Take The Break You Deserve

work-2005640_1920Most of us look forward to the holiday season as the perfect time to take some time off with family, but if you’re a typical business owner, you might be looking at this holiday break as a great time to get some extra work done. The freedom to work without being interrupted is a pretty exciting prospect for many of the business owners I work with. I advise that if we don’t take the time to relax and disconnect, we may end up piling more stress on top of an additional workload.

Aside from leaving your work back in the office, spending time with your loved ones during the holiday season is important. Even when you’re doing a thousand things per day, try to reset and think about who and what you’re working for. If you’re finding it hard to take your well-deserved time off, here are some practical tips to help you unplug during the holiday season:

Cover all of your bases before the holidays

Before that last work day of 2018, you might like to have your workload in a place that feels comfortable enough to leave for a couple of weeks, and manageable enough to pick up again in January. This includes responding to emails, setting up appointments and completing any urgent tasks. Many people find that they can’t relax if they have a mountain of work waiting for them when it’s time to come back to the office. See what you can do to take as much as you can off of your plate before loading it up again.

A concrete strategy for completion can be helpful in the weeks preceding the holiday break (e.g. having a set goal for completed tasks each day). Take a deep breath: no matter how organized you are, you may not complete everything on your list, and that’s okay. Try to prioritize, and leave the remaining tasks for a new, fresh year.

Leave work mobile devices alone

 It’s going to be really tempting to check your work phone during the course of the holidays (trust me, you’re not alone), but doing so can make you spiral back into work mode. In order to turn off your work brain, try to shut down anything and everything that inspires you to start working again, especially work related devices.

To make it easier to step away, have someone close to you help you with accountability. Allow them to help you set some boundaries and have them recommend a safe place where you can keep your work phone during the holidays. Don’t worry – it will still be there for you, right where you left it, once January 1st rolls around.

 If you must check your work emails, only do so once per day

 If you’re the type of business owner who still likes to stay connected to your business, even when you’re on vacation, see if you can limit checking your email. Setting aside one time per day (e.g. in the morning) to check in can be a very helpful way to see it, deal with it, then leave it. Limiting the amount of time you remain plugged in can be a valuable step towards finding a sense of peace and relaxation outside of the office.

Have an automated email response that provides an emergency contact

 In the event of a work emergency during the holidays, it can be helpful to have an emergency contact available via an automated email response. If someone absolutely has to get in touch with you during the holidays, an automated email response can be set up to provide them with your emergency contact. However, try not to give this contact out to anyone under other circumstances. Remember- you’re trying to relax!

Kicking back for the holidays can feel virtually impossible, and even when you’ve done everything you can to leave your work at the office, you may still find yourself reaching for your work phone during the holidays. It’s natural. As a business owner who is passionate about what you do, you’re always thinking about what more you can be doing, and how you can make it better.

Some experts suggest that taking some time off can actually help to increase your productivity. Mental stress doesn’t just create physiological issues; it can actually prevent you from giving your full attention to your work. Consider your holiday break as an opportunity to get fully charged for a new year. That way, you’ll end up feeling better and more productive.

However, taking a break is not only important for your own mental health, it’s important for the people you care about. We all deserve time to breathe! Work on releasing the urgency of getting work done in favour of enjoying every moment of joy the holidays have to offer. Who knows? You may even find yourself enjoying the time away.

 

 

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Respecting Professional Boundaries

29-11-2011Have you ever patted an employee on the back to praise them? Or, have you ever asked them a deeply personal question simply because you care about their well- being? While your intentions may be good, your staff may perceive these gestures in a completely different way than you would like them to. Sometimes we work so closely with our staff that the boundary between employee and friend can become blurred. Despite having the best intentions, as a person of authority, you should be cognizant about how you interact with your employees.

In order to protect yourself and your brand’s reputation from unsavoury allegations, I encourage all businesses, no matter their size, to implement a workplace harassment policy. In fact, all employers are required to have a workplace harassment policy under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

The purpose of a workplace harassment policy is to ensure there are procedures in place to prevent and handle employee harassment complaints. If there aren’t documented procedures that you and your employees can easily reference as needed, you potentially open yourself up to legal repercussions. To avoid any grey area, there are template policies you can use to create your own.

Your workplace harassment policy can cover as little or as much as you deem necessary for your business, but here are a few subjects to take into consideration:

 

Verbal Phrasing

I strongly suggest mulling over every comment in your head before sharing them with employees, because carefree comments from a superior can easily be misunderstood as inappropriate or intimidating. Some employees may give you the benefit of the doubt over simple mistakes, but there may be others who take offense. The same goes for jokes; a joke that went over well at a friend or family gathering may not be appropriate for the workplace.

 

Physical Actions

You may have the most innocent of intentions when you pat an employee on the back or place a hand on their shoulder, but not everyone will realize this. If you have a habit of casually touching people when you speak to them, I would suggest trying to break it. If you’re unaware of any such habits, I would recommend taking a day or week to be particularly conscious of your actions around employees; you might have a habit you didn’t know about.

 

Visuals

Décor such as calendars, posters, paintings, statues, and any other form of decoration brought into the workplace should be chosen with a purely professional mindset. Where possible, I suggest choosing pieces that won’t cause debate over the definition of “tasteful.” And similarly to being cautious of jokes you share with employees, satirical images may not be as well received among employees as they can be among friends.

For specifics on what topics should be avoided in the workplace and to ensure discriminatory or offensive remarks/actions don’t take place, consider reviewing the Ontario Human Rights Code.

If you need help manoeuvring around this delicate subject and want to discuss how to implement an effective workplace harassment policy, contact me today to join a TAB peer advisory board.


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.


How a Lean Business Plan Can Help You Focus on What Is Really Important

business-plan-images-1024x682As I have discussed with many business owners over the years, a business plan is your blueprint for success. It can help you manage your business more effectively, help support growth and secure funding. There are “Static Business Plans” and “Lean Business Plans”.

Since your business isn’t static, it doesn’t make sense to have a static business plan, which is typically long, complicated and never changes. Lean business plans assume constant change. They’re streamlined documents with no extraneous information. Instead of bloated paragraphs, lean business plans are written concisely with bullet points, lists and tables – easy to read and easy to revise.

A lean business plan is more than just a plan; it’s an ongoing process designed to optimize your business. This powerful tool includes strategy, a financial plan, action plan, tactics, milestones, responsibilities, performance metrics and tracking.

A lean business plan is a dynamic document that must be reviewed regularly and revised as needed. It’s something that can benefit every business. I’ve outlined below four important points of every lean business plan here:

  1. The pitch tells your story. Who are you? What do you do? What is your value proposition? What problem are you solving for your customers? How are you solving that problem? Who is your customer? Who is your competition? How are you different from your competition?
  2. The financial plan explains how you’re going to make money. What is your business model? What are your revenue streams? What is your sales forecast? Cash flow forecast? What are your major expenses? What is your budget to cover expenses?
  3. The action plan is how you’re going to do it. Who are your key team members and what are their roles? Who is your target market? What are your sales channels – online, bricks and mortar, third party distribution? Pricing? How will you be attracting customers – marketing, advertising, promotions, social media, messaging, public relations? Do you have partners or additional resources? If so, list them.
  4. Performance tracking measures the success of your plan. It compares results with expectations. List all of the specifics that you can track – money generated, products/services sold, number of new clients, milestones reached, web traffic, foot traffic, social media followers, conversions…

A lean business plan evolves as your business evolves. It will never be finished; it’s a process of continuous improvement. The cycle is constant – plan, run, review, revise. Review and revise your plan regularly to ensure that your business is on course with meeting goals, sales targets and operational milestones. In my experience, this plan can keep your business on track, and help you determine its success.

Are you using a lean business plan? Want more advice on lean business plans, 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!

 


5 Steps to Getting Your Business Back on Track

tab-croissance-1080x675One of the biggest challenges I find many small business owners face is dealing with complacency. When a new business first starts out, owners are overcome with excitement with every forward step. But at one point or another, the excitement of the early days starts to slow down, and eventually your company may begin to experience a plateau.

A stagnant business is one that faces little to no new activity for an extended period of time. Complacency tends to come from sticking with the status quo and getting used to your business’s “comfort zone”. Many business owners adhere to the mindset of “if it was working for the first 5 years, why change it now?” The truth is, sometimes change is exactly what you need to revitalize your business and get it growing again.

If you’re facing complacency in your business, below are 5 steps for revitalizing your business to get it back on track for growth.

1) Find out what your customers want

A lack of understanding about what your customers truly want from your business can be detrimental to your small business. This is why engaging in market research is essential to drive your company’s growth. Have you had a conversation with your customers to find out what needs are being met, and what needs aren’t? By hiring a market research company or a marketing agency with a specialization in market research to conduct unbiased market research, you will be able to gain invaluable information about your customers as well as your competitors. Once you’ve done this research, you’ll have a much better idea about how you can fulfill your customers’ needs to the best of your ability.

2) Focus on increases in certain sectors and products

Your industry landscape changes at such a rapid pace, and as a small business owner, it’s important that you keep up-to-date with it. Look at projected growth sectors to get an understanding of which products or services are headed for long-term growth, and which ones are on the decline. Some may be obvious, but others may not be so apparent. This is why it’s crucial to take the time and do proper research. Once you have a better idea about the projected growth rate of certain sectors, consider shifting your business model to become more aligned with these industry changes.

3) Re-examine former revenue sources

While focusing on changes in the industry landscape is important, equally important is looking at what has traditionally brought you revenue. After the first few years of your business, you may have lost focus on areas that were once reliable sources of revenue for your company. Have you steered your attention towards niche areas as a result of increased demand, and lost sight of your more dependable revenue sources? If your business has stalled, one of the first things you should do is gauge whether or not you have neglected some of your core competencies at the expense of chasing something new.

4) Review your company’s operations

I’ve found that many small businesses do not focus enough time and energy on their internal operations. Often, owners struggle to let go of the “startup” mindset they once had. This is a shame, as a company’s internal operations can have a huge influence on the productivity of their business. As your business grows, it’s important you grow with it. In a previous blog, I discussed the importance of delegation. Are you delegating work where necessary? Have you considered outsourcing certain tasks to allow you to focus on growing your business?

5) Create a plan

The only way you will be able to properly execute the above steps is if you have a solid plan in place. It’s essential you know exactly what resources are required and how much time and energy is needed to accomplish what you want done. Understanding these two key areas will allow you to set realistic short-term and long-term goals for your business. Remember, making any large-scale changes to your company takes time, so patience is needed to see through your goals.

It is important to keep the momentum going in order for your business not to stall. Although complacency is a frustrating obstacle to face, it is quite common. By following these 5 steps on how to revitalize your business, you’ll be equipped with the confidence to move forward and make the necessary changes needed to get your business back on the track you want it to be.


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?