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Category Archives: Business & Success

Why Successful Business Owners Need a Background in Marketing (Contribution from Jock Purtle)

The following post comes to us from internet entrepreneur, Jock Purtle, who is founder of Digital Exits, a company specializing in the buying/selling and appraisal of online businesses. This article is based upon his entrepreneurial experience.


 

Why Successful Business Owners need a Background in Marketing

Why Successful Business Owners Need a Background in Marketing

Being successful in the business world means so much more than simply having a great idea. Though you will not get far if you don’t have a unique or innovative idea, there are many other factors that contribute to the success of a business.

Knowing how to market your business is extremely important and can seriously affect how others view your business and the products or services that you provide. Having basic experience or knowledge in the field of marketing before you start your business is a huge asset. This doesn’t need to be a formal degree. It can be a general understanding of marketing fundamentals and an appreciation for the important role they play in growing a successful business.

Business owners who have a background in marketing and who can think like a marketing professional, when needed will have a significant competitive advantage for the following reasons.

Goal Driven – A strong marketing sense will tell you that one of the first things you need to do when starting a business is to have a clear path for where you want to go and have goals that will get you there. If you do this, you will be able to have better control over your business and where you want it to go, rather than going in blind, and not having a plan. Your goals should encompass everything from business development and marketing to human resources and infrastructure.

Vision for the Future – With a marketing mindset, you will be able to create a business that has a vision for the future. There are various ways to ensure the success of your business, but at minimum you must have a long-term marketing strategy in place that will dictate the products and services you provide to your customers, how they’re priced and how they’re promoted.

Knowing the Target Market – Every successful business owner knows how to identify their target market so that they can sell their goods and services to the right people. Identifying your target market will help you when it comes to promoting your business because you will have a highly focused marketing and advertising strategy that will effectively and efficient use your resources.

Depending on what you are selling and who you’re trying to reach, you will market your business in very different ways. For example, if you are running a clothing store that caters to a young, female audience, your social media presence will be highly important. Compare this to a retirement community who needs to reach an older demographic that’s not likely active on social media, and your marketing strategy drastically changes.

Understanding the Competition – Having a clear idea of who your competitors are and how they market their businesses can help you figure out the best way to market your own business. If the strategies that they are using are successful, then you may want to emulate some of their ideas.

However, it’s also important to separate yourself from our competition, making sure you stand out and that your business is memorable. For example, retail giants Kmart and Target are very similar and even sell some of the same products, but the way that they market themselves separates them from each other, and in turn, they attract different clientele. If you can execute a marketing strategy that is different from your competitors’, then you may be able to tap into a part of the market that they don’t normally reach and in turn, increase your overall sales.

Brand Power– Knowing your brand is extremely important when it comes to marketing your business. It has a profound impact on how you connect with your target audience and how they perceive the value and quality of your business.

For example, the WholeFoods brand attracts a very different clientele than people who choose to purchase their groceries at Wal-Mart. Both brands are successful and have become household names, however the fact is they have strategically chosen to establish different brands and as a result appeal to different target markets. Think carefully about how you want people to feel about your business and the goods or services you provide. You must carefully craft a consistent brand to reflect this.

How would you rate you marketing knowledge ad know-how? If you could benefit from stronger marketing skills, consider Upskilled – a company that helps you to study at any level in any field to get the qualifications and skills you need to further yourself in your career. You’re given support from people who have industry experience and knowledge, and you can study from the comfort of your own home.

Upskilled has everything on offer from short courses to Bachelor’s degrees that are suitable for all skill-sets. Upskilled offers a Bachelor of Business (Marketing), that is a valuable enhancement for someone who is looking to learn about business and marketing and how they go hand in hand in today’s economy. Upskilled also offers plenty of other short courses with a business or marketing focus, so no matter where you are in your career, you can expand your knowledge.

Join in the conversation! Do you agree that having a background in marketing in beneficial for business owners? What other qualities create successful business owners? Leave a comment below!

About the author: Founder of Digital Exits, Jock Purtle is an internet entrepreneur who specializes in the buying/selling and appraisal of online businesses. He began investing in websites as a hobby when he was a teenager, but it slowly turned into his full-time job. He works with other entrepreneurs frequently and enjoys sharing his knowledge to help others find similar success working for themselves.

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Moment versus Momentum: Learning to Harness Fleeting Inspiration

The first Monday of each month, I dust off a favorite post from the Bennis Inc Blog archives and give you another chance to enjoy the wit and wisdom that’s been shared. Enjoy this month’s treasure – and if it inspires you – be sure to share it with family and friends!


this is the signWhile pursuing a career in the uncharted territory of entrepreneurship, I frequently encounter other entrepreneurs along my journey. Some are decades ahead of where I am (and hope to be) and others are merely minutes into their decision to take the leap.

Among this group of individuals, the veteran entrepreneurs always seem to have at least one quality in common regardless of industry or age—they have momentum. For the greener entrepreneurs, I struggle to assess whether they possess this same momentum or whether their inspiration is merely a fleeting moment. The difference in the meaning of these two words – and the effect they have on the success or failure of a dream – is far more profound than two little letters. Rather this “um” holds the inspiration, the drive and the courage to turn a single moment into a momentous career.

Is your dream a mere moment or does it carry momentum?

Among your friends and acquaintances, think about those who you would consider a dreamer or an entrepreneurial spirit. Chances are you have a variety. These people are likely different, each with their own qualities that earn them a spot in this category. Now think about those in this group who have taken a goal or idea and are in the active process of taking it to the next level. Chances are this no longer applies to everyone you originally thought of. Maybe those that don’t fit this description more accurately fit the description of coming up with brilliant and creative ideas one day, but then you never hear or see anything more about it.

This is the truest differentiation I can illustrate for you between moment and momentum. I, too, have contacts that I would consider entrepreneurs at heart, but this doesn’t mean every one of them has become a real life entrepreneur. Instead, there are those who think of innovative ideas all the time, but I’ve learned to not get too excited for they’re just having “a moment.” By the next month or even the next day, the big plan for a life change has already been forgotten as quickly as it was conceived.

How do we harness this moment of inspiration and turn it into momentum?

At the root of this problem are the differing qualities of each individual. Not everyone is meant to be an entrepreneur, just like not everyone is meant to be a doctor or a rocket scientist. We all have different strengths and for some, this is taking an idea from conception to completion. For others – this is a weakness. But just like how you were told when you were little that, “you can be anything you want when you grow up,” you CAN become an entrepreneur and find your inner momentum regardless of prior failed attempts. You have at least two options to better harness your moments of inspiration and turn them into something more substantial.

First, you can commit to making a personal effort to stop the bad habits that have led to loss of momentum in the past. This includes procrastination, lack of confidence, fear of hard work or fear of failure. Just as you would commit to quit smoking or lose weight, changing any existing habit takes energy and effort. Pick a single, well-defined goal and create a timeline of specific actions. When I knew I wanted to begin my own business, I defined all the steps I had to take to reach the point of leaving my former job. I knew I needed a functional web site, enough clients to pay the bills and to register myself as an official business with the government. And so I added these to my timeline and was specific in the actions I had to take to achieve them. Every day I would assign myself one immediate thing I could do to further this timeline, whether it was sending an email to a prospective client or creating a blog. These immediate action items prevented me from falling victim to procrastination or overwhelm because they kept me on track and made me feel accomplished each and every day. Over the course of a week and then a month, these actions ultimately came together to achieve my bigger goal. I still use this tactic when I’m in a phase of business growth.

If you’ve tried or are trying to change your habits to become a person of momentum, but it just isn’t picking up as quickly as you’d like – it might be time to consider the second option. You can team up with another person or group of people who will provide complimentary skills to help turn an idea into reality. Not every business is a sole proprietorship and that’s because sometimes working together is the only way to achieve a goal of a certain scope or size.  If you have an idea for a product, but have no knowledge or direction on where to start with manufacturing it; find a partner who can provide expertise and connections in this area. A partner or team will also keep you accountable to your ideas and actions. It’s not so easy to let a dream fade if the dream is shared by many different people.

In talking with even the most successful entrepreneur, I would be shocked to hear that they never once had a failed idea or fleeting inspiration prior to their current business. To find our true calling, we must allow our mind to wander as creatively as it chooses without feeling pressured to turn every idea into reality. But when you do dream up an idea that you can envision changing your world, or the world of many others, you must find a way to harness this inspiration and keep it moving. Sometimes all it takes to turn a moment into momentum is the willingness to change yourself or team up with others…and of course a little “um!”

 

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Bennis Public Relations Turns 7 Years Old – The Best Gifts Its Given to Me

Bennis Public Relations Turns 7 Years Old – The Best Gifts Its Given to Me

Last month was the seventh anniversary of a pivotal moment in my career. However, July 15 came and went without celebration or even reflection – but for good reason. July 15, 2011 is the day I officially became the fulltime owner of my firm, Bennis Public Relations. This was the day I took a major leap, without so much as looking back, and have since forged ahead with a drive and dedication unlike anything I had applied to my life leading up to this moment.

Now seven years as my own boss, I realized there are still a lot of people in my life, new acquaintances as well as close connections, that don’t know much about what I do or how I’ve grown to this point. For so long I’ve fully embraced the mindset I learned in college which was “There’s no ego in Public Relations. If you want a byline study journalism.” And while I still believe that to be true, I do think it’s important to stop and reflect on some of the joys this journey has brought me.

Ironically, over the last seven “birthdays” my business has had, it’s been me who has really received the gifts. In sharing what they are, I hope I can inspire a few others to take the path less traveled and to also understand what it means to be a true business owner.

Gift 1: I answer to me.

My schedule is my own. It’s on me to manage my time to get everything done on my task list in a given day. I’m responsible for organizing the matrix that is my Google calendar and making sure nothing slips through the cracks – or it’s on me.

While I thoroughly enjoy having no set work hours, no restrictions on where I have to be at any particular time, and not having to report to a set office with higher-ups to answer to, this also comes with certain tradeoffs. I have to balance project delivery for all current clients with finding time for new business development to keep things growing. I have to determine how I want to price and package my services so that they are competitive but also profitable. It requires a beautiful dance to make it all work – and I’m fortunate that after seven years, it’s a dance I’ve learned to do well.

Best of all, and what really defines being a true entrepreneur and business owner, is having complete control over the services I offer, how they’re priced and packaged and the direction I want to take my business. There is no corporate office that determines this for me – no one pushing out new services or products and telling me what to sell, no one changing prices without me having a say, and no one messing with my profit margins – except me.

Gift 2: I can pivot and grow how and when I desire.

Throughout the last seven years, I’ve extensively grown the scope of services I can offer clients. I’m not limited to one niche, or even one industry really! I can help businesses with anything that falls under the broad umbrella of “external communications,” which is fancy speak for “How we communicate with our audiences.”

Additionally, I’ve identified the services that best answer specific problems within a business and can make educated recommendations to clients based upon what they need, and help them eliminate what they do not. I’m not limited to selling a specific set of services to a niche demographic. If I want to branch into something entirely new, I can – and I have.

Gift 3: I’ve learned – and conquered – the real headaches of business ownership.

I commend anyone who takes an entrepreneurial leap and lands in the role of blazing their own trail. However, I want to be clear there there’s a significant difference between building your own business from the ground up and being a part of a franchise or MLM. At age 23 I used what little savings I had to incorporate my business and structure myself for future success – and protection from over-taxation! I spent hours educating myself on the type of business insurances I need to buy and the potential repercussion of copyright laws and other similar issues that could at any point impact my business – even if by an innocent misstep. I had to put policies and procedures in place to protect myself from people walking off with my intellectual property, making late payments – or no payments at all, and breaking contracts without cause.

I’m grateful to say that by planning for the worst, I have avoided many of the headaches and hardships other business owners often experience along their entrepreneurial journey. In a day and age where everyone wants to call themselves a business owner, CEO or #bossbabe, I wonder how many have had to navigate the real challenges of being a true entrepreneur, versus how many just stepped into the role of a sales rep for another company that really calls the shots in that relationship. There’s a difference, and one I’ll admit I’m a bit sensitive toward because of how much sweat equity and risk goes into the former compared to the latter.

Gift 4: I can forge partnerships at my discretion.

Another gift my business has given to me is the ability to structure partnerships with others businesses that has allowed me to really take things to the next level – and without having to compromise my independence or give up any of my profits.

My current partnerships expand into the industries of Government Relations, Web Design, Advertising, Media and more. It’s quite a beautiful business model. My partner businesses feed me all their clients who need strategic communication services, I complete the work and charge my fees, and they bundle this into their clients’ total packages. We all get what we want out of the deal, and at really fair rates compared to what big agencies have to charge to cover the overhead of in-house staff.

Gift 5: I don’t have to solicit family or friends to “join” my business.

If you’re a true business owner, not just a sales rep for a larger corporation, your business model should not heavily rely on soliciting family and friends to purchase your services/products or join your business.

When you’re just getting started it may be appropriate or helpful to ask personal contacts to keep you in mind or help spread the word about your business, but that’s not a real business owner’s long-term method for marketing. The growth and development of my business is a lot more strategic than shooting out a bunch of social media posts about “how lucky I am to be my own boss – and it’s a huge missed opportunity if you don’t jump aboard my ship.” Rather, I become a member of networking groups, align myself with industry associations and join boards as a way to gain influence and to get my name out there.

I’m happy to mentor people who come to me for entrepreneurial advice, but I never feel the need to force someone on this journey with me. And because I don’t get a “kickback” for someone starting their own business, my encouragement to a fellow entrepreneur comes with no personal agenda.

Gift 6: I’ve enjoyed 7 years of passive growth.

More to the point of not liking having to hard sell my services, I’m grateful to have not spent a dime on direct marketing or advertising. I simply treat clients well, deliver quality service and most importantly am responsive. Consistency is the best marketing tool you will ever have!

All of my clients have come from word of mouth recommendations and referrals. What I’ve found is this produces highly vetted, highly motivated clients who are ready to get started. This also produces loyal clients. I’m proud to say that my very first client still has me on a monthly retainer.

Passive growth has by no means made me complacent. It’s made me smart. I know that I gain the highest quality leads when I invest in relationships, so that’s where I focus my efforts.

Gift 7: There is no one else that can provide exactly what I do.

Forging friendships with other businesses that could be seen as my “competition” has been one of the smartest things I’ve ever done. These relationships have turned into some of my most lucrative partnerships and source of residual leads. Why would “competition” send me business, you might ask? Because when I put the time into getting to know some of these fellow communication professionals, I quickly learned that we serve very different markets and possess very different strengths.

Furthermore, there’s more than enough business to go around! So much so that I’m grateful to know some other people who can fill in the gaps in a pinch when I have a client who needs something that I don’t have the bandwidth to take on. In my experience, this goodwill has always come back full circle.

And one to grow on…

There’s a quote I stumbled upon early in my entrepreneurial journey, attributed to Frank Ocean that says, “Work hard in silence, let success make the noise.” This puts into words how I’ve always felt about promoting my professional accomplishments. I don’t need to bang my own gong. In fact, I’ve found that many of those who do – such as what likely inundates your newsfeed on social media – are those who are trying to compensate for insecurities about the true success of their business – or whose business model demands it out of necessity.

To that end, I’ve also discovered many people, even those closest to me, don’t fully grasp how far I’ve driven my business in seven years, because I work hard in silence. So to my first baby, the one that made me an entrepreneur, I wanted to give you a little moment to shine and say thank you for the highs and the lows, the risk and reward, and the challenges that turned in triumph. I’m grateful for this journey and to have the experience to truly own my own business!

 

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6 Ways to Grow Your Media Relationships

6 Ways to Grow Your Media Relationships

If you work in the field of public relations, advertising, even marketing, it’s inevitable that you will need to interact (i.e. get along) with the media to some degree. In fact, it’s absolutely to your advantage to forge real relationships – you know, the kind where you know a little bit about each other and try to help each other out, rather than just use one another.

But this can feel like a daunting task, especially if you are just beginning your career. The most critical thing you should remember is that members of the media are people, too. They’re not out to “get you” and hearing “no thanks” surely won’t kill you. So why not play nice and get something of mutual value out of it? Here are my six top tips for growing a meaningful relationship with media contacts.

  1. Become a (genuine) fan.

I’m not referring to Twitter (though following media contacts on social media isn’t the worst place to start). Rather, I’m talking about learning what beats each reporter regularly covers. Read their work, make note of topics that could relate to one or more of your clients, and most importantly give credit where credit is due. Recently a reporter used a press release I sent him to heavily and favorably cover one of my client’s issues. He included quotes I provided in the release, and he also sought out quotes from local individuals to fully flesh out the article. I truly appreciated his thoroughness. So I wrote him an email. I thanked him for using pieces of our press release and applauded him for seeking out additional quotes beyond a single source. He was flattered. As a result of this small step toward building a relationship, I feel like I can now reach out to him directly to pitch my next story.

  1. Take advantage of networking opportunities.

If you’re on the lookout for them, you will find that there are some very valuable networking opportunities to be had with members of the media. As a member of the Pennsylvania Public Relations Society (PPRS), I attended a recent meeting that was a “speed dating” mixer with just about every local media outlet represented. I was sure not to miss this event! As a result, I got great advice, lots of business cards and a handful of valuable invitations to “Pitch me anything you can think of!” I’ve already taken advantage of this for some of my clients. I can’t stress enough that meaningful media relationships, especially ones you can make face-to-face, will make your job easier, save you from the unknown and make you look like a rock star to your clients.

  1. Don’t hide your motives.

When you introduce yourself to a member of the media as a public relations professional, it’s pretty hard to hide your motives. After all, we are paid for our earned media placement and the gatekeepers to this are members of the media. Rather than being coy, I have found that being direct, honest and humble goes a lot further. I try to find a way to make light of the conversation, but also cut right to the chase. The media is hungry for quality content, and we have incentive to provide exactly that! Don’t hide your motives. Let the media know what you want, and they can then tell you what they need.

  1. Provide quality, ready-to-publish content.

Being friendly and professional with the media will help you make initial contact and get their attention, but what you do once they’re listening is the most important part of forming a lasting relationship. You must deliver quality, ready-to-publish content – or at least accurate and useful news tips that they can turn into their own story. If you prove to be anything but a reliable source, don’t wonder why members of the media stop answering your phone calls and emails. Proof and fact check your content, be responsive and go the extra mile to make yourself a valuable resource.

  1. Be proactive with your pitch.

When trying to get publicity for your clients, don’t wait for the opportunity to come knocking on your door. It reasonably won’t. Another piece of growing media relationships is to be proactive with your pitch. Reach out to them early and often. Sell them on the value of your idea. Help connect the dots so they can see how your story relates to their readership and their reporting style.

  1. Ask how you can help.

Most important, be genuinely interested in learning how you can help a reporter out. Ask them what topics or beats they’re covering right now and what some upcoming topics might be. You may be in position to lend some expertise, or to hook them up with a contact who can. Build a relationship based on trust and reliability. The more your media contacts know they can turn to you as a “connector” to help piece a story together, the more opportunities you’ll have to plug clients into these key opportunities.

Do you have another point to add that has helped you grow your relationship with media contacts? Share your advice by leaving a comment below!

 
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Posted by on July 30, 2018 in Business & Success

 

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The Number One Solution to All Communication Problems

The Number One Solution to All Communication Problems

At the root of all communication problems, there is essentially one thing that goes wrong that snowballs into every scenario you may have encountered. Whether you’re trying to communicate with a toddler or a CEO, someone of a different culture or someone of a different political viewpoint, effective communication hinges upon one thing.

And that is for parties to listen to and understand one another.

Throughout your life you may have heard people in authority say to you, “You don’t have to like me, but you have to respect me.” While I can see why a parent, teacher or boss might want to say this, it doesn’t quite hit the mark. As adults, there will be people we must interact with or who have authority over us that we don’t like. For any number of reasons they may irritate us or rub us the wrong way. Beyond merely showing respect to this person, we must foremost be sure we have taken every effort to listen to and understand them when they communicate with us.

It’s true. We won’t like everyone we meet in life, nor do we have to. But if you want to be an effective communicator who gets more of what you want, you must, must, must learn to listen – attentively, openly and willingly.

Not quite sold on this idea yet? Think back to the last communication problem you’ve dealt with. This may have been at home, or the office or with a friend. In hindsight, how did a lack of listening to one another play into the problem? I’m willing to guess a great deal. A lack of listening leads to a whole host of problems including misaligned expectations, unnecessary conflict, hurt feelings and frustration.

Not listening to one another the first time around usually leads to a lot more time spent trying to work through the miscommunication and repair the relationship. Simply put, investing in fully listening to one another in the very beginning of the conversation, and asking for clarity as often as needed, will save you from a lot of wasted time, headaches and strained relationships in the future.

I imagine I have your attention now. Great! But what does it really look like to be an effective listener? And how can you identify and address someone who may not be listening to you? Those are great questions that I intend to answer in the four points to follow.

  1. Treat listening like your job.

Listening is a critical skill for achieving success in every part of your life. Why then do we phone it in sometimes? I urge you to take listening seriously; treat it like you job. Challenge yourself to be able to repeat back, accurately, what the other person is saying to you. Take notes if you must. Recap what’s being said and put it into words. Which brings me to…

  1. Repeat back what you’re hearing.

In mediation, we learn to use the “I feel…” statements. This carries over into all forms of effective communication. When you’re having a critical discussion, instead of “I feel…” you should say “What I’m hearing you say is…” Then repeat back in your own words what you feel the other person is expressing. When they hear it repeated back they have the opportunity to confirm that is indeed accurate, or re-communicate a message that may have been lost in translation. Think of it like “proof-reading” each other’s thoughts before you hit “publish” and make decisions based upon this understanding.

  1. Ask to hear what they think you’re saying in their own words.

In return, you should ask the other people (or people) to express back to you, in their own words, what they feel you are saying to them. Again, you will have the opportunity to re-communicate or clarify something that might be getting misconstrued. Though the reaffirming what you’re hearing someone else say is an added step to the process, it is one that will save you an extreme about of time and frustration over your lifespan.

  1. Diffuse and table a conversation if you feel there are distractions.

While you may feel you are being an attentive and open listener in the conversation, you might pick up on some cues that this is not being returned by the other person. If you notice they seem distracted either by the environment, their thoughts or their emotions, it’s worth putting a pause on the conversation and coming back to it in a day or so when everyone can be fully present. Be sure to schedule a time and don’t let too many hours or days pass before re-addressing the conversation and putting it to bed. Most importantly, end the conversation on respectful terms and with the understanding that your intent is to re-enter the conversation when everyone has collected their thoughts (and their cool).

Do you agree that all effective communication is built on the foundation of listening and understanding one another? What other key components do you feel contribute to effective communication?

Start a conversation by leaving a comment below!

 
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Posted by on July 16, 2018 in Business & Success, Life

 

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7 Tips for Productive Conference Calls

7 Tips for Productive Conference Calls

Conference calls sound like a great idea. For a lot of reasons, in-person meetings just don’t work. People’s schedules and locations can make it virtually impossible to get together face-to-face. However, conference calls are far from a perfect solution.

Having participated in countless conference calls, I can confirm that just about everything that happens in this following video has been my experience. Even if you’ve already seen this video, you know how good it is. Watch it (again).

So what is the solution to overcoming the many hurdles surrounding unproductive, awkward conference calls? Mostly it’s organization. When I’m tasked with leading a conference call, I follow these seven simple rules to make the most of everyone’s time – and accomplish the goal of the call.

  1. Create a calendar invitation.

Simple, yet so often forgotten. When a group of people agree on a conference call date and time, someone needs to take the lead to send a calendar invitation to everyone. Why? Because people can’t be trusted to take this step on their own. Inevitably, it will slip their mind and they’ll either forget the call entirely or be scrambling to find the phone number and passcode. Reduce the number of “Hey I can’t find the conference call information, can you resend it to me?” emails you’ll have to answer by letting your online calendar serve as a reminder.

  1. Send reminder emails.

Speaking of reminders, yes you’ll need to do this at least twice leading up to the call. I’ve found that I can greatly increase conference call attendance (especially for large groups of people) by combining the calendar invitation with reminder emails. Key times to remind people are a few days before the call. For example, if it’s a Monday morning conference call, send a reminder email on Friday before everyone mentally clocks out for the weekend. For an afternoon conference call, I’ll remind people that morning so they include this obligation on their list of to-do’s for the day. If you really have a busy/forgetful group, send a final reminder within the hour of the call taking place. That way the call information is right in front of them and they have time to wrap up that other work project that may have gotten in the way.

  1. Have an agenda.

I’ll say it again, organization is the key to running a productive conference call. This starts with a focused agenda. Make sure someone is tasked with creating an agenda for the call and circulate this agenda with each of your reminder emails. When participants can follow along with the discussion items, this keeps them engaged and prevents the conversation from drifting all over the place (mostly). Most importantly, you won’t forget to cover an important item, reducing the number of follow-up calls or emails you’ll need to have.

  1. Designate a note-taker.

With an agenda, note taking is easy. However, the biggest mistake people make is not designating who will take the notes and send these notes to the group after the conference call. The designated note-taker should not be the same person leading the agenda. You want to pick someone who doesn’t need to speak a lot during the call. Also, the note-taker should be someone who pays attention and is detail oriented. It’s easy to miss things on a conference call if you’re not paying close attention and asking for clarification, when needed.

  1. Be mindful of time.

Just because you have an agenda to follow doesn’t mean you can let discussions go on and on and on. Set an expectation for the duration of the conference call. Most commonly this is one hour. Schedule it as such on your calendar invitation so everyone blocks off the appropriate amount of time. Next, stick to that time. If you’re a half hour into the call but only on your first agenda item, you need to wrap up discussion or make the decision to quickly move through your other agenda items. Long, drawn-out conference calls are likely to have attendees drop off or find reasons to avoid future calls. Keep things short and focused.

  1. Set a date for your next call.

Before you adjourn the meeting, be sure to set the date and time of your next call (if needed). Not doing so while everyone is on the call is a huge missed opportunity. This way you can quickly get everyone’s input on availability and avoid the dreaded “reply all” emails of everyone hashing out their schedules. Additionally, you can prompt everyone to add the next conference call to their calendars and you can include the reminder in your meeting recap email.

  1. Email a meeting recap with action items.

Finally there is the meeting recap email. This is possibly the most critical piece of a productive conference call. It’s convenient for the note-taker to be the one responsible for sending out the meeting recap email. This should include a really boiled down summary of the call notes. I strongly recommend assigning names to action items and making this font bold and red. People will clearly see what’s assigned to them. Give these action items a deadline. Finally, remind people of the date and time of the next call.

By doing each of these seven things, you are far more likely to run a productive conference call in which people will willingly participate. Best of all, you’ll actually get things done, rather than spinning your wheels and wasting hours of your work day!

When you participate in a conference call, how highly would you rate productivity on average? Share your favorite tips for making business conference calls more efficient and productive by leaving a comment below!

 
 

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The Best Business Sense: Go with your gut and defend it!

The first Monday of each month, I dust off a favorite post from the Bennis Inc Blog archives and give you another chance to enjoy the wit and wisdom that’s been shared. Enjoy this month’s treasure – and if it inspires you – be sure to share it with family and friends!


The Best Business Sense Go with your gut and defend it!

Being a business owner certainly has its fair share of ups and downs. I’ve been able to anticipate and prepare for most of these like the instability of income, unpredictable work hours and the emotional investment in the business. What I didn’t necessarily anticipate was the amount of unsolicited advice I would receive. I rationalize that this stems from the fact that I’m finally in a position of control and therefore people want to help me make the best decisions possible. While this sounds like a great thing, it becomes a problem for so many business owners when the swirling confusion of mixed advice makes it hard for us to clearly see the best path for our business – which can only be decided by each of us alone.

With almost two years under my belt of dodging and deciphering other people’s opinions about my business strategy, I’ve developed a short list of what I call “Simple Business Truths.” Maybe this is my own version of unsolicited business advice that I risk imposing on others, or maybe it’s the master list us business owners should keep near and dear to our hearts in moments of confusion. Regardless, I find the following to be harmless and helpful advice because it advocates that you ultimately go with your gut and forget what anyone else says. And if you ask me…that’s the best business advice you can (or maybe don’t) ask for!

Simple Business Truths:

1. So long as you can rationally defend your decisions, stick with your gut.

Since becoming a business owner I feel like I’ve become much more in tune to my intuition and have really started to rely upon it. I can’t say I’ve never second-guessed myself, especially in the beginning; however, I’ve now had enough examples to know that I should always go with my gut. My rule of thumb for gauging my intuition is to make sure I can also rationally defend why I feel the way I do. Ever since I was a child, I never liked hearing “because I said so” as a sole reason for why something had to be a certain way – and I don’t allow myself to use this as my backbone for decision making now. So long as you can rationally defend your reasons, stick with them!

2. People who try and tell you what to do are likely just as confused themselves.

Entrepreneurs tend to gather in chats and discussion groups like it’s an AA meeting. This provides a platform for sharing their “must-do’s” and all-knowing advice with fellow entrepreneurs. Whether they mean well or mean to intimidate, entrepreneurs taking other entrepreneurs’ advice can be toxic. Or as I often describe it – it’s the blind leading the blind. Let’s be honest, none of us can ever say with certainty that we know what we’re doing! It’s the road of the unknown for a reason. I caution fellow entrepreneurs on how much advice they take from others. This is a very individual journey and no two business models are the same. The variances between your business and someone else’s can make sharing advice as risky as sharing prescription meds.

3. Don’t fall for the next big trend – this too shall pass.

The entrepreneurial journey is already filled with enough hills and valleys; I don’t see the point in adding even more variables by early adopting the latest and most radical business trends before I can observe them in action for a little while. The entrepreneurs who do, often sacrifice the overall strategy and growth plan specific to their business all for the chance to say “I was first.”  If this is what drives your business decisions, you’ll soon enough be able to say you were first to fail or fold as well. The benefits of most trends are fleeting at best. And if they are worth implementing, they’ll stick around long enough for you to do so. Don’t willingly be the guinea pig!

4. Even a friend’s “best advice” could be unintentional sabotage.

Once you’re an entrepreneur, friends and family want to shower you with well wishes and their best business advice. But just like Grandma’s loving attempt at knitting you a Christmas sweater, even the thoughtful ones can be deceptively dangerous. You can always nod and agree, but before you run and implement such advice take a moment to qualify the person and where their expertise lies.

5. Remember – you built the business, you get first and final say!

When I first transitioned into the life of an entrepreneur, it was quite the mental shift. For a long time I still felt like an employee to someone else and would seek out advice from anyone who would provide it. I absorbed it like a sponge! I’ve since learned better and now remind myself that one of the biggest benefits I have as a business owner is first and final say in what decisions are made. Don’t hand this over to anyone else!

If you could add your own 6th “truth” to this list, what would it be? Comment and share some of the best or worst business advice you’ve ever received!

 

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