Posts Tagged ‘small business’

Why You Should Say No, and 5 Ways to Do It

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I have talked a lot about how important it is to say no to the “good” in order to make room for the “best.” But I wanted to dive a little deeper into that concept so that you really understand how important this is. Because I want you to start saying NO, and often!

Too often in my consulting business, I talk with creatives who let their clients cross professional boundaries. They give in on their fees, they give in when pushed about their hours, they take clients that their gut says won’t be ideal, and they take on too many commitments and responsibilities. In each of those cases, they should have said no.

There’s often a fear factor at work, a fear that the client won’t work with us if we don’t say yes to right now, a fear that we won’t get any other clients than the one in front of us, and a fear of missing a great opportunity. And we even tell ourselves that we’ll just give in this once, that we won’t do it again later. But once you let that guard down, it becomes far too easy to let it down again and again. It becomes a habit.

You know there are so many other times in your life when you should say no, too. Like when someone asks you to take on something big “just as a favor.” Or when you get an invitation to the 15th event this month and you’re already stretched to the max.

Yes, I know how hard it is to say no. Especially when a friend is asking the question. So here are a few ways to start practicing how to say NO so you feel more comfortable saying it during those critical times. First, ask for time. If you feel yourself cracking, say something like “I’ll have to think about that and get back to you.” That gives you time to build up your confidence and to remind yourself of why you need to say no.

Second, make a mental post-it note that you can refer to over and over. It could say “You are the CEO of your life and you cannot give in.” Or it could say, “Is this the right decision for my business? For my family?” Whenever you feel cornered, picture that post-it in your mind. You can even make one for your desk so you can look at it when you’re on the phone or answering an email request.

Third, don’t make it personal. You’re saying no to the request, not to the person. It isn’t rude or “mean” to say no to something. You aren’t obligated to fulfill every request someone makes of you. You’re a busy professional with a jam-packed life, others should understand that sometimes you won’t be able to say yes.

Fourth, remember that there is strength in standing firm. People often test your limits to see how far they can get. And many times they don’t actually respect someone they see as a pushover. You can even say something like: “I know we’re both strong-willed people, and I wish I could give on this, but I really can’t.”

Finally, practice saying no. You can use a friend or family member as a sounding board, as someone to practice with before you meet with that pushy client or family member. Just like giving in can become a habit, so can saying no.

Let me know when you’ve faced a decision where you stood firm and said no, or where you wished you had, in the comments section below. Remember that you’re saying no to the so-so to give you the time and energy to say YES to the fabulous clients and opportunities that are out there waiting for you!

xo,

 

 

 

 

 

The CEO Mindset

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Whether you’re just starting out or have been in this business for years, we all know how stressful owning a design business can be. Not only are we the senior designers, but we’re the CEOs of the company. We have to handle the financials, the employees, our brands, our home life, and try to fit some designing in there somewhere.

Too many designers forget that this is a business, not a hobby. You have to commit to that idea – even if you may have started your business as a side job to begin with. You are the CEO of a company – say that to yourself over and over. Take it very seriously, or you won’t be successful.

It’s tough to be an entrepreneur and a small-business owner. Most of us get into this business by focusing on the parts we love – maybe for you it was a love of color, or the idea that you are transforming people’s homes with gorgeous interiors.

The part we don’t focus on, in most cases, is the enormous amount of hard work, of tough financial times, and of serious business management that it takes to be a CEO. So how can you act like a CEO? Here are a few things you must do:

  • You have to have a business plan. Do you have one?
  • You have to pay yourself – what business leader or CEO do you know that works basically for free?
  • You have to be clear on the goals you’ve set for your company and how you will achieve them.
  • And you must set financial benchmarks that your company has to hit to be profitable.

I can hear you saying: “Wait a minute, I just want to be creative and showcase my talents for the world. I don’t like all of the talk about working on financials or focusing on marketing. Where’s the fun in that?!” You’ll get to have fun in your business – but only if you aren’t constantly stressing about money or where your next client is coming from. And that takes hard work. It takes being a CEO.

In any business, creative or otherwise, a good 80% of your time will be spent on things that are not necessarily at the heart of the reason you started your company in the first place. Instead, you’ll be managing your business, working to attract new clients and customers, researching new revenue streams, and taking a hard look at your financials. If that doesn’t sound like something you can do, then you might want to think about working for another person or at a larger company.

Because these are the facts of owning a business. It is not a hobby or something that you can do halfheartedly. And yes, you can hire people to do some of that work, but that never excuses you from knowing every detail of your company at any given moment. YOU are the CEO.

I’m giving you this reality check because we need to take ourselves, and our business goals seriously. Think of yourself and your company as a start-up that is every bit as important as a Fortune 500 business. The CEO’s vision and commitment are critical to the path that gets a company onto that list – and your vision and commitment are critical to the success of your own company.

That is how you lead a company. That is how you act like a CEO.

Tell me what you think about these ideas in the comments section below! How do YOU take charge and lead your company?

xo,

 

 

 

 

 

4 Things A Small Business CEO Must Do

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Whether you’re just starting out or have been in business for years, we all know how stressful owning a business can be. Not only are we the creative engine, but also we’re the CEOs of the company. We have to handle the financials, the employees, our brands, our home life, and try to fit some creative thinking in there somewhere and that doesn’t even leave space for self-care and health, which needs to be our top priority if we want to have the stamina to run our company! So how in the world can we make it all happen? We can’t. But there are a lot of things we CAN do!

Too often, owners of creative businesses forget that they are in business, not just having fun with a hobby. You have to commit to that idea of having a real business – even if you may have started your business as a side job to begin with. You are the CEO of a company – say that to yourself over and over. Take it very seriously, let it sink in. Many times our businesses start to take off but we are still thinking of ourselves as a “little business owner” and we have to step into the shoes of CEO and own all that comes with that if we really want to make money.

It’s tough to be an entrepreneur and a small-business owner. Most of us get into this business by focusing on the parts we love, and putting the not-so-fun things off as long as possible. The part we don’t focus on, in most cases, is the enormous amount of hard work, of tough financial times, and of serious business management that it takes to be a CEO. So how can you act like a CEO? Here are 4 critical ways:

  1. You have to have a business plan. Do you have one? Even if you started without one, it’s never too late to create one and start making shifts in your business to align with it. In fact, sometimes its better to try your business for a bit first to get some clarity and then come back and write it. That way you have more information on what you want and what your consumers seem to be interested in.
  2. You have to pay yourself – what business leader or successful CEO do you know that works basically for free?
  3. You have to be clear on the goals you’ve set for your company and how you will achieve them. This means starting with your Why, then moving to your What and then creating a list of steps that are your How. And please put timelines on these goals for some accountability.
  4. And you must set the financial benchmarks that your company has to hit to be profitable. If you don’t know what that is, then you don’t have your finances in order.

I can hear you saying: “Wait a minute, I just want to be creative and showcase my talents for the world. I don’t like all of the talk about working on financials or focusing on marketing. Where’s the fun in that?!” Business can be fun – but only if you aren’t constantly stressing about money or where your next client is coming from. And that takes hard work. It takes being a CEO! In fact, having all of that “hard stuff” taken care of gives you the freedom to focus on the things that are essential to making you happy and giving you more control over your life.

The reality is that in any business, creative or otherwise, a good 80% of your time will be spent on things that are not necessarily at the heart of the reason you started your company in the first place. At least until you get all that working like clockwork.  You’ll be managing your business, working to attract new clients and customers, researching new revenue streams, and taking a hard look at your financials. If that doesn’t sound like something you can do (or will do), then you might want to think about working for another person or at a larger company. That isn’t a knock on you! It really is a decision you might want to make for your overall happiness. Not everyone is cut out to be a business owner and especially a CEO.

Taking these 4 critical steps is the reality of owning a successful business–one that makes you the money you dream of. Being profitable, really profitable, is not a hobby or something that you can do halfheartedly. And yes, you can hire people to do some of that work (or outsource the work preferably), but that never excuses you from knowing every detail of your company at any given moment. YOU are the CEO.

I’m giving you this reality check because we need to take ourselves, and our business goals seriously. Think of yourself and your company as a start-up that is every bit as important as a Fortune 500 business and one day it may be one. The CEO’s vision and commitment are critical to the path that gets a company onto that list – and your vision and commitment are critical to the success of your own company. If you have that great framework in place, you can build the business of your dreams!

And when you get the foundation of your business and your finances in place, then you can start to prioritize and adjust things so you have a life again, so you take care of yourself and so that your business is really fulfilling not just financially but emotionally.

So are you running your business like a business or a hobby? What areas are you not serious about or are you hiding from? Finances? Client Development? Other areas?

If things are running well and you’re making money, what will you do next? I’ve made a lot of BIG decisions this year so I’ll be a happier, healthier, and more fulfilled CEO. Have you made any big leaps like that? Let me know in the comments section below!

xo,

 

 

 

 

If you need help in your finances, check out my Financials for Creatives E-course. If you are a Designer or Creative my online Designer MBA E-course or my  live version of Designer MBA course coming up in California this May will help you get the foundation of your business in shape and ready to become really profitable. And if you want one on one help, consider a strategy day with me where we dig into the details of your business together and make a plan to create the business and life you dream of!

 

5 Tips for Solving Customer Service Issues

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We ALL make mistakes, it’s the nature of the business. But it’s how you deal with those mistakes that can make or break your company. And yes, maybe the customer was at fault or maybe the contractor or subcontractor is the one who created a huge mess, but none of that matters.

Playing the blame game will only get you in a bigger mess with your clients, so don’t start doing that. Your job is to remember the customer really is always right – or at least they need to feel like you’re going to make it right for them! Because the way you deal with mistakes is going to decide if your client is reasonable, AND how they are going to talk about you in the future…to other prospective clients! It’s that important, so always make it right.

So here are 5 things to do to get those customer service issues nipped in the bud:

1. Stop, listen, and ask questions. Yes, you have to really really really listen to them. What are they really upset about? What is the issue and how did it happen? Sometimes your customer wants to just vent and get it out of their system, so do not interrupt, do not try to give them a solution too soon. You want to let them feel like they have been heard completely and fully. If your client is more uncommunicative, you need to be the one to reach out and to get to the bottom of what the problem is. But be sure your tone of voice is caring and concerned, not like you want to interrogate them.

2. Think about things from their point of view. It’s oh-so-easy to just think your client is high-strung and way too demanding, but that won’t help anything. Think of it from their point of view. This is a lot of money for them, it’s one of the most personal places in their lives (namely their house) and they are worried about every aspect of it. They want it to be right, just like you do.

3. Apologize sincerely. You need to apologize fully and completely – don’t do any halfway or passive-aggressive apologies. People see right through those immediately. Again, you want them to feel that they are being heard and understood. If it’s your fault, take that hit and accept the blame. People really respect someone who can stand up and say “I did this and I apologize.” Too many want to hide behind someone else or just not accept that they did anything wrong. Don’t be that person. And if someone else is really to blame, the buck still stops with you. So you can say “I am so sorry this happened,” even if the contractor is the one who made the mistake. Just don’t throw anyone under the bus (especially your own team members) and don’t start pointing fingers. When emotions are high, that does not help.

4. Don’t get angry. Yes, clients can make us all mad, but we have to be the person in control in any confrontation with our clients. They are already stressed and uptight about spending money and allowing someone else to have control in their homes. So they probably aren’t going to react the way they normally would in any stressful situation that comes up. You have to be the calm, cool, and collected person, even when you want to scream. So do whatever you have to do to stay calm – count to 10, step outside for a second, think about fluffy kittens. If you get angry, it will only escalate the situation and that isn’t going to help at all.

5. Do what you have to do to make it right – and FAST. Sometimes, you’re going to have to eat the cost of that $5,000 sofa. Or you’re going to have to have someone re-hang all that wallpaper at your expense. It is what it is. But think about it this way – if you spend $5,000 now, you may have a client for life. Or at least a client who will tell others how amazing you are. So think of it as a marketing expense. Communication is KEY. Like it always is. This is the time to really over-communicate what you’re doing, how you’re doing it, and when a solution will be ready. You want the customer to really feel that you’re resolving everything as quickly, efficiently, and painlessly as possible for her. So be sure you tell her that.

And yes, I know there are some mistakes or issues that are SO big that a client may not be appeased with anything at all. But it’s still better to try to make it as right as you can. Send them a note, email them, call them – even if they’ve said they want to cut ties with you.

It’s better to have tried and let them know that you do care. Most clients will come around eventually – but you have to do the hard work to get them back into a good place.

If you follow these steps, you should be able to smooth over any bumps in the road for your customer service!

xo,