Tag: Support

What is the Importance of a Great First Impression?

Chances are you have been told many times in your life it is important to make a good first impression. We have been told by our mothers to dress appropriately, brush our hair, smile, sit up straight, etc. to give that good impression. What truly is the importance of giving and leaving a good impression, especially a first impression?

In law, a first impression refers to a case that holds a completely original issue of law. Wikipedia explains, “Since the legal issue under consideration has never been decided by an appeals court and, therefore, there is no precedent for the court to follow, the court uses analogies from prior rulings by appeals courts and its own logic.”

When we look at a first impression like this for our business we have to realize that a person or company meeting us for the first time, or hearing about our product/service for the first time, may have no reference point to make a judgement on our value. They may actually incorrectly apply the biases or prejudices from other experiences to your business.

In psychology (as explained in Wikipedia), “a first impression is the event when one person first encounters another person and forms a mental image of that person.”

When we apply this to our business we recognize that how we are seen in our business and how our business is accepted can depend on how we were perceived by the other person forming that impression.

We have control over the image we put off and the information we share but not how it is perceived, so we must work hard to make sure the impression someone forms about us on our first meeting will help us easily make a second connection with these people, especially if they are a potential client. So let’s look at three things that can be affected by a great first impression.

Time and Money

No one wants to be judged based on someone else’s past poor experience. It is up to you to make a first impression that says, “I am likable and worth knowing”, so that people will more quickly recognize your brand and potentially purchase from you or refer your business.

If it typically takes 7 marketing touches to get your business brand remembered by your potential client then you don’t want to lengthen that by first having to undo the wrong information (if you even get the chance). In marketing, the shorter your sales cycle the less money and time it costs you and that is always a great thing in business. Starting with a great first impression will potentially save you a lot of  time in your sales cycle.

I have found that, when speaking with someone for the first time, being very clear about the business benefits for the client and offering help instead of jumping to ‘sales mode’ creates a trusting first impression that gives people a feeling that you know what they need and you are willing to help. This is a much better first impression then coming across like a pushy sales person.


When creating marketing material for advertising many people you will reach may be getting their first impression of you through different media. Your message must have a consistent brand image (not just logo, but language, and feeling). The same rule as above applies. Show benefit and offer to help. You want people to become aware of you and your value to them as quickly as possible. They will ignore you if you have no brand or perceived value for them. They will take note of you when you are amazing and they will take note of you when you are incredibly irritating. It is just as detrimental on your business to be ignored as to have to undo a negative impression first. Always aim to be amazing.


It is known that it is easier to do business with people that know, like, and trust us. If we create a great first impression we can sometimes jump to a sale, particularly if the sale requires a lot less trust (e.g. purchasing a commodity like flowers or baked goods). If you are in an industry that requires a lot more trust before someone will purchase from you, like a financial planner, accountant, or general contractor, your potential clients will most likely come to you through a referral. A great first impression can help your potential clients get to the same level as if you had been referred to them. Be open and genuinely honest with them. Again, sharing your knowledge to help others in a way they can recognize you as having something they need will help you more quickly build trust.

Only One!

Don’t wait to make the perfect first impression. You only get once chance to do this, so, consistently make an effort to always create a great first impression and you will spend less time and money generating positive awareness of you and your business.

Working from Home with Kids Around Equals More Support

If you are like me you are working from home because you chose to be more available for your family. I have three kids, 13, 11, and 9 and now they are home for the summer. What a gift I have to actually be able to share their summer memories with them. We live in a beautiful city with 4 public beaches and 20 km of parks along the water front. It is a dream-come-true for me.

So how do I get any work done during the summer when it can be so easy to be distracted by the needs of my kids? Let me share my three favourite strategies for enlisting my kids to help me with my business so I can have time to do things with them and for them during their break.

Get Their Buy-in

Don’t assume just because they are kids they won’t understand about responsibility and commitment. This is your opportunity to teach them what it really means by modelling the way.

  • Talk to them as if you expect them to understand.
  • Ask for their input.
  • They will have lots of questions so don’t hold back on the answers.

Kids love to be taken seriously and allowing them to know that they are a key part to your success gives them great pride in what you are doing. Don’t forget to praise them when they are doing things right (not just when they are causing distractions). You will be surprised how much buy-in I get from my kids as they grow up in my business.

BONUS – I will even hire my kids to shred paper or organize things on my desk to get them completely involved. This is a real win-win-win scenario. They get responsibility and a little money for completing work, I get help and my business gets potential business partners for the future. It may not be my business they get into, but they will certainly think about business as an option when trying to figure out where they fit in life.

Set Boundaries

If you want your time respected by others you first have to know exactly what it is you want them to respect. Let your kids know where you work, when you are working, what work they can interrupt and what work they cannot interrupt.

My work day is set from 8 am to 5 pm. This is not specifically when I work but this is the boundary I’ve set for my kids. If I’m in my office they are not allowed to just barge in and start talking. They have to wait until I acknowledge them. This is important because I spend a lot of time writing and once I’m in the zone it’s easy to get distracted and hard to pick up the thought again.

I also have a simple solution for no interruptions. It is the door on my office. If it is open they can come in and wait to talk to me. If it is closed I am unavailable. I tell them it is the same as Daddy being at work, you can’t just barge in to his office. They get that.

My kids will now police each other around respecting my time and space. I will hear someone giving instructions on what can and cannot be done, as if I was not even in the house, during my focused work time.

BONUS – You need to set focused work times for yourself. You will be most productive if you have several uninterrupted 90-minute times during the day. This way you can give yourself time to renew and open the door to be around your kids often.

Rewards for Them and You

One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was from one of my favourite mentors, Donna Douglas. First she let me know that “even a 2-year old will scrub a toilet”. The insight in this statement was that my kids will help when asked, and it was true. The second was a strategy she used, which was to pay her kids 1% of her income from her company for their support of her in her business.

Their job was to not bother her while she was working, and like I described above, she had boundaries around what that meant to them. It does work. When you say to them, “if I have to stop to help you right now I cannot get my work finished and I won’t get paid”, they know it affects them as well.

BONUS – get them a bank account as soon as possible so you can transfer money directly from your account to theirs. This way they will also learn about saving, credit, and debit early in life. The sooner you introduce them to the tools they will need in business and life the sooner you can start on your succession plan.

They will grow up so fast. If you are as lucky as I am to have this opportunity to really spend time with your kids, then don’t miss out.

Your Story

There are so many other really great strategies, from getting the right support to part-time nannies. Let us know why you love working at home with your kids and your favourite strategy for dealing with your time and theirs effectively.

To Grow Your Business, First You Have to Grow Yourself: 3 Ways to Invest in Yourself

Do you want to stretch in your business? The best way I have found to quickly become more successful in your business is to take yourself to the next level and really stretch your limitations. Investing in your own growth will help you eliminate things you see as challenges when you do not have the knowledge to see the opportunity and path to implementation.
Here are 3 different things you should do to help you increase your scope and reach in your business.

1. Education (Take a course, workshop, program, get a certificate)

One of your best investments is to become a life-long-learner. Just because you are an expert at what you do does not mean you will have the skills or knowledge to tackle and manage all the challenges your business will require you to know. As the leader of your business your people will be looking to you to model the way.

Make sure you have the basic understanding of all administrative, legal, management and operational aspects of how business works. If you are a solo-preneur consider going to a conferences and workshops where you can get expert training on marketing, sales, mindset and so much more. An additional benefit of this is you get to network with like-minded people and run your ideas by them.

Many people offer free teleconference calls. This way you can get some information to start the process and then when you find the program that will really help you kick-it-up a notch, put your money into doing the entire program. Don’t be afraid to spend money on learning, it will have both short-term and long-term payback for you and your business.

2. Work with an Expert

If you are a couple of years or more into your business you will be in ‘Do’ mode. This is a great time to engage a coach or join a professional mastermind. These experts and peers can help you quickly identify the things that are not working best for the growth of your business and make suggestion you could implement immediately.

Create an advisory board or engage a mentor to meet with you regularly. It is important that you are getting an outside look at you and your business so you can see what is working well and what is not working, without the bias you will have when you evaluate yourself.

All these experts will stretch you and your beliefs around what is possible.

3. Look After Yourself

This investment is the key to great results. You only have one of you and if you get worn-down or sick you cannot help grow your business. Look at these three areas to get your best personal results.

  1. Get and stay healthy
    • Lose weight if you need to
    • Eat well
    • Exercise daily
  2. Spend time with family and friends.
    Laughter has great health benefits and what better way to get your required dose of laughter then sharing time with your friends. Remember, your down-time should be business free and focused on you.
  3. Treat yourself
    • Have a night out
    • Take regular vacations
    • Go to the spa
    • Play golf of another activity that you love

Finding time to do things for yourself not only creates a better, more healthy you, it also shows others that you are doing the right things in business and you have created a life worth living and sharing.

Are You Networking for New Business? Some Answers to Why and Where

Is networking a component of your marketing plan for your business? If it is not, it should be. Let me first talk to you about why networking is an important way to get more clients and increase your business and then we’ll talk about where to look for your best networking opportunities.

Why Networking?

I know I always say, “you can start a business on your own but no one can succeed in business alone”, and I believe that, so let’s begin with how this attitude might help you grow your business.

Word-of-mouth is the most powerful way to persuade someone to purchase from you. If I am told by a trusted friend or colleague about a new business, product, or service and I need what they are offering, chances are I will patronize their business. How many times have you purchased something large, invested in training, or given your hard-earned cash to a business without first knowing if you wanted to do business with them. Probably never. There are places we won’t go to because of a bad experience we have had or someone we know has had and that is certainly not what you want for your business.

So, how do you influence the word-of-mouth (WoM) marketing that is being shared about your business?

1. No WoM

To do business without networking you need to understand these few things.We know that it takes about 7 touches before a potential client will take note of your brand and about 20 before they will purchase from you. With traditional marketing campaigns you will need to make all these touches, in the right place to connect with your potential clients. This is a valuable way to get your brand visually recognizable to your local community and beyond.

It requires no networking time, but a lot of money to create your ads and distribute them.

2.  Low Level WoM

Friends like to help friends – your customers will share with others. If they are happy with you then get them to do that. Ask for a testimonial you can put on your website, create a referral program and implement a keep-in-touch program that will allow you to stay in contact with your best clients. Your customer is worth way more than their initial or ongoing purchase.

Create a time when you can network with your clients. A client appreciation day, a VIP day, a third-party networking event you can invite your clients to. Find ways to be around your clients so that they know you on a personal level and will be more compelled to refer you.

3. Full Networking Plan

You will want to reach out to the influencers, the people that will talk about you to others. A networking plan looks at not only connecting with your clients, but with your strategic alliances and others in your community or industry that will be able to refer you.

Where’s the Best Networking for Me?

Online versus Face-to-Face

You can certainly build great relationship online with people you may never meet face-to-face. I can tell you I have purchased from people and companies online with no intention of ever flying to meet them. But I often do my purchasing because someone I do know has recommended the site. As our world gets smaller, the importance of actually knowing people becomes even more crucial.

Referral Focused Networking

Because I am a director with BNI I’m going to be a little biased here, but take the general overtones and apply it to what fits for you and your ROI. There are many different referral networking groups. Their core focus is to create a room full of people that are as eager to help you grow your business as they are to get business for themselves. Join a group, like BNI, that has a program that works, is tested, and is managed. You do not want to spend your networking time building a system or structure to manage the group, you just want to use the system.

Service Clubs or Community Networking

Belonging to a service club or volunteering for a community project can bring you credibility and connections. As you are seen as someone that is reliable and wants to give back to your community, other people’s trust in you will increase. If you happen to mention you have a store or service it is likely they will come to see you when they need your product or service. As they get to know you and see you regularly they will send others as they hear the need for your product or service.

Associations and Industry Specific Events

You can focus on joining an association or go to trade shows and conferences where your clients would be members and attend. This would gain you trust and credibility directly with your potential client. Volunteering at these events or speaking will build up your professional expertise and help them remember you when either they need you or when they hear others in need of your service. For example I belonged to the Trillium Medical Technology Association in Toronto with my first company where my potential clients were members. It helped me to know directly the economic pressures that were affecting their businesses.

You can also go to associations and events where you can meet others that support your clients for their different needs. These are your strategic alliances. As the owner of a technical writing company I went to a conference and trade show for medical device manufacturers and made many connections to translators and CAD software providers because they are often asked to help provide content, which they did not want to do.

What Next?

Get out there and network with your potential clients, your clients, your competition, your strategic alliances, and others that might see or meet your clients on a regular basis. You will need to network regularly, so set aside time and a budget to do this. You will also need to be connected in more than one place, so find at least two regular groups that fit your needs and your personality.

These are the key benefits on where and why to network. We did not talk about the importance of the relationship you need have to be a great networker. The key to being a great networker is being able to help others. This is the “How” of networking. As the narrator of Hammy Hamster would say, “That’s another story for another day.”

Future Proof Your Business: Create “The Big Picture” NOW!

As many of you know, my background is in technology and for the past 15 years I’ve been working in technical writing as an employee and for the last 6 years through my own company ClearComm Information Design Inc. There is so much to know as a technical writer, not just writing, but research, development, project flow, software use, usability, audience evaluation, not to mention requirements and regulations (like FDA or ISO). I’ve learned and written for tens, if not hundreds, of proprietary software programs and hardware configurations. I’m telling you, the big picture is not about the pieces but more about how the pieces create the final outcome. So how do we draw this line between the pieces of development for a product that will equate to $ sales in our businesses?

What does XML have to do with my business?

“Recently I had a call with Don Bridges the Sr. Accounts Manager with Data Conversion Laboratory, Inc. Bridges’ industry is all about converting content to XML format. Don’t worry that you don’t know this industry, I think you will get my point here. In this industry the increase in value for larger companies or those that must meet specific regulations like those for the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) when implementing this type of content is multiplied by the decrease in how much time is required to manage content across their business and ensure accuracy.

The point here is that if you have created something that you must manage, update, keep current, review, send out, share, train, or implement over and over then you need to be thinking like the XML industry. If you don’t think this is you then you are wrong. The Big Picture  here is – preparing for XML = less time and more accuracy. Every business has processes that must be repeated. Doing the same thing more than once costs time and dollars and introduces error. I’m not suggesting you use or even know about using XML, I’m saying you need to use the principles of reuse to streamline your content.

Bridges refers to this as “Future proofing your data” and I’m going to change this slightly to “Future proofing your business”.

How do I see the “Future Proof” my business?

Here are two exercises that will help you learn to look at the big picture first.

  1. Start at the end

    Here is a great exercise to help you do this. Start by imagining your product. Now get a journal or paper and start drawing what it looks like. If it is a service then write how it looks. Don’t stop with the obvious physical aspects of the product, talk about its actual size, colour(s), where you display it, how do you sell it, what does it smell like, where do you host it, how do you market it, how is it shipped, what does the store look like that you sell it in, how do your employees interact with your customers, how does your customer find you, where do you buy your supplies. Picture your costumers’ actual experience finding you, connecting with you, evaluating your services or product, deciding to purchase and then delivery. Don’t stop there, remember to picture the follow-up and customer support part of your business as well.

  2. Envision what this would look like

  3. Now close your eyes and visualize yourself and your business already having this product or service. Imagine you are in the future, your product is successfully selling. Spend a few moments bringing the images of the items you mentioned in the first exercise into your vision.

    Now ask yourself, “How did I get here?

    Use the vision to answer your question. Did it take the sale of one seminar, hundreds of hours, or thousands of products? Did you have to get a joint venture partner to get into your market. Did you have to build a larger manufacturing department? Did you have to outsource, hire, train, educate, purchase or certify yourself or anyone else in the company?

Now that you know what your client’s experience is going to be like in the future you have a road-map for all your marketing copy and branded documentation. Always keep the Big Picture in mind when creating anything new for your business and then reuse the main pieces over and over so that the consistency of the brand is carried through everything you do from this day forward.

What’s the benefit?

Why do you want to see the big picture? Well in the XML world, there is a lot of cost involved in converting traditional data and content to an XML format. If companies take Bridges’ advice and “Future proof their data” by creating their information with the goal that somewhere down the road they will need to make this conversion,then  they can reduce their costs and time it takes to make this change.

For businesses it means we need to know what we want to create so that when it comes time to make it we don’t have to start all over again. Recently I came to this conclusion:

If you want to go on vacation but you don’t tell your travel agent where you want to go, you can end up spending a lot more time and money on a place you did not want to visit.

It is the same for business: If you don’t tell your team or make the goal clear to yourself you may never know where you will end up or how much extra time and money it may take you to get there. Clarity on the “Big Picture” will reduce your costs and time to make it a valuable part of your business and increase your profits in the end.

What Successful Entrepreneurs Know about Marketing

Successful entrepreneurs are often very “Right Brain” functioning (read Daniel Pink’s, A Whole New Mind for an understanding of this concept) which makes them more creative, inventive, and intuitive. Daniel Pink talks about this in his book as; the world no longer belongs to those that have the information, but those that know how it fits into the big picture. When it comes to marketing, understanding the big picture is more important than understanding exactly what your product is going to be.

When asking a successful entrepreneur about their marketing there is one marketing vehicle that takes the lead over all others. Let’s have a look at how they know this and why it works so well.

The Big Picture

Marketing is not about your product, it is not about your customer support, it is not about features, it is about what your customer emotionally needs. Your entire offering should be based on what your customer emotionally needs and wants. To do this you really need to know your customer well. So what is the big picture here? Your company brand, the language you use and the way you approach your potential clients is not all you should be focusing on.

Brand, Language and Approach

When viewed by your potential clients your brand should make them say, “I relate to that. That company gets me.” The language you use should directly answer the needs of your clients and your approach should be through a connection of trust. This connection is where your best clients are found.

In an enlightening article called How Great Entrepreneurs Think, by Leigh Buchanan [Inc. magazine; February 2011 www.inc.com], Buchanan covers a research project and interviews some great entrepreneurs to find how they think and describes this to us [the reader]. I loved this article and especially some quotes that really made me think about what is important in a great business.

In a conversation with Bruce Flohr about market research he says, “We did do market research, because we needed the validation of “experts” to raise money. But personally, I didn’t need it. I knew this was a good idea.”

Market research is one of the first things you are taught, along with SWOT analysis when getting training for running a business. So if they don’t need market research to know they have a market what did they need?

What do they have?

For the successful entrepreneurs I know, what they have is an unshakable mindset of success that lends to the knowledge that the product or service they are providing is needed by someone. In this global market that can be enough. So what is this one marketing vehicle that pays-out better then ads, brochures, and list building campaigns? It’s being connected, and in particular, being well connected to their current customer.

In that same article in Inc. Magazine, Buchanan mentions a quote from the research stating “People chase investors, but your best investor is your first real customer. And your customers are also your best salesmen.” We have all heard that it cost significantly less to market to your current clients then it does to find new clients. Now we are hearing this from the most successful entrepreneurs and it makes complete sense.

So what should you do about this? Build a bigger piece of your marketing plan around your best clients. Let them know what you are up to. Get testimonials. Ask for referrals. Be proactive to help them. Find out what they need and then give it to them.

Your secondary focus should be on the people around your business that know you best. Your trusted networks, colleagues, peers, mastermind partners, association members, etc.

Focusing your marketing dollars around the people that you already know and who already know, like, and trust you is a much more effective way to spend your money – demonstrated by the most successful!

How to Escape the Funk: A Positive Attitude Will Make You More Successful

Happy Birthday CakeMy birthday was this past week and I must admit that it was a tough week for me. I had been in a funk all week. This is way out of character for me and everyone that knows me well could immediately tell something was not right. This is not a landmark birthday for me, but I think I was expecting to be doing something more. All I could do was think about what I had not accomplished.

Thankfully, my guest expert for the Entrepreneur Club this month said something that really resonated with me and set me straight again. To help him stay in his success mindset Mark Rhodes starts his days by first giving gratitude for what he has and then he envisions successfully reaching his goals, visualizing the details of living the actual success, whatever that might be.

Gratitude: A Daily Journal (Jack Canfield)I often end my days by writing in my gratitude journal and visualizing my future successes. I also keep an accomplishment journal that I write in each day. What I had been doing that week was waking up and immediately start thinking about what I had not accomplished, when I could get it done, what it  would take, and what it meant not to have accomplished it. But not what it meant to me, what it meant to everyone else. These were useless self-loathing thoughts. There was no positive energy in these – not for me and certainly not for others around me.

How to Escape the Funk

We can all slip into these emotional quagmires, but what is important to note is that you don’t have to stay there. Acknowledge it, let it go, and then move on.

On my birthday I woke early and started with my gratitude. I could immediately feel the difference in my attitude and my energy. I knew I was going to be much more productive today. Before I rose I envisioned one goal I wanted to accomplish and visualized me actually achieving it. The path to that goal is not difficult; I just needed to be focused on it.

I then decided to give myself a gift. I would make a list of 100 accomplishments I had done over the year. I did about 50 in less than 15 minutes. I was surprised to remember so many amazing accomplishments over this year, including being a contributing author in an Amazon #1 best seller, being asked to chair the Advisory Board of the International Business Program at Georgian College, creating a new business while running another, meeting one of my mentors, Fabienne Fredrickson, several times, and helping more than 40 people find more success and self confidence in their businesses! It has been an incredible year.

Use the Past, Present and Future

Past – Give gratitude for the things you have

Present – Acknowledge the things you are doing now

Future – Visualize achieving your future goals

Follow these 5 points to stay positive

1.       Start your day with Gratitude

2.       Visualize your goals

3.       Write down you accomplishments daily

4.       Keep a living list of life time accomplishments and revisit it regularly

5.       Don’t go to bed in a negative mood. Use Gratitude to find your positive emotions.

Why Does Being a Parent Give You an Advantage in Business?

I wanted to reissue this post to add some additional information from John Warrillow. Check the link at the end of the article.

There is a truth to the thought that starting a business is a lot like having children:

  • There is never a perfect time to start
  • There is more to know then expected
  • You cannot guess how it will change your life

In Business, like having children, there is an overwhelming sense of love and satisfaction that comes when you have a business you are passionate about. Unlike having children you will have more control over how it operates when it is mature.

So why is being a parent an advantage to a business owner? Let’s take a look at the three items above that these two life courses have in common.

No Perfect Time to Start


Before I had children, in a time when I knew I was going to have children, I spent a lot of time trying to define (with my husband Brian) how my life needed to be to be able to manage a life with kids. I needed a job with some flexibility. I wanted to be in our own home. I had to be finished my degree. We wanted to have a combined income of a certain level. We wanted to have traveled together. Well, as you can see I had a list.

I’m very good at implementing, so most of my list was complete when my first child was born. What I could not believe was how much time I must have had before children. I mean really, what did I do with all our extra time? I should have been able to finish two degrees.


Before I started my first business I needed to know exactly how I was going to be paid, who was going to work with me, how I could get extra funding, and where my clients would come from. Everything I needed to know about business, or so I thought. There is so much to know about business that if you started down the learning path before you launched, you’d be in an MBA before you opened your doors and still you would not have enough information.

Somehow I was  able to take on an enormous amount of work I did not have before: Work that runs into family time or weekends and yet it still seems to fit into my life.

To completely understand your business you have to be in it – you have to start. Each business has its own personality (Brand) and friends (target market) and family (mentors and peers).

There is More to Know


I could not have guessed I would have had to know so much about child psychology, conflict resolution, mentoring, leadership, delegation, and diplomacy as a parent. Dealing with kids, their friends and their friend’s families, teachers, schools, sports clubs, etc. has been a huge ‘eye opener’ for me.


I could not have guessed I would have had to know so much about human psychology, conflict resolution, mentoring, leadership, delegation, and diplomacy as a business owner. On top of this I also must understand accounting and bookkeeping, sales, marketing, business development, and operations among other skills. I am truly grateful for the learning I received dealing with my children which helped me more quickly become a leader as a business owner.

Change Your Life

Child at desk - poised to take over the businessChildren

As I mentioned, I don’t know what I must have done with all my extra time before I had kids, but I can tell you I love the time I spend with them now. There is humour, growth, development, companionship, maturity, fun, tears, and love. There is a wonderful feeling of belonging, not only to my family but to the community my children tie me to.


Being in business also ties you to a community of peers, supporters, family, mentors, teachers, advisers, partners, affiliates, and clients. There are literally hundreds of opportunities to be connected in business in ways you could not necessarily have foreseen before you started. The more you give to these connections the more you will get back. It can be an extremely gratifying part of your business.

Growing a business is a life lesson. Be excited to learn. Learn from your children to apply to your business and learn from you business to be a better parent and leader. Remember to teach your kids the benefits of being an entrepreneur and model the way so that they will bring that enthusiasm to all they do in life. Who knows, maybe they will take over the business one day.

I wanted to re-issue this post because I just read another article that brings even more credence to this topic. Check out “Do Parents Make Better Startup Founders?” by John Warrillow.

Removing Your Obstacles to Growth

Do you want to make some real changes? Then start with removing your obstacles to growth.

What are your Obstacles?

For most of us there is so much going on in our lives that is it difficult to focus on what is important. Our obstacles are the things we have to do, or think we have to do, that fill our lives with distraction.

Have you ever felt like you just start one thing that could not be finished until you addressed another thing, which could not be started without something else, and so on? These are the distractions that take us in unproductive circles, never fully completing things we start. Here are a few things that may be a distraction to you in your business.

  • Desk is cluttered
  • Too much email
  • Calls that are not made
  • Documents to complete
  • Licensing or Incorporation papers to file
  • Work interfering with marketing
  • Marketing interfering with work
  • Doctor/Dentist appointments
  • Kids
  • A messy home
  • Health issues
  • Loneliness
  • Etc.

I work from a home office. For five years in my business I put up with this hideous wallpaper we inherited from the last owners. I could not stand it, but I knew to change it would be an investment in my time. I had to remove all my desks, cabinets, computers, and book shelves which were just too much to think about – so I put up with the wallpaper, year after year. What was really happening was that under the surface of my conscious thought was a constant reminder of an unfinished task.

This reminder took up a small part of my thought process and my emotional structure. Alone this would not be an issue, but on top of the other reminders that fill our lives when we are starting a business, getting educated, raising children, and working to keep a balance in our lives it can become an anvil on our growth.

How Can You Start Clearing a Path?

If you want to really start growing your business you need to first get rid of all these reminders of things you need to do. Here are a few things you can do to start reducing your mental checklist.

Create a List

Create a list of things that are your ‘incomplete reminders’. Put down everything that fills your mind with anguish or worry. List all the things that are part of your regular responsibility that you are having trouble managing. Anything that is an irritation to you is something that should be addressed.

In Jack Canfield’s book, The Success Principles, he describes a process for addressing your irritations. It is worth reading.

Set Aside Time

Don’t try to tackle every item on the list. If you have to do it yourself then work on one item at a time. If there is something that is part of your regular responsibility then make sure you have time that is set aside specifically for that task every day/week/month. Prioritize items so you can get the tasks complete that will allow you to tackle secondary tasks more easily.

You will never find time to look after these tasks because you have not found it so far, so set aside the time. Make it a small manageable time slot so you will not overwhelm yourself. Then, let go of the list and release the reminders from your mind. It will get done because you have set a priority to manage it. Any time you start thinking about it you can say to yourself, “oh yes, that is slated to be looked after”, and you won’t have to worry that it needs to get done.

Hire Someone

I met a business owner through BNI that loves to paint (Bev Morgan of Fresh Look Painting Services). She says she “makes love to your walls” and it is true. She is focused on the details and a beautiful result. To her, this is the most rewarding job ever.

I hired her to remove the wallpaper and paint my office. All I had to do was remove the items in the room. What I found was that moving the items in the office were not the stalling factor, it was completing the job. I was so excited to have someone else looking after the project that I joyfully cleared out my office and my kitchen too.

Now my office is a whole new workspace. A place of ease where I can be creative without stopping to panic about the work I kept putting off.

Get your kids to help

A much cherished mentor of mine, Donna Douglas, once said to me, “even a two year old can scrub a toilet. You just have to be accepting of the level of clean they can accomplish.” Her point was, if you start your kids young, when they want to help you, and you give them praise for the results they are capable of managing, then you will create kids that will help when they are asked.

You cannot run a business on your own and run a home on your own too. Get some buy-in from the rest of your family. If they are unwilling to help, then explain to them the level of “clean” you are capably of managing on your own and if they want something more then they will need to help you with that.

6 “Musts” that make a Great Entrepreneur

This is part of my presentation that I like to give to high school and college level students. I’m sharing it with you so you can see the qualities and experience that went into the business you have built.

Must be educated

OK now you’re thinking, “she’s nuts.” “I didn’t have to go to school to get an MBA to run my successful business.” True, but you did have to have some type of education; whether it was training, apprenticeship, experience, or a traditional education you definitely did not come into your business without skills and knowledge.

In the book, “The Secrets of the Millionaire Mind,” T. Harv Eker talks about failing over and over again at his jobs, but as the book eludes, he does become very wealthy.  His first big idea took a few thousand dollar investment to open a fitness store, which he grew into a chain in 2.5 years and sold for over a million dollars.  He attributes his skills and education to the jobs he had.  He explains how he viewed each job as a paid education to owning his own business.

Must see something where others do not

There are so many opportunities out there. The best ideas are usually fairly simple in concept and sometimes very hard to implement but it is the idea to do something in a way that no one else does it that allows a business to stand out and become successful.

Yesterday I had the privilege of being at an expo where Amanda Lang of CBC News was talking to Peter Aceto, the CEO of ING Direct Canada. When ING Direct Canada opened in 1997 people could not believe that there was a bank that had no physical presences. The founders of this bank knew there was a better way to ensure people could “save their money” and that was to cut out all the overhead. “How do you build a bank without a bank”, was the question they had to answer. As we know, it has become a very successful business model, started in Netherlands in 1991 and now in over 40 countries. It even has competitors, like Presidents Choice Financial launched in 1996. Someone saw the need and then looked for a solution that was not what everyone else was looking for.

Must be willing to Act

This is the key component of an entrepreneur. We have all heard someone say, “I could have done that,” or “my 10 year old could have done that better”, and yet they do not act on it. The entrepreneur can see the opportunity and does something about it to make the change. They are willing to take a chance, to struggle, to build, to create, to manage and to succeed or to fail.

Yesterday I also had the privilege hearing Amanda Lang of CBC News interview Sir Richard Branson. She asked him why he did what he did even after his businesses were successful. He explained that in the beginning of a business the owner need to be the figurehead or brand. The business, if built correctly, would become the brand as it grows. To do that he likes to “exercise his creativity” and he has acted on many of those creative moments. In his company Virgin there are over 300 branded companies. He explains that he does what he does so that “at the end of the year you hope to have enough money to pay the bills so you can go on creating.” Like many entrepreneurs he works to be able to create more and his simple answer to “why?” was “Nothing ventured, nothing gained”.

Must be willing to risk their own…

We all know of the very successful entrepreneurs like, Gates, Jobs, Brin & Page, Trump, etc. Our society holds entrepreneurs in high-esteem because what they do seems unreachable to the average person. But when these people started out they were just average people. They were scoffed at. They worked out of their homes or garages. They enlisted friends to help. They risked their own money to make things happen and they risked being known as a dreamer or unrealistic. The entrepreneur must risk a lot to find their path to success.

Must have unshakeable vision and dedication

It is very uncommon for a business to be instantly successful. It took Google many years to even make their first commercial product. Their vision was so clear they were able to get funding for their development even when they did not know how it was going to become commercially viable. They answered a need with their authentic passion and it paid off.

Must be willing to learn, grow, and change

An entrepreneur must be familiar with every position within their start-up, from bookkeeping to sales. To be able to understand how to communicate to suppliers, prospects, clients and past clients as well as your peers and competitors the entrepreneur has to take on a bigger role.

There is so much to learn about being an entrepreneur that as you go through the process of implementing you will be inundated with tonnes of new information, ways of thinking, and ideas. If you do not accept the opportunities to change, your business will not be able to make the changes it needs to grow and become successful.

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