4 “Un” Words to Remove from your Small Business Vocabulary

Words wield power. While we pay a lot of attention to them in our marketing efforts, it’s easy to forget the words weUnnecessary - Un words to remove from small biz vocabulary (and sometimes others) use in our thoughts and when we talk about our businesses have an impact, too. Some words lead us to self-defeat. Some lead us to grandiose expectations of our capabilities. Either situation can indirectly and subconsciously cause us to sabotage our own businesses.

 

Four “Un” Words to Undo in Your Small Business

Unable
Get over it – you can do this! Especially when you’re in the early stages of starting your business, you’ll encounter people who are a constant source of dark clouds. They’ll make you doubt yourself and your abilities. Ignore the naysayers who provide no constructive criticism or suggestions. Assuming you’ve done your due diligence before starting your business, focus on the strengths you have and the opportunities available to you. Forge forward and prove you are able through your progressive success.

Unaware
While you can’t believe everything you read online, the internet hosts credible resources on every aspect of business under the sun and moon. Seriously, there’s no reason not to have a working knowledge (or find out who does) of marketing, tax responsibilities, business bookkeeping, social media, sales, productivity tools, etc. Read reputable business blogs to boost your awareness on topics, and reach out for expert assistance if you don’t have the skills or know-how to take care of certain aspects of your business on your own. With so many local experts online, you don’t need to consult someone six states away if you’d rather have a sit-down face-to-face meeting with a professional your friends and neighbors know.

Unafraid
It’s OK to sometimes feel a degree of fearfulness in business. Not paralyzing fear, but a healthy sense of concern can help keep you on your toes. Note that motivation can’t come from fear alone, but it can serve to complement your efforts to build a successful business. It can drive you to put necessary checks and balances in place to ensure your business is doing things the right way. And it can  push you to be ever vigilant about making improvements to serve customers better. Fear can make you feel grateful, not cocky, when things are going your way.

Unbeatable
Speaking of cocky…never ever get too comfortable in your position over your competition. Inflated self-confidence is the key ingredient in complacency. Complacency breeds laziness and lack of caring. Your business needs you to care no matter how much success seems to be on auto pilot. Regardless of how well things are going, you need to constantly look for ways to improve and take the initiative to do business better. Why? Because your customers deserve it…and your competition is!

What other “un” words do you think solopreneurs and small biz owners should unfasten from their business vocabulary?

 

By Dawn Mentzer

5 Action Words Every Solopreneur Needs to Act On

The only way to find success (however you define it) as a solopreneur is to take action. Being passive and hoping that potential clients happen to stumble upon you by chance won’t take you very far – if anywhere at all! Action is all about doing and here are a few action words (a.k.a. verbs) that solopreneurs and small business owners can practice every day to make sure they’re not keeping their businesses in an idle state.

Create
Let the eye rolls begin as I mention what you see and hear about 100 times each day. Content! Whether you’re in an inherently creative field or not, creating content in some way, shape or form to demonstrate your expertise in your industry is essential to expanding your reach. Producing – or not producing – your own content will differentiate you from your competitors. Your choice: create or become invisible.

Help
Every day, aim to do something to help someone else. Going the extra mile to assist a client, prospect or colleague doesn’t have to take up much of your time and it doesn’t mean you have to give your work away for free. Email an article that you know someone will find interesting or helpful, connect two professionals who seem to have synergy, refer someone looking for a service to someone you know who will deliver it well. It’s easy to help…and your good deeds will give you a reputation for being that professional who truly cares about others. That’s the type of professional I choose over others when presented with similar services – and I think most other people have that in common with me.

Interact
In this digital social world, it’s not enough to push your message; interacting is equally important. ALWAYS reply to comments on your blog posts and social media updates…even if just to say “thank you.” Also, when appropriate for your audience, reciprocate by commenting on and/or sharing others’ online content. And never let emails – particularly those from clients or prospects – go unanswered for more than 24 hours unless you’re on vacation. Social media has made it so very easy and convenient for solopreneurs to build good will, but it’s up to you to take action and harness that potential.


Reflect
In my opinion, this action is way underrated! While “reflect” seems passive, it’s anything but. As you work on building your business, take time regularly to review what is working and what is not.

  • Which social networks are providing the best exposure?
  • Which networking events and affiliations are leading you to the most prospects?
  • Which types of projects are delivering the best return?
  • What do you enjoy most and least about your work?
  • What process improvements can you make to serve clients better and use your time more effectively?

Adjust
Perhaps the most important verb all solopreneurs should put into practice is “adjust”! Clients’ needs and wants change, tools and resources change, the business climate changes…we change. To keep up and stay relevant in the dynamic world that is small business, you need to fine-tune your ability – and willingness – to evolve.

What other verbs do you think solopreneurs need to act on to be masters of their own destinies?

It’s OK! 12 Things Solopreneurs Should NEVER Feel Sorry About

Being your own boss has its upsides, but many solopreneurs who I know admit to being the toughest employer they’ve Approved signever had. Really, that’s not all that hard to understand. When you’re running your own business and you solely are responsible for setting strategies and executing those plans, you’ve got to crack the whip on yourself. And while there’s nothing wrong with being fully vested in your success, you shouldn’t drive yourself to the brink of mental or physical breakdown. There comes a tipping point – and it’s one you don’t ever want to reach.

So, how do you avoid crossing the line that runs between “motivated & dedicated” and “burned out & checked out?” I don’t have all the answers, but I do have some words of advice that I think will help… “Tell yourself it’s OK!” What I mean by that, is don’t be afraid to make decisions or take actions (or lack of action!) to help you regain focus, de-stress, and rejuvenate your mind and body.

As a solopreneur, it’s OK to…

  • Fit a workout into your day.
  • Make yourself a healthy meal.
  • Take a nap if you worked late the night before or got up extra early.
  • Buy something to make running your business easier.
  • Ignore your email and phone after hours.
  • Take a vacation.
  • Take a long weekend.
  • Not be available at a moment’s notice for meetings and phone calls.
  • Ask clients if meeting by phone rather than in person would work so you don’t lose valuable project time because of a commute.
  • Say “no” to work that you don’t want to do.
  • Decline or resign from a volunteer opportunity if you’re time-strapped and the answer to the question “What’s in it for me?” is “Not enough to justify the time and energy.”
  • Say, “I don’t know,” when you don’t know.

Keep in mind that it takes some self-training and discipline to fully accept that it really is OK. Fortunately, like with any other professional skill, practice makes perfect. The more you exercise your right to treat yourself like the star employee that you are, the easier it will be to make your solo business a workplace you’ll never want to leave.

Your turn! What else should solopreneurs give themselves permission to do without apology?

Click here to register for the FREE Referral Source Secrets from Solopreneur Superstars telesummit! The place to be for tips and tools to build your solo business!!

Image courtesy of Digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Frugal Solopreneur: How to Keep Living Costs Down While You’re Building Your Business

Having gone from a cushy corporate salary to what can be a “feast or famine” revenue stream as a solopreneur, there’s

Grocery savings reaped by a frugal solopreneur

Frugal solopreneurs can save BIG on organics and brand names by shopping smart.

one thing that I learned quickly as a new business owner: Every penny counts.

Luckily, savvy saving habits have become in vogue given the general state of our economy. Where at one time it was in to flaunt extravagance, now people respect others for their ability to find ways to get what they need on the cheap. With no shame in wanting to save, why would you not want to flex your frugal muscles?

Here are a few livable ways to trim living costs as you build your business…

  • Brew your own coffee – It amazes me how many solopreneurs, even those who work from home, drive to the nearest Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts for coffee on a daily basis. Is the $4 latte really worth it? Provided you have a coffee maker and know how to steam milk, you can do it yourself and save a bundle. Plus, you’ll save yourself on the fuel expense, too. You’ve seen the prices on the pump lately.

 

  • Cluster – and kill two birds – when scheduling appointments –When you’re scheduling business appointments for any given week, try to arrange them so that you’re meeting on the same day and in the same general area. That will not only keep gas expenses in check, but it will also cut the time you spend in transit. Bonus!

 

  • Shop discount grocery first, conventional grocery stores second – I’ll be honest, not too many years ago I would have NEVER stepped into a discount grocery store. But I’m on board now. We’ve got two in our area that offer tremendous variety and quality – especially on a lot of organic and gluten free products that typically cost an arm and a leg at health food stores. My M.O. is to shop at these stores first to buy whatever we can find there that’s on our list…and then my husband goes to the regular grocery store later (with coupons in hand) to pick up whatever else we need. The only downside to the discount stores is that they have a revolving door inventory, so a favorite item might be there today, but gone tomorrow. And be sure to check expiration dates!

 

  • Wear it again, Sam  – Recycling is fashionable – and stores like Goodwill and thrift shops are all the rage. Way before I started freelancing, I was a thrift store junkie. Seriously, it’s a rush to find really cool brand name clothes for “pinch me I must be dreaming” prices. Yes, it can take some time and effort to dig through the racks to find your size and specific pieces that you like, but it’s very worth it in my opinion. Treat it like a treasure hunt – there are gems to be found.

Whether you’re a brand new solopreneur or have been in business for a longer while, smart spending and saving never go out of style. In a way, it’s become a bit of a game…maybe even a sport…for my family. Bragging rights to whoever makes it to the end line with the best deal this week!

Has being in business for yourself made you more frugal? How have you cut your living costs to get more for your dollars?

Fortune Cookie Friday: “You Will Be Fortunate In Every Thing.”

Fortune Cookie Friday has returned! And with it, more profound business advice from within those folded confections we all love to crack open after a nice pint of chicken lo mein.

 

“You Will Be Fortunate In Every Thing.”

My last Fortune Cookie Friday post focused on how to facilitate and attract “good news”. But sometimes, despite your best efforts and intentions, you’ll find yourself faced with less than positive responses and results.

Success is never “a given”, and you’re bound to encounter a few occasional steps backward before your business continues to move forward. Setbacks can be a thorn in the solopreneur’s side. They can distract you from providing the quality your clients deserve. They can deflate your self-confidence and stamina.

They can do those detrimental things and more, but they don’t have to. Not if you don’t let them.

Your attitude toward adversity in business can do more than make you difficult or easy to deal with day in and day out. It can also affect your future success. If you view even negative experiences as learning opportunities, you truly will be fortunate in every thing. That type of open mindedness allows you to objectively take stock of situations that seem hopeless so you can:

  • Dissect them to figure out what went wrong.
  • Identify why they went wrong.
  • Determine if you can do something to avoid the issue again in the future.
  • Make your business stronger by taking action and making changes.

Turning lemons into lemonade is a skill set that all entrepreneurs should practice daily. Although none of us want to roll out the red carpet for bitter experiences, challenges do have a sweet side – after you acquire a taste for them!

How do  you deal with setbacks in your business? How have your failures or challenges helped you move upward and onward?

2 Things You Need To Deliver In Every Customer Experience (the Good, the Bad and the Ugly!)

Communication and caring: If they’re MIA in customer interactions – especially the ones gone bad – kiss your credibility and your customer goodbye.  Lesson learned from my vacation experience with an airline that did it all wrong and an airline employee who did it all right.

Groggy, but excited to start our vacation, my family awakened at 3:30 a.m. last Saturday. We wanted to allow plenty of time to travel to the Baltimore/Washington airport, park the car, check our luggage, go through security and board our 8 a.m. flight to Texas.

Despite our punctuality, below is the situation we found upon arrival to the United Airlines check-in area.

A rocky customer experience

Worried? Sure we were. But we figured if things were going to get a little tight, eventually a United representative would call out our flight and expedite our visit to the desk so we could get on our way. So we waited.

And waited…

And waited.

The line hardly budged after an hour, and not a single United rep ventured anywhere close to our neck of the woods to pull people to the front for any soon-departing flights. Nor did anyone offer any explanation whatsoever about the problem in progress.

Getting desperate, we decided to try our luck at the curbside check –in. The line there was also long, but it had to be moving faster than the stagnant one we were standing in. It was. And even more promising was when the attendant asked for everyone in line with an 8 a.m. flight to go inside the airport. FINALLY, they were going to put us through baggage check and send us onward!

So inside we went…only to find what we did before. A long line with no official airport peeps providing any direction. We went back out to the curbside check-in attendant to politely ask what we were supposed to do.

His response, “Go to the back of the line.”

Our observation, “But we were already there, and our flight is leaving in 20 minutes.”

His response, “Not my problem.” (Truth. He really did say that!)

So there we were again…in the same line where we had originally been. Sadly, it still had not moved. In fact, it had grown longer since our first go at it.

As before, no United reps or other airport staff walked to our end of the earth to provide assistance or insight into to what was happening – or not happening as it were.

No communication (not even by email on my smart phone). No information. No alternatives.

Clearly we were going to miss our flight and had no choice but to wait with the other hundreds of people who needed to have their departure plans amended.

Eventually, after about two hours, an announcement aired over the P.A. system indicating that United had delays due to “airport conditions.” Oddly, the same BWI “airport conditions” didn’t seem to be affecting the flight schedules of the Delta passengers who we enviously allowed to cross through to get to their check-in desk. The relief on their faces was insuppressible as they realized they didn’t have to stand in our line!

After another hour, we decided to take our chances and join a few other United passengers in a separate line that we self-proclaimed as the “we missed our flight because of your ‘airport conditions’ so you need to make us a priority” section. Finally, around 10:30 a.m., we were at the desk.

Exhausted and frustrated with no high expectations for anything resembling satisfactory service, we met customer service rep Myra. Myra greeted us with a smile, compassion and a willingness to do whatever she could to get our vacation started as smoothly as possible considering the present circumstances. For two arduous hours, she scoured through the reservation system and talked us through the process as she searched to find suitable flights at BWI and nearby airports that would accommodate our party of 5. Although she surely was feeling stressed and at the end of her rope, Myra never took it out on us. No aggravated tone, no apathy. Just stellar customer service in a situation that seemed completely unsalvageable.

Despite Myra’s best attempts, we had to begin our vacation a day late and from an airport that was an additional hour away from home. Sensitive to the inconvenience we were experiencing, she secured reservations at a Washington DC hotel that was within 5 minutes of Reagan International airport and changed our return flights so that we arrived ½ hour earlier there than we would have at BWI.

Did that make it all better? No. But because of her positive attitude and hard work to make things as right as possible, Myra succeeded in diffusing much of our distress and disappointment.

Will we fly United again? Not sure that we will. But then again, I’m not sure that we won’t. And United has Myra and Myra alone to thank for us not completely wiping them from our list of carrier options. What a difference communication and caring can make – even in the most challenging situations.

Your turn! What customer experience have you had that got turned around (good or bad) by a solitary someone or something?

To “MT” or “RT” on Twitter? That is the Question.

When I first took notice of “MT”s (Modified Tweets) in my Twitter feed, I commented on someone’s blog post on the topic that I really didn’t see the point in it. Why complicate things? “RT” (Retweet) covers it.

I take that back.

Though I originally objected to yet another Tweetism that would make Twitter an even more mysterious and scary platform for those who so want to dip their toes in the water but can’t muster the courage, I now find myself using MT in most of my retweets.

Why MT vs. RT?

MT indicates openly that you’ve in some way changed the content of the tweet you’re retweeting.

When should you use it?  MT when…

  • you eliminate words from a tweet to make it shorter to fit the confines of Twitter’s 140-character limit. To facilitate retweeting, you might consider cutting a tweet so it provides room for “RT @” plus your Twitter handle.
  • you change or eliminate a portion of a tweet that might not be appropriate for your audience. Maybe it’s too niche focused or perhaps it has strong language. Either way, MT!
MT Example:

MT (Modified Tweet)

Rules of thumb:
  • MT when you’ve done more than just add or remove punctuation or spaces in a retweet.
  • Don’t MT or RT if you’ve changed a tweet’s content and/or intent beyond recognition. In that case, create your own intro, share the link and mention (@) the Twitter user who brought it to your stream.

Although I don’t view tweets as works of art that should be protected as creative property, I do believe it is common courtesy to acknowledge that a retweet no longer reflects verbatim the words of its source. I predict lots more MTs in your Twitter Home Feed’s future!

Using MTs yet? What unspoken rules do you have for MTing and RTing?

Making Your Personal Likeability Your Biggest Business Asset

When you’re in business for yourself, especially as a professional services provider, it’s evident that people do business with other people – not with a product, not with a service. They do business with YOU.

Of course, you need to provide something that they need and deliver quality at a fair price, but they’re only part of the buying equation. Bigger is the relationship component. All other things relatively equal, people will do business with you instead of your competitors because they like you.

Don’t underestimate the likeability factor. Don’t dismiss it as icing on the cake. As a solopreneur, it can be one of your biggest assets.

What being likeable means

Maybe it’s best to start with what likeability doesn’t mean. Being likeable doesn’t mean that you agree with everyone all the time. It doesn’t mean that you give your service or product away for next to nothing. It doesn’t mean that EVERYONE will think you’re the best thing since sliced bread. And it doesn’t require that you’re innately an extrovert.

It does mean that you exhibit personality traits that draw most people to you. It’s about being genuine – and genuinely caring about other people.

Ways to boost your reading on the Likeability Meter

  • Be yourself – You can’t please all of the people all of the time, so don’t try. Be real. People can spot a fake a mile away. But…
  • Be nice! – When you’re having a bad day, making it a bad one for everyone around you won’t make it better. Just be honest if you’re not at the top of your emotional game. No need to share the intimate details, but let others know that you’re struggling and are operating at less than optimum. They’ll understand and respect your candor.
  • Lend a hand – Literally or figuratively, helping a client or prospective client with something that they hadn’t expected you to will generate a ton of good will. It could be pointing them to a resource to solve a problem or question, offering advice (when asked) on a business process, or offering to help them move into their new office.
  • Show your support on social media – Go beyond just “liking” someone’s Facebook Page and following them on Twitter, interact with them. Don’t go overboard and “like” every post or retweet every tweet, but regularly check out what they’re sharing and make it known – via comments and sharing with your audience – when you find something interesting or helpful. What business owner doesn’t love it when someone acknowledges that her/his social media efforts are noticed and appreciated?

Being likeable can do wonders for attracting new clients, maintaining those you already have, and gaining referrals from others in the business community. Make it work for your business!

What other ways can you demonstrate your personal likeability through – and for the success of – your business? 

 

Building a Runaway Truck Ramp for Your Business

Runaway truck ramps are one of those “hope I’ll never need to use one” necessities that minimize the risk of a catastrophe. Big rig drivers hope to never lose braking control on steep, continuous inclines, but it could happen. It’s a definite risk; and runaway truck ramps are the result of planning for it.

As a solopreneur, you probably won’t ever find yourself steering a 18-wheeler up a steep escape route to safety, but there will likely be times when your business meets risk head on and will need to be redirected. How can you prepare for that?

Be Aware

Before you can think about how you’ll get yourself out of a fix, you need to give some thought to the risks that you face in your business. New competition, losing an anchor client, a bad online review, vendors rate increases…all could have an impact on your business – and how you do business. Think about them – and write them down.

Build Your Runaway Truck Ramp

Next, think about both what you can do to prepare yourself to minimize the impact of the risks you’ve identified,  AND determine what you’ll do after a risk becomes reality.

For example:

Risk: You lose an anchor client/lose recurring revenue.

Preparation: Consistently network face-to-face, build a strong LinkedIn network that includes professionals in your industry/target market. Make sure people know who you are and what you offer.

Action: Prospect to fill the void that the anchor client left. Reach out to contacts on LinkedIn and in the community to let them know you’re taking on new clients. Proactively ask for referrals.

Use this format to document a plan of action for each possible risk factor.

It doesn’t take a heap of time or energy. And because it takes what might have been “unforeseen circumstances” and makes them “foreseen”, you won’t have to hit the panic button when things don’t quite go according to plan in your business.

Your turn! How do you plan for and mitigate risk in your business? What risk factors pose the biggest threats to you?

Painless Ways for Finding Content to Share on Social Media

In talking with other solopreneurs and small business owners in my community about social media, I’ve found that their biggest challenges are:

A. Finding the time

B. Finding content that interests their audience

It’s rather nice that by addressing B, you can also alleviate some of the stress of A!

Having a pool of relevant content sources available to post and tweet from each day cuts down on the foraging work you need to do – and that saves precious time.

Some ideas for having a constant supply of content at your fingertips:

Keep Your RSS Reader Well Stocked

Subscribe via RSS to quality blogs that post quality articles – and that do it consistently. Follow at least 10 that are focused on your industry and provide info on the types of topics your audience can really sink their teeth into.

Get on Twitter

If you’ve already got an account, great! If you don’t (even if you have no intention of actively tweeting), sign up and start following Twitter users who primarily tweet about the topics you and your target market care about (To find them, search by topic or hashtag). Twitter provides a virtually endless stream of links to content. Sort through your Home Feed to find what strikes a chord and share on other social media networks.

Be Smart – Be Briefed

As a rule, I try to keep my in-box clear of e-newsletters, but SmartBriefs are an exception. Sign up for a SmartBrief specific to your industry or niche (they cover nearly every business discipline) and get a daily digest of featured blog articles, news and videos specific to your interests – delivered directly to you via a single email. Peruse the latest and greatest, pick and choose, and share the best links with your social media fans and followers.

Consistently sharing content that matters to your connections starts with having a well-planned and sufficiently substantial inventory of sources at your fingertips. You’ll need to devote some up-front time and energy to the cause, but it will pay off in the long run as save you significant amounts of both!

Your turn! Where do you find quality, relevant content to share with your fans, followers and connections on social media? Please share your tips and tricks!