FREE Play time in workplace Don’t think about it!! Play about it!!

Posted by the7stages on March 18, 2015
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The concept of work just doesn’t seem that fun. And sadly millions upon millions of people go into work, even work of their own creation, and get the life sucked right out of them.

What if work was more like play? Remember when you were a kid and you and your friends and siblings could get lost for entire days in the invention and implementation of play?

Play in the workplace can manifest in various forms. Businesses that support play may allow a recess-like period where employees can explore creative outlets and pursue independent activities. These workplaces may also offer playful amenities like rock climbing walls, game rooms, or scooters for transportation. When an employer does not support play, employees who recognize the benefits it has on their performance and well-being can still find ways to incorporate it into their workday. Creating a more playful environment at work can be as easy as putting a toy on your desk!

“Play” lights up employees. Why? It brings out such values as curiosity, learning, development, collaboration and being in co-creative relationships with others. Play speaks to the human side of business. It’s fun, developmental, positive and when freely initiated its self-organized. Play is a developmental and life-long activity.

Companies that are consistently rated the “Best Companies to Work For” by Fortune Magazine offer services and programs aimed to make the workday less stressful and more enjoyable for employees. Services such as high quality childcare, free laundry, on-site life coaching and health care, and afternoon yoga classes help the human connection within a company while reassuring the employees that they are valued. Most companies on this list have consistently seen an increase in productivity and revenue as a result of offering such perks. Another great advantage of allowing such programming is that employees feel more fulfilled because they are satisfying more than just a financial need by working.

Ranked at number forty-four, Intuit (makers of TurboTax) encourages workers to take four hours a week of “unstructured time” to play with new ideas and inspire creativity in their own ways. Google, number four on the list, also allows time for employees to pursue independent activities during the workday. This recess-like period provides employees with a time to be creative and to de-stress!

These innovative companies have redefined the workplace in terms of expected employee behaviors and the rigid, strict roles we have previously set for them. Encouraging playfulness strengthens social bonds, workplace satisfaction, and overall well-being in a way that has benefits for an entire company. By investing some time and effort into showing employees they are valued, companies can expect to see a decrease in turnover and absenteeism, and an increase in productivity, efficiency, health, and morale!

The bottom line is: a paycheck is no longer enough to satisfy the needs of working Americans! The workplace has the potential to offer programs, services, and an environment that can help balance our lives. Check out some of the qualities of these companies that make them the best…Fortune Magazine’s Top 100 Companies to Work For.

What adjectives come to mind when thinking about play? Some common responses may be: fun, imaginative, enchanting, elusive, and creative. What if I were to tell you that when play is incorporated into the workplace, it could also be described as: productive, healthy, innovative, and profitable? By shifting our business model to one that embraces play, we can revitalize the work environment, decrease stress, and promote fresh creativity and job satisfaction! Here are just some of the benefits of promoting a playful workplace:

1) Play can increase productivity, innovation, and creativity. Incorporating play into the workplace produces valuable results. Risk taking, confidence in presenting novel ideas, and embracing unusual and fresh perspectives are common characteristics associated with play that are also integral to a successful work environment.

2) Play can increase job satisfaction, well-being, and strengthen social bonds. Employees experiencing positive emotions are more cooperative, more social, and perform better when faced with complex tasks. Encouraging play will increase employee happiness, and happier workers have been shown to be more productive.

3) Play can decrease absenteeism, stress, and health care costs.Allowing play not only shows employees that they are valued, it also helps them lead a more balanced life. The activity and stimulation involved in play lessens the stress of work, which leads to less illness and a more positive attitude.

4) Play is a great way to connect

People are drawn to playfulness. It can be a defining personality trait of a brand or simply a way that you approach the things you need to do. Playful handbooks, emails and policies help people feel good about this thing we call work. Laughter is one of the greatest connectors in the human toolbox and study after study has proven the positive mental and physical health benefit offered by play. Who dictated that business and work was meant to be so darn serious anyway?

5) Play is super food for creativity

Creativity is the life-blood of any vibrant business and most of the work we end up doing leads to clogged creativity over time. Get the office together once a day and have a white board drawing contest or crank up Pandora and play name that artist and watch how the creativity begins to re-flow.

6) Play builds teamwork

The basic framework of most games depends upon teammates working together, within a set of rules, to achieve a common objective. Now that sounds like a healthy work environment to me. Take that up a notch and get people outdoors, into nature working together, playing a game and watch how quickly they resolve differences and work together.

7) Play reduces stress

Work can be downright stressful at times and play provides an outlet to reduce the physical and mental damages caused by stress. Play doesn’t have to mean a full-blown pick up basketball game in the warehouse either. We have two office dogs and I always feel recharged after taking them for a romp around the community garden that sits right outside my office. Dogs can teach us a thing or two about play.

8) Play doesn’t seem like work

When you are engaged in a game you enter what Psychiatrist and writer Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes as a flow state. The state many gamers suggest takes over and allows them play for days on end. Now, I’m not suggesting that you install an X box 360 in every cube, but I do think you can add game like elements to just about every function. Creating sales contests, allowing people to win prizes for scoring points, and designing ways to turn reporting on objectives into games are just a few of the ways that organizations keep work fun.

Play is an attitude that can run through every element of what makes a company what it stands for. Playfulness has its own brand of attraction and every organization could benefit by creating a position responsible for keeping play alive inside and out.

9) Free play vs managed play

Free play equates to making it up as we go – improvisation – as many kids still have the freedom to do. They hang with other kids and they’re left to their own devices: lots of learning in that kind of play.  On the other hand, managed play is being part of an organized activity where there are coaches, parents and others with expectations: lots of different learning in that kind of play.

Free play is where we’re given free rein to use our imaginations, our inventiveness, our resourcefulness, and find our innate leadership, and followership.

Carl Gould is a business strategist, and growth expert. He has written 5 books in the area of creating business success, and is the co-host of the weekly radio program, ‘Quit and Get Rich’ (www.gteamradio.com). Carl and his team of experts advise companies and organizations to grow to the next level. What is the next level for you?

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How much can an Entrepreneur Delegate?

Posted by the7stages on February 18, 2015
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Ready, Set, Delegate!

In most cases it takes good people to grow a business, and for an entrepreneur, this means delegating and trusting others to deliver the results that will grow the firm. Hiring the right people, engaging them in the pursuit of their dreams and giving meaning to the employees who are building the business requires different skills than those needed to launch a business. Readers will learn what those skills are and how the entrepreneur can use them to achieve smart growth.

Prove that you want to grow your business. Go ahead, tell us not how much you did today, but how much you didn’t do. Sound crazy? The key to growing your company as big and as fast as you want may be getting very good at not doing any work. Here’s why: “It’s impossible to grow a business without delegating. You can only increase your workload so much,” says Ralph Rubio, co-founder and CEO of Rubio’s Baja Grill, a $40 million restaurant chain based in San Diego that dominates the fish taco business on the West Coast.

Task At Hand

Steve Leveen, co-founder and CEO of Delray Beach, Florida-based Levenger, a $70 million catalog company specializing in upscale products for readers and writers, vividly recalls when he hired his first nonfamily employees. It was a year after start-up, and, says Leveen, “I felt great relief. The people we hired helped with packing orders. That was a great boost to my productivity because I could then focus on areas that would help us grow.”

Delegation 101

It’s easy to talk about delegation–but is it easy to do? “Delegation is very hard to do right,” says Susan Leeds, managing director of The Ayers Group Inc., a New York City human resources consulting firm. “Smart delegation takes thought and planning.” That means delegation isn’t simply sweeping your desk clean and blindly handing off all the tasks on your to-do list. “You need to approach delegation with a plan in mind,” says Leeds, who teaches a multistep delegation process to clients. The first step is careful thought about what to delegate.

That’s a crucial question, mainly because some tasks should be handled personally. There are tasks that aren’t suited to delegation, says Ron Riggio, a psychology professor at Claremont McKenna College’s Kravis Leadership Institute in Claremont, California.

What can’t you delegate? There’s no rule of thumb; let your instincts guide you. You probably wouldn’t delegate thinking about the products your company will offer next year, but you might delegate a survey of current customers regarding improvements they’d like to see in your products. Either way, a building block for effective delegation is knowing what tasks are yours and yours alone.

The next step in Leeds’ plan is to determine the results you want to achieve. That means not telling employees to make some phone calls about past-due invoices. That’s too vague. Instead, be specific. A more defined goal might be to get customers with past-due bills to agree to a payment schedule. Knowing the results you want is your job, not the job of employees to whom you delegate.

Step three is to decide which person is right for the task, says Leeds. A salesperson might not be the right person to make collection calls, but perhaps your bookkeeper is. Either way, match skills and personality to the task–that will maximize productivity.

The fourth step is to decide what controls and checkpoints you’ll put on the person to whom you’re delegating. How often will the person report back to you? What signal means it’s time to shout for help? Get very specific about these steps because that will make delegation work smoothly, both for you and employees.

Fifth, motivate the person to whom you’re delegating. If you’re handing off important work, you want the subordinate to be fired up to get results. “Link the new job to what motivates that employee,” says Leeds. If the employee is there to learn, present the task as a development opportunity. If visibility is important, present it that way. “Make sure what you delegate is appropriate [for the employee],” Leeds says. And sell what you delegate–don’t just hand out tasks.

The last step is accountability. “Effective delegation means holding people accountable for the jobs that are assigned to them,” Leeds says. A big mistake here is that bosses often expect the employee to fail–and readily take the task back to do themselves. Don’t. That’s a quick way to undermine employee effectiveness and, in the bargain, guarantee employees will never develop in the ways you need them to if your business is to reach the level you want.

Letting Go

Follow these steps and, odds are, your delegation skills will improve dramatically. There’s one more huge hurdle to jump, however. That occurs when employees start doing the work you’ve delegated, but they’re not doing it the way you would have done it. “This is a major issue for entrepreneurs,” says Dailey. “It’s painful for them to accept that there are other ways to get jobs done and that oftentimes, the way the employee did the task is good enough.”

Tasks that keep you from growing your business
When Levey and his team realized that the hours they spent on a bike en route to product samplings were not enabling them to scale to a nationwide platform, they hired a demo team. “Getting customers to trial something is important, but we also realized it wasn’t a good use of our time, because it wasn’t conducive to our long-term growth,” he says.

Independent contractors were brought on to handle sampling and inform customers about the products’ nutritional facts; that freed Field Trip’s founders to pursue new accounts, which today include several major grocery chains, as well as JetBlue Airways, Vitamin World and Costco.

Activities that will help speed up cash flow
As a small company represented in huge grocery stores with more than 50,000 SKUs, Field Trip found that its relatively modest invoices often would get overlooked. “Checks for $100 get lost against the $10,000 checks pretty easily, so we were hounding the stores just to get paid,” Levey explains.

The founders discovered that hiring distributors not only got them paid faster, it also enabled them to get paid with a few large checks rather than many small ones. The company now employs more than 25 distributors.

“By delegating that work to distributors, our accounts receivable have significantly improved, as has the timing of our working capital,” he says. “We’re getting our money faster, and we’re also getting checks that were previously going unpaid because we didn’t have time to follow up on them.”

3. Areas that are out of your wheelhouse
Ryan Fleming, co-founder of Long Beach, Calif.-basedRemindGrams.com, delegates tasks that would require too much time for him to learn and master. That is one of the factors to which he credits the success of his 24/7 concierge service, which keeps a virtual eye on the well-being of loved ones.

Fleming has turned to services such as Elance and Fiverr to outsource web design, creation of video and web content, SEO, social media activities and PR. “The SEO stuff is well over my head, but when you have someone who can help you understand how the Google algorithm works, it’s a game-changer,” Fleming says, adding that he attributes many of his company’s 400-plus users to the success of the keyword “RemindGrams.” “It would take me about five years to create [animation] online, so delegating out those types of digital assets is a no-brainer for me. It definitely pays for itself.”

4. Tasks that are already streamlined
Hard work goes into developing processes that allow employees to increase their efficiency while still meeting in-house quality metrics. But once those processes are in place, there’s no reason to be the person who implements them on a day-to-day basis. After launching Venice, Calif.-based online inventory and order-management software Lettuce in 2012, CEO Raad Mobrem saw his staff expand from two people who did everything to 13 within three months.

While exciting, the period was fraught with organizational headaches and growing pains. So he divided the company into sales, marketing, customer support and product. In each of those areas, processes were put in place so managers could easily delegate tasks when needed.

“When something needs to be done, we can walk an employee through our current processes and say, ‘Here’s what we like to do, and this is how we do it.’ It’s a clear path of where we’re going and how we do things,” Mobrem says, noting that Lettuce now has 15 employees and thousands of users. “As a result, we went from chaos to really well-delegated processes and tasks that everyone is able to complete in a timely manner.”

5. Tasks in areas with often-changing regulations
Brian Fox, president and founder of Brentwood, Tenn.-based Confirmation.com, is a CPA who tries to stay up to date on the latest changes in the field. But he says he “wouldn’t even think about” doing the accounting for his electronic audit confirmation services firm, even in the leanest of the startup days.

“The rules change so often that if you’re not in it day to day, you’ll miss something, from a tax standpoint or an accounting application standpoint,” he says. “You need somebody who does that as their full-time job.”

Fox outsources his legal, accounting and insurance needs to outside agencies that are current on specific regulations.

Waverly Deutsch, professor of entrepreneurship at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, says delegating to a specialist is a good call when the cost of making a mistake might be high. “When you’re dealing with a government agency like the IRS, EPA or immigration, you don’t have any power, and the risk of doing it wrong–and facing stiff consequences–is enormous. Those are areas where you definitely should delegate to an expert,” she says.

6. Projects that impede development
While Fox enjoys the product development side of his business, he has trouble presenting his thoughts in enough detail for a technology team to take over. Instead, he hands off that part of the process to avoid becoming a bottleneck within his own operation.

“I was holding up our development, so we brought in a product person that I could share the idea with, but then they could do all the legwork,” he explains.

Today the company has a team that takes ideas for new products, enhancements and modifications and writes detailed specs so the technology team can create them.

7. Anything you want your team to learn
Bob Marsh–CEO of Detroit-based Level-Eleven, which creates motivational software for sales teams–says one of the best ways to get employees to internalize something he wants them to learn is to let them complete the task themselves. While he could simply tell his sales team how he’d like them to do a specific task, he finds that it’s more effective to ask someone to take the lead on the activity so they can get the team together and come up with best practices.

“It helps people internalize it, because they’ve made their own thoughts and decisions on it,” Marsh says.

8. The stuff you simply hate to do
Many ‘treps agree that handing off the tasks they can’t stand helps them maintain their drive and enthusiasm, which is critical to their company’s success. After all, that’s why they work for themselves.

“I really believe you should do the things you enjoy and have fun doing, and delegate the rest,” says Fox of Confirmation.com. “That’s what excites you when you wake in the morning, and what you’re thinking about when you wake in the middle of the night with a brand-new idea. It’s not: ‘Oh my gosh, here’s a new tax law I can apply.’

You’re thinking about how to grow the business. That’s what gets you excited, that’s what gets you motivated, and that’s what helps you succeed.”

Source

The typical entrepreneur’s “Achilles’ Heel” is that they spread themselves too thin, work on too many tasks at the same time, start new projects constantly and micromanage projects and details that they should delegate. They become overwhelmed by the increasing demands on their time and begin losing the passion for their business and working harder without getting the results they want.

Your success and freedom as an entrepreneur depend on your ability to focus on what you love and do best and eliminating and/or delegating everything else. You should focus on the activities you’re brilliant at, passionate about and that will take your business to the next level.

Harv Ecker, CEO of Peak Potentials Training, offers this sage wisdom on how Poor vs. Wealthy Business Owners think about business. Which one are you?

Poor:  Struggle because their business is dependent on them.
Wealthy:  Set up a business that works without them; using teams, delegation and systems.

Poor:  Play it safe
Wealthy: Take risks

Poor:  Do everything themselves
Wealthy: Create teams and delegate

Many entrepreneurs know they should delegate but find it challenging to let go. So many fall into the trap of doing everything themselves – being a lone ranger. It takes a village to operate and grow a successful business.

How Can You Learn To Delegate?

The good news is that delegation is a skill that can absolutely be learned. The first place to start is with your mindset. To leverage the skills of others effectively, you need to be willing to:

  • Believe that success is possible
  • Examine your reality – what’s working and what’s not
  • Experiment and take calculated risks – engage in the process of growing your business and developing professionally
  • Assess your productivity – being busy doesn’t  always mean you’re being productive
  • Recognize that the primary purpose of your business is to serve your life, not the other way around

Dan Millman, in “Living on Purpose” tells us: “In the real world, those of us who are most productive, successful, and satisfied focus not on fixing feelings or manipulating thoughts, but on what needs to be done – and then doing it – no matter what thoughts or feelings arise.”

4 Common Myths About Delegating

Myth #1: “I’ll lose control of my business if I delegate and things will fall through the cracks.”

Are you a control freak?

Reality: There is a wide range of freedom and authority that you can give to your team member. When you use a delegation and team building system, it will allow you to manage the process effectively, instead of micromanaging people.

Myth # 2:  “If I want something done right, I have to do it myself.”

Are you a perfectionist?

Reality: Other people can do the tasks as good as, and many even better than you. Yes, really:)  Delegation will bring you massive results when you build a team that is focused on doing what they’re brilliant at and are the best fit for you.  Moreover, when you learn effective delegation techniques, you can ensure that things will get done the way you want.

Myth # 3: “I can’t trust anyone else with my business.”

Reality: If you want to achieve success, risks are necessary for business growth. Delegation requires a calculated risk where the potential benefits (ROI) and costs are weighed. Many of us have natural tendencies that can keep us from letting go. When I did my DISC Behavioural Profile I learned strategies to modify my perfectionist tendencies that would hinder me from delegating effectively. I got a comprehensive understanding of my gifts and weaknesses, which helps me with team building – to choose the right partners and teach others how to best communicate with me.

Myth # 4: “I can’t afford help.”

Reality: You can’t afford not to delegate! There is a simple formula that guarantees you a high return on investment in outsourcing.  You will need to know:

  1. How much your time is worth hourly or how much more revenue you could generate in a month if you had more time
  2. The hourly cost of outsourcing a specific task

Here’s an example of the formula:

Your Virtual Assistant spends 10 hours on tasks taken off your plate: Investment = $300 With 10 extra hours you’ve gained, how many new clients could you handle?
1 client = $300 you break even 2 clients = double your ROI 3,4, 5 .. clients? You get the idea!

You will get an even higher ROI when you delegate revenue-generating activities!

It’s important to recognize though, that ROI is not only about money. Often an idea is viable if: it moves you closer to your vision of success; if it will increase your credibility with clients that would lead to more opportunities, or if it will give you an emotional feeling of fulfillment or completion. I call this creating a “wealthy lifestyle”!

Prosperous entrepreneurs have gone through the growing pains of letting go to get the help they need. Robert Kiyosaki, author of Rich Dad’s Guide to Investing, tells us “The moment you begin to think of time as precious and that it has a price, the richer you will become.”

Are you ready to make a change? What would it be like to enjoy more success, freedom and create a wealthy lifestyle with delegation? What resources do you need to help you? What is the first step you need to take?

Carl Gould is a business strategist, and growth expert. He has written 5 books in the area of creating business success, and is the co-host of the weekly radio program, ‘Quit and Get Rich’ (www.gteamradio.com). Carl and his team of experts advise companies and organizations to grow to the next level. What is the next level for you?

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Every year, thousands of Americans blow their budgets come December

Posted by the7stages on January 13, 2015
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Every year, thousands of Americans blow their budgets come December — and while they may be tempted to blame that on the dough they fork over for gifts (ahem, office Secret Santa), that explanation is only a small part of the reality.

While some of this spending is, of course, on gifts — a Nielsen survey found that Americans plan to spend 10% more on gifts this year than last and a YouGov survey noted a likely 8.7% uptick — plenty is spent on other things (many of which we don’t tend to budget for).

Overall, 10% of consumers say they plan to spend more this year than they did last year, and multicultural households account for 43% of the projected extra spending: 17% African-Americans; 13% Asian-Americans; 13% Hispanic. Additionally, fewer people plan to spend less than they did last year (21% vs. 23%, respectively). THE ECONOMIC BACKDROP LEADING INTO THE 2014 HOLIDAY SEASON

When it comes to holiday-related spending, the fastest growing areas of spending are non-gift items, says Allison Paul, vice chairman and retail sector leader at Deloitte. This year, Americans plan to spend $195 on holiday parties they throw in their own homes, up 22% from last year (vs. a 13% increase for holiday spending overall), and they plan to spend 15% more than last year on attending holiday events/socializing away from home (this might include things like new clothes for an event or buying a gift for a hostess) and decorating their homes for the holidays.

Read more on DailyWorth: http://www.dailyworth.com/posts/3137-the-cost-of-the-holidays#ixzz3LM1fuZpL

How can consumers appropriately plan and budget for these costs so they don’t start the New Year in debt?

Cash In Rewards to Pay for Gifts
Rather than popping gifts onto that interest-bearing credit card, Mint.com spokeswoman Holly Perez recommends consumers cash in rewards on credit cards or other loyalty programs to pay for gifts. “Redeeming points for merchandise or gift cards can take up to four to six weeks for delivery so now is a great time to start,” she says. Woroch adds that you can often redeem rewards for gift cards, “which make perfect presents or can be used to offset the cost of a gift” and you can also give miles as a gift or turn them into actual products like cookware or a gadget.

Perez adds that some cards are running special promotions offering extra points during this time of year. “Find out what promotions can help you maximize your rewards,”she says. “You could get some of your holiday purchases for free when you are savvy about your credit card use.” But, of course, you must make sure you pay off that balance in full and on time or these rewards likely won’t be worth it at all.

Have a Talk About Holiday Spending With Friends and Family
“There’s no shame in telling people that this year will be a lean holiday season when it comes to exchanging gifts,” says Steve Siebold, author of the book “How Rich People Think.” Perez says that when it comes to talking to family it’s important to establish spending guidelines. “Depending on the age of your children, you can touch on how much they can spend and what they can expect … maybe even give them extra chores to earn money for holiday spending,” she says. When it comes to the rest of the family, she says you should consider a Secret Santa gift swap, making charitable donations in honor of each other, a cookie swap or organizing a gift-free potluck family dinner to save money.

Consider Layaway
Woroch notes that many retailers are offering free layaway programs this year, which while certainly not for everyone (and they come with risks), “serve as good options for shoppers who are carrying a revolving balance, don’t have a credit card and simply don’t have cash to buy the gift upfront but don’t want to miss out on the deal or want to secure the gift before it sells out,” she says. She adds: “It’s a better option than relying on a high-interest credit card and you just stash your cash toward it every week until the deadline right before Christmas — for many people, this works better than simply stashing your cash into a savings account because you are actually being held accountable for it.

The holidays mean spending dough on a sleigh full of presents, but it doesn’t mean you have to slay your bank account or credit balance in the process. You know what we mean: Green as a Grinch, dollar bills fly out of your pockets as you pay and pay and pay for all the extras. To avoid the burden of overspending this season, we recommend taking a look at these seven expenditures that offer wiggle room for extra savings.

Electricity

Are you competing in the neighborhood Christmas-light contest? Is your front lawn visible from space during December? Let your lights shine if that’s your thing, but be prepared for the power bill spike in January.

Visitors

Every family has one. It’s the house that everyone flocks to during the holiday season. That means, at some point in December, you could have 32 people sprawled out across every room in your house. That’s 32 showers, and 32 bowls of cereal, and 32 opportunities to spill a drink on your white carpet. Make sure you budget for the visitors.

Shipping

First, you’ve got all the stamps for your Christmas cards. Then, for the people you’ll actually be sending presents to, there are all of those pesky shipping costs. Don’t procrastinate, because shipping overnight isn’t cheap—or even guaranteed—during the Christmas season.

Stocking stuffers

You’ve got the candy. Then there’s the $3 toy car. And the little thingamajiggy that does the little loopty-loop in the kitchen. Then there are the tiny little gift books. For your budget, stocking stuffers can be death by a thousand cuts. Keep it simple.

Gas

We’re talking about the kind you use while waiting in mall traffic, while traveling to the in-laws house, while doing the 4,000 things you’ve scheduled during the holidays. . . . Don’t forget about the gas. Maybe you’ve noticed that it isn’t cheap!

Wrapping paper

You’d be surprised at how much we spend on wrapping paper every year. Get the cheap stuff—the really cheap stuff if you can. Why spend a lot of money on something that will be ripped to shreds in less than three seconds?

Food

Of course, there’s party food if you’re hosting a party. But if you have overnight visitors, don’t forget about snacks and all the basics like bread and milk and bagels. It’s easy to get caught up in the “main event” food like ham and turkey and dressing while forgetting about all the other little food expenses.

Charity

Hopefully, you haven’t forgotten about giving, so here’s our reminder: Don’t forget about giving to charity! Don’t let this be a hidden cost. Sit down right now and make giving a part of your Christmas budget.

The greatest way to avoid hidden costs is to plan ahead! Don’t let these items sneak up on you, and you’ll have a much less stressful Christmas—the way it’s meant to be.

While entertaining family and friends is all part of the Christmas experience, worrying about how you’re going to pay for it shouldn’t be. With our guide, you can avoid any hidden costs this Christmas.

According to the Money Advice Service’s annual Christmas spending survey, 46% of us will turn to credit cards, store cards and overdrafts to cover the cost of Christmas. While the big costs like presents and Christmas lunch are usually accounted for in your festive budget, there are other, smaller costs that we sometimes forget about.

But by considering your festive finances early on, you can put any money worries to bed.

1. TRAVEL

By planning your Christmas travel well in advance, you could get cheaper deals on trains or flights. If you’ve left it too late, see if you can car share with other relatives.

2. HEATING

A house full of relatives can be as good as a roaring fire for heating your home, so when the party is in full swing you could turn down the thermostat by a degree or two to save on heating bills. Or if you’re spending Christmas at friends, make sure you turn your heating down when away, but not off as you don’t want the pipes freezing.

For tips on how to save money and energy, read our article: Energy – Are you efficient at saving money?

3. CALLING OVERSEAS

If you’re spending Christmas day at a relative’s house, you don’t want to be ringing Australia from their home phone. See if you can use their Wifi instead for some FaceTime or a Skype call.

4. POSTAGE AND WRAPPING

Remember to check the last postage dates so you don’t have to resort to more expensive courier services to get your presents delivered on time. If you want to cut down on Christmas card costs, you could send e-cards but don’t forget about those less IT savvy or more traditional friends and relatives that still like to send and receive cards. A good way to keep the festive spirit going and to save money is to buy your wrapping paper and cards for next year in the sales.

5. CREDIT CARD CHARGES/OVERDRAFT CHARGES

As Money Advice Service pointed out, more and more of us are still putting our Christmas costs on credit cards. Make sure you budget for interest charges or overdraft fees, so you don’t get an extra surprise on January 1st.

For more advice on Christmas savings, check out our article on 5 practical ways to save money this Christmas.

6. ADDED EXTRAS

The phrase ‘batteries not included’ can make an unprepared parents’ heart sink so plan ahead and find out exactly how many batteries you need beforehand, whether you need a certain type of screwdriver to put something together and any other extras that might be needed to make your gifts usable on Christmas day.

7. BREAKAGES

Accidents do happen and if you’re buying expensive gifts make sure to check your home insurance policy to see if the added value is covered. If you don’t have home insurance, you might want to look into your options before the big day so you’re ready if the unexpected happens: Be ready for the unexpected.

8. MAKE YOUR DECEMBER PAY PACKET STRETCH FURTHER

Along with all these hidden costs, you’ve got a pay packet that needs to stretch an extra week. However, if you budget properly and make sure you’ve covered all the costs, there’s no reason why you can’t have a merry Christmas on a budget that works for you.

Carl Gould is a business strategist, and growth expert. He has written 5 books in the area of creating business success, and is the co-host of the weekly radio program, ‘Quit and Get Rich’ (www.gteamradio.com). Carl and his team of experts advise companies and organizations to grow to the next level. What is the next level for you?

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Secrets to Hiring the Right People

Posted by the7stages on November 12, 2014
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There may be a war for talent in today’s job market, but when it comes to entrepreneurial, small business owners,they are willing to share  their secrets about hiring the best employees. In this article from Entrepreneur.com honoring small business week, they compiled a guidebook of hiring tips from the small-business owners honored on Capitol Hill during this year’s National Small Business Week. Almost every respondent emphasized the importance of hiring employees who organically fit into corporate culture and who are passionate about the brand.

When looking to grow business, many entrepreneurs begin hiring for quantity, not quality.

In 2013, Inc. magazine, partnering with the Bacharach Leadership Group, surveyed 330 Inc. 5000 firms. The mission: Find out how America’s fastest-growing companies hire their best employees. Cornell professor Sam Bacharach, co-founder of BLG, fielded questions from LearnVest’s Alexa von Tobel about the survey results.

Above were questions that we can ask ourselves on a day-to-day basis. But now here are some strategies and tools you can add to the “traditional hiring process” (of basing your decision on the resume, interview and your “gut feel”).  They are:

1.  Temp agencies, recruiters and headhunters

2.  Reference and background checks

3.  Pre-employment integrity and culture fit assessments

4.  Personality tests

Here’s how companies like Google avoid these expensive hiring mistakes. We call it the “law of three” for interviewing candidates:

  • Always interview at least three people for a position. Even if you like the first interviewee and feel that individual is suitable, discipline yourself to interview at least two others. Many large companies will not hire a person until they have interviewed ten or fifteen candidates for the spot. The more people you interview, the greater the selection of choices you will have, and the more likely it is that you will make the right choice.
  • Interview the candidate you like in three different places. It is amazing how the personality of a person can change when you move the interview setting from your office to a coffee shop across the street. Candidates will usually be at their very best in the first interview. If they were pretending, the veneer will quickly come off in subsequent meetings.

In order for small businesses to grow, more people need to join the team. However, hiring the right people can be costly in terms of time, dollars and company morale. Careerbuilder.com sponsored a survey on the cost of a bad hire, and the clever folks at Mindflash.com created this infographic based on those results.

How many hats do you wear on a daily basis? If you answered one, you’re not an entrepreneur and you’re not working for a small business. So how can you boost your team’s productivity and morale at the same time? Discover some of the unexpected ways to do so in this infographic by TheDegree360.com.

Source: http://www.inc.com/magazine/201404/alexa-von-tobel/hiring-secrets-americas-fast-growing-companies.html

Carl Gould is a business strategist, and growth expert. He has written 5 books in the area of creating business success, and is the co-host of the weekly radio program, ‘Quit and Get Rich’ (www.gteamradio.com). Carl and his team of experts advise companies and organizations to grow to the next level. What is the next level for you?

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Top Up Sale Strategies for Your Business

Posted by the7stages on October 14, 2014
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No matter what business you work in, a “business as usual” mindset will insure your competitors are making more money than you are. Here are eight tips to help you stand out from the competition so you won’t find yourself stood up by your customers.

Jumping into selling your product or service without planning how you will go about it is likely to yield far poorer results than if you adopt a strategic approach to your sales. Use your sales strategy as part of your business plan to help you convince your bank manager or potential investors, and make sure you update and review your sales strategy regularly.

What is a sales strategy?

  • A sales strategy sets out in detail how you will get your product or service in front of people who need it. Looking at it strategically will give you a comprehensive, methodical approach to ensuring you marketing your business correctly and you are approaching the right clients.
  • A sales strategy can be based on your business and marketing plans.
  • A sales strategy is not the same as a marketing strategy.
  • In order to build a comprehensive strategy for your entire business, you will need to sit down and come up with a different sales strategy for each of your product lines.

Whether you offer goods or services, selling is the foundation of your business. Without the generation of sales, your business will fail.  Your selling technique and your sales strategy are just a few of the tools used in creating a successful start-up business. Whether you are the only salesperson, you have a sales manager or even a sales team, the business must develop an effective sales strategy:

Pre-Planning the Plan

In order to create a plan for an effective sales strategy, you must first determine what your sales goals and objectives are for your business. Once the objectives are solidified and defined, you will then need to determine a timeline in which you will launch and implement each goal. You also need to use your market research to understand who your customers are, the best way your company can meet the need of the consumer and the best way in which you can reach your target customer in order to develop your sales technique. During the pre-planning stage is the best time to become exhaustively familiar with the products you sell or the service you provide, your sales quotas and your sales territory. You will also need to determine how much of your working capital you will need to devote to developing and implementing your sales strategies.

Creating the Plan

Once you have your objectives and timeline in place and you understand your market, you can then begin to create your sales strategy plan. You will need to determine your weekly, monthly, quarterly and yearly sales goals. From there you can create sales action plans that will help you hit each goal. You will also need to decide if you want one sales strategy for everybody that works for you or if each position has their own unique technique. If you have a small start up business, you can usually get away with having one overall strategy; however, if you have multiple departments or have employers that work off commission, you may want different sales strategies for each position.

Implementing the Plan

Now that you have your sales strategy developed and tailored to meet the specific needs of your business, it is time to put it into action. The first step in implementing your plan for generating sales is knowing your customer and their needs which will allow you to build a rapport with them and lay the foundation for a good business relationship. The cost of your product or service should be explained clearly within your strategy with no hidden costs that are going to surprise the customer later on down the road which is one of the fastest ways to lose return customers. Selling a customer your product or service is always easier when the one doing the selling has confidence in what they are selling.

Developing an effective sales strategy is crucial for a startup business. This lays the ground work for repeat customers and an on-going and growing generation of sales. Continue satisfying the needs of your customers and they will continue buying from you.

How do you come up with a sales focus which drives the most amount of growth to your business and profit to your bottom line?

Some strategy tips are:

Strategy 1. Think big and audit your time. No matter the size of your business, place a mental image in your mind as if you are the largest and most successful person in your industry. How much time is consumed by routine office work someone else should be doing? Spend more time with more important tasks such as marketing strategies, improving customer relations, and implementing new strategies to expand your services.

Strategy 2. Be different and stand out from the competition. Jordan Furniture sells more furniture per square foot than any other furniture store in the nation. They transformed their family-owned business into a multi-million dollar corporation by

following a principle called “shoppertainment.” To surprise employees and customers, Barry and Eliot Tatleman dressed up like the Lone Ranger and Tonto and rode horses in their parking lot. They built an IMax theater inside one store to entertain children while their parents shopped. When you drive around the back to pick up your furniture they provide you free hotdogs and wash your car windows.

Strategy 3. Build relationships with your customers. For each month that goes by, customers lose 10% of their buying power. Create a customer database and contact them on a regular basis. Mail them a postcard, birthday card, sales flyer, newsletter etc. to keep your name, phone number, and service on their mind.

Strategy 4. Collect E-Mail Addresses. Get permission from your customers to use their E-mail address. Periodically send updates and notices to your client list. As long as you have their permission and avoid overuse, E-mail can be a powerful and inexpensive marketing tool.

Strategy 5. Hire top sales people. Successful businesses realize the quality of their sales staff is critical to sustaining their growth in the marketplace. A top salesperson can outsell an average one 4 to 1. Sales people must understand their strengths and have a well-defined plan to reach their potential. Many companies can provide you sales assessments to both identify top candidates and develop currently employed sales people.

Strategy 6. Put a shopping cart on your website. Online sales are still growing at a dramatic pace. This is coming from people who want to save time, avoid crowded stores, convenience, and the ability to shop outside of store hours. Just consider E-Bay for example, which generates millions of dollars of sales each year. It does not cost anything to set up an account on E-Bay, and you pay a proportion based on the cost of the item you are trying to sell. If you don’t want to use E-bay, consider using your own shopping cart system on your website.

Strategy 7. Pay-per-click advertising. Many business owners are finding classified advertising is not an effective use of their marketing dollars. Others are finding pay-per-click advertising is an easier and cheaper way to reach a larger market. Pay-per-click will insure you receive top visibility on websites driving more customers to your door. Advertisers bid on keywords and the more popular the keyword, the more expensive each click is. Prices vary between ten cents to many dollars depending on the popularity of the word. The most popular pay-per-click advertisers are Google, Business.com, and Yahoo.

Strategy 8. Use customer service commandments to create good habits. Bates Ace Hardware store located in Atlanta created “Twenty Customer Service Commandments” modeled after the Ritz-Carlton hotels outlining specific behaviors employees are to demonstrate when dealing with customers and fellow employees. For example, “Accompany a customer to the correct aisle instead of pointing to another area of the store.” They print the commandments on a small card and employees carry it with them at work.

Carl Gould is a business strategist, and growth expert. He has written 5 books in the area of creating business success, and is the co-host of the weekly radio program, ‘Quit and Get Rich’ (www.gteamradio.com). Carl and his team of experts advise companies and organizations to grow to the next level. What is the next level for you?

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5 DAILY HABITS OF REMARKABLY SUCCESSFUL BUSINESS LEADERS

Posted by the7stages on September 10, 2014
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“A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.” –Lao Tzu

If you haven’t noticed there has recently been an onslaught of articles from various publications on how to be more productive, and all of them point to the same message: How you choose to spend your time is the difference between being a good leader and a remarkable one.

This is probably an understatement, but entrepreneurs are some of the busiest people around.

  1. 1. Establish a routine/Organize your day. The first hour of the work day is the best time to assess priorities and to focus on what you absolutely need to accomplish, Kerr says. “Too many people get distracted first thing in the morning with unimportant activities such as diving right into their morass of e-mail, when there may be a whole host of more important issues that need dealing with.” Make a to-do list, or update the one you made the previous day, and try to stick to it.

So start doing the work now. Time is wasting.

Related: 30 Most Innovative Business Leaders of 2013

1. Exercise and meditate. The importance of exercise has been well established so I won’t bore you with the details and figures.

We all know fitness is important to our health, but did you know it can also be good for your business? Elizabeth Robinson, a Philadelphia-based personal trainer and creator of VitFit, a mobile app for customizable downloadable workouts and Dega Schembri, co-owner ofCity Fitness Gym in Washington D.C., say regular physical activity can make you a better entrepreneur.

But some really successful people make exercising a priority. The CEOs of Apple, Xerox, Pepsi, Christies and Starwood Hotels all start their days by getting their hearts pumping, according to Business Insider.

2. Remember your purpose. Take a few moments at the start of each workday to remind yourself of your company’s goals. Think about your core customer and which areas of your business are most profitable. We oftentimes get caught up in the minutia of daily tasks we lose sight of what brings us happiness and profitability.

With this progress, goals should meet this definition:
Specific
Measurable
Achievable
Realistic
Timely

3. Plan tomorrow — tonight. Did you grow up with a parent who made sure you were ready for school the night before? Whether that involved getting your clothes out or preparing your lunch, these rituals shaped you. So prepare for the next day before hitting the hay.

A trick from Scott Stouffer. He co-founded a SEO Engine, a com helps companies use data to figure out what’s working online. Stouffer insists on keeping a schedule every day. The night before a big meeting, he sends out an email telling everyone what’s needed.

Read more: http://www.inc.com/jeff-haden/8-habits-of-remarkably-successful-people.html#ixzz37mOoYM3s

5. Value your time. Unlike money, time is a non-renewable resource. There’s simply no way to make more of it. Guard your time and spend it doing the most important things for yourself and your company. Avoid distractions whenever possible. Whether you facilitate or attend a meeting, online or in person, get clear about the start and end time. Whenever someone requests a meeting or consultation with you, try asking for the questions in advance so you can do your research ahead of time. This will keep you on time and on task.

So, what are the 5 DAILY HABITS OF REMARKABLY SUCCESSFUL BUSINESS LEADERS

They don’t create back-up plans

They do the work…

…and they work a lot more

… and they don’t stop there

They are never too proud

Carl Gould is a business strategist, and growth expert. He has written 5 books in the area of creating business success, and is the co-host of the weekly radio program, ‘Quit and Get Rich’ (www.gteamradio.com). Carl and his team of experts advise companies and organizations to grow to the next level. What is the next level for you?

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Apps Every Entrepreneur Needs

Posted by the7stages on July 08, 2014
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Getting more done throughout your day isn’t simply a matter of sitting down and working harder. Instead, being more productive requires that you work harder on the right things, in addition to tackling them as efficiently as possible. Fortunately for entrepreneurs, there are plenty of apps out there that will help to both organize an overwhelming workload and provide the motivation needed to get things done.

Entrepreneurs are the artists of the business world — captivated by ideas and the never ending pursuit of the potential—the what if.

Entrepreneurs are known to be the masters of efficiency, right? The secret? We don’t do it alone. Besides having an amazing team to support our endeavor, we also utilize cutting edge apps to keep us on our A-game.

Faster is better.

So below you will find an app rundown, but first of all lets first focus on efficiency — a necessity for the entrepreneur that is constantly juggling various tasks. The faster you can access information and execute, the faster you’ll build your company.

App Name Details
TrackMaven

This app streamlines your ability to monitor data on your competition, withoutgoing through the hassle of consulting multiple sources. Filter the marketing activity you want alerts for and erase all the extra white noise.

EchoSign

There’s no longer an excuse to delay the closing of a deal (You never know when Mark Zuckerberg will call with that $3 billion dollar bid.)  This Adobe app allows you to electronically sign documents easily and securely. It also records and stores each document’s history, so you have automatic audit trails — saving you the time and trouble of backtracking in case the need arises.
Free Wifi Finder


A definite game-changing app for the entrepreneur and tech guru who needs to be plugged in 24/7. In the early stages of a startup, every situation and opportunity is high stakes and you can’t afford to allow a poor Internet connection to get in the way of your company’s success.
Uber


This app never lets us down.  For any on-the-go entrepreneur, this service is essential to ensure you always have a way to get to that last minute meeting — even when every cab in the city is full.
MobileDay


: For those frequent occasions when you’re too busy to be sitting in the office, use MobileDay to coordinate all of your in-person and conference call meetings. With this app, you can dial in automatically, email with participants and even get directions to your meeting place.
Skitch


Screenshots are second nature in the business world these days, but it’s a tedious task to make notes directly on them. Enter Skitch. A product of the ever popular, Evernote, this desktop and mobile application allows you to get directly to the point through different annotations, shapes and sketches.
Mint

An entrepreneur probably knows a thing or two about managing finances, but it’s always good to be able to easily access information about personal cash flow. Mint allows you to record expenses, create budgets and manage savings plans, all from your phone.
Pocket


As entrepreneurs, we’re full of great ideas, so much so that they hit us when we least expect them. Enter Pocket, a phone-based bookmarking app which can save all types of content – anything from a lengthy article to a work report — to all your electronic devices.
Unroll.me


There is nothing we hate more than a crowded email inbox. Thankfully, Unroll.mewas created to fix that exact problem. Simply sign up with your email address and let Unroll.mefind all of your subscriptions for you. Then easily scroll through and unsubscribe from the ones you’d rather never hear from again.  You can also make sure the right emails break through all the noise.
Digg

For the entrepreneur who is always looking for new innovations and wants to stay up on the latest news in their industry, Digg is the perfect app to download on phones, tablets, and e-readers. Digg allows users to find, read, and share the top trending stories on the internet all in one place.
Smartr Contacts

Every business owner and developer understands that having strong contacts is one of the most fundamental parts of the field. Smartr Contacts allows users to find their most important business contacts instantly. By delving into social network contacts, phone contacts, and emailaccounts, Smart Contacts instantly searches for the contact the user is looking for.
Invoice2go

Stay on top of business finances and send invoices in just minutes with Invoice2go.  Once users have created an invoice, Invoice2Go will send a prompt to mark the invoice as either paid or unpaid. Create instant reports to show unpaid balances, and send reminders to debtors immediately from your phone of tablet.
Dropbox

The days of the filing cabinet are long gone, but somehow people still manage to get their files mixed up and confused. Dropbox is a service that allows users to store all of their files in a cloud and access them anywhere or at anytime. With quick uploading time and a simple interface, Dropbox will leave users headache free and ready to feel organized.
Clicky

Clicky allows entrepreneurs and business owners to analyze their website stats on the go and stay up to date with the latest Google trends and algorithms. Clicky allows users to monitor every action taken on their website, while providing the ability to personalize relationships with users by inputting custom data such as usernames or email addresses.  Onsite analytics and Google Search Ratings have never been more accessible.
Prismatic

Entrepreneurs can update their team on the latest updates in their industry with the Prismaticapp. Catered to user’s interests, Prismatic displays articles on a one-page news feed. The perk to Prismatic? Upon liking or disliking an article in the news feed, an algorithm is created to attract the users content and what they are more inclined to like.
Producteev

Producteev is the perfect app to help entrepreneurs delegate and complete tasks with their teams.  Assign tasks, add due dates, track progress, and measure the end results with this app. The best part about Producteev? It allows users to manage projects and tasks at an organizational pace that is catered to the users needs and wants.
Easy Projects

Easy Projects is a management software app that allows users to make online planning the solution to all of their organizational needs. Export and import from MS Project and MS Excell.  Easy project is the solution to management tasks by allowing users to manage and plan tasks, use interactive Gantt charts, and incorporate a time-management module to ensure that every time spent on certain projects is being billed and accounted for.

Vesper

Entrepreneurs would agree that note taking and jotting down ideas is one of the greatest vessels of inspiration. Vesper is one of the most intuitive note taking apps. Users can write text, add images and text, and with Vespers easy navigation sidebar, users can easily find all of their notes later on.

Lastpass

In an age of digital insecurity, forming secure passwords is an absolute must—but who has time to remember all those different combinations of letters and numbers? If you struggle to keep your online accounts secure, Lastpass can help by generating, storing and automatically recalling strong passwords for all of your Internet logins. It’s free to use on both PCs and Macs, though you’ll pay $12/year to have the premium version available for download to your mobile device.

Remember the Milk

Remember the Milk (RTM) is a widely used, to-do list management program that’s worth a look if you’re having trouble tracking your tasks. It’s highly flexible and easily customized—and can even be used to implement a GTD-style system. The Web version and basic iOS and Android apps are free to use, though daily syncing will run you $25/year.

Wunderlist

If RTM lacks in any one area, it’s visual appeal. So if you’re a more graphically inclined entrepreneur, take a look at Wunderlist—a perpetual favorite on lists of the best to-do trackers. The program is easy to navigate and can be used to quickly and efficiently track important tasks from within its free desktop, Web, iOS and Android versions.

Things

Although Things is only available on Macs and within Apple devices, it still warrants a mention on this list, given how intuitive the program is to use. While some users find that the RTM interface has a learning curve to fully utilize, Things makes it easy to start tracking to-do items as quickly as possible. And, as an added bonus, it’s totally free to use!

Instapaper

Coming across interesting articles is one of the best parts of the Internet—and one of the worst things for your overall productivity levels. Instead of reading through new posts whenever you encounter them, save them to your Instapaper account. Your selected Web pages will be automatically saved for later browsing, when they’ll be displayed in a reading-friendly format for free on your computer, iPhone, iPad or Kindle.

Yast

Nearly all professionals can benefit from some type of time-tracking program—whether this type of tool is used to report billable hours back to customers or to simply measure how working hours are being spent. Yast provides an incredibly easy-to-use solution (just press the “Play” button to start tracking time to a specific account) that’s free to use for personal time tracking. Business accounts for entire teams are available as well, starting at $14/user per month.

Focusbooster

Plenty of entrepreneurs use the Pomodoro Technique (which alternates 25-minute long working blocks with short breaks) in order to maintain sustainable, long-term productivity. And while there are plenty of different Pomodoro timers out there, one of my favorites is the Focusbooster App. It’s free to use and provides a simple way for business professionals to stay focused over long periods of time.

Carl Gould is a business strategist, and growth expert. He has written 5 books in the area of creating business success, and is the co-host of the weekly radio program, ‘Quit and Get Rich’ (www.gteamradio.com). Carl and his team of experts advise companies and organizations to grow to the next level. What is the next level for you?

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FEAST? OR FAMINE? WHICH ONE ARE YOU?

Posted by the7stages on June 11, 2014
Uncategorized / 2 Comments

FEAST? Or FAMINE? WHICH ONE ARE YOU?

Make Your Small Business a Winner: Sales cycles: feast or famine

Most business owners would love to be so busy that clients are lined up waiting for their services. Do you want to know how to smooth out the ups and downs of the Feast-or-Famine Syndrome?

Many business owners are familiar with the term feast or famine, especially when it comes to operating a business. Feast or famine indicates the extremes associated with the highs and lows in sales revenue.

DEFINITION:

Feast or famine usually refers to a business operating the entire year which experiences extreme highs or lows. During the peak months more than enough opportunities, sales, services and products for income exist. It is during this feast one must beef up production, hire additional employees or expand hours of operation to meet the demand and many times, must place customers on a waiting list, or turn away business altogether.

Yet, all too often a recurrent theme is realized: feast or famine. The weather now cold or wet with its unfavorable climate has declined the demand for seasonal goods. In spite knowing that the famine, or the slowest and sometimes hardest time of year is approaching, many business owners continue to find themselves struggling.

If you’ve experienced feast and famine, you will know that a feast is more like a treadmill, whereas famine is more like famine! This phrase is applied most often to service organizations, but it can happen to any business.

At feast time you are rushed off your feet, thinking only about delivery. You will have no time for building your pipeline and finding your next new customers.

When famine hits you may just have emerged from a busy period, with no prospect of an order in sight. It will be hard to cope without the pressure you’ve been used to. You may lose momentum, or worse, motivation.

WHY FEAST AND FAMINE HAPPENS IN THE BUSINESS WORLD?

First:

It starts when you finally figure out or learn how to bring at least some clients in. It works, and clients arrive.

Eventually you get busy with these clients, and you do less of, or stop doing entirely, those things that brought the clients in. But it’s okay, you’re loving working with your clients, and getting paid!

Second:

Then, inevitably, one of your clients completes with you and moves on. “Okay,” you say to yourself, “No sweat. It’s just one client.” Then another completes. And another.

Soon your schedule is a bit more open than you are comfortable with, so you decide it’s time to go and get some clients, so you start doing those things again that worked last time.

Too late, the famine is upon you. Some mighty lean weeks or even months crop up. You work really hard, and clients start coming back in again. And so the cycle repeats.

WHAT QUESTIONS SHOULD I ASK MYSELF?

  • Do you have feast and famine months in your small business?
  • Times when you’re so busy you don’t know where to turn and then times when it’s so quiet that you’re desperately willing the phone to ring with a new customer?
  • Are you putting so much effort into providing top notch service to your existing customers that you don’t have time to get out and look for new ones?

AVOIDING FEAST VS. FAMINE

When you’re in a “feast” situation, it’s often hard to find time to get out and look for consulting work.

  • When you’re in a “feast” situation, it’s often hard to find time to get out and look for consulting work.
  • Get another job
    • Deal with downtime by getting another jobs. Many successful consultants have turned to office temp work, part-time jobs, and casual work to get through slow periods. 

10-strategies-for-managing-the-feast-or-famine-job-shop

Avoiding the feast and famine cycle is one of the hardest parts of small business sales and one of the key early focuses of my small business coaching.

It’s hard because in the famine times:

  • you’ll be frustrated at the lack of activity
  • you’ll be stressed about maintaining cash flow
  • you’ll doubt your ability and business idea
  • you’ll waste money with knee jerk advertising

WHAT IS THE SECRET?

The secret, of course, is never to stop growing your business; never to stop looking for the next

opportunity, no matter how busy you are now.  Either that, or plan positively for a period where

you will survive on the proceeds of the feast, and not expect to earn much, instead putting a huge

effort into marketing and sales. If you take this route, do it in the knowledge of how long it takes

you to win business.

EXAMPLES:

a)      As a consultant, you average 9 months before you close a big project, then with no pipeline, you might have to plan for a year of famine – can you cope with that, both personally and financially?

b)      If you are a manufacturer, you’ll be able to more accurately estimate your production needs, thereby reducing inventory and improving cash flow. Or if you are a wholesaler, you’ll be better equipped to manage your buying volumes throughout the year, and so forth.

c)      Even the best writer goes through the feast-or-famine cycle. It can be a scary ride, but if you plan right — and trust that there’s always work out there for a good freelancer — you’ll be just fine.

Carl Gould is a business strategist, and growth expert. He has written 5 books in the area of creating business success, and is the co-host of the weekly radio program, ‘Quit and Get Rich’ (www.gteamradio.com). Carl and his team of experts advise companies and organizations to grow to the next level. What is the next level for you?

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The 4 Weaknesses of the Serial Entrepreneur

Posted by the7stages on May 20, 2014
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Successful entrepreneurs are usually hard-driving, and highly focused on some specific goals, like being the dominant player in a given domain, or the low-priced provider of their product. Yet other entrepreneurs will talk for hours about all their ideas, and how they intend to change the world, but I don’t hear any specific goals or milestones.

While goal-setting is an important factor in the success of our business and personal lives, most of us will see our New Year’s resolutions fail before the calendar turns to February. “

Related: Try this quiz to see how your views compare with the facts about entrepreneurs.

Boosting productivity should be on everyone’s New Year’s Resolutions list, especially if you’re a student, freelancer, or aspiring entrepreneur. We hear about plenty of productivity resolutions for businesspeople, but which ones are actually kept? Using common sense, technology, and productivity apps, such as Flow, here are five New Year’s Resolutions that productive people can actually keep.

1. Work Less

We all want to spend more time with our friends and families, and less time attached to our jobs and devices. Aside from quitting your job, or cutting back on hours, the best way to work less is to work smarter.

2. Stay Organized

When you have a million things floating around, and more and more coming in, it can be incredibly difficult to stay organized.

Related: 6 Steps to Managing Your Overwhelming Workload

3. Stop Being Lazy

It’s really not that hard to confront procrastination.

Related: Don’t Wait for Motivation. Do This Instead.

4. Inbox Zero

Ah, the elusive inbox zero. We all want it, but it feels out of reach most of the time. You can actually achieve this by utilizing the urgent/important matrix for emails. Take 20 minutes to organize your inbox with automatic sorting and labeling.

Organize your inbox by tagging the dishes that need to leave the kitchen right now, and those that can survive another minute (hour, day, week) under the heat lamp.

5. Utilize Technology Better

You will save time by spending money. If that means you need to use Flow and other apps on your smartphone.

A recent University of Scranton study showed while more than 40 percent of Americans admit to making New Year’s resolutions, only eight percent of us actually follow through and achieve our goals. Experts say the reason for these failures is that many of us lack the structure to support the behavioral changes our new goals require.

Follow these few tips and make your New Year’s resolutions stick:

Limit the number of goals.

Related: Free Apps to Keep Your Resolutions On Track

Write it out.

While writing down goals is a commonly used technique that forces a deeper level of commitment.

Set realistic goals.

“The people that set the most effective goals are ones that find the sweet spot between overwhelming and uninteresting,” says Gervais.

Find a partner.

When a wife and husband have the same kind of goals they stick to those a lot better than if they a one person goal. Sites such as stickK allow you to create goals, invite others to view your progress and set monetary stakes, creating a sense of accountability that can help you stay on track.

A study created generated by Bill J. Bonnstetter is

chairman of Target Training International, Ltd.

measured whether skills were well developed, developed,

moderately developed, or needed developing.

After analyzing the data, we found four distinct

skills lacking in most serial entrepreneurs, three skills

statistically significantly and one other also noticeably

lacking. The statistical significance is derived by

comparing the lowest ranking skills to the entrepreneurs’

top skills, as evaluated in the first study.

Entrepreneurial-minded people are not proficient in managing themselves and their time. This leads to another skill entrepreneurs lack: planning and organizing. Similar to self-management, if entrepreneurs spent time planning and organizing every task or meeting, they would never get anything else done.

Empathy is one of the qualities serial entrepreneurs lack most.

Entrepreneurs also do not excel above the control group when it comes to analytical problem solving.

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What can every entrepreneur learn from kids this Easter?

Posted by the7stages on April 09, 2014
Uncategorized / No Comments

What can every entrepreneur learn from kids this Easter?

This is the time of year we dream of a yummy, rich,
sweet chocolate Easter bunny. We envision, in excited
anticipation, our first bite into that scrumptious rich
milk chocolate Easter bunny ears, only to discover
that the Easter bunny’s ears is hollow! Unfortunately,
there are many small businesses much like the
“hollow” chocolate Easter bunny.
The Easter Bunny is a busy guy (I assume, it’s a guy). He has just as much ground to
cover as Santa Claus, and Santa has reindeer and elves helping him out. As a single
rabbit, entrepreneurial operation, the Easter Bunny gets stretched thin. That means that
sometimes, things that were supposed to make it into the basket, don’t get there.
As a smart entrepreneur you hunt and search for just the right vendor to assist in
growing your small business. You go the extra mile in researching each possible
provider.
They are everything you’ve dreamed of in a provider – and more. They say they deliver
on time. They say they meet their deadlines. They say they can – and will – deliver the
results you want. They’re charming, personable, relatable, knowledgeable, excellent at
communicating their field in a way that’s easy for you to understand…It’s a partnership
made in heaven! You’re excited to work with them. They are, in fact, the solid chocolate
Easter Bunny! Until you break off the ear…
There seems to be more a lot of hollow chocolate Easter bunnies in business today.
Some small businesses are always in a hurry to get to market, don’t take the time to do
the important pieces of their business like business/marketing plan that ensure they are
as good on the inside as they look on the outside.
To make sure your small business isn’t one of those hollow chocolate Easter Bunny
experiences for your clients, before you spend another dollar on marketing, work on
your business/marketing plan to help identify the business essentials needed to build a
solid enterprise.
So, what can every entrepreneur learn from kids this Easter?

Be excited by your prospects.
For days before Easter, mornings were a breeze in our house. No whining about waking
up; no fighting at the breakfast table:
Never give up and enjoy the doing, not just the accomplishment.
The Easter bunny got particularly busy at one friend’s house this year, hiding 140 eggs!
Six kids, with some help from parents, tracked down all but one egg. While most of the
adults sat down and watched, the kids just kept looking and looking. They had as much
fun looking for the eggs as they did finding them.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
If there is 1 egg left, kids will join their powers and start
thinking, where can we find this last missing egg – in other
words – TEAMWORK!
Negotiations:
Children of all ages are master of the art of negotiations.
Resilience:
Kids rarely take “NO” for an answer. When they hit a wall, they wall around it and find
another alternative to accomplish where they want to go.

Resources (your vendors):
It is important to know who has the best, the most economical and best deliver time.
Here is where you really prepare your HUNT.
Funding:
When additional money is needed, it is very important to be able to turn to more than
just one funding resource. What kid has not had their own lemonade stand? Baked
cupcakes or cookies or even traded bracelets.
Promote yourself:
It is okay to market yourself, talk about your goals and success with pride. Kids tell the
neighbors and make flyers to market their lemonade.
Dream BIG!
While it is necessary to be realistic, it is also important to project a positive outcome!
“With the money I make from the lemonade stand, I will buy….”
Those who are in need of your talents will find you.
Believe this…the spirit of the Easter bunny; and the entrepreneurial spirit are both alive
and well.
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