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Veterans Day 2019

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By Debbie Gregory.

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This Monday, November 11th we celebrate Veteran’s Day.  I am the proud daughter of a Veteran who made the ultimate sacrifice and served with seven of his brothers.

 

I believe that the word “Veteran” needs to be expanded to celebrate all the men and women who serve, past and present, every day of the year in all the uniformed services.  They make incredible sacrifices so that the rest of us can live and prosper.   They are true patriots and write a blank check up to and including their lives.

 

Those that sacrifice so much include every man and woman who has served or is serving in our Armed Forces and Uniformed Services.  These include members of the United States Army, the United States Navy, the United States Air Force, the United States Marine Corps, the United States Coast Guard, the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Officer Corps.  Our United States military men and women operate in more than 10 countries too.

 

We must also honor our citizen soldiers who serve in the United States National Guard and Reserves and deserve to be honored as much as our active duty and Veterans.

 

Many people don’t know that those who serve in the National Guard and Reserves can and do dual duty.  They usually work in a civilian job and can be called upon in their home states, but they are also activated and deployed overseas to the Middle East and other countries.

 

A huge percentage of our currently deployed military are members of the National Guard and Reserves.   These citizen soldiers and their loved ones don’t have the full support system that is provided to regular military stationed on military bases.   Being citizen soldiers, they also face huge financial challenges to serve and are often underemployed.

 

On this Veterans’ Day, we need to include everyone and think of ways we can do better by them.   Many are not receiving proper healthcare or must wait too long for it.  Wellness, especially mental wellness, must be a priority especially with so many Veterans committing suicide.  One size does not fit all when it comes to solutions.  We need to work together to find solutions for everyone and dedicate ourselves to those doing more for who have sacrificed so much for us.

 

On Monday, November 11th and every day, think of doing a small random act of kindness that can make a huge difference.  It can be as simple as volunteering at a Veterans home or doing some “honey do” things for the spouses of deployed Veterans or helping coach or tutor their kids.  It might involve donating money or goods to a Veteran charity, driving a Veteran, or just telling a cashier that you want to pick up a Veteran’s tab.    We are losing almost 2,000 Veterans a day from “the Greatest Generation” and preserving and listening to their stories and memories is part of our history.  You might find that supporting those who serve enriches your life too.

 

Be there for those who serve and have served because they are and have been there for all of us.  Never forget them and remember, there is more that unites us as Americans than divides us.

 

Debbie Gregory

CEO – VAMBOA, Veteran and Military Business Owners Association

Vice-President & Producer, “America Salutes You”, a nationally televised annual concert

Director of Employer Engagement, California ESGR

SMART Goals for Your Business

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By Debbie Gregory.

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Starting and running a successful business takes a lot of personal fortitude and discipline. Whether you are a solo-entrepreneur or you have a large team at your back, your ultimate success will come down to whether or not you can set and achieve your goals.

 

A great way to put together and stay focused on achieving your goals is using the SMART goal setting technique. SMART is an acronym that stands for: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-sensitive.

  • Specific – Exactly what you want to achieve.
  • Measurable – How you plan to measure your goal.
  • Achievable – Is your goal realistic?
  • Relevant – How does your goal relate to your business?
  • Time-sensitive – When do you want to achieve your goal?

 

With this information in-hand you have a very clear plan of action. However, there are still challenges that can arise and can lead to failure in reaching your goals and having a successful business. The main roadblocks to SMART business success include:

 

1.) You don’t commit.

You cannot sit around hoping that your dreams will fall into your lap. You MUST create a deliberate and concrete plan for your success and stick to it.

 

2.) You don’t factor in problems.

Regardless of how well you plan, problems will arise. Try to be flexible and factor in obstacles that may derail you for a bit. Your plan may even need to be revised from time to time due to unforeseen problems, as you move toward your goal.   The important thing is to be flexible and adjust to current circumstances.

 

3.) Your goals aren’t realistic.

You need to make sure that you have set reasonable, realistic, and manageable goals. You cannot change everything all at once. It is nice to dream big but try to tackle the dream one small piece at a time.

 

4.) You are afraid to fail.

Failure is an important tool to learn and failure provides you information on how to refine your strategy and move forward in obtaining your goals. Your missteps will provide you strength to overcome obstacles. Try to see failure as a stepping stone rather than an end.  It is said that failure provides you the proper perspective for success

 

5.) Your plan is vague.

Your plan must be as specific as possible. It helps you to focus on the individual parts and helps you identify the next steps you need to take.

 

Developing a SMART plan is an excellent way to help you foster discipline and focus on your goals with strategies and tactics to achieve them. Never allow yourself to become derailed by outrageous dreams, roadblocks, fear of failure, or fear of commitment.

The Best Time of Day to Make Important Business Decisions

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By Debbie Gregory.

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As a small business owner, you every decision you make directly impacts your business and your bottom line. Did you know that certain times of day are better for work and making decisions than others?

 

People are naturally wired to be the most productive during the first two hours after we wake up. We make our very best analytical and reason-based decisions at this time of day.  For most of us, this is early in the morning. It makes a great deal of sense to get a good night’s sleep and wake up and then make your decision.

 

In general, we typically start the day strong and refreshed, by mid-afternoon we hit a slump or wall, and then gain a “second wind” around dinnertime. That mid-day lull is when you are more likely to be irritated, sluggish, or simply feeling drained. This is one of the worst times to try to make important decisions of any type. If you can put the decision off until the next morning you will be refreshed and better able to handle it.

 

How to take advantage of this information?

Prioritize those precious productive morning hours and schedule any important tasks or meeting during the first few hours of the day. This is the best time to review financials, take care of staff evaluations or go over important contracts.

 

If your business is conducted during off-hours, place these important activities into a time slot right after lunch when you are feeling rejuvenated by your meal. Keep all quick decisions that will not harm your business for the late afternoon or early evening. If the timing for your meeting or decision just isn’t right for the morning hours, try taking a walk or short break beforehand to clear your head.   These activities can provide you much needed perspective and renewed energy.

 

Making important decisions for your business is something you do, as a business owner, almost every single day.  Small business owners find themselves making a lot of decisions. It is important to take care of them in the best way possible to achieve the best outcome for everyone involved. It is also a good idea to keep in mind that your employees and customers follow these patterns as well; so try to make requests of them, or tailor your expectations, when they will be at their best too.

Customer Service for Small Businesses – Part 2

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By Debbie Gregory.

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Train Employees to Provide Excellent Service

Part 2 of 3 of Customer Service Series

 

Many small business owners are still making basic customer service mistakes that are easy to fix. Taking the time to learn, think, invest in your people, and improve on your service delivery will place you ahead of your competition.

 

 

Start by Learn the Ins and Outs of Customer Service Yourself:

-Training Courses

As stated in part 1 of this post, the U.S. Small Business Administration offers quite a lot of free online resources and training materials to help boost your business’s customer service – you take a look at what they offer here:

https://www.sba.gov/course/customer-service/

There are quite a lot of other organizations that offer free training, resources, and mentoring for small business owners. For example, SCORE offers business workshops on a number of topics, including customer service, both in-person and online, with recorded versions available to view at any time.

 

-Get A Mentor

Consider pairing with a volunteer small business mentor who can answer questions and coach you.

 

-Continuously Listen & Read

There are so many experts out there that offer other free resources that can be of value to you and your business. Take the time to find and to read blogs and books and listen to podcasts to continue learning.

 

Train Your Employees to Provide Excellent Service:

For excellent service  every employee needs to be trained on what to do and what not to do.

 

-Hire the Right People

Start by recognizing that all of your employees are actually salespeople and that you need to hire the kind of people who can provide great service regardless of their position. Your entire company culture should revolve around helping your customers. Take your time to choose candidates who have a caring attitude, patience, and the ability to listen, empathize, ask questions, and solve problems.   Hire positive people!

 

-Coach Employees on How To Talk to Customers

Employees need to know how to truly listen to a customer as well as speak to them. A casual-yet-professional style of speaking with a light tone of voice can warm up an interaction with a customer and help your company build a relationship, especially if the customer has a question or minor concern that your staff can easily fix. If there is a problem they need to know how to quickly empathize, apologize, and defuse the situation when dealing with a customer who is upset.  Put together a training plan for all employees on the best way to interact with customers and make sure that they practice these skills.

 

The Telephone Doctor offers customer service training and recommends using the “ASAP” approach to diffuse a problem. ASAP stands for:

  • Apologizing immediately,
  • Sympathizing with the customer’s situation,
  • Accepting responsibility,
  • Preparing to help solve the problem.

 

-Consider Outside Training for Employees

There are quite a lot of organizations and companies that offer customer service training to help take your business to the next level. Consider sending key employees, such as your customer service manager, to an in-person seminar or bringing in a pro to train your whole team.

 

-Model Good Customer Service

Make it a point to solve customer problems in front of your employees so they can see how you want it done.

 

-Watch and Offer Feedback

Make it a point to work near your customer service employees occasionally and offer on-the-spot assistance by making suggestions for alternate ways to deal with customer issues.

 

-Create a Library of Customer Service Resources

A great resource to have for your employees on how to deliver exceptional customer service is to build a library of frequent customer issues and questions as well as their solutions. Make sure to keep adding to the library as new issues and solutions arise. This is particularly helpful for new employees who can learn how to best resolve common issues that come up.

 

 

Exceptional customer service may not come naturally to you, your employees, or your business. Train yourself and your employees to look at things from the customer’s point of view. This is a crucial to creating a culture of excellent customer.  Training can help you identify simple mistakes, help develop ways to combat or solve potential problems, and turn your employees into customer service superstars.

 

Stay tuned for Part 3 of this Customer Service for Small Businesses.

 

Branding Your Business

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By Debbie Gregory.

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Branding your business is vital to your success. Branding offers consistency across   your promotional channels including social media, ads, newsletters, and more.  It    generates your unique identity and can increase your perceived professionalism.

 

What is Branding?

Branding is the entire visual representation of your small business. It includes:

  • Your business name
  • Your logo
  • Your color scheme
  • The fonts you use
  • More….

 

Branding is much more than just a cool logo.   Branding encompasses how your business is perceived by your customers or potential customers, how you conduct your business, and what your business stands for. It is not too complicated to brand your business.

 

Key Areas for Successful Branding:

  • Your Key Business Goals: Make sure that your business goals are clearly defined so that you start your branding from a solid foundation. Any ideas that do not fit your goals should be discarded.
  • Define Your Brand: The more time you dedicate to developing your look and feel, the better you will be received in the market. You need to select your website’s domain name, your email addresses, your logo, your color scheme, the tone you will use when writing any communications, typography, etc. Additionally, make sure that your business name is consistent across all of the platforms you use; you do not want to make it difficult or confusing for a potential customer to find you.
  • Who Is Your Target Audience? Though it would be nice if you could target everyone with your product and service, you are more likely to gain business if you have a clear idea of who your target customers are or will be. Make sure that the products or services you offer match the needs of your target clients. Find what makes your business stand out from your competition and highlight it.  How will you fulfill the promises you make to your customers? How will you make them connect personally with your business? When you can help people relate personally to your business, they are more likely to gravitate toward your products and services.
  • Consistent Marketing: With clear goals in hand, a defined brand, and a solid picture of your target audience you can more effectively market your business. Make sure your marketing efforts are consistent with your business goals and establish your brand in the market. Most people today rely upon social media for recommendations and to connect with brands that they identify. Your website alone is not enough in today’s market. Make sure you are where your customers are and make sure it is all consistent! Your website, social media channels, ads (both online and offline), brochures, flyers, posters, business cards, and the like all need to have the same look and feel so that at a quick glance your customers know they are in the right place.

 

Branding your business will have a direct impact on your success.

Take the time to clearly define who you want to be in the market and make sure you stick to it.

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