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2 Four Ways Your Business Can Give Back in 2016

photo credit: Dollar Photo Club

photo credit: Dollar Photo Club

Being January, it’s the time of year when many of us set goals for the year and make some New Year’s resolutions pertaining to our businesses.  Perhaps we have a certain amount of revenue we’d like to earn in 2016, a product or service we’d like to begin offering, or some content we’d like to get published.  These are all excellent goals and I encourage you to set them, but I’d like to also encourage you to set one other type of goal for this year: a giving goal.

What I mean by a “giving goal” is a way that your business can donate time, talent, or treasure to help make your community or even our planet a happier, healthier, or safer place to live.  Why should you do this?  Well, I could say that you should do it because giving a helping hand to those less fortunate than yourself is the right thing to do…but in case that isn’t compelling enough for you, consider the fact that just about every single highly successful person or organization in history has made a habit of giving back in some way.  

I’m not suggesting that giving back will guarantee the success of your business, but I do believe there is more than an indirect correlation between success and giving.  This is especially true if you participate in cause marketing—in other words, making giving back such a big part of your brand identity that customers actually choose you over your competitor at least in part because of it.  Toms is a great example of this—for every clothing product you purchase from them, they donate a product to someone in need around the world.  

Now, I’m not suggesting that you need to become the next Toms, but I do think it’s important that you find some way that your business can give back.  There are many, many ways you can do this, many of which don’t even require any monetary contribution, but just in case you’re one of those less creative folks, I have taken the liberty of suggesting four possible ways your business can give back this year.

Volunteer your technical expertise

If you have a service-based business, chances are there is a non-profit organization in your community that could benefit from those services but that might not be able to afford them.  By donating your services to those organizations, they can focus more time and money on their core mission.  In some cases, your expertise might actually be their core mission.

For example, construction professionals like electricians, carpenters, and plumbers could volunteer their time on a Habitat for Humanity build site.  Financial professionals could help teach financial literacy classes or serve as advisors on the board of a non-profit organization.  Marketing professionals could donate their services to help non-profits with email campaigns or maintaining a website.  I know that there are marketing consultants that specialize in working for non-profits, and I’m not suggesting that those people should work for free, but there are plenty of small non-profit organizations that can’t afford to pay for marketing assistance but who could really use some help in that area.  Marketing professionals who donate their time to organizations like that often find that it’s a great way to meet leaders in their community who can afford their services.

While donating technical expertise doesn’t have the same tax benefits of a monetary donation, it is in many cases even more beneficial to the recipient and is also a great way for smaller businesses without a giving budget to support an organization they believe in.  

Be a mentor

Another way you as a business owner can give back this year is to mentor someone who is just getting started in your industry.  This could be part of a formal mentorship program run by an organization like SCORE or your local SBDC, or it could be something that you do on your own.    

This can be a very rewarding experience for you and really make a difference in someone’s life.  If you have had any amount of success as a business owner, chances are you had a mentor or coach at some point or at least got some valuable advice from people that helped you succeed.  Why not pay it forward by passing along your wisdom to the next generation of professionals in your industry?

Donate products, equipment, or space

If you have a business that sells physical products, you could donate those products to a local non-profit organization that could either use them directly or that could use them in a fundraiser such as a silent auction.  Even if you don’t sell physical products, you could donate used equipment such as vehicles, computers, or tools to organizations that need them.  

If you don’t have anything to donate yourself, you could simply partner with a local non-profit and serve as a collection point for donations.  You can reach out to your customers and get them to bring donations to your place of business, or if your business involves going to your customer’s home or business, you could collect items from them directly.  Just about every community has a Goodwill store or Habitat ReStore nearby, and most people have items lying around the house that they don’t really need or use.  If your business partners with one of these organizations to help them get donations from your customers, you can do a lot of good without having to spend one penny of your own money.

Donate money

While there are many ways your business can support causes and organizations that don’t involve financial contributions, direct monetary support is something that every non-profit appreciates and in fact needs to survive.  There are so many worthy organizations and not nearly enough money to go around, and you may think whatever small amount you can donate makes no difference.  I can assure you that this is not the case, and this is especially true when it comes to organizations that work in developing countries, where a dollar can buy a lot more than it can in the U.S.  

If finances are tight and you’re not sure if you can afford to give direct financial support to a non-profit organization, there is an easy way around this problem.  Simply do what Toms does and tie your support directly to an increase in revenue.  You can even tie it to one of your other business goals for the year—for example, if you want more customers to upgrade to your “gold” service plan, you can advertise that for each customer who upgrades to that plan you will donate x dollar amount to a local non-profit.  

One word of caution here—if you are going to make your financial support of an organization public, do your due diligence and make sure that the organization is using the money responsibly.  Also, it’s probably a good idea not to publicly support controversial organizations or causes (such as political campaigns) unless you are very certain that 100% of your customers also support that organization.  Otherwise, it could end up costing you customers who don’t want to support a brand that affiliates with a cause they don’t agree with.

Between all the examples I gave above, hopefully you’ll be able to think of a way your business can give back in 2016.  If you did think of something and want to share your commitment publicly, or if you are already giving back in some way, please leave a comment on this post and let me know about what you’re doing.  

 

kevin JordanKevin Jordan is a Certified Duct Tape Marketing Consultant, owner of Redpoint Marketing Consultants, and co-author of the best-selling book The Small Business Owner’s Guide to Local Lead Generation. You can connect with Kevin on Twitter @RMCVirginia, and find out how he’s giving back in 2016 by visiting his small business marketing blog.

1 5 Tips to Prepare Yourself for an Entrepreneurial Burnout Threat

There are several areas an entrepreneur needs to shred for getting a better position in the game before the risk itself devours him whole. The entrepreneurial spirit must be kept alive and the fire kindled from time to time so doesn’t die out of hope and exhaustion. If you’re too cocky to say yes almost every time to catch the opportunity train, you have a serious “Burnout” risk.

What Causes Burnout?

Meltdowns are a direct result from lack of composure and firm footing. Having a dull edge at chances and no homework whatsoever is bound to eroding what’s left of the abilities within the broken soul of the entrepreneur. According to research 50% of small businesses fail within the first year. Keeping your edge razor sharp will make you bent on avoiding any burnouts you are so very afraid to fall in.

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Entrepreneurs same as you are cut from the same cloth with similar chances and choices and believing one is gifted and the other doomed in peril is utter wish-wash rubbish. Surveys suggest that 40% of small business are making profits, so it’s nothing to be afraid of, but what about the remaining?

1. Always welcome Opinions

If you’re too much of egotistical thicko’ then there is no cure, but being not, you are entitled to fair use of your brain same as everyone!

People who have actually suffered survived entrepreneurial burnouts are alive. Some of their chronicles are on the internet where as others are just looking for someone to ask for a veteran advice. Seek them out and study them. Shrug off that knightly attitude and make your own pace by implementing expert advice. Learn from their mistakes before you learn it the hard way.

2. Inspiration is Your New Diet

A smart entrepreneur keeps himself surrounded with inspiration same as a fish keep itself surrounded with water, not just to live but to survive.  If you have the liberty to set out your own team make sure you don’t pick the textbook kind. Hire the open minded and contributing folk who keep circulating a flow of genuine and out of the box ideas. This not only helps break the ice between you and the employees, but also gives you regular dose of productive debates.

3. Take 5! And Eat Healthy

In more clearers words, get a life pal. You need not glue your back to your chair and spend countless hours working on some new idea at the cost of your ability to enjoy life. Take your family out for dinner, get your friends together or even draw some doodles on a boogie board. Long story short, cut some slack for the sake of you.

Secondly, eating a healthy and balanced diet is the most underrated remedy for burnout paranoia. Keeping your body from the nutrition it needs is religiously, ethically and professionally condemned throughout the world. Making yourself frail and weak not only undermines your potential to work on a higher spectrum, but also signals your weakness to other competitors hungry for blood.

4. Tracking your Progress

This is another crucial aspect that inhibits the progress of an entrepreneurial expedition. What happens when you remain adrift like a plastic bag? It’s pretty much obvious that you lose track from where you begin. Once you are set afoot to in the business environment your must endure, better yet persevere, but most importantly remember your ideals and motives that pioneered your thoughts into action. Keep a thorough track from where you started and where you are trying to head. Make small but executive decisions so that a trail can be formed.

5. Do not Drown in Expectations

“When you have expectation you are setting yourself up for disappointment”. Well, we can’t entirely agree with Ryan Reynolds here, but you do get the point.

You cannot simply expect to a raise a billion by the end of the year with your entrepreneurial blue prints and sit tight while everything falls as you planned. There is no such ideology that can be mechanized into empirical results. Ask Communism, it will testify! Burnouts can be avoided, but in no circumstances you are impervious. To keep yourself in the green zone, set the optimal expectations you can achieve backed by study and research that can vouch for your progress.

Conclusion

To make yourself the manifestation of the ideal entrepreneur, you must gather the right amount of energy and motivation to free yourself from the shackles of fear and risk taking. Get yourself up in the business, willing to take risk. For example, you may start your online auction business very easily through Magento Auction. A famous saying from the liberator of the Sub-Continent (Old India), Muhammad Ali Jinnah says it all:

I do not believe in taking right decisions,

I take decisions and make them right!

 

bio photoSimon Walker is an experienced PHP Developer having expertise in Magento, PrestaShop & WordPress Development and currently working for FMEExtensions and FMEAddons. He blogs regularly on ecommerce tips and tricks, PHP Development and social media. He led to the development of top Extensions like Magento PopUP and Magento Out of Stock Notification. He lives in Austin, Texas and currently working as a E-commerce consultant.

1 The Future of Leadership in 2016

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Everyone wants to be a leader, but not everyone acknowledges the big difference between managing and leading. And for small business owners looking to grow their business, making the transition from running it to leading it, can be all the difference. The first step is knowing what exactly leadership requires – now and in the future.

So, what does the future of leadership look like and how can small businesses adapt?

01 – Creative

“Creative leadership involves blowing up the status quo, and out of the chaos, building a new world.” – Travis Turner, Writer and Blogger

Fast Company claims that creativity is the most important leadership quality for success. “All companies depend on ideas and ingenuity” affirms leading creativity expert Sir Ken Robinson. And you have to look no further than the world’s Most Innovative Companies to know he’s right. Small business leaders can create a culture of creativity by:

  • Using tools and technologies that help facilitate creativity and capturing ideas. My personal favourites include Evernote and TranscribeMe.
  • Encouraging creative brainstorming in their teams. Candor provides a handy way to do this and avoid “groupthink” or bias.
  • Creating a physical workspace that positively impacts productivity, collaboration and inspiration. From specially designed, fully equipped spaces like Facebook’s Analog Research Lab, to the more “low-fi” approach adopted by Stanford D-school, it’s worth learning from global best practice to see what’s achievable in your own business.

02 – Fair

“No man will make a great leader who wants to do it all himself, or to get all the credit for doing it” – Andrew Carnegie, Business magnate and Industrialist

Fair leadership is good business. A new leadership model is emerging that is characterised by less hierarchy and looser boundaries – enabling faster decision making, more ownership over projects and the freedom for employees to take the initiative. Companies like Google have valued a “wafer thin hierarchy” from the start.  Embracing fairness in an organisation can involve:

  • Creating clarity around decision making; i.e. removing ambiguity, providing clear explanations for decisions and keeping everyone in the team abreast of what is going on.
  • Encouraging feedback and communication; Happiily is designed for staff to have a voice – they can anonymously share feedback around work related issues and this total honesty gives leaders the opportunity to address any sticking points.
  • Establishing designated support teams; For example, empowering HR to have a much bigger role beyond just recruitment – coaching, mentoring, championing the company culture, and aligning staff to the company values.

03 – Authentic (and Values-Driven)

“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it ” – Simon Sinek, Author and Motivational Speaker

What you stand for is just as important as what you do – and may even eclipse it. The world needs more leaders who are true to themselves and reflect this in their work.  

  • Create a moral code for work; Creative studio Sagmeister & Walsh always ask three questions before they on a project: “Can we give it our heart? Can we learn something? Can we touch people’s hearts?”
  • Establish a clear set of values; Capturing what you stand for in writing is a great way to get employees on board, share your values with customers and remind yourselves every single day of what’s important. Check out Method’s humanifesto as a great example.
  • Champion transparency; Internally this may be by building robust internal communications e.g. weekly debrief meetings or leveraging a company-wide intranet to keep everyone posted on what’s happening within the organization. Externally this may include a weekly newsletter to customers and subscribers, interim and annual reports detailing financial summaries, or a more personal touch – blog posts from senior leaders or social media updates which allow communication to be real-time and constant.

04 – Collaborative

“The role of a leader is not to have all the ideas; it’s to create a culture where everyone can have ideas” – Sir Ken Robinson, Creativity Expert and Speaker

The most evolved leaders realise that they can’t do everything alone. Their role is to inspire, encourage and grow others.

  • Open communication is key for this to work; Apps like Yammer or even Skype and Google Hangouts are a good way to keep teams in touch with each other, especially cross-office or remotely.
  • Think visually; Some clients may prefer to use Pinterest boards – it’s a great way to share visual inspiration and your boards can be made “secret” from the public.
  • Build trust through transparency – for example, enabling visibility over projects, processes and what everyone is working on.
  • Use a Project management software while collaborating on projects with clients and staff. Integration with other applications such as file-sharing service Box helps make collaboration easy and keep everything in once place.

05 – Visionary

“We have a 150-year plan and vision”, Tristan Walker, founder and CEO of Walker & Co.

From a solid business model to a five-year plan, leaders need to have a strong, unshakeable vision and the ambition to make it a reality. This means they need to stay cognizant of the bigger picture. A project management system like WorkflowMax can give leaders real-time visibility and control over all aspects of the business.

06 – Hungry

“Learn early, learn often” – Drew Houston, CEO and founder of Dropbox

Becoming a great leader is a learning process that never ends. Adopting a “get better” mindset is critical to stay ahead of the competition but requires a high level of self-awareness, a willingness to improve and the humility to grow.

  • Read more to know more; Feedly, a news aggregator app does exactly that, helping you keep your customised reading feeds all in one place. It’s used by leaders like Rod Drury, CEO of innovative accounting firm Xero.
  • Broaden the scope of inspiration; After all, ideas can come from anywhere. Websites like 99U, Brain Pickings, TED, CreativeMornings provide a host of carefully curated inspirational and educational content.
  • Save inspiration for later; Instapaper and Pocket are handy is the browser bookmarklets that allows you to save web pages for later offline reading.

So there you have it. The key tenets of leadership in the future, some handy tips on how businesses can implement them to stay ahead of the curve. For more great advice for small business owners sign up for a FREE agency webinar by John Jantsch, hosted by WorkflowMax – the project management system loved by thousands of agencies around the world.

AuthorBio_150Mallika Goel is a Marketing Copywriter at WorkflowMax – the project management system loved by thousands of agencies around the world. She has over four years of experience agency-side, working with some of New Zealand’s leading brands. Learn more about fuelling your own agency’s success with Duct Tape Marketing and WorkflowMax in a new FREE agency webinar.

20 The Secret to Working Less Without Making Less

It’s guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing, and today’s guest post is from Jenna Dalton– Enjoy!

Work Less

photo credit: kroszk@

You want a life. You want a successful business. But is it possible to have both?

Yes it is. You just need to know the secret to working less without making less. The key is to be constantly asking this one critical question…

“Am I being productive, or am I just keeping busy?”

The truth is, there are very few things that you need to do to grow your business. But a lot of us fall into the trap of thinking that we’re making smart moves when we’re actually just doing busy work.

Spending 3 hours changing our Facebook page cover photo is not a good use of our time.

Spending 3 hours crafting a great guest blog post that’ll drive more traffic to our website is a good use of our time.

The secret is to know what you should focus your attention on, and what you should either hire someone else to do, or just forget about.

If you want to work less without making less you need to learn how to properly prioritize. And it all comes back to your goals.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume that your goals probably look something like this… Get more clients or customers. Make more money. Right?

And you’re going to be able to do that by focusing on three key things:

  1. Doing lots of smart networking
  2. Generating more referrals
  3. Getting more email subscribers

This means that – when you’re trying to decide what you should work on each day – if it doesn’t fit any of those categories, you should question whether it’s worth your time.

I’m not saying it will never be worth your time to do something outside those categories. But, if you want to not work so much and still grow your business, these three things should be a priority for you. These 3 things are what will help you grow your business as quickly and easily as possible.

Networking

Maintaining relationships you already have, and actively pursuing relationships you want to have is smart marketing.

Try reaching out to at least 1 person per day. Send them a relevant, useful article. Mail them a birthday card. Or let them know that you enjoyed their latest blog post.

It doesn’t have to be complicated. It’s simply about keeping in touch and being generous on a regular basis.

Referrals

According to research by Nielsen, 92% of people say they trust word-of-mouth marketing and recommendations by friends and family more than any other form of marketing.

That means that the best source of new business is to make your current clients happy, and then ask them to send other people your way.

So make sure you have a strong referral system in place.

Subscribers

The only reason someone would become a client or buy something you’ve created is because they know, like and trust you.

And one of the best ways to get people to know, like and trust you is through your email list.

Spending time attracting more subscribers, and then giving your subscribers a good reason to stay on your email list – by sharing helpful tips, tools and resources – should definitely be a priority.

Where are your priorities?

If you want to grow your business without working yourself to the bone, it’s time to start paying attention to how you’re actually spending your time.

Prioritize. Delegate. Focus.

Recognize that there are some things that are necessary to grow your business, and other things you can let go (or hire someone else to do).

Focus on what will help you grow your business – networking, referrals, and subscribers – instead of just doing work, for work’s sake.

Having a balanced life – where work isn’t trickling into social time, and social time isn’t trickling into work time – can be tough.

But you can make it easier for yourself by noticing whether you’re productive, or just doing something for the sake of doing it.

So, where are your priorities? How can you shift them so you can work less and still grow your business?

DTMHeadshotJenna Dalton is an Elite Level Book Yourself Solid® Certified Coach. She helps coaches use smart blogging strategies to get more clients. Grab her free toolkit How to Write The Perfect Blog Post. And make sure to come say hi to her on Twitter and Facebook.

 

4 Using Your Greatness Filter to Perform at Your Best

Last January I started a series of posts I called Recover You. They all built on the theme of actions and activities you could take to improve how you approached your work and your life. This year’s theme for the randomly dispersed posts is Greatness. The posts in this series will address how to make this the greatest year ever.

In my experience most business owners have incredibly noble intentions for their businesses.

greatness filter

photo credit: Marco Fedele via photopin cc

Sure, they want to make money and build an asset, but most start out simply wanting to do something better or more fully, to right a wrong in the world or to create a little freedom and control in their lives.

Then a funny thing happens that I will generically call “all the other crap.” (ATOC)

ATOC clouds those noble intentions and can eventually make owning a business the most soul sucking experience on the planet.

So, how do you keep the drain of ATOC at arms length?

It starts by creating and using something I call Your Greatness Filter.

For this use a filter is a tool that allows you to see the world around you in a predetermined way – a bit like the photo filters that are popular with mobile camera apps like Instagram.

Without intentional filters we turn into bundles of reactions and give over control of every situation to how we are feeling and what we are thinking at the moment.

Without the use of filters fear creeps in, we allow ourselves to be offended when someone “insults” us, we lose sight of our real mission and we make decisions that hold us from performing at what we know to be our best.

Without filters we tend to spend our time on things that feed the ego, such as checking Twitter stats, rather than things that add value to our business and relationships.

So, what do I mean by a Greatness Filter?

A greatness filter is your predetermined set of instructions for making your day to day interactions intentional.

Many business owners have developed a set of core beliefs that they use to build the culture of the business, but often times these beliefs, no matter how strong, aren’t active enough to guide the everyday and get lost in the swirl of ATOC.

Your Greatness Filter is a series of words or concepts that you can carry into every situation knowing that if you engage in this manner you will not only be living your most noble intentions for your business and core beliefs, you’ll also be performing and engaging at your best.

You can bring these words and concepts into every meeting, decision and interaction you have throughout the day as your “filter” for projecting your greatest intention.

Start doing this and watch how the tone and feel of your meetings and interactions both internally and externally transform into something much more vitalizing.

So for example, my greatness filter looks like this

Positive Energy – I want to bring positive energy to every room, every meeting, every phone call and every one on one conversation. For me that starts with reminding myself how fortunate I am to get to go on the particular adventure I’ve chosen.

Curiosity – I want to look at everything in new ways, challenge the routine and dig under the hood and find out why something might work and how something might work better if I stop to question the “this is how we do it” mentality.

Non-judgement – I want to stay open to the genius in everyone and everything (even if it seems like a mere morsel of genius.) By closing down and prejudging people and situations I cut off what’s ultimately possible only through deep, meaningful relationships. Non-judgement is a tremendous way to add value.

I keep these three words and concepts with me throughout the day and use them as my filter as I enter every new situation and evaluate every happening. One of the ways you make this thinking permanent is to look at how you acted and reacted after the fact and figure out how to do a better job next time.

Some of the concepts I listed above are hard for me. I naturally let me ego get offended, suffer from decision fatigue and listen to that little voice that seeks approval over grace, but when I take my greatness filter with me I’m reminded to work on bringing my best self as often as possible.

I find that all too often what happens in business is we lose sight of what’s important because we have no real tool to measure success on a day to day basis – it all just sort of becomes soup.

With a Greatness Filter you have a tool that allows you to ask and measure – did I add value, did I build others up, did I consider other ways to do this or that or whatever fits with your unique greatness concepts.

So, what’s your greatness filter look like and how can you make sure that it guides your day?