Skills to Take You From Technician to Entrepreneur

5 Business Skills To Take You From Technician to Entrepreneur

Many small business owners are very good at what they do – from HVAC and automotive repairs to graphic design,  IT or accounting services.  They honed these skills while working for others – and at some point decided “I can do this on my own, make more money and have more time”.   And yes, they can.  But it takes more than technical know-how to build and sustain a successful business.

As a business owner, you need to wear a lot of hats. If you truly want to build a better business – one that works for you, here are some business skills you need to develop.

Time Mastery

It’s no surprise that the biggest complaint of business owners is a lack of time. While organizing can certainly help, the best way to get back time comes from improvements in planning.

Planning and goal setting help you prioritize and stay on track – a key to time management. Without it, everything looks important and little gets accomplished.  Planning starts with a clear vision for your business.  Next, incorporate your goals – what do you want to accomplish?  Then, identify what you need to do to reach those goals.  Whether you call them strategies, tactics, or tasks, these are the actions you must take to accomplish your goals.  Finally, schedule time to work on the ‘strategic’ parts of your business.

Keep in mind that planning is a cycle and ongoing process.  Monitor your results and make adjustments as needed.   Make planning and goal-setting a priority.  Be the visionary and strategist your company needs.

People Mastery

You can’t do it all yourself.  Whether you hire employees, sub-contract work or outsource projects and routine tasks, your small business needs others to grow and prosper. Most owners recognize the importance of getting quality people to support them and their businesses.  But too often, they ignore the need to develop and manage them – especially when outsourcing or subcontracting work.  Clear expectations, shared goals, ongoing feedback, and open communication lead to high-performance ‘teams’ – and a willingness to delegate to others!  Be the manager and leader your company needs.

Financial Mastery

You don’t need to be a numbers guru to be successful.  Whether you love them or hate them, the numbers are your friend – and a great tool for making sound business decisions and prioritizing where you put your resources.   While your accountant and bookkeeper can help with planning and day-to-day record keeping, YOU own your financial performance.

Take the time to learn and understand the key financial drivers that impact profitability, cash flow, and your income.  While key drivers may vary by business, some common ones include sales, margins, profit, accounts receivables/payables, labor, inventory management, and operating efficiency.  Look at your financial reports monthly.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions.  A good accountant will gladly explain — it’s how we learn.   If something doesn’t look or feel right – it probably isn’t.  Don’t ignore the red flags – ask questions or ask for help. Work with your accountant and be the chief financial officer your company needs.

Revenue Mastery

When you worked for someone else, keeping sales flowing was often someone else’s job.  But as the owner, getting customers and repeat business is now up to you. Regardless of whether you do it yourself or get others to do it for you, generating sales is the lifeblood of your business.  Have methods in place to consistently generate new sales (not just leads) and get current customers to spend more and purchase again and again.   There are a lot of ways to grow and sustain revenue.  You don’t need hundreds – but you do need three things:

First, a few proven methods to generate new leads.  Second, a reliable sales system to convert those leads to paying customers.  Finally, a dependable method to stay connected with current customers to generate repeat business.  The key to success in marketing and sales is consistency.  Avoid the stopping and starting or when time allows approach.  Be the chief marketing and sales officer your company needs

Systems Mastery

A business is a combination of people and systems that evolve as the business grows.  When you are doing all the work, the quality and service are probably to your standards – even if they are inefficient.  But as you bring in others to save time and money, those same standards may decline – unless you have written systems and procedures in place to guide them.

Systems aren’t complicated, but they are the key to efficiency, effectiveness, and repeatability in all areas of your business.  They make hiring, training, and outsourcing easier.  They make your business more efficient – which translates into more profit.  And most of all, they ensure you consistently deliver what you promise to customers, employees, suppliers, and others who depend on YOU.

Owning your own business can be rewarding. With a commitment to learning and developing new skills, your business can provide you with the income, lifestyle, and freedom you want.  As Ben Franklin said, “An investment in learning pays the best dividends”.

Experience the Power of Business Coaching

Why do so many successful business owners choose this path to build a better business — one that works FOR them? Because it works — they get results!

So ask yourself. Would another set of eyes, ongoing support, and accountability from an expert help you take your business in a new and better direction? Then let’s start a conversation. Schedule your free discovery call today. Book appointment.

team stepping up

Does Your Team Step Up When It Matters

Owning a business requires leadership, vision, innovation, and persistence.  But most of all it requires teamwork and collaboration.  Over the past few years,  we learned a lot about ourselves and the people we have in place to support our business. When times get tough, does your team step up and work together to make a difference?  Or do they operate as individuals with no commitment to customers or each other?

Does your culture promote collaboration and teamwork? If not, you can change the storyline at any time and create what you need for your business to be successful — a real team.

Related: Hiring | 7 do’s and don’t to make your efforts pay off

Team Building Secret

So, what is the secret to building a great team? It’s not about paying them a lot of money, but always paying them what they are worth.  It’s not about giving them weeks and weeks of paid time off. But getting paid to enjoy time away is always appreciated. You may be surprised to learn that some of the best ways to build a strong team cost you very little.

#1 – Get Them Engaged.

Vince Lombardi had the right idea. “Individual commitment to a group effort is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, and a civilization work.” Individual commitment comes from participation and understanding.  The more involved your team is, the more committed they are to its success.  And since some of the best ideas for business growth and improvement come from employees, it’s time to get them engaged.  Then everyone wins!

#2 – Show Appreciation.

As human beings, we want recognition and need to feel appreciated. It’s natural. So what do you do to make your team feel appreciated? Again, it’s not about money.  Yes, token gifts or group lunches are nice; but simple things like thank you for a job well done, recognizing them in front of peers and customers, and soliciting their suggestions go a long way.  All it takes is a little forethought and some of your time!

#3 – Volunteer Together.

With so many needs in local communities, this is an opportunity to work together outside the traditional work environment. These projects help you get to know co-workers as people. It’s a great way to build personal relationships. Find a volunteer project the team can get behind – and do it together. Have fun while you help others.

#4 – Give Them Authority

When you give people the opportunity and authority to be their best, you will get the best out of them. Provide your team with the guidance they need. Then give them the authority to make decisions and solve problems. It’s the best way to demonstrate trust.

Get Your Team Off the Sidelines

When your people are committed and in the game, you set yourself up for success. So, make sure you hire the right people, invest in their development, and create a collaborative culture. When you do, you and your business will be in a better place. One where you will survive whatever the world throws at you.

Need help? Let’s discuss. Schedule a free 30-minute consultation.  Book an Appointment

About Joan Nowak

I’ve been helping business owners turn ideas into profits for more than a decade. My whole-business, common-sense approach empowers my clients and drives improvements in critical areas, including revenue, operations, team development, customer satisfaction, and profitability.


15 Barriers to Personal Productivity

When it comes to personal productivity, most of us can be better. If we eliminate some bad habits or time wasters, how much more could we accomplish? Could we carve out more time to spend with family and friends? Or maybe just do things we enjoy? The first step to getting more done starts with changing some behaviors.  What are you doing or not doing today that prevents you from being productive at work or home?

Common Productivity Roadblocks

You can’t remember what you have to do.  If you don’t have a method to easily and effectively capture tasks that need attention, things get overlooked. If you don’t write it down, you simply forget. There are various apps available to capture tasks. Most of them can sync with all your devices: computer, tablet, and phone. Choose one and your to-do list will always be close at hand!

Tasks on your list don’t make it to your calendar.  You need to set time aside in which to do the tasks that need to be done.  Lists provide a reminder of what you need to do, but they won’t get done until you schedule them on your calendar. Most of the apps for tasks and to-do lists work with your calendar.

Set aside the wrong time.  Are you working against your energy?  Some of us are morning people, others night people.  Align your tasks with your energy levels. So try to schedule important tasks when energy levels are high.

Miscalculate how long tasks take.  We often think tasks take less time than they do. It’s a common issue. Be realistic about what you can accomplish in a day and add some buffer time for the unexpected.

You’re the wrong person for the job. Recognize your strengths (and weaknesses) and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.  None of us are experts at everything. So don’t waste time on tasks you can delegate or outsource. Your time is valuable so spend it doing the right things.  You’ll be more productive — and probably a lot happier. 

The task is overly complex.  It’s human nature to avoid tasks that are too complex or cumbersome.  They often take a lot more time. Finding big blocks of time in your day to work on them makes it easy to understand why we put them on the back burner! The best solution is to chunk complex tasks into smaller, more manageable pieces and then attack them over time.

Great things are done by a series of small things brought together. — Vincent Van Gogh

Space is unorganized.  If your workspace is disorganized and cluttered, it will steal time and energy from your day.  If you spend a lot of time looking for stuff to get started, then it’s time to organize your workspace.

Unclear goals and priorities.  Without clear goals, you have no basis for making decisions on how you spend your time or prioritize the many choices you face daily.

I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination. — Jimmy Dean

Unrealistic workload.  Sometimes life does overload you. Usually (or hopefully) these are temporary.  Recognize it and delegate or eliminate the non-essentials during these times.

In transition.  Life changes sometimes make it difficult to determine how to invest your time.  The best way to overcome this is to re-identify your goals and create a roadmap for the change.

The work environment is full of interruptions.  Being easily accessible or readily available has its drawbacks.  Recognize this and plan for it.  Create a block of time each day that is interruption-free and under your control – even if you must leave your office (or your home) to get it.

Need to be a helper.  Assisting others personally or professionally can make your life rich and rewarding.  But only when it’s kept in balance.  Too much can make you resentful and overwhelmed.  Sometimes we get so caught up in our own need to be appreciated and feel valuable that we don’t let other people help us.  You empower people when you allow them to contribute, so let others help you too!

Love creating.  You keep starting projects but have a hard time finishing them.  But half-finished projects don’t deliver results and the sense of accomplishment that comes with getting things done.  This zaps energy and hurts productivity. Get some results-oriented people involved with your projects — employees, colleagues, or a business coach can help.  Spend some time with people who love getting things done. 

A need for perfection.  Not all tasks are created equal.  Do you feel compelled to do everything at the same level of excellence?  If you set the same high standards for every task, you will not finish anything.  Adjust your standards based on the specific tasks.  Some are worth your extra effort, some are not.  Remember, sometimes good is good enough!

Fear of losing creativity.  Some people fear that imposing structure or routines in their lives will squelch their creativity.  As a result, their lives are chaotic and often stressful.  Therefore, you need to learn to trust that you can put structure in your schedule and still be creative.  You don’t have to plan every minute and hour, but you can map out a general rhythm to your day.

The first step to making some changes comes from recognizing the need to do so.  Don’t try to fix them all at one time.  Focus on one then move to the next.

Tired of Hitting Roadblocks?

Are productivity and other issues causing roadblocks?  Would another set of eyes and accountability from an expert help you to get more done? If the answer is a resounding YES, let’s talk. Click here to schedule a free 30-minute phone consultation today.

About Joan Nowak. I’ve been helping business owners turn ideas into profits for more than a decade. My whole-business, common-sense approach empowers my clients and drives improvements in critical areas, including revenue, operations, team development, customer satisfaction, and profitability.

Whole-Business-Approach 1500x1000

Are You Ready to Build Your Business?

The pandemic and the years that followed have taught business owners a lot about leadership, innovation, flexibility, and teamwork. We came to understand that business as usual can change in an instant, so we need to be able to adapt quickly to rebuild or grow. We found that technology is a great tool that can open doors if we open our minds to all the possibilities. And, we learned that with the right people, we have what we need to innovate and win despite the obstacles we face.

The start of a new year is always full of opportunities to grow both revenue and profit.  Let’s get re-energized and start to take advantage of them.

A Whole Business Approach to Profit Building

Whether you need to get more customers, fix a supply chain, hire more people, or build back sustainable profit, take a whole-business approach as you grow or build your business today.

Think of your business as a machine with a lot of connected pieces. It works best when all the pieces perform well together. If one or more of the parts are broken, the business no longer works efficiently and effectively. Profit erodes.

My whole business approach works for my clients. You can use it too and build sustainable profit in your own business. Here are the core elements:

  • Planning & Goal Setting. Aligning your vision and setting clear goals with action steps and deadlines for greater focus and results.
  • Products & Services. Packaging, positioning, and pricing your products and services to attract and retain profitable customers – today and in the future.
  • Revenue Mastery. Business development, marketing, sales, and customer service strategies that attract new customers and keep existing ones coming back and referring others.
  • Systems Mastery. Streamlining and standardizing procedures, to make daily operations easier, efficient, and more effective – whether you are there or not.
  • People Mastery. Hiring and developing employees, contractors, vendors, and power partners who are committed to your customers and the success of your business.
  • Personal Development. Commitment to learning and building skills and knowledge to help you achieve your true potential.
  • Financial Mastery. Creating synergy and profit mastery, to sustain growth and cash flow, so your business continues to serve you, your people, customers, and other stakeholders.

Apply This Approach To Build Business

There are a lot of ways you and your team can improve each of these areas in your business. Check out my free eBook, Building Profit Through Leverage. It provides additional information and practical ways to build sustainable profit using my whole business approach. Download now.

Great things are done by a series of small things brought together – Vincent Van Gogh

The proven methods outlined in my free eBook can help you create a strong foundation and build profitability. Take it one step at a time and focus on small improvements in all areas of your business. Get started now. Click here to download my free eBook.

Want to get there faster? 

Would another set of eyes, ongoing support, and accountability from an expert help you take your business in a new and better direction? Then let’s have a conversation. A 30-minute discovery call is a chance to get to know each other, discuss your goals, and answer any questions. Click here to book your free call.

business systems people

How Your Systems and People Power Profit and Success

According to the author, Michael Gerber, a business is a complex structure of people and business systems that are all evolving at the same time. If you want to turn your business around, take advantage of opportunities or simply continue to build profit then it pays to put more effort into these two areas.

They are the key to sustainable growth and a business that is not completely dependent on you!

Think about your own business. What likely got you to the first $250,000 was not enough to get you to $1 million, unless you made some changes along the way. With so much at stake, do your people and processes get the level of attention they should? Here are a few things to consider:

  • When hiring employees or subcontractors, do you have clear goals, expectations, and standards? Is everyone on the same page?
  • Are the workflows and tasks in your business documented so it is easy to train and develop new team members?
  • Does your company deliver what you promise customers each and every time?
  • When someone is out or leaves, can others jump in without difficulty so customer care and other critical tasks are performed with the same level of quality and success?
  • Do your people look for ways to improve customer satisfaction or other areas of the business? Is continuous improvement a priority?
  • Could you go on vacation for two weeks without worrying or constantly calling in?

Whether you depend on employees, subcontractors, alliance partners, or vendors, the right people are a necessity for most businesses.  And if you want those people to be the best they can be, to develop and stick around, you need systems in place to help them thrive.

The Power of People in Your Business

An established business likely has an existing team and other relationships. We hear it said that “people are the most important asset in a business”. The past few years have certainly reinforced the significant role they play in your business.’s success. So let’s start there.


  • Are employees a good fit for your business today and moving forward?
  • What are the skill gaps that exist for individuals or your team as a whole? Can these be addressed with training?
  • Is your team open to change and new ways of doing things? Do they embrace technology? For some, this is a challenge.
  • Do employees have a job description with clear responsibilities and expectations?
  • Is there a path to help employees grow and develop within your company — so they stay?
  • Have individual and business goals been developed and shared? Are employees engaged in setting goals and committed to accomplishing them?

Sub-Contractors, Vendors, and Alliance Partners.

  • Do you have the right ones for your business? What are their individual strengths and weaknesses?
  • Is your business too dependent on any single supplier, leaving you vulnerable?
  • Are their quality and service standards the same as yours?
  • Have clear expectations been set and agreed upon by all parties? Is ongoing feedback in place to support the relationships?

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention YOU in the people equation.  Be honest about your effectiveness as the leader of your company. Are you the type others enjoy working with? Do you encourage innovation at all levels and give them credit for their ideas?  Will you take the time to teach and help develop others? Have you created a work environment and culture that allows your people to thrive?

Give People The Systems and Authority to Succeed

I believe most people want to perform well, contribute and make a difference in whatever job they undertake. I have seen part-timers and minimum wage earners who are worth their weight in gold and highly paid employees who are worthless. It’s all about attitude and what you, the business owner, do to help them succeed.

That’s why systems are so important. With documented systems, people know what to do and how to do it. It makes training easier and more effective. New employees can hit the ground running and start to contribute quickly! That’s a win-win for everyone.

Systems also make it easier for all employees to take on new responsibilities or help out others without difficulty. Talk about a great development tool. Equally important, it takes away the stress when someone calls out sick, goes on vacation, or leaves to take another job.

To get the most out of your people, make sure you build limits of authority into your systems as appropriate. Levels of authority are simply decision-making tools. They help your staff handle customer issues, close sales, resolve problems and keep the business running! It eliminates the need for everything to go through you and gives your people a sense of empowerment to do their job.

Examples | Limits of Authority

Quotes (in the sales process). If the quote is under $25,000 with a gross profit of xx% or more, the sales representative may approve and submit the quote directly to the customer. All quotes over $25,000 or with gross profit margins below xx% require the approval of the sales manager/owner.

Customer service. Representatives may issue credits, refunds, or payments of up to $100 to resolve customer issues. Credit or payments between $101 – $250 require office manager approval. All credits or payments over $250 require owner approval.

Purchasing. Using one of our approved suppliers or vendors, purchasing agent has the authority to issue POs up to $10,000. Purchase orders over $10,000 require owner approval.

If you are new to building systems in your business, you are probably thinking ‘Wow, this is a lot of work’. It’s not difficult, but it does take time. But with every procedure you document and implement, you begin to see the benefits. Improved efficiency, increased sales, more profit – and a lot less stress!

Take it one at a time. I recommend clients start with a system that will address a common problem. One that helps you make more money, frees up your time, or fixes a customer service or operations issue. What are some common problems that arise often? What are tasks you should delegate but haven’t done so? Pick one and start there.

The right people executing your systems can help transform your business, so give it the attention it deserves.

Leverage Your Business With Systems

If you are serious about leveraging your business with systems but struggle with where to start and how to do it, then check out my Ultimate Systems and Procedures Guide. Designed specifically for small business owners, my step-by-step guide with templates and examples makes it easy to do it yourself.

Need help or prefer to work with me on this project? Schedule a complimentary call and we can discuss the options. Click here to book an appointment now.

About Joan Nowak

As a business strategy expert and consultant, I’ve been helping business owners turn ideas into profits for more than a decade. My common-sense approach empowers clients and drives business improvements in key areas including revenue, operations, team development, customer satisfaction, and profitability.

business mistakes

7 Small Business Weaknesses You Should Avoid

Every business has its strengths, those things that they consistently do well to get people talking, attract new business, and keep customers coming back. Always a good thing. Unfortunately, strengths can sometimes cover up business weaknesses or flaws so they don’t get the attention they need.

For clarification, business weaknesses are areas where improvements need to be made because your current situation leaves you vulnerable to economic pressures, market forces, or aggressive competitors. In short, these are the things that hurt long-term, sustainable profitability.

Here’s an interesting way to look at business weaknesses. IF you were going to sell your business, what things would make it less attractive to a potential buyer? Note, the things that would make it attractive are typically strengths!

7 Small Business Weaknesses

#1 – No documented systems and procedures. As a result, critical activities including marketing, sales, hiring, service delivery, billing, and customer care are not easily repeatable by others. And, they are often inconsistent, inefficient, and ineffective. Taking the time to put down how tasks are handled saves time and money and makes training easier. It also ensures customers’ expectations are consistently met so they keep coming back. Need help with this one? Check out my Ultimate Systems and Procedures Guide for Small Businesses.

#2 – Business is too dependent on the owner or one key person. Some of this is due to a lack of documented workflows and procedures. But it is also due to a lack of delegation. A lot of small business owners are reluctant to delegate tasks to others because it requires time to train them or they simply don’t believe others can do it just as well. With documented procedures, training and delegation are a lot easier. And you may just find that others do it just as well – if not better! The more you delegate or outsource to others, the more time you have to work on more important tasks like growth and profit improvement.

Related: How to Delegate Effectively

#3 – Too many eggs in one basket. If your business is too dependent on one or two ‘big’ customers, your business is far more vulnerable. It’s easy to become content or complacent when you land a big account. But mergers, acquisitions, new competition, or even one bad experience can cause the customer to leave and result in a major revenue loss that you can’t quickly overcome. While you want to keep your big (and small) customers happy, you need to make getting new customers a priority too! Invest the time and resources to grow your customer base. You’ll improve your revenue and profit while reducing your long-term risk.

#4 – No proven methods for revenue growth. If you need customers quickly, what would you do? Whether you need a lot or a few, every business should have 3-4 proven ways to get new business. Things that consistently work. Things that you can depend on to deliver results. Trying new strategies is necessary to take advantage of changes in the market and new technology. But don’t eliminate what works. Simply add new stuff to your mix and be consistent! Only eliminate a tactic when it no longer produces the results you want or need to make it pay off.  

#5 – Lack of differentiation. All products or services become commodity-like over time. Even prescription drugs become generic eventually! So what are you doing to make your company or services stand out for people to take notice? Why should they choose YOU? Differentiation for small businesses can take an assortment of forms relating to convenience or quality, including people, service levels, hours, systems, location, product variety, results, etc. What do you do so well that you can guarantee it or create buzz around it? You only need ONE! With differentiation, you no longer compete on price alone and your marketing is a lot more compelling … so it works!

#6 – Wrong people supporting your business. You can’t do it all. Your success as a business owner will depend on others — employees, subcontractors, and vendors (suppliers). So choosing the right ones and developing them is a key to sustainable growth and profit. Don’t settle or depend on just one. Invest the time and resources to select the best and build those relationships so everyone benefits.

#7 – Lack of cash. Do you focus on sales at the expense of profit and cash flow? It’s a common issue. Getting more customers or growing revenue does not guarantee more profit, personal income, or adequate cash to sustain your business. Focus on the bottom line. Grow profitable sales and stop selling what you can’t make money on. Establish a pricing strategy that supports profit, not just sales. Manage your expenses, especially labor, to sales levels. Bill promptly and extend credit wisely. Get a letter of credit before you actually need it and use it sensibly.

Any opportunities for improvement? If so, pick one and start focusing your efforts there. Little improvements can produce big results – more time, more money, and more control. So commit and take action.

About Joan Nowak. As a business improvement expert, business coach, and consultant, I’ve been helping entrepreneurs turn ideas into profits for more than a decade. My whole-business approach empowers clients and drives improvements in key areas including revenue, operational performance, team development, customer satisfaction, and profitability.  Schedule a discovery call — book an appointment

Related: Why Work with a Business Coach?


Does Your Business Run Smoothly?

A well-run business is a dream come true for a business owner. It allows you to focus on what’s important – growth and profitability. It also gives you the freedom to take time off without skipping a beat. So does your business run smoothly?

Here is something to consider.  No business owner wants to spend their days putting out fires, fixing mistakes, or doing the work they pay others to do. Yet many do because their business doesn’t run without their constant involvement. You can’t prevent every potential problem, but you can take steps to improve your current situation and make your business run smoothly. 

Identify the Gaps in Your Operations

A business is a structure of people and systems that evolve over time. Together they bring predictability into the workplace. So, attracting the right people and developing quality systems for them is a key to growth, profitability, and freedom.

Got systems and good people? Then you are already on the right path. But remember, as your business grows, your systems and people also need to change. Is your team structured properly and do their job responsibilities take advantage of new skills and technology? Are you doing things the same way you always did (just because) or do you continuously look for better ways to improve all areas of your business?

Periodically review your systems and people so you continue to evolve in the right direction.    

RELATED:  How People and Systems Power Profit

Explore Additional Opportunities

While systems and people provide a strong business foundation, here are a few things to consider as well — if you want your business to run smoothly.

#1 – Do you cross-train employees so no critical task is dependent on one person?

A company doesn’t stop because the owner or other staff are sick or away from the business. Customers still expect to be served and have problems solved. Employees still expect to be paid. So important tasks should never be dependent on one person. If you have systems documented, it’s easier to cross-train others so the work still gets done. Make cross-training your team a priority.

#2 – Is there too much focus on the quantity of work done — and too little on the quality?

Customers expect quality when it comes to service, products, and people. Doing things right the first time, every time is important. While mistakes happen, the cost of poor or inconsistent quality costs you more than you think. You want your team to be efficient but don’t sacrifice quality for production.  Promote a quality-first mentality within your company.

RELATED: How to Get It Right the First Time

#3 — Are you using technology to improve efficiency and other areas of your business?

With so many affordable options, small and mid-sized businesses now have easy access to tools that simply make it easier to run a business. Whether you want to collaborate and share work without meetings, allow customers to directly schedule appointments, provide easy, non-traditional pay options, create instant quotes at the customer’s home/business, permit employees to effectively work remotely or communicate successfully with individuals or groups – there are apps for that. 

The use of technology can certainly improve efficiency and customer satisfaction — solid reasons to integrate it into your daily operations. But it can also help improve hiring and retention. — especially if you are dependent on a younger workforce. Why? Because these potential employees are tech-savvy; they grew up using it. They expect and embrace technology in the workplace. If you want to attract and retain them, look for ways to employ technology in your business.

#4 — Do you have consistent methods to get feedback from customers?

Most owners recognize the value of online reviews and make getting them a priority. Research indicates that 80% of potential buyers (even those who come by way of referral) check reviews, recommendations, and testimonials as part of their buying decisions. So, the focus makes perfect sense.

While reviews can reinforce what you do well and may uncover an area for improvement, they have limitations. When you are considering new products/services or looking for ideas to improve, who better to ask than your loyal customers (and employees)? Nothing beats a one-on-one or small group conversation. Don’t let online reviews replace other forms of feedback. Do both! 

#5 — Do you track metrics that are important – and work as a whole team to correct issues?

When used properly, analytics is simply a decision-making tool — in sports and in business. They shouldn’t replace experience or even your gut instincts. But they can help you uncover opportunities for improvement.

Many businesses track sales metrics because they impact revenue or income. But what about your operations and service? On-time delivery, quality (re-works, defects), back-orders, labor hours, cycle times, and complaints all impact your profitability and long-term sales.  Find the gaps in your operations and work as a team to fix them.  

Build operational improvements into your plans

Growth, profit, and freedom don’t just happen by accident. If you want to improve operations, you need to build these improvements into your plans each year. You wouldn’t ignore sales in your planning because it’s key to revenue growth.  So don’t ignore operational efficiency — it’s key to having a business that runs smoothly and profitably. 

Ready to Put Your Business on a More Profitable Path?

Would another set of eyes, ongoing support, and accountability from an expert help you take your business in a new and better direction? Then let’s start a conversation. Schedule your free discovery call today. Book appointment.

delegate effectively

How to Delegate Effectively

Delegation may not come naturally to everyone, but it’s a critical management and leadership skill you, as a business owner and entrepreneur, can develop.  It certainly saves you time and allows you to focus on more critical tasks.  But we often overlook the benefits it provides to others in your company. When done effectively, delegation helps you teach, develop and empower others in your company – something that contributes to employee satisfaction and retention.

So, if delegation is so important to business success, why do people avoid it? For some owners, it’s a matter of trust – believing they will do the task as well as you. Others may not have the right people for the tasks they wish to delegate. But in many cases, people avoid delegating because it takes time and effort to do it right.

Those with children can certainly relate to this concept. It’s easier to tie a child’s shoelaces than teach him/her to tie them. But once taught, your child feels empowered and you save time … and likely are proud of their accomplishment!

Great leaders are also terrific teachers. Look for ways to give a little more responsibility to those who work for you.  When you help them develop new skills, everyone wins.

3 Keys to Delegate Effectively

Effective delegation requires three things:  choosing the right tasks to delegate, identifying the right people, and doing it the right way.  So let’s explore each and I’ll share some ideas to help you delegate effectively in your business.

Choose the right tasks

Not all tasks should be delegated. As a business owner, there are things that you should do or spearhead. Tasks that are critical to your long-term success need your attention. Recruiting and hiring, developing team members, strategic planning or initiatives, and confidential information come to mind.

What tasks should you delegate? If you are uncertain, take a week or two to write down the tasks, big or small, you do. You may also come up with some projects you haven’t done because of time constraints. Add them to the list as well. Use the list to identify tasks or projects you can and should delegate.

As you go through each task on the list, here are a few things to consider:

  • Is it a recurring task, one that you do again and again? Delegating these can free up time now and in the future.
  • Does this task have short deadlines or turnaround times? Avoid delegating things at the last minute. These tasks may need to be delegated in the future – when you have time to do them right.
  • Can this task provide a way to help develop a skill for one of your team members? Think empowerment.
  • Is this a task critical to your company’s long-term success?  If so, you may delegate portions of the work but still, maintain overall accountability.

Choose the right people to delegate effectively

If you have people on staff with extra time and needed skills or expertise, it certainly makes it easier to delegate effectively. Plus, it’s a great way to get them more engaged, help them use and develop other skills and bring a higher level of purpose to their job.

But don’t let your current situation stop you from delegating. Consider part-time help or outsourcing. My clients have effectively used all three options to help them shift work to others and focus on the right stuff – a key to revenue and profit growth.

Now it’s time to match the tasks with the right people. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Is there someone who has the skills, knowledge, or expertise to do the task with appropriate direction and training from you?
  • Is there someone who has the desire to grow in your company? Some employees love to take on new responsibilities – others don’t. Understanding your staff and their long-term goals are key, but remember to match tasks with skills so it’s a win-win.
  • Is there someone who has time to take on more work? Sometimes the best person for the task is simply too busy to take on more work. Why not consider reshuffling responsibilities among the rest of the team? Take some of the ideal employee’s work and distribute it to others — with the training of course!

If you have the right people already, you’ve overcome a big hurdle with delegation. Just remember, YOU must be willing and able to dedicate the time and resources to help them succeed. In addition, be patient with your team. It will likely take them longer to do new tasks or projects – they are learning. But with your help, they will become competent and efficient.

Delegate the right way

Effective delegation requires a combination of instruction, coaching, answering ongoing questions, and follow-up. You are transferring knowledge to someone else to help them develop new skills and capabilities. It takes time and patience to be the leader and teacher your team needs.

Here are some suggestions to help you delegate successfully to others:

  • Explain clearly what needs to be done – and the desired outcomes or results. Avoid the simple handoff with a “Can you take care of this” comment. It will leave you and the employee frustrated.
  • Discuss expectations as it relates to initiative and feedback. Should the employee wait for your instructions or make recommendations and decisions? Be clear and use discretion based on the task and individual. You can always expand authority as the employee develops.
  • Provide adequate support and be available to answer questions along the way. This is important so don’t ignore it.
  • Focus on results, not how it is done. If you have ideas or systems, share them where appropriate. But, encourage or empower the person to control the process.  He/she may find better ways to do things.
  • Discuss and agree upon timelines, deadlines, and checkpoints (milestones) along the way. If appropriate, pre-schedule progress update conversations.
  • Review work submitted, provide timely feedback, and adjust as needed. Your people need feedback to develop so don’t make them wait for weeks or longer.
  • Build motivation and commitment. Help the employee understand why the tasks/projects are important. Connect what they are doing to the success of the business. Provide recognition and rewards when deserved – and consequences, if appropriate.

Finally, two things you should also avoid. First, upward delegation or shifting decisions or tasks back to you. This can occur when an employee gets stuck or has a problem. When they do, don’t jump in or simply provide an answer. Instead, use this as a learning opportunity. Ask for their recommendation or how would they handle it. Help them become problem solvers.

Second, avoid micromanaging. Effective delegation requires a balance between giving the employee space to shine while monitoring enough to ensure the job is done effectively. Don’t micromanage but do the follow-up necessary. Remember, you as the owner or manager are ultimately accountable.

Delegation is a leadership skill and time management strategy that you must practice to master. But when you learn to delegate effectively you will be pleased with the results – more time for you and a more empowered, satisfied team.

Related Article | Leadership: What Makes Some Great

Need Help? Are you open to meeting with someone who can bring a different perspective, new ideas, or accountability to your business? Then let’s have a conversation.  Click here to schedule an appointment

rethink new year resolution

Time to Rethink Your New Year Resolution?

Did you ditch your new year resolution yet? No surprise that resolutions are as effective as an umbrella in a typhoon. While new year resolutions are a common practice, most people fail to stay on track for more than a few weeks. You may have great intentions, but change requires more than that.  February is here. So now is a good time to rethink the whole resolution thing. Turn them into something more inspiring so you accomplish more in 2023.

Motivation + Goals + Action = Success

Motivation is key to accomplishing any goal you want. But overwhelm, procrastination, or impatience often cause us to give up or hit a roadblock. It is why a new year resolution doesn’t stick. So here are a few things you can do to increase your motivation and accomplish your goals.

Why is the Goal Important?

Before setting any goal, clearly identify why successfully reaching this goal is important to you. The reason why or meaning is the motivation behind your goals.

I want to lose 10 pounds so I have more energy to go hiking with my family is far more motivating than I want to lose weight. I want to increase my income by 20% so we can buy a house is more inspiring than I want to make more money.

Master the why and you will likely overcome a big roadblock – procrastination.

How Will You Get There?

Write down how you plan to achieve your goals. The SMART principle can help:

  • Specific (What exactly do you want to accomplish?)
  • Measurable (How will you know when you have succeeded?)
  • Achievable (Is the goal you have set possible?)
  • Realistic (Does setting this goal make sense for you right now?)
  • Time-bound (What is the specific time frame to accomplish this goal?)

Vague goals create vague results. So, when you write down your goals, make sure they are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound.

What Actions Do You Need to Take?

To quote Nelson Mandela, “A vision without action is just a dream”. The same can be said for goals. So now comes the critical part. Make a to-do list to accomplish your goals.

  • What steps or actions do you need to take? If the tasks are too big, break them down into smaller, manageable pieces.
  • Set deadlines for each task.
  • Schedule time to work on and accomplish them.

I use the Task App on my computer and phone to list the tasks – with deadlines. I then use my calendar to schedule time as needed. It makes it easy to track and prioritize what I need to do – and I enjoy checking things off when completed. Give it a try.

Share Your Goals

Invite others to help you stay on track. Your team, family, and friends may be willing and able to hold you accountable or inspire you to keep going. If focus and accountability are holding you back, get rid of the distractions and find a good accountability partner.

Related:  Need Accountability?

Track Your Progress

Review your ‘to-do’ list at least once per week. Are you meeting the timelines you established? If not, where are the stumbling blocks? Are you procrastinating or easily distracted? Or were you too aggressive – and now feel overwhelmed?

It’s okay. Be kind to yourself on occasions when you fall short. And remember to build in small rewards too for your accomplishments. If necessary, reconsider some of the challenging aspects of your goals. Make changes to your plan. Be realistic and keep going!

About Joan Nowak:  I’ve been helping business owners turn ideas into profits for more than a decade. My whole-business, common-sense approach empowers my clients and drives improvements in critical areas, including revenue, operations, team development, customer satisfaction, and profitability. If accountability is the missing ingredient to help you achieve more, then let’s have a conversation.  Click here to schedule a free phone consultation.

Recession Proof Business

How To Recession-Proof Your Business

How do you keep your business profitable during uncertain times? The answer may be simpler than you think: through marketing and business strategies that not only help you maintain your current profits but also help you make more money. Here are some proven business and marketing strategies to help you recession-proof your business.  They work for my small business clients and can work for you too.

Keep your pricing in check

In uncertain times, it is important to keep your prices in check. While it may seem like a good idea to raise prices beyond inflation to make more money, it can actually have the opposite effect. During tough times, customers are often on a tighter budget and are looking for good deals or a lot of value.

Where possible, keep your prices steady in order to stay competitive and attract more customers. You can also offer special deals or promotional packages to entice target customers and increase sales.

So how can you improve margins without raising prices?  Two things come to mind. First, look for ways you can add value to your current products or services. Add complimentary services such as audits or maintenance checkups or offer additional warranties or even free shipping.  You can bundle products or services together to make them more attractive.

Second, look for ways to reduce the cost of sales such as materials, inventory, and service / direct labor. Can you get discounts or better pricing from vendors? Can you improve efficiency in service delivery? All of these strategies can help you increase gross profit without raising prices.

Get lean and mean

When it comes to making your business recession-proof, getting lean and mean is key. You need to make sure that you’re operating as efficiently as possible and not overspending in areas that don’t need it. Here are a few ways to get lean and mean:

  1. Re-evaluate costs. Take a look at all of your expenses. Can any be reduced without sacrificing long-term growth and profitability? Consider things like office or warehouse space, supplies, insurance, and travel. Staff and marketing are always options, but remember you still need sales and people to have a business. So put thought — short-term and long-term impact — into the cost-cutting you do.
  2. Consider outsourcing. If you’re feeling the pinch of a tight budget, outsourcing may be an option for you. Outsourcing certain tasks or operations can help save money in the short term, as well as free up resources for more important aspects of your business.
  3. Go digital. Investing in digital tools and technology can help streamline your business processes, freeing up time and energy to focus on the core aspects of your business.
  4. Create a contingency plan. Creating a contingency plan is always a good idea in case something unexpected comes up. This plan should include backup funds, a line of credit, or other resources in case you need to quickly pivot or adjust your plans.
  5. Stay focused on customer service. Customers appreciate how much attention they receive from businesses during this time period. Remember, being empathetic and helpful doesn’t cost more but customers notice.

Keep these in mind as you set your roadmap for the coming year.

Related:  7 Do’s and Don’ts to Make Planning Easier and More Effective

Diversify your offerings

In the face of an uncertain economic environment, it is important to diversify your offerings. This can include expanding into new markets, offering new products or services, or creating new channels of distribution. It is important to stay informed and up-to-date on emerging trends so you can anticipate customer needs and identify opportunities to capitalize on them.

Like many of us did in 2020 when the pandemic hit, think outside the box. Or in this case, outside traditional ones for your business. By diversifying your offerings, you can reduce risk and increase the chances of staying profitable during uncertain times. Not only will this help you make more money, but it will also help you create a larger customer base and build loyalty. Furthermore, diversification can lead to cost savings, as you may be able to leverage existing resources or form strategic partnerships to create additional revenue streams.

Finally, make sure that you are closely monitoring market conditions and making timely adjustments to ensure that your diversified offerings remain relevant and competitive. By doing so, you can increase your chances of staying profitable during tough times.

Focus on your existing customers

It can be tempting to focus on getting new customers during an economic downturn, but it’s important to prioritize your existing customer base first. Your current customers are the ones that know and trust you and will be more likely to stay with you during difficult times.

So, maintain those strong relationships. Send out email newsletters to keep them updated, share relevant information and show them you care. Connect with them on social media and invite them to take surveys or offer feedback so you can continue to improve. Reach out by phone or email to ask them to write a review for your business.

Don’t be afraid to get creative: If your company does well by sticking with tried-and-true methods like coupons and sales promotions, don’t stop now! But try new things like raffles or contests every few weeks or months. Just have fun with it.

These strategies will help you maintain loyalty among your existing customers and can even bring in new ones. It may take some extra effort, but focusing on your existing customer base is essential for long-term success — and helps recession-proof your business during uncertain times.

Invest in content marketing

Content marketing is one of the most effective and cost-efficient ways to attract and retain customers during uncertain economic times. Content marketing involves creating and sharing content (such as blog posts, videos, podcasts, and social media posts) that educates and entertains your target audience. It can be used to build trust with potential customers and showcase your company’s expertise.

Creating content can help your business gain visibility and build credibility. By producing quality content regularly, you can connect with current customers, engage new prospects, and drive organic traffic to your website. Additionally, content marketing can help you stay competitive, even when other businesses may be scaling back their marketing budgets.

When it comes to content creation, it’s important to focus on topics that are relevant to your target audience. Create content that answers their questions, provides useful information, and solves their problems. This will help increase engagement and establish you or your company as a trusted source of information. And remember it’s okay to repurpose things you did last year or beyond. Just update and make sure it’s still relevant.

Like all marketing efforts, measure performance and track results. This will help you identify what works best so you can focus your efforts on creating content that resonates with your audience and drives more leads and sales.

Create a great customer experience

Attracting new customers is easier when people are already talking about your business.  Positive reviews and word-of-mouth promotion can go a long way when times get tough. Here is a little fun fact to keep in mind:  74% of consumers identify word of mouth as a critical influencer for buying decisions. And that is what a great customer experience can help create.

Here are three fundamental ways you can impact the customer experience: quality products that solve problems or meet their needs, customer service that is friendly and knowledgeable, and a commitment to continuous improvement. These are the foundation or starting points.

It’s also important to remember that your customer experience goes beyond providing good products or quality service. It’s also about communication, convenience, building relationships, and creating a sense of loyalty. Engaging with customers on social media, responding quickly to customer inquiries, and personalized offerings or discounts can go a long way toward creating a positive customer experience. And when something goes wrong, how you handle it also goes a long way as well. And if you can create an experience that stands out from the competition, you’re more likely to keep customers coming back even in difficult economic times.

Go after new markets

Another way to keep your business competitive and profitable is to target new markets with your current products or services. To find new markets, start by researching who your current customers are and what other markets might be interested in your products or services. Identify any gaps that exist in the market that you can fill and target those specific audiences. You may also want to consider partnering with other businesses in related industries to access their customer base as well.

Once you have identified a potential market, you can begin to craft marketing messages that resonate with that audience. You’ll need to tailor your messages based on their buying behaviors and preferences. You may also need to adjust your pricing strategy for the new market, depending on supply and demand.

By tapping into new markets, you’ll be able to remain competitive and generate additional revenue during uncertain times. With the right strategies in place, you can recession-proof your business and come out stronger in the long run.

Keep an eye on your competitors

Keeping an eye on your competitors is a key part of any successful business strategy. During times of uncertainty and economic recession, it’s even more important to monitor your competition. By understanding what your competitors are doing to improve business and grow sales, you can make sure your own business remains profitable.

Here are a few things to keep your eyes on:

  • What campaigns or promotional efforts are they running?
  • Are they launching any new products or upgrading some they already have?
  • Are they offering discounts or savings?
  • Have they made any changes in their overall pricing strategy?
  • Are they implementing any new payment options or terms? How about loyalty programs?
  • How are they responding to the current climate: cutting costs, reducing staff, investing in new technology, or marketing?

Observing your competitors’ strategies can give you valuable insights into how to best position yourself for success during uncertain times.

In Summary

Yes, these are uncertain times for many small business owners. But challenges provide opportunities to grow stronger if you are willing to take action.  You don’t need to do all of these business and marketing strategies today.  But pick one to help recession-proof your business — and get started. Then add more as you go along.

Need help prioritizing what you need to do and how to do it? Let’s have a conversation. Click here to schedule a brief phone call.