Can They See You?

19 05 2010

Recently, we hiked around Antelope Island in Utah. It wasn’t until we were driving away that we finally saw the island’s namesake. Can you see the antelope in the picture? My husband’s sharp eyes say one of them move their head, otherwise we would have missed them.Antelope Island

Is your business like the antelopes? Do your ideal customers find it difficult to find you?

One of the least expensive and most effective ways to market your business is through social media: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and blogging. It does take some time each week (approximately two hours), but I make sure I’m visible in all of these popular spots. To save me time, I’ve set my blog to feed to my Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook accounts.

As well, I read popular blogs in my area of interest (entrepreneurship) and I comment on those blogs.  I retweet other’s postings that catch my eye and that I know would be of interest to my followers. And because I’m an avid reader of business books, I try to remember to write a book review each time on

Want to find out how visible you are? Google your name or your business name – make sure to place in quotes (i.e. “Bev McCrostie”).  Six months ago I started out with about 350 hits. With weekly active involvement in the social media arena, today’s count shows just over 1,100 hits.

Bev McCrostie, M.Ed.
Coaching Small Business Startups


Still Don’t Have a Small Business Idea?

19 04 2010

If you have made up your mind that you would like to start a small business but are still trying to decide just what business it would be, here are two tools you can use.

Entrepreneurial Success Matrix
This tool was created by Fred Carpenter, a Managing Principal of The Glenwood Group. In each box, list your skills, interests, and tasks or your lack of skills, etc.

Entrepreneurial Success Matrix

Ideally, you will want to look at starting a small business where you use the skills, interests, and tasks you are good at and you also enjoy doing them. You will want to avoid starting a business doings things you are not good at and you don’t enjoy.

Hedgehog Concept
Jim Collins in Good to Great uses a similar model to identify the interception of the three circles  where you are doing work you are deeply passionate about, you are well paid for what you do, and you are doing work that you have natural talents for.

Hedgehog Concept

He points out that “If you make a lot of money doing things at which you could never be the best, you’ll only build a successful company, not a great one. Ifr you become the best at something, you’ll never remain on top if you don’t have intrinsic passion for what you are doing. Finally, you can be passionate all you want, but if you can’t be the best at it or it doesn’t make economic sense, then you might have a lot of fun, but you won’t produce great results.”

Whichever tool you use, take a few minutes this week to identify what your ideal small business startup would be. And if you are still looking for a few business ideas, take a look at my previous post Start a Business – Start the Rest of Your Life.

Bev McCrostie, M.Ed.
Virtual Assistant Certificate
Red Deer College

Business Startup Tips: 2 More Lists

12 04 2010

In a previous post, I provided two alternatives to the To-Do List in building your buisness: the Stop Doing List and a Loose List. Since then in my daily travels, I have come across two more lists.

The Courtyard Marriott in San Jose, CA, had an Accomplished List, which they indicate is “Much more gratifying than a to-do list, don’t you think?” They are so correct – a list of what I’ve accomplished gives me a greater feeling of achievement than a list of all the things I have yet to do.

But at some point I must have written down my plans to achieve otherwise I would never have got beyond the “thinking about it” point. Perhaps I told a friend my new idea – speaking out loud often solidifies ideas for me, especially when my friends don’t then declare that I’m crazy!

An Accomplished List did get me thinking though. When was the last time that I had created a list of things I have accomplished in the past day, week, or years? I do have a list, of sorts, in a collection of photos and a portfolio. Each item documents my successes in both my personal and my professional lives. I have tangible evidence that I am growing and making a difference in my life and the lives of others.

Are you taking the time to focus on and document your journey to becoming a successful business owner?

The other list was an ordinary Shopping List. What made it unique was that Bryan Johnson used it as a marketing opportunity. The Shopping List pad was sitting at the checkout at our local Maceys grocery store.  At the bottom of the list, he included his picture and contact information. Even if potential clients do not end up using it as their shopping list, they may keep it for later use as a quick notes sheet.

Can you think of a marketing tool you could create that would be unique and helpful to your target market?

Bev McCrostie, M.Ed.
Virtual Assistant Certificate
Red Deer College

How to Trigger Your Creativity

6 04 2010

The results of the Ladies Who Launch survey showed that successful women entrepreneurs were unstoppable when they really wanted something and they were likely to take the leap no matter how much they feared. I love the five exercises they gave to trigger my creativity and to enhance my “launcher talent.”

  1. Jump into something unfamiliar. When was the last time you said “yes” to something that you would normally not attempt?
  2. Be unstoppable. Instead of accepting a “no” to your request, persist (with a smile) until you get the response you need.
  3. Do something that scares you each week, and if you are really going for it, each day. This one may require you to carefully consider what you are most afraid of for your business. Is it talking to strangers about your business, or setting up your new website, or ordering business cards with your picture on them?
  4. Identify an obstacle that is in your way and come up with creative solutions for getting around it, over it, or through it. In your everyday responses to annoyances (a crying child, an upset client) can you think of a different way to handle the situation? My friend Bonnie Taylor Wachowicz created a short story that featured her potential client as the main character. The result: a new client who was convinced that Bonnie would come up creative solutions for her business.
  5. Incorporate at least one creative activity into your life each day. Instead of following to the letter each step in your favorite recipe, try experimenting with other ingredients. Instead of sitting at your desk and working, pick up your laptop and sit outside on your deck or on a park bench.

You may have to look at creativity in a different way. Teresa Amabile, professor at Harvard Business School, states “The desire to do something because you find it deeply satisfying and personally challenging inspires the highest level of creativity, whether it’s in the arts, sciences, or business.”

My challenge to you is to identify the areas in your business that will inspire you to the highest level of your creativity. Trigger your creativity this week by experimenting with one or all of the above five exercises in your personal and your business life.

Bev McCrostie, M.Ed.
Virtual Assistant Certificate
Red Deer College

6 Hats for the Wow! Factor

5 04 2010

Red HatHave you got an idea for a business or product that you think will Wow! everyone? Are you worried that you will put a lot of time and money into your idea and it will flop? Dr. Gary Rhoads, co-author of Boom Start: Super Laws of Successful Entrepreneurs, uses a modified version of Edward de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats to test and shape ideas and concepts.

The process is fairly simple: gather together a focus group of 6 – 14 people (typically 10 who you believe are your ideal client). You will need a Group Moderator who has some skills in facilitating group discussion – not a member of the focus group and not you. The Group Moderator should make this a fun experience by throwing out candies, letting them wear the colored hats, encouraging sharing of all ideas, and using each member’s name.

If you can afford it, purchase the six different colored hats for each focus group member and set them out on the table in front of each person. Can’t afford the hats? Then six sheets of colored paper will work just as well.

The Group Moderator leads the focus group through the process by having them put on the colored hats each time and answer the questions in the following order:

White Hat – Facts:
Owner (you) shares only the facts and allows the group to ask questions. After the owner leaves, the Moderator then asks the focus group, “Tell me what you just learned.”

Red Hat – Emotions:
Moderator states, “On a scale of 1 – 10, where 10 is Wow! Fantastic and 1 is Stinko, rate this product.” (Note: you need to have an average of 7.5 to be commercially viable. Less than 7.5 means “not quite yet”. It could also mean that you don’t have the ideal client group. If the idea has a 6.0 average, the idea could be tweaked.)

Black Hat – Negative Judgment:
Moderator asks, “What don’t you like?” Moderator writes down all the comments.

Yellow Hat – Positive Judgment:
Moderator requests, “Think of what would be positive.” Again writes down all the comments.

Green Hat – Alterations & Creativity:
Moderator requests, “Break into groups and bring back how this could be the number 1 product.” Encourages: “You are doing so well; I want you to imagine I was going to send you to Disneyland for the best ideas.”

Blue Hat – Thinking About the Process:
Moderator asks, “What would you summarize for the CEO?” Video tape this feedback. If the focus group has recommended a number of changes, the Moderator could request that they use the scale of 1 – 10 to rate the revised idea.

With the results from the focus group, you can now tweak the idea if it didn’t achieve a score of 7.5 or better, you could try another focus group (hoping to find your ideal client group), or you could abandon the idea and put your time and money into seeking out an idea that has the Wow! Factor.

Bev McCrostie, M.Ed.
Virtual Assistant Certificate
Red Deer College

Your Spouse Does What?

24 03 2010

Click below if you would rather listen to this article.

If you are like many small business owners, you try not to miss an opportunity to network with others. Did you know that some of your best referrals could come from your spouse, directly or indirectly sharing your business information with others? But if you are like Jennifer Harmon, you may need to train your spouse on what to say.

Darrell Harmon, of People Smarts, often uses examples from home in his business training sessions to explain how crucial conversations and crucial confrontations can be handled. Darrell used to say, “My wife does Pampered Chef.” Well yes, that is Jennifer’s business, and she has been a successful consultant for the past 13 years.

But here are the phrases Jennifer asked her husband to use to create an interest in her business:

“My wife goes into homes and teaches cooking skills.”
“My wife teaches women meal planning and cooking tips.”
“My wife shares with other women how to bring the family back around the table.”

The results – increased sales!

Have you been overlooking the opportunity to have your spouse or other family members network for you?

Bev McCrostie, M.Ed.
Virtual Assistant Certificate
Red Deer College

Two Alternatives to the To-Do List

22 03 2010

Okay, so I’m one of those people who love to create To-Do Lists. It helps soothe me when I’m feeling overwhelmed and only think I have a million projects to complete. I love checking off when I’ve finished a task – I’ve experimented with different colored pens and debated as to whether to place a check mark in front or cross through the item.

For those of you who are looking for an alternative to the dreaded To-Do List, here are two great ideas:

The authors of Ladies Who Launch: Embracing Entrepreneurship & Creativity as a Lifestyle recommend creating a “Loose List.” A Loose List is a series of ideas or actions that can get you moving in the direction of your goals. The ideas are not set in stone, have no specific time frame, and are not listed in any particular order. It’s meant to inspire you. So rather than: “Draft marketing section of business plan,” try “Wear the dress I designed to a party and see what everyone says.”

Jack Canfield’s The Success Principles: How to Get Where You Want to Be describes how to create a “Stop Doing List.” Make the things on your list “policies.” People will respect you more for being clear about what you won’t do.

Some of his “don’t do” policies on a personal level are:

  • We don’t schedule outside social events on Friday night. That is our family night.
  • I don’t discuss contributions over the phone. Send me something in writing.

On a business level some of his “don’t do” policies are:

  • I don’t schedule more than five talks in one month.
  • I don’t do individual counseling or coaching. There is greater leverage in working with a group.

Hmm…That gives me some ideas for two other lists I can keep: “Bev’s Loose List” and “Bev’s Stop Doing List.” One of the first items on my Stop Doing List will be to stop volunteering so often – learn to say “no.” How about you?

Bev McCrostie, M.Ed.
Virtual Assistant Certificate
Red Deer College