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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.

Critical Small Business Tips to Tame Overwhelm

Guest Post by Robin Suomi, MBA, Owner, Startup to Growth, LLC

You started your business so YOU could be your own boss and call the shots, right? You were excited about getting those first clients. It was a busy time, but you made it through.  You knew you wouldn’t keep up that pace forever. Those crazy hours were just for your startup phase.

Then one day you realized that things had not changed: You are still working long hours, feeling increasingly overwhelmed and afraid you would never catch up. What the heck? That is not how it is supposed to be.

The good news is that there are many choices you can make and tools you can use to gain control of your business day and stop the overwhelm. Now is the best time to take a hard look at your processes, change the procedures that need changing and tame your overwhelm.  The bad news is that this requires some hard decisions and discipline on your part.

Here are five positive steps to take that will help you get your business life under control and be more productive. Then you can use your “saved” time to work on new products/services, work more billable hours, and do whatever else is on your checklist that will grow your business…with a guilt-free conscience.  Ready to start?

  1. Templates. This is a critical step that is often overlooked.  Set up templates for the standard email responses you need to send out by email, social media, messenger, etc. An inquiry about your product? Setting up a meeting? I would like to introduce you to so-and-so? No problem. Write your standard responses and store them in a file called “Templates.” They will likely cover 80 percent of your responses. Spend a few moments to customize each response.  Done.
  2. Phone. This is a bit controversial, depending upon your industry and where you live in the county, but here’s my advice:  Pick up the phone and call the person you are trying to reach that hasn’t gotten back to you! This has saved me sooooo much time! You can immediately stop the back-and-forth, time-burning email tag if you phone them, speak for 60 seconds, get your answer, and move on. You can send a confirming email if you do need a paper trail. Done.
  3. Finances. Store your financial data, both income and expenses, in one place, and process it regularly. Most small businesses, especially in the beginning, can process this data weekly, or even monthly. Your system can be physical, including file folders; it can be 100 percent digital; or, it can be a combination of the two. If you are outsourcing your bookkeeping, it is still important to organize your data regularly and send it to your service provider on a regular basis. Get your system in place and calendar regular time to complete these tasks. Done.
  4. Calendar. Did I just say calendar?  Whether your calendar is paper or digital, make sure you know what you are supposed to do when.  As I pointed out under the Finances tip, use your calendar to set some time aside to work on organizing your income/expenses. Set aside regular blocks of time to work on marketing, business planning, setting meetings, creating/revising your products/services, etc., whatever your priority projects are. Make sure you have a system in place to set up new appointments quickly and accurately so you can stay organized and forego the embarrassment of missing a scheduled meeting. There are many apps that can help, from project management to calendaring tools. Done.
  5. Checklist. This is perhaps one of the easiest organizing tools.  Again, it can be paper or digital.  I personally use both, and in a way that probably only makes sense to me!  I create daily and weekly “must do” checklists, which all support my monthly goals.  And my monthly goals support my business plan.  Here’s where the hard decisions and discipline really come into play.  Yes, you can attend X meeting, but is attending X meeting the “highest and best use” of your time?  Does it substantively help you reach your goals?  If not, don’t attend.  To rephrase that:  Learn to say, “No,” and stick to it!  Create your checklist, using whatever method – paper or digital or hybrid – that makes the most sense to you. Use it religiously. Done.

I hope these tips help you tame overwhelm and become more organized.  When you free up your schedule by organizing repetitive, standard tasks to get more done in less time, you can use the time you are saving to help you grow your business while having more fun along the way!  If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me at robin@startuptogrowth.com.

About the Author

Robin Suomi has worked with thousands of small business owners to start and grow their businesses through coaching, membership programs, professional development and training workshops. Her passion is to help you become better…whatever that looks like in your life.