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Vacation Time

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My family and I are headed south to feel some sun and sand. I am definitely ready, and several of my clients are taking a break, or wanting to take a break, as well. Jeff Foxworthy’s “You Know You’re a Redneck When…” comedy routine popped into my head, but with a slight twist. Here goes:

You know you’re due for a vacation when… you wake up in the morning like a bolt of lightning hit you, with your to-do list running through your head.

You know you’re due for a vacation when… your shoulders almost touch your ears.

You know you’re due for a vacation when…. your staff asks, “When are you going on vacation? Soon, right?”

You know you’re due for a vacation when…. the creative ideas are not so creative.

Back in my corporate days, my coach Cheryl Richardson (www.cherylrichardson.com – LOVE her!) gave me the assignment of taking a day off with nothing planned. I couldn’t even plan on picking up the dry cleaning. In the morning, I sat on the couch, sitting on my hands to keep them still and staring at the clock. What on earth would I do all day? Of course, it was a glorious day and I relaxed into it, enjoying my animals and gardens and spent most of the day outside.

The next day, I walked into work and straight into the large conference room and started mapping out a marketing strategy for a struggling product line. Curious, a sales person or two came into to see what I was doing and eventually, the whole sales team. Over the course of the next few days, they took the ideas and ran with them – experiencing previously unattained success. Okay, Cheryl, I got the lesson.

I dare you to fill in the blank: I know I’m due for a vacation when _____________________________________________________.

I double dog dare you to go book a break into your calendar.

See you at the beach. – Helen Dutton, Business Coach

Just Put Your Sneakers On

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Let’s face it: there are some business ownership tasks we would just rather not do. Firing an employee comes to mind as one of my least favorite tasks. Reviewing lengthy legal documents isn’t far below that. While I generally enjoy the phrase “suck it up”, it doesn’t do much to improve my outlook towards a dreaded task. If anything, it makes me a little grumpier. Instead, I prefer to tell myself to “just go put my sneakers on.”

Before my knees betrayed me, I used to run. Running and I had a love/hate relationship; I didn’t look forward to hitting the pavement like so many people do (I envy them!) but once I got going, I loved it. I loved the tug of the dogs’ leashes, I loved the slow release of the days’ concerns, I loved reaching new milestones. It was just the getting started phase that was troublesome for me. So I would tell myself to “just go put your sneakers on; you don’t even have to go outside, but just put your sneakers on.” Once I did that, I usually wandered around the house a bit and then I’d tell myself to just take a short walk; I didn’t even need to go to the end of the road. That invariably led to walking to the end of the road or starting a slow jog (usually instigated by the tug on the leashes). Before I knew it, I was in the groove and loving it. Regret never materialized, only satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment.

The next time you find yourself putting off a business task, tell yourself to “just go put your sneakers on.” It’ll make “running” your business a whole lot easier and you’ll be glad you did!

Helen Dutton, Business Coach


Feel The Love

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Happy Valentine’s Day!

Are you in love with your business? Or, have you lost some of your desire for it? Is it just not as attractive as it once was?

No, this isn’t the latest love quiz offered by newsstand magazines, but questions inspired by business owners with whom I’ve spoken. Business owners often start a business because of their longing for more freedom and satisfaction, more joy. If you’re an entrepreneur who wonders if owning your own business is really worth it, you may have fallen out of love with your business. Answer these questions to find out your business love quotient:

1. Do you cringe when you see a message from a customer or client?

2. Do you dread Monday morning?

If you answered “yes!” here’s how you re-ignite your business love affair:

1. Start by only working with perfect customers/clients. Of course, first you need to know what a perfect client/customers looks like, but once you do, make a pact with yourself to say “No” to everyone else.

2. Create and operate your business the way you want to, even if it’s never been done before. You don’t eat things you don’t like, or go to places just because someone else wants to, so why would you build your livelihood according to someone else’s definition?  In short, build A Vision Of Your Own.

3. Define systems; they can make the difference between chaos and ease (I speak from experience on this one!).

4. Build an adequate support structure. A couple of weeks ago, a client was feeling pretty discouraged and wondered out loud to me “Why am I doing this again?” Our time together resulted in him saying “I woke up this morning with a fire and ran into work to do my thing…” Find a support system that works for you.

Build passion into your day again; feel the love.

– Helen Dutton, Business Coach

Monopoly or Commodity

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AT&T lost their monopoly on the iPhone market this past week as Verizon launched their competing iPhone product. Until now, AT&T was the only game in town for anyone who wanted an iPhone. Bad service? Not the service plan you wanted? If you wanted the iPhone, you dealt with it.

Yet consumers still had a choice with their phone selection, as they always do. Even if you are the only business to offer a product or service, potential customers can still choose to go without or to choose an alternative solution. For example, my husband is the only veterinarian to offer a life-saving procedure on cats in New Hampshire. Some would call that a monopoly. I say that gives him a strong advantage, but it’s only an advantage if he executes it well.

If your product or service is a commodity, the need to differentiate yourself is even stronger. Consider your dentist, chiropractor or even your lottery ticket outlet; the product/service they deliver is a commodity. So why do you choose one over the other? You may choose them because of how they care for you (how they make you feel), how they meet your needs, and the perks they provide. New toothbrush? 24-hour coverage? Or perhaps you simply always leave with a smile on your face.

If you’re lucky enough to have a “monopoly”, congratulations, but know that your customers DO have a choice and there is competition right on your tail. Monopoly or commodity, though, it’s how you make your customers feel that really counts.

– Helen Dutton, Business Coach

Helen Dutton, A Vision of Your Own, has provided business and personal coaching for small business owners since 2000, providing online and face to face coaching for entrepreneurs, small business owners, start-up businesses as well as established businesses across the country. Clients come from New Hampshire, her home state, but she has also acted as a mentor to business owners in Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, the Denver area, and closer to home in the Boston area. Helen helps her clients develop their small business ideas, create marketing plans, improve operation efficiency, build customer service systems, build management and leadership skills, and develop confidence as a business owner. Helen provides business tips and resources through her blog and her newsletter, where you can also find business templates to help your business prosper.