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


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

Can You See the Difference?

30 03 2010

Two PursesSomewhat stunned by the price of Sarah Davis’s purse ($600), I proudly showed her my new shiny, bright red purse that I got on special at J C Penney for only $40. It will be a long time before I forget her statement, “Yours cost you $40; mine will make me $600.” Her purse retails for $3800; she bought it for $600 and will be able to sell it for $1200.

Sarah started Fashionphile.com in 1999 as a way to pay off her law school loans. Fashionphile is now the largest pre-owned luxury handbag business in the country. 

So what does the price of purses have to do with a small business startup?

When starting your new business, you may make the mistake of not carefully considering where to spend your time and money. Rather than investing in opportunities that will earn you money, you throw away money on expenses that are not generating profit.

For example, should you buy or lease a building and equipment? Can you start small and gradually grow big?

Costume Craze operated out of their home for several years until the volume of their sales dictated moving to a 60,000 sq. ft. warehouse. During that 7-year period, their sales grew from $17,000 to $10M.

Other small businesses borrow time on expensive equipment until the volume of their orders will allow them to purchase the equipment for themselves.

Rather than hiring administrative support – paying a salary, benefits, and purchasing a desk, chair, and computer equipment – you may want to consider contracting with a Virtual Assistant for the number of hours you currently need.

The first few years could be lean ones, but hold off paying yourself and re-invest that money back into your business.

What are some of the areas where you have invested rather than spent while growing your business?

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