calendar - clock

How to Build Good Habits and Buy More Time

Need more time?  It’s one the biggest complaints I hear, especially from small business owners.  There are a lot of things you can do to improve personal productivity and get more done. It’s simply a matter of forming some better habits — and its easier than you think.

Habits are nothing more than behaviors that are repeatedly done — so they become almost automatic.  They require discipline and consistency. With increased personal productivity as a goal, lets start with some basics. Things you can do today to make a difference and build on later for continuous improvement.

Best Time Management Tools

To get started, you need the two BEST time (self) management tools:

  • Calendar where you record your business and personal commitments and schedule important tasks.
  • Master To Do List where you capture all the critical tasks or stuff you need to get done so you can schedule the time to work on it.

Whether you use your phone, tablet or print planner, keep them handy and easily accessible.  You won’t use a calendar and to-do list if it’s inconvenient or you need to go find them all the time!

3 Steps to Get More Done

Now that you have the tools, make it a daily habit of doing these three things:

  1. Prioritize tasks on your to-do list.  All tasks are not created equal.  Some are urgent and important, some are important but less critical and others are simply not important or critical – when time allows! Tasks that are not urgent now may become pressing later if left undone – so review and re-prioritize as needed.
  2. Review your calendar for next day commitments.  If you have appointments or meetings, pull together what you need in advance.  It will eliminate stress and makes for more effective meetings.
  3. Schedule the next day ‘to do’ items on your calendar. Getting up with a plan for the day is the key.  For many, it is energizing.  More important it keeps you focused.

At the end of each day, check off the completed tasks, which feels great, then re-prioritize tasks and schedule the next day.  It’s a great habit to form and will certainly help you get more done.

A few additional time-management tips
  • Don’t over-schedule.  Be realistic.  Tasks often take longer than we anticipate so build in a little buffer.
  • Commit to Yourself.  When you schedule time for important tasks, give these ‘self’ commitments the priority you would give to meetings or commitments to others.
  • Match energy level.   Take advantage of high energy times to focus on important tasks.
  • Minimize distractions.  Unless YOU set the expectation, your customers, suppliers, and staff won’t expect 24/7 accessibility.  A timely response works fine.  Check email and phone messages three times per day — morning, lunch and about an hour before you head home. Don’t let the phone, text, and email rob you of precious time each and every day.
Ready to Build Your Own Success Story?

Are you ready to move your business in a better direction and wonder if working with a business coach can make a difference? Then let’s explore the possibilities with a complimentary consultation. It’s a chance to get to know each other, discuss your goals and the obstacles that hold you back. Together we can determine if there is a good fit between your needs and my services.

To learn more or schedule an appointment, call me at (856) 533-2344 or drop me an email Joan@HybridBizAdvisors.com

Customer Experience

How to Create a Great Customer Experience

Drive Referrals and Repeat Business

Most businesses focus resources on the stuff that gets the phone to ring, social sharing, location visits or website traffic. But what happens next can be the difference between a one-time sale or a lifetime customer.   It’s all about the total customer experience.

The term customer experience is the sum of all interactions a customer has with a company over the duration of their relationship.  In other words, it covers all the steps or building blocks on the loyalty ladder:  awareness, discovery, attraction, interaction, purchase, use, cultivation and advocacy.

You have a lot of chances to create a customer experience that gets people talking – good or bad – about your company.    Do it right, you get more repeat business and referrals.  Mess it up, you get none.  Sales and profit suffer, along with your reputation.  Don’t leave it to chance.

Customer Experience | Why It’s Important

Most of us recognize that customer loyalty drives referrals, reviews and repeat business. So this alone is a good reason to focus on improving the customer experience.  But here’s another reason worth considering.  

With products and services becoming commodities fast and price differentiation not sustainable, delivering a superior customer experience really does provide a competitive advantage because others can’t quickly replicate what you are doing.

3 Steps to Superior Customer Experience
Map Out What You Want

What do you want the total customer experience to look like from start to finish?  Here are a few things to consider:

  • How knowledgeable are your people as it relates to your company’s core values, products and services, and your customer needs and expectations?  Interactions with potential customers are not limited to your marketing and sales staff.  Your entire team encounters opportunities inside and outside the business.  Make everyone a customer advocate and give them the knowledge to pull it off.
  • What should your sales process look like from initial contact to ultimate sale? What are the touch points along the way? Building relationships take time and often more than one contact.
  • How should your product or service delivery work in order to insure quality and efficiency?  Is the hand-off from sales seamless to the customer or do they feel abandoned after they purchase or sign a contract?
  • What about billing?  Is it convenient, timely and accurate?  Are you taking advantage of technology to customize methods based on customer preferences?
  • What are you doing after the sale to continue to build the relationship?  Phone follow-up calls and surveys are a great way to say thanks, get feedback and ask for referrals. Do you have a system to insure after sales activities get done consistently?

You probably already have an idea of how you would like the customer experience to work. So decide what you want, document it and implement consistently.

Build a Few Measure to Track and Share

What you select may vary based on your type of business and objectives.  You don’t need a lot of measures, but you do need a few that have an impact on customer retention, satisfaction, and loyalty.  Here are a few examples: 

  • Customer satisfaction scores based on phone survey
  • Quality rating — is it done right the first time?
  • Service level scores — on-time delivery or service appointments.
  • Renewal rate — do customer re-sign up after initial terms?
  • Referrals or online reviews — how many are you receiving each month? 
Look For Ways to Keep Getting Better

Make business improvement and service an ongoing effort. Get your team, customers and suppliers involved.  Here are two questions to consider:

  • What can we do to make it easier for prospects and customers to do business with us?
  • What can we do to inspire them, to make them smile or surprise them? It doesn’t need to be something really big. Simple things like “please” and “thank you” go a long way today.

Make your total customer experience a real asset for your business.  You’ll be rewarded with raving fans who buy again and gladly tells others. Then smile as your competitor’s try to play catch-up.

Ready to Put Your Business on the Path to Success?

Would working with a business coach help you take your business to a whole new level? Then let’s explore the possibilities with a complimentary consultation. It’s a chance to get to know each other, discuss your goals and the obstacles that hold you back. Together we can determine if there is a good fit between your needs and my services.

To learn more or schedule an appointment, call me at (856) 533-2344 or drop me an email Joan@HybridBizAdvisors.com

profit-graph

Where Do Your Business Priorities Fall?

In simple terms, businesses perform two major functions — marketing and distribution. Both are important to profitability.  Distribution is the process of getting your products and services to your customers. Marketing is the process of getting the customers to come to you.

So how much time, effort and investment are you making in both of these critical areas?  Are they given equal priority?  For most small businesses, the answer is no..

Many small businesses spend the majority of time serving or delivering the products or services to customers.  In other words, focused on the distribution side.  They invest in marketing and sales when time allows or when they see a drastic drop in sales. Big mistake.

Building a pipeline of new sales opportunities while increasing sales to existing customers takes time.  It is not a stop-start activity.  Plan and make marketing and sales activities something you do daily, weekly and monthly – and do it consistently.  It will pay off on the bottom line.

Struggling to find time to build marketing activities into your busy days? Then check out an earlier post, #1 Rule for Getting More Customers, for some ideas that take less than 15 minutes!

New Monthly Article & Business Tools

For new business improvement articles, exclusive tools and insights on entrepreneurship, click here to subscribe to my monthly eNewsletter. When you do, I’ll also send you my free eBook, How to Build Profit Through Leverage.

Signs you need business coach

5 Signs You Need Accountability

The buck stops here!  As an entrepreneur, you likely relish this concept.  You gladly take ownership for the decisions, actions, and results in your business and in life.  No victim mentality is going to hold you back!

While controlling your destiny is great, many business owners recognize one simple truth.  It can be lonely at the top.  When was the last time someone congratulated you on a job well done?  Or called to check on your progress toward your goals?  Or challenged you to think bigger and try new things?

Accountability has a big impact on business success. So who is holding you accountable?

5 Signs You Need Greater Accountability
  • I know what I need to do, but I’m not sure how, so I procrastinate.
  • I have a lot of ideas but get stuck in the weeds so I miss out on opportunities.
  • I have goals and a plan, but find I go off in other directions a lot.
  • We’re doing well, but have so much more potential – what am I missing?
  • I love being my own boss, but not reporting to anyone makes it easy to put things off!
Bridging the Gap: Knowing What To Do vs. Actually Doing It!

When you share your goals with someone who has a stake in your success and can help keep you on track – something magical happens.  It brings a higher level of motivation and more structure that translates into results!

How to Build Accountability

Whether it be a spouse, another business owner or a business coach, an accountability partner can help you get focused, stay on track, prioritize tasks, deal with overwhelm, make better choices — and provide a fresh perspective to challenges or roadblocks.

When choosing an accountability partner, be sure you ask someone who is up to the challenge.  They should be willing to ask hard questions and remind you of your goals – even if you don’t want to hear it!

Set aside time to discuss your goals and progress. Make sure they are clearly defined so that your accountability partner understands what you’re trying to accomplish as well as you do.

Finally, schedule regular appointments to check in, whether it’s via email, phone or in person. Schedule the appointments in advance so they are not forgotten.  This also gives you self-imposed deadlines to work toward – something my clients find helpful.

Get Started. Stay On Track

Are you ready to take a leap forward? To get started and stay on track? My accountability programs offer an affordable way to get the help you need.  More than accountability, this program provides business owners with structure, another set of eyes and practical expert advice too! Click here to learn more.

Leaking profit

How to Plug the Profit Leaks In Your Business

Quick Books provides small business owners with the data they need for tax purposes. But are you using the information to help you make better business decisions, uncover opportunities and plug the profit leaks that cost you money?

If too much of your profit is slipping through your fingers, here are a few suggestions.

7 Tips to Get More From Quick Books

#1 – Stay Up-To-Date. Keeping records current does not require posting transactions daily. For many small businesses, weekly or semi-monthly is fine! Whether you do it yourself or delegate (outsource) it to others, keep your records up-to-date. Timely record keeping is often more accurate and leads to better decisions, fewer customer complaints, faster payments, better inventory management and happy vendors who will go the extra mile!

#2 – Reconcile Bank Account. In managing cash flow, some owners rely on their online bank statements or balances. This can be problematic because it doesn’t include pending payments. But even with technology today, errors can still occur. You can uncover problems quickly with a monthly reconciliation. If you use QB online, you can automatically upload transactions from the bank to monitor transactions. 

#3 – Manage Credit Cards and LOC’s. Because it’s easy to download credit card transactions right into Quick Books, some use this method. If you do, make sure transactions are properly posted to the right accounts or customer jobs and and amounts are accurate when doing your monthly reconciliation. Don’t assume.

#4 – Invoice Customers Quickly. Why wait a week or more to bill a customer? With online invoicing and smartphone credit card capabilities, you can bill from anywhere. The sooner you bill, the sooner you get paid!

#5 – Use Time Tracking. While we associate time tracking with companies that bill by the hour, any service business can use this tool to help evaluate labor costs associated with customer jobs. From lawn care and cleaning services to plumbers and HVAC services, knowing this information can be helpful when setting prices. More important, it can help you improve efficiency that impacts profit.

#6 – Measure Job or Customer Profit. Stop wondering if you made money on a project or customer. Quick Books allows you to capture both income and related expenses, including labor and materials, at the project or customer level. Would knowing this information help you price more effectively or focus on certain projects or customers? The answer for most business owners is yes!

#7 – Use Reminders. You can ‘memorize’ transactions and set low-stock inventory levels to trigger reminders. This is helpful for bills that occur periodically, tax payments, important or rarely used materials that have long delivery lead times, and future invoices for recurring customers or payment plans. It saves time and money!

Reports To Find Profit Leaks

In addition, Quick Books has a lot of different reports to help you manage your business and find some hidden opportunities for improvement, Most reports include a prior year comparison, helpful for looking at trends! The P&L or Income Statement is used by most owners. But what about the Balance Sheet? It provides a snapshot (balances) of your assets and liabilities, including bank accounts, credit cards, LOC, accounts receivable, accounts payable, payroll liabilities, inventory and more.

Depending on your business or what you uncover on your P&L and Balance Sheet, you may want to dig deeper. And Quick Books makes that easy too. Some of my clients find these reports helpful: A/R or aging reports, sales summaries by customer or representative, inventory report and job/customer profitability reports.

More Ways to Grow Your Business

For new business improvement articles, exclusive tools and insights on entrepreneurship, click here to subscribe to my monthly eNewsletter.  As a thank you, I’ll also send you my free eBook, How to Profit Through Leverage.

Fix-It

The Cost of Doing It Yourself

As a business owner, would you pay someone $200 an hour to pick up supplies, post on social media, or perform customer follow-up? Probably not.  Yet every day, small business owners overpay for such things by doing it themselves.

What Is Your Time Worth?

We all value our time.  But do you put a value on your time?  When you work for someone else, it’s easy to do – your rate of pay.  But as a business owner, we don’t tend to think that way.  But it’s a great tool to help you prioritize the work YOU do versus what you delegate or outsource to others.

If you have never done this, here is a simple way to approach it. Let’s consider three things:

  1. What is your personal income goal? What you want to earn in salary or draw?
  2. How many hours per week do you want to work?
  3. How many weeks vacation do you want to take? Yes you should take time off and get away!

Using this information, you can easily calculate your hourly ‘value’ rate. Here is a simple example to demonstrate this:

Let’s assume you want to pay yourself $150,000 annually, work 40 hours a week and take two weeks off for vacation.  Then your hourly value would be annual pay ($150,000) divided by number of weeks (50) divided by number of hours (40) or $75 per hour.

Of course as the owner and leader of your company, you drive results. So shouldn’t you consider that when calculating your value? Here’s a good incentive — replace your personal income with annual sales. For this example, let’s assume $750,000. So your hourly value would be $750,000 / 50 weeks / 40 hours or $375 per hour.

Whichever approach you take, you will quickly realize your time is worth a lot more than you realize. Stop spending time on tasks that you could easily delegate or outsource. Focus more of your time doing the things that only you can do — things that move you and your business forward.

You may not be able to rid yourself of all low-value tasks tomorrow. But there is a cost to doing it yourself. So start eliminating them over time and you will get there.

More Ways to Grow Your Business

For business improvement articles, exclusive tools and insights on entrepreneurship, click here to subscribe to my monthly eNewsletter.  When you do, I’ll also send you my free eBook, How to Build Profit Through Leverage.

5 Reasons to Work With Business Coach

5 Reasons to Work With a Business Coach

A business coach can certainly help you progress faster and accomplish more than you would on your own.  While the reasons I hear from my clients vary by business owner, the most common reasons include:

#1 – Business Growth. To spark new ideas and offer practical advice and support to turn ideas into actions that lead to increased revenue and profitability.

#2 – Accountability. To encourage and support your goals, keep you on track, teach you new things and push you to reach your full potential.

#3 – Sounding Board. To discuss business concerns, offer an outside perspective and challenge beliefs that can hold you back.

#4 – Shortcuts. To save you valuable time and help you avoid common mistakes that lead to frustration or worse, financial losses.

#5 – Empowerment by transferring knowledge TO you – creating self-reliance, not dependence.

Business Coach Fills the How-To Gap

Entrepreneurs are never short on ideas.  You may know things need to improve but are not sure where to start or how to get things done. A coach can help fill the “how-to” gap by bringing in the expertise and support you need to turn ideas into results.

The Gift That Keeps on Giving

When you acquire new skills and knowledge, they are yours forever.  To apply today or sometime in the future. As you grow, so will your business. Knowledge really is the gift that keeps on giving!

Ready to Put Your Business on the Path to Success?

Would working with a business coach help you take your business to a whole new level? Then let’s explore the possibilities with a complimentary consultation. It’s a chance to get to know each other, discuss your goals and the obstacles that hold you back. Together we can determine if there is a good fit between your needs and my services.

To learn more or schedule an appointment, call me at (856) 533-2344 or drop me an email Joan@HybridBizAdvisors.com

Year End Financial Questions to Grow Business

7 Questions You Should Ask At Year-End

As we approach the end of the year and the start of tax season, are you pulling together year-end financial reports and information for your accountant?  Don’t just hand them over, take the time to review them. Then ask yourself some relevant questions to help make improvements.

Go beyond revenue or sales. Explore all areas of the business that drive profitability. Look at trends. by comparing results this year with prior years. Then armed with information, create a better roadmap for success next year.

7 Questions to Ask at Year-End

  • Where did our revenue come from?  Think in terms of customers and products/services. How many new customers did we get?  How much of our revenue is coming from current customers? What products or service categories grew versus declined?
  • What are the spending habits of our customers? Here we want to consider two things. What is the average amount our customers spend and how frequently do they buy?  Is spending up or down?  Are they using less or spreading the sales among more vendors?
  • Are the gross profit margins higher, lower or the same versus last year? How do our margins compare with others in our industry?
  • Is our labor as a percentage of sales up or down? Is increased labor translating into improved service and increased profitability? Do we have the right people to get the results we want?
  • Are fixed expenses up or down versus last year?  Can we reduce costs while also increasing value? Don’t assume.  Request quotes. You don’t need to change suppliers but you should know the going rate and other value vendors provide.
  • Is your business debt higher, lower or the same when compared to previous years? Is it manageable? Do you have access to capital moving forward?
  • What did you actually pay yourself for salary or draw this year?  Is it more than last year and adequate to meet your personal obligations? This is one you should never ignore.  Your business. Your risk. Your pay!

Where Are Your Opportunities?

Based on your findings, where do you need to see improvements?  Of course, you must do something to create change. So what actions do you need to take to improve each of the areas you identified? List those tasks and you have the foundation for a simple road map to get you there.

Need a Better Road Map?

If you need a better course for your business but struggle with planning and goal setting, check out my Ultimate Goals and Action Planning Guide for small business owners.  With my step by step instructions, plus easy to use templates and examples, you can create an effective, actionable plan in less than 8 hours! Click here to learn more and get started.

goals-plans-success

Better Planning For Better Results

Whether you want double-digit growth or more control and flexibility, you need a road map to get there. Since better planning can create better results, now is the perfect time to reflect and re-set your priorities to achieve more in 2018.

Planning is not a one-and-done process. Priorities may change as you go through the year based on competition, customers, team or other issues and opportunities. So, it’s not the plan but the process of planning that is essential.

Don’t invest months trying to create the perfect plan. Concise, specific and actionable really do work best.

5 Steps to Get More from Planning

#1 – Look Back. Before you start planning the coming year, take a few minutes to look at where you are today in your business. How do your sales, profit, and other key results compare to the same period last year and your current goals? Are you ahead, on track or behind?

#2 – Acknowledge Accomplishments. Even if you are on track, a natural tendency is to focus on what you didn’t get done or what you could have done better. It’s important to acknowledge your successes, big or small. Jot them down and pat yourself on the back. Most of all, continue to do the things that worked!

#3 – Learn & Adjust. No matter how much you plan or how well you execute, some things may not work out as you expected. We tend to view these as failures. If you learn from mistakes and make changes to improve it next time, you haven’t really failed. You simply delayed success! Don’t dwell on it. Make adjustments for the coming year and move on.

#4 – Set Goals. What do you want to accomplish in the coming year? Be specific and realistic with some stretch – think bigger! Also consider all areas of your business, not just revenue. You will want to track progress, so make your goals measurable. Consider the exact outcomes you want. Here are a few examples. Acquire 4 new customers each month or increase gross profit margins 5% by year-end.

#5 – Identify Key Tasks. Results come from doing so identify the tasks or things you must DO to achieve the goals you set. Most business owners, like you, have revenue growth goals. So, you likely want more leads, better sales conversion or more repeat business. What do you need to do to get them? Your plan should list these tasks. Remember to include time frames or deadlines – they help to keep you on track.

If you want to achieve more in 2018, create the roadmap to help you get there.  Be flexible to take advantage of opportunities that emerge – they will.  Most of all, start doing.

Where Are Your Opportunities?

If you are looking for ideas or opportunities to improve your business, check out my Business Success Checklist. It’s designed to help you uncover the opportunities and actions needed to get more sales, profit, control, and freedom from your small business. Click here to learn more and download.

Repackage services

How To Package Services To Grow Sales

Is sales growth one of your key goals? When planning, many service companies look at expanding services to get there. It’s certainly one option. But why start from scratch or reinvent the wheel? Simply package or repackage current products and services to provide more options for your customers. After all, customers love and want options – and packaging provides convenience, savings, simplicity and often better results.

7 Questions To Ask Before You Package Services

Who is the package being created for? Be specific. If you want your package to sell, it must meet the needs of the target. It is much easier to add the relevant features when you have a specific customer or niche group in mind. You’ll achieve greater success if you avoid the one-size fits all solution.

What results can your customer expect to receive? If they purchase the ‘package’ what will they get – more time, savings, increased growth, convenience, etc. Try to be as specific as you can.

What makes it different from other products or services? This is an important question so don’t overlook it. Think about the system or process you use to use to deliver it? What makes it easier or convenient? How does it work better? What additional value do they get? Are the expected results tangible or measurable? Can you guarantee the benefit you expect to deliver? Often going through this process triggers ideas and helps you build the features for the package.

What features are included in the package? Remember to link these back to the benefits or results you will deliver and only include features that are important to YOUR specific target.

What will you charge? Before you just throw in a number, consider the target, the benefits or results they can expect and the difference from other products or services. If your new package is positioned around convenience or better results, your target may not expect savings or a lower price. But if it’s built around savings, then your price should reflect this. What would your target be willing to pay? Do you wish to establish a price but offer a special introductory offer to current customers? How will they pay – at time of service, payment plans, multi payments, monthly invoicing, etc?

What will you name it? While not applicable to every package, an easy to understand or cool name can help with marketing your new package.

How will you communicate it to reach customers? Do you simply wish to rely on up-selling or cross-selling existing customers or prospects? Do you wish to reach others with this package and need additional tactics to do it? The key here is to have a plan. Don’t create the package and hope for the best.

So get the juices flowing and look for ways to provide additional options that your customers want.  It really is a great way to generate additional revenue for your business.

More Ideas to Grow Your Business

For new business improvement articles, exclusive tools and insights on entrepreneurship, click here to subscribe to my monthly eNewsletter. When you do, I’ll also send you my free eBook, How to Build Profit Through Leverage.