don’t recognize that others’ behavior is simply their honoring their values. And that recognition is the keystone to eliminating the offensiveness we perceive in their behavior. Recognition leads to transformation of our reaction into a response, flipping it from a negative to a positive interaction

SmallBizLady: WHAT ARE THE STEPS TO MANAGING CONFLICT?

R.W. Burke: There are 5 Steps to managing conflict:

  • Step One: Identifying and declaring your personal values
  • Step Two: Recognizing “hot” situations, those prone to offending your personal values
  • Step Three: Understanding your default style of emotional reaction
  • Step Four: Learning to interrupt your emotional reaction
  • Step Five: Discovering how to transform your negative emotional reaction into a positive response

SmallBizLady:  HOW DO YOU IDENTIFY AND DECLARE YOUR PERSONAL VALUES?

R.W. Burke:  There are a couple of reasons it’s important to identify your personal values.

  • The first is, all human behavior is a function of personal values. Your behavior will either honor a value or defend one.
  • The 2nd is, your personal values are also your triggers.

Any situation that you encounter that challenges 1 of your values will cause you to become emotionally reactive.

SmallBizLady:  HOW DO YOU RECOGNIZE YOUR “HOT SITUATIONS?”

R.W. Burke:  Conflict exists when someone feels like a personal value has been offended,

and by answering this question, they identify their individual “hot situations” –

or those that are prone to offend a particular person’s values.

SmallBizLady:  HOW DO YOU DETERMINE YOUR DEFAULT STYLE OF EMOTIONAL REACTION?

R.W. Burke:  Once becoming emotionally reactive, what remains is to identify someone’s “default reactionary style.”  People will react as “victims” or “in conflict.”

If reacting as a victim, that person will withdraw, stop communicating, feel helpless and powerless, and the prevailing idea is “I lose.”

If reacting in conflict, that person will lash out, become angry and aggressive, argumentative and combative, and the prevailing idea is “I win.

Regardless of the default reactionary style, the ultimate challenge is to learn how to interrupt

the negative emotional reaction and transform it into a positive response.

SmallBizLady:  HOW CAN THE NEGATIVE EMOTIONAL REACTIONS BE INTERRUPTED?

R.W. Burke:  There are two levels of interruption, one is simple restraint. That is where the emotion still exists, but the destructive action does not. The problem with restraint though is it is a diminishable resource…you can run out of restraint.

The second level, is where the emotion no longer exists by virtue of dissociating the perception of intentionality with respect to the observed or witnessed behavior. Without the emotion, there is no fuel for the reaction, and without the reaction we are simply left with a situation that we would like to be different.

SmallBizLady:  IN YOUR BOOK, YOU SAY: “SOMETIMES WE CREATE THE BEHAVIOR IN OTHERS THAT WE DON’T WANT.” HOW DO WE DO THAT?

R.W. Burke:  Conflict also exists when another feel like someone else is imposing their personal values on them. It’s natural for an organization to reflect the persona of its managers and owners. Too often though, those managers and owners are judging everyone else in the organization with respect to how much like them, those others are. And when they feel someone isn’t enough like themselves, they attempt to change them…making it natural for employees to rebel against that.

SmallBizLady:  IN YOUR BOOK, YOU TALK ABOUT SOMETHING CALLED A “SUPER WICKED PROBLEM.” WHAT IS THAT?

R.W. Burke:  A Super Wicked Problem exists when: the people that want to solve the problem also create it. That means to say, if you want to productively manage conflict, you must first understand how you may be participating in it…in other words, creating it. When we allow ourselves to become emotionally reactive, our behavior contributes to the problem, not the solution.

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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Five Steps to Freedom from Feeling Overwhelmed

Guest Article

As a small business owner, we all feel overwhelmed at times, and it can be a debilitating. It is not only frustrating and miserable, but it keeps us from achieving our goals and delivering value to the world.  My most recent experience was a couple months ago when I was trying to use social media to broaden my reach about my core message about positivity. I was learning how to do it effectively and found that it was time-consuming work. Because I was just learning, I was making painfully slow progress on my long list of things to do. As I fell behind, I started feeling stressed. After a week of making minimal headway, I was stressed, tired, and overwhelmed by my seemingly insurmountable list of things to do. One afternoon, feeling particularly stressed and upset with myself, I complained to my wife.

She looks at me and says. “Really Steve? Think about this a second…You’re getting stressed-out about positivity.”

Touché. That stopped me in my tracks.

She was right. I had to take a different approach. I decided that this was a perfect opportunity to use one of the tools in my book Head First! A Crash Course in Positivity: Eight Practical Ways to Increase Your Positivity and Improve Your Outcome. In my current situation, the most relevant tool was Principle Two: “Focus on the things you control.”

This principle works well when you are feeling overwhelmed. It’s a simple five-step approach to getting unstuck, unstressed, and moving in the right direction again that will work in any situation.

Step 1:  Place the elements of your situation into three categories

Take a sheet of paper and make three columns with the labels:

  • Things I can control
  • Things I can influence
  • Things out of my control

Now, break down your current situation into its component parts and put them into each category. In my situation of being stressed out about social media, I came up with the following:

Simply breaking down your situation into these elements and writing them down makes a big difference in your attitude and helps you become unblocked. It puts some structure to the problem and you can start to see the path forward. By writing it down and defining it, you have already started taking control of the situation. You will feel your mindset shift.

Step 2:  Awareness and acceptance of what you don’t control

Read through the items in column three to just simply to be aware of them and accept them. Don’t spend any energy on these things, just be aware of them so you can navigate around them.   In my situation, I had to accept the fact that social media marketing is effective and I need to do it, even if it’s a time suck for me.  Sigh…

Step 3: Focus on what you CAN control

Read through the items in the list of things you control. Pick one that meets the following criteria and circle it.

  • You are comfortable doing it.
  • It won’t take long to do.
  • It can make a small but real difference in the situation.

I circled “Making time to do social media.”   It was the easiest thing to do and it would be a small but visible step in the right direction.

Step 4: Take ACTION!

For that one thing you circled, write down what steps you can take to move it forward. The smaller and easier the steps, the better. Now pick one of those steps, do it, and cross it off the list. Pick another action and do it.

For my first thing, ‘Finding time to do social media, all I had to do was decide when was a good time, put it on my calendar and tell my wife the plan.  After thinking about how my days were going, I decided that the best time for me would be sometime between getting home from work and eating dinner. I blocked off 30 min each day, and told my wife so she could help hold me accountable… She would tell me… “No treats until you do your tweets!”

Once you take a few small steps forward, even if they are tiny, you start to separate yourself from your overwhelmed feeling. Once you regain control over the situation, you will regain your confidence and energy.

Step 5:  Move into things you can INFLUENCE

After focusing on what you can control and regaining your self-confidence, start putting energy into the things you can influence.  It is through influence that we have the biggest effect on the world, but you won’t be successful influencing unless you approach it from a position of strength and confidence.

Although it can be rewarding, influencing can also be time consuming and frustrating. To avoid wasting your precious time and energy, ask yourself three questions:

1)     Is it any of your business? Is it reasonable for you to try to influence it?

2)     Do you have the credibility to convince others to follow you?

3)     If you are successful, Is the expected benefit worth the effort?

If you answered yes to all three of those, then dive in. Do it from a position of strength, do it with confidence and be aggressive.

My step five was to start interacting with others on Twitter and Facebook trying to build engagement.  I crafted social posts that encouraged likes and shares from my audience.  It is hit or miss things, but as I do it, I get better reactions. Bit by bit, my list of followers is expanding.  By the time you read this article, I will probably have almost as many followers as the SmallBizLady, we’ll I can have a goal anyway.   I have an idea. Next time you feel overwhelmed, grab a pen and paper and give this process a try. Honestly, the hardest part is getting the energy to grab a pen. Momentum is a big part of this equation and by starting small and making incremental progress you gain momentum. Every moment you spend moving forward gives you more momentum, which makes the next step even easier.

Once you completed step five, that feeling of being overwhelmed is a distant memory and has been replaced with accomplishment, confidence and energy. Keep going! Get out there, do great things and make this world a better place!

About the author:

Steve H. Lawton is a positivity expert and author of “Head First! A Crash Course in Positivity.” Lawton shares his inspirational story alongside eight practical positivity principles that he took away from a major tragedy and instructions on how to implement them into your life. Follow him on Twitter @SteveHLawton

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Where to Find Support as a Veteran-Owned Business

If you’re one of the 2.5 million veterans who own a business, or is a vet thinking about starting a business, you should know that there are resources that will help make your journey easier. There are programs specifically designed for veteran-owned businesses. Whether you need financing, a mentor, or just small business training, here are a list of resources that you can take advantage of to boost your business venture.

  1. Veteran Entrepreneur Portal

The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs website has a robust section dedicated to veteran entrepreneurs. There, you can find resources for starting and growing a business, as well as financing and pursuing federal contracting opportunities. You can also find franchising opportunities, training and employment programs.

What it’s best for: Sometimes getting started is the hardest thing to do, especially when it comes to applying for federal contracts. This site provides ample educational resources to walk you through becoming certified as a veteran-owned small business so that you can bid on federal contracts. If you’re a disabled vet, you will be given priority in the bidding process, so it’s worth becoming certified.

  1. V-Wise

For female veterans, V-WISE (Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship) can get you started on your entrepreneurial adventure. This three-phase training program includes a 15-day online course, a 3-day entrepreneurship training conference, and ongoing mentorship and support as you launch or grow your business.

The great thing about this program is that it’s not only for honorably discharged women vets and active duty service members, but also female spouses or same-sex life partners of women veterans.

What it’s best for: If you thrive networking with other veteran business owners and learning in a formal education-style training program, you’ll get the most out of this resource.

  1. Entrepreneurship Boot Camp for Veterans

For the past 10 years, the Entrepreneurship Boot Camp for Veterans has been held on 10 college campuses, with the aim of providing access to higher education-level training for veterans interested in entrepreneurship.

The program, free for post-9/11 vets, includes three phases:

  • 30-day instructor led, online course focused on business basics
  • Nine-day residency at an EBV university, with access to over 30 accomplished entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship educators
  • 12 months of support and mentorship

What it’s best for: If finances have kept you from seeking top-level training to boost your entrepreneurship skills, this program removes financial hardship from the equation.

  1. Bunker Labs

Bunker Labs, a national non-profit built by military veteran entrepreneurs, designed to empower other military veterans as leaders in innovation by providing educational programming and small business resources.

Through this organization, you can network with other veteran business owners through its Bunker Brews and CEOCircle events, or take one of several education courses online or in person.

What it’s best for: If getting to an in-person training course is difficult, check out Bunker in a Box, an online entrepreneur education platform.

  1. Hivers & Strivers

For startups, having funds to scale a big business idea is key. If you’re seeking funding for your veteran-owned startup, why not work with an angel investor that focuses on funding people who have served in the military? Hivers & Strivers provides early-stage investment for startups founded and run by graduates of the US Military Academies.

What it’s best for: If you’re looking for $250,000 to $1 million in investment, Hivers & Strivers is the resources to consider.

  1. VetFran

Franchising is an excellent option for entry into business ownership: with business branding and processes already established for you, it’s less work to get an establish business up and running than to build an independent business from scratch.

VetFran supports veterans who are interested in franchises, and connects them with franchising opportunities. Often, franchisors will offer a reduced franchising fee to veterans as a way to encourage them to buy a franchise, and VetFran can guide you to the best franchise for your needs. The website includes a veteran franchise directory, as well as educational resources.

What it’s best for: If you want guidance toward finding the best franchises for you as a veteran, this is a great resource.

  1. Veterans Business Outreach Center (VBOC)

Having a local resource to turn to with questions on small business ownership is invaluable. The VBOC has centers all over the US, where you can participate in transition assistance programs and receive counseling, training, and mentoring. It’s also a great place to meet other veterans in your area.

What it’s best for: If you feel in over your head in starting a business, a VBOC can help. They offer training and education on developing your business plan, conducting a comprehensive feasibility analysis, and much more.

As a veteran, you can access organizations like these dedicated to helping you succeed as your own boss. Take advantage of them so that you have an edge over the competition once you’re up and running in your new business.

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