TAKING TIME OFF WHEN YOU WORK FOR YOURSELF

Taking time off when you work for yourself can be tricky: It can be a double-whammy since you don’t get paid while you’re gone while at the same time losing revenue from lost productivity.

But it doesn’t have to be.

ActionCOACH’s very first principle for coaching clients is to plan your personal life first. Your business schedule should always come second. Stop and think about it: why did we go into business for ourselves in the first place? Most business-owners will tell you that it’s because they wanted more freedom and the ability to spend more time with their family and loved ones.

Knowing how to step away from your business is something that comes up for many business owners during this time of year. Here are some ways you can make taking time off seamless and productive:

1. Plan way ahead. Start thinking about your holiday schedule for 2013 in 2012, for example.  This allows you to set up your client schedules accordingly, and allows you to get your employees prepared for your departure.

2. Know your business cycle. If you know that 80% of your orders come in during Christmas, that’s a bad time to be gone. Plan to take a trip in late January when everything has settled-down, for example.

3. Stagger your break over two work weeks. You could try taking a week from Wednesday to Wednesday, for example. This allows you to field customer calls at the beginning and end of two weeks. This way, you’re never unresponsive to your customers for long.

4. During your vacation, give yourself a set hour per day to work. Most business-owners can’t relax unless they keep tabs on what’s happening back at the office. But it is important to turn off that smart phone in order to truly immerse yourself in your vacation. Our recommendation is to give yourself a set hour per day on your vacation that allows you to check-in, but then turn it off and stick to it!

5. Train your staff, then trust them. At the end of the day, to go away most of us will have to leave our businesses in the hands of trained, competent, trustworthy employees. If you hired well, you must trust them. (If you can’t you have much bigger problems.) Remember, there are very few things that can’t be fixed when you get back.

Taking a vacation can be a risk for business owners but so is running a business in general. Sometimes you just have to go for it. You will thank yourself afterward.

KEEPING YOUR EMPLOYEES HAPPY

I work for Coach Bob here at ActionCOACH. I have the perspective of an employee, but I also work with dozens of business owners through ActionCOACH who have employees. Though for many of our clients simply taking the step and hiring an employee is a big move, in my opinion keeping them and making them happy so they in turn move your business forward is sometimes the biggest challenge.

ActionCOACH has a signature, highly-effective hiring process that helps determine the best candidate for the position you are looking to fill. (I know because I was hired that way, and since then have seen it work incredibly well for many of our clients.) This is the first step- make sure the candidate has the skills and personality for the job.

But once you’ve hired the “right” person, you must now focus on keeping them happy. It is proven that happy employees are more loyal and much more productive. So how is this done? Here are some ideas:

1. Employees want a purpose. It is simply not enough to pay an employee well or give them bonuses. Most humans want to feel like they are doing something on a daily basis that is meaningful. If they have an idea, and it is heard and implemented, this boosts their moral considerably.

2. Employees want to feel like they are part of a plan. Laying out specific, measurable and attainable goals together with your employees is critical. Coach Bob sits down with me once per quarter, right before the next quarter is about to begin, to map-out our next 90 days. This makes me see the big picture, and helps me understand what our over-arching game-plan is. Once these goals are in place, I know exactly where to put my efforts.

3. Employees want transparency. There needs to be an open channel of communication between you and your employees. Younger employees in particular feel like transparency gives you, their boss, credibility. Once you’ve established this trust, then you can deal with more difficult issues together as a company with greater confidence.

4. Employees want flexibility. Most employees appreciate being able to modify their schedules (when permitted) to come into work early or late, for example. This flexibility makes it easier for them to do what you need them to do. This also applies to how they work, be it telecommuting sometimes, for example. This reinforces trust between you and your employees.

5. Employees want leadership. Although employees like autonomy over when and how they work, this doesn’t mean they don’t want your in-put. In fact, most teams work at their best when the leader (boss) can provide them with the company principles, values and goals, and then allow them to go off and work on them creatively. You are there to offer guidance and feedback.

Following these core guidelines when working with employees can have a positive impact on your bottom-line, and create an office environment that you enjoy coming to each and every day.

– Rebeca Krones

WHY PLANNING IS IMPORTANT

As business-owners, we all have a lot on our plates. We have huge, complex issues to deal with on a daily basis, and they can often seem overwhelming. The key to being able to solving these problems is to break them down into smaller, more manageable parts. That’s where planning comes in. Here are five reasons why you should be creating a plan, or fine-tuning the one you have:

1. Planning saves you time. Sure, you have to take time away from your busy day/week/quarter to plan. But it’s time that can improve your productivity by leaps and bounds. For example, if you spend 20 minutes each morning prioritizing your tasks and deciding what you have to tackle first, your day will go much more smoothly and you will ensure that the most important job will be dealt with. This way, you are much more likely to achieve your desired outcomes and not get sidetracked, which is very easy to have happen.

2. Planning helps you make better decisions. When you sit down and create a plan for achieving your goals (be they on a yearly, quarterly or monthly basis) you get a 1,000-foot high view of your business.  By planning what you are going to do, you establish a framework for making proactive choices on how your business will be run.

3. Planning reduces crises. If you plan effectively, there is less of likelihood for crises to happen. Of course, we can never plan for every eventuality, but if a crisis does come up, your plan will still be your foundation. Instead of scrambling to figure out how this emergency situation fits into your operation, you will simply alter your existing plan accordingly and rock the boat as little as possible.

4. Planning makes you more effective. Many of us have bad habits (like wasting time doing non-urgent and non-important things). Often, doing these non-essential activities comes from a fear of failure (our work-load is so insurmountable we feel we simply will never get it done). Having a plan makes you stick to the tasks you have outlined for you and your team, and makes it less likely for you to fail.

5. Planning reduces stress. Once you have a plan in place, you can relax because you know how you are going to get what you need to get done accomplished. There is truly nothing better than having peace of mind, is there?

Want to make a plan that does all of the above and more for yourself and your business? Come to GrowthCLUB! I, together with two other ActionCOACH business coaches, am hosting an all-day business planning workshop this Friday, December 9th. It is a massive action day where you will get all your goals in place for the first quarter of 2012. Make the New Year what you want it to be by putting a plan in motion. Click here to learn more and register.

ActionCOACH FOUNDER BRAD SUGARS’ READING LIST

Happy Thanksgiving! Today we at ActionCOACH hope you are having a wonderful, peaceful holiday with great people and that you are eating even better food. Since you are technically on vacation (even though you’re reading a semi work-related blog) we are going to go easy on you and recommend some great books to read.

ActionCOACH BOOK LIST

“The only difference between you now and you in 5 years’ time will be the

people you meet and the books you read.”

- Charlie Tremendous Jones

“And, the only difference between your income now and your income in

5 years’ time will be the people you meet, the books you read, the tapes

you listen to, and then how you apply it all.”

- Brad Sugars

The E-Myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber

My Life in Advertising & Scientific Advertising by Claude

Hopkins

Tested Advertising Methods by John Caples

Building the Happiness Centered Business by Dr. Paddi Lund

Write Language by Paul Dunn & Alan Pease

7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey

First Things First by Steven Covey

Awaken the Giant Within by Anthony Robbins

Unlimited Power by Anthony Robbins

22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Ries & Jack Trout

21 Ways to Build a Referral Based Business by Brad Sugars

21 Ways to Increase Your Advertising Response by Mark Tier

The One Minute Salesperson by Spencer Johnson & Larry Wilson

The One Minute Manager by Spencer Johnson & Kenneth Blanchard

The Great Sales Book by Jack Collis

Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman

Happy reading!

WHEN NETWORKING, THINK ABOUT GIVING INSTEAD OF RECEIVING (A THANKSGIVING BLOG)

As Coach Bob Britz’s Market Development Manager, I go to a lot of networking events. It’s true that mixing with other business owners and influencers can grow your business- why would we all be going to these networking events if that weren’t the case, right?

Unfortunately, there’s an important component lacking in almost all the events I go to: Giving. That’s right, I often find myself in conversations where I’m just trying to be sold to. “All this person wants is to receive my business” I say to myself. “They’re not really listening to whether I need what they sell or not.”

It’s odd when you think about a room full of people in which nobody is planning on buying anything- they all just want to sell you something. When you think about it, if nobody came to the event with the intention of buying anything, then how will anything get sold?

I believe that instead of trying to push your agenda, you should listen to the person you are speaking with closely. In five or so minutes, get to know a little bit about who they are and what their business is. Interestingly, you may find that even though they may not need your service specifically, you know of someone who could help them with their particular dilemma. That’s right- instead of selling them your product or service, give them a referral to someone else.

This achieves many positive results: first of all, you create good-will. This perfect stranger will really appreciate your helping them, and the person you just referred will really appreciate the potential business. Secondly, it creates incentive on the part of the person you are speaking with to help you. What goes around comes around. When you create a positive halo around yourself, it’s amazing how others want to help you succeed. They remember you, they speak highly of you, and because they now have your and your business in the front of their minds, they will refer others to you.

It’s not a straight line to results, nor do you achieve them immediately like when you sell someone that same hour at a networking event. But this mindset has the potential to generate far-reaching and much more powerful results that benefit you. You just have to start first. Put your foot forward and the next time you meet someone at a networking event, think about what they truly need and if you can help them in any way.

If you change your focus from receiving to giving- that is, putting others’ interests above your own and adding value to their businesses- that networking event will have truly been worth it and you will get way more out of it that you thought possible.

- Rebeca Krones

TOM SAWYER TEACHES BUSINESS 101

Tom Sawyer is the protagonist in Mark Twain’s novel The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876). While Tom was an amalgamation of three of Mark Twain’s friends, he as a single character does have some advice to give to business owners a hundred and thirty five years later. Among his many antics he can be remembered for, one stand out in the context of business – the white washing of Aunt Polly’s fence.

If you remember the story, Tom spent most of his time running around the area with his friends. One morning Aunt Polly gives him the chore of painting the long white picket fence around the property. Tom starts out with no intention of sticking it out until he comes up with an idea; to make the fence “fun” to paint. It’s pretty engaging to watch a wily Tom convince his friends passing by that the fence is outrageously fun to paint, and that they “couldn’t possibly do something that difficult and exact”, so to speak. As the day goes on, Tom has not lifted a finger and he has spent the day with some of his friends who were more than eager to do the task for nothing at all.

I work with business owners who start each day with a litany of tasks, all of which are so important that no one but they could do them. There are employees but they are paid but a fraction of the owner’s worth, “how could they be trusted with such things?” It is these same owners who work 70-100 hours a week constantly complaining that they have no time for fun, for exercise, for dating, for their family and the list goes on. Many of these owners are responsible for $60 - $900 per hour of gross revenue depending on the business, yet they continue to do all the tasks on their list without qualification.

Take for example, opening the mail. First you have to go the mail slot, if it’s close or the PO Box across town – say 30 minutes. Then you stop for a latte, 15 minutes. Then it’s back to the front desk in the office and you sort – junk, junk, junk, I wonder what that is, junk, junk, CHECK! Woo hoo – happy dance for 5 minutes, junk, junk – 15 minutes. So you’ve taken an hour to open the mail, standing in front of your front desk assistant who is paid $15.00 per hour. As the owner, you burned something between $60 and $900. I know this sounds trivial, but I see it constantly in business, and mostly from owners who are already stressed. Oh and by the way, your assistant thinks you’re an idiot because they could have done that for you in half the time.

The problem is procrastination / understanding what is important for you to do each day, and knowing how to delegate. For what’s important, I suggest you read the book Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy and to delegate, make a list of tasks for the week to review each Monday morning. Spend an hour or two deciding what’s most important to do, and what can be delegated to others in your organization or even jobbed out to those outside in your sphere of influence. The cost per hour will almost always be less than yours, and you will be freed up to work on more critical tasks and even leave the office on time. If the staff don’t know how, train them once and enjoy the results forever.

Habitual problems like these are more like opportunities than real problems; and they take time to change. If you are successful like Tom Sawyer, at the end of the day, you’ll be standing there smiling as the money comes in, and turning over the CLOSED sign at 6pm to go home.  As we sit in our ivory chairs of business it’s humbling to know that a hick kid, in a small town, a hundred and thirty-five years ago can teach us how to run a business. Thanks Tom.

YOUR BUSINESS CARD AS A FIRST IMPRESSION

As Bob Britz’s Business Development Manager and personal assistant, I see a lot of business cards. Part of my job here at ActionCOACH is meeting new prospects at networking events, gathering business cards and finally entering the prospect’s information into our database and sales funnel. I have literally seen thousands of business cards.

Unfortunately, I see a lot of bad business cards. For example, just yesterday I entered a card into our database for a gentleman who runs a computer servicing company- he fixes computers. And his business card had no email address on it. This immediately discredited him in my eyes. How can you run a business that focuses on the tech industry without an email?

Examples like this abound. It’s worth considering how to layout your business card so that this piece of marketing collateral builds credibility for you, instead of discrediting you. Here are a few of the issues I see time and time again:

1. The business card is difficult to read. Often the card is printed badly, or the font chosen is some kind of script, and it takes me and my card scan several attempts to discern what’s written. This is probably the worst infraction. Make it easy to understand or nobody will ever call you.

2. There’s no address on the business card. This immediately creates distrust on the part of the person receiving the card. Most people have more confidence in someone they can locate geographically. It helps the receiver of your card to know where your office is (even if it’s a home office) otherwise, it gives the feeling that you aren’t grounded or solid. Moreover, what happens if they need to mail you something? Your business card is supposed to give them your contact information, and without an address, it is failing.

A note on P.O. boxes: I hear from some business owners who work out of their homes that they don’t feel comfortable putting their home address on a card. That’s OK, but that still does not exempt you from putting an address on the card. You can rent a P.O. Box for about $10.00/month, and at least you have an address for mail to go to!

3. The business card directs you to go online or scan a code to contact the company. This falls into the category of not including an address on the card, but is so insidious that it bears its own point: In a world of social media and the Internet, some businesses are now just putting their Web address and a scan-able code on their card, forcing the recipient to go online or use their smart phone to find the company’s contact information. This is very frustrating. Once on the company’s Web site, it is often difficult to find the contact information, or the email address is simply an “info@”- completely inappropriate for selling yourself. If you are that savvy, include the code and by all means, include the Web address, but make it part of the whole package. You want it to be easy for your prospects to find you!

4. The address is incomplete. I see this often with companies that exclusively service a particular geographic area and don’t go outside of it. They will omit the zip code, for example, as if everyone who gets their card knows where they are and therefore the zip code isn’t important.  To me, this seems naïve. If someone from outside the area needs to find you and punches your address into their GPS, they will feel more secure that their system matches the zip code on the card. If you’re going to put your address on your card (and I hope you will!) do it right and put the whole thing on there.

5. The logo takes up more than half the card space. First of all, unless you are Nike or Mercedes Benz, nobody will likely recognize your logo. It’s important to have as it does create a polished, professional look, but don’t make it the focal point of your card. People want to know what you do. So include a sentence about what service you provide, or what product you make, and include the logo as a reinforcement to this, not the other way around.

6. The back of the card is left blank. If you are going to go through all the trouble of printing a card, maximize it. Don’t let valuable real estate go to waste! If it’s a cost issue, just print on the back in black and white, but include more information there about what you provide. Remember that your card is a marketing tool.

Business cards seem incredibly simple to make, but they require a lot of thought and consideration in order to make them effective. Follow these simple guidelines and you will get back a much greater return on investment.

- Rebeca Krones

ActionCOACH BUSINESS COACHING IS GUARANTEED TO ANY SMALL BUSINESS OWNER WILLING TO DO THE WORK

Very few things in life come with a guarantee. Now for business owners, business coaching from ActionCOACH does. This is just one way I show my commitment to helping businesses achieve their goals.

After several years of a lackluster economy and a shaky future for small businesses, I am giving business owners something solid to sand on with regards to their coaching program.

This is what the Guarantee promises: If I begin working with you, a business owner, and you are willing to be coached and are doing the work, I will “find my fee” and show results within 17 weeks of coaching, or I will continue to work with you until the coaching fee is “found.”

This is what ActionCOACH founder Brad Sugars had to say about the Guarantee when he introduced it earlier this year: “The Guarantee is simply a way for business owners who may be skeptical about the value of coaching for their businesses to see for themselves just how valuable coaching can be. In an uncertain business world, we’re giving them certainty that our proven system will produce results.”

As a coach, my passion is helping business owners reach their goals and be successful. I have coached businesses from all walks of life over the past four years, and I’ve never felt more motivated – or more capable – to help you, a local business, thrive.

I am currently offering an hour-long complimentary coaching meeting to any business owner interested in learning more about ActionCOACH business coaching. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain! Give me a call at 925-270-1790 or email me at  robertbritz at actioncoach.com to schedule an appointment.

ALL IT TAKES IS FOR GOOD MEN & WOMEN TO DO NOTHING…

Stepping-Stones in the Right Direction

Stepping-Stones in the Right Direction

This morning I got up and read the Wall Street Journal, had my traditional bowl of yogurt and fruit and a cup of coffee - black.  Called my broker at UBS and re-balanced my 401k, checked my bank accounts online and took my vitamins. In a world of woe and financial crisis, I did 100% of my part to change my world this morning, and now I’m on to business. With 10%+ unemployment, the best thing I can do as an ActionCOACH today is to go out and help a client create a new job, advance their business, and better an individual’s life in this economy. The question is not “what can’t I do”, it’s “what CAN I do” to better the world today.

CAN #1: A long term client needs capital to advance growth. They have been boot-strapping themselves over the past four years and it’s just too difficult to make the changes needed. They felt overwhelmed by the process. I found three good bankers, located a business plan template on-line and the ball is rolling forward. One or more banks may turn them down, but they are putting positive energy into a situation to better their company and they don’t feel helpless anymore.

CAN #2: Another company is struggling in the area of marketing. They have been sitting on staff that has not been productive. Rather than knee-jerk firing them, we are in process of retraining them and refining the target market to bring in better leads- with better results. It would be so much easier just to fire them all, and then- oh, wait- grudge through hiring and training a new team again. Nope, we’re taking the high road and going for excellence. Knowing your plan of action makes it all the easier to move forward.

CAN #3: A retail client is flourishing with an almost 53% increase in revenues this year. Despite the fact they provide a totally elective luxury product line, people still come to them in droves. With all the increase in activity in 2011, they struggle to understand their cash flow, and the movement of revenue through the business. A thirty minute meeting with their CPA and me this morning broke it all down into terms they could understand and work with and the CPA confirmed the path I thought was correct– they were making money buried in growing inventory turns. Full steam ahead. Bringing in professionals who can help you with the harder decisions is so empowering in times like these.

It’s so easy to read the paper, or even worse, watch the news on TV, and feel immobilized. To move out of this funk, all we have to do is have a vision of what should be different, develop a healthy dissatisfaction for the status quo, add a few first steps in the right direction and you have results. And like I said before, for the evil of the economy to triumph, all it takes is for good men and women to do nothing. So go out there and do something today that makes even the smallest difference and call it a first step in the right direction. And for Pete’s sake, gather a few good men and women around you for counsel.

ONE REMARKABLE WOMAN CONTRACTOR TEAMS UP WITH ActionCOACH ON HER WAY TO SUCCESS

Handy Ma’am’s Web site reads, “Sometimes the best man for the job… is a woman!” This is certainly the feeling any of Carol Chuckery’s prospective clients get when they meet her. She has a spunky, can-do attitude and has a great sense of humor. Carol’s Handy Ma’am business caters to women property owners who need practical, skilled labor done in their homes, but are not necessarily comfortable having a strange man do it for them. Her approachability and expertise make her an ideal candidate to get the job done for this particular audience, in a manner they are comfortable with.

When ActionCOACH’s Master Business Coach Bob Britz was referred to her, he and Carol really hit it off. “I appreciate that, in the world of general contractors dominated by men, Carol stands out and can offer a niche that nobody else can. She was meant to be successful and I am looking forward to working with her as she continues to grow her business.”

Theirs is a typical match for ActionCOACH’s Bob Britz. For the last five years, he has worked with small and medium-sized businesses in the Contra Costa area to help them fine-tune and expand their businesses. “Carol is a perfect example of what ActionCOACH can do for any small business,” Says Coach Bob. “She knows her trade through-and-through, and has identified her client-base. But she is in need of developing practical systems to help her run her business more smoothly.” In this case, Coach Bob started by identifying Carol’s business goals. Once they were established, he and Carol worked to break the goals down into manageable tasks that would be tackled on a monthly, weekly and daily basis.

Because of their work together, Carol anticipates growing her business by 100% by the middle of next year.

“Many business owners are struggling under the same challenges- the economy, working too many hours, not being able to work on the business because they’re too deep in the business- this is all typical. When I begin my relationship with these business owners, many are reticent to open-up about their situation, but I tell them they are not alone. We work on these issues for a couple of months and all of a sudden their entire outlook changes and they feel in control. There’s nothing like it.”
- Coach Bob Britz