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Recently I organised a small fundraiser to raise money for the victims
of the Nepal Earthquake. At the event I presented a talk giving seven
tips for moving forward in business and everyone seemed to really get a
lot out of it! So I decided it was fair and decent to share those tips
in a condensed version in the form of this blog. It is designed to be useful
for both start up businesses and also existing businesses.

Tip # 1 Have strongly defined goals. Knowing where you’re heading and aiming for is critical.

It’s a well known fact that people that set goals and review them regularly are the ones that truly succeed in business. However, it is also well known that less than 10% of business owners set goals AND write them down, and only 2% actually review their goals regularly. Oh, you are gulping right now because a) you have no goals in place, b) you have goals in your mind but you haven’t written them down or c) you wrote goals down ages ago and haven’t looked at it since. That’s ok, don’t fret, but now is the time to go and work out some goals and set them out. If the whole idea of goal setting is a little away from what you feel comfortable with, drop me a line, I can help you out with your goal setting.

When opportunities arise and you are having trouble making a decision on it, consider your goals. Think about whether that thing will bring you closer to your goals, that is always a great way to review things when they come up, decide based on how they fit with your goals and direction. Going off on tangents might seem like a cool idea at the time, but after the novelty wears off, is that what you really wanted to be doing? Though, do bear in mind, it’s ok to amend your goals if you feel you need to, there is no ‘goals police’ that will hunt you down if you change something.

Tip # 2. Value yourself and your products properly. Know how much everything costs so you can price your products or service correctly.

Recently I spoke to a lovely lady who sells a particular product. I asked her what profit she made on that product and how much of it she had sold in the last month and she didn’t have a clue. It’s imperative that you know how much things cost you to sell! I know of a super little business that went down in flames because they were ordering products in from overseas, but not knowing freight costs until the order arrived, and then finding the freight was more than the markup that was going on the products. Craziness! I am sure the excitement of great products is fantastic, but long term survival of a business is also necessary when you are considering prices. Even if you don’t sell a product but you provide a service, there will be costs associated with that, be it fuel, vehicle expenses, your phone bill, I wont go into the accountant-ey details, but make sure you are covering your costs and more! If you make a product (for instance, show browbands) work out how much of all the materials you use to make it, and cost that out so you have an idea of how much each one costs you to make. Then factor your time in!

No matter what you do, you need to value your time. You absolutely, positively need to be paid for your time, and it’s very easy to undervalue your time and at some point down the track and realise you are working for slave labour. That will wear thin after a while, let me assure you! It’s fair and reasonable to charge people for your time, be it time to make a product, time to manage your stock, time to treat their horse, and if they don’t want to pay for your time, is that the kind of client you want anyway? The better option is to value your time and then find clients that also value your time.

Tip #3. Clearly define what the benefit of what you offer is to your clients. Know why they buy your product.

A great many small business owners in the equine industry have a personal reason for why they started their business. They had an experience, needed a product and couldn’t find it, they had a horse that needed help with an injury or illness, they lost their confidence riding, whatever it was, they saw a need and realised they had something to offer and an opportunity to fill that need for others. So often they can identify with their own potential clients because at some point, they felt that need or the pain the need caused them, them-self to start
with. However it came about, somehow, you need to be able to define the benefit of your product or service to your potential clients.

Similarly, identify why people choose your business/product/service. It sounds simple, but do you really know why people choose you? Especially since on the most part, chances are there are other businesses offering something similar to what you offer. Is it location, price, service, quality, approachability, is it that they identify with your business in some way, or you have a good reputation bound from great experiences you have provided to previous clients? And hey, if you have no clue, little secret here. Ask your clients… Ask your clients what drew them to you, send them a short survey, pick up the phone and call them, send a carrier pigeon if that works, but there is no better way to know what how your clients tick than to ask them directly.

Tip #4. Define who your ideal client is, and gather a herd of them. And keep talking to them.

As I eluded to above when I was talking about values, there are clients, then there are good clients. What makes your ideal client? It might seem a but presumptuous to put down parameters for what kind of client you want, but in small business, finding great clients and keeping them is everything. So create a client contact list and keep it up to date. A good way to do that is to use a CRM (Customer Relationship Manager), they range from very simple and affordable options to store basic details and send newsletters and automated emails (for example, Mailchimp, which is free if you have less than 2000 users on your mailing list and don’t use the automation features) to more
comprehensive and detailed systems to store information about clients. The important part is, to store those details so you can continue to reach your clients and keep in touch with them.

Tip #5. Create a relationship with your potential clients, give them information, support, not just sales, sales, sales.

So just to clarify, there is a difference between keeping in touch and constantly asking your clients to spend more money. You would be well served to create a low pressure relationship with clients or potential clients. Offer them information, interesting articles, inspiration if you must, but don’t ram sales down their throats every time you contact them. Spend the time and energy creating great relationships first and invite them to spend money with you once they feel comfortable with you. As a small business, you are selling yourself and your own brand (as in, what you do and what you stand for) just as much as you are selling a product or a service.

Keep your communications to the point and be yourself. There is no point putting on a completely in-authentic tone to your communications, then your clients find you give a totally different ‘tone and message’ when they do choose to connect with you. Having an authentic and genuine message is really valuable when you are building relationships. That goes for life as well as business by the way!

Tip #6. Deal with your overwhelm. Be under control, proactive, not out of control and reactive. Get Stuff Done. Do the important things first. Be prepared to change.

A bit like alcoholism, admitting you are overwhelmed can be hard. But that’s where the similarity ends. It’s very possible to deal with your overwhelm and once you realise that you are overwhelmed, and that that feeling of being behind, under pressure, and under the pump all the time is not how life needs to be, you will be able to start to deal with you. But, hard truth number one, you got yourself into this. Accept and admit and don’t blame anyone or anything else. The upside of that hard truth is that you are the one with the power to get yourself out of overwhelm. I wont say it will be easy, in fact, it might even be inconvenient to start with, but the effort up front will be worth the reward.

One tip I have for dealing with overwhelm is to identify the things you might be able to outsource or ask someone for help with. Write down every single thing you do in your business. Then mark the ones you really do NOT like doing. Then highlight the ones that you are really NOT good at. The ones you marked for both, focus on those things to find other options, be it hire a bookkeeper, outsource your website work to an offshore outsourcing website, ask friends and family for help if they have skills that might assist you.

If you want more tips for dealing with overwhelm, I have five more tips here for you in this article here

Tip #7. Invest in yourself, time, money, or both. Spend time ON your business and not always IN your business.

Abraham Lincoln said ‘Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.’ It makes perfect sense, yet people will spend all the money on stationery, products, pretty files and accessories, and time on Facebook and emails, but will they spend a few hours developing a business plan for themselves? Creating goals? That part of working on the business gets left off regularly, and that makes no sense at all. It’s the reason why small business owners find themselves constantly running, constantly under pressure, never moving
ahead. However you do it, wherever you find the support, it is imperative that you find help to move forward in your business. Spend the time to plan, organise, set goals, research, and all the things you ‘don’t have time’ to do at the moment.

Now, don’t think I expect that you could read these tips and suddenly start doing it all tomorrow. That would be even more overwhelming, right? Start with one tip and build on that. Copy and paste the text in this blog and save in your email drafts and schedule a reminder to look at it again next week to give yourself the next tip. Pick the one that resonates the best for you and start there.

Yes. You can.

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