What’s Your Bucket?

ImageEverybody has a bucket…and no, I’m not referring to the ‘bucket list’ of things you must do before you die. That list is likely more interesting than the bucket to which I’m referring. This bucket is the system or process that you know you need to fix or establish to manage your business but haven’t quite gotten around to implementing. In this month’s issue I will help you reveal what your own bucket is and what you can do to make it disappear.

 

Beth

Discovering & Fixing Your Bucket

Beth Goldstein

At Boston University I am the co-faculty director for a program called the BU Urban Business Accelerator. This program, started by a recent alum, Nathan Bernard, focuses on helping business owners in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods develop the skills and systems they need to manage their businesses “by the numbers.” Undergraduate and graduate students work with business owners in inner cities in Boston to implement QuickBooks and often a Point of Sale (POS) system for these businesses.
 
Many of these business owners have very unsophisticated, and oftentimes nonexistent systems. The students were floored one day when the owner of one retail shop pulled out an actual bucket of hand written receipts for all of the items sold that week. The business owner understood the value of tracking his data in a more formal manner, but he simply didn’t have enough time nor knowledge to create a system. He was basically doing everything by hand because he didn’t know where to begin, which led to pricing, profit and inventory challenges.
 
With thousands of SKU’s sold in this store, you can imagine the value of creating a computerized system to track how much each item costs, what it was sold it for and when to reorder (or not). It’s easy to look at this business from the outside and think of dozens of ways to improve it. But when we are working IN our business versus ON it, these growth challenges can surface quickly and have long and very hazardous impacts.
 
We all have a ‘bucket’ that represents a part of our business that we know isn’t working efficiently. Oftentimes we know precisely how to fix it so…it’s just a matter of finding the time to do so. You probably don’t have a team of students ready and willing to identify and then fix your bucket, so it’s up to YOU to find the time to correct the problem on your own. Let’s face reality; unless you MAKE the time to correct the situation, you’re not going to easily find a few hours or days readily available to you.
 
Now is the time to fix this year’s bucket. We’re almost halfway through 2013, so begin by making an appointment with yourself to identify your biggest bucket then create a plan (nothing fancy) with dates of how you’re going to correct it. Here’s a simple 5-step process to follow:
  1. Identify your bucket – what’s the one problem you have that if corrected would make running your business easier, better or perhaps more profitable?
  2. Outline 3 reasons to fix it – how will your business improve or your sanity be increased? This is a great reminder of WHY it’s so important to do this NOW!
  3. Outline the steps required to fix it
  4. Define who will fix it (it doesn’t have to be JUST you)
  5. Create deadlines and then simply DO IT!
I’m off to address my own bucket. Curious? I’ve started teaching a few new classes at BU and at Brandeis this summer, but my schedule isn’t designed to prepare for classes, write my next book and manage my consulting projects. I’ve been working in a very non-linear, circular manner trying to get things done on time and it’s driving me crazy. I’m revising my own schedule so there’s time set aside literally written into my calendar (Yes, I’ve made appointments with myself) to prepare for classes and ensure that the first draft of book #3 (The Next Chapter: Turning Your Passion Into a Thriving Business) is completed by the end of the summer. Wish me luck!

The Power of Reinventing Yourself

Bob CrowtherThis month I am excited to share the story of a man I met at a training course I ran a few weeks ago. Bob C. (pictured above) is in his early 60’s and he inspired me to think about the power we all have to reinvent and transforms our lives and businesses. If his pictures don’t inspire you to consider how YOU can change your life or business, then I’m confident his story will.

Beth

The Power of Reinventing Yourself
Beth GoldsteinI’ve hear that we have a new layer of skin approximately every 7 years. We know that thisnew layer doesn’t magically appear on your body one day. It happens over time, slowly and without really being noticed. The same can be said about our satisfaction with our careers and businesses.They take on new appearances and transform over time. Sometimes that’s great, especially if you’ve been in control of steering the direction of your business. But have you ever awoken and realized that the new skin your company has assumed just doesn’t fit who you are now?

How many of you are pondering if the business you’re working in or running is the one you want to be enveloped in for the next 5, 10 or 20 years? Have you considered reinventing yourself but are not sure where to begin? While this can be a problem for individuals in every generation, I have definitely noticed a trend amongst Baby Boomers who are looking for their next career or company… perhaps the one they consider to be their last before they retire.  According to the US Department of Labor the number of people 45+ who have been jobless for more than a year has quadrupled since

2007, accounting for nearly half of the 3.5 million Americans out of work for more than a year. Are you or is a friend or loved on in that situation? Regardless of your age or the circumstances surrounding your need to make a change, to reinvent yourself for the 1st, 3rd or perhaps 20th  time, the power is within you but the first step is always the hardest. 
 
Do we have to have a big ‘aha’ moment that propels us into taking the first step or, like the transformation of our skin, does this feeling happen slowly over time? Either way, unlike our skin, change only happens when we make it happen.  

I met Bob Crowther (seen above) at a seminar I was running at the Small Business Development Center at Clark University in Worcester, MA. Before the seminar began, we had the opportunity to chat and he shared his transformational story. Having spent his life in biological research, he found himself, in his early 60’s, unemployed for an extended period of time.  Having dealt with chronic back pain due to lumbar arthritis he had begun to attend hatha yoga classes after several friends had suggested this might help him strengthen his core muscles and alleviate his pain. Bob told me that, “Despite my inexperience and obvious lack of abilities during this initial yoga class, I had fun. I recognized yoga as a means of dealing with decades of back pain as well as a way to recover from major thoracic surgery.”

Bob had tried traditional methods such as physical training sessions and weight lifting but yoga appeared to be the one elixir that truly worked.
Bob Warrior_smAs yoga became a daily ritual, it informed his lifestyle choices and Bob found himself taking four classes a week, becoming leaner, stronger and more flexible. He realized that he wanted to share his remarkable recovery with others to, not only help them but to inspire individuals of all ages that they could master this, just like he did. It was time to reinvent himself and turn his passion into a business. He recently launched Yoga Fitness and Nutrition LLC to address the short and long term goals of Baby Boomers with aches and pains. While his business will be open to individuals of every age, he is focused on people living with the consequences of various medical conditions including a heart attack, diabetes, arthritis and weight issues, offering physical evaluations, one-on-one instruction and nutritional advice. He has found a unique niche and is the poster child for his business.

Bob is in the process of reinventing his career just as he reinvented his body. For me, and perhaps for you as well, he serves as an incredible inspiration of the pure strength not only of body but soul and spirit at any age.  If you want to learn more about Bob, you can connect with him via LinkedIn and watch as he continues his transformation. I certainly will be!

So ask yourself, “Is it time?” Is the old skin feeling itchy? Are you ready to make that change? If you answer “yes” or even “maybe,” here are 5 simple steps you can take to begin your own transformation:

  1. Imagine yourself in 3 years. You’re in a great place in terms of your career and business aspirations. With words (unless you’re artistically gifted) draw a picture of what you’re doing that makes you so happy. Describe your business and your life as if you were telling a friend you hadn’t seen in a few years what your life is like now.
  2. Write down 5 thing that you love about this new life.
  3. Next, write down what is so different about your futuristic life compared to your present one.
  4. Write down what’s stopping you from taking steps to get to this new life – then cross out those negative thoughts.
  5. Finally, write down 3 things you can do in the next 30 daysthat will help you start down the road of achieving your dream job or business.

I’m off to sign up for a yoga class (haven’t done one since college). However, I’d love to hear what your dream is. If you would like to share, send me your 5-step list. Perhaps (with your permission) I will include it in my upcoming book: Reinventing Yourself – Creating the Business You Always Dreamed Of (working title).

When Did Hiring a Lawyer Become the Easy Way of Handling Conflict?

 

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Ever have one of those days (or weeks) when you just felt like  sticking your head in the sand? I love a good challenge and embrace the opportunity to learn from every scenario presented to me. But I have no patience for people who don’t practice a high standard of business ethics and morals. 

In this month’s blog, let’s talk about why shared business values are so critical in selecting your partners, clients, customers and anybody with whom your business interacts.

Beth

I admit it, I’m a bit of a domain hoarder. In fact, I own over three dozen domains. I’m a marketer still plagued by the fact that I didn’t buy marketingedge.com in time. So now whenever an idea for a product or service pops in my head, I check to see if the domain is available…and buy it. They automatically renew, so oftentimes I forget I own them – which can create issues….

Recently, an organization that I did business with a few years ago decided that they should be the legal owners of a domain that I bought in 2008. This is a group to whom I had donated hours and hours of my time to help them create their product.

Instead of picking up the phone to call and ask me to transfer the domain to them, the head of this non-profit organization hired a lawyer (who I presume works pro bono) and sent me a certified letter DEMANDING that I turn over the domain to them.

As a small business owner getting a letter from a law firm via certified mail does not constitute ‘a great day.’  I turned to two different legal experts for advice and spent hours piling through contracts since I needed to know my rights. Frankly, I was shocked. If you’ve done any work with me, you know that I am a huge supporter of small businesses (for profit and non-profit). It’s simply not part of the ethical business standard that I follow to try to cause harm or disrupt the operation of any other organization. I won’t get into the legal issues here, but both lawyers assured me that I had not done anything wrong and could not be held liable. Nonetheless, I spent days dealing with this before I spoke to the organization’s president.
 
What was most surprising and what  I wanted to know was why she decided to hire a lawyer rather than simply calling me. Her response? It was easier to hire the lawyer. REALLY? When did hiding behind lawyers become the easiest way to handle conflict... especially when one party doesn’t even know that conflict exists.

A simple call would have been more than sufficient to resolve the issue. I would have given her the domain had she just asked.  Instead, this non-profit organization forced me to hire my own legal experts to confirm my rights.

In the end, I have agreed to give them the domain because I still believe in the stated mission of the organization and it is the right thing to do. But I’m disappointed (no, horrified) by this organization’s actions against me and by the fact that their stated mission to support small business owners somehow did not extend to me.

Contrast this recent domain-name trouble with an earlier one. About a year ago, I received a call from an organization that was running a national event called The Small Business Tour. They were using the domain name: thesmallbusinesstour.com and contacted me because I owned SmallBusinessTour.com (which, at the time, automatically directed to my website m-edge.com). It was causing confusion amongst individuals who wanted to register for their tour. They were interested in purchasing the domain from me.

The woman who called me was terrific and we had a great exchange about our business models and goals and quickly recognized that our missions intertwined. She asked me if I would be interested in being a speaker and sponsor for the “Tour.” To make a long story short, I pointed my site to their site (it’s still pointed there) and also got involved with the event. It was a win-win and they are great people whom I totally respect.

Both of these incidents raise the question: Should goodwill be a core value of a business or organization? 

Where do YOU draw the line for what constitutes right and wrong in terms of ethical and honorable business practices?

Please email me your thoughts on this compelling issue and, as always, I look forward to being inspired by what you have done to propel your business forward

Empower Growth By Learning to Say NO

I want to share a story about a recent challenge I faced saying ‘no’ to an opportunity that my gut immediately rejected but my heart fought for (and lost). Back in November I was asked to serve as the president of an impressive product marketing organization based here in Massachusetts. I was honored to be asked, especially since the founder is an individual whom I greatly respect. The organization is successful and they are looking to take themselves to the next level. So, I had two key questions to answer: ‘Was I the right person to help them grow?” and “Was this the right organization to help my business grow?” The latter was harder to answer than I anticipated.

Over the past few years I have worked diligently to establish myself as an expert in business growth (building upon my marketing/sales background). While I love ‘all things marketing,’ as a small business trainer I have learned that teaching marketing on its own simply isn’t enough to help business owners achieve the success they desire.Being able to set actionable goals, understand cash flow and manage and motivate your team is just as important as understanding why customers buy from you and why they might also buy from your competitors.  I now integrate all aspects of business strategy, tactics and growth in my workshops to ensure a more significant impact on the small business communities I work with. Returning to a role focused solely on marketing strategy doesn’t align with my business model.  So, this should have been an easy ‘No,’ right? Wrong!

Lucky By Design RoadmapHere’s where my dilemma began. I was personally excited about working with this group because the people in the organization were truly passionate, dynamic and interesting individuals with whom I wanted to collaborate.But, the organization didn’t fit into my wheelhouse, so how could I say ‘yes?’ Good question! I searched for this answer for weeks. I interviewed almost two dozen individuals associated with the organization, looking for a reason to say ‘yes’ but I kept coming back with ‘no.’ Nonetheless, Irefused to listen to my ‘logical’ side screaming that this was not the right role for me.

So, how did I resolve this dilemma? I removed the emotion from the decision. I created a spreadsheet (nothing fancy, trust me) and on the vertical axis (also know as the Y axis for you engineering-types) I plotted all my 2012 projects, training initiatives and other key activities like my book tour, speaking gigs, articles, newsletter and blog. Then on the horizontal (X) axis I plotted my business goals: consulting, training, being a thought leader, helping inner city and small businesses, etc… You get the point. I also included a business goal category called college fund. Why? Because I could do what I love all day long but if I’m not getting paid, my kids will have to rely on the dogs getting great modeling jobs to support their college education (cute as the dogs are, that wasn’t happening any time soon).

Next, I decided that every project listed on the vertical axis had to fit into at least two of these goal categories (three if there was no revenue involved). For example, the training program I run in Salem, MA fit into several categories including: small business, training, coaching and college fund. Other initiatives such as blogging or writing my newsletter didn’t make the college fund but fit into small business, thought leadership and coaching categories. Simple, right?

TrainingYou’d be surprised how cathartic this was. When the chart was completed, I could see in black and white, no emotions involved, everything that I had accomplished in the past year. I could also see how some of the initiatives I had taken on were clearly not smart choices. Honestly, I already knew which initiatives I shouldn’t continue but now I had no reason to argue with myself over continuing them. Here it was, plain and simple, staring back at me from my computer screen – my smart choices and my ‘not so smart’ decisions. The visual impact was quite empowering.

 Ultimately, this chart gave me the power and internal strength to say ‘no’ to the position as president of this organization. The organization just didn’t fit into my current goals. I simply couldn’t justify saying ‘yes,’ hoping that the pleasure of working with the folks in the group would somehow payoff in the long term. It just didn’t make sense but now it was no longer based on a gut feeling or emotion. It was pure logic.

When I called the founder and politely turned down the opportunity, I knew I had made the right decision. Interestingly enough, several new opportunities opened up in the weeks that followed. Ones that I wouldn’t have been able to go after if I had agreed to serve as president of this group and ones that very clearly fit into my wheelhouse. Now I have this amazing chart to refer to each time I have to decide ‘yes’ or ‘no.’

PortfolioIf you are grappling with a logical system to streamline your goals, actions and empower your ability to say ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ spend an hour doing this exercise. I guarantee it’ll be the best hour you’ll spend on yourself and your business. When you’re done, email me and let me know what you are doing differently this year as you focus your efforts on growth and please share your stories of how you learned to say ‘Yes’ to ‘No.’ 

 

Can Dog Breath Teach You About Creating Loyal Customers?

 

Happy Holidays! As 2012 comes to a close, I want to thank you for your support and friendship. Many of you have reached out to share your stories of success and disappointment. I have appreciated your honesty and hearing how you have overcome challenges throughout the year.

Can dog breath teach you about creating loyal customers (and I don’t mean the already-loyal, four-legged kind)? 

To find out, please read the article below.

Is your 2013 growth plan in place? If not, I have a special offer to help you create a plan. As part of my latest book, Lucky By Design, I created a 5-part webinar series where I walk you through the process of creating your Lucky By Design Roadmap (your growth plan).

The Webinar Series is on sale now (through the end of the year) for only $20.13 (that’s a 65% discount). Plus, if you haven’t purchased my book yet (or would like another copy), you can buy it for $10. Interested? Click here for more details!

Wishing you a joyous new year!

Beth

How Dog Breath Taught Me a Valuable Lesson About Creating Loyal Customers

If we’ve spent any time together, you know that I’m an ‘over the top’ dog fanatic. Our home boasts two, four-legged canines (Biscotti and Twizzler), and they delight us on a regular basis. So, you won’t be surprised that as critical members of our household, they are clearly the most spoiled in the family (yes, even more than my 2 teenagers!)

Last month one of my students sent me a link to a video related to dogs. Naturally,  I dropped everything else I was doing and clicked on the link. It featured a clip about Orapup, a tongue brush designed to help dogs (well, actually humans) manage dog bad breath problems. Let’s face it, the dogs don’t care that their breath stinks.

As you might guess, I purchased the Orapup for both of my pups and waited for shipment to arrive this month. Now, the product wasn’t actually ready – they were taking pre-orders. Since I love to support startups and it seemed legitimate, I figured I didn’t have much to lose. It’s not like the dogs would know that their Hanukkah presents arrived late (they are really bad at reading the calendar).

On Dec. 12 I received an email stating:

Beth,

I want to deliver a personal message about your Orapup Preorder Status in the video below.

Sincerely, Dr. Bob

Orapup

It turns out the factory didn’t deliver their mold on time so while Orapup had anticipated a December delivery, it was now going to be January before shipment arrived. Having spent many years working with manufacturers, this is not an uncommon challenge. But how they handled it was less common.

If you watch the video (click here or on the image above) you will see how they use self-effacing humor, provide real information and sincerely apologize for the delay…even offering money back to the >14,000 people who pre-ordered. Their video was short, engaging to watch and very real and honest. What more can you expect from a company? Assuming I like the results of the product (better dog breath), this is a company I am very likely to engage with in the future and recommend to friends/colleagues.  I’ve told you, right?

Let’s face it, mistakes happen, no matter how hard we work to prevent them. However, the true nature of a person and an organization can ALWAYS be measured by HOW they react to the mistake. Remember this the next time an error occurs – on your part or somebody else’s. Think of your reaction as an opportunity to demonstrate the beliefs and principals you adhere to in your company (and life). In addition, you will also learn a lot about a colleague, business or friend relevant to how THEY react to their own mistake. It will help you determine IF this is a person or organization with whom you want to engage in future endeavors.

Charles Darwin said:

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.

As I await my order of Orapups, I wish you health, peace and happiness plus the ability to respond with dignity when needed. Please continue to stay in touch and share your stories with me. They provide me with great inspiration.  From my home to yours, happy holidays!

Beth, Ben & Jacqui
Beth, Ben, Jacqui, Biscotti & Twizzler

 

24 Hours Until the Small Biz World Summit Begins: Tip of the Day

The Small Business World Summit starts tomorrow. 

 Keep Your Friends Close but Your Enemies Closer
 Beth Goldstein, Marketing Edge

Competition is not limited to companies that offer products or services exactly like yours. Companies compete on solutions and their value to customers. Therefore, competition is about fulfilling a need, not about offering an identical product or service. What needs do your products or services fulfill? How else can your current or potential customers have their needs met? What companies fulfill this need? You must continually assess companies that offer like solutions, ensuring you understand their value proposition and benefits to your customers. 

The Summit gives you the answers you need to take your business to the next level – FAST! We answer your questions about marketing, sales, building online customer communities, cash flow, leadership, HR, and other challenges that you face every day.

Plus, it’s completely free to watch starting tomorrow and throughout all of Small Business Saturday Weekend (Nov 23 – 26).

Click here to learn more and to register!

2 Days Until the Small Biz World Summit Begins: Tip of the Day

 TIP OF THE DAY:  Continually Check-In With Customers
Beth Goldstein, Marketing Edge

The Small Business World Summit begins in 48 hours! TODAY IS YOUR LAST DAY TO Pre-register and get the Small Business Growth Package worth $149 –  FREE!

There are many variables that influence customers’ needs and you must be aware of current as well as future ones if you are to grow your business. Even if you’ve been in business for a significant number of years, it’s critical that you constantly check in with your customers to see how their needs have changed over time. Simply take the time to step back and look at your business objectively. Force yourself to ask your customers questions about their needs, even if you are 100% convinced that you know the answers. Some of the responses might surprise you.

The Summit gives you the answers you need to take your business to the next level – FAST! We answer your questions about marketing, sales, building online customer communities, cash flow, leadership, HR, and other challenges that you face every day.

Plus, it’s completely free to watch during Small Business Saturday Weekend (Nov 23 – 26).

Click here to learn more and to pre-register!. Plus, when you pre-register you will get a Small Business Growth Package worth $149 for FREE that includes:

  • Keeping Score Manual, Ribbon
  • Business Boot Camp Accelerator eBook: Setting the Stage for Growth, Marketing Edge
  • Building an Email List that Build Your business, Constant Contact