March 24, 2011

Build On Your LinkedIn Relationships

Set up your LinkedIn preferences so that you are receiving an update email at least once a week. Use the email as a reminder and, when you receive it, scroll to the bottom and click on 'view all network updates'. Take a few minutes to scan the latest updates from your contacts. Send notes to congratulate others on their successes. Comment on and share links to items of interest. Check out who is newly connected with who and identify someone that you'd like to be introduced to.

If You Hate Networking...

pouring coffee

Take the lead and hold your own networking event. Sound counterintuitive? Perhaps, but you will be in control – which leads to confidence.

Starting your own event will greatly expand your reputation, relationships and marketing reach. It could be a one-time event, such as a free workshop or afternoon tea party. Or it could be an ongoing thing – following a networking group or mastermind model.

Leverage your connections and share the wealth. Find a partner with the same goals that you have and collaborate. You will be able to leverage all of your combined contacts and have someone to help with the planning, execution and hosting. Find someone whose skills complement your own.

Here are a few things to consider:

Weekly, monthly or quarterly
Day or evening - breakfast, lunch or happy hour
Day of the week – avoid Mondays and Fridays

Cover charge
Membership fee
For profit or not-for-profit

Hotel, restaurant, bar, club, coffee shop
Central location
Parking availability

Exclusivity – open to everyone or invitation only
Industries – specialized or diverse

Social media
Registration - if you are charging for the event, you will need to offer a way to register and pay

Clearly identify your target market and many of these details will fall into place. Take the time to think about who the participants will be and what they will also get from the event. Write out the benefit statements. You should plan this as a project, the same way you would any marketing strategy.

Originally published in Work Better, Not Harder on March 24, 2011

March 8, 2011

Pay your Bills Automatically

Getting statements and paying bills online is convenient, but it's even more convenient to have them paid automatically.

Consider having all your business expenses automatically charged to one credit card (that gives you airline mileage or other perks). Then have that credit card statement automatically paid from your chequing account. The entire process can be hands-off! If you want more control, you can keep that last piece as a manual operation based on your cash flow.

Beat the Business Blahs

This is a blah time of year. The lack of sunshine is making me listless. I’m anxious for spring… and my garden. My enthusiasm is waning a bit. Are you feeling it too?

Running a small business is hard. We can’t afford to show it when we feel discouraged. How do we get reenergized and refocused? Here are some things that work for me:

Appreciate what you’ve got.
Do a reality check. Focus on what you appreciate about owning your own business. Maybe it’s having the freedom to work from your home office with a cat on your lap. (His name is Romeo.) Or maybe it’s not working your butt off to satisfy a cranky boss. Whatever your motivation, make a list of those things and pin it up by your desk.

Get moral support.
Whether it’s networking or just having coffee or lunch with other business owners, being around others with a similar mindset is motivating and inspiring. Entrepreneurs are optimistic and action-oriented, so if you’re feeling blah, grab another business owner for a pep talk.

Give moral support.
Of course, it’s equally important to give support as well. Make time for friends and colleagues who ask you for advice or just need an ear. By helping others, you help yourself.

Shake things up.
It’s easy to feel uninspired when you’re in a business rut. Shake things up by learning new skills, pushing your business into a new area, or challenging yourself to try something that scares you. How about public speaking or cold calling? Pick the benefits you want and put some thought into your choices.