8 Tips for Women’s Business Success

28 05 2010

After attending the Next Steps VAST Workshop for Women Entrepreneurs, I came away with a number of tips for business growth. VAST (founded by three businesswomen) is an equity fund  focussed on investing in businesses created by, run by, or owned by women.

The 14 panel members and presenters are all women entrepreneurs who have started and grown highly successful businesses. Here are a few of their tips:

  1. Delegate – Learn to trust others and hire people to cover your non-strength areas.
  2. Make Lists – Every day do something that makes you money.
  3. Advisors – Develop a network of 12-14 people who will form your resource group.
  4. Sustainability – If you are a service business, build your business so that you are not central to its success. Is it sustainable without you?
  5. Document Financing – Be sure to document all loans and investments in your company.
    Knowing those details may be vital when later seeking further growth funding.
  6. Visionary – Look ahead of the curve and always be willing to reinvent yourself.
  7. Financing – Have other financial sources (credit cards, line of credit) in your back pocket to cover those times when revenues may be delayed. Always keep your commitments and meet your financial obligations.
  8. Free Resources – Make use of the local and online resources that are available, such as SCORE, Micro Mentor, and the Women’s Business Center.

If you were going to select one of the above tips to work on today, which one would it be? Creating a spider web drawing of your advisors? Seeking out one of the free mentors for tips on growing your business? Brainstorming ideas as to how your business could be sustainable without you?

Bev McCrostie, M.Ed.
Coaching Small Business Startups


The First Step to Your Business Startup

25 05 2010

I typically procrastinate starting a project. But once I get started, I quickly build momentum and finish the project. The trick is trying to convince myself to take the first step.

For example, I had been putting off exercising and losing the additional pounds I had gained over the past few years. Last year I was grumpy and embarrassed when I hiked with friends and they easily made it to the top of Diamond Head while I was gasping and had to stop numerous times. I talked about getting healthy, bought books on the topic, and occasionally walked with friends. But I wasn’t willing to commit myself.

The first step started five months ago when I tried a diet that a friend recommended. I lost 4 pounds in 10 days – a modest, healthy loss – and then, encouraged, decided to take the next steps. I had a body composition test to determine my ideal weight, bought a bathroom scale, and took advantage of the exercise room in our complex 6 days a week. Now with just a few pounds away from my target weight, I am actually enjoying exercising! I’ve bought a good pair of running shoes and a friend is training me for a 5 K run in a month’s time.

It’s so easy to procrastinate starting your own business. There are so many reasons to delay: you don’t have the time, money, or enough experience. You aren’t sure where you will find customers and whether your family will be supportive of your idea.

But until you actually stop dreaming about it and take the first step, you will never know if you could have been successful.  Your first step might be writing a business plan, selecting a business name, ordering business cards, purchasing a url for your website, or starting a blog.

What will be your first step?  And remember, no one said you had to give up your full time job quite yet. Many home-based business owners start out part time and only give up their full-time jobs when they have enough business.

Bev McCrostie, M.Ed.
Coaching Small Business Startups

An Expert’s Touch

4 05 2010

BreadI had carefully followed the recipes for making bread, but each loaf came out flat and heavy like a doorstop.  Lamenting to a friend about my failed attempts, she invited me to her house to watch and learn how an expert does it.

She didn’t measure the flour! She meticulously measured the other ingredients but added the flour a cup at a time until she had the right touch – sticky but pulling away from the bowl. She let me touch the dough so that I understood what I was aiming for.

Do you know someone who is an expert in an aspect of their business? Perhaps they are great at networking, customer service, online retail, hiring key staff, or launching new products. You could read up on the topic and muddle your way through. Or you could do as I did and ask for an expert’s help.

I am always surprised by how quickly others are willing to share their experience – to be a mentor. What aspect of your business could use an expert’s advice? Who could you approach this week to seek out that help?

Bev McCrostie, M.Ed.
Your Unlimited Potential
Coaching Small Business Startups

4 Reasons to Write a Business Plan

28 04 2010

The main reason for writing a Business Plan is not to obtain funding for your business.

Writing a Business Plan forces you to be more concrete and specific. Sure it is difficult and time-consuming. But as soon as you starting writing, you realize there are gaps in your knowledge of your target market, your competitors, your marketing strategies, and your financial projections.

Your Business Plan, will enable you to:

  1. Identify who your target market is.  Can you describe them in detail? What are their hobbies and interests? What is their biggest worry in life? What do they read and watch? Why would they choose your product or service? Knowing your target market gives you clear insight into which of your business features and benefits they would love.
  2. Know who your competitors are.  What are they good at and where are they weak? Can you provide quicker service, or give more for less money, or give better service for more money? As well, with so many businesses now online, you can’t say, “I don’t have any competitors in my town.” You will learn more about running a successful business from your competitors than anyone else.
  3. Describe what marketing strategies you will use.  If you are like most small business startups, you don’t have a lot of funds to allocate to marketing. Social media sites (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn) are an inexpensive way of getting the word out about your product. Why not offer your product or service as a prize on one of the popular blogs read by your target market. Make sure you look around your local area for business networking groups – they provide a wealth of contacts, information, and support for new businesses.
  4. Chart out your revenue and expenses projections for Years 1, 3, and 5.  As you set monetary goals for your business, put some stretch in so that you are motivated to achieve but not so unrealistic that you soon become discouraged. One of the first things you will discover is that you are not charging enough for your product/service. You will also discover that in order to reach your monetary goals between years 3 and 5, you will need to change, delete, or add to some of your business practices.

Creating a Business Plan is like eating an elephant – easy if you do it one bite at a time. Start today by identifying who your target market is. Then move on to the other three until you have a clear Success Plan for your business.

Bev McCrostie, M.Ed.
Your Unlimited Potential
Coaching Small Business Startups

Love, Swing, Hate

26 04 2010

Do you spend most of your time trying to convince people that they should love your product or service? 

My youngest sister April shared with me the advice she received for presenting at seminars: “1/3 of your audience will instantly like you, 1/3 will instantly dislike you, and the last 1/3 haven’t yet made of their minds. Don’t waste your time trying to cater to the 1/3 that dislikes you.”

What is it about human nature that won’t allow us to accept that some people just won’t like us? Rather than spend time and effort trying to coax people into loving our product or service, focus on those who already love us or those who haven’t made up their minds yet.

The advice Dr. Gary Rhoads gives in Boom Start: Super Laws of Successful Entrepreneurs is to focus on the Love Group – your loyal customers. Discover first what your loyal customers love about your product or service and then take that message to the undecided and the uninformed – the Swing Group. Build your energy around comments from the Love Group and then use that energy to sell to the Swing Group. Let the Swing Group see your product through the eyes of your Love Group.

This week discover what your Love Group loves about your product or service. Then share that message the next time you are networking with potential customers.

Bev McCrostie, M.Ed.
Your Unlimited Potential
Coaching Small Business Startups

$100 Object Lessons

21 04 2010

Click below if you would rather listen to this article.

Who wants this $100 now?  In Bootstrap Business: A Step-by-Step Business Survival Guide, the authors share a speaker’s $100 object lesson. The speaker held up a $100 bill and asked “Who wants this?” Every hand shot up. He then crumpled the bill and asked again “Who wants it now?” Again every hand shot up. He threw the $100 on the floor and jumped up and down on it. “Who wants it now?” Every hand went up in the air. “You mean after I’ve crumpled it, jumped on it, and literally beat it up, you still want it? Why?”

The response from one of the audience members was “Because its value has not changed!” On the journey to starting and running your business, you may feel that you are being beaten up and you may sometimes fail. But your value will not change. And unlike the $100 bill, your value may even increase. There is so much to learn about yourself from both the enjoyable and the harsh experiences.

The Bootstrap Business authors recommend keeping a journal of critical decisions and how they turned out. Write advice to yourself to follow in similar, future situations.

Who wants this $100?  A few years ago I attended a seminar where the speaker held up a $100 bill and asked, “Who wants this $100?” Hands shot up around the room. He repeated the phrase several times before someone ran up to the front and took the money from him. The speaker then asked, “Why didn’t you come up and take the money?”

Perhaps you would have said, “I don’t want to appear greedy” or “There must be a catch to this” or “Someone else deserves this more than I do” or “It would have to be a lot more money before I’m willing to take the risk of possibly embarrassing myself.”

The lesson to be learned is: Whatever reason you used is the same reason that prevents you from grabbing hold of other good things in your life.

Over this next week, look for opportunities where you can “grab the money” – not literally, but where you accept experiences that will benefit you and your business. Pay attention to how you felt in that moment.

Beverly A. McCrostie, M.Ed.
Your Unlimited Potential
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