Small Business Trends for 2018 – Are You Ready?

shutterstock_365392142Welcome to 2018! After a hopefully restful and enjoyable holiday break, it is time to get back to business, and this year promises some interesting trends I want to share with you. In my 30+ years of experience helping small businesses, I have seen many significant changes, and this year brings new ways you can further expand and develop your business. I’m excited to highlight some of the trends worth noting, and look forward to working with you to implement these changes to grow your business even further in 2018.

The Mobile Experience – Consumers are using mobile devices to search for information, browse social media, and make purchases more than ever before. Ensuring that your business has a website that is easy to find and navigate, specifically on mobile devices, will help you expand your business’ reach to new customers.

Taking It Outside – Getting tasks done through freelancers, contract workers and outsourcing is becoming easier and more popular than ever before. Many businesses are leaving one-time functions or administrative tasks, like shipping, logistics, graphic design and content writing to others, thus leaving your staff to focus on other areas of expertise, and potentially saving overhead costs as well. Furthermore, giving your own employees the means to work and contribute from outside of the office can improve productivity, and satisfy your employees.

Engaging with Customers Online – The Internet is being used more and more by customers and companies to engage in business and share experiences. It’s becoming more important that businesses keep an online presence in order to communicate their brand, answer questions, respond to comments, and engage directly with consumers to highlight positive experiences, and minimize negative ones.

Storing and Protecting Data – Businesses are increasingly dealing with large data files and technical planning and software in their work. In order to best maintain, organize and protect their data, businesses that leverage the Cloud and other software can save storage costs, work with distant clients and partners, and increase their productivity.

Want more advice on ways to build on the success of your business with these trends, or general advice from other business owners like you? Make 2018 the year you join a TAB Board and get the support you need to make your plan a reality. Contact me today!


New Year’s Resolutions for Your Small Business

k-120-name-1081With the holidays set to soon begin, most businesses will close or reduce their operations until the new year. Many of us will spend time celebrating and relaxing with family and friends, rather than worry about what needs to be done at the office. But the small business owners I speak to are always thinking about ways to improve their business, and they love to be prepared well in advance. That’s why I’d like to outline some new year’s resolutions to improve your small business, well in advance so that come January, you’ll have thoughts and ideas ready to go:

An IT Analysis

The start of the new year is as good a time as any to implement brand new processes and procedures that could make things run more smoothly. For small businesses in particular, a new software tool or production technique can do wonders towards improving your productivity. Particularly within operations and accounting, there are websites and software tools out there – even some that are available for free – that can make things faster and easier for you to manage. Now is the perfect time to review the tools that you’ve heard great things about, and have discussions with family and friends, so that you can implement a new secret weapon to get your business running faster than ever in 2018.

An HR Overhaul

It’s no secret that businesses across North America are being exposed as more hostile and unwelcoming than many would have ever thought. For many people, they had no idea that things were so bad for others. That’s why it’s so important to review your HR policies, and have an open conversation with your employees. This might be one of the only ways to expose issues that you didn’t necessarily recognize. But what’s just as likely is that you’ll come across small, simple changes that you can make to improve the culture and morale at your workplace. Change works best when it’s implemented from the top down, and it’s clear now that issues and concerns should be addressed head-on, to improve the workplace for everyone.

A New Social Media Approach

In 2018, it’s clear that utilizing social media is one of the most efficient and cost-effective ways of marketing your business. Just as you aim to improve the internal functioning of your business, you should aim to improve the external perception of your business. You may just be looking at the creation of a Facebook or Instagram account to share basic information and show off your products. Or, you might be looking at the development of an entirely new online strategy. Either way, web pages need time to accumulate page views and reviews to become more prominent and legitimate. That’s why the time is now to embrace social media, as it can only serve to broaden the audience who discovers and interacts with your business.

With the new year approaching, now is the perfect time to reflect on tools, policies and changes to make to ensure that 2018 is the best year yet for your small business. If you’d like to hear other recommendations, or talk to other local small business owners to bounce ideas, contact me today!

Ready to Unleash Your Inner Entrepreneur?

k-63-dsc5156355559-paint_1There comes a point in an executive’s career where most, if not all professional milestones have been achieved. It’s a point where I have found many executives start to become restless, looking for the next challenge. If you don’t share the same excitement your colleague’s have about their retirement plans and you are thinking about how you’ve always dreamed of being your own boss, then I’d like to share with you a great opportunity to unleash your entrepreneurial spirit!

As a franchise owner for The Alternative Board (TAB), you not only have the freedom to make you own decisions, have low overhead costs, and determine your own hours, but you will have the backing of an international franchise and be making an impact on small businesses and their owners.

As a TAB franchisee, you will:

  • Build and manage an advisory board of up to 10 non-competing businesses
  • Coach business owners to improve their leadership skills and help their business grow
  • Facilitate group meetings and discussions to propose constructive, powerful solutions to business problems
  • Guide and grow your business with autonomy, and with the backing and support of an international franchise

This opportunity is perfect for:

  • Executives with an entrepreneurial spirit, who have an abundance of experience in the corporate world
  • Business leaders who look to tackle a new challenge for the next 10-15 years
  • Those who would enjoy helping passionate business owners innovate and grow their businesses

Becoming a TAB franchisee allows you to be your own boss, make your own decisions, and help small businesses succeed. It’s the perfect opportunity for someone who wants to make a big difference in the lives of many small business owners and their ventures. If you’d like to learn more about being a TAB franchisee, contact me today!

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.

The Right Plan Needs the Right Combination

network-1989137_1920.jpgWith the New Year now well underway, many business owners are just putting the final touches on their business plans.  That doesn’t mean, however, that adjustments can’t be made to ensure your goals can be reached in 2017.

As a business advisor for many years, when it comes to planning, I tend to come across two types of approaches: the visionary and the executor.  Both approaches have their pros and cons, but as I’ll explain, a combination is what you, as a business owner, should strive for, especially throughout the business planning process.

A visionary knows where they want to go.  They have a “big picture” vision and are often concerned with growing the company by setting goals.  However, they lack tactical deployment and detailed plan as to how to attain this vision.  They tend to not pay much attention to the processes in which their goals are met.

On the other hand, an executor’s primary concern is detail-related.  They set high performance standards but fail to align those tactics to the “big picture” of growing the business because they’re so focused on processes.

As a business owner, do these two approaches sound familiar?  Whether you’re a visionary or executor, I recommend the following steps as a way to bring both visionary and executor together when developing your plan.

  1. Have a Vision

Think “big picture.”  Have a solid idea of your current state of affairs, determine what changes you would like to make, and consider how much you want to grow and in what areas of the business.  Some examples of this might be that you want to increase revenue in your X division by 10% , perhaps you want to acquire a smaller business this year to expand your national reach,  or you want to offer an automated solution to your XX customers.

  1. Dig into the Details

Now that you know what goal you want to achieve, create a plan outlining in detail how you are going to get there. If your goal is to acquire a smaller company this year, then it makes sense that part of your plan will involve searching for available companies.  The devil is in the details as they say, so capture as much detail here so the plan can be easily executed on.

At this point you’ll also need to allocate budgets accordingly and introduce the means or tactics in which the budget will apply to.

  1. Review your progress

As with anything in business, monitor your results.  Regular progress meetings should be conducted to get an accurate picture of how your business is progressing. Most importantly, ensure you are consistently making modifications to ensure success.

A carefully thought-out plan that contains both a big picture vision and accompanying details required for implementation is crucial for success.   Ensure you share the plan with your employees so they are aware of the role they play in its execution.

While your business plan is somewhat of a blueprint, having a vision of where you want to go and how you are going to get there will position your business for success.


The Importance of Onboarding New Clients

onboardCongratulations! You’ve landed a new client, now what? The first few months of your new business relationship will determine the level of satisfaction your client has with you and will ultimately factor into whether or not you have a solid working relationship from which to grow. In order to maximize your level of service during this new and exciting time, I highly recommend following a carefully crafted onboarding process.

An onboarding process acts as somewhat of a blueprint for the next few months of the new relationship by clearly outlining expectations for both parties involved. Moreover, it protects both parties by mitigating any form of miscommunication or false expectations.

I’ve outlined below the steps involved in creating an effective onboarding process:

1) Send a welcome email

With most things in life, first impressions matter. This is no different in business, and sending your client a personalized welcome email from a C-level individual at your company not only shows your commitment to working with them, but it’s also a nice gesture that opens a line of communication.

2) Learn their resources

Since every company is different and operates in their own way, knowing what resources they have available is important to accomplishing your goals. For example, and depending on the type of services you’ll be providing, you’ll need to establish what platforms each company uses, what internal staff will be directly working with you, and whom you can go to with questions.

3) Establish mutual goals

A new business relationship is a two way street, and success is dependent upon clear communication and support offered by each party. Simply because a working agreement has been established, it doesn’t automatically mean both parties are on the same page. It is through the onboarding process that the details of the contract can fully be planned for effective execution.

4) Have a kick-off meeting

Whether over the phone or in person, hosting a kick-off meeting with key members involved in the launch of a service is an important step for setting expectations and weeding out any kinks that may have been overlooked during the original planning phase.

5) Obtain feedback

Once your business relationship has begun, checking in with your client to provide updates and ensure their satisfaction is key to demonstrating your willingness to foster a successful relationship. Not only will this show them your commitment to providing excellent customer service, but it will allow for any concerns or necessary changes to come to light. Having a 30, 60 or 90-day feedback session is recommended, but you can customize this plan based on your client’s preferences.

As you’ve probably realized in your business ventures, every client is different. Making tweaks to your onboarding process may be required depending on what each client’s expectations of you are and vice versa. Ultimately, an onboarding process is created to help you achieve success and maintain a mutual understanding with your client, so putting in the time to carefully craft one is in your best interest.


Do you have an onboarding process in place for new clients?

Why Join A Peer Advisory Board?

round table.jpgForbes published an article on the importance of peer advisory boards, “10 Reasons To Join A Peer Group.” While I thoroughly enjoyed the read, I noticed the author overlooked a few key benefits that I’ve been lucky to witness firsthand as a facilitator. As a business advisor, I take pride in facilitating a peer advisory board that has proven results for my members. The peer boards help business owners reach new heights and succeed in ways they never imagined.

Peer advisory boards led by trained facilitators embody the power of collaboration, accountability, and perspective. A deep bond can be created and a business asset is formed that business owners crave and are hard pressed to find in any other forum. I’d like to share with you my list of top 7 reasons many business owners join a peer advisory board:

1) Perspective

One of the greatest benefits of joining a peer advisory board is the exposure you’ll receive to other small business owners much like yourself. Entrepreneurship is unlike any other job, which means the challenges you face on a daily basis are just as unique. As a member of a peer advisory board, you’re able to share ideas with people in similar situations. As a result, the business ideas you’ll be provided with won’t just be erroneous but tried and true.

2) Accountability

As the owner of a business, there aren’t many people you have to report to other than perhaps a Board of Directors or other shareholders. When you’re part of a peer advisory board, however, your fellow business owners will often hold you accountable for the executive decisions you’ve elected to make. Many peer groups meet once a month and they often expect some form of progress each month.

3) Feedback

We’ve all had ideas that we considered to be foolproof, but as we’ve come to know in business, not every idea is feasible. In becoming a member of a peer advisory board, you’ll receive constructive criticism from the board regarding your potential business decisions. This allows you to fill in any gaps that you may have overlooked.

4) Confidentiality

With competition at an all time high, it’s difficult to know whom you can share your ideas with. With peer advisory boards, anything that is discussed is confidential among members, so you’ll receive reassurance in knowing that you can freely discuss your business decisions without compromising trade secrets.

5) Motivation

As previously mentioned, you’ll surround yourself with like-minded entrepreneurs as a member of a peer advisory board. What this means is that you’ll witness them experience successes and/or setbacks, just as they’ll witness the same for you. Either way, you’ll challenge one another to learn from your mistakes, grow, and ultimately succeed.

6) Structure

A common benefit I hear from board members is that a peer advisory board allows them to focus on developing their business rather than working in the business. Don’t get me wrong, one of the best qualities of a business owner is someone who knows the ins and outs of their product or service, but when it boils down to growth, strategic decision-making is a necessity.

7) Reassurance

As the saying goes, “it’s lonely at the top.” But it doesn’t have to be. Your fellow board members are there to support you through your journey, and many if not all are experiencing, have experienced, or will experience the trials and tribulations you are facing as a business owner. They are as much of a support group as they are anything else.


Have you ever considered joining a peer advisory board? What would be your top reason for joining?