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‘Tis The Season!

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This season,

  • Mend a quarrel.
  • Seek out a forgotten friend.
  • Dismiss suspicion, and replace it with trust.
  • Write a love letter.
  • Share some treasure.
  • Give a soft answer.
  • Encourage youth.
  • Manifest your loyalty in word and deed.
  • Keep a promise.
  • Find the time.
  • Forgo a grudge.
  • Forgive an enemy.
  • Listen.
  • Apologize if you were wrong.
  • Try to understand.
  • Flout envy.
  • Examine your demands on others.
  • Think first of someone else.
  • Appreciate.
  • Be kind, be gentle.
  • Laugh a little. Laugh a little more.
  • Deserve confidence.
  • Take up arms against malice.
  • Decry complacency.
  • Express your gratitude.
  • Say a prayer.
  • Welcome a stranger.
  • Gladden the heart of a child.
  • Take pleasure in the beauty and wonder of the earth.
  • Speak your love. Speak it again. Speak it still once again.

Wishing you and your family a very Happy Holidays! – Helen Dutton, Business Coach

Getting More Done Over The Holidays with Ease

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I don’t even want to count the number of times I’ve heard that over the past week. My first reaction was “Are you kidding me?! It’s only the 13th of December!” My reaction morphed from disbelief to frustration to acceptance and finally to down-right giddy with glee.

As I heard “call me after the holidays” over and over, I began thinking of all that time that spanned in front of me without appointments and I wondered what I would do. I began seeing a clear desk (yes, even a coach’s desk gets cluttered!), writing topics started to fill my head, and imaginary completed projects got checked off my list. Before I got too ambitious, I decided to start a list of things I would commit to doing during the free time and those I would consider. My “commit” list is short and includes those items that will give me more energy as a result (my desk cleared, extra family time, continued work on outlining my 2012 goals and actions). The second list includes tasks I will get to eventually, but having extra time to reflect on them moves them up the timeline considerably. This includes more research-based writing topics and the creation of new programs and products for my clients.

What can you work on over the next two weeks that will give you more energy?

With my lists complete and my head clear of what lays before me, my reaction to “call me after the holidays” has moved again – from giddy to ease. And more “Ease” is my wish list for you.

– Helen Dutton, Business Coach

2012 Business Planning and Business Objectives

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If you haven’t done so already, it’s time to make some plans and set business objectives for 2012. I can hear a collective groan from you all, but it doesn’t have to be hard and strenuous. Actually, my wish is that it be incredibly easy!

That’s a good place to start: ease. What would make your business feel unbelievably easy in 2012? When I think of ease, the ideas of “logical” and “flow” come to mind. When you choose business objectives and a course of action that is one logical step after another, the business flows easily. Revenue grows, expenses go down, and your personal energy increases overall. I am not suggesting that “logical” means playing it safe or setting your aspirations low; “logical” means following the path that makes the most sense for YOU, just as a river follows the path with the least obstacles. It’s taking those avenues in your business that come most naturally to you, even if they would never be the “standard” course of action for a franchised business.

Let me give you a personal example. Chatting with a producer of a reality show once, he said he wanted me to try out for the spokesperson position. If I had stopped and thought about what to do, I would probably have said no. The words that flowed from me instead were from my gut; “I don’t want to be the spokesperson, but I’d love to be their coach.” What followed was a wonderful experience for me, coaching a group while being filmed. It was fun, it felt natural, full of learning for me, and it opened other new opportunities for me. It was a logical next step for me.

As you flush out your 2012 goals, make sure you’ve considered those opportunities that just make sense to you, even if they don’t follow any textbook.

– Helen Dutton, Business Coach

Your Employees Attitudes are Showing

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My kids and I were out Christmas shopping this weekend. At one place, my daughter said sarcastically, “She loves her job, doesn’t she?” For better or worse, I’ve passed on my critical eye for business excellence, and the lack of it. The check-out employees attitude was showing, and even a teenage girl could recognize an attitude that was less than appealing. A bit ironic, but that’s a different story.

The woman waiting on us could have been having a really bad day; she could have had an argument earlier with a loved one, she might have gotten bad news from a family member, or perhaps she just didn’t get a good night’s sleep. Maybe she’s one of those people with a perennial black cloud hanging over her head. If she’s representing your business, as tough as this sounds, the ‘why’ just doesn’t matter. When she’s in front of one of your customers, then game on –  a smile, good spirits in her voice, and a cheerful, friendly demeanor are in order.

If you have an employees attitude who could use a little adjustment, don’t let it slide. Be up front about it; let her know what you expect in terms of customer interaction. If you’re comfortable, ask if there is anything you can do to help. Knowing you’re available to listen can do a lot to improve spirits. When you’re looking to hire staff, consider role playing with you being the customer and listen to the candidate’s customer interaction style. Does it sound natural? Relaxed? If it sounds forced, it may not be their everyday demeanor. Ask them for examples of good and poor customer service that they’ve personally experienced. Hearing what they hold up as examples will tell you a lot about what their standards are.

Your employees attitudes are showing;  make sure your best customers see something worthwhile enough to bring them back to you.

– Helen Dutton, Business Coach

Generate More Traffic at Year End

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One month to go till year end. 31 days to generate more traffic, leading to more business. As busy as December is for most people, it can be difficult to imagine having time and energy available to increase revenue. You have a couple of options: throw your hands up and say “It’s too late now! Why bother?” or, you can create a plan to push just a little bit more.

It’s like running a race. Towards the end, you’re tired, wondering why you signed up in the first place. Somewhere inside you, you find the determination to push through, just a bit longer. That’s where we are with our year-end business push; time to generate more traffic.

To finish the race effectively requires a plan; anything short will most likely result in frustration and poor results. Get specific about what it is you want to accomplish; “more sales” is not targeted enough and you will have equally weak strategies and results. Instead, ask yourself these questions:

  • What dollar amount am I looking for?
  • How much is that per day?
  • What would the average invoice be?
  • What items would most likely be on that invoice?

Now that you’ve defined the goal, imagine that you are betting on your results (which, in a way, you are). What strategy will most likely give you the results you are looking for? Before you say a “sale” or “discount”, please consider healthier alternatives. Even during a year end crunch, you want your ideal customers to come in, not just a one-shot looking for the best bargain. Create interest by offering someone else’s goods or services (at no cost to you) or run a contest; point out your business’s strongest assets (“Great Customer Service!” doesn’t cut it) and how it benefits them.

Give yourself the best gift possible as we wind down the year; a solid plan to finish the race.

– 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.