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Some people that read this blog have school kids and look at this as an opportunity to start spending more time on their business. Some people reading this might go “OH DARN” that means traffic …
But most small businesses forget one really special event at this time of the year.
BACK TO SCHOOL $ALE$
That’s right, even if you don’t have kids, or your kids are well before or past the age of school, you can still take advantage of all those school supplies being on sale. There might be some back to school items you don’t need, but most “office” supplies are covered in the back to school sales. For example, mini staplers that can fit into a middle school locker can also fit in a purse or briefcase. Unless you have a locked office, I’m willing to bet that sometimes your pens wander off your desk. (Okay – even if you’re the only one that touches your desk I’m still willing to bet ballpoint pens disappear – see note below*). Every time I give a client a report or a contract, I put it in a two pocket folder. I rarely pay retail for those (they are either $0.10 or $0.15 during August). I know some consultants (I’m looking at YOU Michelle Smith at Z & B consulting) that often make use of colored markers and easel pads. Even if you don’t explore every sales flyer to find the “best” deals, you can’t walk down a school (office) supply aisle at this time of year without deals jumping off the shelf at you.
“Tips” image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
*In The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams has a theory that ballpoint pens slip off to their own planet and live (the ballpoint pen equivalent of) the good life. For their sake, I hope it’s true, because the ballpoints never stay on my desk.
The Best Laid Plans (or Drop Back Ten Yards and Punt)
“Each problem that I solved became a rule which served afterwards to solve other problems.” Rene Descartes
“A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort.” Herm Albright
Many business owners have plans. You can have a business plan, you can have action steps, and you can have detailed descriptions for every aspect of your business. Sometimes, of course, things don’t go as planned. I have two examples from different business owners I know that had “glitches” in the past week and how they overcame these.
I’m in a Mastermind group run by Michelle Smith at Z and B Consulting. We meet once a month for this group, and we were scheduled to meet on February 2, 2015. A few days before our scheduled meeting Michelle looked at the weather forecast and, well, the forecast didn’t look real pretty. As you can see from the attached photo (or from the photos many of my friends took out of their window over the weekend), it does look REAL PRETTY – but not very travel friendly.
Michelle, using the information she had available, decided that our monthly “meeting” would be held “virtually” using Fuze. I look forward to seeing and working with this fabulous group of people every month.
Meanwhile, in a completely different corner of the country (where snow is never an issue), another friend was preparing for a client call. This woman works with many of her clients virtually so often all she needs is a quiet place (like her home office) and a good Internet connection.
Of course, if she decides to upgrade her service (to BETTER help her fabulous clients) and there’s a “glitch” with the upgrade, this leaves no Internet connection for her client call (which she records as part of her best practices).
After discovering that the issue was with the upgrade, she managed to negotiate a free cellular Hotspot connection until the upgrade was completed on Tuesday.
We’re all going to run into glitches; let’s hope we all handle them as well as these two business women.
Photo courtesy of Amanda Wu at Amanda Wu, Photography, Copyright 2015
Yesterday I met a new person at a coaching event, and glanced at her blog. One of her articles:
I guess sometimes we all need a lesson.
How do these three things relate?
- A 5-part blog series on small business owners
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.
- 6 Tips for Expanding Your Personal Brand on LinkedIn. Susan Gilbert (entrepreneur.com)
- Make Your Brand Pop By Telling Your Story. Matthew Toren (entrepreneur.com)
- 3 Lessons From the ‘Breaking Bad’ School of Branding. Geoffrey James (inc.com)
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.
This week I’m celebrating National Small Business Week. I’m going to take the 5 “work” days of the week and give 5 “shout outs” to local small businesses. John Donne said that “No Man is an Island,” and this is more than true in business. Even a solopreneur (an entrepreneur who works alone) needs a support team; collaborators, brainstorming partners, or someone to tell them to keep on keeping on when they’re staring at an empty cup of coffee and a blank idea sheet.
What does the life of a typical musician look like. Well I actually have no idea but for one musician her life looks like, Director of Children’s Choirs at her church, instructor at two high schools, private lesson in her home, instructor at a nearby community college, playing with a small combo, not to mention continually learning through classes and private lessons and playing with the local symphony orchestra.
(Excuse me while I go take a nap)
For any business, be it a coach or a gift basket designer or a photographer or a graphic artist or a musician, when you look at what they do and think “gee, that looks easy” remember many hours go into perfecting any craft or skill. So even if you don’t need use of someone’s particular skills, keep your eyes and ears open, because you just might know someone that needs some gifts or music or design or coaching or accounting services or contracting or … and if you know and trust someone, refer your friends to them.