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The Now, The New & The Next in Careers

Business Growth & Management Articles

Stay ahead of the curve with insights from our CTL Associates.

  • 06 Jan 2016 2:16 PM | Anonymous
    By Wendy S. Enelow, CCM, MRW, JCTC, CPRW
    Enelow Enterprises, Inc.

    Successful entrepreneurs understand what it takes to win in today’s intensely competitive careers industry. It takes a combination of business savvy, expertise in client relationship management, and an enduring commitment to servicing and satisfying each and every client. Here are 10 basic concepts of entrepreneurial elegance that will give you and your business a competitive distinction and ensure that you’re on the right track to long-term success and profitability.

    1. Embrace Your Clients. The key to success in our business is the ability to build strong and enduring client relationships. To achieve that, you must understand the concept of embracing your clients – making them feel special, valuing their business, responding to their needs and being accessible. If your clients feel a sense of warmth and safety in their interactions with you, you will have reached a huge summit in your professional life. When those clients do feel special, they’ll be the first to tell their friends and colleagues how remarkable you are. Then, just watch as your phone rings, your email box fills up and people are “knocking at your door” for your services, expertise and support. Remember, your existing clients are your single best sales force!

    2. Be Friendly & Personable. People want to do business with people who demonstrate a real interest in and concern for them. And, the best way to show that is by being friendly, personable and down to earth, while always retaining your professionalism. Consider truly successful people you know and you’ll realize a common characteristic that almost all of them share is they are open and friendly. It’s as though they’re silently communicating, “Come up and talk to me. I’m all yours!” In turn, others are attracted to them, want to do business with them and want to be a part of their world. Be sure that you exude that same kind of genuine openness and approachability.

    3. Listen Well. Give each client, colleague, employee or whomever you’re speaking with – whether in person or on the phone – your full attention. If your caller hears papers rustling in the background, if you’re constantly putting them on hold to catch another call, or if you’re whispering in the background to other people, you’ve communicated that you’re not listening and you’re not interested. The prospective client will go somewhere else, where someone listens and someone cares.

    4. Create The “Right” Image. Often people don’t meet you; instead, they meet a piece of paper, a website or a business card. Therefore, it is imperative that the visual presentation and content of each be the very best that it can be. Invest in sharp-looking, upscale business cards and brochures. In fact, invest in a graphic artist who can design an image that reflects you/your business and is unique. Then, translate that same design to your website to ensure that all of your marketing communications are consistent and present the same image and high degree of professionalism. If you’ve been fortunate enough to actually meet a prospective client or business colleague, after you’re gone, no matter how positive the impression you make, the only thing that someone has to remember you by is your card and brochure. Let them make a strong and memorable statement.

    5. Create Your “Best” Voice Mail Message. We all know that voice mail messages should be part of your overall marketing strategy. If you can’t answer the phone at a particular time, at least your voice mail message can communicate the value and professionalism of your services. However, be sure to keep your voice mail message short and to the point. How many times have you placed a call and then had to listen to a message that’s 60, 90 or more seconds long? It’s as though it will never end and you’ll never be given the chance to actually leave a message. All too many prospects will simply hang up. Don’t let that happen to you.

    6. Respond Today! We all have days when things get out of control and we simply can’t get it all done. And, that’s fine. However, it’s not fine to not respond to each day’s voice mail and email messages. Even if all you can do is call or email a client to say that you’ve been extremely busy and can’t talk today (what time tomorrow would work!?), you’re at least acknowledging them and their importance to you. Make this a daily priority in your professional life, starting today and forever.

    7. Make It Easy For Someone To Return Your Call. How many times have you had to listen to a phone message two or three times to get the caller’s phone number? To ensure that you don’t do that to others, repeat your phone number twice – slowly and clearly – whenever leaving a phone message. In addition, don’t leave more than two numbers where people can reach you. When you leave three, four or more numbers, it becomes too much of a chore to track you down. Take advantage of the latest technology that allows you to link all of your phone numbers and make it easy for someone to return your call.

    8. Be Thankful. Clients love to be appreciated, and there is little in business that can mean more than a handwritten thank-you note. When an employee, a business partner, a colleague or an associate does something for you, send a handwritten thank-you note via snail mail, not by email. With the advent of email technology, online greeting cards and the like, the personal attention that characterizes thank-you notes has disappeared. There is NOTHING someone will remember longer than a handwritten note that you’ve taken the time to send just to them. Buy several packages of cards and keep them on hand so you can mail one at a moment’s notice.

    9. No Man (Or Woman) Is An Island. Entrepreneurial success is all about building partnerships, relationships, alliances and more. And, that never holds more true than when you’re talking about entrepreneurship. The successful entrepreneur is the one who surrounds him/herself with other talented people, realizing that the knowledge and energy to be gained from others will be of invaluable support to them as they continue to pursue their entrepreneurial goals and success.

    10. Build Your Own Community. Entrepreneurship can be lonely and isolating. As such, it is essential that you build your own support system (combination of personal and professional) to provide yourself with a sense of belonging and unity. The community that you build can provide you with much-needed camaraderie that most people (those that are NOT self-employed) get from work. Because most small entrepreneurs work by themselves or with just one or two other people, it is critical that they build their own support community because work will not directly provide it.
    The key to success in our business is the ability to build strong and enduring client relationships. To achieve that, you must understand the concept of embracing your clients – making them feel special, valuing their business, responding to their needs and being accessible. If your clients feel a sense of warmth and safety in their interactions with you, you will have reached a huge summit in your professional life. When those clients do feel special, they’ll be the first to tell their friends and colleagues how remarkable you are. Then, just watch as your phone rings, your email box fills up and people are “knocking at your door” for your services, expertise and support. Remember, your existing clients are your single best sales force!
  • 23 Apr 2013 4:41 PM | Anonymous

    By Anna Pitts

    Giving presentations is like marmite -- you either love it or you hate it. Here are some tips from the Graduate Recruitment Bureau (http://www.grb.uk.com) on how to wow your audience when presenting.

    1)  Lively delivery. Be excited about what you are presenting to get your audience enthusiastic about it too. There is nothing worse than looking out at a yawning audience, so don’t give them an opportunity to not be engaged by you and your work.

    2)  Maintain eye contact. Just like in an interview, your body language is crucial. Maintain eye contact with different audience members; don’t stare down at your notes or look at the slide show.

    3)  Be comfortable. All eyes are going to be on you so it is important that you feel respectable and comfortable. Wear clothes that are appropriate; smart for the business setting but not a restricting tie or tottering heels. If you look confident, you will feel confident.

    4)  Pace. Obviously with presentations your audience needs to understand you, which isn’t going to happen if you gabble on unintelligibly. Talk with a clear, strong voice at a calm pace so you are easy to follow.

    5)  Act. It doesn’t matter if inside you are a quivering, nervous wreck -- as long as you have a calm, collected exterior! Act confident and you will be confident meaning you can deliver a flawless presentation.

    6)  Don’t overload slides. Presentations are visual so the information you present needs to be digestible and appealing. Put images on slides for entertainment and informative value and keep to no more than six lines of text per slide. Use bullet points rather than long sentences, and set them to appear as you discuss them to keep the focus on the current topic.

    7)  Audience participation. It might not always be appropriate to give your audience a ‘task’ to do, especially if you are pitching to the top dogs. But audience interaction is a large part of a successful presentation, even if it just giving them some points to think about or a simple ‘show of hands’ question.

    8)  Practise, practise, practise. Being unprepared is not an ingredient in the perfect presentation recipe. Sure, sometimes you can put on an amazing performance completely on the spot, but for important meetings it isn’t recommended. Practise and prepare thoroughly for your presentation so you know exactly what you are doing and are able to answer the questions they will throw at you at the end.

    9)  Handouts. A thoughtful touch for presentations is to come prepared with handouts for your audience. Create a summary sheet of the information you cover; ideally include screen shots of the slides in more detail to include any key points. Distribute them to your audience at the end.

    10) Conclude and offer question time. At the end of your presentation make sure you wrap up the key points and finish with the classic ‘Any questions?’ Allowing your audience the chance to ask you more specific details is professional and the final step for the perfect presentation.

  • 13 Nov 2012 2:28 PM | Anonymous

    By Mark Bartz

    In our hurry-up world, anything that saves us time is invaluable. Recall the days before computers were mainstream and someone suggested that computers would free up our lives: give us more of a work/life balance? Far from it. Now those of us who (seem) to have the best work/life balance are either: a) On Prozac, or b) Pretty darn organized.

    A quick question. When you open your computer each day, where do you typically go first? Your e-mail? Facebook? Linkedin? Google? That’s really where your day begins, isn’t it? As most of us would like to be “b” above (pretty darn organized), I want to share something with you that can get you to that promised land. I recently researched and tested several “homepages”; these are the customized pages you open on your computer each day. I’m guessing you currently use Google or Yahoo.  But there other – frankly better – options. Here’s the list of fully customizable homepages I studied: Eskobo; Favoor; Netvibes; Pageflakes; Protopage; Gritwire; Schmedley; Webwag.

    And the winner was? Check out Netvibes and Pageflakes as viable replacements to iGoogle and MyYahoo. Let me know your experience.

  • 31 May 2012 12:40 PM | Anonymous

    By Mark Bartz

    I just finished reading a small and excellent book, The Fred Factor, by Mark Sanborn. A good book and here’s why. The premise of the book is that there are several things we can all do which cost us neither money nor much time, and that these little things result in us standing out from our peers. What are those things which you can do today? Make a list and it may surprise you. The goal? On one level it’s altruistic; this is how we better serve others in our lives – colleagues, customers, family. On another level the book makes a subtle but brilliant point: all these little things you do add up to great success for you in your career. Segue now to the “mother” theme. It seems everyone these days is seeking a “silver bullet” in their careers: something new.  

    The Fred Factor seems to disappoint on that level – it seems at first glance to offer nothing new. In fact, if I were to summarize this book I would say this is all the wisdom our mothers taught us – but which we simply ignored or forgot.  Yet the wisdom our mothers taught us is of great value – albeit not particularly “new.” I listen to national training programs. I read the latest “How-To” books on career development. No small epiphany here – these books and seminars are not really teaching us much that is “new”; these sources are actually re-stating what our mothers told us years ago. Want proof? The following is word-for-word from national figures – authors and a translation into “mom-speak”. 

    “Wisely consider all strategies.” Translation: look both ways before you cross the road. Ready for more? “Effectively leverage your corporate resources and talents – let nothing go to waste.” Translation: Clean your plate. There are children starving in Africa. “Lead by consensus.” Translation: There are two sides to every story. “Corporate vision is critical.” Translation: Things aren’t always what they seem to be. “We face new opportunities – and new challenges.” Translation: the grass may be greener on the other side of the fence, but you still have to mow the lawn. “Be innovative and unique.” Translation: If your friends all jumped off a pier…would you follow right behind them? “Look to the future – learn from previous corporate mistakes.” Translation: “I’ll give you something to cry about.”       

    I suggest we skip a few seminars and just take our mothers to lunch. We’ll save a lot of money, we’ll get just as much wisdom from our mothers, and she will appreciate the time we spend with her. Seriously, get off the computer and go call your mother – when’s the last time you took your mother to lunch?? Perhaps if she charged us huge fees for her words of wisdom we might listen to her more often?

  • 03 May 2010 7:13 PM | Anonymous

    By Laura Ege

    I have long promoted the idea that business owners should choose up to three core marketing methods--and no more!--to promote their businesses. Otherwise, you wind up too diluted, and you aren't able to effectively connect with your audience through any of the channels. Which equals tons of "busy work" on your part and not a heck of a lot of results.

    No matter what stage your business is in, here are a few suggestions to help make your marketing and media channel strategy more effective:

    - Limit your selection to three channels or methods. If we apply the 80/20 rule (20% of our actions net 80% of our results) to our daily business actions, I believe marketing must be in that 20% of high-return activities we devote our time to each day. Limiting your choices will give you more time/energy to create true, focused results in each channel rather than chaotically bouncing between too many options.

    - Base your selected channels on your niche. Different channels naturally attract different tribes. If you're marketing in channels your ideal tribe never uses... well, enough said, right? The other option if you're already entrenched in certain channels is to change your niche to match the channels.

    - Immerse yourself in your selected channels. Once you have chosen your channels, create a strategy and systems to make the most of your time in each one, both from the standpoint of being efficient with your time and of communicating very consistently with your tribe.

    - Revisit your business model. Do your programs and services align with your marketing channels? What about the actions you take and decisions you make in business each day? Are they optimally aligned with your marketing and media channels?

  • 15 Apr 2010 7:34 PM | Anonymous

    By Laura Ege

    Setting your fees can be tricky for both new and seasoned entrepreneurs. It brings up so many questions and fears around choosing the right price and what happens if you choose the wrong one. And the higher the stakes (or bigger the contract), the worse the doubts become. One particular question that came up for one of my clients this week was, "What happens if I quote too high and lose the sale?" Honestly, that is a possibility. I wish I had a magic solution to make sure that never happens to you. I can offer you a few strategies to minimize the chances of hearing "no" on that important sale.

    - Focus on benefits, not features. Spend 80% of your time emphasizing the results your prospect will experience from working with you and only about 20% talking about your process. Make sure you help them understand the true dollarized impact of not working with you too.

    - Learn good sales conversation skills and then practice, practice, practice. Few entrepreneurs I know enjoy sales or even feel comfortable with the idea of "selling." While this topic could be an entire book all in itself, let me just say that it is well worth your time to learn good sales skills from someone who can teach you to sell in complete authenticity to who you are. You'll have the tools and knowledge to have an effective sales conversation, which will significantly increase your confidence. And confidence sells!

    - Survey your audience ahead of time. If you are selling to an organization, you might find out what their budget is for the services you are offering. If you are selling to individuals who may not have a specific budget in mind, you can still engage them in formal surveys or informal conversations to find out what they would be willing to pay for the benefits your service or product delivers.

    - Start small if you're new in business or launching a new product or service. I'm a big believer in charging what you're worth, and I see far too many entrepreneurs who charge too little. Yet when you're new in business, it's often easier to start small. This could mean start at one price and keep raising your rates a little with each new sale. Or if you are going to be selling large-scale service packages, you can start by selling one piece of the package at a time until you're confident that the entire package is on-target for what your audience wants and will pay for.

    - Take a look at your mindset issues around money and charging for your services. If you've taken the necessary steps to understand what your audience wants, create services that truly meet their needs, focus on benefits, and hone your sales skills, yet you're still feeling resistance to setting your fees, it's time to look at the underlying mindset issues that might be holding you back from charging what you're worth and getting it.

  • 01 Apr 2010 8:44 PM | Anonymous

    By Laura Ege

    One recurring theme I hear from entrepreneurs...either: “I've hit a plateau in terms of dollars earned/hours worked,” or... “My business has totally taken over my life.” I guess the good news is either scenario means you're at least reasonably successful. The bad news is neither is a fun place to be! If this describes you and your business, here are three quick strategies I suggest addressing to help you get unstuck:

    --Business Model. In either of these scenarios, I can just about guarantee you've outgrown your current business model. At minimum, it's time to restructure your current service packages. If it's been a while since you've reviewed your business model, it may even be time to revamp your entire business using a new model. Bonus note: I recommend revisiting your business model at least once a year (or even twice a year) to make sure it still supports your business and financial goals.

    --Pricing. If you're maxed out on hours available to work, raising your prices is an obvious strategy. Typically, you'll wind up working with fewer clients (which translates to fewer hours if you are using a 1:1 service delivery model) while enjoying greater levels of financial return.

    --Team. There are several possible ways to leverage this strategy. I highly recommend hiring support staff (whether virtual or in-person) to take over everything you don't enjoy so you can focus on your "sweet spot" in your business. This frees up additional hours to deliver your services if you've hit an income/time plateau, and it also eliminates a significant level of stress if your business has taken over your life. Another way to leverage this strategy is to start working with subcontractors, joint venture partners, or affiliates. Again... greater capacity to impact your clients while lowering your personal time and energy commitment.

  • 14 Mar 2010 8:58 PM | Anonymous

    By Janet Civitelli

    Recently I asked a group of entrepreneurs to tell me what causes them stress in running their businesses. Many of their responses concerned having too much to do and not enough hours in the day to get it all done. Some business owners described a feeling of constant anxiety about the tasks that are left undone because of time constraints, and some business owners admitted to feelings of severe burnout because they keep trying to do everything, no matter how unsustainable their workload is.

    When pressed about why they don't delegate some of the work, entrepreneurs give a variety of reasons. Here are the top reasons given for reluctance to delegate and some discussion about those reasons. You will find that I am a big fan of delegation and learning how to do it well.

    1. "It would take so long to teach someone how to do some of my job, it is easier to just do everything myself." It is true that it would require an initial investment of time to teach someone how to do some of the more routine aspects of running your business. But there are a lot of extremely smart people in the world, and many of them know how to use accounting software, create or maintain a Web site, respond to simple inquiries from clients, scan or file paperwork, run errands, etc. Once this person is up-to-speed, you can save hours per week by not doing these tasks yourself. 

    2. "I would love to delegate but I can't afford to do so." In making this financial decision, you really need to weigh the opportunity cost of doing everything yourself vs. creating more time to do the important work of strategic visioning for your business, marketing to land more work, delivering awesome results so that clients want to book more business with you or customers want to buy more products from you, or simply having more time for self-care so that you don't begin to break down under the strain of an unmanageable workload. Can you afford to neglect the functional areas of your business that are the most important? Can you afford to become too exhausted to continue? 

    3. "I tried delegating once and it didn't work well." This excuse makes the assumption that if something doesn't happen the first time, it isn't worth doing. But how many things in life are accomplished on the first try? You can identify which part of delegation was ineffective and change that part to do it better the next time. Learning how to delegate effectively is a skill that requires practice. Each time you try, make it a learning experience and be assured that as your skill grows, you are getting closer to becoming competent at delegation.

    4. "I am afraid that if I delegate something, it won't get done the way I want." Effective delegation requires that you are able to specify the outcome you desire and to check in with the person doing the work so that he/she doesn't get too far off track before you redirect in the right direction. Schedule frequent check-ins in the beginning, when someone doesn't yet know your style, and consider it an investment in the future. After you establish that you and the worker are in sync about expectations, you won't have to track milestone progress so carefully.

    5. "I'm afraid I will hire someone and then realize I made a mistake and be stuck with the person." Many entrepreneurs find that it is easier if their first hire is an independent contractor/freelancer rather than a permanent employee. This way, you can evaluate for a trial period if there is a good match between what the freelancer offers and what you need. (Make sure to follow the IRS guidelines about hiring independent contractors, including the rules about allowing the freelancer to have control and independence about how he/she accomplishes his/her tasks as long as the output matches your expectations.) 

    6.  "I don't know where to find freelancers." There are lots of resources now to find talented individuals to hire. HireMyMom.com (http://www.hiremymom.com); Upwork.com (http://www.upwork.com); and Guru.com (http://www.guru.com) are just a few of them. If you would rather investigate resources closer to home, contact the career services office of a local university and find out how to post a job to hire a student.

    Once you taste the freedom that effective delegation brings, you will be so glad you learned how to do it. Then the only task left to do is to figure out the best ways to use all that time you have freed up!

  • 10 Mar 2010 9:05 PM | Anonymous

    By Laura Ege

    As business owners, we tend to fall in love with our processes and the "technical" aspects of what we do. We spent hours getting trained in the procedural know-how of our craft and often many more hours carefully setting up our processes for working with clients. So it can come as a rather disconcerting shock to realize...your prospective clients don't care about how you do what you do!! When it comes right down to it, everything in marketing is really about problems/pain and results. That's what people actually care about. They're paying for results. What's in it for me? Will my investment pay off? Can you get rid of my problem or get me to the goal I want to achieve?

    So how do you make the best of things in the face of this "cold, hard fact"? Here are a few quick tips to get you started in the right direction:

    - Become intimately familiar with your niche. When you know every detail about what keeps them up at night or what dreams fill their hearts, you will be able to easily and deeply connect with your clients. It's especially helpful when you get to the root of a problem they are experiencing that they are willing to pay you to solve!

    - When writing any sort of marketing content, spend the bulk of your time (on average a good 80%) either addressing your audience's deepest problems/pain or the biggest results they will achieve from working with you.

    - Use stories frequently in your marketing...your signature story, stories of your clients, general stories of interest that prove your point. People love stories! We can relate to stories on a much more personal level than we can to a list of facts about your process. Stories draw us in emotionally--helping us see at a heart level how we can be a part of your services--instead of simply engaging the brain in a logical argument about whether to invest with you or not. As a bonus note, even when I'm using stories to communicate in marketing, I still employ the same basic structure... pain or problem someone started with, the turning point, and the results or outcomes experienced afterward.

    - Touch on your process only briefly AFTER you have established a strong and emotionally compelling case for problems/results. So you talk about how they will accomplish A, B, C, D, E, and F by working with you... and "oh by the way, we achieve that through X, Y, Z."

  • 06 Feb 2010 9:29 PM | Anonymous

    By Laura Ege

    One of my favorite topics  is business development and marketing; since I've been getting questions from all sides about how to package and price services, I thought I’d offer five quick tips to get you started:

    1. Get crystal clear on your niche. What is your unique expertise? Who is the “tribe” you are passionate about serving? What problems are you solving for your tribe that they are willing to pay to have solved?

    2. Develop your signature system. Start with the ultimate outcome your clients receive from working with you and create the step-by-step system you take each one through to get them to achieve that outcome.

    3. Turn your signature system into a cascade of related services/products. You will want to create a variety of offerings at different price-points. This is one of the fastest ways to increase your income! Also, make sure you always have an upsell or way for your clients to keep working with you beyond their initial purchase. And by starting with your signature system as a base, you can ensure your services and products are always “on brand.”

    4. Get clear on the results your clients experience from working with you. Nearly every single time someone comes to me because they’re stuck trying to come up with a price for their services or they’re choking over quoting the fee to a prospect, it’s because they aren’t clear enough on the specific and tangible results the client will receive. Start by creating a list of 30 results your clients experience for each and every one of your service offerings.

    5. Know your numbers. It's not enough to just check in with what your competitors are charging for their services and slap a comparable price tag on yours. You need to know what your services are truly worth -- both to you and to your clients. Go back to your list of results and assess what those results are worth to your clients based on the impact in all areas of their lives. Now look at your costs associated with your various services... overhead, cost of delivery, etc. Consider all these “numbers” when pricing your services.

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