Business Growth: How to Build Business Relationships After a Networking Event

rawpixel-com-267082.jpgIn previous blogs, I’ve discussed how to effectively attend networking events. You’re now quite adept at working the room and making the most of your opportunities. And, some of the connections you’ve made have the potential to develop into valuable business relationships. However, attending the event is only the beginning. Whether or not you’re able to build successful business relationships after attending a networking event depends on how well you follow-up.

Business owners often share with me that their networking event was not successful because they didn’t get any ‘real’ leads, but the truth is, that leads are not built in a day and this is why follow up after attending a networking event is so critical. In order to build business relationships after a networking event, you’ll need to follow up. I’ve outlined below seven tips I believe will help to increase your success at the networking events:

  1. Review and prioritize the connections you made: Review your notes and the business cards that you collected. Google the people you met and interacted with. Make a list of the ones that you believe could be a potential client, strategic partner, vendor or referral source and prioritize in order of importance.
  2. Send an email within 48 hours: Send a quick “nice to meet you email”, and personalize it by mentioning some of the things you discussed at the event. Suggest a face-to-face meeting for coffee or lunch and include a few date/time options.
  3. Connect on LinkedIn and other social media networks: This will help you build your online connections and a potential referral network. Connecting on social media also ensures that you and your connections will always be able to contact each other.
  4. Pick up the telephone and make a call: We’re so used to email, social media and text, that making a phone call has become a novel idea. Pick up the phone, have a chat and suggest a time to get together.
  5. Deliver on any promises that you made: In the course of discussion, did you promise to send your new contact some information he/she was looking for? Deliver on your promises as quickly as possible.
  6. Introduce people to each other: Add value. You may have met someone who you believe would be a great connection for someone else that you know. Make the connection. They’ll both thank you for it.
  7. Create a monthly follow-up plan: Building relationships takes time. A monthly follow-up plan will help you cultivate your contacts and build successful business relationships after attending a networking event. It’s also a great reminder.

Are you following up after attending networking events? Want more advice on building successful business relationships after attending a networking event, or general advice from other business owners like you? Find out if a TAB Board is right for you!

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Business Plan: Too Early To Start A Succession Plan?

Business PlanningAs a business owner, you’re most likely consumed with the day-to-day running of your business and driving growth. It’s your baby and the last thing you want to do is sit down and make a plan for turning it over to someone else. As a TAB advisor, I have met owners who think they’re too young or believe that they’ll run the business for the rest of their lives, so why bother with succession planning? A 2014 PwC survey found that by 2019, more than half of Canadian family businesses are expected to change owners, but that only 20% of those businesses have a clearly documented succession plan in place for when the time comes.

Why does every business owner need a succession plan? We don’t have a window into the future and have no idea if or when events may arise that force succession – premature death, disability, personal or financial reasons or retirement. Without a succession plan, your business’s fate is uncertain and could be left in the hands of the court. It may also cause disputes among family members as to who should take over. The only way to control your company’s future and to protect yourself, your family and your employees is with a succession plan. I’ve outlined below what I feel are the three top options for succession.

  1. Transition the business within the family: If you choose to transition the business within the family, you’ll have to choose a successor. This may not be an easy (or popular decision) if multiple family members work in the business and all want the position at the helm. There may also not be a qualified successor among the family members, which brings with it a unique set of problems.
  2. Sell the business to a partner or employee(s): You’ll have to determine the value of the business. There are many factors that affect the value of your business, so it’s important to seek assistance in helping you calculate an accurate value. And the value of your business will continue to change so it will have to be re-evaluated on an ongoing basis.
  3. Sell the business to an outside buyer: Same as above.

It’s never too early to create a succession plan. It should be done by experts as it involves several disciplines including accounting, financial services, and law. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all succession plan template that you can download and plug information into. Each business owner will have different ideas about what their business succession should look like and the experts can ensure that your wishes are carried out.

I would be remiss if I also didn’t mention that in order for any succession plan to really succeed, you’ll need to have the right people and processes in place that allow for the day-to-day operations of the business to function without you.

No matter how good your succession plan is, it can’t anticipate changes that may affect your business in the future, which is why it will constantly have to evolve and change. I believe in starting early, setting expectations, and making the decisions that are right for you and your business. Succession planning is the only way to control the fate of your business.

Have you started working on your succession plan? Want more advice on succession planning, or general advice from a seasoned business advisor? Find out if a TAB Board is right for you!


Managing Change: Reactive versus Proactive Business Strategy

startup-849805_640.jpgIf there is one thing I can guarantee any business owner, it is that your business will experience change. Sometimes workplace change can occur very quickly and in today’s marketplace, it can occur quite often. Although change can be difficult and presents new and interesting challenges, it isn’t necessarily negative. Change may take place in order to respond to a new opportunity. As I tell my clients, the key is having the right strategy in place to manage change, which can often be the difference between success and failure. When managing change, there are two main business strategies – reactive and proactive.

Reactive business strategies respond to an unanticipated event after the fact. A reactive approach to business is all too common. Unfortunately, this approach may lead to lost new and emerging opportunities, or losing out to a more aggressive competitor who bursts onto the scene. Being reactive is inefficient and extremely stressful. It doesn’t allow you to plan because you’re too busy reacting. A typical example of a reactive strategy is to wait for business to decline before investing in marketing and promotion. Reactive companies tend to fail in the long run. Look at what happened to companies like Nokia and Blockbuster.

Proactive business strategies anticipate the events, plan for them and take action. They are ready to capitalize on new and emerging opportunities or respond to new competitors. Research is very important to a proactive business strategy. You have to analyze the market thoroughly, pay attention to the trends and adapt to them before your competitors do. The reality is that no business can be proactive all the time, however if you focus on a proactive strategy, you will be more effective at dealing with challenges and as a result, more successful. A typical example of a proactive strategy is to invest in marketing and promotion to gain a greater market share in anticipation of increased competition, instead of waiting for business to decline first as in a reactive business strategy. Apple and Amazon are perfect examples of proactive companies.

Creating a proactive business culture is hard work but it pays off. It starts with a change in mindset. You need to be ahead of the curve. Instead of racing around putting out fires, anticipate and plan for success! Here are some tips to help create a proactive business culture:

  • Schedule time to plan
  • Clearly define expectations and goals
  • Refine and improve business processes
  • Research your industry
  • Pay attention to trends
  • Stay on top of the business climate
  • Know your competitors
  • Identify risks
  • Search for and find problems before they happen

There is no doubt that adopting a proactive business strategy is the ideal approach to help you shape the results of change. However, sometimes changes come so quickly that we do need to react and therefore a reactive strategy needs to be applied. If you’d like more advice on how to create the right proactive or reactive business strategy, or are looking for other business advice, check out how TAB can help!


You’ve Built A Wealth Of Business Expertise – Now What?

office-1209640_1920Many senior executives want to share the lessons they’ve learned from their 20+ years of experience at several large corporations, but with the changing landscape of corporate culture, these execs are being ‘pushed’ out or looking for new opportunities.

I’ve spoken to countless senior executives that have climbed the proverbial corporate ladder, and have been dedicated to progressively building their careers at a huge multinational for years, even decades. However, they are finding that the face of the company is changing and a younger group of individuals now reflect the corporate culture. Some are facing the possibility of being phased out, or are looking for ideas and direction for what may become the next chapter of their career.

There is little doubt that today’s rapidly changing, globally competitive environment often requires a shift in mindset and competencies, and a growing number of senior executives in their 50s are evaluating their value and long-term growth plans. These professionals were hired by large multinationals when in their 20s and have enjoyed travelling the world, solving business issues, creating new processes and plans, organizing teams, going to tradeshows and conferences, and engaging in high-stake meetings with their colleagues in Asia. Where do they go from here?

When you have fully invested in your career and have a wealth of knowledge, the question is how can you share your wisdom and help others reach their goals?

If you are interested in learning about an opportunity to leverage your business expertise and provide guidance to business owners while giving you the freedom to work at your own pace, build equity, meet local business owners and become part of your business community, check out this website or simply contact me to discuss your situation.


Put an End to the Feast and Famine of Owning Your Own Business

indexI’ve seen it time and time again, business owners, whether they own an accounting, engineering firm, marketing agency or IT company, are left feeling vulnerable due to the feast and famine of income streams.

When I meet with business owners they share with me their concerns about their struggle for consistent revenues; one month the financials look great, but next month, they are not on target and they begin to stress about making enough income to cover their expenses. Sometimes this cycle is endless and it can take a toll on the many business owners striving for income predictability and growth.

When a business experiences the feast or famine scenario, things like hiring staff for a project today in hopes that there is work for them tomorrow can result in more stress and pressure on the owner to bring in more business.

Owning a business can be one of the most rewarding experiences, but so often business owners are conflicted with decisions about hiring the right staff, committing to paying rent for the appropriate space, investing in office equipment and technology, not to mention marketing. Without consistent and predictable revenue it is hard to make long term plans that will allow owners of professional services businesses to accomplish their goals.

If you are interested in learning about a professional business that will put an end to this feast or famine scenario but still give you the freedom to own a business, check out this website or simply contact me to discuss your situation.


Business Growth: How to Improve Your Customer Retention Rate

blog-member-retention-tipsI work with many business owners who are very often so focused on customer acquisition that they forget about how important and cost-effective customer retention is. According to the Harvard Business Review, acquiring a new customer is anywhere from five to 25 times more expensive than retaining an existing one. Research by Frederick Reichheld of Bain & Company shows that increasing customer retention rates by 5% increases profits by 25% to 95%.

One strategic business approach that I often recommend is to go deeper with the clients you have rather than invest the time to attain new ones. I’ve outlined below several tips to help you improve your customer retention rate:

Are your customers leaving you? If you want to improve your customer retention rate, you need to be aware of how many customers are leaving (the churn rate) and determine what is causing them to leave. Ask yourself what as a company you are doing that is causing your customers to leave.

Customers don’t buy from companies; they buy from people. 60% of all customers stop dealing with a company because of what they perceive as indifference on the part of salespeople (Peppers and Rogers Group). Have your salespeople become complacent? Are you making an effort to make your customers feel valued or do you take them for granted? Are you rewarding your loyal customers for their business?

Listen to your customers. Talk to your customers – after all, they chose you. Invest the time to ask them how they feel about your products/services. Understand what they are looking for and what their plans are for the future. Personal relationships are powerful and inspire loyalty. The customer experience is key to your success.

It’s not all about price. Companies are often totally focused on being the lowest cost provider. While being competitively priced is very important, there will always be someone who can come in at a lower price. Price alone won’t keep your customers; delivering the best value will. Value is a combination of price, trust, customer service, delivery, relationships and support.

Has your company lived up to expectations? It’s one thing to win the business; it’s another thing to keep it. Make sure your brand has delivered on its promise and your product/service meet or exceed expectations. Take a look at creating a great customer experience. Managing customer expectations is an important part of customer retention. Set realistic expectations. It’s better to under-promise and over-deliver.

Communicate! Communicate! Communicate! Communicating with your customers will keep you top of mind. Remember, there is always going to be someone lurking in the wings to swoop in and steal your business. Find out how often and by what channels your customers want to receive information. Always address your customers’ concerns immediately. If you make a mistake, own it and fix it. Your customers will appreciate your honesty and your efforts.

Do you prize deliverables over results? Every deliverable must be able to show a measurable result that will positively impact your customers’ business and help them achieve their goals and objectives.

Bonus Tip: Conduct an exit interview. There is no company in the world that retains 100% of their customers, no matter how good they are. If one of your customers is leaving, take it as an opportunity to improve. Conduct an exit interview to learn why they’re leaving. This information is extremely valuable and can help you to make changes in order to avoid a similar situation in the future.

Are your customers leaving you? Want more advice on customer retention, or general advice from other business owners like you? Find out if a TAB Board is right for you!


Why Personal Branding is Crucial for Entrepreneurs – Brand vs. Branding

personal-brand-1I can’t stress enough how important personal branding is for entrepreneurs. You may not realize it, but each one of us is a brand. Type your name into any search engine and the results will show you exactly what your online brand is. Did you make a conscious effort to create and promote your brand? Does it accurately represent you? Is it targeted towards a specific audience?

 

Although the words brand and branding are often used synonymously or confused with each other, they are separate and unique.

What exactly is a brand? A brand is your unique identifier, your market identity. It represents you in the marketplace – who you are, what you do, your reputation, trustworthiness, and the quality of your product or service. Your brand is how your customers perceive you and how they feel when they do business with you.

Sir Richard Branson is the perfect example of a personal brand. Although he’s the founder of the Virgin properties – Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Mobile and Virgin Records among others, Sir Richard Branson’s personal brand is the most powerful of all. People want to do business with the Virgin properties because of Sir Richard Branson. The personal brand drives the corporate brand.

Personal branding has become increasingly important. People trust people, not corporations. They want to do business with people, not corporations. Your personal brand is your differentiator. It creates an emotional connection between you and your customer. Ultimately, it defines the value of your business. In order to stay competitive in today’s marketplace, you must have a strong personal brand.

Branding is the active process that shapes your brand. It requires a strategy and targets your core audience. Branding can include the name of your company, logo, other visual assets, website, communications and media.

 

Entrepreneurs who are more influential pay more attention to their brand rather than just their branding. As an entrepreneur, how can you build your brand? Ask yourself:

  • Who are you? What do you stand for? What do you offer? How are you perceived by others? How do you want to be perceived by others? Be authentic. Your brand should be reflective of who you are.
  • What do you do? What product or service do you offer? What is your value proposition? What differentiates you from your competition?
  • Why does it matter? Define your purpose. This will give you great direction.

 

Evaluate your brand. Your brand should tell people who you are, what you offer and differentiate you from your competition. Is your brand reaching your target audience? Are they responding positively? Are you delivering on your brand promise? If not, it’s time to reassess and make changes.

 

Is your personal brand and branding effort working for you? Want more advice on brands and branding, or general advice from other business owners like you? Find out if a TAB Board is right for you!