When I was in high school, a petition was circling the school. We were outraged about something (I don't remember what, of course) and I'll never forget the principal's response. He wasn't mad. He was calm. But he gathered the high school together and he said: "Protests and petitions won't get you anywhere. Sure, it feels like you're doing something, but the best way to make change is not to sign your name on a paper. It's to stand up and do something. Have that hard conversation. Go directly to the person that has wronged you, and talk to them."
I've never forgotten those words.
The best way to make change is to stand up and do something.
I don't want to be whiner or a complainer. I don't want to be a protester or a petition-signer. I want to get up out of my chair, stand up, and make the small change that I can make.
I remember another day in high school. We were all loudly talking and moving as a herd from the cafeteria through the hallway to our next class. A bulky hand-painted banner had fallen from the concrete block walls and was now being trampled by the entire student body. We didn't even care. We just kept following the crowd. That day, my principal's face was red and angry. He stopped us right there in the hallway. "Didn't you guys see this?? How can you all keep walking and trampling over this poster??" We were dumbfounded. We really didn't see it. And if we did, we simply didn't care. We had our own agenda and our own interests in mind. We kept following the person in front of us, without a thought of the artwork that we were destroying under our feet.
Red-faced, the principal said, "All it takes is ONE person. One person to stop and move the poster so it won't get trampled."
I've never forgotten that, either. I have the power to get out of the crowd, take another look and do something. I can speak up, I can grab what is being trampled and I can get it out of harm’s way.
You don't have to march and protest and sign the petition. Sure, it feels good to be part of the crowd. Something bigger than yourself. But the biggest impact of all comes when just you--just one person--takes a stand and starts that hard conversation. Confronts injustice. Picks up that which is being trampled.
Acting bravely on your own is the most powerful action you can take.
My favorite quote says: "Do what you can, with what you have, where you are."
Imagine the impact if we each did just that.
I sighed. I stare at the task on my to do list. Again. It wasn’t going away, and yet I couldn’t seem to get the project done. Every time I worked on it, I got frustrated. Things weren’t working out the way I envisioned. This just wasn’t my strong suit. Sigh. Push it out to next week. Again.
I love using Todoist.com for all my tasks, but it’s frustrating when Chris keeps bragging about all the “points” he earns for completing all my tasks and I have OVERDUE glaring at me. I click the handy-dandy button that delays the due date another week. I rhythmically tap my pen on my desk. Maybe it’s time to get help with this design project.
<Fast forward 2 weeks.>
A new email comes in and the friendly message reads: “Jen, I have the proofs for you. Let me know what you think!” I open the PDF and grin like a fool. It looks so GOOD! And I didn’t have to do it! We hired a graphic designer and WOW this guy knows what he is doing! I write back: “I love it! Approved! Send it to the printer.”
Jumping over to Todoist, I gleefully check off the huge project that had been weighing on my shoulders for months. I grin.
These are the huge benefits of hiring a team:
When I build a team in my company, it’s imperative that everyone knows their role and what they should work on. My favorite tool is www.todoist.com. I can use hashtags to keep projects organized. I can assign tasks to myself or a team member and then set the date for a deadline. Every day, I get an email reminding me of upcoming and overdue tasks. I can even earn points for completing my tasks! Todoist works on my Apple Watch, there’s an app on my phone, and it’s beautiful on my computer. It synchronizes automatically, so I can stay on top of tasks wherever I am. Best part? The basic version is FREE! The upgraded version is only $29 per year. Totally worth it! If you’re building a team or collaborating on projects, check it out.
I know you’re already a Rock Star business owner. But you don’t have to do this all alone.
Build a team--and gain your sanity back!
What is a business? A business is simply seeing a need and filling it. Having a solution for a problem.
If you sell something or provide a service for something that people need, and are willing to pay for it, you have a business.
That's it in a nutshell. When you boil down what we do, we find a need and we fill it.
How do you grow your business? Well, people need to know about your solution! You have to express that you understand their problem and clearly explain the solution. But this is complicated, isn't it? Sometimes it's hard to relate to the people we are selling to. Sometimes we don't like to promote ourselves. And sometimes we are so busy providing the solution, we actually don't have time to promote at all!
Here's where systems come in. You have to have stable, dependable systems to promote the solution to the problem that your people are facing. You can use your website, email, Facebook, direct mail, word of mouth, etc. But you can't decide to promote your business only when business is slow. Honestly, your marketing and advertising needs to be a system in itself! Do you have a repeatable process that is a checklist that you complete every single week?
If you don't have enough people seeking the solution that you offer, then focus on your marketing. Focus on improving your messaging. Make sure you are speaking to the need that your customer already knows they have. They have pain--and you have the solution. Simply put, that is marketing and advertising.
If you need some feedback on your marketing message, for a very limited time (only until February 5th) I am offering website and Facebook Page assessments. Book a 30 minute call with me here and for only $97, I'll get you my honest, knee-jerk reaction to your website and Facebook page. You'll come away with actionable items and steps to tweak and improve your messaging and your marketing. Normally, I charge $300 for this assessment. But I feel very strongly about you getting this done. So grab your time slot (it must be booked before February 5th) and take advantage of this super low price. Only $97. Here's the link again: https://www.neveralonebusinessservices.com/coaching-call.html
Let's make sure you're speaking your customer's language. Let's make sure they clearly understand the solution you provide to their problem. Let's do this together!
I have to tell you a secret. My kids are the motivation for streamlining and systematizing my business. They are the reason I hire staff and spend so much time training them. They are what drives me to learn new technology to simplify my systems.
You see, when I first started my business, I did everything. I taught piano lessons, I scheduled the lessons, I tracked the tuition, I hired the teachers, I bought the books, I scheduled the meetings, I did the advertising, I rented the recital hall, I printed the programs, and I even designed curriculum and wrote exams for my students. (The only thing I didn't do was make the ice ring for the recital--one of my teachers volunteered to handle that. How nice.) After I had baby #3, I realized there was no way I could continue at this pace. Something had to change. I scaled my company back a little, and then had baby #4. I felt stuck. I didn't want my company to stay small, but I also didn't want to put my kids in daycare and work all day long. It was time for big changes. I started ruthlessly researching and reading dozens of business books. Two books changed my life forever.
"The E-Myth, Revisited," made me realize that I had started my business because I am wired to be an entrepreneur. However, by running every detail of my business, I had hamstringed myself into a position of never being an entrepreneur again. I was so busy running the day-to-day operations that I couldn't create new ideas for growth. I couldn't add new programs when I was so busy maintaining what I had started! It was time to put really strong systems in place so I could scale my business and finally grow (without more stress).
When I read the book "The Four Hour Workweek," I was challenged to think about my purpose in life. If I could clear all the stress and the tasks, what did I really want out of life? I realized that my children were my inspiration. I longed for more quality time with them. I hated that I was constantly working and always stressed out. I wanted to be the best mom possible. I wanted to take them on vacations. I wanted to travel and show them other parts of the country--and even other parts of the world. In my mind, I created a vision for my life where our family could be together more often, having fun and learning together. And this is what motivated me to completely change my business model.
Now, our family takes multiple trips every year. We spend full days at museums or the mall. We go out to eat, laugh, and go to the movies. We are rich in time. For time wealth is really what matters, isn't it?
When I got serious about growing my business, I hired my first administrative staff member and wrote my operations manual. I documented everything I did to get a student, enroll a student, and get that student started with a teacher. I wrote training manuals. I spent hours putting my brain onto paper so someone else could do what I had been doing. Little by little, as I could afford it, I increased my admin's hours. I focused all my efforts into learning about marketing. I realized that if I could be good at marketing, then my business could finally grow.
Because I wanted quality time with my kids, I was ruthless with my schedule. I determined when I would work and when that time came, I didn't waste time. I was super focused and I got more done in 6 hours than most people do in a couple days. When tasks popped in my head, I jotted them down, but I didn't deviate from "mom-mode." I begged a friend to watch my kids one day a week so I could focus on marketing and growing my company. I felt a drive deep inside. My motivation was my kids.
As we enter a New Year, so many of my business friends have been sharing with me that they want more intentional, quality time with their family. How do you accomplish that? By putting more systems in place.
Want more quality time with your family? Here are goals to run after:
1. Hire staff and train them properly.
It's not enough to hire people if you can't trust that they will do things correctly. Spend several weeks in training and you'll be able to step away from tasks that are currently consuming you.
2. Document everything.
Is it time-consuming? YES. But once it's done, it's done! Write everything down that you usually do. Every step. Make checklists. Don't skip anything. Imagine if you had to have surgery and were out of commission for a week. What needs to be written down so someone could step in and do the work that you usually do? Use this motivation to do a brain-dump so you can finally create an Operations Manual.
3. Create your weekly schedule.
If I don't schedule time with my kids or time with my spouse during my week, it just doesn't happen. Appointments get scheduled. Emergencies arise. People need me. It's just a reality. The important things get squeezed out by the urgent things. I have to be super intentional about my time and make my kids and spouse a priority. My desire to be the best mom and wife possible is what drives me to keep improving my schedule. I check in with each kid and ask them what they need from me. Sometimes I'm surprised by the answer. It's often more simple than I imagined. Mostly, it's just a request for more quality time without distractions. I go on coffee dates with my kids. I listen to them. I even schedule meetings with them! I call them "Mentor Meetings," because I want to spend their childhood being their mentor and guide as they grow into the person God designed them to be.
My kids keep growing and changing, so I keep assessing what needs to be changed and improved. We never "arrive" at a perfect system or schedule. But when I look back 9 years ago, I remember a crazy-busy, stressed out mom. Today, I'm fulfilled and doing what I love. I have lots of time with my kids. And I actually like being with my kids. (They are turning out to be great human beings!) I feel blessed to be their mom and I realize that in only 9 years, they will all be graduated. The days may be long, but the years are definitely short. I want to maximize the time I have and be intentional about my time.
Maybe you've been meaning to add more systems or staff to your company this year. Best way to implement those changes? Keep your kids as your motivation. I'm cheering you on!
Dear busy business owner,
I know you're working so hard. Especially this time of year. You're buying gifts for your staff, you're making sure that everything gets purchased, you're overseeing the schedules, and you're making projections for 2017. The days are long and the hours are often never-ending.
You also get the priviledge of creating jobs and hiring amazing people. You see the smiles on your clients' faces and you get the joy of making a difference in the community.
And yet, sometimes it all still feels so small. Like maybe it doesn't really matter. Is this all worth it? Couldn't there be a bigger vision? A more glamorous mission?
I want you to know that what you do matters. Your company is your calling. It's a reflection of who you are and what you were created to do. No one is exactly like you. You bring your personality and your preferences and your flare into everything you do. Sometimes the difference you're making in the world feels so tiny. You're so aware that there are bigger things that need to be accomplished--people are fleeing war-torn countries, babies are dying, cancer is spreading. And yet. Listen to me. All you can do is be faithful in YOUR calling. You are exactly where you are for a reason and a purpose. You ARE making a difference in lives, and your efforts spread like a stone dropped in a pond. You may not ever see all the ripples that you are causing. But you are actually required to be faithful where you are and use the gifts and talents you've been given. Because, don't you see? If we all do that--if we all stay faithful to the calling we've been given--then it all works together! We all play our part. And that makes a bigger difference in the world than we could ever do alone.
Does your heart ache for a need? Do tears spring up in your eyes when you see how much is yet to be done in the world? Don't ignore those clues. Use that passion and ache to fuel your desire to grow your company. And then GIVE BACK. Start small. Even $25 makes a difference. But don't stop there. Give more.
This year, set a giving goal. Maybe it's 10% of your net revenue. Or 5% of your gross. Whatever you decide, your giving will increase as your company grows! This accomplishes a dual pupose: you will have a bigger goal outside of yourself and you will know that you are making a difference in the world. You will also have a bigger reason for growing your company and serving more people in 2017!
Don't look down on the work that you do. Don't resent where you've been planted. Instead, remember that you are exactly where you are supposed to do. What you do matters. I believe that with all my heart.
And I believe in YOU.
It's December. You're feeling a little antsy. Sales are down. The phones are (relatively) quiet. You're tempted to bomb your email list with a December special or run an expensive Facebook campaign.
I've been feeling the same way, and while my intuition has been whispering, "Wait," I still have been chomping at the bit. I'm ready for 2017. I'm ready to grow my music school. Let's do this!
And yet, I need to finish my Christmas shopping and wrap the presents I've hidden. I need to make cookies for our family get-together, but before I can do that, I have to buy the supplies to make the cookies. Before we actually get to baking, I need to wash all the dishes (our dishwasher is broken, boo). It's an overwhelming time of year--not only for me, but for our customers! This is precisely why you need to be patient and wait to run your 2017 marketing campaign. Give your prospects some space. Respect their crazy. Let them shop and wrap and bake and enjoy the season. There's plenty of time for marketing!
Now, where to put all your nervous energy (as you're procrastinating on wrapping those gifts)? You can PLAN your January marketing. Write those emails. Map it out. Line up some great photos for your Facebook campaigns (remember: smiling happy faces looking AT the camera!).
If your staff is pacing nervously, let them make plans to spruce up your location. Do paint touch-ups. Get those cobwebs high in the corner. Move some furniture around. Let this "slow" time be a time of improvement before the New Year's rush.
And the best use of your time and energy this month is definitely giving back. Who can you bless? What need can you meet? Send that check anonymously. Buy a new winter coat for that family in need. Do a food or new toy drive at your business. Leverage your position and your company to be a force of good in the community and in the world.
Enjoy the season. Breathe. (And listen to some wonderful music!)
Dear tired soul,
You really don't have to do everything. You don't have to stretch yourself so thin. You don't have to fill in all the white spaces until there's no margin at all.
You really don't have to say "yes" to everyone who needs you.
You don't have to shoulder everything on your own.
That project that is driving you crazy?! You don't have to do it. Nope. You can let someone help you. You can hire someone. You can delegate it.
I know you're strong. I do. I know you've done this before and it's easier and faster to just do it yourself. I get it.
I know you've been burned by hiring people and then they leave. They get a different job. They go a different direction. They have left you in a lurch. I get it. I really, really do.
I know it's scary and overwhelming, but you really can hire someone again. It's scary and vulnerable, but you can do it. In fact, you must.
You can't keep going like this.
I see you. You're so tired. You're so exhausted and depleted. And you just keep pushing through.
It's time to make a change. It's time to take a new road. You simply can't keep going like you are.
The stress will eat you alive. Your health will start to fail.
You can't live on caffeine and limited meals.
You are the author of this story. You are not a victim of circumstance. You can rise above. You can make a list of what you WANT and what you DON'T WANT and adjust accordingly. You can make a plan and execute it. You are STRONG. You are amazing. Look what you've done to get this far! You are a warrior and an overcomer. You can overcome this.
It's time to put your foot down. You don't need to keep going like this. It's time to make a change. It's YOUR time.
You've got this.
And if you need help, you just let us know.
All week I've been talking to my coaching clients about the importance of a monthly newsletter. It seems so old fashioned, doesn't it? But I actually count it as one of the most important elements of my marketing!
A newsletter is a fun, casual way to stay in front of your customers and prospects. It's not "salesy" and it's predictable. When you add someone to your newsletter list, you know they are going to hear from you every month. For prospects, it's a gentle reminder that you're still here, ready for them to sign up/join/buy when they are ready. For current clients, it keeps you on their radar, and when you ask them to refer you to their friends, they will!
Let's face it. Your current clients may use your services, but they may not know you are taking new clients. You have to actually say, "Tell your friends! We have room for more!"
When your prospects request more info, call you, or email you, they may not be ready to buy yet. You don't want to hound them forever, do you? Yuck. So you reach out a couple times and then put them on your newsletter list. It's a very easy way to systematically reach out to them, without them feeling like you're chasing them down.
Here are some tips for connecting with your clients via newsletters:
Don't be formal, be fun!
No reason to use a professional voice--be casual, like the tone of this blog. Write FUN articles about you, your family, the weather, the changing seasons, your dog (seriously!), sports, or anything else you love to write about!
Blast your message on multiple channels
When you write your newsletter each month, you need to send the message on multiple channels: Post it on your website, send it as an email, post it on Facebook (use the website link), and also mail it to their mailbox! Don't worry--you aren't bombarding people. Some will read it via email, others don't even check their email! Some will catch it on Facebook, and others will be surprised to get some fun mail (instead of just bills!)
Be Real and Be You
In the social media age, we are all hungry for people who are "real" and authentic. We don't need stiff and formal. (Seriously. Even if you're an insurance agent or dentist!) Write a really fun front page article (or ask your spouse to help you). The goal is to touch base with your clients and prospects in a friendly, engaging way. You want them to LIKE you, so they will buy from you!
Entertain your reader
Please, for the love, do not write about technical things. If you're a dentist, don't tell me how to clean my teeth! If you're a chiropractor, don't write about subluxation. Just entertain me! Add a funny comic strip or pictures of your pets! If you're not fun or interesting, they won't read it, and you'll be wasting your time, and that will be a bummer, now won't it?!
Use lots of pictures (and pull from your Facebook page)
A GREAT idea for filling your newsletter is to pull content that you already posted on Facebook! Whoo hoo! Reusing material is a great idea! You already posted those pictures--now go grab them and add them to your newsletter. Most people didn't see them on Facebook the first time around, and even if they did, things move so quickly now days that they can see them again. No problemo.
Listen--I'm an avid reader, but most people aren't. They love to SCAN and they love pictures! So fill your newsletter with fun pictures!
Get your newsletter in the mailbox
I know. It's a ton of work to actually mail a paper newsletter to your list's mailbox. But you know what? NO ONE is doing this! Do you want to stand out? Do you want more clients? You do? Then it's worth all the work and effort to design a newsletter, print it, address it, and send it in the mail! (You can pay companies to help you with this, too.)
If you really, truly want to grow your business, you need to ramp up your newsletters. Put reminders on your phone for the first of every month to start writing your front page article. Put another reminder to send it to the printers on the 10th of the month.
Get your office staff to do the bulk of the work for you! You can even write several articles at once for the next couple months! (Totally ninja, I know!)
It all comes down to systems. You have to make a system for getting your newsletter done every month. It takes discipline for sure. But if you want to grow your business, you have to make this a priority! It works. I promise.
(You can see my newsletter link on my website HERE.)
It's a common complaint. People get soooo much email. So, as business owners, how do we still use email but not drive our customers crazy?
1. Keep it simple.
No need for multiple columns or fancy designs anymore. People are reading their email on their phone and you need to keep your communication to a one column design.
2. Once a week
Try to keep your communication no more than once a week. Be simple and use bullet points, when you can. Think of busy people checking their email on the go. You want to be clear and concise!
3. Be entertaining!
Have a lighter tone in your email (not corporate or formal) and make people want to read your emails. If you're always boring or rude or forceful, they'll delete it without even opening it.
4. Be conversational
As you're writing, think of one person in your mind. Write like you're writing to a friend. It will be so much more enjoyable for everyone to read. Drop the formal tone. Just be yourself!
4. Use a BIG font!
You can't always control how your email will look on a mobile device, but you can help by making your font BIG when you send it. When the font is too tiny, it's frustrating to try to squeeze and pinch and try to read all the words!
4. Use a REAL email provider.
No more Outlook. No more gmail. If you are running a company, and sending bulk emails, you must use a real email provider, like Mail Chimp (our favorite). First of all, it's much easier to keep track of your lists and email contacts. Secondly, it's the law that people must be able to opt out of your list. You must have an "unsubscribe" link at the bottom of your email.
(Obviously I'm not talking about emails to one person. I'm talking about your mailing list, advertisements, sending out your blog, or emailing your newsletter. Yes, still use gmail for every day emailing!)
5. Be consistent
If you're running a company, I know things get busy and crazy. But make it your goal to email your list at least once a month. Once a week is better. When you disappear and go silent, it can be very confusing when you show up in their inbox again. "Who is this again??" they will ask. And if it's been awhile, come right out and introduce yourself again! It will help.
6. Open Rates
If you're watching the open rate statistics in your email provider, don't get discouraged. The numbers aren't always accurate for people reading your emails on their phones (which is almost everyone). One tip to increase your open rate is to use a very causal subject line, like you are writing to a friend. This makes people curious and they want to read what you've written.
7. Broadcast on multiple "channels"
When you send an email, be sure to send the SAME message in multiple ways. Post it on Facebook, post it on your blog, hang up flyers in your brick and mortar location, or hand out flyers. People need to see a message multiple times, and plus, there's always that one guy with 2,000 unread emails. Send your info in multiple ways and you're more likely to be heard.
Remember--our world is noisy and filled with information and messages. Be interesting and conversational and keep it simple. Focus on connecting with your reader! Then your message will be heard!
Once in awhile, I find my heart pounding, emotions rising, blood pressure escalating. I feel resistance: "I don't want to do this" I mutter. I push through. "Gotta get this done." I slam my fist on the desk, frustrated.
Other times in my business, I breeze through tasks, amazed at how quickly and easily I can maneuver my way through the situation. I click through items one by one, happily checking things off my list.
What's makes all the difference in these two scenarios? It's all in how we are wired.
Some people love to physically do things with their hands. You may like building, fixing, using machinery, untangling things, or making a physical model. Some of us get angry and frustrated while attempting to do the same things.
Some people are wired to create systems, organization, and rules. Others buck systems and love to question "Why?"
Figuring out how you are wired and what comes easily and naturally is a huge key to more happiness in life. If you can avoid the stress of doing things you are not naturally good at, you can spend more time on the things you love. And here's the thing: the thing that YOU love is difficult for other people! So if we stick to our strengths, we all win.
A couple years ago I was preparing for a big family meal at our house. Relatives were driving from out of town and the house was buzzing with excitement and anticipation. I needed another rack added in the oven so I could bake more food at one time. This particular oven rack was curved at one end and I could not figure out how which direction the rack should go in. Was it backwards? Upside down? I felt my blood pressure rising, but instead of getting frustrated, I called out to my hubby, Chris. He installed the new rack, easily and with no effort. What was frustrating for me was easy to him.
Very often in our business, we send out emails to our clients. Chris can labor over the words and phrases and waste time and effort, or he can ask me to pound out a couple paragraphs in a minute or two. It's not that he can't write--it's just much easier for me.
Having a team for your business is crucial so that you can figure out how each person is wired. I love giving assessments to my staff so I know what they enjoy and what stresses them out. Studies have proven that we all love doing a job that we enjoy, that we feel is meaningful, and where we feel useful. "Delegate" isn't such a scary word when you re-frame it and think of assigning tasks based on who truly thrives in each area.
We've all been taught to "power through" or to do the unpleasant tasks first. "No pain, no gain." But I'm going to challenge your thinking. Every time you do something that brings up feelings of anger, stress, or resentment, write it down. (Or make a mental note. Or tell Siri to jot it down.) Conversely, when you breeze through certain tasks, write those down too. Bonus points if the task isn't just easy, but you truly love doing it. After assembling your list for a few weeks, analyze it. What tasks should you stop doing? What can you give to your team instead? Don't delegate because you "should" delegate, delegate the items that frustrate you or stress you out. Keep things on your list that you truly enjoy and love to do. Here's why: You gain energy from doing things that come easily or naturally to you. When you gain energy, you can get more things done! Why drain your battery doing something that someone else could do easily and naturally?
A business owner recently told me that she delegated all her favorite tasks to her staff because she thought as the owner that she "should" do the unpleasant things. NO! Everyone defines "unpleasant" differently. Keep the tasks that you love and are good at. Assign tasks to your staff based on what they are good at. Then we all win!
I hate numbers, but Chris loves them. The same task in a spreadsheet that would put me in a bad mood takes Chris effortless time.
I love copywriting. I can whip out a headline, an email subject or a blog in just a few minutes. Chris will waste time and energy trying to do the same thing.
Some of my kids are really good at some things, and others are good at other things. I pay attention and assign them chores based on their natural abilities. I'll tell you a little secret: it makes the whole family happier when we all get to do the things that we are naturally wired to do.
I challenge you to re-think your To Do list. Who can help you? Who can you delegate tasks to? Who can you hire? And what can you do more of just because you love it and it comes naturally?
Accept this challenge and watch your life change. Guaranteed.
Hi, I'm Jen Hickle!