Friday, 28 September 2007

Networking and Newsletters

I don‘t know where September has gone, but it has certainly whizzed by for me! This week started with 4 breakfast meeting possibilities, of which I attended 2. This morning, I returned to a group I haven’t visited since March, because it’s a bit further afield for an early morning drive. It’s a very friendly group (called Ambassadors) and it was lovely to see everyone again.

I’m busy working on my newsletter which goes out to nearly 400 local business owners (and growing!). My ethos has always been to give lots of useful information and keep self-promotion to an absolute minimum.

This month I’ve got a dilemma because there’s so much new stuff to talk about. E-books for sale on the website, taking payments online, and offering a small number of advertising spaces in the newsletter itself. I hope my readers will forgive me!

What surprises me, amongst the many people I meet at networking events, is how few of them write and issue a newsletter. (If they do, they certainly don’t promote it. A Newsletter is such a valuable marketing tool and I have gained new business coaching clients by keeping in touch and providing useful information. Yes, it does take time to research and write the content each month but it’s definitely worth it.

Thursday, 27 September 2007

Why Business Coaching is so special

As the result of an unexpected phone call request this afternoon, I’m busy putting together a special workshop all about motivation for business owners and entrepreneurs. It’s called, rather unoriginally, ‘E-Motivation’ and is going to be full of really effective tips and exercises that really do work. I’m looking forward to it already.

A meeting with a coaching client today highlighted that a business coach has many different roles. Today my client was really not himself. Things were going wrong and he needed to get some frustrations out of his system. While we didn’t get any measurable work done, I think I may just have saved some of his staff an ear-bashing.

When I worked in the corporate world I used to apply for promotions and different jobs on a regular basis. I get bored easily. I’ve been coaching for 7 years now and can honestly say that boredom isn’t an issue. I never know what coaching clients are going to present – which is both exciting and sometimes a little scary! But I love it. I love not knowing what the next coaching session is going to bring. It certainly keeps me on my toes.

Monday, 24 September 2007

The Heat is Off

I think last weekend saw the last of our brief but welcome Indian Summer. It was wet and blustery overnight and this morning and the forecast is for temperatures to drop quite significantly over the next few days. And it was dark when I walked into the village this morning to get my newspaper!

On the whole, I quite like the autumn and don’t mind the days getting shorter. I enjoy shutting out the world and curling up with a good book – and I don’t feel guilty about doing that if the weather isn’t too great.

In terms of business, a lot of people I’ve met at the recently revived post-summer networking groups have set themselves some very ambitious goals. It’s not only January that spurs business owners on to plan, September has that effect too. They both feel like fresh starts.

Goals can be set at any time of year and, importantly, they can be tweaked and adjusted at any time. Some people think that, once you set a goal, it’s set in concrete. But that’s not true. You can change them, because circumstances change, your business needs change. It’s about recognising that the original goal doesn’t quite serve the purpose you want it to and making the necessary changes.

What goals have you made that need revisiting, and possibly changing?

Thursday, 20 September 2007

Business Referrals, Leads and Introductions

I seem to have become a bit over-protective of my list of business contacts! I’ve certainly always been wary of recommending products or services, unless I’ve experienced them personally and know them to be excellent. My reasoning is that if things go horribly wrong between two parties that I referred, it will be my reputation that is damaged and my judgement questioned.

A conversation this afternoon has got me wondering if I need to adjust my thinking on this subject. I was thumping on about not being able to make referrals without experiencing the service first hand, when a slightly hurt voice said “Well I introduced someone to you in good faith.” Oh dear, perhaps they had a point.

So, in addition to referrals (based on personal experience), leads (often based on no previous contact whatsoever), I’m going to add introductions into my mix of contacts. Introductions are without recommendation or personal experience; they are simply contacts I know who may find it mutually useful to connect.

Provided I make the basis of the introduction clear to all parties, there should be no problem. Unless, in the heat of the moment, a scapegoat is being hunted to blame ….

What do you think? Do leave a comment or share your experience of referrals, leads and introductions.

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Blogs can really take over your working day!

Yesterday’s workshop was a great success. I really enjoyed myself –the delegates were really great, and they worked so hard! I’m kicking myself a bit though because I took a camera with me and then completely forgot to take any shots (doh).

Today I’ve been catching up and getting ready to market the next workshop. I’ve also to listened to a couple of very interesting teleseminars about business building, including one about internet marketing and blogging. This one caught my attention because, as you might have guessed, I’m really into using a blog as a marketing tool.

As well as writing this blog, I also subscribe to receive and read several blogs I find interesting. Some are about coaching, some about marketing, copywriting, the internet, even about blogging itself – all kinds of information that might be useful for my business coaching clients and that I can share with them.

I’ve set up my iGoogle page so I know when something new has been posted on them. One small problem! Like incoming emails, seeing a new post arrive and then just having to read it, is rather addictive and very time consuming. I’m having to ration my visits to iGoogle so as not to get too distracted.

No wonder there's so much information overload!

Monday, 17 September 2007

Planning ahead for your small business

Have you ever found that when you’ve got a long list of tasks to get through, you just put your head down and get on with them? I find that if I’ve loads of time to get something done, it will take loads of time because I can’t seem to settle down and do it. But, give me some tight deadlines and I surprise myself at just what can be achieved!

Tomorrow is a training day, which I’m looking forward to. And myy local Chamber of Commerce is already trying to book me for some dates next year – give me a chance to buy a new diary!

But they’re right. Even though we’re only half way through September, it’s not too early to start planning for 2008. Also, and I know you’ll hate me for saying this, it’s time to order your Christmas cards and calendars if you’re having them printed.

So often my business owner coaching clients cram their diaries to capacity and then exhaust themselves trying to fulfil an additional surprise order. Planning ahead and leaving some contingency time means that the occasional rush job can be fitted in, without too much burning of the midnight oil.

For me, it's important to plan next year's workshops and get the conference rooms booked. I usually give myself the extra challenge of booking in at least one brand new event. That way I have a very real deadline to work towards and get the new material written!

It's also important to plan ahead for rewards and time off. Yes, I know you've just come back from your summer break! But, get those long weekends and days off scheduled in your diaries. Believe me, once the clocks go back, you'll thank me.

Friday, 14 September 2007

Back on Track – and an A-ha moment!

After my overwhelm ‘blip’ earlier this week, I’m pleased to report that normal service has been resumed in my business.

I’m very relieved because, as I’m sure you’ll agree, it’s vital to keep all the small business plates spinning and not let any drop.

While I was working out what was amiss, I realised something very interesting (my a-ha moment). I’ve always enjoyed writing newsletters (over 6 years now!) – I also write articles to submit to different publications both off and on-line. Sales letters need to be written to publicise my business coaching services and workshops, and, of course there’s this blog.

Because writing is something I enjoy doing, it doesn’t feel like work (although occasionally finding inspiration can be rather frustrating!). So I’ve been trying to fit in all the writing commitments after everything else, cramming them in before cooking dinner. My a-ha moment was that it is OK to write during normal business hours!

My newsletter was sent out so late this month because I didn’t give it a ‘prime time’ slot. That is not going to happen again. I have had people contact me and become coaching clients after reading the newsletter for a while – so it really is an important part of my marketing strategy and deserves to be more than an afterthought at the end of the day! Hooray! I don’t have to feel guilty about writing any more.

Wednesday, 12 September 2007

Time for a bit of Business Coaching for Myself!

I don’t know about you, but I’m finding it hard to get into top gear after the summer break. It’s as if I’ve taken my foot off the accelerator somehow. Don’t get me wrong, I’m working with clients, getting ready for a workshop next week, researching for some new products, doing all sorts of stuff. But ….. there’s something missing.

Some of the business owners I’m working with have reported the same problem. It’s all down to feeling overwhelmed at how much needs doing. They think that, even if they worked solidly for a month (without stopping for sleep!), they still wouldn’t get everything done. And they’re quite possibly right. I think that having a break has highlighted just how much work lies ahead.

In my case (as for many small business owners), I often (wrongly) believe that if I don’t do a certain task myself, it won’t get done ‘properly’. The truth is that it probably won’t get done at all at the rate I’m going! For the first time in nearly 4 years my newsletter is 2 weeks late going out – I feel so ashamed.

Time to take a deep breath and look at what tasks I can delegate or outsource. Also, I need to check that my procedures get tightened up so vital tasks like the newsletter don’t suffer in future.

Friday, 7 September 2007

Investing in your small business

Today I had a most enjoyable day. I attended a workshop run by a couple of friends of mine. I met these ladies through networking 3 or 4 years ago. Some of their work overlaps with mine but we respect each other's intellectual property so it isn't a problem. I'm sorry to say their workshop was very good. It's always good to see what other people are doing and it encourages me to raise the bar on my own work. Thanks guys!

I should mention what this workshop was about - writing an attention getting sales letter (that won't end up in the bin) and following it up with a phone call. Sounds simple but, as today proved, a bit of a scary experience for many of us. We worked through each stage (one step at a time) and, even though the process isn't new to me, I felt very proud when I completed my draft letter!

All the delegates really worked hard and seemed to get a lot out of the day. What will be interesting is who takes what they've learned and acts on it - in other words, who produces a mailing, follows it up and gains more business. One of the problems with any training or workshop is that, while it is very motivating at the time, once we're back in the office and faced with all the usual stuff, our good intentions of making changes or using what we've learned goes out of the window.

This is where business coaching can make a difference. I was talking to a new client yesterday and I made her laugh when I said that the night before our next session, she would say "Oh no, I'm meeting Louise tomorrow and I haven't done what I said I would - I'd better do it now!" I have that effect on people! Knowing that someone is going to want to know how you're doing really does help keep you focused. End of commercial.

Having made the above comments, I know that I simply have to work on my draft mailing and actually do it! It would be a shame to let all that effort go to waste - not to mention the precious day I took out of my business to invest in it.

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Small Businesses are Back to Work!

In case you didn't notice, I took a break from blogging last week in fact I took a break from everything to do with business! The experiment I did to change habits and routines was interesting. I learned that, although it's a bit uncomfortable, it does give you a different perspective and helps to unwind.

However, without my habits and routines in place, I found it difficult yesterday (Monday) to regain the discipline that I personally need to work productively from home. So, back to the pre-holiday routines - and I've achieved a lot today, almost back up to full speed.

I spent a lot of time over the last two weeks exploring social networking and reading lots of different blogs. While I don't pretend to understand the benefits of either in depth, I do know that they are important for small business owners, who can really benefit from being connected in these ways. So, go on, sign up to Ecademy and LinkedIn and write a profile for others to find. You never know, you might get some business!

What's your experience of social networking? Do post a comment, I'd love to hear what you think.