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Thanking Customers and Making it Count

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Thanking customers and clients can be challenging; you want it to be sincere, it would be great if it helped with your branding, it sometimes needs to fit within prescribed guidelines or at least an unstated code, and it needs to be financially reasonable. No wonder so many businesses postpone it or succumb to the traditional. With a little planning it can meet all of those criteria and still be simple, easy, and fun to give.Customer thank you gifts

I recently visited a salon that could have written the book on how to say “thank you” well. As I checked out, the receptionist came around from behind the desk and presented me with a beautifully packaged gift, thanked me for my first visit and shared a few words about the gift. The packaging alone told me this wasn’t a run of the mill gift. Sure, the package included a complete list of services and coupons for items across their product and service line (all on beautiful paper), but it also included a small “luxury” gift – a product that I had experienced that day and that I could later purchase. I treasure that gift and think of the salon every time I use it.

A couple days later, I received a handwritten note from Hailey, the person who provided my service. She thanked me for visiting and recalled something personal from our conversation. The item she reminded me about was a reason to visit again, although she mentioned it conversationally. Have I scheduled another visit? You betcha. 

Here’s what I was reminded of in this exchange:

  1. Be crystal clear about your motivation for giving a gift. Marketing? Gaining referrals? Or solely expressing gratitude? A sincere ‘thank you’ will help with your marketing, but don’t let motivation for more business get in the way of expressing gratitude. If you can’t make it sincere, don’t do it. 
  2. Presentation matters. Carefully plan how you will present the gift, what you will say, and who will hear it. 
  3. Include a personal element to the gift. One client recently had hats individually custom embroidered for his top clients; a personal touch lets customers know that you listen and that you care about them personally.
  4. Balance the gift value with the value of service you provide. Gifts that are disproportionate make your customers uncomfortable and actually discourage them from doing business with you again. 

Saying thank you is an integral step in businesses that excel. Seems our mothers knew what they were talking about, after all.

– Helen Dutton, Business Coach

Small Business Productivity Tip: Working With Pre-Vacation Intensity

When it comes to organization and small business productivity, there is no shortage of apps, templates, and tools. If I had to choose just one tip, though, it would be this: have an activity so compelling, so exciting, that you just can’t wait to get to it, nothing can get in your way. How many times have you found yourself amazed at how much you get done in a short period of time, the week before a vacation? When we have time away with family to look forward to, we are somehow able to clean out our in-box, organize our desk, initiate new projects and finish up lingering issues. I hear again and again, why can’t I be this productive all of the time?


You can, of course, if you are as excited about what to tackle next as you are about vacation. Think of a time when nothing could stop you: chances are, you were inspired by a cause, a passion, a strong desire to reach a destination – could have been the beach, but it could also have been a political or humanitarian cause or a financial goal. Connect your business goals with your biggest “why” and you’ll move forward with purpose. When we’re unsure about the direction to go, or have fear or uncertainty about our next action, our protective mode steps in and we move in slow-motion.

One fear that commonly prevents business owners from consistently taking action is the fear that if we finish everything on our plate that we won’t have anything to do. The gremlins tell us that surely means we are not successful; it’s better to move a little slower or allow our actions to wander. Small business owners also worry that if they complete all the tasks and ideas they have to build their business, but the business still isn’t where they want it to be, then what? The illogical part of us believes that there will be no more revenue generating ideas, no new directions discovered, and, of course, our business will fail. Once again, small business owners believe, it’s better to be safe by moving more slowly and always leaving some tasks undone.

If your goals are evading you and you seem to wander through your day, check to see if you are truly connected to your goal. Secondly, ask what worries you about completing all of your “to-do’s” and what might happen once you did. Sure, there are great tools and apps, but productivity begins from within.

– Helen Dutton, Business Coach

Idea Storage: Productivity Tip for Your Business

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Entrepreneurs are sometimes short on cash or organization, revenue or even staff. But one thing entrepreneurs are never short on is ideas. We think of ways to create more revenue, avenues to reach more customers, and we especially love ideas of what to do “someday, when things calm down.” Ideas come to us in the middle of the night, while we’re driving, and when we’re supposed to be paying attention to our child’s piano recital. We worry that we’ll lose some of these ideas, so we keep them in our head – jamming up valuable hard drive space.business ideas
A simple technique to capture all of these ideas is to create “bins” for each category, freeing up mental capacity and creativity. Create bins in Microsoft Word, as an Outlook note, or in a beautiful journal (see one of my favorite sources at Organize.com). If you want access wherever you are, consider Evernote or Google docs. Steer away from sticky notes, as the visual clutter they create causes us to quickly feel overwhelmed. If you must use sticky notes, consider Notezilla.
This is such a simple technique, but one my clients tell me they love over and over. Here are some “bins”clients have created:
  • Potential joint venture ideas
  • Ways to recharge my batteries
  • Marketing ideas
  • What to do when I’m overwhelmed
  • Event ideas
  • Blog or other writing ideas
  • Networking lunch guest ideas
Get those ideas out of your head and into a safe “bin”. Your head will feel clearer, your desk will get more organized, and productivity will increase. Not bad for such a simple idea.

– Helen Dutton, Business Coach

What the Facebook IPO Can Teach Your Business

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The Facebook IPO felt a little bit like the year 2000 to me: a lot of excitement in the days leading up to the IPO, a price higher than the company’s fundamentals warranted, and a big letdown as the market responded. Facebook’s turnout was a direct result of some very basic business rules that were disregarded, perhaps because of the magical glow that surrounded Facebook. Here are some business guidelines that I’m reminded of that will serve every business, from the smallest “mom and pop” cornerstore all the way to the behemoths (like Facebook!). Whether you are planning an initial public offering or just wanting to build a nest egg for retirement, pay attention to the basics and your company’s value will build.stock market value

  1. Today’s business results are just as important as potential value tomorrow. How many companies have failed because they forgot about being profitable NOW? Potential is wonderful, but you have to still be here to reach it.
  2. Don’t get caught up in the hype – a new product, a new market, the latest widget or strategy that will revolutionize your business. Entrepreneurs love the adrenalin rush; be aware that it’s adrenalin. Make sure that the fundamentals exist to back it up.
  3. You need more than one man (or woman) to be successful. Mark Zuckerberg may be a genius but he is one person. As a small business owner, brainstorm joint product or service ventures with colleagues, potential recurring revenue streams, and look for ways to build depth in your organization. Your ego may take a hit initially when others in your business are viewed as valuable as you are, but your retirement account will thank you.
  4. Value is not just the “thing” that you do. Facebook’s “thing” is making connections; their value is the information that can be collated from all that posted personal data. Good hair salons don’t cut hair; they are a retreat. Build on that.
  5. Don’t fool yourself about the value of what you do. The stock market clearly told Zuckerberg and his team that they want sustainable growth, not just fun toys – and those toys aren’t worth as much as they believed. Be wary of industry valuation guidelines; until you have a buyer with cash in hand, your value is just a guess (see my past post on Valuation vs Speculation )

– Helen Dutton, Business Coach

Focus on What Matters in Your Business

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One of the most common daily challenges I hear from clients is their never-ending to-do list. These days, small businesses need to do more with less which often means that more falls on the business owner’s plate. It can be easy to fill a day with e-mail, employee issues, and putting out fires. It’s no wonder that small business owners often feel frustrated in the pace of reaching their goals.pinterest business inspiration

A simple, yet effective tool in accomplishing more is this simple question:

If I get nothing else done today, what one action will most move my business forward?

Sure, there’s satisfaction in crossing off a whole bunch of items on our task list and there are days we can do that. But if you are more interested in being productive than industrious, then focus on what matters.

Let me give you an example: I just got off the phone with a client who wanted to get his e-mails to less than 100. He also told me how on some days he felt like he went home at the end of the day having accomplished very little. When I asked him, “what one action can you do today that will most move your business forward?”, he knew that a staff meeting to straighten out training of a new, key employee was that one item and a much better use of his time than clearing out his in-box. I also asked him what the outcome of that staff meeting needed to be today so that, in a month’s time, he could say, “That was time well spent.” He articulated two key outcomes and we devised a meeting format to insure those outcomes. Detailing the desired outcome of the one action greatly increased the likelihood for his success.

Check out this “sticky” note – I keep a supply of them on hand and pull them out whenever a client (or me, for that matter) is struggling with real progress in their business or is getting mired down in the day to day muck.


If you’ve accomplished at least one task that will truly move your business forward, you’ve had a productive day. Can you say that about your day?


– 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.