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Make the decision – be a leader

[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=sailing+boat&iid=7204341″ src=”1/e/5/9/Outdoor_Sports_1706.jpg?adImageId=8930591&imageId=7204341″ width=”234″ height=”373″ /]Before you set sail it is probably a good idea to know where you’re going.  In fact, it is probably an even better idea to know if a sail boat will get you there faster or more comfortably than a train.  Or an airliner.  Or even an automobile.  Before you set sail you have to decide if sailing is the best use of your time.  You have to decide if leaving on a Tuesday is better than on a Thursday or if you should sail solo or with a friend.  Lots of decisions to make before heading out on a journey.

Business is not different than sailing in this regard.  Every business has a leader and the leader must make decisions regarding direction and timing.  Oh, he or she gets input from everything and everyone from the Farmers Almanac to the bookkeeper.  Shall you travel north next Tuesday? Well, only if the weather is good and the chores are done and you have the extra cash.

Leadership involves making decisions. And making a decision is the single most difficult task a leader must do.  Let’s look at a couple scenarios.

Scenario One: you and two buddies have a fantastic idea for a business.  You thought up a clever gizmo that will revolutionize the internet and your two friends have some money to throw in and some expertise.  One friend is great with numbers and the other is a super salesman.  However, the business dream is yours and mantle of leadership falls on you.  You get input from your friends and research you’ve done, but you have to decide:

  • what the business will look like
  • when to launch the business and where
  • what aspect of the gizmo to spend this year’s budget on
  • where to best use your sales efforts
  • how to spend your capital

None of these decisions is easy and the business will go nowhere until the decisions are made.  But it’s the making the decision process itself that causes the most stress and anguish.

Scenario Two: you and your buddies have been in business now for five years and are making an annual profit.  You are able to offer your employees good benefits and you were able to finally take a vacation.  One of the friends asks you: now what?  Now where do we go with this gizmo?  They are wanting to know if you want to take the next step of growth in the business through innovation and expansion into new markets.  There is risk involved.  What will happen if you take on the added expense of research and development and speculation?  What would happen if you don’t?  As the leader you have to decide:

  • how big you want your company to be
  • how diversified you want your product offerings to be
  • if the risk of expansion is worth the cost, time and effort

To be a good leader, you have to decide to lead.  What that means to a business is:

  • the leader holds the vision for the business – ‘this is who we are, what we stand for and what we look like’
  • the leader sets the direction – ‘this is where we are now and where we’re headed and hope to be in ten years’
  • the leader is willing to alter course – this could be necessary due to outside economic factors or due to rising opportunities
  • the leader is willing to make the decision to hold or fold [in this lies the interesting thought that maybe a business has a life span…when is it time to retire not just the human element, but the business itself? – that’s grist for a whole ‘nother post]

“…Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall….” Stephen R. Covey.

Even a home-based business person has to shoulder the daily decision of upon which wall to lean the ladder.  And sometimes those decisions just aren’t easy to make.  However, once made, it’s all management the rest of the way.



How to try to succeed at business

Writing essentials

What you don’t see in the photo to the left is my laptop…other than that you see most of the essentials required for a day of writing: an interesting mug, gourmet tea, a mug full of pens and pencils, a phone [in case my daughters call] and a tv set.  You see I work to movies and tv shows.  Other people work in a void of silence or to music or the chatter and clatter of office background.  Since I have the luxury of working at home [home-based solo-preneur] I get to choose my working detritus.  I try to work with what I’ve got.  Hopefully a muse is in there somewhere.

I find great value in trying.  In the word Try.  I define try as:

  • making an attempt
  • putting forward an effort
  • endeavoring risk
  • gingerly going forward
  • not quite confident
  • a little south of competent as yet

WordReference.com dictionary adds: earnest and conscientious activity intended to do or accomplish something

Ever since George Lucas gave the planet the sage wisdom of Yoda’s “Do or do not…there is no try,” all the emphasis has been on accomplishment.  Get it done.  Skip the experiment and go straight for success.

That might be a bit overblown, but I think we’ve forgotten how much value there is in trying.  In business:

  • Try to communicate with the consumer, not at the consumer – give a shot at thinking about how cool it would be to see potential customers as people rather than numbers on a spreadsheet
  • Try to negotiate a better workplace environment for the sake of the employees not the bottom line – maybe paychecks won’t get any bigger this year but perhaps management could try something unexpected like letting the employees start a flower and vegetable garden out back and giving them work time to till the soil
  • Try out “please” and “thank you” and see what they feel like – infusing a little courtesy into business interactions just might bring in new customers and mend fences
  • Try to think how it would feel to have your success measured in respect rather than notoriety
  • Try out having your corporate image based on people rather than products
  • Try giving something away that costs you something

It can be scary and risky to “try” something new.  But in the trying lay the seeds of success.

  • Have an open meeting. Set aside a day and invite all employees from the top of the pay scale on down to the mailroom and delivery drivers and let them give you [the vision holder] their vision for their jobs and the company they work for
  • Invite hourly employees to have lunch on your tab – ask them to bring photos of their families and listen to their stories
  • Give every employee one of the products they work so hard to make – oh my gosh! you might just have to take a hit on inventory, but maybe the benefits would be pride and increased productivity [your company makes automobiles? Okay you’re not going to give every employee an actual car, but what if you commissioned a model of that car and gave each employee a numbered edition of it as a collectible?]
  • Train your people. If you can’t hire it done, do it yourself.  The more your people know about their own jobs, upgrades in the systems they use, the products they make and sell, the more they will feel valued.
  • Are you the CEO of a large business who gets a really big salary and bonus?  Great.  Use your bonus or one month’s salary and buy every employee a new chair and keyboard.
  • Put a dream board in the lobby/entry of the main building where everyone, both employees and others, can see it.  Have everyone who is employed put words and pictures on this board that reflect their dreams for the business.

There is one thing I recommend not trying but doing and that is being grateful.  If you own a business don’t just try to be grateful for your employees and customers, be grateful and let them know you are grateful.

All-in-all, try to try harder at trying and have a successful year.


How to build Brand Trust

[picapp align=”left” wrap=”false” link=”term=sears&iid=6092209″ src=”3/d/5/b/Sears_Posts_2nd_6427.jpg?adImageId=7761923&imageId=6092209″ width=”234″ height=”156″ /]Why do I begin this conversation with a photo of a Sears sign?  Because in this discussion, the Sears brand has been and still is, a trusted brand name in my family.  There are a few things that are iconic to my family generational-ly and the Sears Christmas catalog [their first Christmas catalog came out in 1933] is one, and the tool and appliance departments at the stores are another.  When my mom brought home the catalog early in the month every December, my sister and I would sit and devour it.  We’d mark the pages and leave it sitting around just where dad could see it.

The products that my parents and their parents purchased at Sears were trusted simply because they came from Sears.  My dad would not buy tools for his garage shop from any other vendor.  My grandmother and mom only bought their clothes from Sears.  Up until my mom passed away a few years ago, I was taking her on her monthly shopping trips to Sears.

So how can you and I – small and home-based business owners – build a brand that has this kind of trust attached to it?

I began exploring this question due to an article in the business section of my morning newspaper on November 10.  I had time that morning to read through more than just the front page of each section and on page four in the biz section that day was a big article titled, “PayPal could overshadow eBay” with a subhead: “Convenience, trust in the brand help build loyal following for online pay service.” [article by Rachel Metz, Associated Press-San Francisco].What jumped out at me in the subhead was the phrase “trust in the brand.” I believe this to be true of PayPal. I’m a home-based business owner and I do business through PayPal…in my etsy store I only accept PayPal.  I utilize PayPal as a way to pay for supplies through my mosaic tile supplier.  Why?  Because I’ve grown to trust PayPal.  Why?

  1. PayPal does what it says it will do
  2. I have never been sorry or inconvenienced by the service – from the article: “…PayPal doesn’t share your financial information with merchants. That brings peace of mind to people who might otherwise worry about shopping at a site they’ve never heard of….”
  3. PayPal offers enough services to meet my business needs

According to the article, “…As of the end of September, 78 million people had active PayPal accounts, up from 65 million a year ago….” What does this tell me about trust in the brand?  That people trust PayPal to be consistent: what you see, what you hear, what you read about PayPal is what you get…every time.

I thought some more about the question: how do you build brand trust? For answers I went to the experts who shared some valuable wisdom.  The key things I think they are saying is that your business and the way you do business needs to be consistent and transparent: what is seen, what is heard, and what is read about your business should be what your customer/client gets…every time.

The question I posed: How do you build brand trust?

  • “…You create a product, service, message, or name that’s simple and memorable.  You surround it with easy to understand differences and you consistently engage every corner of space online and off and then you do it next week and the next and . . ..” – thank you to John Jantsch – a marketing and digital technology coach, award winning social media publisher and author of Duct Tape Marketing  www.ducttapemarketing.com
  • “…When it comes to a small business building trust in their brand particularly online, the first thing they must do is approach it with the give-to-get principle.  Every relationship must be approached with the mindset, “how can I help?”   They will position themselves as a connector and expert in their industry…Perceived risk is the number one barrier for small businesses.  The more important thing a small business can do to build trust in their brand is to be clear about exactly what business they are in, keep their word and deliver on their brand promise….”  thank you to Melinda Emerson “SmallBizLady” Author, Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months; A Month-by-Month Guide to a Business that Works!  (Feb. 2010 Adams Media) www.succeedasyourownboss.com www.melindaemerson.com
  • “…I believe brand trust is about getting your organization’s message out frequently and consistently – and then following through. If the message and the user/customer experience do not match, trust is eroded. It’s like the old adage about saying one thing and doing another – customer/client service must reinforce the marketing/branding message for strong brand trust to be forged….” thank you to Jane K. Stimmler, The Marketing Edge
  • “…Following are two ways I recommend building brand trust: Have a suggestions/comments area on your business’ website– and a system in place for responding to all comments received in a timely manner.  If you know there are times you’ll have heavy traffic, have a standard email that gives an “estimated waiting time” for a personalized response.  ALWAYS RESPOND…Call with no news: very often people don’t call back because they don’t have the information you requested.  Making the time to call whether you have good news, no news, or bad news is a fast way to build brand trust….” thank you to Frances Cole Jones,   www.thewowfactor-thebook.com
  • “…I’d say the best way to build trust is with brutal honesty…I think brands do themselves the MOST good after a ‘drama’ of some kind – some kind of bad publicity. I recommend the sooner they come forward, and the more honestly they come forward the better.  There have been cases  where people have started Facebook groups or started tweeting relentlessly about brands that have stuffed up in some way or another and stupidly the brand has IGNORED all of the drama expecting it to ‘blow over’ – and of course with this kind of social media available – it DOESN’T!  So eventually after much delay they have no choice but to speak up, but by then it’s too little too late…I think brands have the most potential to win raving fans during times of trial and bad publicity – the more humbly they come forward and either say “we were wrong” or the like the better it is for them and their future sales....” thank you to Allison O’Neill author of  The Boss Benchmark www.thebossbenchmark.com
  • “…A satisfied customer is not a loyal customer by any means.  I build brand and customer trust by NOT expecting them to be loyal to me, but by being loyal to THEM!  I earn loyalty by giving it.  I do it one “D” at a time: Discover (what is important or of value to my customer), Decide (what their experience will look like), Deliver (what I set as their expectation) and Do It Again (it’s an ongoing process that changes and improves with feedback….” thank you to Chrysty Beverley Fortner www.linkedin.com/in/chrystybeverleyfortner www.chrystybfortner.wordpress.com

Here is what I think the above experts are telling me when it comes to building brand trust:

  1. give-to-get; this is very much like having a service mentality.  Instead of positioning your business in your own mind as “the customer is lucky to have this,” you position yourself as “how can I be of service?”  As businesses, as business owners, we need to remember there is no entitlement.  We are not entitled to have customers or clients simply because we hang out a shingle.  A customer may purchase once, but what will bring them back?
  2. consistency – this is a principle that says you treat every customer exactly the same; your products are of the same value and quality from one season to the next; your message, although worded to fit various occasions, says the same thing each and every time
  3. transparency – this is the “what you see is what you get” concept; your business is open and visible – your customers and clients [and competitors for that matter] can see what your business standards are by the way you do business, by what you say and put “out there” and by the way you treat your customers, clients and vendors [suppliers, even the FedEx delivery fellow]
  4. honesty, open and frequent communication – to me this means the right hand and the left hand are working in concert on the same tune; that your message and actions match; that you and your business are accountable for every message, product and service
  5. follow through – do what you say you are going to do or deliver…make no promises – rather, say what you stand for

My personal input on this question is that building brand trust takes time.  Do all of the above and over time your brand will stand the test of economy and fluctuating customer demand.  Also, I think it needs to begin with a leadership question: what exactly do I want my brand to be, to say, to be known for and trusted for?



Success in life and business

Consistency is a key to success.  Consistency is keeping on doing the right things over a period of time.  Success is not an instant gratification-kind of thing; rather, it’s an earned result. We need consistency, doing the right things over a period of time:

  • in our lives: our relationships with family and friends, in our marriages, our friendships
  • in our businesses: our dealings with customers and suppliers and downline and upline, with competitors and potential clients and prospects
  • in our sphere of influence: as good citizens of our neighborhoods and communities, of our state and country and the world at large

Consistency is a key.  Do the right things over and over and success will result.

The photo was taken while enjoying the famous 17-Mile Drive in Monterey, CA while on vacation last week.


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Shrinking Violets need not apply

I think what I really mean is that Shrinking Violets do not apply themselves which is why you don’t find them succeeding in a home-based business.

  • It takes moxie to be your own boss.
  • It takes an ability to look outside yourself to see opportunities.
  • It takes an expansive mind to dream BIG enough dreams that provide motivation.
  • It takes dogged determination to keep going when quitting seems to make more sense at the moment.

No, Shrinking Violets and home-based businesses do not mix.  Shrinking Violets don’t have courage or stamina. To make a go of a home-based business, to realize dreams and achieve goals, I think you need these:

  • a dream…a reason so BIG that quitting is not an option
  • a positive attitude – I read books on positive thinking and books on personal growth and from them have developed a list of words and phrases that I wrote on 3″x5″ cards and keep on the table by my bed where I’ll see them every morning.  They help to keep my mind in a forward, positive, outward-looking direction.  My words and phrases are: *Think Positive *Be in a Consistent Good Mood *Wake Up Happy *Smile *Encourage and Compliment Others *Be Kind to Others *Have Great Spirit *Laugh A Lot *Find Humor *Motivate and Inspire Myself *Affirm Myself *Think YES! First [from Jeffrey Gitomer] *Look for the Good in All Situations *Be Happy on the Inside
  • integrity personally – the moral and ethical standard of high values [honesty, loyalty] in all areas; as my grandfather taught me, everything I do reflects on my family name down through all generations…in his generation, this was of great importance.  There have been times in my family’s history when their good name was all they owned.
  • integrity in the operation of your business – to me this means using your own product…being its own best fan; staying within the parameters of your business’ policies and procedures…being a good citizen of your municipality
  • being a servant – make your customer feel appreciated and make your business associates feel honored

There are other attributes, of course, necessary to being the owner of a successful home-based business – doesn’t matter what the business might be.  The point is to be a Rose that blooms regardless of the thorns around it…not a Shrinking Violet afraid of the light of day.


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Success is not what you think

If success is your goal, you’ll never achieve it.  Success is amorphous. 

Success is a result of a series of actions based on decisions and measured by milestones and goals/dreams achieved.

People love to say, ‘I want to be a success;’ or they might say, ‘I want to be successful.’  What does that really mean? How do you know you are a success?  How do you know you’re successful?

Let’s say you want to be a successful bakery owner.  What will determine what success is for a bakery owner?  At what point in your career as a bakery owner will you recognize yourself as being successful?  Success comes as a realization when milestones and goals are achieved…and then only after decisions are acted upon.  What makes someone a successful bakery owner and someone else not?  I believe the answer lies in the decisions and actions we take.

You are a bakery owner and you make the decision to bake wedding cakes.  You made this decision based on two things: your love of cake baking and your research into the marketplace – you discovered there is quite a demand for custom wedding cakes and enough room in the marketplace for another baker.   You have a goal of making enough income in the first 3 years to make a profit…you have a dream of being recognized as a premier wedding cake baker by the top industry publication.  To reach the goal to have profit after 3 years can be measured by your financial spreadsheet…and that will be informed by the types of cakes you make; where, how and to whom you market them; referral business, and demand.  Make and sell enough quality wedding cakes and you will make a profit.  Once that profit has been made, the goal is realized and success is the result.

To be regarded as a successful wedding cake baker you set a milestone of being recognized by a major industry publication.  This comes about by decisions you make and the actions you take.  You decide not to skimp on the quality of ingredients; you decide to offer customization; you decide to offer personal delivery; you decide to offer a guarantee of satisfaction; you attend industry trade shows and competitions; you do complementary work for nonprofits…all of this will grow your business’ reputation.  Eventually you do get the notice from the top industry publication.  This is a milestone reached and your feeling of being successful is the result.

The word success gets thrown around to the point that we tend to think of it as the goal.  Rather our goal should be to take action on good decisions to reach worthy milestones and achieve dreams.  It’s the result of the attainment that is the success.

So – you want to be a successful home-based business owner.  Then decide on your dreams and goals for having such a business; then find the business that fits you; then make the necessary decisions and take the necessary actions to reach the goal and achieve the dreams and then you’ll find success.

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A thought about positive thinking

I’ve been giving some thought lately to the subject of positive thinking.  Having a home-based business is challenging – well, in this economic climate having any kind of business, job, no job…it’s all challenging and keeping oneself in a positive frame of mind regardless of the current circumstances can be daunting.

“They” say that you can both effect and affect the outcome of a thing by how you think about it.  That could very well be true.  Take for instance the case of the person who “sabotages their own success.”  We’ve all heard of this phenomenon – and it boils down to how that person thought: the person had the skills and talent to succeed at whatever it was, but they truly didn’t believe they would succeed and so their brain went to work to make sure they didn’t succeed.  Our brains are so cooperative, aren’t they?

If the negative frame-of-mind works…then why not the positive frame-of-mind?  If you are working at maintaining a life mode of positive thinking, then you could say you are dedicated to it.  In his book “…Little Gold Book of YES! Attitude….” Jeffrey Gitomer says, “….Positive attitude is defined as The way you dedicate yourself to the way you think….”

Dedicating oneself to being and having a positive frame of mind is a new concept.  It seems to be more than “Gee, I’d like to be a positive thinking person.”  To be dedicated to something is to persevere at it – to work at it continuously.  It’s an action, not just a philosophy.  It is literally something to do not just to think about.

Many people put positive thinking in the realm of abstraction, as if it is a philosophical discussion point.  But, what if it isn’t?  What if positive thinking was a real time activity that requires refinement and honing over time to perfect?

The key question becomes, how do I actually re-frame the manner in which I think?  Is the “how you think” a machine-like process?  Can it be re-tooled so that information coming in is actually processed in a new way?

Why would this be important for a small home business person?  I think it’s because of the “D” words:

  • discouraged
  • depressed
  • dogged tired
  • defeated
  • disappointed

Every person will have days:

  • when the phone does not ring
  • the response to their offer is “no”
  • the email or letter does not come
  • the sale didn’t go through
  • the distributor quit
  • when simple fatigue makes it hard to smile one more time

If a pattern, a habit if-you-will, of positive thinking were in place…a tooling of the mind that allows every situation to be filtered through a “glass half full” mindset, then the “D” words wouldn’t win.  Your mind will counter with a positive spin and seek solutions.  A negative mindset will simply agree with the “D” words and offer nothing constructive.

It could be that positive thinking can result in more than just waking up each morning with a smile.  The habit of choosing to put in place a positive filter can keep someone ready to recognize new opportunities [customers, distributors, clients] when they present themselves.  A clouded visage just wouldn’t see them.

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