Decision-making: Who knows your business best?

In an earlier post, I wrote about recognising the inner circle of your business community - An essential to business success: your inner circle.

Knowing who brings what to your business is important. Each person will have their own specific contribution they can and do make to your business. How do you sift through all the input you get from these people? What if it differs from what you believe in?

A key is to be clear about what the people in your trusted inner circle can bring to your business and what only YOU can bring to your business.

Your business is a unique expression of you!

In some situations, people in our inner circle know us better than we know ourselves. They reveal things about us that can help us grow as an individual, if we’re open to listening. In some situations though, the view might be based on a strategy or emphasis that just doesn’t fit how you want your business to be.

Trust that you know your business best.

I know of a small business where the owners struggle with how their accountant thinks their business should be. It’s true, they would have bigger profits if they didn’t pay for fitness training for their employees or if they didn’t pay for a group visit to the latest art exhibition or if they didn’t close on Tuesday afternoons to give time to staff training. But all of these ‘costs’ create the internal culture that the owners want for their business. They foster creativity, community and a sense of well-being – intangibles that are valuable to the business and the people whose lives are lived through it. These owners know what they want to create. They make decisions to support that vision and they trust that they know their business best.

So the point is this…

Listen to the inner circle that you have around you and if it’s pointing to a blind side, then listen and act and grow. If it’s diverting you from the way you want your business to live and breathe, then listen, but stay on track – trust that you know your business best.

An essential to business success: your inner circle

Being in business requires many different skills and a sea of knowledge. You have to be familiar with finances, intelligent about technology, informed about laws, responsive to regulation, savvy at social media, marvellous at management and enlightened about employees. If you’re in a small or micro-business, the need to be all things is amplified tenfold. So what do you do? 

Typically when you’re a micro-business owner and you want information, you’ll most likely Google the internet, buy a book, ask a friend, talk to your accountant, maybe go to a seminar; or hire an expert.

Now all of these are reasonable options and good ones to fill in the gaps; because that is what you’re trying to do – fill in the gaps. You know you only have so much knowledge yourself (none of us are expert in everything) and chances are most of your existing knowledge is in the thing that you sell. The service or product that is central to the business will usually be where your expertise is strongest.

And you’ll probably also have good knowledge of the industry or sector that you belong to. But when it comes to all the different things you need to know and be…you realistically cannot know and be it all.

Successful people always recognise they are successful because of the team they build around them. In a small business or micro-business, that team comprises you, your business partner, your life partner, your advisors, your employees, your colleagues and your friends. You might have all of these or only a few. It doesn’t matter.

The important idea is to acknowledge the people who are part of your everyday working and living.

The important idea is to acknowledge the people who are part of your every day working and living. Know who they are. They each contribute to what you do in unique ways. They are the inner circle of your business community.

So, who’s in your inner circle?

Take a moment to acknowledge the people who contribute to your business, understand what they bring to it and then let them know, thank them. Each person will have their own specific contribution they can and do make to your business and your life.

If you want to thank the people in your inner circle right now, contact them, share this post with them if you like and let them know you appreciate what they bring.

If you want to read more about working with your inner circle, check out next week’s post.

Living in a state of appreciation can be transformational. Check out this story…

Worried about social media? Some questions, some answers and some more questions…

Blogging, tweeting, posting to Linked-In, posting to Facebook – I’ve wondered if I’m creating a hungry beast that I have to keep feeding? Where’s the time for delivering my service, making my product? How do I manage it all?

These are all valid questions, particularly for a micro-business where you’re the owner, producer and printer-cartridge changer. And they’re concerns that I hear from people who are already in the swing of social media. Last week, though I found a few answers that set my mind at rest.

Some of those answers arrived via a free webinar about Facebook marketing delivered by Amy PorterfieldDarren Rowse at Problogger and Lewis Howes. It was an information-rich hour and it was rich information. Here are three takeaways that are key if you’re a micro-business owner who’s considering Facebook or if you need reminding about why you are on Facebook!

If like me, you’re a micro-business owner, then you’re audience is on Facebook

Facebook has 800 million active users and about one third (31%) are on the social media site multiple times each day. So, it’s a big pond to swim in. Facebook has at least 98% coverage across all generations. So, your potential customers are there.

Facebook marketing is ideal for the micro-business because it costs less

As a business owner, you’ll know what it’s like to pay (in time and money) for advertising, direct mail, telemarketing or trade shows. These traditional marketing channels are all outbound where we’re trying to ‘interrupt’ potential customers.

In contrast, inbound marketing channels like Twitter, Facebook and Linked-In, focus more on being ‘found’. Through social media sites, we create places where potential customers or referrers can arrive and connect and give us permission to market to them.

The point is, inbound marketing channels are more cost effective. Three out of four inbound marketing channels cost less than any outbound channel. (1)

For a micro-business, they are ideal.

A clear strategy will help you ward off the hungry beast

There are many different ways to grow and engage fans but having a clear strategy will help focus your time and efforts. Some of the points, Amy Porterfield talked about are:

  1. Understand who you want to attract to as your ideal audience
  2. What do you want your audience to experience – are you entertaining them, educating them or both?
  3. Automate links across social media and your website to drive traffic to Facebook
  4. Have a custom welcome tab that immediately encourages them to opt-in so they give you a ‘like’
  5. Allocate 15-20 minutes daily to post and respond and engage..

Knowing that your potential customers are likely to be on Facebook, recognising that social media can be cost-effective and having a clear strategy establish a good rationale for using social media.

So, if you’re guessing that you’ll see me on Facebook soon, you’re absolutely right!

But here’s another point and I’m interested in your thoughts on it:

Fans, followers, subscribers expect you to engage with them regularly

Fans, followers and subscribers are only potential customers if you engage with them regularly, consistently and promptly. This means creating a relationship,valuing it, nurturing it and seeing these fans, followers and subscribers move from simply ‘liking’ your business to absolutely loving it! Engagement is critical. And it can be enjoyable and fruitful. It can also be consuming.

I had a conversation last week with a micro-business owner who needed to take a break from her 2700 Facebook fans – no more engaging until January 16. It was essential. She needed to take time out for herself and her family. The office was taking over. She’d given too much to engaging and not enough to herself. Taking a break seems to be a good strategy. I’ve read an article about taking blogging breaks.

The greater challenge seems to be managing it all along the way – keeping content and contact and all the other parts of life singing rather than screaming.

Is it all about personal management? Developing good work practices regardless of the medium?

What strategies do you use for managing it all?

SOURCE: (1.) Hubspot State of Inbound Marketing Report, 2011

Getting to know your professional development

This post is the first in a series focusing on “How to make your professional development work for you”.

Have you ever been stuck in a seminar that you thought was a waste of time? Perhaps you’ve regretted enrolling in that extra university course? Or what about getting consumed by searching on the Internet amongst a seemingly endless sea of information? Continuing to learn is essential to the work we do, whether we are employees or business owners. We all have to do it but how well do we manage it?

Continuing professional development (CPD) is part of our working landscape. While it has its roots in traditional professions like medicine, law and accounting, the emphasis on professional development has spread to many careers as well as business owners. CPD is how we keep our skills and knowledge current, useful and therefore valuable! The importance of CPD has firmly placed all of us on the learning travelator. It has also meant a vast expansion in the education and information economy. So, how do we know what to do?

Here are some of the main sources of professional development:

  1. Formal study: enrolling in an accredited educational institution to complete a recognised program of study   
  2. In-house seminars: offered by your employer
  3. Public seminars: offered by an organisation or individual
  4. Profession- or industry-based learning: seminars, courses and information from your professional or industry association, chamber of commerce or government departments
  5. Informal self-directed learning: reading books, browsing blogs (good ones!), journaling reflections, travelling with purpose
  6. Peers/colleagues/mentors: informal or formal  
    relationships with people who are willing to share their knowledge in a way that encourages you to learn (sub-text: avoid people who have a lot of knowledge but make you feel terrible because you don’t know!)

Knowing where you can look for professional development is one step towards managing your professional development. The next is to dive in and find out what you’re already doing across each of these areas. You might be doing more than you realise, or you might be ready for a new leap of learning.

Learning is a part of your working life. And you’ll want to keep developing your professional skills and knowledge whether it’s for career development or business development or personal enhancement. Here’s three easy steps:

  1. Look at what you’ve already done for professional development
  2. Look at what professional development you’re doing now
  3. Then see what’s missing or what’s being given too much time.

Getting to know your professional development is the first step towards making your it work for you. What sources do you use for your professional development?

The next post in this series will give you tips for managing your professional development. Read on…