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The “Unhappy” Trend

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!


unhappyIt seems as though we are moving toward an “Unhappy” trend. By this, I mean we seem to live in a day and age where it is more acceptable to be bored, tired and miserable than to be publicly happy and content.

I remember so often asking someone–a co-worker, a friend, the cashier at Starbucks–how they’re doing and getting the same response: Oh, hanging in there…Good, until my alarm went off this morning…Minus being at work? Great! And when it wasn’t a gripe or complaint, it was usually a generic and apathetic response like: Good, thanks…Oh, I’m okay…Doing well. For many of my friends who would give me such answers, I knew enough about their lives to know they had plenty of great things taking place that they could share and talk about. Instead, they chose to settle for a sarcastic or emotionless answer, but for what purpose? To make those that are less happy feel more comfortable?

What I’ve come to realize is that it’s hard to be publicly happy and not have it taken the wrong way. Too often genuine happiness is perceived as bragging, boasting or being fake. Sometimes it is even seen as offensive or intimidating to someone who isn’t as happy as you are.

I have a lot of things in my life for which I’m grateful and happy. I started my own business to pursue my passion, have many meaningful and fulfilling relationships and have a flexible schedule that allows me to travel as I please. Yes, life is good. But these tokens of happiness have to be earned each and every day with hard work, dedication and sacrifice. I’m not kidding–those motivational posters couldn’t have summarized it better. What’s disappointing is that even after all of that hard work to create my happiness, I often feel guilty when I go to share this happiness with others. I feel like it’s easier to gripe and complain about little things, even the weather, just to make myself more likable to those who don’t allow themselves to be as happy.

The “Unhappy” trend is one I look forward to seeing pass. We need to get back into the trend of not just supporting each others’ happiness, but working to preserve and grow it. It’s as simple as the next time today you’re asked how you’re doing–respond with a genuine and positive answer about something good in your life.

I know we all have at least one thing in our lives right now that we can be happy about. Even if it’s just the 5 free minutes you had to surf Word Press and find this blog!

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Posted by on December 3, 2018 in Life

 

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How to Help Your Business Run More Efficiently (Contribution from Kevin Conner)

The following post comes to us from internet entrepreneur, Kevin Conner who is the founder of Broadbandsearch.net. In this blog, Kevin shares a wealth of experience related to starting and running an efficient business.


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How to Help Your Business Run More Efficiently

Efficiency is the difference between a company that doesn’t make it past year five and a business that succeeds for decades to come. Good efficiency practices show dedication to having good management, reduce wasteful spending, and discipline the culture of your business towards regular and sustainable productivity.

Yet how does one create an efficient business? It’s all about the environment you create and the policies you implement (and don’t implement). Above all else, consider it a mindset, a filter through which you should run all your decisions, even if you wind up deciding on the less efficient option in the end.

Here are some main principles you should keep in mind.

Delegate and Trust

While your instincts may at first tell you that heavy oversight is the key to better efficiency, we want to warn you that it will have a limited effect at best or even be counterproductive. While oversight is important, employees generally won’t like having someone perched on their shoulder all of the time and getting approval from you or a manager for minor, non-essential decisions will only bottleneck projects.

If you feel that you need to keep a close eye, then you don’t have an efficiency problem as much as a personnel problem, and it would be wise to find and hire people you can trust to work professionally and efficiently when you’re not around, at least in key positions. After this, trusting employees will ease your mind, generally let employees come up with the most efficient solutions on their own, and let people reach their greatest potential.

Make Sure Services and Utilities Are Effective and Working

If you’re using online services and technological tools to help you run your business or help employees perform tasks, make sure they’re either the best or the best option for the cost. Competition will breed a lot of new developments, and you might not be using the most efficient service or option anymore.

For example, consider the internet connection set up for your office. If its too slow to either upload necessary content to a webpage or, even worse, slow to download items your business needs, it creates a huge problem for your employees, and fixing the issue will be the best thing you can do for your business.

Automate Whatever Would Be Reasonable

Automation has become the new driving force in efficiency, and while the initial costs can be high to start with, getting a program (or even a machine in some cases) can save you a lot of money through wages otherwise spent on menial tasks. As a general rule, try to automate whatever your employees do that doesn’t utilize them in the tasks they are best at and were hired for doing. Paperwork, office chores, and laborious production steps can all often be automated or mostly automated, and you should investigate solutions to those problems.

Consolidate Tasks

By grouping tasks and improving the logistics of your business, you can increase efficiency by a great deal. Try looking at what tasks are commonly done and checking if you can simply have a dedicated block of time to taking care of them instead of them randomly being spaced throughout the day. Increasing flow around the office is a great way to improve efficiency.

Additionally, a group of specialists can likely do a better and faster job than a similar-sized team of generalists all handling their own tasks. See what tasks you can consolidate to one team member (when doing so wouldn’t put your business at risk) and let improvement happen over time. You’ll soon see productivity numbers go up as people adjust well to their updated agendas.

Focus on Improving the Most Time-Consuming Tasks First

This is a short tip, but one you should keep in mind. You may or may not believe in the 80/20 principle, but you’ll likely find that most of the stress and inefficiency in your business is coming from a few places and only a few places. As hard as it might be at times, we recommend you cut right to the core of those problems instead of distracting yourself with minor inefficiencies elsewhere (they’ll still be around once everything else is taken care of).

Review Tasks Regularly

Sometimes doing things as they always have been done is simply not the best choice for some tasks. New solutions appear and employees, when given some time and freedom to solve problems their way, can be extraordinarily innovative. Therefore, we recommend that at regular intervals (three months would be a good starting point for most companies) you look at your business and list out every major (and some minor but time-consuming) tasks your employees do, making changes where they would help.

This might not be something you want to do alone. Your job isn’t necessarily to know the ins and outs of everyone’s job so well that you can do it better than them. Instead, if you’re not entirely certain where to make changes (if that would be wise at all), talk to the employee about their tasks, and what might be done to improve efficiency, and which ones are truly necessary. Working with your best people on course correction will likely be the best path to success.

Conclusion

Your business will naturally have its own unique needs, and we are certain that there are methods that will work for you on top of those above that will vary based on your industry and team makeup. Yet with the above tips and strategies, you’ll find that your business will run more effectively and efficiently, driving growth forward and making everyone involved happier in the process.


About the author: Kevin Conner is the founder and CEO of Broadbandsearch.net, the U.S.’s leading home services (broadband and TV) search engine. Kevin’s strengths lie in creating a strategic vision and leading a team to successfully execute that vision.

 
 

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How to Find the Perfect Name For Your Business (Guest Contribution from Squadhelp)

The following post comes to us from Grant Polachek, Director of Marketing at Squadhelp.com, the worlds #1 naming platform serving businesses of all sizes and industries, from small startups to some of the world’s largest corporations. Get inspired by exploring these winning brand name ideas.


Naming your business is a crucial piece of launching your brand. It is often the first thing potential customers learn about your business. It should draw people in and sum up your brand identity.

Although naming is a challenge, it does not have to feel like stepping off the edge of a cliff blindfolded. With the three stages laid out below, you can streamline your ideas and get the most out of your brand name.

Stage One: Mission and Vision

Outline your brand

When selecting a name, it helps to get all of your ideas in one place. Create a document that you can refer back to throughout your naming process. Include key aspects of your brand. What do you do? What are your values? Why is what you are selling important? If others don’t feel that you’re passionate about your own brand, they will begin to question why they should care about it at all.

Jotting down a few existing business names that you like can help you brainstorm. What do you like about these names? Are you trying to achieve a similar vibe?

Compile a list of eight to ten of your favorite names, then dissect them. Explore these winning name ideas to start. Write a couple of bullet points about what you like about the name and why it works for that company. Dissecting your favorite names can provide direction to your naming process.

Consider your audience

A clothing brand targeted at successful middle-aged professional women will sound nothing like a fashion line for hip students, and there’s a reason. Your brand name should not just be about you, it should be about who you are selling to. Most successful names target a specific audience, drawing them in with values and emotions that resonate with them.

For example, take the investing app Robinhood. Their platform focuses on making the investment process free and accessible for the average person, not just the wealthy. The name of their brand not only summarizes their values perfectly by using the story of the heroic bandit Robin Hood, it also appeals to a millennial audience. The name is youthful and fun, and it aligns with millennial values of convenience and fairness.

Look ahead

Where do you want your brand to be in five years? What about ten years? If you’re planning on starting a company that might expand into new areas down the line, be careful not to choose a name that pigeonholes you. At the start, you may be launching a brand of socks, and you feel that the name SuperSocks could be a great fit, but if you plan to grow into other territories later, taking on accessories like hats and scarves, SuperSocks is no longer a suitable name. Planning ahead can help you avoid a costly rebranding process down the line.

Try to sum up your mission and vision in a few short project statements like this:

● We need a name that captures our fun, unique approach to selling socks.

● We need a name that establishes us as a hip, young brand

● We need a name that hints at our eco-friendly business practices Get started by writing a few project statements of your own.

Stage Two: Get Creative

The essentials

Now that all of your ideas are in one place and you’ve figured out what kind of name you want, you can start coming up with ideas. S

tart with the basic principles of a good name. A strong name is easy to say, easy to spell, and easy to hear. If people have a hard time sharing your brand, they won’t share it at all, stunting your brand’s climb to success.

Gather some names

Now, it’s time for the fun part. Jot down every possible name you can think of that might fit the brand you are creating. Don’t be afraid to think out of the box, and don’t be afraid of writing down names you don’t like. The more you have to cross off the list, the better idea you will have of what you are looking for.

Start broad. Some names are descriptive, abstract, emotional, or classic. You can merge words to form a name, or use two separate words to sum up your appeal. Write down a possible example for every name type you can think of. This can help you see what you’re looking for. The more names you have to work with, the better scope you’ll have. Narrow your list Now that you have compiled a broad range of ideas, begin crossing off ones that don’t work for you until you have a list of five or six favorites. This is a great opportunity to get second opinions from friends, family, or even your target market.

When asking questions, don’t just ask “Which of these names is your favorite?” Frame your question neutrally by asking something more along the lines of “Which brand would you want to learn more about?”

Stage Three: Check your Boxes

Secure your domain and assess your risk

A strong domain compliments a good name. Your website is where people will find out more about what you do, so it is best to have as close of a match as possible.

Run a trademark risk test to ensure that your name isn’t already taken by a similar business. If your name is closely related to another name for a business that offers similar services, you may run into trouble with trademark law. Be proactive about trademark risk to avoid messy legal issues.

Coming up with a strong name is a daunting task. So much rests upon a name. It is the sum of your brand’s identity, and it is the first point of connection for your audience. You may feel like all the best names are already taken, or that you have no good ideas, but the perfect name for your business is out there. It just takes a bit of prospecting and brainstorming to find it.

About the Author: Grant Polachek is the Director of Marketing at Inc 500 company Squadhelp.com, the worlds #1 naming platform, with nearly 20,000 customers from the smallest startups across the globe to the largest corporations including Nestle, Philips, Hilton, Pepsi, and AutoNation. Get inspired by exploring these winning brand name ideas.

 

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A No Is As Good As a Yes

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!


No Word Showing Denial Panic And NegativityThink for a moment how many questions you ask in a single day. There are the simple questions like asking your child what they’d like for breakfast or asking your spouse what time they’ll be home from work. There are then the more complex questions like asking your boss to clarify your responsibilities on a project or asking a potential client if they’d like to move forward with your services. For simple questions, an answer is usually easy to obtain. But for the more complex and sometimes controversial questions, a quick and straightforward answer is harder to extract.

Anyone who has asked enough questions knows exactly what I’m talking about. So often we avoid providing someone with an answer because we think it will upset them or strain our relationship. The interesting reality is that the lack of an answer is more frustrating, and potentially more damaging, than providing a yes or no because it demonstrates a lack of respect for someone’s time.

In business, I often compare waiting for an answer to being in progress purgatory. It’s terrible to have your hands tied and be forced to bring work to a halt while you wait for a response from a client or co-worker. There are certainly instances where a delayed response is understandable. Life has been known to throw curve balls. But when an answer can be provided, it should be provided—as quickly and clearly as possible. Otherwise you may be costing someone else their time and energy as they wait for an answer and put effort into following-up.

I’m sure we can all bring a few examples to mind, maybe even one we’re dealing with right now. It’s that email that hasn’t been answered in over a week or that voice mail message that’s still waiting on a call back. It shows a lack of respect for someone else’s time when such questions or requests go unanswered and it can all be avoided with some simple communication. Immediate responses aren’t always possible or expected, but even when you can’t provide a response, you can provide the communication that you are seeking one. I know I always appreciate a message acknowledging my question and letting me know when to expect follow-up.

The bottom line is that you’re not doing anyone any favors by leaving them hanging. If the answer you have isn’t the one they’d prefer, you likely still have a good reason for choosing that answer. Explain this reasoning as simply as possible and give them the answer straight-up. Even if you can’t give someone the response they want, you can at least give them the ability to move forward and seek a different solution or opportunity. And at the end of the day, that’s a lot better than being stuck in progress purgatory!

Do you agree that a no is as good as a yes compared to not receiving an answer at all? What role in this scenario do you usually play—the one waiting for the response or the one evading the response? Share your insights and input by commenting below!

 
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Posted by on November 5, 2018 in Business & Success, Life

 

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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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Embracing the Non-Monetary Benefits of Entrepreneurship

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!


no money funI’ve shared my insight before on how fellow entrepreneurs and business owners might choose to price their services. It’s a fine balance between earning what you’re worth and remaining competitive. One of the biggest challenges comes when you’re just starting out. With little to no prior experience and only a small portfolio of work to showcase, new clients often hire you on a hope and a prayer that you’re half as good as what you promise. This situation often requires you to charge far less than market value for your time to even get your foot in the door. Even a seasoned entrepreneur can recall such a time in their career. The glitz and glamour of being a “business owner” can quickly become jaded by the lack of money, time and sleep in return for countless hours of hard work. So how do successful entrepreneurs overcome this starting hurdle? When I was first building Bennis Inc from the ground up, had I measured my success and happiness in income, I may have thrown in the towel before I ever really got going. Instead, I quickly learned that I had to embrace the non-monetary benefits of entrepreneurship until I reached market value. If you’ve also taken the entrepreneurial leap, focusing on these benefits can help you overcome the “I’m WAY underpaid“ blues.

Flexibility

Even when I was just making ends meet, this didn’t impact my ability to enjoy life’s no-cost luxuries. I was (and still am) able to go for a run whenever I feel like it. I can grocery shop at non-peak hours and enjoy a peacefully empty store all to myself. I can take an early weekend (say, starting on Tuesday?) or grab coffee with a friend who’s swinging through town. With my 9-5 job, I felt guilty even scheduling a doctor’s appointment during the day. Now I can get a haircut whenever it’s most convenient—completely guilt free. Of course, this type of free time and flexibility is balanced by sometimes having to work late into the evenings or on the weekends, but at least it’s at my discretion. When I have work to do, I do it and when I don’t, I’m not stuck chained to a desk. As an entrepreneur, soak this up! Your friends may have chosen a more stable, traditional career, but they likely can’t do work from a park on a sunny summer day.

Creative Freedom

You’re a business owner – that means you also own every decision that’s made. This can be a scary reality, but also an incredibly rewarding one. While you might not be raking in the “big bucks” just yet, remember that the ability to make a decision and not have it be second-guessed or turned down is a luxury most people would place a pretty big price tag on.

Building Something All Your Own

This is all you. When you’re building a business you get to take complete ownership over how every piece comes together. Do you want to steer things in a new direction? Sure! Is your goal to someday have 100+ employees? Go for it! Is your goal to work remotely and travel 10 months out of the year? It can be done! The beauty of building your own business is that you have the ability to make it unique and custom fit to your goals. I have yet to see an example of a corporate job that allows for the same.

Leadership

During my time of really embracing the non-monetary benefits of entrepreneurship, I found that this is truly one of life’s ultimate leadership experiences. It requires a great deal of self-confidence, trust in your instincts and quick thinking. I always felt like I had leadership qualities inside of me that would shine through when it was required, but as an entrepreneur, leadership is required every day. Some might say it’s baptism by fire, but I think one of the greatest benefits of entrepreneurship is the “leadership boot camp” it provides. You’re forced to step into this role quickly and without hesitation.

At the end of the day, it’s important that we remind ourselves that we’ve chosen the entrepreneurial path for a reason. Hopefully it wasn’t for the money (because that can take many, many years to get flowing) but rather it was for the flexibility, creative freedom, ability to create something new and unique and life’s ultimate leadership experience that is entrepreneurship. Before long, the money will follow, but if you embrace these non-monetary benefits early, the money will no longer be the ultimate goal.

 
 

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