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5 Days of Celebrating Small Business #5

May 4-8 2015 is National Small Business Week. SBA_NSBW2015_FINAL_v2

I’m going to mark this occasion by posting some business tips (for small businesses) and articles each day geared toward small businesses.

 

 

 

IMG_6150The “Mom and Pop” meme. We’ve all seen it, that ubiquitous meme that surfaces every now and again that talks about how if you’re doing business with a small, locally-owned business, you’re helping someone get gymnastics lessons or helping a family pay a mortgage. While this is sort of sappy and sentimental, it’s also quite true. We need small businesses, and we need large businesses. (I really don’t want my neighbors to start designing and building and selling cars – we have neither the equipment or the know-how in my small neighborhood.)

But at this point in time I want to make one thing very clear. There may be some small business owners that are buying soccer gear or donating money to local charities – however, if you’re doing business with Mary Wu, Virtual Assistant for the next 4 years, you might as well just write out checks directly to The University of California at Berkeley.  — GO BEARS

 

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English: This is the logo of University of Cal...

English: This is the logo of University of California, Berkeley (Cal) Athletics for its own sports-related articles. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

5 Days of Celebrating Small Business #4

May 4-8 2015 is National Small Business Week. SBA_NSBW2015_FINAL_v2

I’m going to mark this occasion by posting some business tips (for small businesses) and articles each day geared toward small businesses.

 


Thanks and giving all year long.
Another tip from my own archives. Some tips for thanking your clients.

  1. ID-100113560Be specific. At a minimum, send out a note that says, “Thank you for your business this year.” But for special clients, if you’ve got the time, you can be more specific. “Thank you for allowing me to work on your project. I enjoyed learning more about Acme Widgets.
  2. Give a social shout out. If you have a client or service provider you’ve enjoyed working with, it’s a good idea to send them a note of thanks. It’s a GREAT idea to put that note of thanks in public view, whether through a shout out on their Facebook page or a testimonial on their LinkedIn page. If you do send a specific thank you note, be sure to let the person know they are welcome to use that information on their website or on LinkedIn. Give them permission to quote you in advance.
  3. Pass it along. If you have a service provider that has gone above and beyond for you, or if someone you know is always willing to help out or give just a little extra, don’t keep that secret to yourself. Your colleagues or friends might also be able to use their services.
  4. Go old school. Often it’s fairly simple to toss off an electronic thank you. Written thank you notes are even more appreciated. We all have mailboxes full of bills and junk mail. Send someone something that will brighten their day.
  5. Be authentic. When it comes time to send a thank you, be authentic. Your thank you note will mean more if it’s honest and heartfelt.

 

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Related songs 

Image courtesy of Naypong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Starting out

Naperville North High School

Naperville North High School (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Every year Naperville North High School does a report about their senior class. This year the number one college location for the 2014 Huskies is College of DuPage (a local two-year community college). The number one major … undecided.

It seems like a wonderful plan for many students. We’re lucky to live in a country with so many options for our young (and not so young) people. Before you send a high school graduate off to wherever they’re going next, how can a parent best help them?

Anita2This brings us to our fifth (and final) introduction for National Small Businesses. One way to help guide high school students is to contact an educational consultant such as Anita Gajula at College Prep Mentoring. Anita can work with students and their parents to find their way through the confusion that is the collection decision and application process.

(And really, anyone that can get more than two words out of my son deserves some recognition.)

(Click on the video below, you’ll be “Happy” you did).

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Starting Over

Recently I was reading about how President George H.W. Bush (41st President of the United States) celebrated his 90th birthday by skydiving.* You can watch the video at this link. While I’m pretty sure that I would never actually jump out of a perfectly fine airplane, I have to give kudos to President Bush for following his passion.

For the fourth in my small business series, I’d like to introduce you to Felicity. Sometimes it might be hard to pinpoint your passions. You might have so many that it’s hard to narrow down (and not all of us have the means that someone in the Texas oil business has to chase all our dreams). But for those of you rethinking your future goals and desires, or for those looking toward a promotion or career change, you can contact Felicity Solomon at Savvy Services.felicity2

Whether you’re thinking of a new career opportunity or trying to realize your dreams, a life coach would be a great person to have on your team. (After all, our 41st President couldn’t have jumped out of a plane without an entire team to help him).

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*He announced the jump on his Twitter feed. The fastest growing demographic on Twitter is the 55-64 year old age group.

 

Branding and Popeye

How do these three things relate?

English: Popeye Village in Anchor Bay, Malta, ...

English: Popeye Village in Anchor Bay, Malta, scenery of Popeye film. Deutsch: Popeye Village in der Anchor Bay, Malta, Kulisse des Films Popeye – Der Seemann mit dem harten Schlag. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  1. A 5-part blog series on small business owners
  2. Branding
  3. Popeye

They really do relate and I’ll get to that in a minute.

Recently a graphic designer I know wrote a blog post about logo design and how you shouldn’t be afraid to make it personal. (You can read it here).

Before I started my business, I took a virtual assistant course at the local community college. One of the topics covered in the course was logo design, and as part of the assignment I came up with the butterfly idea.

Six months later, when I met with my graphic designer, I realized that I was really tied to my butterfly. They represent (to me) freedom and growth and “becoming” what you truly are. This is what I want not only for me and my business, but for my clients and their businesses.

Someone once pointed out that there may be people that think that the logo is less than “professional” looking (and sometimes it’s a good thing to point out pros and cons of any business decision when someone is consulting you), but I knew that this had become such an integral part of my vision for my business that if someone was bothered by it, they probably wouldn’t really want to work with me. And that’s okay (I’m always meeting new Virtual Assistants and if someone wants someone else to work with I can arrange introductions).

This brings us to the two introductions I want to do for my series on small business owners.

Beth Tomas is a graphic designer and the person that posted the blog post that got my mind going in this direction. Beth’s tagline (I love Beth’s tagline) is “I turn your dreams into pretty pictures.” She will sit and she will listen to you and try to get to know you and create a logo (or web images or brochure or flyer or …) that best represents you and your business.

Melissa Noto is another graphic designer. I’ve seen some of the cards and flyers she’s created for other business owners I know and she does a fabulous job at representing you and your business.

Yes, I’m promoting two different people in the same field, and yes neither of them is Suzanne Wills, who I wrote about last year. I have seen work from both of these women and they both do a fabulous job.

The important thing when working with any service provider is to find someone that you are comfortable working with and who can best relate to you and tell your story, because when it comes to telling your story through your brand. You want to person that can best understand your story.

(You may now ask “Okay Mary, what on EARTH does any of this have to do with Popeye?”)

One thing Popeye always says is, “I am what I am and it’s all that I am” (except he says “yam” sometimes.) Be who you authentically are and you will soar like one of my butterflies.

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Record Your Legacy

mifunAs I did last year at this time, I’m celebrating National Small Business Week by doing a 5 part series of small business owners that I’ve had the pleasure of working with.

Today, we meet Wanda Schlafly at MiFun.

Recently I was taking one of those ubiquitous quizzes that one finds on Facebook. I’m sure you’re familiar with them. They propose to answer questions like, “Which TV mom are you?” when in reality they exist to mine data. One thing I’ve noticed from questions in some quizzes and results of some polls that are taken is that most of the data mining is trying to reach millennials. On the one hand it could make one surmise that once you reach a certain age, nobody cares what you have to say.

This is not true. And not only does Wanda Schlafly care what people have to say, she also cares to document it for posterity.

Wanda Schlafly is the owner of MiFun. Part of what she does is to teach seniors (or anyone) how to get the most use out of their iPads: how to connect using Face Time or Skype, how to share photos, how to connect with your children and grandchildren, and how to play gtames.

But the other part of what Wanda does is to help people make audio or video recordings of their life story. This is something to think about especially around Mother’s Day (or Father’s Day) when we realize that even if the data miners might not be interested in what certain groups of people have to say, it’s never too soon to get the family stories on tape, so that your children (and your children’s children) can connect with your parents (and your parent’s parents). No matter how independent we think we are, there are deep connections that run through a family.

 

*Okay, originally I was going to talk about how Wanda can, and does, help business people do videos that can promote your business on LinkedIn or YouTube. But let’s face it, we all can get a bit sentimental around Mother’s Day.

**On the other hand, you could surmise that if nobody cares what you have to say, you could say whatever you dang well please. This is why we love Betty White so much.

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Help is always given to those who ask

ID-10069211This week I’ve celebrated National Small Business Week by writing about 5 different entrepreneurs. They are all wonderful people and I’m glad to have them in my corner.

But you may ask, “What if I want to hang my own shingle, who can help me out?” You may also ask, “I’ve already got my business but I need some extra help.” Well I’d like to share a well-kept secret for you.

The US Government – you know, those folks in Washington that tend to waste our time and our money – every now and then they manage to get something right. One of the things they’ve managed to get right is to have two different groups under the umbrella of the U.S. Small Business Administration. One is SCORE (which used to be Service Core of Retired Executives but they changed the name after they determined it makes the advisors sound too old) and the Small Business Development Centers.

Both services offer volunteer mentors, both services offer business counseling and both offer free or inexpensive workshops or webinars. SCORE seems to have a website that’s easier to navigate.

One thing to remember about both of these services is since they are under the umbrella of the Small Business Administration, part of the funding comes out of your tax dollars. So if you’re a tax paying citizen, you’ve ALREADY paid for them.

Remember, when you’re staring at the blank business plan or you’re down to your last cup of coffee, call the Small Business Development Center or SCORE. They’re from the government and they’re here to help you.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.