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How to Head Off Small Business Fear in This Economy

How to Head Off Small Business Fear in This Economy

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    This is a scary time. Everyone you know knows at least one person who has gotten downsized and new jobs are scarce.  People are scared to start businesses and they’re scared to invest in their existing businesses right now. Part of it is that in an economy like this, mistakes are even more costly than before. And part of it is that people are just plain scared to lose anything right now. What you need to know is that the surest way to lose and make mistakes now is to NOT invest in your business. The only way to win right now is to face your fear and keep moving forward in the right way. Today, I’ll give you a few suggestions for how you can move ahead and steer clear of costly mistakes.

    As with everything else, realize that the current economic conditions are temporary.

    I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating. The first thing to do is remember that economic conditions like we’re currently experiencing are temporary. Virtually every financial expert and publication has said that the recession won’t last forever. So when you start to experience fear about the economy and what it means for you, first and foremost, realign your thinking so you’re thinking about it as a temporary condition that will eventually resolve itself.

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    Keep investing in yourself and your business.

    In this economy, a lot of business owners are cutting corners. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve talked to who are cutting out key professionals, reducing their marketing budgets, and eliminating continuing education. What these business owners fail to realize is that it’s absolutely crucial that you continue to invest in yourself and your business to keep things moving in an upward trajectory. But be smart and invest in the right things. This leads me to my next point.

    Cut costs, but cut the right costs.

    When you cut costs, know which costs to cut. Analyze your business expenses and make sure you’re tracking everything. Look for ways to save. For example, if you’re low on printed material like your marketing flyers or business cards, you may be able to find a printer that charges less, but offers the same quality as your old printer. This extends beyond products you use for your business. Examine your business relationships. Are there some service providers you aren’t happy with? Now’s the time to make a switch to someone who will provide you with better service at a better rate. In this economy, you can get great service at a much more affordable rate than ever before. ..and you should.

    That said, don’t cut the essentials! You need to continue learning and improving your skills, so cutting back on continuing ed is a mistake. You don’t need to go to every workshop and seminar, but you shouldn’t eliminate these opportunities to learn, network, and increase your visibility altogether. And don’t start doing your own graphic design or having your son’s best friend design your web site. Cuts like this can result in catastrophe — web sites that don’t function properly, brochures that look unprofessional, and the appearance that your business is small-time, unsuccessful, or fly-by-night. And none of these are words you want applied to your business.

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    Learn from Pareto.

    Another place you can save in your business is by applying Pareto’s 80/20 principle to your client list. The 80/20 rule says (in a nutshell) that the bulk of your business comes from about twenty percent of your client roster. That means you may be expending a great deal of effort and expense marketing to and serving the eighty percent of your clients who aren’t producing very much of your income. So why not go through your client list and do some weeding? You’ll save money in marketing costs and you’ll have more time to cater to your most-productive and profitable clients.

    Another way to implement Pareto’s 80/20 rule is to look at your current products and services. Which twenty percent of your products and services generate eighty percent of your profit? Concentrate on improving those and developing more products and services like them. You may even eliminate the products and services that aren’t generating enough interest.

    Marketing, marketing, marketing.

    One way you can guarantee that your business will fail is if no one knows you exist. So don’t stop marketing your business to save money. That’s the wrong cost to cut. Instead, keep up your marketing efforts, but like your client list, examine which efforts are providing the biggest pay-off. Cut back on the ones that aren’t bringing in clients and beef up the ones that are drawing attention. And, consider implementing more PR methods into your business so you can garner some good press for free.

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    If you’ve been using direct mail as a marketing tool, check the quality of your list. How long have you been mailing marketing materials to people who haven’t responded? Pick a cut-off date and eliminate anyone who hasn’t responded since that date, and you’ll dramatically reduce your printing and postage bills without losing the people who actually respond to your marketing efforts.

    Once you’ve got ’em, wow ’em.

    It won’t do you much good to acquire clients if you can’t serve them and serve them well. So once you’ve drawn them in with your PR and marketing, you’d better make sure you wow them. It’s about more than doing a good job. It’s about doing a great job. Deliver at least on time, if not early. Delight, surprise, and overdeliver. Make sure your clients and customers know you appreciate their business. Always thank them.

    Also, survey the clients who’ve stayed with you for a long time. Find out what you’re doing right and amp up those efforts. And find out what you could do better, and improve on that, and you’ll see your client retention rates improve even more.

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    Save money by hiring experts.

    Hiring the right experts can actually save you money in your business. Imagine all the mistakes you’ve made in your business history. Recall all the professionals you hired who didn’t work out – the web developer who charged a ridiculously high fee for every single update, the assistant who didn’t do her job, the graphic designer who charged you a fortune for a logo you now hate. Remember how much each of those mistakes cost you? Hiring a business consultant who has a Rolodex of professionals who can do that work at the highest quality, but at reasonable rates, can save you a lot of money in the long run, and in the end, the savings more than offset the price of the consultant. Plus, that same consultant can help you avoid other, costly errors, and make suggestions for other ways to optimize and save.

    But beware: “consultants” are a dime a dozen out there. So find someone you can trust and someone who can really deliver, otherwise you’ll spend much more than you’ll save.

    In this economy, it’s only natural that there’s a lot of fear. But knowing it’s temporary, conducting your marketing in the smartest way, continuing to invest in your business in the right way, and building a team of experts who you can trust to deliver can keep your business growing and minimize your fear. Stay strong – this won’t last forever!

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    Susan Baroncini-Moe

    Susan Baroncini-Moe is an executive coach and business leader with over sixteen years’ experience.

    How to Find Your Entrepreneurial Passion and Purpose How to Stay Motivated and On-Track When You’re Struggling How to Hire A Web Design Firm Are You Having A Scarcity Conversation? 5 Topics To Address When Talking With Your Partner About Starting A Business

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    Last Updated on July 21, 2021

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

    Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

    Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

    A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

    Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

    In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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    From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

    A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

    For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

    This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

    The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

    That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

    Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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    The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

    Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

    But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

    The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

    The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

    A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

    For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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    But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

    If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

    For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

    These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

    For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

    How to Make a Reminder Works for You

    Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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    Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

    Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

    My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

    Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

    I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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    Reference

    [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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