Leading Your New Venture

3 Key Strategies to Sustain Your Small Business

Customer Services
 

You Have Customers, Now What?: 3 Key Strategies to Sustain Your Small Business

Once your small business starts picking up speed, you will want to be sure that you have the capacity to handle your growth. So, how do you continue to grow once you have gotten over the initial hurdle of attracting your first customers?

This depends on your specific business model, but it may mean hiring extra team members, outsourcing, or implementing systems that increase your efficiency. At the end of the day, it is difficult to grow and run your business at the same time.

As the head of the company, you will want to keep one hand in the day-to-day operations of your business, but spend most of your time focusing on big picture strategy in order to keep it growing.

Here are three ways that you can ensure smart, sustainable growth for your small business.

Optimize Your Website for Better Customer Service

Customer service is key to success as your small business begins to grow. Having a website that makes it easy to find out information about your products or services and contact you with inquiries will lead to better engagement with customers and more sales.

There is nothing worse than a website which has little useful product information and no way to contact the business owner.

First, the obvious: include a “Contact” section on your website, which includes a phone number, e-mail address, contact form, or any combination of the three. You may also consider including a “Get a Quote” form. This allows you to go ahead and gather useful information from a customer in order to quickly and efficiently get them a price quote.

Another great option is to add a live chat function to your website that allows customers to talk to your company directly from the web.

Outsource Your Customer Service

Once you have optimized your website to provide outstanding customer service, you will want to make sure that you have the manpower to handle the questions and quote requests that come in. Being able to answer every e-mail or phone call in a timely and friendly way is how small businesses set themselves apart from the competition.

Rather than staying up all night answering e-mails and returning phone calls, it may be more efficient to outsource your customer service. Many companies, such as Register.com, now offer what they refer to as call center plus services.

This service, unlike traditional call centers, helps small companies grow their businesses by providing customer service infrastructure for:

  • Answering e-mail
  • Conducting live chats
  • Handling quote requests
  • Handling phone calls

By letting somebody else handle customer inquiries, you will free up time to focus on further company growth.

Hire a Virtual Assistant

Finally, once your business has taken off, you will need to have someone who can take care of basic administrative tasks for you. This includes data entry, basic accounting, scheduling meetings and calls, and so on.

While you may hire someone to come work in your physical office, another great option is to hire a virtual assistant.

This type of employee comes with little to no overhead as he or she will work from a home office on a personal computer or phone. You may provide a small stipend for office supplies, but this is negligible compared to an employee who you need to set up in an office.

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On Leadership and Burning a Few Bridges

Mega Shark
 

Conventional wisdom tells us to never burn a single bridge in our professional lives because you never know when you might need that relationship again. 

I firmly believe that there are going to be circumstances and people that nearly require you to do this:

Burn some bridges so that you will never need to work with those people again.

That’s Right, I Said It…

I have been working for the past 35 years and have learned a thing or two in this time span. For a long time I followed conventional wisdom and did whatever it took to part ways on a positive note.  There are times when the reason I was leaving was more than a promotional opportunity, more money, or a shorter commute.

These are all the generally softer ways of giving notice.

They are often spoken in truth, but many times they are used to cover up the real reasons to avoid burning bridges.

Burning a Few Bridges

As time progressed, I thought it would improve circumstances if I shared the issues that caused me to consider other opportunities, more money, or a shorter commute.

When leaving previous jobs, I did the conventional thing and had candid conversations with Human Resources during exit interviews, explaining the challenges with processes and particular personalities that cause concern and issues in the workplace.

I have spent the past 22 years in learning development, so my core was telling me that people can’t improve until they know that there is a performance gap.

Looking back, I would say that each of those times when I was honest and doing what I thought was helpful, I burned a bridge.  I’m not talking about toasting the wood a little; I’m talking about a five-alarm fire, nothing but ashes when I left.

There was no walking back over that puppy after I was finished burning it.  The people I left never spoke with me again.

And now I am left to wonder if this is really such a bad thing?

Out of the dozen or so people who would sooner slit their throat then say hello to me, I have to be honest that it doesn’t bother me in the least that they do not care about me.

These were folks that the word ethical wasn’t even in their dictionary.  Underhanded, manipulative, rude and down-right mean are better descriptors of their personalities.

I hated working for them at the time, and after leaving I felt a rush of relief at never having to work with them again.

Although it was not my intention to burn a bridge with these people, the fact remains that I did, and the primary benefit was to never hear from them again.

A Bad Referral Backfires!

Burning BridgesWhen they say we are only separated by about six people from each other at most, (six degrees of separation), it does cause a reduction in referrals and future contacts that might cause these people to question if they should begin a working relationship with you.

Recently I suffered the opposite of that type of disconnect when someone contacted an old manager to find out what kind of training professional I am and what it would be like to work with me.

I know that this must have been this guy’s dream come true to work his magic by telling this new contact what a nightmare I would be to work with.

He said this:

“Jim is a purist when it comes to training and needs to do everything the right way.  He plays by the rules and Joan of Arc has nothing on him when it comes to ethics.  It makes it challenging to work around him because he is such a goody two shoes.”

Well thanks to these comments, I have a new client that shares my servant leadership style and ethical code.

What my old manager was trying to do was clue in his friend to how difficult it will be to work with a person like me, and at the same time selling the attributes the new client was looking for in a new working relationship.

Now I will be the first to admit this situation was a fluke.

Understanding Consequences

Most of the time when you burn a bridge with someone, that person will have a negative influence over anyone asking about you, not to mention that they will never work with you again.

When I began consulting 6 years ago I was heart-broken that a particular person wasn’t giving me the time of day or throw me a bone’s worth of business.

He was angry over my leaving because as he said, “I don’t want you to go.” 

I had a difficult time explaining why I was being called to strike out on my own and go from a reliable income to complete uncertainty as a self-employed consultant.  While financially it was not the best decision I’ve ever made, it has brought me innumerable benefits I would not have collected if I had remained.

Finding a Better Route

One of these benefits has been the realization that burning a bridge forces you to find another route.

Without the easy ability to rely on old relationships to fund my new consulting business, I was forced to find new relationships early on and not wait until after the well went completely dry.

While I might have gone along with conventional wisdom in my early working years and left no bridge unburned, I’m glad to look back at a few I burned on purpose and realize that it was for my benefit that I can no longer connect with those people again.

I’ve learned overtime that you can’t fix every relationship, nor should you try.

What bridges have you burned in the past that you are glad you did? What bridges are still in place that should have been burned down? What do you think is wrong with burning a few bridges? I would love to hear your thoughts and stories!

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————–
Jim Hopkins

Jim Hopkins is the CEO of JK Hopkins Consulting
He a Consultant, Coach, Author and Speaker in Organizational & Performance Health
Email | LinkedIn | TwitterWebsite | Blog | (562) 943-5776

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L2L Infographic: How to Become a Hero-Leader

15 Ways of How NOT to Kill Your Leadership Authority

 

Leadership (1)

Infographic Courtesy of EPOS Systems

L2L Infographic: Millennials and Business Leadership

What They Really Think

Millennials and Business Leadership
 

Infographic Courtesy of Brighton School of Business and Management

Leadership Rx: Spiritual Leaders Bring Healing to Others

Leadership Rx
 

Nowadays we witness many individuals who find their working life does not bring them hope but oppression.

Workers are losing their rights in many industries; others are cast aside with ease to bring temporary profit to the greedy. Increasing numbers of workers do not find the dignity and fulfillment that work ought to contribute to their lives, families, and communities.

Leadership Rx

A hope-filled spiritual leader sees these new tasks for leaders in dealing with individuals and organizations as a major responsibility.

They know healing is needed when people:

  • Focus exclusively on self-interest
  • Exhibit excessive internal competition
  • Constantly engage in comparisons with others
  • Evidence mutual blame
  • Lose vitality
  • Compromise their integrity
  • Deliberately do things they know are unethical

A leader also recognizes the need for healing when some in the organization are always marginalized; there are voiceless members, and widespread indifference to others’ needs.

Healing is clearly needed when administration restricts communication, misuses power, allows significant disparity in executives’ salaries, and governs autocratically.

Starting at the Top

When managers get in and get out of the organization with increased salaries and golden parachutes, having done nothing significant, then the organization and its board members need healing. When managers simply do not try to slow the erosion of values, then they also need healing.

Every organization has some individuals in pain, feeling loss, experiencing broken relationships at work and at home, suffering from a lack of meaning, and this sense of pain affects the quality of their work.

In fact, some within on organization need healing but do not know it.

Then again some sick individuals make everyone else sick without ever feeling anything themselves. A leader of hope has to heal the wounds caused by former bosses and also by coworkers. Some individuals adapt themselves to sick situations and then become as sick as everyone else.

No organization can function well amid unhealthy situations that sap vitality, creativity, and commitment. So, dealing with organizational dysfunctions is one of the challenges of a spiritual leader who wants to give hope to others.

A Leader of Hope

A leader of hope allows no one to feel inferior but raises them up to their just level of appreciation, showing empathy to all. Healing others is a major task of a leader of hope who thus enables others to become their complete selves.

This includes:

  • Healing relationships within organizations
  • Clarifying and refocusing roles
  • Setting goals together
  • Making sure channels of communication are open
  • Reflecting on each others’ gifts
  • Expressing recognition and appreciation of everyone’s contribution

The leader’s healing influence will vary for each member in need.

Some may feel they are taken for granted and a leader must give them visibility and prominence.

For others who have been the object of bogus empowerment by former failed leaders a leader of hope must give genuine, significant delegation. There are always members who feel used, often because they are, and a leader will need to heal by letting people feel at home in the organization and making them objects of sincere admiration and respect.

A Healthier Way to Lead

A good leader creates for those within an organization a healthy way of living together, and this implies risk taking. He or she will encourage others to get involved in the journey to wholeness, to share in common values, to become vulnerable as he or she manifests genuine emotions of heart and love.

Part of a healthy way of living together is to heal the loneliness of all around us, to awaken others to hope, to enable people to resolve conflicts constructively, to move them by making it clear that they are loved.

Leaders of hope restore others to healing through listening, empathy, and compassion, and even a sense of humor; healing broken relationships, restoring justice, and building a reconciling community.

A leader of hope will focus on values of colleagues, since a person without values causes problems for those around. Then the insidious destruction of the vision of hope causes everyone to live a reduced notion of what it means to be human.

Many so-called leaders do nothing about the hurt that surrounds them, but a spiritual leader seeks always to bring healing where it is needed.

So how are you doing at putting on your spiritual leader role and serving others with empathy, love and trust so that healing can be a natural part of your organization? If you need some improvement in this area, what steps can you take and what behavior can you emulate to become a healing leader? I would love to hear your thoughts!

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——————–
Dr. Leonard Doohand

Dr. Leonard Doohan  is an Author and Workshop Presenter
He focuses on issues of spiritual leadership
Email | LinkedIn | Web | Blog

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L2L Weekender: Tips for Small Business Online Leaders

Tools to Set Up Your Online Store to Grow Your Business

Online Shopping Cart
 

Many small business start-up leaders in the online sales space often do not know the best ways to insure that they have the right tools in their toolbox to insure a successful launch.

Without the right tools and procedures in place, money, opportunity and exposure can be left behind.

Today’s Tip: Your Online Store

Creating an Online Store

Do not waste any time. Create an online store to sell your products. You could be losing out. Start stocking your inventory online. It is a natural process. The setup does not require you to know HTML or technical codes.

Here are 4 aspects to help you set-up your online store:

Add-A-Store

Use a reputable e-commerce web design to assist you in setting up a store. You do not even have to start from scratch. You can turn your already existing blog into an online store. The plug-in works well with WordPress blogs. It is also compatible with Tumblr or Joomla. It allows you to sell up to 100 items.

The plug-in comes with a shopping cart feature that floats around allowing customers to add multiple products directly from your website. The built-in dashboard allows you to customize images, pricing options, and descriptions. Additionally, the checkout feature is secured with PCI.

Your Product Catalog

The online catalog allows you to display your products using multimedia images. You can feature up to 300,000 products varying in colors, shapes, and sizes. The number of photos for each product is unlimited. You will also get customizable templates.

The catalog also allows you to adjust bulk product pricing. You can use monograms to personalize products for each customer. Additionally, you can sell downloadable products such as software. You can control your inventory in real-time. Each time you make changes, it is automatically updated.

Your Storefront Design

You can create the front of your store to make it look appealing. The template has a checklist that shows you step-by-step how to set up the store. You can also make changes from any computer using the administrative tools as long as you have an internet connection. You do not have to download any plug-ins.

You will have access to editing tools such as DreamWeaver or FrontPage. They come with full CSS support. Various preformatted templates are available for use. You can modify the templates by changing colors, fonts, or the page layout. Do this from the admin panel. It also allows you to save multiple design themes.

You can also integrate codes into your HTML for your shopping cart in that you can organize how the information gets displayed to the customer. You can organize your own product display layout. Do so by inserting name, price, image, description, or whatever else needs to get added.

Your Marketing Tools

These tools for social media, comparison shopping, and SEO are built-in. You can run reports to see how well your site is performing with the SEO tool. Set up your post to automatically connect to Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms. Your customers can also post your products on social media with the click of a button.

In conclusion, anyone can create an online store. The steps are relatively easy. All the tools that you need to get the store up and to run are readily available. Some of the tools that you will have include Add-A-Store, Online Product Catalog, Storefront design, and Marketing Tools.

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———————

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Equipping Leaders to Battle Fear with Accountability

Leading with Honor Video Coaching from Lee Ellis

 

Six Leadership Obstacles to Team Success  

As leaders, we want the positive elements of success—achievement, notoriety, money, and excellence for clients and customers.

pilot plane But we’re unwilling to do the right things to get there. The missing cultural piece is courageous accountability.

What are the six obstacles that can get you off-course? Read Lee’s latest article below, and see where you’re vulnerable –

Read Now

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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders
——————–
Lee Ellis

Lee Ellis is Founder & President of Leadership Freedom LLC & FreedomStar Media.
He is a leadership consultant and expert in teambuilding, executive development & assessments
Email | LinkedIn | Web | Blog | Book | Facebook | Twitter

His latest book is called Leading with Honor: Leadership Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton.

 

L2L Book Review “Under New Management” by David Burkus

An Open Invitation To Join The Integrative Leader's Book Club

L2L Book Review Logo
 

David Burkus argues in his book Under New Management: How Leading Organizations Are Upending Business as Usual that the management practices that have evolved from the factory work economy just do not apply to today’s knowledge work economy.

Burkus walks the reader through compelling case studies of companies who have abandoned traditional management and leadership practices in favor of new ways to organize and lead.

His premise is this:

Burkus’s insights are convincing companies to leave behind decades-old management practices and to implement new ways to enhance productivity and morale. Fire all the managers, outlaw email, and make pay transparent.

L2L Book Review

Title: Under New Management: How Leading Organizations Are Upending Business as Usual

by David Burkus

Purpose:

NewManagement_3D

The purpose of David Burkus’s new book Under New Management is to find answers to these questions and more:

  • Do open-floor plans really work – or do they make employees miserable?
  • Are there companies which really put their employees’ welfare first, and their clients second?
  • Are annual performance reviews really necessary?

Premise:

Fire all the managers, outlaw email, and make pay transparent. These are all chapters in David Burkus’ new book “Under New Management”. David argues in this book that the management practices that have evolved from the factory work economy just do not apply to today’s knowledge work economy.

He walks the reader through compelling case studies of companies who have abandoned traditional management and leadership practices in favor of new ways to organize and lead.

A Reader’s Guide:

I found myself starting each chapter thinking that there would be no way that what I was about to read would work. But, by the end of most chapters, not only did I feel it was possible but optimal.

In my opinion, any book on leadership and management that gets me to pause and reflect is of great value. This book provides page after page of things to pause and contemplate.

New Book Club

The Integrative Leader’s Book Club

I was so energized after reading it, that I decided to feature it as this month’s selection in The Integrative Leader’s Book Club.

What is really exciting is, I was able to connect with David and he graciously agreed to join us for a live Q&A session.

Linked 2 Leadership is one of the best forums for leadership exploration. By nature, its readers are actively working to hone their craft. Therefore, I would like to personally invite you to join The Integrative Leader’s Book Club. Each month we pick a thought provoking book to read and discuss.

This club was created to help us lift our heads up from working in our business and allow us to spend a little time working on it. Leadership is a practice and the books read and the wisdom shared will help us all become better at our craft.

Sign-up Here.

I would also invite you to register for the online Q&A session with David on Monday, May 23at 11am Pacific.

Click Here to Register.

At the end of each month, I will post right here on Linked 2 Leadership a review of the book and some of the key learnings that our club gained and shared. Hopefully together, we can all become better leaders and develop future leaders that are well prepared to guide the organizations of the future.

I hope to see you in the club.

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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders
———————–
Elliot Begoun

Elliot Begoun is the Principal Consultant of The Intertwine Group, LLC.
He works with companies to Deliver Tools that Enable Growth
Email | LinkedIn | Twitter | Facebook | Google+GROW | Website

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Mentoring in the Workplace: Spreading the Knowledge

Sharing Knowledge
 

We often hear about the need for gaining and sharing organizational knowledge to further our careers, reach our goals (and create new ones), and make connections in various industries.

One of the best ways to share knowledge is also a vital part of the leadership toolkit – mentoring.

Mentoring in the Workplace

Mentoring is an essential leadership skill, and encompasses the professional development of others. Mentors show others the ropes, answer questions, and guide mentees in the direction they need to go.

When a new employee first meets with a mentor, the first question often is this:

What can you tell me about your experience at this organization?

Mentees must get oriented to their working environment and learn how to handle the challenges it poses. The mentor serves as a guide through those challenges with advice and constructive criticism, while paving the way to the mentee’s next goal or challenge.

Throughout the process, mentors build on their acumen as leaders and information sharers.

Sharing Knowledge

Sharing organizational knowledge is an invaluable part of mentoring, as much as it is a way to keep an organization’s business practices. Mentoring to share knowledge is different from traditional mentoring, in that there is more emphasis on practical applications than on organizational culture or building networks.

The key is to combine both types of mentoring.

Sharing information about an organization and teaching about its culture, mentors offer mentees a richer experience and a more complete picture of the organization and its needs.

Types of Knowledge

Knowledge management (KM) is the process of capturing, distributing, and using knowledge, and considers an integrated approach to sharing the information assets of a given organization. These assets include policies, databases, documents, procedures, and the expertise and experiences of individual employees.

KM looks primarily at two types of knowledge, explicit and tacit, which are the primary types of knowledge imparted to employees, especially via mentoring; a third type, embedded knowledge, can be found in processes, organizational culture, and ethics.

  • Explicit knowledge is codified, and can be found in documents and databases.
  • Tacit knowledge is more intuitive and is rooted in experience, context, and practices.

Learning How to Teach

One way to look at mentoring is to imagine teaching someone how to ride a bike. The act of learning to ride the bike is the tacit knowledge, while a set of precise instructions on how to ride the bike is the explicit knowledge. And embedded knowledge is the “rules of the road” to keep in mind while riding the bike.

Establishing mentoring relationships are crucial to fostering leadership skills and professional development, both for mentors and mentees. Mentors ensure the transfer of organizational knowledge and offer guidance to those who may one day become leaders themselves; mentees benefit from learning about their roles and the organization.

So how are you doing at creating an atmosphere and workplace that actively relies upon sharing knowledge, experiences, and expertise? If you are not doing this, what steps can you take now to implement a process of systematic mentoring to help people learn, grow, and develop? I would love to hear your thoughts!

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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders
———————
Linda R. Ranieri

Linda R. Ranieri is a Graduate Student in Communication
She works in the Medical Testing and Assessment Industry
Email | LinkedIn | Google+ | Web

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Communication Breakdown: Are You Resonating With Your Audience?

How Leaders Can Refine their Focus to Know their Audience

Communication Breakdown
 

Over the course of my career many leaders have lamented this: “Little I say seems to be resonating!?!?”

Although this can be very frustrating, it certainly does not mean that you should just stop communicating (as I’ve also heard…)

Knowing Your Audience

Problem:

Most likely, the failure to communicate effectively an indicator that you need to take more time to find out what makes your audience tick, and how and when they’re most receptive to information.

Solution:

Think about any questions and concerns they might have that will impede their ability to hear you. By anticipating audience needs and concerns, you can ensure that you shape your message in a way that will resonate with your listeners.

The Real Communications Challenge

As challenging as it can feel to state your thoughts clearly and concisely, the real challenge is shaping those thoughts clearly and concisely for your audience.

Employees (and any audience) want you to appeal to them in terms that speak to them and their needs, often on a personal and emotional level—yes, even if you’re just talking about work.

Especially if you’re talking about work.

When leaders don’t understand their audiences’ needs or perspectives, they make these two common missteps:

  • They mistake any communication for good communication
  • They communicate from their perspective instead of the audience’s

Your Communication Role as a Leader

As a leader it’s your job to use communication to help your audience make the connection between business objectives and their role in helping you meet them. But it’s important to understand that before you can get to the business big picture, you’ll need to address employees’ personal needs first.

At the end of the day, employees want to know “What’s in it for me?

They might articulate that need in any number of ways:

  • “How does this affect me?”
  • “What does this have to do with me?”
  • “What should I be doing?”
  • “Does anyone care about me?”

The Solution: Know Your Audience

Know your audience and speak to them. There’s real magic in addressing your audience’s needs first. When you do your audience is more likely to trust you, and as a result be more generous, open and receptive to big-picture, strategic communication.

All communication should always be tailored to the specific audience to make them aware of their role in the organizational whole.

That’s what leads to engagement and the discretionary effort all of us want.

Then, you can truly inspire employees to action as only a great leader can by giving them feelings of significance, community, and excitement through your communications.

Specifically as a leader you should:

  • Contextualize organizational information to ensure your team understands how it fits in.
  • Craft information so that it’s relevant to individual employees and teams.
  • Provide job-related information so that individuals and teams can do their jobs effectively.

When it comes right down to it, it doesn’t matter what you say, it’s whether you can make it relevant to your employees.

So, how clear are you about who EXACTLY is your audience? Have you developed the right mindset to serve them in a way that will work with them? Or are you stuck in a place where you seemingly don’t connect well? If you are, what would you do to get to a more effective platform for your audience? I would love to hear you thoughts!

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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

———————
David Grossman
David Grossman is Founder and CEO of The Grossman Group
He is a much sought-after Consultant, Speaker, and Executive Coach 
Email | LinkedIn | Twitter | Web | Book

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