Lifelong Business Learning, Create a Simple Plan!

Lifelong Business Learning, Create a Simple Plan!

When you are a small business owner, you don’t know what you don’t know, right? This is just as true when you start out as it is after you have been rocking along for a few years.  What an opportunity this presents!

Success Strategy

Lifelong business learning is a success strategy for small business owners, and a high-value activity that many do not utilize.  You are constantly running up against “must-do” projects without the “need-to-know information” to get them done! It often leaves you confused, frustrated, and overwhelmed. You can accept that, or you can put a plan in place to seek knowledge and find the solutions you need and grow your business.

Learning about new business topics and strategies does not need to be time consuming, over burdensome, or even expensive. It should be consistent and can be done successfully in tiny bites.  The information will not jump into your lap….well, with some of the social media ads today, it sometimes feels like it does. But seriously, solid information is out there waiting for you to discover and use it. How do you start?

Create a Simple Plan

You cannot learn everything you need to know in a day. Create a simple plan and start there. This is a situation where any action is positive and a step forward. Knowledge is never wasted, and yes, knowledge is power.

Here are some possible approaches for long-term success:

  • Topic:  Decide the topic you want to concentrate on first, or a set of topics. Do you want to learn more about Facebook marketing? YouTube? Podcasting? How to master your elevator speech? Improve your sales process? How to build a website? How to write a book so you have expert status in your field?  How to craft your digital strategy? How to use Canva? How to create your overall marketing strategy? So many topics!
  • Time:  Set aside time each week for learning.  How much time do you need?  An hour a week? 3 hours a week? There is no one right answer, only your answer. Your time will change over the course of your business ownership. It will typically be larger in the beginning, it may level off, and it will increase again as you tackle a new business challenge, growth area, or decision.
  • Approach: Be consistent and make learning a priority.  Over time you will be expert at topics you need to know. Start today.
  • Vet Resources:  Research articles, videos and other educational resources from trusted companies and organizations.  Beware, there is a lot of “junk” out there, and much of it is free.  Sometimes the free information is top notch. Other times it belongs at the bottom of the ocean.

Armed with this information, you can now begin to craft your Lifelong Business Learning plan.

And by the way, don’t stop there! In addition to your Lifelong Business Learning plan, do you have a business plan? Working with clients, I often call that a Business Blueprint, simply because it is less intimidating.  Everything we have talked about here can be added to a section of your business plan to help keep you on track. Another lifelong learning topic? You bet! That’s for another blog, though 🙂

MEG Membership and Coaching

It was with the idea of Lifelong Business Learning that Startup to Growth created MEG – My Entrepreneurial Group. MEG is an affordable membership program that educates small business owners about “need-to-know” topics by trusted subject matter experts.  We have opened our video Library, and it is growing!  Already you can watch these videos:

  • Boost Your Impact with Digital Marketing Strategy
  • Elevator Pitch – Compelling Self-Introduction
  • Sales – Painless Prospecting Process
  • 3 Steps You Can’t Skip When Building Your Marketing Strategy
  • Beginner’s Guide to Writing a Book
  • How Podcast Marketing Works
  • Creative Canva for Small Business Owners
  • Getting Started With YouTube Live Marketing

We are adding 1) How To Get a Website For Your Business and 2) Facebook and Instagram Marketing Success shortly.  Other videos are in the works, including women-owned business certifications, content marketing, LinkedIn success, and steps to starting your business (it includes a high-level overview of a business “blueprint”!). And we are just getting started.

Conclusion

There are many pathways to Lifelong Business Learning, your success strategy.  Whatever path YOU take, start today by creating a simple plan and be consistent. As you look back even a few short months from now, you will be glad you did. Remember, success is rarely accidental and results require action. What is stopping you? Yes, we coach on that, too!

If you have any questions or comments, please reach out to [email protected].  We’d love to connect with you.

_____________________________

Robin Suomi, MBA, is an experienced small business expert and founder of Startup to Growth. She has worked with thousands of small business owners through coaching, mastermind groups, education and training.  Robin believes success is rarely accidental and her passion is to help her clients set and reach their goals. Working with clients remotely through video platforms, she helps clients answer their technical business planning and execution questions as well as supporting them while they explore their potential.

Robin encourages clients to dig deeper, dream bigger, and works with them to create their tangible Success Steps. Check out the website for ongoing virtual Small Business CoachingSmall Business Blueprint Coaching, and MEG (My Entrepreneurial Group) Membership programFrom time to time we launch new MEG Connectand MEG Startup mastermind groups. Email [email protected] with your questions or to set up a free 1-1 consultation.

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Dr. Suess and Small Business Success

Dr. Suess and Small Business Success

“Today you are you, that is truer than true.
There is no one alive who is youer than you.”

~ Dr. Suess

What can Dr. Suess teach us about small business success?  That it is your being “youer than you”
that can be a key differentiator in your success and how long it takes.  
In other words, that only you can launch and grow a small business in your own unique way, which will be different from the way anyone else does it.  Anyone.

Having worked with thousands of small business owners through the launch and growth process, I have seen this concept in action many times.  How might that play out?  Let’s take a look.

Your “Youer Than You” Attitude

Small business owners need a positive attitude to weather the ups and downs.  Here are some of my
favorite attitude quotes:

“If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.”  Milton Berle

“Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.” Henry Ford

“In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer.” Albert Camus

I believe they are all true. It is your positive attitude that helps you see beyond your problems and
discover your path forward.  If you believe there are only roadblocks and brick walls in front of you, well, there are only roadblocks and brick walls in front of you. However, if you believe you can find a way around that roadblock or over that brick wall, you begin to see solutions and not just insurmountable problems.  You see your personal invincible summer in the depth of winter. What is your “youer than you” attitude? Is it more positive than
negative?

Your “Youer Than You” Perseverance

Launching and growing a small business is not easy.  Perseverance is a requirement.  You reach out to ten prospects and get ten No’s.  What do you do?  If you really believe in your product or service, you reach out to the 11th and keep going until you get your Yes!

As an example, years ago I was trying to schedule a speaker for a workshop. I knew I was asking a lot, and I did not have a lot to offer the speaker in return except the ability to give back to the community and maybe pick up a client – but honestly, picking up a client was not a given. My workshop date was getting closer, I had people registered, and I was missing a major speaker.  I got on the phone and began calling.  I was literally turned down by 10 people.  The 11th person said yes, she would speak.  I have never forgotten the awful feeling I was experiencing as I placed my 11th call, or my feeling of elation when she said, Yes!  Perseverance in action.  That experience forever changed my outlook on perseverance and how I feel as I continue to pursue
a goal that seems impossible.  I can now shake off the negativity as I move forward and achieve my goals.  Make perseverance a cornerstone of your business practices.   Do you have hour “youer than you” perseverance?

Your “Youer Than You” Action

Results require action. Endlessly thinking about your “someday” business in your mind may make you feel good, but it will not make it happen.  Educate yourself, create your business blueprint, work with professionals to help you launch and grow your business.  Results require action.  What is your “youer than you” action plan?

Priority

Launching and growing a successful business needs to be a priority in your life.  And by the way, “success”
is defined by you and it is different for every business.  Devoting time and resources to launch and grow a successful business needs to be alignment with your values, purpose, wants and deep desires. If you are not clear about this, stop.  Get clear or, honestly, bag it for now.  Without making it a priority, you may luck into success, but you probably will not. That’s okay.  Just don’t waste your time or your potential clients’ dollars.

Getting Help and Support

There are many resources to help you launch and grow your business, from “family and friends” to books to professionals who specialize in supporting small business owners. Don’t do this alone.  Get help and support.

Conclusion

People launch businesses every day, and many of them grow into the businesses the owners dreamed of and planned for.  Many do not. The divide is often littered with business owners who did not pay attention to their attitude, perseverance, actions and priorities, and who did not get help and support along the way.

You are “youer than you” and you are the biggest factor in the success of your business. None of the items I have written about here are insurmountable.  However, they all require you to make choices and to act. I wish you well on your small business journey and in making choices that best serve you!

If you have questions about small business startup and growth services, including Small Business Blueprint classes, 1-1 coaching or Startup and Growth Mastermind Groups, please contact me at [email protected].  Ask for a free consultation and let’s see how I can help you with your challenges.

About the Author

Robin Suomi, MBA, Founder of Startup to Growth, has worked with thousands of small business owners to start and grow their businesses through 1-1 coaching, mastermind groups, membership programs, and professional development training workshops and classes. Her passion is to help her clients become better…whatever that looks like in their lives. Check out Startup to Growth for information on Small Business Blueprint classes, Startup Masterminds and Growth Masterminds. Or email [email protected] with your questions.

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Goals With Deadlines Are Steppingstones to Your Dreams

Goals With Deadlines Are Steppingstones to Your Dreams

In this three-part series about goals, we start by defining what they are and why they are important. Next, I’ll teach you how to set great goals that are inspiring and meaningful to you. We’ll end the series by exploring how you can achieve your goals so they become your steppingstones to your dreams.

We begin with the end in mind….achieving your dreams.

Dreams Matter

We all have dreams of things we want to do, be, have or experience. Dreams are what gives our lives purpose. Dreams inspire us, give us hope, make us feel alive and motivate us. They are critical to our well-being and happiness.  Take a few moments to browse “Dream” quotes and see if you don’t come away inspired.  (Go ahead, I’ll wait for you.)  Am I right?!  Okay, dreams matter.

So, what is the relationship between goals and dreams? Goals with deadlines are steppingstones to your dreams.  When you achieve little goals, they lead to medium goals, and they lead to your BIG goals, your dreams!  And as Oprah Winfrey says, “The biggest adventure you can take is to live the life of your dreams.”  If you want to live your dreams, you’d better begin putting your steppingstones in place.

First, let’s explore what goals are.

Definition of GoalGoals Dreams Steppingstones

I’m a business person, so I looked at Business Dictionary. They define goal as, “an observable and measurable end result having one or more objectives to be achieved within a more or less fixed timeframe.”  Yawn.  I love business, but this one puts me to sleep.

Next, I went to Merriam-Webster. They define goal as, “the end toward which effort is directed.” Well, we are getting closer.  A lot of effort is involved.  But it still isn’t the definition I was looking for.

Finally, I went to Oxford Living Dictionaries. They define goal this way, “the object of a person’s ambition or effort; an aim or desired result,” and, “the destination of a journey.”

Home run.  Yes, a goal needs to be about effort, achievement and coming to a defined end point, a destination.  However, Oxford takes it up a notch. They talk about desire.  When I work with clients to reach their goals, desire matters.  In fact, it is often their key to success when they reach those really difficult goals.  Frankly, it usually makes the journey more worthwhile.

I believe goals are what move us forward in life toward our dreams. They are the engine of our desires, our dreams. But like a car engine, goals require a commitment on your part.  You will need to fuel them frequently and maintain them regularly.  A goal can’t just be parked in a garage and forgotten.

In Part 2, I’ll teach you how to set great goals that are inspiring and meaningful to you.

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Robin Suomi, MBA, is an experienced small business expert and founder of Startup to Growth, LLC.  Working with clients remotely through video meeting platforms, she helps clients answer their technical business planning questions. She also encourages them to dig deeper, dream bigger, and works with them to create their Success Steps!  Check out the website for ongoing How to Start a Business and Business Plan Boot Camp workshops and seminars, as well as 1-1 small business coaching and group coaching, including QuickStart Mastermind and Growth Mastermind groups.

Also check out Startup to Growth  Membership for additional small business training and professional development videos available to you online, anytime.  A very affordable option.

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Get Your Geese in a Row

Get Your Geese in a Row

I was recently walking along the Flat River in Greenville, Michigan and I saw this wonderful little gaggle of Canadian geese on the shore.  Mamma and Pappa decided to take their little goslings across the river, presumably for a tasty treat.  In the water they go.  It was hysterical to watch them trying to arrange themselves in a row, with one parent in the lead, one in the rear, and the little guys lined up in between. The parents did a magnificent job. The inexperienced little goslings came very close, but never quite made that perfect row of geese you see in pictures.

What does “get your geese in a row” mean?

As I was clicking away with my camera, I realized I had a wonderful analogy for the many small business owners I work with who are trying to “get their geese in a row.” For geese, it’s just the way they swim…they are trying to line up in a row behind one of their parents!

For startups, it’s different.  Cambridge dictionary defines getting your ducks (geese!) in a row as, “to be well prepared or well organized for something that is going to happen.”

For startups, it means planning.

If you have not launched yet, it means creating a business plan and a step-by-step Action Plan to start your business and land paying customers.  It often means having a support system in place as you create and roll out your plans, a trusted resource where you can ask questions and get guidance.  Many small business owners work with experienced small business coaches to help them get their geese in a row.

If you are a startup who has been in business less than three years and have under $100,000 in sales, it may still mean creating a business plan! It probably also includes creating a step-by-step Action Plan to land more paying customers.  I work with many clients who “never quite got around to the business plan” and are overwhelmed with finding more clients while also managing their business. They need a plan. We are not talking about a 50-page, glossy-pie-chart type of plan.  We are talking about a basic business plan that describes who you are, what you do, how you do it, and how you make (more) money at it.  And the business plan means nothing without an Action Plan to execute it.  You “get your geese in a row and keep them there” by creating and executing both plans.

Take the plunge.

Back to the geese trying to get in a row.  When I saw them, they were on dry land.  First, they had to take the plunge free consult small business startup coach

into the river to reach their goal – their tasty treat on the other side.

As a small business owner, you need to take the plunge, too.  If you are starting your business, you…must…actually…start…it to achieve your goals. You must get into the river!  If you are growing, you also must also take the plunge and make time to work on your business, not just in it.

They were clumsy.

Okay, they were cute as heck, but those little goslings had trouble getting “in a row” so Mamma and Pappa could free consult small business startup coachshepherd them across the river.  I had my camera and clicked away as they were paddled through the strong current, ending up side-by-side, in a group, and just about any other configuration you can imagine as Mamma and Pappa guided them. The goslings were clumsy and inexperienced.

Most startup business owners are clumsy and inexperienced, too.  It is to be expected (though most of my clients tell me it is uncomfortable as heck for them!).  Yes, you may know your service or product down cold…but that is not the same thing as starting and managing your business and getting (more) clients.

They had support.

Mamma and Pappa were with the goslings for the entire trip across the river.  Whether they were breaking the strong current for them, or communicating with honks and calls, they were supporting them the whole way.

Do small business owners need support, too?  Of course they do!  Whether you form your own support group or hire a qualified small business coach/consultant, you will “get to the other side of the river” faster and make a better landing if you get support.

They were persistent.

That little group of inexperienced goslings never quite made that perfect row of geese.  However, they continued to practice and when they reached the other shore they were about 80% there!  We know from observing nature and seeing pictures taken by others that with practice, experience and persistence, most gaggles do eventually “get their geese in a row.”

free consult small business startup coachThe same is true for small business owners.  Maybe they are just starting out and need a bit of launch advice.  Or they’ve launched and are unsure of how to grow their fledgling, gosling-type business. Or maybe they know what to do and want an accountability coach as they practice a new skill.  Sometimes they just need a safe and confidential place to brainstorm new ideas with a non-judgmental person or group, so they can “talk it out” and find their solution.  Or maybe they need a business plan.

For sustained success, startups must practice being a business owner and gain experience, enlisting support along the way. And they must be persistent as they work through their startup challenges to reach their goals.  That “tasty treat” of success is achievable for both goslings and startup small business owners.

Schedule Your Free Consult With a Small Business Startup Coach.

If you would like to talk about “getting your geese in a row,” please set up a free consult.  I would love to speak with you about starting or growing your business, and seeing how I can help.

______________

Robin Suomi, MBA, is an experienced small business expert and founder of Startup to Growth, LLC.  Working with clients remotely through video meeting platforms, she helps clients answer their technical business planning questions. She also encourages them to dig deeper, dream bigger, and works with them to create their Success Steps!  Check out the website for ongoing How to Start a Business and Business Plan Boot Camp workshops and seminars, as well as 1-1 small business coaching and group coaching, including QuickStart Mastermind and Growth Mastermind groups.

Also check out Startup to Growth Video Library for additional small business training and professional development videos available to you online, anytime.  A very affordable option.

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Small Business Sales and Activity Planning for Success

Small Business Sales and Activity Planning for Success

“It’s not about ideas. It’s about making ideas happen.” – Scott Belsky

Ideas are a dime a dozen.  Your world changes when you make ideas happen.  And in the for-profit business world, that means sales.

Do I Really Need a Sales and Activity Plan?

Yes.  You start your business because you have great ideas.  When you grow your business through sales, you are getting your ideas out there to a bigger audience, making an impact, realizing your dreams, changing your world and the world of others. You are, in Belsky’s words, “making [your] ideas happen.” You are also reaping the rewards you envisioned when you started your business.

This only happens through sales planning and executing!  You start with a plan, then you execute through activity.  I have found there are two types of business owners:

  • those who love to plan and are afraid to execute
  • those who hate planning and do nothing but execute

As a small business owner, your “happy place” is planning and executing!  That means you need your sales and activity projections as a starting place.  These are key metrics in business planning.

Before we go any further, let’s debunk a myth.  As a small business owner, you often believe if you do enough marketing activities you will miraculously grow your business and be profitable, and therefore you won’t have to “do sales.” Not true.  Marketing will grow awareness of your business, which is very important.  However, you must also…actually…sell.

To increase sales without feeling like a hamster running endless circles on a hamster wheel and going nowhere, you need a sales plan. Your sales plan becomes part of your business plan.

Now that I have convinced you, how do you start to figure out your projections?  The process is to ask yourself these questions:

  • How many units must I sell to realize my desired profit plus expenses and taxes owed?
  • How much time and effort per week/month/year will it take me to achieve my goal?
  • Can I devote necessary resources (time/money) at this point in my life to achieve this goal?
  • Do I want to?
  • By doing this, what other opportunities am I giving up?
  • By doing this, what opportunities am I “growing” for myself?

Sounds like a lot of work, right?  Actually, it is not, with the right planning and support. In this article, we will stick with the basics of making realistic projections and ensuring you can handle the activity to support those projections.  To simplify this, these calculations are based upon a solopreneur business where you are the business owner and the only sales person working in your business.  If you have a sales staff, great! Simply add them to the math calculations below and consider them in the resulting questions you will ask yourself.

Sales Projections and Activity

I am assuming you have projected your annual expenses for your company, including taxes, and your desired profit for the next 12 months.  This is your Annual Sales Goal.  Divide that number by 12 for your Magic Monthly Sales Goal.  [Note: This is where you begin to add those extra sales people in if you have them! If you have 3 sales people, divide your Annual Sales Goal by 3.]

In your business, you will break your monthly goals down into weekly and daily goals.  In this article, to simplify this, we’ll keep it at the monthly level.

To keep the math simple, let’s say your Annual Sales Goal is $120,000 and you are a solopreneur. That means you will need to sell $10,000 per month to reach your goal (120,000/12).  Is that realistic? First, you need to know a couple of numbers. Let’s start with your historical data.

  1. Average Sale Per Client: Let’s assume your revenue for the past 12 months was $96,000 and you had 48 sales. Your average sale/client was $2,000 (96,000/48).
  2. Conversion Rate: If on average you make 50 calls and they result in 2 sales, then your conversion rate is 4% (2/50).
  3. Activity Goal: Using these numbers, if you make 125 calls per month, you will close five sales (125 X .04).  With five sales at $2,000 each, you will have reached your monthly goal of $10,000.

Are These Realistic Projections?

Now, back to our basic question about whether these projections are realistic.  It depends.

You used historical data and math to calculate your key metrics.  Good so far.  But let’s dig deeper. Using our example:

  • Do you have systems in place so that you will have 125 solid leads to call each month?
  • Are you properly qualifying those leads? This is a great area to delve into, so you can achieve higher conversion rates (more sales!)
  • Are you looking for opportunities to upsell?
  • What is your client retention rate? To dig deeper here, ask yourself:
    • Are you in a constant state of client churn? How can you change that? Do you need to?
    • Are you reaching out to existing clients on a regular basis?
    • Are you engaging in conversations with your leads, creating relationships, or are you simply being transactional? Does this fit your business model?
  • Are you receiving word-of-mouth leads from existing clients and referral partners?
  • Are you using the new technology that is available to you (there is always new technology!)?
  • Do you have the proper tools and training already in place to be successful in sales?
    • Have you included time in your projections for training and professional development if you need to get up to speed?
  • Do you have any seasonal fluctuations in your sales? Have you adjusted your projections for that?
  • Are things changing in your business or your industry? (Automatic answer: )  How is that impacting your sales?
  • Are there new competitors in your space? How are they impacting your sales?

Soft Metrics Are Also Important

Now you have the hard metrics (black and white calculations). In our simple example, you need to make 125 calls per month to close 5 sales of $2,000 each, and you will reach your goal of $120,000 per year in revenue.  You have determined $120,000 annual revenue will meet your profit goal plus expenses and taxes owed.

But what about the soft metrics, the “work life balance” and “quality of life” considerations?  How much time and effort per week/month/year will it take you to compile a solid lead list so you can make 125 calls per month with a 4% conversation rate?  How much time will you spend in making those calls and following up on each one, scheduling 1-1’s, doing demonstrations, etc.? Can you devote the necessary time and resources to your sales efforts while also running your business?  Do you want to at this point in your life?

Your Decision

The answers to these questions are subjective.  One person will say, “Heck, yes, I can’t wait!” while another person may not be so sure they are willing to pay the price to achieve their desired sales level.  We are all at different points in our lives, with different responsibilities and personal goals in addition to our career goals.  That is okay.  What is not okay is to make excuses or let fear rule your decisions.

After careful consideration, you may decide that your sales goal is too aggressive for now, that you are not willing at this point in your life to give up other life opportunities open to you to achieve those goals.  You may choose to adjust those sales goals and grow your business more slowly.  That is fine!

Or you may feel now is the time and you are more than ready! Great!  However, there could still be something stopping you.  Are you afraid of sales?  Many people are (just saying!).  If so, schedule some sales coaching or training.  We have a video in our Startup to Growth Video Library entitled Sales 101.  It is fun and will get you excited about sales! Or you can take a seminar, a workshop, or hire a small business coach to work with you on your business sales goals.  You can do this, if you are willing to devote the time and resources to making it happen.

Make the choices that best fits YOU and YOUR circumstances, but don’t make excuses. In setting your sales goals and making them happen, you are choosing between the time you devote to current opportunities (including life activities) and the time you devote to growing future business opportunities for you and your company.  Grow at the pace you desire.

If you have any questions or comments about this article, of if you would like to schedule a free consultation, please contact me at [email protected].  Together, we’ve got this!

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About Robin Suomi, MBA, Owner of Startup to Growth, LLC.  Robin is a small business coach, consultant and trainer who has worked with thousands of small business owners for over 10 years, helping them start and/or grow their small businesses.  She combines her combines solid technical knowledge with her coaching and listening skills to help clients achieve their goals. In addition to teaching business courses as an adjunct professor, she created her own Business Plan Boot Camp and Customized  Individual and Group Business Plan Boot Camps for her clients. Today, she delivers most of her coaching/consulting/training services to clients across the country through a live, video meeting platform.  She has also developed an online small business training and professional development video Library, where experts in the fields of marketing, sales, insurance and law, to name only a few, present their expertise to Library Members 24 X 7 X 365 by a recorded video format.

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