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Posts Tagged ‘Business Operations’

Attack of the Time Vampires, Part II

The Super Hero Vampire, and Why You Can NOT Do it All 

 I love my work. So much so, that I have a bad habit of taking on more than I should. I know that I only have about 10 work hours to accomplish what I need to do every day. It never fails, though, that I take on just one more client, volunteer to write another article, or decide to lead a team project. 

You don't have to be a super hero to to be productive!

You don’t have to be a super hero to to be productive!

And then I get angry.  

Why? Because although my calendar reflects my varied gifts and obligations (ha!), the reality is that I when I take on too much, I’m not nearly as focused, and mistakes are made. Deadlines are missed, and team or family members may be disappointed. Sure enough, those extra tasks and projects that I swore I couldn’t forego indeed are left by the wayside. So why did I start this mess in the first place? 

Wait, is that Helen?! No, it’s just  the Super-Hero Vampire. 

The Super-Hero Vampire is the belief that you have to take on more than necessary to be productive. It’s the nagging little voice that tells you to do just one more thing, to take on more than you can possibly handle, to stay ahead of the game. Alarms are constantly going off in your head about upcoming deadlines, and suddenly the Super Hero Vampire shakes up your priorities. Suddenly, EVERYTHING is a priority, and has to be done NOW, and only by YOU. 

First, remember that to be consistently productive and efficient, you have to prioritize and use your time accordingly. When this is not done, your work doesn’t have a clear purpose or end goal. Instead of focusing on key projects and tasks, you try to do it all, all at once. 

Secondly, tackling every project as if it’s an emergency that can only be solved by you robs your team  members, assistants, and family members of the experience of handling tasks either with you or on their own. You may be great at what you do, but sometimes building and maintaining a strong team is more important than your individual skills. You can be great and still be a team player. Your team can’t become stronger if they never handle projects or emergencies.   

Finally, approaching your work this way is terribly exhausting! There is no end in sight, and living life as a super-hero can be like living on an endless carousel that doesn’t end. You may find yourself jumping from project to project, sometimes without completing them. Or worse, you may complete them, but the projects may not be done to your satisfaction.  

If you’ve been bitten by the Super Hero Vampire, there’s still hope for you. Remind yourself that you are one person, and that you can’t take on the world alone. Even Superman has the Justice League! Remember to prioritize what truly is important – not just in general, but daily, so you know where to spend your time, and what to pass on altogether. Being constantly aware of what is important to you, and what is not, is a key way to stay focused. Finally, track your time. You may not feel that you’ve been bitten by the Super Hero Vampire, but if you’re constantly jumping in to extra projects to save the day, you may have been sabotaged. Knowing how you spend your time, and why, will help you identify the cause.  

Don’t get me wrong: I love it when entrepreneurs feel confident enough to call themselves “super heroes”. I want every business owner to feel confident and strong in their abilities. Thinking of yourself as a super hero is great for the ego, but it can be dangerous for your work. 

How to Handle Change? Think Like an Employee

Most days, I’m reminding my clients to step into their leadership shoes, their successful entrepreneur shoes, or sometimes their confident small business owner shoes. But this week, I’ve been reminding several business owners to step into employee shoes. That’s right, when it comes to workplace change I want business owners to step into the shoes of their employees.

change4For the most part, employees and business owners just think differently. Chances are that if you’re reading this you wonder what’s next, how you can improve operations; you’re ready to move on to the next thing before the last new idea is complete. The typical employee prefers work to stay the same and when change is introduced some may dig their heels in. You may be lucky to have some employees who embrace change and some who like to perfect current operations before moving on. Either way, when you are introducing change you need to sit in your employees’ shoes and think through how the changes will affect them. Let me give you some examples:

  • A medical practice is bringing on a new practitioner. Other personnel will be wondering not only how this will affect their schedule and work load, but on a deeper level they will wonder “will my boss still have time for me? Will my boss still ask for my opinions, or will he ask the other doctor instead?” Basically, the question they want answered is “will I still be loved?” Be up front that the relationship may change, but let them know how you will still rely on them, and how they will fit in.
  • Another business is promoting an employee into a new managerial position. Before the change is announced to the whole staff, it’s critical that the effect of the promotion on the rest of the team is sorted out. Will they pick up new tasks? Will some of their tasks be given to the manager? Who will they report to? Office real estate is important even in small businesses, so decide if the promotion means a change in office or desk space. Employees will ask how decisions will be made; what they really want to know is “do I still have a say?”. Be up front about how decisions will be made, how input is to be given, how they can still reach you, the business owner, with their thoughts and concerns.

If change is in the works for your business in 2015, sit in your employees’ shoes before spreading the word. As excited as you may be about rolling out the changes, take some time to think about how the change will affect your team in terms of responsibilities, communication, and personal fulfillment.

6 Things to Consider When it Comes to Employee Healthcare

Health InsuranceAs we approach the first anniversary of the Affordable Healthcare Act’s implementation, more and more small business owners are looking at their options for themselves and their employees. Here in New Hampshire, consumers will have more choices and with more choices often comes indecision. If you are looking at healthcare options for your employees and feel confused or indecisive, read on.

  • Healthcare costs can be a significant budget line item especially if you haven’t covered healthcare costs in the past. You wouldn’t be the first small business owner to exclaim, “HOW much is it going to cost me?” While cost is certainly important, start with a broader view and look at it from a philosophical standpoint: do you believe that you have a responsibility to your employees to provide health insurance? What part do you think you should play in your employees’ health?
  • If you’re not sure what your role should be in providing health insurance, consider these statistics: A 2012 monster.com survey revealed that prospective employees consider healthcare as the most important benefit a potential employer could offer. More recently, MetLife’s 2014 annual benefits summary reports that benefits are an important reason that 50% of employees stay at a job.
  • If you’ve decided that you want to pay for some part of your employees’ healthcare costs, start by contacting an experienced benefits agent. The ACA healthcare environment is confusing; rather than trying to navigate alone and potentially making a costly mistake find someone who has been in the market for years and stays current in the market. These agents are paid through fees from the insurance companies, not by you. They are knowledgeable about options as well as what your competitors are offering.
  • Healthcare coverage can vary by employee class, allowing you to provide a higher level benefit to owners or based upon position. For example, one client is offering three levels; owner, professional staff, and hourly staff.
  • Healthcare is costly and if you haven’t been offering any coverage, adding the cost can be overwhelming. Look at the cost as a percentage of revenue, in addition to actual dollars. Costs relative to your revenue can be enlightening (both good and bad!).
  • If you choose to offer healthcare, education is key for everyone involved. Your employees are probably confused about the new healthcare market and will soak up any information available to them. Rely on your agent to provide this (discuss their employee education plan up front).

More and more small business owners are looking at healthcare options not only for their own family but also for their employees. If you are one of those entrepreneurs, start the decision making process by considering your values – they will never steer you wrong. If you decide to look into your options, save yourself from confusion and overwhelm and get help from an expert.

Small Business Owners: Take a Lesson from Our Military Vets

What can you learn from a veteran about your small business? Turns out, quite a bit.

What can you learn from a veteran about your small business? Turns out, quite a bit.

A former US Marine turned entrepreneur and I have been working on growing his small business. He is smart, driven, and has built a successful business in a relatively short period of time. And he wants more (sound familiar?). As we chatted about growth strategies and prospecting in particular, it struck me: fighting in the Armed Services and successfully growing a small business have two things in common:

  1. A clearly defined purpose
  2. Repetitive training

What they don’t share is the same driver for success: a gun pointed at you.

Many of my clients have heard me remind them that “this is your livelihood.”  This is what sustains you and your family. This is often when a business owner is going soft about letting an employee get away with sloppy work, bailing out on prospecting efforts, or something that requires a little more push.  That push is needed when we’re faced with a fear so strong that it feels like we have a gun pointed at us, but of course we don’t…and we let it slide. We tell ourselves that we can clean up when an employee doesn’t quite meet our standards or that we have “enough” business. Those things are true, but we don’t end up with a business that brings us joy. Instead, we end up frustrated, tired, and a little defeated. And that’s where the US Marines come in.

I honestly can’t imagine what it’s like to be in combat, but I can imagine the overwhelming desire for success that our Armed Services personnel feel. That desire, coupled with a clearly defined purpose and repetitive training, becomes success again and again. So how does this translate into success for small business owners?

  1. Know your purpose for each mission. Speaking engagement? Define exactly what the purpose and your desired results are – market exposure, perhaps, and follow-up meetings with complimentary professionals, on-site newsletter sign-ups, requests for more speaking. Prospecting? Be specific and define your success path: in some industries, if you want 5 new clients, you’ll need 8 meetings, and you’ll need to speak with 40 prospects.
  2. Practice. If it’s important, and most things are, practice again and again. Whether it’s an employee meeting, customer open house, or prospect phone call or meeting your confidence will grow with practice. Clearly define your purpose (see #1) so that the words you choose will help you reach your goal. My former US Marine and I ran through several practice prospecting calls until he reached that “I’ve got this” point.
  3. Reflect for a few moments on the bigger picture of your business – your “Big Why”, your dreams, your definition of success. All of that rolled up together is why you do what you do – it’s not a job, most entrepreneurs wouldn’t even call it a career. It’s your livelihood. When you connect with all of that, you will be driven to succeed in a way a gun to your head never would.

Today, thank a veteran or an active service member for their service. And, take a page from their book and remember that your business is your livelihood, and it deserves to succeed.

The Art of Cold Calling: How to Connect Instead of Sell

Cold calling prospects, or even warm calls to referrals, stops many business professionals in their tracks. The other day a client telephonesaid to me “I fought in Afghanistan, I’ve been shot at as a police officer, but I’m afraid to make phone calls! What gives?” Adrenalin played a part in those scenarios, but beneath that, she felt the same emotion that she does when trying to call prospects: fear. Fear of being rejected, fear of saying the “right” words, the fear of not knowing what to say, period, all prevent us from making calls even when we know it could help our business. I’ve heard more than a couple business professionals say that they’re just giving up on calls, but there is an alternative.

Chances are, especially if you’ve been struggling with making calls, you’ve read that you need to be confident in what you have to offer and then you’ll “easily” make the calls. I consider confidence as Step 1; Step 2 is understanding your objective in calling beyond making a sale or scheduling an appointment. What feeling do you want as a result of the call? What emotion do you want to evoke in the person you’re calling?

When my client and I walked through these questions we discovered that she loved to connect with people – to hear their stories, to find a connection between herself and the person on the other end of the call. That’s really what each of us wants – to connect with another human being – whether it’s by phone, at a networking event, or by e-mail. We worry about the words we will say when calling someone, yet connecting is more about listening than talking.

To increase the effectiveness of your phone calls, choose your words deliberately and carefully to share your offer (remember it’s about the benefits not the features!) but most of all, listen and connect. Let that other person know that you care; even if you get a “no thanks” you’ll feel better about the call and they will remember you as that person who listened.

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.