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What’s More Important: Your Story…Or How You Tell It?

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It’s the Public Relations version of the chicken and the egg debate. What factor carries more weight when it comes to effectively communicating a story or message? Is it the quality of content or is it how you present it and to whom?

I’ve given this quite a bit of thought. As a Public Relations consultant, I’ve had to. At the core of what I do is help people write and share their personal or professional “stories.” After nearly a decade, I think I have the answer. Before what I share what it is, I first want to make a few things clear.

Even the best story won’t get noticed if…

It’s not told. This may sound more obvious than helpful, but it’s where so many people get stuck – the beginning. It’s challenging to put something into words, especially when that “something” is important to you. Conversely, you may think you’ve told your story or shared your message, but it doesn’t accurately capture the emotion or value you want to convey. If a story is not told, or told correctly it will never get the attention it deserves.

It’s hard to understand. Even if you put into words everything you want to say, that doesn’t mean that it is content that will get noticed. If your story is poorly written it will be hard to grasp the core message. It also won’t be enjoyable to read, which will turn people off before they get too far in.

It’s irrelevant. One of the easiest ways to annoy people is to waste their time with a story or message that is irrelevant to their interests or purposes. Worse yet, this can negatively impact your reputation and cause people to tune you out even if you do have a valuable message to share with them later on.

Even the most clever presentation will be ignored if…

It’s lacking a real story. All the glitz and graphics in the world won’t overshadow a story that has no real story. I most often see this when clients want media attention for something that’s not really newsworthy. No matter how you spin it, you’re just not going to get national media coverage for hiring a new account executive at your mid-sized firm.

It’s hitting the wrong audience. Think of what you’re trying to sell and who is most likely to buy it. It’s important to meet your target audience where they are. How do they consume media? If you’re trying to share the story of your fashion business with a local sports reporter, the chances are just about 100% that they are not interested in publishing it – at least under their column. When pulling media lists or targeting a demographic, check and re-check that you’re hitting the right audience.

It doesn’t provide value to others. If the story you’re telling is solely self-promotional, you’re not going to connect with your readers. As humans, we need to know what’s in it for us. It’s perfectly fine to have some personal gain from the story, but this needs to accompanied by a component of service, helpfulness, insight or entertainment.

The Answer

As your gut might tell you, it takes both a strong story and powerful presentation to have the best possible outcome. Either of these on their own simply isn’t enough. Throughout my career I have seen examples that reinforce this conclusion again and again. A client will come to me wanting to gain media attention for something that simply isn’t newsworthy. There’s no angle or reason anyone else would care about that particular topic. It sounds harsh, but my job is to be honest and, at times, deliver the hard truth. After all, it can save a client both money and frustration.

Or the opposite might be true. They have a great story to tell, newsworthy through and through, but the way in which it was crafted doesn’t do it justice. A story told poorly might as well be a story that is never told, because you’re not really telling the true story. It’s hidden. In this instance, there is something I can do to help. When a client comes to me with a genuinely good story to tell, it’s like striking gold. It’s extremely fulfilling when I’m able to set the story free and get it in front of the right people to amplify its reach.

If you feel you have a story to tell, keep in mind that it takes both solid content and smart dissemination to effectively share your message. That’s not to say every story or message needs to be the wittiest, most captivating thing people will ever read, but at minimum it needs to hit the points I mentioned above.

And if you’re still not sure if you have an interesting story to tell, or that it’s not being shared as well as it could be, ask a professional communicator! We know what to look for…and we’ll give you the good, the bad and the ugly.

What untold story do you have to tell? Practice your “pitch” by leaving a teaser in the comments below!

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Posted by on February 11, 2019 in Business, Business & Success, Life

 

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How to Bring Media Attention to Your Place of Business

how to bring media attention to your place of business

If your business has a brick and mortar location, it could be highly valuable to earn on-site media coverage to showcase your space and give your customers better insight into what you do and who you are. But how does a business attract media attention? If you’re among the lucky few, the media might find you; however this is not commonly the case!

Instead, you need to take matters into your own hands by developing a strategy to get in front of your desired media outlets and make it undeniable as to why they should feature your place of business in an upcoming news segment.

Take a look at a few of our tried and true tips for bringing media attention to your place of business – and commit to trying these out for yourself in 2019!

1. Find the right angle.

It takes a lot more than saying “Hey, come out and do a story on my business so I can attract more customers!” Of course that’s the underlying motive for basically every business wishing to earn media coverage, however you need to paint a more interesting picture for the media. You need to find the right angle. Some options might include a special anniversary or milestone for your business. Or maybe it’s something related to a holiday, special occasion or piece of history in your local community. If you’re really struggling to find a compelling angle, think of how you can tie your story back to something charitable or “feel good.”

 2. Put effort into your pitch.

With the right angle lined up, don’t skimp on the quality of your pitch. The key to a perfect pitch is to find the right balance of being direct, courteous and creative. Make sure to address the WIFM (What’s In It For Me) so that the media can clearly see how this would interest their audience. With a quality pitch and a creative angle, you will drastically increase your chances of getting picked up.

 3. Follow-up and follow-through. 

Now that you have their attention, you need to follow-up with your pitch. If you get an interested response, act quickly. Nail down the time and location of the interview – and all the nitty gritty details. Quickly decide who will be on air and their key talking points. Make it as easy and seamless as possible for the media to cover a great story and you will form the foundation for a long-term relationship that could yield more coverage in the future!

On the flip side, should you get a “No” response, or no response at all, you need to follow-through. Be persistent, but friendly. In your follow-up email ask for a courtesy “No” if they have left you hanging, simply so you can close the books on this pitch. If they do say “No” kindly ask for a piece of advice as to how you can better pitch to them in the future. Maybe they don’t cover that beat – but you might be able to find a new angle in the future that does align with their topics.

 4. Make the most of the media coverage.

If you’ve successfully earned media coverage for your business, be your own best publicity! Ask how soon a link to the story will be ready and set a strategy for sharing. You’ll want to get this out on your social media outlets (personal and business) as well as finding a place for it on your website. Depending upon the coverage, you might also want to further promote it with sponsored social media posts, or create a blog post to tell the story of the behind-the-scenes aspect of the day. There is no limit as to how you can share quality content!

 5. Don’t lose momentum – plan for the future!

Finally and most importantly, don’t lose momentum. You deserve a pat on the back for a successful media pitch, but then it’s time to get back to work. How can you harness the power of this first feature story? Are there other outlets that may now be interested in doing a story as well? Can you find a new angle? Or maybe your strategy is to let a little time pass and then pitch a new angle in the next month or so. The more media coverage you get in a moderate amount of time, the more people will wonder what all the buzz is about!

Have you had success in earning press coverage at your place of business? Share your success story or ask a question that we can help you answer!

 
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Posted by on January 21, 2019 in Business, Business & Success

 

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How to Master Customer Support for your Small Business (Contribution from Keith Coppersmith)

The following post comes to us from Keith Coppersmith, an experienced business consultant who serves small businesses and startups.


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How to Master Customer Support for your Small Business

Did you know that 51% of customers stop doing business after just one negative experience? Research further shows that businesses lose over $62 billion every year on poor customer service.

Precisely because of that, wise small business owners don’t look at great customer support as a cost. For them, this is a chance to increase sales and boost brand loyalty.

Now, when it comes to providing spotless customer support, there is always room for improvement. Here are a few great tactics that will help you take your customer relationships to the next level.

Don’t Overcomplicate Customer Conversations

Providing customer support is not an opportunity for you to showcase your impressive industry knowledge. When reaching out to you, a customer expects to get a specific answer that solves their problem.

Using overly complex technical jargon may cause miscommunication issues and hurt user experience. It may even seem as if you yourself don’t know the answer to the question. To keep your customers happy, you need to speak their language. Simple and effective explanations will boost their satisfaction and motivate them to buy from you again.

Help your Customers Make Payments Faster

The flexibility of your services can get you a long way. Let’s take an example of invoicing, as this is one of the major problems businesses face. Stats say that 64% of businesses have unpaid invoices that have gone unpaid for at least 60 days.

Sure, in the short term, you need to find the right financing method to boost your bottom line. For example, you can improve cash flow with invoice finance. This financing option brings numerous benefits to small businesses and startups. First, invoice finance firms usually pay businesses about 80% of the total sum within 48 hours, meaning you’ll get your money fast. Second, unlike with bank loans, there are no high-interest rates. Finally, invoicing doesn’t hurt user experience and helps you maintain stronger client relationships.

Sure, these are all short-term solutions. To boost your cash flow in the long run, you need to manage your late payments strategically. Here are a few ideas to incorporate into your customer support:

  • Offer multiple payment options to boost their buying experience and encourage them to buy from you.
  • B2B businesses should also have a billing policy, where they would clearly state when and how you want to get paid and how you will handle late payments.
  • Send invoices on time to get customers to take them seriously.
  • Automate your rebilling process. With the help of the right software, your customers will be able to track their payments directly from an app, get informed about any failed payments, and get actionable tips to solve these problems faster.

Answer Customer Questions in Real-Time

The demands of a modern customer have changed. They now use multiple channels to communicate with brands. Unsurprisingly, they expect businesses to use these channels, too. Research says most customers expect to get an answer within 2 hours, while 84% of them don’t want to wait longer than a day.

Precisely because of that, you need to need to provide multichannel customer services. Update your contact information on your site regularly and get listed on all major business directories. You should also provide your email address, links to social media support profiles, and live chats. Multichannel communication increases user satisfaction and helps them resolve the problem faster.

Leverage the Power of Social Networks

Many brands have started seeing the value of social networks in building customer relationships. First, you can use AI-powered software like chatbots to provide customers with timely and relevant answers. Today’s chatbots are smart and they’re constantly learning from customer interactions to understand their intent and give relevant feedback.

You can also use social monitoring tools to track your brand/product mentions on social networks and participate in customers’ conversations instantly. These tools give you a great opportunity to identify customers experiencing problems with your products, help them fix these problems effectively, and turn them into brand advocates.

Collect Customer Feedback Regularly

There are numerous metrics you can track to assess your small business’ performance. And, one of the most important ones is customer satisfaction. You need to understand how your customers feel about your brand, what they like, appreciate, or hate about it.

Collecting customer feedback is one of the most significant aspects of customer support, given that 91% of unhappy customers won’t complain about poor experiences with your brand. They will simply leave you for your competitors.

There are numerous ways to do gather user feedback. I’ve already mentioned the importance of social listening and AI-powered chatbots. These tools let you see what questions your customers usually ask and what problems they experience.

You could also create a dedicated feedback form on your website and even reach out to a customer that abandoned the shopping cart. Live chat support can also be effective. Once a customer support agent helps a customer, they can send them feedback. Finally, you can always call a customer and ask them for their opinions directly.

Over to You

With the rise of sophisticated customer relationship management tools, providing subpar customer services are not acceptable anymore. You need to provide timely customer support, answer customer feedback professionally, and customize your customer services. This way, you will build stronger customer relationships and increase brand loyalty.

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About the Author: Keith Coppersmith is an Adelaide based business consultant with a degree in Media Management. With experience in numerous small businesses and startups, he enjoys giving advice on all things marketing.

 

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Twas the Day Before Christmas (The Business Owner’s Version)

twas the day before christmas

(As retold by a mom and entrepreneur)

Twas the day before Christmas, when all through the house
not a computer was running, not even a mouse.
Cords and chargers were stowed with care,
in hopes we had strength to leave them there.

One sleepy critter was nestled snug in her bed,
while visions of toy mice danced in her head.
For once taking a cue from my jolly, gray cat,
I settled my brain for a short winter’s nap.

Is it possible to tune out all of the clatter,
to focus on Christmas and what truly mattered?
No doubt it would feel different to completely unwind,
what’s the worst that could happen, we’d have a good time?

So from now until New Years, the blog posts can wait
there are loved ones to hug and cookies to bake.
This short disconnect will help creativity soar
and inspire me to write better than ever before!

Until then, don’t worry what to do with your time,
make your own holidays as relaxing as I’ve made mine.
Here’s my final wish before the exit I make,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a short break!”

 
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Posted by on December 24, 2018 in Business, Business & Success

 

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31 Lessons from a 30-Something Entrepreneur

What I Learned as an Entrepreneur in my 30s

Tomorrow, December 18, I will turn 31 years old. Last year, as I entered this new decade of my life, I wrote about how I anticipated this new chapter to shift my entrepreneurial outlook and possibly my business model.

Compared to 12 months ago, I would say things feel pretty similar. I was given some unique opportunities to expand my business through new partnerships and into new markets in 2018. However, my core services remain the same, my passion and gratitude for what I do is ever-present and I plan to spend 2019 enjoying the fulfillment – and sometimes luxuries – of my career.

But what I can tell you has changed is the wisdom I carry with me into each client meeting, each presentation and with each email I send. By no means do I have it all figured out, but I have learned some pretty important lessons in the last 7+ years of running my public relations business.

So for my birthday this year, I spent some time reflecting on the advice I received along the way that continues to guide my choices to this day. In honor of turning 31, I’m going to share with you 31 pearls of wisdom that I hope you find as useful and thought-provoking as I have.

1. You have to want it. People can give you the what and the how, but you must be the who and you need to figure out your why.

2. Just because you can outsource something, doesn’t mean you should. If you’re more efficient at completing the task on your own, or it’s a critical part of your business strategy, it’s important to remain hands-on.

3. You will come across clients who aren’t a good fit for your product or services, and vice versa. Don’t chase after them and don’t force it. Listen to your instincts.

4. Your reputation will be the single best branding tool you will ever have. Don’t risk it for anything!

5. No matter your industry or business model, you will have competitors. Get to know them; befriend them. If you do this successfully, you’ll gain a valuable lead generator. There’s more than enough business to go around!

6. You can never overemphasize your thanks and appreciation for your vendors and subcontractors. They make you look good. Make sure they know this.

7. Always know what problem your business is solving. If you can’t easily identify what this is, it’s time to immediately rethink your model.

8. Don’t mourn the loss of a business relationship too hard. Time and time again life will prove that this space will be filled ten-fold, and with better opportunities.

9. Give everyone a second chance. Those who doubted your skills and talents previously, just might become a valuable client or lead generator for you.

10. The reward for good work is more work. To grow your business do good work. Yes, it’s that simple.

11. Just because someone else is doing it, doesn’t mean you should too. Don’t chase every new marketing trend or fad. You’ll waste a lot of time and money doing so. Carefully weigh the right strategies for your business.

12. Keep in mind that your target audience may not be your actual audience. If you’re aiming for one group, but attracting another, it’s time to rethink who you really want to reach.

13. Know how to say no. This world will stretch you way too thin if you’re not strategic about where you choose to invest your time and talent. Even if you know when you say no, knowing how can be a much larger challenge.

14. Find a reason to laugh daily. Even if this means you have to keep a file of memes, photos and funny memories. If life doesn’t get you a reason to laugh that day, create your own.

15. Ask for advice. Try as you might, you will never have all the answers, nor will the internet. Look to your peers for their collective knowledge on topics they know and you do not.

16. Anchor yourself with principles, values and beliefs that feed your soul. As a business owner or entrepreneur, it’s easy to get tossed in the waves of uncertainty without a strong core to keep you anchored.

17. Each of us has a point of diminishing returns when it comes to work and profit. Know when more money means, well…more problems. Don’t let greed or pressure push you beyond this point.

18. For most of us, technology is a necessary evil to do our jobs. However, we must, must be intentional about unplugging on a regular basis – for the sake of our relationships and health.

19. Have someone with whom you can share your failures and struggles. It’s hard to talk about these things and be vulnerable, but this is when we most need support. Have a few key people in your life who will always meet you where you are, and simply listen.

20. Consistency is half the battle with running a successful business. Don’t give up before you’ve barely left the shoreline. If I’m being honest, you need to buckle up and stick with this for at least 5 years before you can make any sort of educated decision about the viability of running your own business.

21. Reliability is the other half of the battle with running a successful business. So many people are simply unreliable. If you can show employers or clients that you are reliable, you already have a leg up on most.

22. Be present. It’s simply not possible for the human mind to truly multi-task. With work tasks, focus on one and see it through to completion, then move on. At home, be present with your family. Work will always be there, but those family moments are fleeting.

23. You might get some projects that are slightly outside the scope of your core services. So long as you’re being compensated for this time, do it anyway! You’re never above licking some envelopes or running to the printer to make copies for a client. And this good will goes a long way.

24. Don’t get paranoid about success. You worked hard. You deserve this. Don’t feel like it can’t last or it will be taken away from you. Enjoy it for what it is, and pay it forward.

25. Don’t get paranoid about failure. You worked hard. This is not a punishment. Don’t feel like it will last forever and can never be overcome. Appreciate it for what it’s teaching you and move forward.

26. Be a person who gives more than they consume – of time, money, material things and especially love and attention.

27. You don’t have to have it all figured out to still run a good business. I made the leap when I had very little experience both as an entrepreneur and in the field of PR. But I’m so glad I started when it did instead of waiting until I felt ready – or I would still be waiting.

28. Everyone will go through stressful or unfulfilling seasons of life. Give yourself grace, but do keep track of damaging patterns. If you’re stuck in a cycle, something has to change in order for you to move forward.

29. Never undervalue networking with your peers. Building the right amount of quality networking into your business development plan will open doors to connections and potential clients you would never meet otherwise. You have to put yourself out there!

30. There is no magic number of years in business or any particular age that determines a successful or established entrepreneur. It’s all relative to your industry, business model and how you define success.

31. The number one thing people want to feel is heard. Even more than liked or respected, if you can make someone feel heard, you will lay the foundation for effective communication.

And one to grow own…

Every entrepreneur’s journey is unique. You will never be able to compare two people’s situations apples-to-apples, so don’t let someone else’s story make you feel self-conscious or insecure. Most importantly, don’t let anyone else’s experience stop you from creating your own!

 

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Do I Need Advertising or Public Relations?

Do I Need Advertising or Public Relations

It’s a really important question – and one that business owners’ return to time and time again. Do I need PR or advertising to grow my business? The answer…it depends! As like most things in life, it’s situational and really depends upon your goal, budget and target audience.

In this blog, I break down some of the most common scenarios businesses face and whether ad or PR is the better strategy to address each. Let’s go!

I want immediate and guaranteed publicity for my business.

You want to start with advertisingWith advertising, you get what you pay for, rarely will it be more or less. The benefit of guaranteed media placement is that you can count on it showing up when and where you want it to. If your business needs this immediate boost in publicity and can’t risk anything less, advertising is the way to go – at least to start. Where PR can come in, is when you want to complement this with the power of organic media exposure that, when done right, can garner a whole lot of media attention for a fraction of the cost of paid placement.

I have a limited budget, but a great story to tell.

You want to start with public relations. If you have a naturally great story to tell, your business will do well with the boost of some public relations. PR thrives on taking a great story and bringing it to the forefront of media and before your target audience. With advertising, you have limited space to tell your full story, so it might not have the same impact if you try to fit it into a 15 second commercial spot or on a bill board. With PR, you gain the platform, like a featured segment on the morning news, or several paragraphs in print or online to really dig into the meat of things.

I can communicate my core message in less than 8 words.

You want to start with advertising. This is the reverse scenario of what we described above. Maybe your business is able to fully articulate its unique selling proposition in 8 words or less. In this case, you might better be suited for a strategy more focused on advertising. A short message can be easily communicated through digital ads, short commercials, sponsored social media posts and billboards. Once you determine this short message, you can advertise it consistently throughout these various facets to benefit from repetition.

I want to promote the charitable angle of my business.

You want to start with public relations. Even if your business is for-profit, you can still hitch your wagon to the promotional power of charitable giving. If your business or organization has a genuine charitable component (people can easily tell when you’re not being sincere!), this unlocks a lot of PR opportunities. Your story will more easily be picked up by local media and often TV stations or digital community calendars offer free promotion of such activities. Sure, you can also pay for this promotion, but why? When it’s charitable in nature, think PR first.

My business has some negativity publicity it needs to counteract. 

You want to start with public relationsIf you find yourself needing to counteract negative sentiment toward your business, this is a job for public relations. It’s important to add the “human” element to your business in such circumstances. For example, you may want to pitch your CEO for a media interview, host a press conference or issue a press release to address the issue. You can also implement some strategic activities to repair your brand, such as a free community event, open house or giveaway.

People are familiar with my brand, now I need to keep it top of mind.

You want to start with advertising. If you’re an established brand and your target audience is aware of who you are and what you do – congratulations! You’re ahead of most businesses out there. But seriously, this puts you in a prime position to benefit from paid advertising, because what you now need to focus on is maintaining this awareness and staying top of mind. Carefully placed digital, radio, television and/or outdoor advertisements with help you to continue to capitalize on what you’ve worked so hard to create.

What I hope is an obvious disclaimer is that every business and its particular situation is different. While I hope to provide some helpful, general advice and a starting point for your strategizing, it’s important to seek the help of experienced ad/PR professionals who know your market, understand your target audience and can help direct your messaging through the most effective channels.

Do you have another question related to how advertising and public relations are different, yet also work together? Join in the conversation by leaving a comment below.

 
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Posted by on October 29, 2018 in Business & Success, Life

 

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How to Scale Your Business as a Sole Proprietor

How to Scale Your Business as a Sole Proprietor

As a sole proprietor, you can feel like a “one man band” in your business. While there are certainly perks of running a lean operation where you answer only to yourself,  when it comes to growth, it can be hard to figure out the right way to scale your business.

After all, many people would suggest the solution is simply taking on more employees or infrastructure. But that isn’t your only option to grow. Learn from my tips for growing a business without growing your overhead.

Know Your Target Market

As a business owner, we often look at our target market in the broadest possible sense. But when you feel like you’re just about at maximum capacity for workload, you need to get smarter about knowing who your true target market really is. Quite literally, you need to raise your standards. This means focusing on people or businesses who are most likely to engage with you at a higher level, sign you in to larger, longer contracts and allow you to become efficient in the work you do from them because it’s predictable or residual.

When marketing to new clients, or when prospective clients approach you, it’s important to walk away from something that isn’t a good fit and risks pulling your attention away from clients who are.

Keep Your Bandwidth Clear

I’ve written about bandwidth before and I’ll say it again here. The most common way I see people waste time, and as a result turn away new jobs, is because they allow tasks, that can and should be completely quickly, consume their whole day or week. Every day I outline the core tasks that “must” get accomplished that day in order for everything else to stay on track. Usually this is no more than two or three items – very doable. But I stick to it! I don’t let these tasks slide into the next day just because they technically can. I wrap them up and clear my bandwidth for the next day because, more often than not, a new project comes across my desk and I’m then ready to capitalize on the extra income.

Raise Your Rates

It can make business owners uncomfortable to be faced with the decision to raise rates in order to increase income. In fact, I see most business owners try to do anything else but raise their prices, even if it means using more of their time or decreasing their margins. That doesn’t really make sense!

As I’ve found out from experience, if your project workload is so full that you don’t think you can take on one more client, you need to raise your rates. Why? Because you’re priced almost too competitively if every business around town is knocking down your door. It means you’re a steal of a deal. In most cases this isn’t a bad thing, don’t get me wrong. But if you want to make more money without taking on more overhead or employees, you need to get comfortable with raising your rates to naturally eliminate your lower paying clientele.

If you’re honest with yourself, you know that these are the clients that eat up most of your time anyways. By raising your rates, you put yourself on a new playing field where you can charge more for your time and do more of the work you love for you the clients you’re passionate about serving.

Work Smarter

My final piece of advice, and it’s something you’ve likely heard before, is to work smarter, not harder. If you want to create more time in your day, you need to carefully examine your current processes and work style in order to identify the things that are sucking up time without producing results.

Maybe you’re putting way too much time into creating client proposals. Make this more efficient and streamlined! Maybe you’re giving away hours of your day at coffee meetings and networking events. Learn the art of saying no and focus on only the activities that stand to bring in direct income. When you make a conscious effort to clean up your business’s processes, you’ll be surprised by how hard you’ve been working, without really being smart about it.

Are you a sole proprietor or simply a business owner looking to maintain a lean operation? Share the ways you plan to strategically grow your business without taking on more employees or overhead!

 

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