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What Can You Do Right Now To Drive Traffic?

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I was talking with a client the other day who was frustrated with her slow retail sales in January after a great December. She had some great ideas to drive traffic – a Valentine’s Day event and a new product line, but all of those take money. Money she doesn’t have right now. She felt stuck.

The new product lines she wanted were fabulous and are a perfect fit for her brand. Right now, though, they are off in the future, a “someday” thing. When she described her ideal event it also sounded wonderful…someday. I’m all about business owners having the ideal business, the perfect life but honestly, those rarely happen in the early business ownership stages. What she needs, and you may too, are paying customers in the door now to even have a chance of reaching that ideal place. 

We created a plan to drive traffic to her business that keep her in line with her longer-term vision of the ideal events and product lines. For example, while eventually her events may be catered, include an educational element, and have several hundred attendees, for now she will make the food herself, have a small take-away gift, and she realized that she’ll be happy with 30-40 new people visiting. What I love about this plan is that this first event is like a training ground for her and her customers, it’s a lesson in what’s to come. We found a way to accomplish the same with products. The feel will be the same, her brand image will be strong, and she will learn what works and what doesn’t work – with fewer people to experiment on.

It’s easy to feel stuck when all we see are obstacles in achieving our business ownership dream. If this sounds familiar, ask yourself a different question, “What can I do right now?” Soon enough, if you do enough of these smaller steps, you’ll find yourself owning the ideal business you’ve always imagined.

– Helen Dutton, Business Coach

Passion and Excellence

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There’s something that happens when a gymnast sets foot onto an open beach; they seem compelled to run, flip, leap… just because they can. I know because on our recent vacation to Florida, I snapped this photo of my daughter mid-flight. As an observer, it’s exciting to watch and, on this day, I could feel the energy rippling down the beach, as if it was trying to keep up with her. Just coming off of a rest period for an injury, I tried to contain my daughter but my heart wasn’t in it. Relenting, I snapped the camera and just enjoyed her love of the sport.

I couldn’t help thinking, “How is she able to do this? She hasn’t done anything for six weeks yet she makes it look so easy.” Then I thought of the time she’s put in at the gym, the hundreds of times she’s done this leap. As she grew, the leaps and skills grew along with her but always with hours and hours of practice, physical and mental training.

It’s not that different from owning a business; our skills grow as a result of the time and energy we put into our craft and the number of times we’ve practiced a leap – a leap of faith, a leap over an obstacle or a leap towards our ideal future in business. Passion for what we do has to come first, as it does for my daughter. With passion, the work may still be hard, but we love it in part because of the effort. My daughter has had more bruises than I could possibly count, but they don’t stop her from loving the sport. We take our bumps along the way, correct what we can, and move forward, better, stronger and confident that we can handle the next bump more easily.

When you put in the time and energy my daughter has, the result is this picture:

Excellence.        Joy.        Freedom.

If you want more flexibility and joy from your business, check your passion level. If that exists, your hard work and continual improvement will pay off, as it has for my daughter. We may not be able to leap like her, but we can own the exhilaration just like she does.

– Helen Dutton, Business Coach

SMART Business Goals

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I love shoveling snow. Honest.

Although the snow is still coming down like crazy, I’ve already been out once to shovel the front walk with two of my office colleagues (yes, my lab really does have a sweater on – she’s a bit of a cold weather wimp). If I’m lucky, I’ll be able to take a couple more breaks during the day to shovel some more. Like I said, I LOVE shoveling snow- it’s so rewarding to me; I know exactly what I need to do; I easily see my progress; and it’s something I can do in a relatively short time.

I realized that the reasons I love shoveling are the same reasons why setting SMART business goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely) makes so much sense. Honestly, I’m not one for cute acronyms and have never posted them in my office as reminders. But I have to admit, that SMART business goals line up well with shoveling as well as moving my business forward.

  • Specific – My shoveling needs are easy to define: I need to shovel the walkway from my front steps to my driveway.
  • Measurable – The front walk has a beginning and end.
  • Attainable – The front walk takes me about 15 minutes. Easy.
  • Realistic – I’ve shoveled this walk over 100 times. I know I can do it again. It’s only when it gets to be over a foot at a time that it gets challenging; on those days, I am sure to break it into smaller components.
  • Timely – If I want the UPS man to make it to my front door, I need to get this done. The precipitation today may turn to a messy mix; the sooner I get the snow off the walkway the easier it will be to clear it later if it turns to heavy, wet snow or worse. Besides, I don’t want my Labrador to get cold feet, do I?

The SMART business goals acronym is widely known and easy to remember. For me, though, I just look at my projects like my front walkway.

– Helen Dutton, Business Coach

What Do You Want or Need From Your Bank?

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Readers, I’m looking for some opinions. Next week, I’m being interviewed by a collection of commercial lenders who are interested in the opinions of small and medium business owners. 

Specifically, they want to know what kind of support and services do business owners like yourself want from your banking institutions, especially commercial lenders?

I’d love it if you could send me a quick reply today and let me know if you have any comments. Some ideas to get you thinking:

  • How could your bank and/or lender make your job as a business owner easier?
  • What  products or services do you use to manage your finances, and what do you think you’ll need in the next couple of years?
  • What methods of communication do you prefer for your bank? How often do you want to hear from your banker?
  • Do you like having a relationship with a dedicated account rep, or prefer the flexibility to contact anyone in the bank that can help you?

I look forward to hearing from you at

– Helen Dutton, Business Coach

Routine Business; Create a Schedule

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After the wonderful chaos that the holidays bring, it felt good to get back to my normal Monday routine this morning. As I drove to boot camp, I realized that my breakfast included veggies for the first time in a week and a half. Later, it dawned on me that I had consumed over 30 ounces of water by 10 AM when I struggled to get enough water all of last week. What made this morning so different than last Monday, or even yesterday? Simple, my habits; on Monday mornings, I have veggies in my omelet, work out, and drink my first water bottle by 10 AM. That’s just what I do.

Apply this to your work day and the same magic, as in eating veggies by 7 AM, can happen. Create a schedule that considers your natural rhythms; when is it easiest for you to think about the big picture? What’s the best time of day or week to get into a big project? I have a daily schedule posted near my desk that breaks my days down into two-hour increments (remember, you should take a break every 90-120 minutes). On Mondays, I write from 1 to 3. I’m full of ideas from the weekend, refreshed from a healthy lunch and morning exercise, which is what I need for writing. From 3 to 5, I work on client programs. It’s a habit now, just like eating my veggies Monday morning and drinking my first 30 ounces of water by 10 AM.

If you’re looking to be more productive in less time, and who isn’t, apply some routine to your business. I’ve got to go now, it’s time to start working on client programs right after I take a walk outside.

– 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.