Don’t Put All Your Eggs in One Basket

millennials-networking-ftrAs a business owner, you feel fortunate when landing a large client. This client can become your bread and butter, but this could also mean that your success is tied to theirs, and if they struggle, so will your business. Should another supplier offer your client better pricing or packages, their loyalty to your business can be compromised. Your largest client may have overdue payments or expect lower prices if they know your dependency on them. However, a greater concern is if you are spending all of your time and resources focused on your main source of income, you are likely to neglect or not seek additional clients.

There certainly are benefits to having larger clients, including the consistent revenue stream and workload, aligning your brand with their reputation, and possible referrals and references when trying to land new clients.

In my 30 years of business experience, I’ve found it critical to diversify your client portfolio with large and smaller clients. In doing so, you reduce the risk of the impact to your business if a large client leaves.

Despite your best efforts, losing a key client can be devastating for some businesses, especially when more than 30% of your business is reliant on them.

Here are a few suggestions I’d recommend to help you safeguard your business from the loss of a large client:

1. Stay connected with all your clients

As the business owner, making a call to your client’s C-level person is critical in gauging the health of their business. Ensure you speak with that person on an ongoing basis and integrate your value. If they do stop working with you, hopefully you’ve laid the groundwork for working with them in other capacities (e.g. as a consultant on an as-needed basis) or keeping the door open for their possible return or referrals to other businesses.

2. Foster Business Development

Create an action plan for networking and building an ongoing flow of potential clients. Leverage your existing clients for new business. Participate at networking events and seek referrals from clients.

3. Advance your marketing efforts
Create a lead generation marketing plan to support your business development efforts. This might include call out campaigns, email blasts, downloads, boosting social networking posts, and pay per click.

4. Join a Peer Advisory Board
It’s been proven that by sharing with other like-minded individuals, it helps to increase your bottom line. Members of Peer Advisory Boards are asked to contribute industry information or business ideas and meet on a regular basis, sharing best practices, networking, and putting forward objective recommendations. By hearing encouragement through a different perspective from other business professionals, you can help grow your business.

Through the continual development of a diversified client base, losing a large client will not devastate your business, but stand as a learning experience and opportunity for growth.

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6 Signs Your Business is Ready to Grow

Business-Growth1.jpgRegardless of whether a business is seeking to satisfy a major increase in demand, or strengthen its competitive position, growth is a vital step in the development of any business. From hiring employees and increasing office space to increasing production, expanding services or extending product lines there is a lot to consider. Growing your business requires you to take a bit of a leap. Look for these signs before you look to grow your business:

1. You are being approached by potential clients

When you find that you are receiving request and inquires from customers and clients, this is usually a sign that you are in a position where growth is possible. Your brand has now gained just the right amount of exposure to for growth to take place.

2. Your team is strong and ready to grow

It is vital to know if your company has the right staff in place for growth to be possible. Valuable leaders are important however, having a strong team of employees who are experts at what they do and are committed to your business, is crucial in the growth phase.

3. You have the necessary funds for growth

Knowing your sales cycle and what income you can expect on a regular basis will ensure that you do not experience a shortage in cash flow during growth. It is important to know this as you will not be able to successfully grow if your sales do not match with your income. Measure this before you grow.

4. You are personally ready to grow

Are you ready for the commitment that comes with growing a business? If you are not prepared, business growth can have affect your personal well being as well as your family and daily life.Your business may be ready for growth but it can only be successful if you are ready for it. Experts say business owners should assume a 12 month adjustment period to achieve normal balance in the business after a growth spurt.

5. You have realistic expectations

Know what your business can handle. It may be difficult to not get carried away if you’ve mastered a particular market or excelled in a specific area. You may think you have everything you need to do exactly this all over again but be realistic in what you hope to achieve and what you can handle. Consider the economic benefits, your existing infrastructure and current resources to evaluate if you will be trying to take on too much at once.

6. You have met and continue to meet set goals

Stop making excuses for failed goals and instead find alternate ways to meet them. Doing this will encourage confidence throughout all levels of your business and help overall growth in the long run.

If your business is growing, you’re doing something right. It’s also important to understand that growth is a disruptive force. A period of substantial growth will influence every single aspect of your company, which is why you need to adopt a strategic mindset.


Silent Leadership

quietWhen most people are asked the question, “what makes a great leader?” the responses are predictable, with a list of qualities that most often includes confidence, charisma, and energy. But there is a whole other type of leader that tends to be forgotten: the silent leader.

What exactly is quiet leadership? Simply put, it is the ability to inspire, motivate, and encourage through action instead of words. While a boisterous leader may have the right effect in some cases, they are certainly not the right fit for every company or team. Fortunately, anyone can adopt a quiet leadership style by practicing a few important behaviours that I’ve detailed below:

  1. Effective Listening
    • An ability to listen to others and actually hear what is said will ensure everyone feels respected and has ownership in the work of the company.
  2. Honesty
    • To be a successful quiet leader, your employees must trust you implicitly. Being truthful will ensure loyalty from your followers.
  3. Transparency
    • This goes hand in hand with honesty. While remaining quiet, you must still ensure you are open and approachable to your team.
  4. Modesty
    • Even as a leader, you do not put yourself above your team. You hold yourself to the same standards and accountability as your employees.

Keep in mind that although a quiet leader may be in the background a lot of the time, they still have an air confidence about them that people respond to. Leading by example and not just “talking the talk” can be the best way to motivate your staff. When you build the right relationships with your employees, you will find that you no longer have to be loud in order for them to listen.

Have you ever adopted a quiet leadership style within a team? Was it successful? Please share your experiences in the comments!


Spring Cleaning for your Business

office-team-building

It seems as though the warmer weather is here to stay, and while you may feel compelled to give your home and yard a spring-cleaning, your business could also benefit from some freshening up as well!

I’ve found that this time of year is perfect for taking an inventory of how your business is doing and how you can channel the springtime motivation into making improvements in all parts of the company. Spring-cleaning can cover a wide range of ways to freshen up, most of them supported by the improved mood around the office.

Goals for 2014: Depending on your annual cycle, you could have just completed your first quarter of the year. This is a good time to remember the goals you set for yourself and your business, such as the ones I suggested back in January, and track your progress thus far. Perhaps you’ve found that you’ve developed some great habits and solid consistency in your work life, and this motivates you to challenge yourself further. If you’ve veered off the goals you set, perhaps your spring cleaning involves updating your goals or re-committing to them.

Administrative Items: As the year gets busier, you might not notice that certain processes or administrative systems are not working for your business anymore. Take inventory of your business processes and see if you notice any inefficiencies or gaps in the way you do things – for example, managing your client email list, invoicing system or your tactics for acquiring new customers. Some minor tweaks or changes now will help your business run more efficiently for the remainder of the year.

General Clutter: The state of your office and workplace definitely has an effect on your productivity. If your workspace (whether that be your home office, work office, car, etc) is not organized in a way that you understand and can work within, you are less able to find items you need but this can also make you feel more stressed and less in control of your work life. Taking time to file things away, recycle loose papers and shred old files can give your office, your desk and your mind a sense of freshness.

Team-building: We have just made it through a long, difficult winter. Your employees may be in need of some reconnection with the business values and each other. Whether formally or not, schedule some time for your employees to spend time with each other. Team-building workshops and spring revival training are valuable tools that can reignite belongingness and motivation within your team. Look for their input and feedback on the year so far and set goals to continue through the summer with high levels of productivity.

Spring cleaning covers a variety of areas of your business, so feel free to undertake any activities that offer you a chance to de-clutter, either literally, administratively or mentally. Take advantage of the lifted spirits that accompany this beautiful weather and channel this motivation into making your business a more efficient and happy place to be.

What other spring-cleaning activities come to mind during this time of year? Where have you noticed things “cluttering” in your business? I look forward to your thoughts below.


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!


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