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Thank You

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As my mind circles around all those people and things for which I am most thankful, I wanted to share with you the newest book on my Kindle: The Thank You Economy by Gary Vaynerchuk (BusinessWeek included him on their list of the Top 20 People Every Entrepreneur Should Follow). Easy to read, it’s a book that combines our grandparents’ corner store values with social media. 
 
 
For all of you, whether I see you each week or only know you through the internet, let me share my gratitude for you being in my life.
 
 
Merci. Toda. Gracias. Arigato. Thank you!
 
– Helen Dutton, Business Coach

Holiday Forecast; Improve Your Customer Experience

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Economic experts forecast a 3% growth in holiday sales this year, more for on-line retailers. That’s great news! But remember how averages work – some businesses will grow more than 3%, and some will grow less. How do you make sure that your business is one that gains; improve your customer experience. 

The simple answer, of course, is to have something that consumers want. The truth, though, is that consumers have many, many choices and some of those choices come with big corporate marketing budgets behind them. Although that can be an advantage in some aspects, if we look at the other side we find their weak spot. Big is, well…not small; not personal. Small businesses have something that most large retailers don’t have AND that customers really want: the personal touch. Chain stores may have official greeters, but do they know your name? Do you recognize them and look forward to seeing them or hearing their recommendations?

There’s a local toy store that I gladly visit and probably pay more for products because the owner recognizes me and she can recommend products with a few questions about the child receiving the toy. She makes my shopping easier and during the holidays, everyone can use a little more “ease”!

If you’re a retailer or a service provider, make your customers’ shopping experiences easier by painting a gift-giving scenario. Show them who your products or services are for through your displays. On-line? Even easier.  Ask a happy customer if you can show a video or pictures of them either using or talking about the product or service.

Small businesses can have an enormous advantage over big stores during the holidays. Find your strengths over larger stores and leverage them. Go ahead – take more than 3%; I won’t mind if the corporations gain less.

– Helen Dutton, Business Coach

Reputation Management

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Reputation ManagementBetween Penn State and Herman Cain, the news has had its share of scandals recently. Besides the actual alleged behavior, what bothers me is the focus of the media; I hear mostly about how the parties involved can salvage their reputation and the consequences to them rather than a focus on the alleged victims.

I recently heard about the online reputation management company; my first thought was “what happened to each person being responsible for managing their reputation by managing their behavior?” Sure, there can be some undeserved negative press out there about your business; a client recently got slammed on Facebook by a customer who misunderstood a situation. In my client’s situation, he mostly ignored the Facebook comments and chose to take the high road. He reflected on whether he had done everything in his power and ability to rectify the misunderstanding. Once he felt confident that he had done everything he could in the most professional manner possible he had to let the rest go. He could control his own behavior and words; he could not control anything else.

As business owners (and as human beings), we should be concerned about our reputation. But manage it through an online service? Na-ah.  By and large we get what we reap. Keep your customers in mind when making decisions; ask yourself how you would want to be treated if there is a misunderstanding; and just plain “be nice” will do more for your preserving your reputation than any on-line service or press conference can do. Just like in life, doing the right thing is not always easy; in business, though, the bonus payment shows up in your bottom line.

– Helen Dutton, Business Coach

Mind Readers Don’t Work Here; Use Clear Communication

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Use Clear CommunicationClear communication is critical in almost all situations but especially in employer-employee relationships or businesses with two or more active partners. In these situations, not only can people get angry or feelings get hurt but the lack of clear communication can impact the business including profitability, employment, and energy spent by those involved. Yet all too often I hear phrases such as “I just assumed she would do it” or “Why can’t they see what there is to do and just take care of it?” They key word is “assumption” and has been the cause of many a disagreement.

Imagine playing a board game with your family that you have played many times. One day, you decide to change the rules a bit but don’t tell anyone. How would the game play out? Certainly not smoothly in my house! When you make assumptions in the workplace you are essentially changing the rules of the game…and not telling anyone that the rules have changed! For example, you may have tasks in your mind that employees could do during down time. You wonder why they don’t see the straightening up they could do or making some headway on a new project. If you expect them to complete those tasks but are not clear about that expectation, you are essentially playing a game without sharing the ground rules with anyone else; you must use clear communication.

Good employees want to do well, they want to meet and go beyond your expectations. They don’t have a fair chance unless you share what you want and expect. Be clear; tell them which factors are most important in a task: is it time sensitive? Is accuracy most critical? Share your expectations and then let them be professionals and complete it.

Remember, mind readers don’t work at your business. Play fair; share the rules of the game.

– 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.