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7 Key Habits Of Successful Business Owners

Face it. Good habits are not just for nuns. As business owners, we wear a lot of hats, but in the process may lose sight of the very hat that can mean the difference between growing a business and having it wilt on the vine. So, try this “habit” on for size and see how it works for you.

Here are seven key steps you want to practice, starting immediately, to grow your business:

1. Broaden Your Vision

Ever see a horse with blinders on? Granted blinders are great for keeping the horse on course, but business owners wearing blinders are going to be blind-sided by things they didn’t anticipate happening. To broaden your vision:

  • Keep on top of new trends happening within your industry
  • Actively seek creative solutions to growing your business
  • Network with like-minded (and maybe even some non-like-minded) individuals and hear their ideas

2. Start Thinking Outside the Sox

Yeah, you read that right. If you’re like me, the phrase “Outside the box” has run its course, but outside the sox means thinking quickly on your feet. This doesn’t mean making rash decisions, but it does mean mastering some critical thinking skills. To do that: Don’t automatically follow convention. Look at problem areas from their roots (ask, “Where did the problem originate”) and attack the problem not the people connected with the problem.Don’t answer the questions, question the answers. This forces you to challenge things others might believe are “set in stone”. Recognize the painful realization that you may be biased, and work to weed out the dated, prejudicial ideas you may or members of your team may be carrying.

3. Strategize

Having sound systems and strategies in place are not desired, they’re a necessity. To develop effective systems: Determine what in your company can be automated and take the time to put those automated systems into place.Determine whether your training tools and manuals need a facelift. How can you make them more effective?Encourage your team to get on board with your vision and mission (which means revisiting both to make sure they are clear. Test and Measure everything. If you haven’t already, start somewhere to get a base number and build from there.

4. Decision, decision, decision

Recognize that one of the toughest roles you will have to play as business owner is being the decision maker, and that often once you make the decision, things fall into place.Recognize that all decision-making requires defining what the true challenge is and defining that so that everyone is on the same page with correcting it.Remember to balance your need to get to the results fast with quality and your team’s ability to reach that goal.

5. Remember WIIFT

Yes, “T” for them, not “M” for me. The “them” in this case is two-fold: your team AND your customers. To accomplish this: Be aware of your team members’ goals and what motivates them.Be keenly aware of what your customer wants and needs and why you are the best one to fulfill that want or need.Build trust and confidence both with your team and customer by being a good listener and a better leader. They may “think” for instance that they want one thing, when you know and are able to convince them they need something else. The key is to have a believable and valuable “why” connected to that other need.

6. Master “Edutainment”

You guessed right. Edutainment is the fusion of education and entertainment. To attain the balance of both: Read everything you can lay your eyes on. Yes, time is precious, so make sure what you read is relevant to what you need to learn.Encourage your team to learn as well.Remember that “fun” needs to be part of the package. If you’re dead tired, grumpy, angry, and if you see people abruptly turning and pretending they didn’t see you approach, chances are you’re taking yourself, your business, and perhaps even life too seriously.

Encourage your team to celebrate even small victories. Make the environment you work in pleasant and a place they want to go, rather than the place they dread going to. Growing a business to a successful enterprise is no easy task. Remember “shift” happens and be prepared to try something new if what you’re doing isn’t working. And don’t be afraid or think you’re a failure if you need to ask for help. That’s what business coaches do: help business owners build stronger, more successful enterprises.

7. Last, stay fit

Never before has it been more important to take care of yourself, eat foods that truly nourish your body and brain, exercise, even if it means doing leg lifts at your desk while you watch a webinar, and be sure to get plenty of sleep. I know, easier said than done, right? But by putting proper systems in place, you can spend your waking hours working on rather than in your business, buying you time to do other things…like sleep.

Take a business health assessment to determine where you stand, and by all means recognize that you’re not alone. Not only are there thousands of other business owners out there in the same boat, but there are people out there that can help. Developing positive traits can mean the difference between being an employee in your own business and being a financially independent, successful, contributing entrepreneur.

Bottom line: Be the company you’d want to do business with. It’s that simple.

Great Tips for Setting Up a Business Phone System

No matter how technologically advanced we become as a society, the business phone will never go out of style! Having the right business phone system can enhance your profits. Setting up a business phone system the right way the first time can help you avoid losses.

Everyone makes calls to some sort of business at least once a week and most people will judge their experience with that business on how well their phone system worked. A faulty system can cause your clients and customers frustration that can sour your relationship with them.

Points to Consider

You business phone is your lifeline to your customers, clients, suppliers and future business associates, so making sure you have the right system in place that will represent your business is very important. Many businesses use the automated answering centers that route calls for them. Everyone is familiar with these systems, the press 1 for such and such systems. They are time savers for the business and also cut costs on personnel.

These systems can be quite complex so getting a basic feel for what you want your system to do can save you a lot of stress and aggravation down the line.

Of course you need to consider how many lines you will need and where and how those lines will ring. A lot of the systems that are available for business phones really need to be installed by professionals because they are that complex.

Long gone are the days where you simply buy a phone and plug it in, you can actually still do that if you have a separate phone number at each desk. It is really not practical. It will actually be more costly in the long run to have your business phones set up that way.

Reliability is key! When you are setting up your business phone system try to stay at the top of your budget. You need a reliable phone system that you can depend on that will be long-lasting. Investing in a good system will pay for itself in the reduction of aggravation that you will experience in the long run.

Get a Professional

If you are struggling with deciding which system is right for your business than you should consult with a professional. Having a professional weigh in on your options will take the stress out of trying to figure out which system to go with!

7 Tips For Writing A Start-Up Business Plan

Please raise your hand if you’ve ever been frustrated about what to put in a business plan? What will convince an investor to give you money? We’ve all been there. And it seems like the answer keeps changing depending on who you talk to.

The problem, or rather the truth, is that there is no “one fit all” solution. So the bad news is: even a step by step guide to writing a business plan won’t really make your plan “good”. The good news is, you really don’t need a step by step guide to make your plan compelling enough to close investment.

There are many different formats and there really isn’t a “universal” length for a perfect business plan. Depending on your product or industry, it can range anywhere between 10-100, and sometimes more, pages.

The question you should ask yourself is: what stage is my company at? If you are already generating revenue and are looking for a second or third round of financing to expand, the business plan can get much more elaborate and detailed, especially on the financial analysis and projections side of things.

But if you are just starting a business, don’t have established revenue yet and are simply looking to attract investors to get started making money with your products or services, keep on reading.

Most important to understand in this case is that it all comes down to one simple thing:

telling a great story!

This does not mean you shouldn’t present accurate facts, be transparent, and most importantly tell the truth; but it means that you need to package all those facts into an interesting, exciting, and fascinating story so your readers (potential investors) keep on reading and don’t get bored by page 25. It’s a lot to ask someone to read an entire business plan, so the least you can do is make it fun and interesting.

I have had the pleasure to be on both sides of the table (both writing and reading business plans), and here are the 7 things that are often forgotten or done wrong:

1. Get To The Point Quickly

We all get excited at the prospect of starting a new business… so going on and on about one or more aspects that really cause you to be enthusiastic is great when you sit over a cup of coffee with your friends or colleagues.

But when it comes to reading something on a digital device or piece of paper, without your enthusiastic voice, endless chatter can get old very quickly.

Think of your potential readers as the most impatient individuals you will ever meet. How would you structure your sentences when talking or writing an e-mail to them? Now add just a hint of enthusiasm and relevant information to that, and you should be close to getting their attention.

2. Move Most Compelling Facts To The Top

In addition to keeping things “snappy”, prioritizing information and structuring the business plan around the importance of each element can help move the reader along.

The format that I have found to be effective is:

1- Brief Executive Summary

2- Company Description

3- Market Analysis

4- Product and/or Services

5- Marketing Strategy

6- Sales Strategy

7- Company Goals & Objectives

8- Management and Operations

9- Competitive Analysis

10- Financial Projections

Some entrepreneurs include a request for funding at the end, and some create a separate document (mostly with their attorneys) called “Private Placement Memorandum” (PPM). The advantage of not including a funding request in the business plan, is that you can stay flexible in terms of who you are sharing this business plan with and how much money you end up asking for. It’s easier to change the short PPM rather than going back into the business plan every time you talk to a different investor.

The main thought behind the structure I suggested above is that every section sets the stage and builds up to the section right after. Again, there are many different formats, and you can really change this format up to whatever suits the story you are telling. You might for example have a big name on your team that has significant weight in your industry, so moving the “management” section up (maybe even to the top) can make sense in some cases. It’s all about getting the reader excited, and the prospect of working with a celebrity might just get that job done for you.

3. Create Transitions

This is a mistake I see happening time and time again. Creating transitions between the different sections of the business plan is a really simple trick that makes the overall experience more pleasant, while “tricking” the reader into continuing to read.

Many business plan authors think it’s enough to just “compile” all the information relevant to their business in form of one continuous document – no matter how.

The problem, however, becomes that sometimes jumping thoughts can be jarring and confusing.

Go back to thinking about your business plan as a story you would tell around a campfire. You wouldn’t reveal the big twist right in your first sentence, would you? And the way that you would go from one character and plot-point to the next, is how you should think of every segment in your business plan.

Don’t shy away from creating cliff-hangers at the end of some sections. For example, if your market analysis concludes that one specific age group and gender has an urgent need that no product in the market is currently satisfying, you can end this section with a question like: So how does [your company or product] address this urgent need and turn it into profit? And then go right into your products and services presentation.

4. Don’t Be Too Flashy

In my experience, there is a huge difference between sounding professionally enthusiastic and self-promotional. Using too many flashy buzz-words and too much promotional language throughout the business plan can get irritating to read and mostly comes across as insincere. It also raises the question if the authors of the plan are hiding the fact that they might not have figured “it” out yet.

Trying to be flashy simply distracts from the real, hard facts and dilutes the value of your presentation. The old saying, “when in doubt, keep it simple”, truly applies here.

5. Use images And Graphic Examples

This speaks to the “making it fun to read” – part. No, no… making it fun doesn’t mean making it flashy. It simply means you should also not try to achieve the opposite of flashy – which I believe to be “boring”.

Images and graphic examples should be relevant to the information you are presenting. The goal is to give the reader’s eyes a break here and there to keep the flow going. Think of it like visual potato chips… but the good, organic kind that is fun to eat, while still staying relevant to your healthy diet. This can include images of your product(s), website screenshots, industry statistics, charts, etc.

6. Attachments

Sometimes there are amazing articles or entire studies on specific industry developments that support your case. Instead of copy-pasting and quoting the entire article, though, attach it to your business plan as a separate document labeled “Exhibit a)”, b), c), etc. (one for each document) and reference the exhibit with a short quote or summary inside the business plan. That way you are giving the reader the choice to check out the attachment or to continue going through your presentation.

The goal here is to avoid unnecessary “inflation”. More pages is not always better! Sometimes 10 pages that knock it out of the park are better than 100 pages that are overwhelming with too many industry stats and lengthy paragraphs that you didn’t even write yourself.

7. Try Putting Yourself Into The investor’s Shoes

It’s hard, but when reading through your finished business plan, try to distance yourself and read it from the perspective of an investor. Ask yourself very honestly and harshly: would I put money into this? Imagine putting everything on the line; your car, your house, your life’s savings.

You would be surprised how many times you will cringe and realize that it’s simply not good enough yet; that some of the language you don’t even buy into yourself; that you might have to do a lot more research and planning before taking it to an investor. In the end of the day, you are not just putting their money on the line, but also your own time and resources, which could be devastating.

Taking on this outside perspective can be a sobering experience and really help to create an excellent business plan. Check out http://www.investopedia.com – they give great insights into the world of risking money.

So what exactly do you put in each segment of the business plan? Stay tuned for my next article, which will focus on the content and what to include when writing your first and final draft.