New Hampshire’s unemployment rate is 2.6%, New England is at 4.4%; this is all great news in the short term for consumers, but it’s making hiring pretty tough for my small business clients. I have a unique hiring process that usually brings the cream of the crop to my clients’ employee roster, but the past couple of months have been a little rough, and I don’t expect the summer to improve. What can a small business owner do?
First and foremost, you’ve got to have a successful mindset. All too often, I hear business owners say “I’ll never find anyone” or they tell me how tough their industry is. The labor market may be tighter than we’d like, but as in all things, a negative attitude does not benefit us. There are employees choosing a new position, a new company every day; we just need to be sure that we are the one being chosen. Here is how a small business owner can win fabulous new employees over “the big guys”:
Show how working for a small business, over a large or national business, is a benefit to employees. While you may not be able to compete with a large business budget, you can compete on the personal impact they can make, one-on-one leadership training (from you), hands-on learning, and growth opportunities.
Let prospective employees know that you will rely on them. Survey after survey supports the notion that employees want to make a difference, they want to be engaged. You know how much you’re looking forward to your new hire, all the hopes of what they can give to your organization. Let them know.
Show prospective employees how their skill set will broaden. Personal example: I graduated from college with a business degree, specializing in accounting, and then became a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). I could have continued on in large corporations, most likely spending my career in accounting departments, maybe finance (yawn…). Instead, by moving to small business, I developed strong operational skills in everything from manufacturing to human resources, even sales and marketing.
Fewer people, less politics. Americans, especially millennials, are more likely to live away from their families, so work colleagues often become our “family”. While “family” may invoke the idea of politics to some, a small business family looks out for each other, has fewer spats, and are so focused on customer and client care that politics fall by the wayside. It’s all hands on deck, and there is no time for politics.
Share how the work they do on a daily basis will make a difference – for you, the owner and your family, your customers and clients, and their colleagues, whether other employees or key third-party relationships. Your team will know the important people in your life personally and will become a familiar face/voice to customers and key vendors; people will rely on them and that brings satisfaction on a daily basis.
If your business is growing and hiring, start with a positive attitude. You know how great it feels (usually!) to work in a small business; be sure to let prospective employees know. What has brought hiring success to your small business recently? Share your great ideas and let small businesses grow.
Use this winter weather to plan ahead for your small business!
Much of the East Coast is STILL snowed in. (!) Schools and businesses are closed, highway speeds have been lowered. Days like this are asking for reflection and strategic planning, so consider this your nudge. To help you along, use the template I’ve provided here; not only will it help you update your 2015 goals but it well keep you on track during the year. Download it today! 2015 business planning worksheet
Small business owners are full of initiative, motivation and drive (if you’re not, check in on that – you may need a re-boot, which is a different story). So why do I hear so often “I’m stuck” or “I’m not making any headway”? There are a couple of reasons I hear over and over; let me share those and give you some solutions.
It won’t be good enough, or I don’t know how to do it well. Business owners love knowledge, so many
Don’t get tied up in knots – learn how to be effective and take the next step!
turn to self-help books or “expert” websites to find the answer. The catch here is that these experts don’t know your situation, what you want to accomplish, and can’t answer your specific questions – what’s really standing in your way. I have two solutions:
Decide just how “good” you need to do the task. Is a “B” good enough? If so, define how much time you will spend to accomplish the task and stick to it. For short term tasks, set a timer.
Hire the task out. There are people out there that are better at almost every business task that needs to be completed. Not only will they get it done more quickly, but they will also do it better than you can. Think: newsletters, bookkeeping, website creation and upkeep, order fulfillment. Zero in on your unique abilities and spend your time using those abilities; the rest – find someone else to do it.
If budget concerns prevent you from hiring out, determine what amount you can afford and start with that. Any step forward is better than standing still.
2. “I just can’t get myself to sit down and do it.”Small business owners are creative; ideas often run rampant through their minds. When it comes time to mundane tasks, well… there’s always tomorrow, right? Call it ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) or just plain ants in your pants, repetitive, routine tasks are often downright painful for many small business owners. Chances are your need for flexibility and a varied schedule are part of why you chose to own your own business. You know they need to get done but you struggle to get them done. I’ve seen clients repeatedly postpone billing every month until it becomes a cash crisis. Here are some quick tips:
Break these mundane tasks into small pieces.
Identify your best “mundane task” time of day and week. Stick to that schedule; if it is ADD, you will thrive with routine (although you will go there kicking and dragging your feet, you will love it once you get there).
You’re great at the big-picture, right? Hand off the detailed stuff to someone who loves the details. As hard as it is for you to believe, there are people out there who love it.
Look at the tasks that stay on your desk, the “To-Do’s” that you repeatedly postpone. It honestly breaks my heart to see small business owners struggle and stagnate; if you’re on the struggle bus, make a decision today to get off for good.
Telling the difference between a consultant and business coach is confusing!
Over the course of my corporate business years I used the services of business consultants many times. My clients and I have discussed the work of their consultants, from direct mail consultants to product packaging consultants. Professionals that are experts in their fields can be just what the doctor ordered when you have a particular, focused question.
In the best scenarios, the business receives an expert answer to a specific issue or question that was holding the company back. However, in the worst case scenarios, the business simply receives a ream of notes that collect dust and a large invoice.
In those latter situations, it’s often the case that what the business truly needed was a small business coach, instead of a consultant. Let me explain the differences between small business consulting and small business coaching and when to use either:
Small Business Consultants
Chances are, your business already has a roster of Business Consultants – CPAs, attorneys, and insurance representatives are good examples.
A Consultant brings expert answers to specific questions or challenges. Common questions that Consultants might handle are “How do I increase business profitability?” or “Is my corporate structure appropriate for my business?”
The job of a consultant is to bring solutions to small businesses. The communication is primarily one-way, with the consultant delivering a prescribed solution for the small business owner to implement, although the consultant may sometimes complete some or all of the work. An example of this is the social media consultant who recommends a marketing strategy and then creates a Facebook and Twitter presence for the business.
Consultants often teach skills, allowing the business staff to implement recommendations made by the consultant. Consultants focus on improving business weaknesses over developing business strengths.
A consultant is best used when you have a specific question or challenge to which you want a directive answer. You are willing to either pay to have the solution implemented or have the time and energy to implement it yourself without varying greatly from the prescription.
Small Business Coaches
A Small Business Coach may be an expert in a field, but that expertise is used as a backdrop to how a Coach works with a small business owner. A Business Coach looks at the whole business and the owner’s goals with respect to the business, and integrates the owner’s personal goals.
Communication between a Business Coach and a small business owner is generally two-way, with the business owner doing more of the talking than the Coach. The most skilled Small Business Coaches are masters at asking questions, in drawing out the best solutions for a particular business owner. Once solutions are created, a Coach provides accountability to agreed-upon actions and changes to achieve the results they want.
Coaches generally focus more on business strengths than weaknesses, although it is every Coach’s mission to develop you, the business owner, to be the best you can be.
A Small Business Coach is best used when your questions are “big picture” in nature OR when you aren’t certain you’re focusing on the right questions to grow your business. Many clients hire a Coach because they want to follow their own path or they have a general feel that “something isn’t quite right in the business”.
There is a place for both Business Coaches and Business Consultants in your small business. To choose the right one and get the most value from your investment, start by knowing what questions you’re trying to answer.
Vision Planning notebooks are an excellent way to map out your action plan for the New Year!
Hi everyone! Now is a great time to write out your goals and plans for the New Year! You know my motto – “if you fail to plan, then you plan to fail”. I have extra vision planning notebooks that I’m giving away FREE starting Wednesday, December 18, until the New Year. The only thing you have to do is sign up for the newsletter on www.avisionofyourown.com! Once you do, shoot me an email at with your mailing address, and I’ll send it out. Any questions? Shoot me an email!
Vision boards are a great way to really focus on what you want to accomplish next year. Writing down your ideas makes you accountable to yourself, and moves your ideas from your head to reality!
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.