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10 Ways to Build a Successful Business

10 Ways to Build a Successful Business

Ever wonder what it takes to build a successful business? Many people have the talent, but not the right motivation and application. Very smart people with ambition often limit their success through simple mistakes. Follow these 10 steps and you’ll be well on your way to creating a successful enterprise!

1. It’s About People

The path to business success is built on personal relationships. If you think the most valuable aspect of school is the information or training, you may have missed many opportunities already. Look around when you’re around colleagues and form meaningful relationships. Take your colleagues out to lunch and dinner. The sooner you form these relationships, the more they can grow. Professional relationships will support you in down times and create opportunities that can make the difference between average and great success. Don’t think of relationships with colleagues as just professional either. Form personal bonds. Invite new colleagues over to your house, get your kids together. Personal relationships are the most meaningful to people, and you may make some great new friends in the process. I can’t tell you how many folks I met in graduate school that said they wanted a future successful business but turned down most opportunities to form relationships with their peers. Don’t confuse ‘professional’ with ‘impersonal’. Personal is professional. The world runs on emotional and personal connections. Much great professional success can come from the bonds you form with others!

2. Don’t Skimp on Marketing

Many new organizations use core staff to market the business even though those individuals don’t specialize in marketing. Many small business owners and entrepreneurs market themselves and do not consider outsourcing the job. Assuming you’re operating along principle 3 (below), bring in pros as soon as you can. Dedicate a percentage of all proceeds to professional marketing. Growth is an engine you need to sustain your business. A few things to keep in mind, however. Much of what is offered in the way of marketing services is overpriced and overrated. Sort through the run of the mill outfits and find someone with above-average talent. Verify best practices by interviewing more than one marketing outfit every year. Effective strategies can change quickly due to evolving technology and social practices. Don’t get caught thinking that your core staff, who may not have specialized training, don’t attend leading marketing conferences, and probably wear too many hats already, are up to the task. You’re probably limiting your success by having non-specialists handle one of the most important aspects of building your business!

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3. Hit the Pavement

In addition to hiring marketing pros (see above), you need to engage in your own marketing. As the principal figure in your business, marketing yourself will help you to properly evaluate the folks you hire to market on your behalf. And as the core from which your message to the world emanates, engaging in your own marketing will help you refine what you stand for and the value of what you’re offering.

Make brochures and go from business to business talking about what you do. Give free talks at the local library. Design your own business card as an exercise. If you don’t know how to sell yourself, your team will be much less effective. Anytime business gets slow, go back to the pavement and engage in some down-home, grassroots marketing yourself. Put up flyers in coffee shops and bookstores advertising your services. Create a free study group on an area of expertise. Write articles. Do some social media messaging. You should understand the value of your business so well that you can convince anyone in less than a minute that they need what you offer. Rinse and repeat until business picks up.

4. Increase Your Knowledge

Professionals can set themselves apart from the competition by increasing their knowledge in key areas of their field. Knowledge is power, and currency. You can use it to market your advantage over competitors, and to sell clients on the value of your product or services. The most advantageous knowledge is the type few others have. You may need to go outside your local area to find sources of knowledge that is uncommon in your community. Knowledge gets exponentially refined as expertise increases. Top experts will have a quantum grade over others. Knowledge also buys you credibility and access to others with similar knowledge, powering up the size and influence of your network.

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5. Be Tenacious

Building a successful business often takes sustained effort over time, a tireless belief in the value of what you’re offering, and a refusal to take ‘no’ for an answer. Entrepreneurs find ways through and around any obstacles in their path. They are not deterred. They turn failures into opportunities, and successes into greater successes. You’ll have down days and up days. Treat them like a roller coaster and keep on going. Remember, the weak give up. Don’t be in that group.

6. Seek Advice

You don’t know most of what you don’t know. Then there are the things you know you don’t know, and then the few things you know. Pollinate your mind constantly by seeking sources of inspiration and wisdom. Seasoned elders in your trade are often honored and willing to help if you ask for guidance. Many folks in senior positions want the world to be a better place and a chance to pass down lessons they have learned along the way to eager listeners.

If you meet business people who guard all their secrets, look elsewhere for mentors. Church can be a good place to find a professional mentor, or ask your friend group or family members. Identify the top ten people in your field locally and nationally, and see how many you can meet with to express a desire to learn from them. You should have one or two mentors you meet with regularly. A bonus: If they take a liking to you and if you impress them, they may also open doors for you or send you clients.

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7. Create Your Own Jet-Stream

Building off of tip #6, find a way to support the work of people you admire. It’s a way to learn from them by being around them and how they function. Talented individuals have a wake that follows their work because of the demand for their skill set. Be in their wake and model after them. You can learn an incredible amount from taking on the qualities of talented mentors, and you get a close-up view of how they operate by helping them in their work. The qualities of great people rub off on those around them. Make yourself useful and you’ll learn by doing. One day, if you become as successful as your role models, you’ll need those skills!

8. Tend to Every Aspect

Building a successful business requires tending to many disparate tasks and areas. This need to be good at different skill sets is one reason it is hard for many to succeed at their own ventures. Bring in consultants to support you in any areas that you don’t have expertise in. Consider this short list of key areas to tend to:

  1. Your content. What you sell, whether it be product or message. Make sure it is clear, relevant, useful and inspiring.
  2. Your self. You are the face of your business. Care for and tend to yourself. You are a walking billboard. Keep that in mind in terms of how you present yourself.
  3. Your audience. What good is a great message/product if no one knows you exist? Focus on building your fan base & database.
  4. Marketing. Includes online, print, PR, advertising, etc.
  5. Design. Makes a big difference, especially in this day of urban, aesthetic-savvy consumers. Get help.
  6. Branding. This matters a great deal. Your brand should be easy to understand and memorable, both linguistically and visually. Don’t muddy the waters with too many names for what you do, divisions, departments, groups, etc. Keep your name and mission focused and in front with everything you do, in-house and with the public.
  7. The technology side. You need to have an effective web presence and consider using technological tools to assist your business. This use of technology goes beyond the typical website. It includes software, analytics, algorithms, information capturing, automating processes, etc.
  8. The business side. We all need a good CEO. Someone with business expertise to consider how they would grow our company. Take a few seminars, consult with your local Chamber of Commerce, and consult experienced veterans. The business world has its own norms and language. You need someone who can speak that language, or teach you how, especially if you plan to partner or collaborate with other businesses.
  9. The legal side. Not be to be ignored. Keep things in order, and ask your attorney to help identify the areas that need attention first.
  10. Your team. As you start attracting quality professionals that can help you, identify a way to tend to them and keep the vision and mission coherent in their minds.

9. Leverage Opportunities

Sounds simple, but few people do it well. When an opportunity comes your way, you get a foot in the door, or a chance to speak to someone influential, it doesn’t just count as the one opportunity, you must think of how to leverage it to create other opportunities. The art of parlaying one success into another will definitely set you apart from folks who take the chances they get but don’t know how to make those part of a larger strategy.

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10. Make Use of Free Resources

There are many free resources that can help you become a success. Non-profits that support small business non-profits may offer free support. Your local Chamber of Commerce may offer free guidance and networking opportunities. Public universities often have department or office to support entrepreneurs. There are countless Meetups for like-minded business owners and to learn important skills. There are even private organizations that gather the collective wisdom of local executives who donate their time to support local businesses. Make use of the free support before you begin shopping for paid help and you’ll be more informed as to what you actually need.

These 10 tips will definitely put you on the right footing when it comes to launching a small business. Remember, put relationships with other professionals first (and make them personal). Prioritize effective marketing (decide on goals ahead of time, then run regular metrics to test what you’re doing). Seek out mentors and thought leaders, tend to every aspect of your business, leverage your opportunities and plug in to local resources. Now go get ’em!

Featured photo credit: 123RF via 123rf.com

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Last Updated on September 30, 2019

How To Write Effective Meeting Minutes (with Examples)

How To Write Effective Meeting Minutes (with Examples)

Minutes are a written record of a board, company, or organizational meeting. Meeting minutes are considered a legal document, so when writing them, strive for clarity and consistency of tone.

Because minutes are a permanent record of the meeting, be sure to proofread them well before sending. It is a good idea to run them by a supervisor or seasoned attendee to make sure statements and information are accurately captured.

The best meeting minutes takers are careful listeners, quick typists, and are adequately familiar with the meeting topics and attendees. The note taker must have a firm enough grasp of the subject matter to be able to separate the important points from the noise in what can be long, drawn-out discussions. And, importantly, the note taker should not simultaneously lead and take notes. (If you’re ever asked to do so, decline.)

Following, are some step-by-step hints to effectively write meeting minutes:

1. Develop an Agenda

Work with the Chairperson or Board President to develop a detailed agenda.

Meetings occur for a reason, and the issues to be addressed and decided upon need to be listed to alert attendees. Work with the convener to draft an agenda that assigns times to each topic to keep the meeting moving and to make sure the group has enough time to consider all items.

The agenda will serve as your outline for the meeting minutes. Keep the minutes’ headings consistent with the agenda topics for continuity.

2. Follow a Template from Former Minutes Taken

If you are new to a Board or organization, and are writing minutes for the first time, ask to see the past meeting minutes so that you can maintain the same format.

Generally, the organization name or the name of the group that is meeting goes at the top: “Meeting of the Board of Directors of XYZ,” with the date on the next line. After the date, include both the time the meeting came to order and the time the meeting ended.

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Most groups who meet do so regularly, with set agenda items at each meeting. Some groups include a Next Steps heading at the end of the minutes that lists projects to follow up on and assigns responsibility.

A template from a former meeting will also help determine whether or not the group records if a quorum was met, and other items specific to the organization’s meeting minutes.

3. Record Attendance

On most boards, the Board Secretary is the person responsible for taking the meeting minutes. In organizational meetings, the minutes taker may be a project coordinator or assistant to a manager or CEO. She or he should arrive a few minutes before the meeting begins and pass around an attendance sheet with all members’ names and contact information.

Meeting attendees will need to check off their names and make edits to any changes in their information. This will help as both a back-up document of attendees and ensure that information goes out to the most up-to-date email addresses.

All attendees’ names should be listed directly below the meeting name and date, under a subheading that says “Present.” List first and last names of all attendees, along with title or affiliation, separated by a comma or semi-colon.

If a member of the Board could not attend the meeting, cite his or her name after the phrase: “Copied To:” There may be other designations in the participants’ list. For example, if several of the meeting attendees are members of the staff while everyone else is a volunteer, you may want to write (Staff) after each staff member.

As a general rule, attendees are listed alphabetically by their last names. However, in some organizations, it’s a best practice to list the leadership of the Board first. In that case, the President or Co-Presidents would be listed first, followed by the Vice President, followed by the Secretary, and then by the Treasurer. Then all other names of attendees would be alphabetized by last name.

It is also common practice to note if a participant joined the meeting via conference call. This can be indicated by writing: “By Phone” and listing the participants who called in.

4. Naming Convention

Generally, the first time someone speaks in the meeting will include his or her name and often the title.

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For example, “President of the XYZ Board, Roger McGowan, called the meeting to order.” The next time Roger McGowan speaks, though, you can simply refer to him as “Roger.” If there are two Rogers in the meeting, use an initial for their last names to separate the two. “Roger M. called for a vote. Roger T. abstained.”

5. What, and What Not, to Include

Depending on the nature of the meeting, it could last from one to several hours. The attendees will be asked to review and then approve the meeting minutes. Therefore, you don’t want the minutes to extend into a lengthy document.

Capturing everything that people say verbatim is not only unnecessary, but annoying to reviewers.

For each agenda item, you ultimately want to summarize only the relevant points of the discussion along with any decisions made. After the meeting, cull through your notes, making sure to edit out any circular or repetitive arguments and only leave in the relevant points made.

6. Maintain a Neutral Tone

Minutes are a legal document. They are used to establish an organization’s historical record of activity. It is essential to maintain an even, professional tone. Never put inflammatory language in the minutes, even if the language of the meeting becomes heated.

You want to record the gist of the discussion objectively, which means mentioning the key points covered without assigning blame. For example, “The staff addressed board members’ questions regarding the vendor’s professionalism.”

Picture a lawyer ten years down the road reading the minutes to find evidence of potential wrongdoing. You wouldn’t want an embellishment in the form of a colorful adverb or a quip to cloud any account of what took place. Here’s a list of neutral sounding words to get started with.

7. Record Votes

The primary purpose of minutes is to record any votes a board or organization takes. Solid record-keeping requires mentioning which participant makes a motion — and what the motion states verbatim — and which participant seconds the motion.

For example, “Vice President Cindy Jacobsen made a motion to dedicate 50 percent, or $50,000, of the proceeds from the ZZZ Foundation gift to the CCC scholarship fund. President Roger McGowan seconded the motion.”

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This vote tabulation should be expressed in neutral language as well. “The Board voted unanimously to amend the charter in the following way,” or “The decision to provide $1,000 to the tree-planting effort passed 4 to 1, with Board President McGowan opposing.”

Most Boards try to get a vote passed unanimously. Sometimes in order to help the Board attain a more cohesive outcome, a Board member may abstain from voting. “The motion passed 17 to 1 with one absension.”

8. Pare down Notes Post-Meeting

Following the meeting, read through your notes while all the discussions remain fresh in your mind, and make any needed revisions. Then, pare the meeting minutes down to their essentials, providing a brief account of the discussion that summarizes arguments made for and against a decision.

People often speak colloquially or in idioms, as in: “This isn’t even in the ballpark” or “You’re beginning to sound like a broken record.” While you may be tempted to keep the exact language in the minutes to add color, resist.

Additionally, if any presentations are part of the meeting, do not include information from the Powerpoint in the minutes. However, you will want to record the key points from the post-presentation discussion.

9. Proofread with Care

Make sure that you spelled all names correctly, inserted the correct date of the meeting, and that your minutes read clearly.

Spell out acronyms the first time they’re used. Remember that the notes may be reviewed by others for whom the acronyms are unfamiliar. Stay consistent in headings, punctuation, and formatting. The minutes should be polished and professional.

10. Distribute Broadly

Once approved, email minutes to the full board — not just the attendees — for review. Your minutes will help keep those who were absent apprised of important actions and decisions.

At the start of the next meeting, call for the approval of the minutes. Note any revisions. Try to work out the agreed-upon changes in the meeting, so that you don’t spend a huge amount of time on revisions.

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Ask for a motion to approve the minutes with the agreed-upon changes. Once an attendee offers a motion, ask for another person in the meeting to “second” the motion. They say, “All approved.” Always ask if there is anyone who does not approve. Assuming not, then say: “The minutes from our last meeting are approved once the agreed-upon changes have been made.”

11. File Meticulously

Since minutes are a legal document, take care when filing them. Make sure the file name of the document is consistent with the file names of previously filed minutes.

Occasionally, members of the organization may want to review past minutes. Know where the minutes are filed!

One Caveat

In this day and age of high technology, you may ask yourself: Wouldn’t it be simpler to record the meeting? This depends on the protocols of the organization, but probably not.

Be sure to ask what the rules are at the organization where you are taking minutes. Remember that the minutes are a record of what was done at the meeting, not what was said at the meeting.

The minutes reflect decisions not discussions. In spite of their name, “minutes,” the minutes are not a minute-by-minute transcript.

Bottom Line

Becoming an expert minutes-taker requires a keen ear, a willingness to learn, and some practice, but by following these tips you will soon become proficient.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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