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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.

 

Is A Consulting Business Right For You?

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By Debbie Gregory.

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A lot of people feel that they lack the training or expertise necessary to become a consultant. They feel that in order to be a consultant that they need to be an “expert” in one given field. Consulting is one of the best ways to be your own boss. You can work one-on-one with clients, provide online training, give talks or seminars, or combine them all. A consulting business can be started with very little capital, very little overhead, and a handful of clients. Thinking about a career in consulting? Do these four traits describe you?

 

1.) Are You Already Successfully Consulting?

If you have some experience and are continuing to learn in your chosen field, even one or two small successes can help build your credibility and lay the foundations for your solo consulting career. Each individual case that you work on provides you additional tools that to help a client solve his or her challenges.

 

2.) Do You Enjoy Helping Others Succeed?

The best consultants are compassionate and sensitive to the needs of their clients. They seek to understand the individual issues facing their clients and then use this knowledge to help them find the tools for success.  A consultant is teacher. You cannot show up for a client and solve their problems for them. Your job is to give them the tools that they need to succeed without you holding their hand. A true and honest desire to share your knowledge, expertise, and experience is a clear indicator that a career in consulting could be the right path for you.

 

3.)  Are You Someone Who Genuinely Loves to Learn?

To be successful as a consultant you must always be learning. You will start with a good grasp of knowledge about your particular field but you must be able to quickly gain knowledge of your client’s business, and their industry as a whole, in order to help them maintain their credibility (as well as yours). Learning can take place in many ways – you can sit and learn from the client themselves, or read about their industry, learn about their competition, speak with their team members, speak with their customers – basically find as many ways as possible to gain insight into each client’s specific field.

 

4.) Do You Thrive on Variety Each Day?

For the 9-5 crowd their day very rarely differs much from day-to-day. The routine is roughly similar day in and day out.  Even when projects change, they are dealing with the same team, the same target audience, the same products, and so forth. People who make the best consultants crave new experiences and unique challenges that working with clients in all types of fields bring to their day.  They strive to be the problem solver who finds new solutions to various new issues each and every day.

 

Being a consultant and running your own business is not for everyone. It is drastically different than the traditional 9-5 where you are working for someone else; thus it comes with its own challenges but it also comes with a lot more rewards. There is a good chance that if you have the traits listed above you already have everything that you need to make a successful career out of consulting.

Consulting is an excellent fit for both Veterans and Military Spouses and can be done remotely.

 

america salutes you

MilitaryConnection.com, one of the most comprehensive directories of military and veteran resources on the web, and non-profit trade association VAMBOA, the Veterans and Military Business Owners Association are proud to announce that they have joined forces to host the “America Salutes You” VIP reception.

The VIP reception will follow the “America Salutes You” live concert on November 12th at the Rosemont Theater in Chicago, Il. Performers include pop legend Cyndi Lauper, singer/songwriter extraordinaire Gavin McGraw, country music legend Wanda Jackson, rapper Hoodie Allen, Gospel Grammy winner CeCe Winans, world-renowned tenor Anthony Kearns, bluegrass legend Ricky Skaggs, rising country stars Tegan Marie and Savannah Maddison, and many others. Tickets can be purchased at http://www.ticketmaster.com/event/0400515AA4A51339.

Text and online fundraising will take place during the concert’s broadcast on television, radio and via stream. Money raised by the concert will benefit several non-profits that serve military, veterans and their families including: the Bob Woodruff Foundation, Easterseals Dixon Center for Military and Veterans Services, Give an Hour, Honor Flight Network, Illinois Joining Forces, Joining Forces California, Snowball Express, TAPS and ThanksUSA. Sponsorship opportunities are available, with all funds supporting the concert production, partner charities and foundations.

“We have asked those who serve, past and present, to leave their home and their loved ones to protect our freedoms,” said Debbie Gregory, CEO of MilitaryConnection.com. “After 14 years of war, the number of men and women who have donned our country’s uniform and served multiple tours of combat duty is the largest in modern American history. We owe them a huge debt, and we can repay it by remembering their sacrifices and providing the resources for them to achieve the American Dream.”

“America Salutes You” will stream live on LiveStream, Military.com, TV Worldwide and will be offered to radio stations nationally by Westwood One. The nationally televised concert will air over Thanksgiving weekend on Tribune Broadcasting and Sinclair Broadcast Group stations. To find your local schedule, visit http://americasalutesyou.org/viewlisten/.

About America Salutes You
This concert, which will air nationally, benefits those who serve in the U.S. military, and will take place on Saturday, November 12th 8pm Central time at the Rosemont Theater in Chicago. Performers include pop legend Cyndi Lauper, country music legend Wanda Jackson, rapper Hoodie Allen, Gospel Grammy winner CeCe Winans, world-renowned tenor Anthony Kearns, bluegrass legend Ricky Skaggs, rising country star Tegan Marie and many others. Text and online fundraising will take place during the concert’s broadcast on television, radio and via stream.

About MilitaryConnection.com
MilitaryConnection.com offers one of the most comprehensive directories of military and Veteran resources on the web, focusing on employment, education and more. Military Connection has been named a Top 100 Employment Web Site by the International Association of Employment Web Sites for five years in a row. It is that focus on employment that garnered MilitaryConnection.com one of the prestigious Weddle’s Users Choice Awards for 2015. Military Connection features thousands of pages of resources and information. There is something for everyone including, but not limited to a Job Board and Virtual Job Fair, comprehensive Post 9/11 GI Bill education information with a directory of thousands of scholarships and a Veteran school directory, news, press releases, special events, pay charts, benefits, service directories, commissaries and exchanges, golf courses and more. Military Connection has the honor of working with incredible non-profits to improve the quality of life for those who serve. When the next tour is back home, it’s on Military Connection, the Go To Site.

About VAMBOA
VAMBOA, a 501(c) 6 non-profit organization, has been providing its members with knowledge of government provisions that help service-disabled veteran business owners, Veteran business owners and military business owners since 2010. VAMBOA’s mission is to help drive the success of these veteran business owners. VAMBOA also connects it members to contacts within large corporations and government agencies who can mentor members, and in some cases, can even directly provide members with government contracts and vending contracts within large corporations. Membership in VAMBOA is free.

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