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Start Your Future Success Today

Guest Post by Robin Suomi, Founder of Startup to Growth

The business landscape changed in 2020, and savvy business owners adjusted. The entire nation went digital in record time, including small businesses. So what is the future for business?

Some people believe that once the pandemic is over we will go back to “normal.” If this describes you, please…just…stop.  Instead, start winning your future success today, no matter what the future holds.

How do you do that? Focus to basic business principles.

Know Your Industry and Competitors

Your job is to successfully manage and grow your business through COVID and the whatever-comes-next waters. Will there be another pandemic? I don’t know. Will there be another big disruption? I’m pretty sure there will be.

Regardless of what is next, start by staying current with your industry knowledge and know what your competitors are up to. Calendar time to read articles and blogs by respected authors. Ask yourself:

  • What new trends are emerging?
  • Are my competitors changing their services by offering new ones and retiring others?
  • Are they delivering their services through different platforms?
  • Are they beginning to schedule in-person events?
  • Are they raising their prices?
  • Are they introducing tiered pricing?

Use the knowledge you gain to adapt and pivot in ways that make strategic sense for you and your business. Hint: Just because others are changing their services or prices does not mean you should change.

Regardless, you do need to know what your industry and competitors are doing so you can make the best strategic decision for you and your business. Be flexible, informed, and ready to pivot quickly.

What New Business Skills Do You Need?

While we do not know what the “new normal” will look like, we do know that successful business owners need to have an extremely strong digital presence. In-person events and meetings will likely increase, and your digital presence will continue to be critical to your success.

You might be thinking you are too far behind the curve to have an effective digital presence. Hogwash. It is never too late to learn a skill that will help you compete successfully.

First, decide what skills you need. With the information you gained from reading articles, trend tracking and looking at your competitors, decide what skills you need to update or learn from scratch.

Consider:

  • Do you need to boost your impact by changing your digital marketing strategy?
  • Are you thinking of writing a book to become an undisputed expert in your field?
  • Are you considering launching a podcast and want to know how to market it?
  • How are your social media graphics? Can you use Canva to up your game?
  • Is it time to revise your elevator speech, so you shine in those Zoom calls?
  • How about sales? Is it time to finally embrace sales, once and for all?
  • Are you ready to investigate YouTube Live marketing?
  • Do you need to take a fresh look at your entire marketing strategy?
  • Your website is critical. Is it time to update it?
  • Are you ready to tackle Facebook and Instagram marketing?

These are all great areas for new business skills.

Be Prepared to Feel Awkward

Have you ever watched a toddler learn to walk? Within a few months they move from awkward to walking with confidence to zipping around the room at breakneck speed. That can be you with your new business skills.

Let’s use video as an example of a new skill. HubSpot reports that, “Explainer videos have seen huge success. An overwhelming majority of people (94%) report watching explainer videos to learn more about a product, with 84% being swayed to make a purchase.” How quickly can you say WOW?!  Biteable states that, “YouTube has the best ROI for video content, followed by Facebook and Instagram.”

Let’s say you have decided you want to dip your toe in the water and start using video. First, congratulations! I love that you are stepping up and using a marketing tool that is so powerful!

Keeping with the video example, let me set your expectations a bit. At first video will feel awkward and extremely uncomfortable! I am basing this upon personal experience as well as helping others through their first few videos.

You will be like that toddler learning to walk. However, with time and practice, you will soon master it and be the toddler equivalent of zipping around the room.

The same awkward feeling will likely occur whenever you tackle most new business skills. New elevator pitch? Ugh. Sales? Seriously? Yes, seriously. Properly armed with your new mindset and sales process, those first few sales calls and meetings are still going to just feel awkward. Do not give up!  Work through those awkward feelings because what you want is on the other side of awkward!

Find Trusted Resources to Guide You

There is a plumber and there is a plumber. You want the plumber who has a known reputation, and rocks at plumbing. The same is true when finding trusted resources for your new business skills.

You are reading a blog from a trusted resource right now.  Jill Kurtz of Kurtz Digital Strategy is an expert in her field and is one of my go-to resources when I refer clients out for digital strategy.

How do you find other high-quality resources for writing a book, podcasting, graphics, elevator speeches, sales, YouTube Live, marketing strategy, your website and Facebook and Instagram marketing? You can check out your local chamber, review reputable websites and ask friends for referrals.

Another resource you can check out is MEG (My Entrepreneurial Group) membership, an affordable resource Startup to Growth launched. Members get on-demand access to educational videos produced by trusted subject-matter experts. The videos cover the topics discussed in this blog, and we are adding more videos regularly. On the near horizon are LinkedIn, creating your newsletter and a video about women-owned business certifications. MEG allows members to expand their knowledge base on their own schedule and at their own pace.

Create a Plan

It is time to put a plan in place.  Survey your industry and competitors, decide which skills you want to refresh or learn from scratch, be prepared to feel a bit awkward at first, find trusted resources to guide you, and put your plan in place!

These steps will let you start winning your future success today. I wish you much business success in our ever-changing small business world!

About the Author

Robin Suomi, Founder of Startup to Growth, is a small business coach who believes that success is rarely accidental and that results require action. She has worked with thousands of small business owners through business planning, individual and group coaching, training and membership programs. She helps her clients realize their dreams their way. If you have feedback or questions about this post or about MEG, connect with her at robin@startuptogrowth.com.

The Five Stages of a Business

Guest post by Ed Falkowitz, Certified Mentor, SCORE – Washington DC

Creating an outstanding business is not a goal but a fascinating journey. Like most journeys, it follows a defined path. If you don’t respect where you are in your journey, you get lost.

I find there are five stages in the journey. Follow your roadmap. DON’T GET LOST.

Stage 1: Formulation

In this stage, you do all your thinking and planning about your business. You put together business plans, budgets, marketing plans, recruiting plans, economic forecasts, etc.

You commit to paper everything that you can possibly think of about your business. You basically do a brain dump.

Stage 2: Concentration

Concentration is characterized by lots of energy and activity going out, but very little coming in. Stage 2 involves expending a lot of energy with very little to show for it.

For every ten actions you take, only one produces a result. You’re not spinning your wheels because all your actions are on purpose and designed to get your business up and running.

Stage 3: Momentum

You are still applying energy and effort and now you’re beginning to see results. The business is starting to move. It’s picking up steam.

The business is moving faster and faster, and it’s getting easier and easier. Instead of ten actions to produce one result, it’s 7 to 1, then 5 to 1, then 3 to 1, and so on.

You’re making phone calls and more of them are returned. You’re putting out advertising and more people are responding. You’re going on sales calls and closing more sales. You can feel the momentum building.

Stage 4: Stability

Next, your business becomes fairly stable and predictable. You know that if you do certain things, customers will show up. Ads produce a steady stream of clients, cold calling or prospecting gets so much business, etc.

Your conversion rates are steady and predictable. It’s one action out, one result in.

Stage 5: Breakthrough

If you reach this stage (and I say if because in my experience few businesses ever get here) then your business takes off, often in unpredictable ways. The phone is ringing off the hook and you’ve got so many client appointments you can’t keep track of them.

You have to generate new structures and systems to handle and manage it all. It’s almost like going back into formulation again, because your business is now very different than the one you conceived back in Stage 1.

Generally speaking, these stages are sequential. If you skip over one, you usually pay the price somewhere down the road. If you don’t formulate and go right into concentration, you’ve got a lot of activity with no direction or purpose. If you don’t do the legwork of concentration, you’ll miss out on valuable learning experiences and insights that only come from hard work and perseverance.

I’ve seen clients go from momentum to breakthrough and they get so wrapped up in servicing those clients that they stop prospecting and lead generating. When things calm down, there’s no business and they have to go back to concentration again and it takes them 2-3 months to get back to building a stable business.

Follow the model one stage at a time and your journey will be successful.

About the Author

Ed Falkowitz  is an executive leader with over 40 years’ experience committed to supporting your business vision. Ed centers on performance and efficiency through strategic financial analysis and developing business and cash management solutions that capitalize on your competitive advantage.  He specializes in establishing alliances to deliver defined goals.  Startups and turnarounds are a particular passion as is working with committed and dedicated entrepreneurs.

Ed currently provides volunteer support for the Smithsonian Institution and serves as a business mentor with SCORE. Request an appointment with Ed.