What was your favorite subject in school?

Summer is over and the kids are back to school.  As I write this, it’s one of those amazing fall days in the Midwest where the sky is blue, the mornings are cool and the sunshine promises an extension of summer.

This weekend I had the chance to spend time with a few kids which is always fun -- for a few hours at most!  I forget how much energy kids have. They bounce from one thing to another and are easily distracted.  

And they are all so different.

Just like business owners.  

Energy and passion to run the business.  Moving from one thing to another throughout the day and distractions taking focus from the thing you should be doing.  

And we're all different.  You probably started your business because you were better at something than others and you saw an opportunity. 

It's likely accounting and finances were not the reason you started your company -- unless you’re a bookkeeper or accountant.

But money and supporting yourself and your family is why you are in business.  Knowing how much money you company has is your responsibility.  

Let's get back to basics and take the first steps to understanding your finances is knowing what you're tracking.  

To start, all you need to know is how much money comes in and how much you spend every month.  

The money coming in is called revenue or sales.

The money going out are your expenses.

The money left over is profit or loss.

Track revenue and expenses and you can easily see if the company is making money or losing money.   

So why don’t more business owners track finances?  I think some don’t know where to start, some are scared, and some just don’t want to.  

If you don’t know where to start or are scared of what you might find, I suggest keeping it really simple.  Track your revenue for each day and track your expenses for each day using this tracking spreadsheet.  

Every day: 

  • Calculate your daily revenue.  This number will come from the software you use, any payments you receive, deposits you make, etc.  If you’re just starting to track your sales, this exercise will help you understand all the different ways you get paid. 
  • Calculate your daily expenses.  You will get your expenses from anything you pay for.  You might pay with cash, check, or credit card. Your business may have automated expenses as well so you’ll need to look at your online banking statement to find what was charged that day.  

The spreadsheet will calculate your profit or loss for the day.  

Doing this will help create the habit of tracking and you’ll have a good idea if you need to grow revenue and cut expenses.  Once you know your total revenue and expenses, you can start digging deeper by breaking out your sales categories and understanding your expenses.

Getting back to the basics will help you reevaluate your business.  

E-mail me and let me know if you’re up for the challenge of tracking your revenue and expenses for the next few weeks.  And if you need help with getting your business back on track, schedule a call.

If you’re a business owner who just doesn’t want to know about finances, hire a bookkeeper who is willing to do all your tracking and hire an accountant who will be honest with you about the financial stability of your company. 

Fantasy or Reality – Measuring your Marketing Spend

This weekend was my fantasy football draft. I’ll admit, I’m not great at Fantasy football, yet. I know once I take the time to focus on the stats, make changes according to the numbers, and trade players that aren’t working for the team I’ll have a lot more fun and maybe even finish in the top half of the league.  

That’s how I think of business. Once you take the time to know the numbers and make the changes necessary to improve your numbers, your focus shifts from drama (i.e.; worrying about what the numbers are) to data (i.e.; knowing what the numbers are and having the information you need to make changes.)

Some numbers, like sales and revenue, are easy to measure while other numbers, like marketing spend, aren’t as intuitive.  But it doesn't matter if you are doing traditional or digital marketing, it’s important to know your numbers.

The first step to tracking marketing spend is to set a budget for marketing and decide how the budget will be allocated. Settling on a firm budget structure will help tracking.  A small company may have one marketing budget where a larger company might have a budget for each location, product, or audience.  

Once you have a marketing budget structured, decide who is responsible for tracking the marketing spend.  At a small company, this might be the owner while at a larger organization, each location might track their spend separately and roll it up to a larger entity.

Now comes the fun part, deciding how to measure the spend.  

Traditional marketing, conventional marketing used before internet marketing became rampant, might be easier to measure because it’s been around longer and there are tried and true ways to track how much is spent on each channel vs sales.  

Digital marketing becomes more complex because there are so many different touch points. To get a complete picture of your marketing spend, you’ll need to track all interactions. Google Analytics is a good place to start because you can track email, social media, PPC (pay-per-click), and SEO (Search Engine Optimization).  

If Google Analytics seems too overwhelming, pull out a spreadsheet and start tracking interactions by hand.  Examples of metrics to look at each week are:

Website - Total number of unique visitors to your web site

E-mail - Total number of emails sent, Total number of opens, total number of clicks

Social Media - Number of followers, shares, tags, or likes

If you’re paying for advertising (i.e.; facebook, instagram, linkedin, or adword) metrics include number of impressions, cost per click, and cost per conversion.

One of the tricky parts of tracking your marketing budget is that not all marketing will lead to a sale.  Having a goal in mind for your marketing is the only way to know if your marketing is successful.  

For example, if you are running ads to get people to sign up for an email list, you would measure the number of email subscribers and expect the number to go up each month.  If the goal is new customers, you will want to measure the number of new customers during a time frame.  

The effectiveness of your marketing campaign won’t be known overnight; it takes time.  Whether you’re doing it on your own or hiring a company, have a goal for your marketing spend, assign a budget, and measure the effectiveness of your campaigns.  

For help in setting up your marketing budget or tracking your marketing spend, schedule a call with me to talk about how I can help.  Knowing if you're getting the results you want will take you from managing based on intuition to managing based on data. 

What did you say?

This past week communication was top of mind.  Not only did I read the book Conversations Worth Having but there were quite a few client and family conversations that left me wondering "what did they say?"  

These conversations led to a heightened awareness of how I’m interacting with the people around me and what I can do to have better communication and conversations.  

At its most basic level, communication is the exchange of thoughts, information, ideas and messages between people and groups.  And over the past few weeks I’ve noticed how often the transmission of what is in someone’s head does not quite make it to the other person as it is intended.

Some of the things I’ve noticed:

It’s not always easy to stay focused on the message

Have you ever been in a conversation with someone and they pause and say “Now where was I going with this?”  After some forensic diagnosis -- “We were talking about…” “And then…” -- you finally remember where they were going and the conversation resumes.  

Staying focused on the message creates clear communication and help get the point across.  

As the listener, your role is to focus not only the words being used but also the intent, context, and tone to create mutual understanding.  

If action is necessary from the conversation, making it as clear as possible will ensure it gets done.  And it’s up to everyone to be clear on what, when, where, and who.  

Keep the message simple 

We are all busy and have information overload so when you’re communicating, cut through the emotions, “couching,” and hyperbole and get to the point.  When you’re able to communicate without the noise and repetition, the message become easy to digest and, if needed, actionable.   

It’s only a dialogue if everyone contributes

All parties have a role in clear, concise communication.  It’s not just the person initiating the conversation. We’ve all heard that we should listen more than we talk.  In a conversation, it’s important to create opportunities to ask questions, clarify terms, and confirm actions.  

When we pause in our conversation and ask questions, we’re opening up a free flow of ideas, topics, and meaning.  Allowing time for the questions to unfold is critical to a conversation.  

Old patterns are hard to break

We all have patterns of conversations that we fall back on at times.  One of the ways to break unwanted patterns and habits of communication is to look for the things you agree on instead of looking for points of contention.  Appreciating the relationship you have with the other person and what they bring to the table may steer the conversation in a different direction.

As a business owner, clear, concise communication is critical to leading, managing, and growing your business.  Understand what your goals are in communicating, stay focused on the message, and keep it simple.  

Recognize your communication habits and, if needed, change how you typically approach conversations.  If you need help recognizing your communication patterns or getting ideas on how you can get better results by changing not only what you are saying but how you’re saying it, SCHEDULE A CALL.

5 Low Cost Marketing Ideas

If you’re a new business or and established business whose expenses are out performing your revenue, marketing and selling should be on your list today and every day until you start to see a profit.  

Finding clients for your business, converting them to customers, and keeping them happy is why you’re in business.  You have a great product or service and you’re great at what you do but you need customers to be a sustainable business.

If you’re a business owner, you probably know a little about marketing -- the action of promoting products and services.  

But maybe you didn’t start your business because you were good at marketing.  It might have started because you were good at or passionate about something and marketing became a thing you needed to learn to get customers to buy your products or services.  

There are many different ways to go about promoting your business that at times it can be overwhelming.  

Following are 5 low cost marketing efforts you can put in place in your business this week.  Pick one to focus on, and when you’ve systematize it, move on to another one.   

Business Cards

Everyone in your company should have business cards with their name, title, and contact information (no fax number please!)  Carry your business cards with you wherever you go and hand them out to anyone you’re having a conversation with. When you get a business card, enter them into your contact list and add them to your newsletter list.   

Create a Newsletter

Newsletters with valuable content can bring more people into your business.  Newsletters are an easy, inexpensive way for people to get to know you and your business.  Schedule your newsletter so it goes out the same day and time every week. Each newsletter can have a different topic.  Use your newsletters for promotion sparingly -- Gary Vaynerchuk refers to this as jab, jab, jab, hook.   Content to consider are employee introductions, how to use your product of service, new products in the pipeline, surveys, and testimonials.  

Social Media

Social Media is the fastest way to get your message out to the most people quickly.  When you’re deciding on where to focus your efforts, think about where you customers are hanging out.  Facebook, Instagram, Linked, and Twitter are all viable options for promoting your business. Pick one and start building a following.  Your goal for social media is to be helpful and social -- respond to posts from other people, let your expertise be known and use the 80/20 rule.  80% of your posts should be educational and establish you as an authority. 20% should be promotional.  

Social Media Advertising

In addition to “FREE” promotion on social media, paid advertising is a great way to grow your email list, inform people of groups and events, and get new clients.  Tracking your spend and conversion rates on social media is relatively easy. When you start advertising on Facebook, Instagram, or Linkedin, set a budget high enough to give your ads time to perform.  If you’re new to advertising on social media and have time to learn how to do it, you’ll save a lot of money. But if you’re technically challenged, find a social media expert and have them create and track the ads for you.  If you hire someone, hold them accountable for weekly reporting and don’t enter into a long term contract until they prove the ads they’ve created are converting.

Networking and Speaking Engagements

Getting in front of people to talk about your business, products and services is still a great way to generate leads and sales in your business.  We still like to “meet” the people were doing business with and put a name to a face. Sometimes there’s no substitute for getting out of the office and engaging in a good conversation over a beverage.  Be sure to have your business cards handy.

These are 5 easy ways to market your business and of course there are many more -- join the local chamber, create a website built to convert, write a blog, write a book, meetup groups -- the list is endless.  

Whatever you decide to do, make sure you do it consistently and measure the return.  

Once you see a profit in your business, marketing doesn’t stop.  Reinvest in your marketing efforts by increasing your marketing budget or hiring someone to handle the marketing department.  

As business owners, promoting the business is your responsibility.  To make sure your efforts are showing a return, find the key metrics, track and review them weekly so you can make any course corrections necessary.  

If you need help creating your marketing plan or the metrics for measurement, SCHEDULE A CALL with me and we'll create a roadmap to keep you leads constant and your conversion rates high. 

Are you heading to Toledo?

Last week's blog was all about some of the Low Value uses of time we often find ourselves doing out of habit, guilt, or just not being aware of another way. It's important to keep this list top of mind so you continue to work on the high value/high return tasks first.

But there's another list; the list of the top 10 Valuable ways to spend your time. In his book, The 80/20 Principle:  The Secrets of Achieving more with Less, Richard Koch presents a list of 10 focus areas where businesses have historically used the 80/20 principle to generate the most money with the least assets and effort.

Top 10 Business Applications of the 80/20 Principle

  1. Strategy
  2. Quality 
  3. Cost Reduction and Service Improvement 
  4. Marketing
  5. Selling 
  6. Information Technology
  7. Decision Making and Analysis
  8. Inventory Management
  9. Project Management
  10. Negotiation

It's probably no surprise that Strategy is first on the list.

Strategy is loosely defined as having a plan and directing your operations toward the plan.  Or knowing where you want to go and taking the steps to get there.  

Without a vision for your business you might end up somewhere you don't want to be. 

When you first started your business, you probably spent time dreaming of the impact you were going to make, the product or service that was going to change the world in some small (or big) way, and the freedom you would have to do what you want with your time.

And maybe, somewhere along the way, you lost sight of that vision because other things  got in your way. (see list of low value uses of your time!) Things that you didn't expect or tied you up from doing the important work.

If you can identify with feeling like you lost your vision, strategy, or plan for your business, it's time to tap back into the passion you had when you started your business.

Remember the dreams -- what it would look like, the clients you'd have, the financial support your business would provide?  It's time to tap back into those images and start moving forward again.

Take time each morning to meditate or visualize what your business can look like.  Think about the people working with you. Think about your clients. Think about how much you love what you do.  

Having a strategy, creating a plan and referring to it often is one of the small steps you can take to get big results.  

One of things I recently read the other day is "Don't buy a bus ticket to Toledo if you don't want to go to Toledo."  

Knowing what you want is the first step to getting what you want.

If you need help crystalizing your strategy or creating your plan, SCHEDULE A CALL with me and we'll create a roadmap to keep you from getting on a bus to Toledo.

And I recommend this article on journaling by Benjamin Hardy if you're trying to convince yourself to start journaling or being more consistent in your writing practice.  

Are you spending your time wisely?

Last week I went to a seminar where I was immersed in 2 days of facilitation skills and design work.  

The value I got out of the seminar was priceless; I made connections with other coaches, was exposed to new ideas and had dedicated thinking time. 

There was some trepidation about leaving the business for 2 days but learning from one of the best in the industry was well worth my time.  

How we spend our time is so important because it determines the quality of our life.  It's easy to know the high value uses of our time -- they are all the things we need to do to accomplish our goals.

But often we get stuck in the low value uses of our time.  

Have you ever heard of Pareto's Law commonly referred to as the 80/20 rule?  It says the majority of results, 80%, will come from about 20% of the effort.  

The key is to know and focus on the activities that create a majority of the results.  This means ELIMINATING the things that you spend time on that don't get results.  

In his book, The 80/20 Principle:  The Secret to Achieving More with Less, Richard Koch provides a list of the top 10 low value uses of time.

Since time is THE resource we can't get back and we can't make more of, it is THE resource we need to use wisely and be ruthlessly focused on how we spend it. 

We don't get time back; once it's gone, it's gone.  

In the list of Koch’s top 10 low value uses of time, he gives insight into how we get stuck working on things that aren’t advancing our goals and our lives.  

The List: Top 10 Low Value Uses of Time

  1. Things other people want you to do
  2. Things that have always been done this way
  3. Things you're not unusually good at doing
  4. Things you don't enjoy doing
  5. Things that are always interrupted
  6. Things few other people are interested in
  7. Things that have already taken twice as long as you originally expected
  8. Things where your collaborators are unreliable or low quality
  9. Things that have a predictable cycle
  10. Answering the telephone

Sometimes we get so caught up in habits and rituals that we stop questioning why we do things the way we do and we get stuck in doing things for the sake of doing them.  

When was the last time you thought about why you are doing something.  

Print this list and refer to it when you're setting up your schedule for the day.  Use it as a filter to identify anything that doesn’t get you closer to your goals.  

And use it when you're reflecting on your week.  It will help you see why you didn't get as much done as you planned. 

If you need help seeing things from a different perspective SCHEDULE A CALL with me and we'll create a roadmap to get you on the right track.

A surefire way to screw 2 things up at once

Do you ever wonder how you’ll get everything done you need to?  

If you’re anything like me, you have a quite a few things on your list.  There might be a few big things like client meetings or hiring an employee and a lot of smaller things like social media and administrative tasks.  

One strategy people use to get more done is Multi-tasking.  Multi-tasking is when you try to get 2 or more things done at once.

Have you ever:

  • Checked e-mail while you’re on a conference call?
  • Taken a client call while having a conversation with your spouse?
  • Signed a contract while talking to an employee?

Even though it seems like we’re getting more done, studies have shown multi-tasking is really a way to screw 2 things up at once. 

A study done at Stanford compared groups of people on their tendency to multitask and their belief that it helps performance.  They found that heavy multitaskers were worse at multitasking and had trouble organizing their thoughts and filtering out irrelevant information.  Another study showed that multi-tasking can actually lower IQ.

Although we can do 2 things at once -- talk and chew gum for example -- we can only FOCUS on one thing at a time.  If we're trying to check email and pay attention on a call, we are switching from one thing to another rapidly - so fast you don’t even notice.  

In the switching, we lose our concentration and it takes time for us to “remember” where we left off and start over.  It’s the constant stopping and restarting where we tend to forget things. This leads to days and weeks of unfinished business, loose ends, and shoddy work.  

The solution to this is planning your day so you can focus on the things that need your full attention.  Some ways to do this are time-blocking your calendar, using a timer to focus on one thing (Pomodoro Method), and doing tasks that require your focus earlier in the day.

Even though multi-tasking seems like the solution to our busy lives, it’s actually focus on the important things that will grow your business and lead to more fulfillment.

Systems to grow your business

Many business owners stunt their own growth with entrepreneurial A.D.D. They have a lot of good ideas but they can't figure out what's the most important thing to work on.  

They start writing an article but in the process of writing the article they get distracted by an e-mail they were supposed to send to a client.  Jumping over to e-mail, there's 6 new e-mails in their inbox which they start answering.


Play Ball — What business can learn from baseball

It's the week after the 4th of July and baseball is taking a break from the regular season to celebrate the players at the All Star Game.  I've always been a baseball fan and love going to games to see how the ball parks are enticing fans to the game because, after all, baseball is not only America's past-time but it's big business.  

Even if you're not a baseball fan, there are lessons you can take away from how the business is run to help you be a better business owner and hopefully score some home runs this year.  

Know your numbers

Baseball is a game of numbers -- RBI, ERA, Batting Average -- the players and managers know what numbers matter.  Metrics are key.  Hit the numbers and you're around for another year.  Miss the numbers and you might be traded or sent down to the minors.  


Add some Spark to your 2019 plans

It's 4th of July week and as I'm writing this I'm watching my neighbors load up the car with a cooler, backpacks, and the family headed for a weeklong get-away. (Yup, I work from home and spy on the neighbors!)

Nothing says freedom more than owning your own business. You get to set your own hours, decide what you'll work on and when, pick your perfect clients, spy on your neighbors...

Unfortunately, some business owners become disillusioned while trying to grow their business to 6-or even 7-figures per year. Maybe leads aren't coming in fast enough, or there are employee issues, or production problems are keeping them from realizing their goals.

Sometimes it feels like owning a ball and chain rather than a business.

And the prospect of freedom, opportunity, and abundance doesn't seem possible.