Posts Tagged ‘Growing Your Business’

Starting Fresh For Fall; Take Advantage of Every Opportunity


Crisp, fall days, a change in seasons, the first school days full of promise and new beginnings; fall has always been my favorite time of year for all of those reasons. As I enjoyed this beautiful day writing while sitting on my porch, it dawned on me that small business owners have the opportunity to begin again every day, to change course as appropriate, or to try an approach again in a different way. My kids have new teachers and new classrooms which reinforce the “new beginning” excitement, but we each have new opportunities as well. 

There is no need to wait for the next quarter, next year, next shipment, next anything to begin again in a different way. So many times, I have heard business owners say they want to continue down a certain path until… until they run out of promotional materials, until a certain employee leaves, until the next fiscal year and I’m honestly baffled by that logic. By nature I’m a very curious person so I ask, “What benefit do you expect to gain by waiting?” Often times, the answer is in avoiding a negative (such as I won’t waste money, I won’t have conflict – a big one), or a sense of completion, of finishing an action plan. None of those are a benefit to your business.

Small business owners are fortunate as we have no corporate office to answer to, no dictated plan to adhere to; yet all too often we behave as if someone is watching over our shoulder making sure that we follow The Plan. It can be discouraging to scrap a plan we thought would bring success; it can also be draining to change courses (again). But it is more exhausting to follow through on a plan that isn’t working. 

In the spirit of new beginnings, start tomorrow by looking at your day’s work and asking, “What benefit do I expect from this?” Be as specific as possible and if you can’t find a specific reward, double check that the intention of your work is to provide value and not the avoidance of something negative or numbly following a path set. Just a few weeks in, the “new school year” excitement is wearing off for my kids, but that doesn’t have to be true for small business owners. Be clear about your intentions, take actions in line with your goals, and adjust continuously. Tomorrow is a new day.

– Helen Dutton, Business Coach

photo credit: flatworldsedge via photo pin cc


Adding Value for Your Clients and Increase Business Revenue

At least once a summer, my brother’s family and ours enjoy lobsters together; we continued that tradition last night. Lobster in New Hampshire right now is $3.99 per pound (that’s less than a pound of hamburger), so we’ll enjoy it again tonight. But that’s only because of one retailer that understands the importance of adding value.small__1352976741

If you enjoy lobster at home, you know the worst part of it is the mess it makes – the huge pot, the smell, and the pot always seems to boil over in our house, so then we’ve got to clean up the stove. Yuck. This one retailer, though, has made boiled lobster as simple as take-out: for no additional cost, they will cook the lobsters for their customers. For the customer, that makes eating lobster a no-brainer. For the retailer, their only added cost is the power to boil the water. Brilliant.  Lobsters, along with those “couple of other items” you always need, were going out of the store by the bag load.

Adding value to your products or services allows you to increase nusiness revenue, conversion rates and customer satisfaction. I can’t remember the last time I had shopped where I bought the lobsters, but I bought lobsters and a lot more today. Here are some ideas that could work for your business:

  • A DVD or YouTube video instructions for a product purchased from you
  • Idea sheet for ways to use the product or service they are purchasing from you
  • An exclusive follow-up or consult call
  • Bundled services that relate to the product
  • A small “go-along” product that makes the use of your product or service easier
  • Product or service offer from a complimentary business

Simply put, find what makes it easier for them to use your product or service. There are people out there who want your product or service; make it easier for them and you are adding value, and starting to increase business revenue. 

Eliminate your customers’ reasons for not buying your product or service; honestly, we would not be having lobster tonight if we were cooking it. I didn’t just buy ingredients for tonight’s dinner, I bought an easy, summer lobster dinner. Now, if they would just come and take the trash away….


– Helen Dutton, Business Coach

photo credit: law_keven via photo pin cc

Draw a Salary From Your Business: Part 1

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“We’re up 132% but I still can’t draw a salary”.

Empty Wallet

This was posted on the web by a frustrated business owner, and it’s not that uncommon. We’ve all heard the advice to “pay yourself first” but, most of the time, it just doesn’t work. Or so we tell ourselves. Let’s look at this challenge more closely.


 Profit, or net income, is a simple mathematical equation: Revenue minus expenses equals profit. If profit is too low, then either revenue is too low or expenses are too high – simple math. All too often, business owners believe that if they open their doors, customers will come. Sorry, it doesn’twork that way. Instead, look at what additional revenue streams you can add; analyze current revenue streams and, by revenue type, brainstorm on ways to increase each. Here are a few ideas to get the ball rolling:

If you are a… Consider this revenue generting idea:
Business to Business Service Business Take advantage of the slower summer season; offer longer consults during July and August.
Business to Business Product Business Develop a “Frequent Buyer” program with incentives provided by complementing businesses. It helps both businesses!
Business to Consumer Service Business Post service openings on Facebook; it creates asense of urgency and generates traffic
Business to Consumer Product Business Your customers want to be outside so coordinate a “Summer Celebration” with neighboring businesses. Think picnics and face painting!


If expenses are out of line, ask yourself this: “If I had to cut expenses in half, what would I change?” I promise that you will know exactly what you would change. When we ask ourselves to cut 5% or 10%,we look for little changes within our current systems. More significant expense reductions require achange in your operations; that’s where meaningful savings will appear.

Cash on hand

 If you’re not currently taking a salary because the cash flow doesn’t support it, look atyour cash flow statement. This financial statement may feel overwhelming and difficult to understand,but here’s the bottom line: if you have inventory or facility equipment, you might as well have dollar bills on the shelf. I want you to picture that “great deal” you got as a pile of cash.

If customers owe you money, that’s cash you’ve “loaned” to your community, and that’s cash you could have used to pay yourself a salary. Excess inventory or equipment and customer receivables canall prevent you from paying yourself. Paying your vendors quickly can also prevent you from payingyourself, but more about that in a moment.

Check back later this week for the final piece of the puzzle: Why your mindset is the biggest obstacle to drawing a salary from your business. 

Until then, add a comment below or Tweet us to share your thoughts on Profitability, Cash on Hand and how you manage (or don’t manage) to draw a salary.

– 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

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

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.