This Holiday Season, Focus on You

relax-955798_1920.jpgAs a business owner, the holiday season can be overwhelming. With client demands at an all time high, staff vacations and strategic planning in the works for the next fiscal year, stress often pervades around this time. That’s why at this time, perhaps more than any other time, it’s important to take care of yourself and take time off from your business.

I’ve outlined below my top 3 tips for taking care of yourself over the holidays.

1) Do something you enjoy 

Whether it’s volunteering, reading a book or playing one of your favourite sports, dedicate some time during the holidays to doing something that you love. It’s easy to forget about the world around us when we’re so immersed in our work, but you’ll appreciate the opportunity to rid yourself of work-related stress, even if it’s just for a few hours a day.

The holiday season is also a great time to spend some much needed quality time with your close friends and family members. Business owners are often so caught up in the day-to-day stresses of running a company that they often forget to make time for their loved ones.

2) Exercise

Physical activity is a great method for reducing stress. There are plenty of winter activities that incorporate exercise, such as skating, skiing, tobogganing, or even just a walk. Fresh air every now and again is important to your health, cold weather aside. If you prefer indoor activities, visit your local gym for a workout or swim. Your eyes will thank you for the much-needed break from paperwork, smartphones and laptops.

3) Rejuvenate

Even if it’s just an extra hour of sleep each morning, do something that will make you feel revitalized. A fresh mind means that you’ll be focused on making the right business decisions come 2017, possibly from a different perspective you may have previously had. Mindfulness is a practice that you may want to consider for rejuvenation, which also happens to improve decision-making.

Dedicating some “me” time for yourself during the holidays may seem easier said than done, but the benefits are simply undeniable. If you’re anxious about the impact time off would have on your customers, informing them about office closures and/or reduced hours during the holiday season may alleviate some of the worry you have about not focusing on the business.

How do you plan on getting some R&R this holiday season?

 


So you have a Business Mentor…Now What?

one on oneAfter careful consideration and research, you have decided to enlist the support of a business mentor to help you and your business. You have found a coach with plenty of experience, who is easy to talk to and interested in embarking on this journey with you.

So what now?

How do you ensure that you reap the value of your business mentor, and see improvements and growth in your business? Unsurprisingly, this is where the work begins. Before you meet with your mentor, you must be prepared to take a good, hard look at your business and be ready to make objective observations about how it is performing. Take some time to decide where you want your business to be in a year, five years or ten years, because thorough reflection will ensure that your business mentor knows how to challenge and push you to reach your goals. Take inventory of the strengths and weaknesses of your business so that you are prepared to discuss and tackle issues that need improvement as well as ways to further strengthen your attributes.

In short, you must do your homework before every meeting with your mentor in order to make the most of the time you spend with him or her. This ensures that this time is spent instead on learning from their experience, asking thoughtful questions and developing tactical steps to reach your goals. I’ve compiled some questions that could be helpful for provoking conversation with your mentor:

1. What advice can you give me in developing or improving my business plan?

2. From your experience, what lesson did you learn that would be most valuable to me?

3. What are the ways that will help me determine the risks and benefits of an important business decision?

4. From your observations thus far, what do you identify as my areas of weakness?

5. What does my business do well?

6. This is where I am, and this is where I want to be. What needs to change for me to get there?

7. With my goals in mind, how should I be spending my time?

8. How can I help you?

The last question, while different from the rest, becomes just as important because it signals the strength of the relationship between mentor and mentee. Mentorship is never a one-way street and by investing in this relationship and looking to contribute to it, you are communicating your commitment to the mentorship process and ensuring your mentor sees value in playing the role of your mentor.

What other questions would add value to a meeting with your mentor? Do you think that taking time to reflect on your business beforehand enriches the mentorship process? I look forward to your comments below!


“Mentorship is not for me” and other mentorship myths

mentorshipBusiness mentorship can be a source of support, enlightenment and perspective for all parties associated in the relationship. Mentees will often commend their mentor for helping to both ground them and challenge them to take the calculated risks that will push their business to the next level. As a TAB Facilitator, I meet business-owners who have not yet incorporated mentorship into their business strategy and who hesitate to enlist the support of a business coach, which has led me to explore some misconceptions about business mentorship to share with you.

Mentorship is for junior people: Many people assume that mentorship is solely reserved for those just beginning their careers, where a seasoned person mentors a young, fresh individual. These days, people can change jobs and even career paths multiple times, meaning that mentorship can occur in every phase of your career or business ownership.

Your mentor needs to be within your industry: While it can be helpful to receive advice from someone who understands the intricacies of your industry, the benefits of a completely different perspective cannot be overstated. With a set of fresh eyes on your business, you can stand to gain insight into strategies you would have never considered for yourself.

As an expert in your field, you don’t require a mentor: Business owners undoubtedly have long and successful careers behind them, but as the business world changes and evolves, you may find you need to keep educating yourself on trends and best practices to keep your business on the cutting edge.

Mentorship is a formal, long-term relationship: Mentorship need not be a rigid, inflexible process! You can have many mentors, drawing on strengths you admire in each of them and learning from their diverse backgrounds. As well, you may decide to have an ongoing mentorship relationship or choose to have a short session over coffee. Mentorship can come in whatever format works well for you as long as you understand what you are looking to gain from the experience.

Mentorship is a one-way transaction: As a mentee, don’t discredit what you can offer your mentor. Mentors may be at another point in their career, but you can offer perspective, feedback and support to your mentor based on your skill set and experience. This can keep a mentorship relationship fresh and evolving so that both parties gain something valuable.

Are there any other reasons for being hesitant to engage with a mentor? If you have a mentor, what have you gained from the experience? I look forward to your comments below.


Part 3 of 3: Women Business-Owners [Watch]

The goal of the Women Business Owners 3-part blog series for my blog was to bring a female perspective to the unique challenges faced by business owners. In Part 1, I researched the potential obstacles for women when undertaking business ownership that may contribute to the gradually narrowing disparity between the number of male vs. female entrepreneurs. The aim of Part 2 was to delve into the journey of successful business ownership in an interview with the owners of Bayview Sheppard RMT, who openly shared the ups and downs of their story with us. In a fitting conclusion, Part 3 of this series explores the value of mentorship in business and who better to give voice to this topic than the successful business owners themselves.


Part 2 of 3: Interview with Helen and Lisa of Bayview Sheppard RMT

Helen&LisaWhen is the perfect moment for you to take the plunge into business ownership? It can be nearly impossible to tell, if a perfect moment even exists.

For Helen Milic and Lisa Macchia, the “Go” button was pressed nine full years before the two ladies thought they would take the plunge into business ownership together. As much as they initially envisioned putting-off starting a business until the youngest of their children attended school full-time, in January 2005, circumstances arose where the women realized that their time was now or never.

They opened the doors to their clinic three months later.

As Registered Massage Therapists, the Helen and Lisa completing schooling knowing that they would be self-employed in terms of attracting and maintaining a solid clientele base. The ladies rented a room in a clinic together, and while their families were young, their highest priority was the ability to leave work at the end of the day to be present and attentive mothers and wives.

When I asked Helen and Lisa the most difficult part of beginning this journey, three factors came up without hesitation: Money, Time and Family. The ladies recall an appointment at the bank in early 2005, business plan in hand, and remember how the female bank associate laughed in their faces. On paper, the finances and time needed to realize their business goals did not add up.

However, nine years later, their success speaks for itself. Having the business grow more than necessary to prove themselves, Helen and Lisa attribute the opportunity to succeed to the strength of their families and husbands. Between sewing curtains, painting rooms and their mothers even taking time off work to be available for the young kids, the women could not speak enough about the community effort that was necessary to see their goals achieved.

These goals of Bayview-Sheppard RMT however, are not achieved without a great deal of careful planning, daily organization and self-awareness on the part of the business-owners. The women recalled a day in recent memory where their hourly schedule seemed impossible to fit into a 24-hour period: Wake-up, make lunches, make breakfast for kids, drop off kids at school, massage, teach after work, back to the office for paperwork, make dinner, get kids ready for bed, phone meetings, check email, bed. Finally.

As women, work-life balance is not an added bonus to business-ownership – it is a requirement for both women to want to continue on this journey. Owning their own business would only work for them if their first priority as mothers was maintained. The women speak of a strong want and need to be present caregivers to their children and attribute their ability to be full-time mothers and business-owners to their business-partnership. “No one truly understands what the other goes through better than we do,” Lisa says, because, in their case, the ability to lean on each other is what makes their goals possible.

Mentorship outside of the advice they provide each other has played a significant part in gaining perspective and pushing their business to the next level. By deciding to enlist the support of a business coach and peer-mentorship with The Alternative Board, the women found a grounding force from where they were able to seek advice and wisdom from sources who wanted to see them succeed but were not personally invested in their business. Mostly, the women found reassurance that they were making the right choices and on the right path.

As for what’s next on the path for Lisa and Helen, their goals are simple: They want to always improve their customer experience by continuing to service the needs of their loyal clients as well welcoming new ones and give back to the community that supports them. With a passion for what they do and shared values as business owners, these women ultimately want to be happy and make those around them happy.

A big thank you to Helen and Lisa for spending time with me to share their story as business-owners. Does their story echo the journey you or someone you know took to business ownership? What have been your challenges and successes been? I look forward to your thoughts below!

Bayview Sheppard Registered Massage Therapy clinic, founded by Lisa Macchia and Helen Milic, opened its doors on March 22nd, 2005, and began operating with only 3 registered massage therapists. Today, they have 24 RMTs on staff and perform a variety of treatments from aromatherapy and deep tissue massage, to pregnancy and hot stone massage. They strive to provide a recognized clinically-oriented health option that achieves undeniable results in the relief of an array of discomforts stemming from stress, muscular overuse and many chronic pain syndromes.

http://www.bayviewsheppardrmt.com


Part 1 of 3: Obstacles Facing Women Business-Owners

9-Successful-Women-Entrepreneurs-In-IndiaOverall, there are fewer Canadian female business-owners than their male counterparts. Why does this disparity exist? For the next couple of weeks, I will be writing a 3-part blog series focusing on female business-ownership and how women can begin overcoming obstacles to success, either societal or otherwise.

Of all the business-owners I have worked with over the years, only a small percentage of my mentees are female, and I believe with more female presence in the entrepreneurial community, more women would feel inspired and compelled to see themselves undertaking that challenge.

Based on some very preliminary research, there could be several reasons why there are simply less female Canadian business-owners:

  • Fewer females in positions of power in business: Only 21 of the Fortune 500 CEOs are women and women hold only 14% of executive officer positions*. With statistics like these, perhaps young women do not identify or aspire to become business owners when they do not see female role models.
  • Work-Life Balance: Although we now see much more equality between women and men in the domestic setting, women traditionally still take on a large portion of the household responsibilities, which results in less available time to spend putting in the hard hours of work required to get a new business up and running.
  •  Societal gender expectations: Traits that are often valued in male business-owners, such as assertiveness and drive, are sometimes incorrectly perceived as aggressive and selfish in female business-owners. This can affect a female business-owner’s confidence in reaching her next level of professional success.
  • Lack of mentorship: Starting a business can be a very personal undertaking, and it may be difficult to ask for help. Business-owners, both male and female, would benefit from seeking mentorship and business coaching to gain perspective, learn from others’ experience and get support.

Do you agree with some of the reasons why there may be fewer female Canadian business-owners? Would you have added more to the list? Let me know what you think in your comments below.

My next blog will feature an interview with two local female business-owners who will give us some insights into both the obstacles and successes of their business. Stay tuned!

* Information referenced from Business Insider Magazine.


Are You Communicating Effectively?

Effective communicatecommunication skills are the foundation of success not only socially and personally, but in business as well. Communication is essential to the success of any business, but it is often overlooked. In my many years dealing with business owners, I have seen time and time again the effects poor communication between team members can have on a business.

As a business owner, it is important to understand that communication can only be successful if the recipient of the message comprehends what they are being told. The communication process is a two-way street – how the message is delivered is just as imperative as how we listen.

You cannot expect your team to take anything away from your meetings, briefs, or presentations if you do not engage them and take the time to craft your message to help them understand it. Your expectations and desired outcomes must be made clear in order for your team to deliver.

Follow the three easy steps below to improve the communication in your business:

1.    Listen

  • Learn to listen to your team, both verbally and non-verbally. Observing how something is said can be just as valuable as listening to what exactly is said.

2.    Encourage

  • Be supportive of your team and encourage others to be involved in discussions and meetings. Open and honest dialogue will provide you with great insight into your business.

3.    Be Consistent

  • Deliver your message consistently each time, using precise and exact language, clear ideas, and an assertive manner. Regardless of whether the message is positive or negative, your language and manner should not change.

Your team, and business will benefit exponentially from improved communication in the workplace. How do you effectively communicate with your team? I would love to hear your feedback in the comments below!