3 Keys to Building a Successful Business

Cindy GordonI’ve worked with a lot of small business owners over the year. I’ve seen businesses grow head over heels year after year and I’ve seen others struggle or completely fail. The statistics aren’t very encouraging. Only 4% of businesses survive past 10 years. I’ve wondered what makes one company thrive and another fail. Is it the industry? Is it the economy? Is it the level of risk the business owner is comfortable with? Yes – I believe these all play a factor; however, I believe the stronger factor is the level of buy-in an owner has for his or her business.

We don’t usually think of “buy-in” in terms of the business owners, but instead employees or investors. We know that every business owner has some level of buy-in. They have risked jobs, savings and personal time, but is that enough? I don’t think so.

Assess Your Buy-In

As I mentioned, there are certain traits that lead to different levels of buy-in. To assess your level of buy-in for your company, consider the following:

Are you completely to blame when your company does not achieve its goals?

Are you boldly telling people that your company provides the best service or product in your industry?

Do all your employees provide a minimum of 100% effort?

Do you give 200% effort and working evenly in and on your business?

Are you constantly learning new ways to work better and smarter in your company and be a more effective leader?

Do you regularly ask for customer feedback and refine your business model to improve?

Do you admit your weaknesses and hire specialists to help you in areas where you lack?

If you’ve quickly, confidently and honestly responded “yes” to these questions, then you have full buy-in to your business and your company is probably thriving because of it. If you had to think twice about any of your answers, then …. (you know where this is going).

The first question is a strong indicator. How many business owners do you know who are quick to blame others for the poor financial outcome of their business? They blame their employees; the economy, their competitors, but never themselves. The truth is, the outcome of your business is completely your responsibility. And that’s a heavy load to carry.

So, if you’re ready to admit you could be a bit more invested in your company, don’t worry – there’s hope for you. I know that you want your business to thrive and grow. You want to be known and revered in your industry – and you definitely want people to be calling you for business, instead of you having to chase them. So what’s your tipping point?

It’s not as hard as you might imagine. These three key elements will help you build a successful and sustainable business:

  • Don’t make the business about you. Think of your business as a separate entity from you. Market the products and services with confidence and pride. Tell people that you work for the greatest company in the world because you do. Many people aren’t comfortable tooting their own horn. They don’t want to come across egotistical or conceited. However, if you talk about your company as a separate entity, it’s easier to boast and rave about the amazing things it provides! (If you worked for an amazing company owned by someone else, raving about it would be easy. Why shouldn’t you do this for your own company. Don’t you believe it is the best?)
  • Know why you do your work. Simon Sinek’s powerful Ted Talk “Start with Why” is a fantastic way of looking at the meaningful reason for your business. Most people start a business because they believe in their concept – they have a deep belief that people need their service or product; They feel what they bring to the marketplace will help people in some fantastic way. As we build the business, we quickly get caught up in the day to day work. We lose touch with our “Why”. Ultimately it’s “Why” you are in your business that keeps you focused and driven.
  • Create accountability. One of the greatest challenges for small business owners is staying focused on the big picture. It’s so easy to get caught in the weeds of the daily business. This doesn’t help you get ahead! No one is going to call you out for not following through on your business plan or missing your goals. A strong accountability partner is the best resource to help you balance working in and on your business to guarantee your success. If you’re not held accountable, you’ll find lots of reasons why you are where you are (see how easy the blame game is?). This lackadaisical effort can snowball and turn you into one of the 96% that don’t make it.

Now I ask you – do these three steps feel like a stretch for you? Hopefully not. So, what are you going to doing next, what support do you need and how will I know? And that my friends, is accountability.

Cindy Gordon is the founder of Business Rescue Coaching (www.businessrescuecoaching.com) a coaching service boutique that provides a unique experience to small business owners who feel that they are not in control of their business. Cindy helps to build strong systems, processes and strategies that leads to higher profits, more cash in the bank and more autonomous employees. Her clients feel less stress while achieving more success. Contact Cindy at (602) 423-7670 or cindy@businessrescuecoaching.com.

Adapting Your Business Plan, Adapting Your Role: Entrepreneur, Wife, & Mother

Entrepreneurship Offers Women a Unique Opportunity to Find BalanceGuest post by Elizabeth Groh, Assistant Professor and Department Chair of Faculty Development for Tempe, AZ-based Western International University

Life is marked by those moments of epiphany that change our course. Mine came at an altitude of about 3,000 feet in the back of a news helicopter.

I’ll never forget that night: I was sitting mere inches away from my male colleague, trying to maintain a shred of privacy. Although reporters and photojournalists are used to working closely together, this was too close for comfort. Surely, I thought, even with the noise of the chopper blades, he could hear the whoosh, whoosh, whoosh of my breast pump underneath my overcoat.

That’s when I realized: something had to give. I could balance mom duties with work duties. But did I want to? Or need to?

At that altitude, I suddenly saw life more clearly. Our newborn daughter, Christina, had changed me. I no longer craved a life that was 24/7 “on call” for someone else. If I was going to be “on call,” it would be on my terms – focused on my family. I needed a new plan.

So long, W-2 world. Hello, entrepreneurship.

That was 21 years ago. Since then I have come to appreciate how the world of entrepreneurship offers women the unique opportunity to tailor their professional lives around the changing life cycles of womanhood. That has proven true from days of diapers – to pee-wee soccer – to college campus visits – to now caring for the needs of aging parents.

Entrepreneurship opens the door for women to maximize their God-given gifts as consummate multi-taskers, pragmatic problem-solvers, and intuitive leaders. While the roles may change over the years, those gifts remain assets we can draw upon no matter what the calling may be.

Take multi-tasking.

Yes, as a much younger work-at-home mom, juggling was my forte in my new post-journalism business of real estate sales/investing. I could write an offer in one hand and hold a bottle in the other.

Fast forward to my “sandwich generation” years and I may find myself dealing with the parental health scare du jour while texting a teen about a research project…all while sitting on the floor of a vacant listing during a home inspection.

Owning my own business allows me to tap into those strengths of multi-tasking and creative problem-solving. But the gift of entrepreneurship is far greater.

We don’t “own” a business. We “own” a mindset that empowers us to confidently adapt our business model to whatever life throws at us (good or bad).

I have embraced that entrepreneurial mindset of “owning” control of my business model. That is why, as our nest empties, I am redirecting my energies towards giving back as an assistant professor and department chair for Tempe-based Western International University. That is a path designed to lead me through these “giving back” years I choose to create in this new season of life.

So, as your life’s story evolves as a woman, embrace change as your constant. Be willing to let go of a model that may have worked well for you in one season, but may work against you in another. If you harness your entrepreneurial drive wisely, you can tailor your business to drive through the waves of life’s seasons instead of being tossed around by them. That is the true gift entrepreneurship offers women of all ages – and in all stages of life’s journey.

The content herein is that of the author and does not reflect the position or opinion of Western International University. Elizabeth Groh, MSJ is an Assistant Professor and Department Chair of Faculty Development for Tempe, AZ-based Western International University. She owns a real estate brokerage firm in Oklahoma City and has been a real estate entrepreneur for more than 20 years, both in sales and investing. Beth and her husband Jeff have three children ages 21, 19, and 16 and are actively involved in the community through their church and its parochial school.

Close the Sale at Hello!

Close the Sale at HelloGuest post by Lorraine Bossé-Smith, founder of the F.I.T. Leader Formula and a certified professional behavior analyst (CPBA)

Some people feel that they aren’t cut out for sales while others love it, thriving on the adrenaline of a closed deal. The bottom line is that we are all selling something:  an idea, our opinion, a product, service, or decision. Whether at work, on the road, with family or with friends, we tap into the ability to persuade and negotiate with others. That my friends is sales.

Some people are naturally better at sales than others. Some individuals can appear to sell the infamous “ice cube to the Eskimo” while someone else can’t seem to sell a fan to a person in the blazing-hot desert? It starts with understanding people:  how they are wired, how they think, and why they do what they do. Many people have slowly learned this principle through trial and error while others are continually struggle. Well, I’m about to take the guesswork out of it and provide a “sure fire way” to sell with style no matter what your level of sales, title, role, or position. We start by first seeking to understand how the world is divided.

If we were to take the population and split it into two groups, some would be outgoing while others would be reserved. Think of it as an “Internal Motor” that causes us to be one way or the other. The same population is then split into two sub groups:  those who are drawn toward tasks and those who are drawn toward people. This “Internal Compass” points us toward completing tasks or being with people.

By recognizing these basic points in your customer, you can adapt your selling style to meet their needs. The four types of customers are:

  • The Decisive Buyer, representing about 10% of the total population. They are outgoing with their “Internal Compass” directing them toward tasks. They seek power and control. These success-oriented, results-driven individuals have money and will spend it with someone who doesn’t waste their time
  • The Impulsive Buyer, representing about 25 to 30% of the total population. They are also outgoing but their “Internal Compass” points them toward people. These interactive, expressive individuals seek popularity and want to have fun. They enjoy the entire shopping experience when it involves people, but they can be easily distracted from their original intent.
  • The Steady Buyer, representing about 30 to 35% of the total population. They are quiet and shy individuals with an “Internal Compass” leading them toward people. They require stability and avoid change of any kind. Because of their slow pace, chances are that they have procrastinated their buying decision, which stresses them out.
  • The Cautious Buyer, representing about 20 to 25% of the total population. They are reserved with their “Internal Compass” preferring tasks. These reserved individuals of few words are analytical by nature and are processing machines. They take in everything and sift it through a screening device called logic.

After identifying your customer, your goal is to adapt your message to work for them. In essence, you speak their language. You know your product or service—now understand how you can DOUBLE your sales by delivering your message properly. Come see me at the NABWO Boot Camp at 10:45 am to 11:30 am on Saturday, May 14, 2016! I look forward to seeing you then.

Lorraine Bossé-SmithLorraine Bossé-Smith is the Founder of the F.I.T. Leader Formula and a certified professional behavior analyst (CPBA) who has appeared on numerous radio and TV programs across the country. She is a motivational speaker, corporate trainer, business consultant, executive coach, behavioral-wellness expert, and author of eight published books who helps companies rewire their business for success and inspires people toward a healthier, more balanced life. She can be reached at lorrainebosse-smith.com.

5 Tips to Influence Without Authority

Felicia Davis - 5 Tips to Influence Without AuthorityGuest post by Felicia Davis, author of the book, The Leadership Mastery Formula

Leadership has taken on new meaning and much greater challenges in the last decade and being able to influence, even when you feel powerless, is a must. The VUCA environment that we are in now makes being a leader even tougher, but with the right communication and influencing skills, it can be done. People bring a vast amount of skills, experience and points of view with them and with that comes the challenge of trying to reach an agreement. Often times, the difference between getting a Yes and a No is how you show up inside of the conversation.

If you have a hard time stating what you want, use a three step process to get it done:

  1. State your observations. These are the facts and things that can be seen and heard. Observations are different from opinions. Facts are objective and can not be argued.
  2. State your thoughts and feelings about the situation. Be sure to start each of these statements with the word “I” so that it’s clear that these are your opinions.
  3. State what you want the other person to do. If you truly want the door to be open to alternative solutions, make statements about your needs rather than presenting solutions up front. If you state the solution too early, it might close the door on other possible alternatives.

Be Proactive and Build a Power Base

Build a foundation for influence before you need it. Having a good power base of relationships with others will make influencing a much easier task. Be proactive and do not wait until you need something to start showing an interest in what others are doing. Build all around positive relationships both vertically and horizontally. This means that you establish rapport and build relationships with everyone from the receptionist to people at higher levels within the organization or community. Most importantly, act with integrity and work to earn the trust of your colleagues.

Inspire Cooperation to Overcome Resistance

Do your research so that you can anticipate reactions and be prepared to address them. If you know in advance how people are likely to respond to your proposition or idea, you will be better prepared to deal with their reactions or resistance. A few things that you must do are to determine whose support you absolutely need to have and speak with others to clearly understand what you need to do to get their buy-in. Identify peers or others who may have some insight about that person’s purpose and values and ask for insight. Ask for feedback from those you trust and anyone else who may be involved. Keeping these things in mind will allow you to get meaningful commitments.

Go In to Win With An Agreeable Exchange

Ensure that your position addresses the needs of others. Research, research, research is the key here. If you go in with the goal of creating a win/win outcome, getting the buy-in of others will be much easier. Be sure to think of everyone that your proposal will affect not just the key stakeholder. Consider their concerns and how you might address them in your proposal. Offer something of value in exchange. It’s a give and take world and knowing this up front will increase your overall chances of success.

Continued Skill Building

Now that you’ve had experience with using this process to win someone over, continue building on your expertise. Look for small projects where you can use your influencing skills and create more wins for yourself. This will build your influence muscle and prepare you for the day that the “BIG” idea shows up. You’ll now be equipped with the skill, knowledge and confidence that you need to tackle it with ease.

Self Assessment & Action Steps:

Think about your own career and the position that you currently hold. Now really dig deep, be honest and ask yourself the following questions:

  • I place a premium on being able to positively influence others.
    ___ Yes ___ No
  • I thoroughly do my research before any meeting where I am trying gain buy-in from others.
    ___ Yes ___ No
  • I work hard to build alliances throughout the organization and/or community so that I will have the support that I need before I actually need it.
    ___ Yes ___ No
  • I proactively seek feedback vertically and horizontally throughout the organization on any and all influencing initiatives. When I receive that feedback, I take what’s useful and relevant and put a plan into place to work it.
    ___ Yes ___ No
  • I have a mentor or professional coach to assist and give me guidance and feedback.
    ___ Yes ___ No
  • I am fully accountable for my level of success. I own it, take action and celebrate when I win.
    ___ Yes ___ No

For every YES, write specifically what you are currently doing that makes it effective. Now look for opportunities to build upon these engagements to help continue to grow and develop. What will you do next?

For every NO, write one thing that you will do to implement this into your career development strategy. Be very specific and give yourself a deadline to get it done.

If you found these tips to be helpful and you want more ideas on effectively using your power to influence, I’d love for you to celebrate Women’s History Month with me and join us at the 2016 Women & Power Symposium. The theme is Leading Across Generations and the reason why is because the human capital shift is major and we must have deep conversations and education that explores how to effectively leverage the shift. Be sure to join the interest list and be the first to know when all of the details, including the Call for Speakers -both virtual and in-person, will be announced, wpsymposium.org.

Felicia DavisFelicia Davis is an award-winning leadership development consultant, speaker and author of the book, The Leadership Mastery Formula. She works with emerging and experienced women leaders to help them develop more effective leadership brands, more compelling communication skills and the confidence to show up and lead with radical integrity. For more ideas on how to become a more effective leader, download your free copy of my 10 Mistakes ebook at FeliciaRDavis.com. Find out what mistakes may be lurking in your blind spot and compromising your impact and influence as a leader.

Striving for Balance When Leading an All Female Team

Leading an All Female TeamAs women business owners, we’re often drawn to hiring other women as we build our team. We like the camaraderie, the easy conversation, and the like-minded ways of thinking. Let’s face it, we tend to be drawn to people who are JUST LIKE US! This actually applies to men, too, and it can be a major barrier to our business success.

Diversity among your team is a huge benefit but what if you don’t have it?

If you’re leading an all female team, here are some things you might observe and want to address.

Meetings Running Too Long

Women LOVE to collaborate and sometimes can dive down the rabbit hole before you even realize it. When leading an all female team, a specific meeting agenda distributed in advance with a time limit on each topic can help to keep everyone focused.

Lots of Ideas With Less Actual Action

Now this is a huge generalization and certainly not always true but the majority of women tend to be creative, right brain thinkers. We like to use our imagination and visualize solutions but it’s a much smaller percentage of women who are the detail-oriented, strategic thinkers and can actually break it down into step-by-step execution. If you find one of those for your team, treat her very well! She’s worth her weight in gold! And for heaven’s sake, let her create your processes and insist that everyone else follow them! If you DON’T have one of these on your team, seriously consider contracting a project manager to help you with execution of larger initiatives.

Unspoken Misunderstandings or Grudges

One of the realities of being a woman is we are still driven in large part by the ancestral instincts that were crucial to our survival. As a cave-woman in a large tribe our likelihood of finding the best mate and achieving the highest levels among the tribe hinged upon being liked and darned if we aren’t still driven by it today.  When men have conflict, they tend to just throw it out there, deal with it, and move on. Not us. Women will tend to say nothing and hope it just passes, all the while building resentments even to the point of deliberately undermining each other. Horribly unproductive.

Start your team with a Clean Slate Policy. Every time I bring in a new team member, male or female, we have an orientation meeting and I explain our Clean Slate Policy.  Every day when we leave the office, you must have a clean slate with every other person. In other words, if there is ANYTHING that is causing discomfort, confusion, unrest, or anxiety, we all agree that we will immediately bring it up. We each agree to be open to feedback and realize that we’re all on the same team and we all want the best for the company and each other and unspoken tension will not serve anyone. We will GET IT OUT and ADDRESS IT!

Leading an all female team has a lot of advantages but hopefully these tips will help to avoid a few of the possible pitfalls. I’m actually looking for the first man to join my all-female company. It will take one brave soul to climb into this power-woman cave!

Nancy HetrickBy Nancy A. Hetrick, CDFA™

Nancy founded Smarter Divorce Solutions in 2011 after going through her own less-than-optimal divorce process. She has over 16 years of experience in both investment management and financial planning. Nancy is a Master Analyst in Financial Forensics, (MAFF™), a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA™), an Accredited Wealth Management Advisor (AWMA), an Accredited Asset Management Specialist (AAMS), a Chartered Mutual Fund Counselor (CMFC) and a trained mediator. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, riding her motorcycle, and spending time with her 3 children and one grandchild. Get in touch with Nancy at nancy@smarterdivorcesolutions.com or smarterdivorcesolutions.com.

Getting Started in Real Estate Investing

Get Started in Real Estate InvestingDeciding to Invest in Real Estate.

Most people would like to make more money.  How would you like to do this dynamically while concurrently enjoying what you are doing? Think about real estate investing.  It may not be as risky as you think. And, the positive outcomes can outweigh the risks. The look and feel of this type of investing is much different from bank investing. You have a tangible product, which could, in turn, earn you many long-term benefits, but there is more effort and thought needed to have this type of investment be successful.

Searching for Your Property.

When searching for your first investment property, set clear expectations with your realtor. Do you plan to rent it for several years, or sell at a profit in a couple of years? Either way, consider short sale and foreclosure properties. These properties can be purchased below market value, minimizing your initial down payment. Select a good location that will, in turn, attract good tenants. Choose a property that does not require too much work before a tenant can occupy it.

Required Expenses.

Selecting a property that is in good condition, and not requiring too much work, will allow you to put more money down, or place money in a reserve account for possible unforeseen future repairs. Determine how much rent is needed to cover your expenses, such as mortgage, taxes, insurance, HOA fees, etc. Can this house in its location achieve that figure or greater? To find out comparable rent figures in the community with similar type houses, you can visit such websites as Zillow and Trulia, which provide estimated rents. Lastly, know the market. Current market trends can be found at the National Association of Realtors. Buying when the market is down is the best option so you do not lose money in your investment and are able to sell it and earn a profit if you so decide in a couple of years.

Choosing How to Manage Your Property.

Your realtor can be your property manager for your property. He/she can find a tenant, prepare the lease agreement and be responsible for arranging any maintenance or repairs – which are, in turn, paid by you. You could also self-prepare the required legal documents for your lease agreement. Websites such as ezLandlordForms.com can provide both free and fee-based documents needed. The property manager could also prepare these documents, as well arrange repairs and maintenance for a fee, which is often a percentage of the monthly rent. This percentage can be as high as ten percent. To earn more revenue, you can manage the property yourself. You can be the landlord and be your own boss! This is easier if you are in the area where the investment property is located and if the property is a long-term rental. Your realtor can still find your tenant (with your selection approval) and prepare the lease agreement. Then you take over.

Establishing a Relationship with Your Tenant.

Establish a positive relationship with your tenant and be responsive. It is a two-way relationship. Just as a landlord may have hesitations with new tenants, tenants may possess these same sentiments with a new landlord. Managing the property yourself does not necessarily mean performing the work or maintenance on the property yourself, but rather organizing and making the arrangements for such actions to take place. Remember that these expenses can be claimed for tax purposes.

There are many factors to consider when deciding if you would like to get started in real estate investing. It can be a long-term investment and continued source of revenue, which increases in value over time. More income can be earned in investment properties than traditional savings accounts. You are an active participant and decision maker. There are many options to consider, and if this is something new for you, do your research. Remember there will be new experiences you encounter, but with careful and calculated considerations, it can be a long-term source of income and, of course, enjoyment.

The content herein is that of the author and does not reflect the position or opinion of Western International University (West). Lisa M. Buccigrosse, M.S.Ed., NBCT has been an educator since 2001. She has served in a variety of capacities including ESL/bilingual/Spanish teacher, instructional coach, mentor, administrator, and university professor. She has been a faculty member at Western International University since 2010. In addition to her educational roles, since 2010 she has owned a small business in real estate investing and landlord of rental properties.

Like Diamonds, Successful Women Entrepreneurs are Formed Under High Pressure and Heat

Like Diamonds, Successful Women Entrepreneurs Form Under High Pressure

Like Diamonds, Successful Women Entrepreneurs Form Under High Pressure

It is impossible to be “ON” 100% of the time. I don’t always feel brilliant or sparkle. There are days that I just want to wear old PJs and fuzzy socks, binge watch TV comedies and eat salted caramel gelato.

Fortunately, most days I love my life and I know deep in my belly that I was always meant to be an entrepreneur. On the days that I’m tempted to hit the snooze button, I whisper to myself “Isabel, this is no way to build an empire!” and my feet hit the floor.

I bring my best game to life when I am creating solutions and helping others maximize their potential. My DNA, my cells, all line up to make me ideally suited to take risks, see opportunities and impassion others.

In my natural state, like a diamond in the rough, I started with the potential to shine. I’ve always loved to learn and adapted quickly in many careers, adding new skills, gaining confidence, always growing. I wasn’t conscious at first that each of my experiences, even the rough ones, where forging me into a raw gem. Like diamonds, successful women entrepreneurs are formed under high pressure and a lot of heat!

Maximizing the value by cutting and polishing a rough diamond takes time and expertise. Gems and entrepreneurs have many facets. The process of revealing the true brilliance of a jewel requires skill and investment.

If there is a flaw in an entrepreneurial gem, it is usually self-doubt. We often undermine our own worth. We magnify perceived flaws into huge cracks and overlook the clarity, the color and the brilliance of our own rareness. Your vision can be distorted if your view is only from the end of your own microscope. When you are always up close to your lens, it is not possible to see the sparkle. Standing back and taking in an expansive view allows you to see all sides, all facets and all of the brilliance of your diamond opportunities.

You’ll get an even more accurate appraisal of yourself and your ‘mine’, if you enlist the collective wisdom of a group of advisors who, like you, are invested in polishing their gems. A structured peer to peer advisory board such a GroYourBizTM MyBusinessMyBoardTM is a brilliant way to increase your carats!

As Elizabeth Taylor said “Big Girls deserve Big Diamonds!”

 

Isabel BannerjeeSerial entrepreneur, inspiring speaker and aspiring author with a passion for helping others maximize their potential, Isabel’s drive comes from the belief that confidence, success and satisfaction are more easily achieved and sustained when working from individual and collective strengths.

For more sparkle, connect with me, Isabel Banerjee:

Create Your Vision Path in 2016

Business Vision PathBy Laura Dornbusch

You are thinking this should be an article for January, but read on and it will become clear why we should readdress our New Year’s Resolutions.

As you look back on 2015, do you feel satisfied with your results or do you stare at a familiar unorganized disarray path of unfulfilled dreams? Ten years ago you didn’t expect to be where you are today. You ventured off course, and you’re telling yourself that this year will be different than the year before. You put pen to paper and list out your goals for 2016, tape it to the bathroom mirror and continue your positive self-talk until March rolls around.

As the year goes on something happens to the majority of us who make New Year’s resolutions and it probably happens to you too. You reduce your gym visits from five days a week to one, your green juice breakfast turns into coffee and a Pop Tart and you get stuck in a never ending round-about that leads to nowhere.

You lose sight of your business vision and you start to feel hopeless, but this year is different. The University of Scranton Journal of Clinical Psychology states, “People who explicitly make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who don’t explicitly make resolutions.” This year you’ll create a vision path that leads to celebration rather than disappointment.

Creating a Business Vision Path

Creating a vision path takes New Year’s resolutions to the next level of action and achievement. It’s a visual representation of your path with clear actions, milestones and celebrations that take your dreams off of the paper and breathes life into them.

Creating a vision path is easy and inexpensive. Start by designating a space in your home or office that you visit daily. Then find some sticky notes and a pen and get started with these simple steps:

  1. Begin with the end in mind. Start by listing what you want to celebrate at the end of the year. These are the goals you typically write down as your New Year’s resolutions. The difference is that instead of writing them on a single piece of paper, you’ll write them on sticky notes on the far right of your designated space.
  2. Determine monthly and quarterly milestones. Working backwards from your goals, write down 12 major milestones that you expect to accomplish throughout the year. Start with December and end with January. The sticky note for January should be on the left side of your designated space. You will most likely start in April this year.
  3. List tactical actions for each milestone. List the actions that you need to take to complete each milestone on sticky notes. Then place the actions to the left of each milestone.

After you’ve completed this activity, you should have what looks like a strip of sticky notes in a line across your designated space. As you complete each action, pull that sticky note down and celebrate it. No, I mean, REALLY, celebrate it, do the happy dance, enjoy a glass of wine with someone special and share your success. Do something that cements in the feeling of a great accomplishment, because you just surpassed most of your peers, who quit before all the sticky notes were even written.

Celebrating Accomplishments

When I led my team at Expo Chemical Co, Inc., I encouraged the sales team by creating a board of gold stars to recognize achievements. The gold stars were an inexpensive way to have fun and reward success. People would stop me in the hall and tell me that more stars had gone up. Over the next few weeks, I saw all of them work hard to receive that recognition.

Celebrating accomplishments doesn’t have to be expensive, but they should be visual. The visual element of celebration provides encouragement to yourself and others to focus on future goals and confidence that they will be achieved.

Don’t let 2016 be a year of disappointment and disarray. Invest a few hours in yourself to set up your business vision path and a few minutes each day working toward your goals. Do one thing today to get you closer to where you want to be in 2015 and if you need someone to encourage you along the way, consider joining my Change Your Business Life coaching program. This program is solely focused on creating success for your and your business in 2016. I am anxiously waiting to celebrate your successes with you!

About Laura Dornbusch

I assist C-Level executives and entrepreneurs strategically plan their future; both in business and their own passions.  We work together to assess their true passions utilizing proven tools  If necessary, we assist in building the teams needed to take their businesses to the next level.  I believe that you hold the answers to the life you want to live. You just need to find the key to unlock them. You can live the life you deserve, but you are responsible for taking steps towards that dream. One day you will no longer need me, and that will be the greatest achievement of our time together.

Write. It. Down.

I’m a commercial litigator. Fighting over contracts is what I do almost every day.

It still amazes me how often I see smart, successful business people making simple mistakes in their transactions that end up costing them thousands of dollars in damages, settlements, and legal fees. Over the next several months, I’ll be offering tips that you can use in your everyday business that will help you avoid these pitfalls.

In this first installment, I’ll start simple: Write. It. Down.

I’m not trying to suggest you need to have a full-blown thirty-page agreement every time you order your monthly supplies from your distributor or hire an IT contractor to spruce up your webpage. But you do absolutely need to write something down with the general details of every agreement you reach as part of your business.

Don’t try make this too complicated. It can literally be two words on a cocktail napkin, or a short email to yourself. It would be better if it included a date and time, as well as all the key details. Even better if it was something (like an email) you sent to the other party, and best yet if they responded and confirmed. But for now, you don’t even have to go that far. You just need to develop the habit of creating something in writing you can point to when a dispute arises (and a dispute will arise), that will support your side of the story.

Now, this isn’t to say that simply writing down, “ordered 10,000 business cards from Jennifer,” will automatically mean you’ll prevail in a lawsuit against Jennifer if there is a dispute over your order. It’s not always that simple. But in every case in which a dispute arises, you will be exponentially better off if you can point to something that was written down at approximately the same time as the agreement and that supports your view.

Many times – especially if the other side doesn’t have anything in writing that they can point to – you can avoid the necessity of lawyers and lawsuits all together. After you tell them you wrote down the agreement when it was made, and it lines up with your story, they’ll usually back down. But if you don’t have anything to defend yourself, it’s their word against yours and they’ll have no incentive to move on.

The bottom line is this simple tip will save you money and heartache in the long run. This issue most frequently arises when the disputed amount is big enough to create a huge burden for you, but not big enough to justify paying a lawyer. Unless you can get out early (which “writing it down” will help you do), you’ll be stuck paying someone money you don’t owe, or paying a lawyer to defend a dispute that is worth less than the legal fees.

So, the message is simple: just write it down.

Jared SuttonJared Sutton is in the commercial litigation group in the Phoenix office of Lewis Roca Rothgerber, LLP, which is a proud corporate partner with NAWBO’s Phoenix Chapter.

Challenging Digital Boundaries

Technology OverwhelmIf your doctor only glanced at your chart before telling you that you have cancer and that you need surgery, you’d likely get a second opinion. If your surgeon greeted you on the morning of surgery and told you that he was awake the night before answering emails from the hospital’s chief of staff, you’d likely jump off the table and run. Yet, in the name of customer service, we expect lawyers, accountants and other professionals to respond quickly to emails and be available 24/7. We have forgotten the value of a thoughtful response and well-rested professionals.

Employees respond to the growing digital pressure. A report by Knowledge at Wharton revealed that 83% of professional workers check their emails after work, 66% take their technology with them on vacation, and more than 50% report sending emails while having a meal with family or friends. The MIT Sloan Management Review reported that 73% of employees worry that they will be at a disadvantage at work if they disconnect or do not instantly respond.

Even when not pressured by the boss, many adults are as addicted to their smartphone as their children. Some adults check emails and texts more than 150 times a day. These urges are fueled by a psychological need to feel wanted, important and avoid “missing out.” Failure to respond immediately results in stress, worry and fear so the sender makes more attempts to communicate and overwhelms others’ and their inboxes.

Triaging work emails at night contributes to stress because emails are like rabbits — they multiply. Emails beget responses, which beget replies. Additionally, checking emails from the boss or clients before bedtime contributes to insomnia.

A “faster is better” customer service style and a constantly connected work force is costly. Professionals who do not disconnect suffer from chronic stress, which contributes to physical and mental health issues. Because time and focus is lost each time one redirects attention from a task to an email and back, employees who are “always connected” are less productive and creative. Personal relationships are impacted too. Many parents sit at the family dinner table focused on messages from colleagues instead of family.

Companies also pay the price for the constantly connected work culture. Pressure to work everywhere and all of the time often results in increased absenteeism, burnout and work/life conflict. Additionally, companies are facing increasing threats of lawsuits from employees, who are seeking compensation for time spent answering emails after hours. This litigation threat may grow, if the Labor Department raises the salary threshold for overtime pay. It is time to challenge assumptions about a constantly-connected workforce.

Since no one wants to be viewed as a slacker, change must start at the top of an organization by revising policies that reflect thicker boundaries between work and home, including agreed-upon offline time. Harvard Professor Leslie Perlow found that just one predictable night off improved job satisfaction for teams. Additionally, work product and productivity can be improved by encouraging employees to disconnect for periods of time during the day to focus on a project. Just as patients want well-rested and thoughtful doctors, clients need to be educated about these benefits for all professionals. To allay fears of important clients and colleagues, key staff can offer their cell numbers, recognizing that people feel less comfortable calling than emailing after hours.

Because role models matter, leaders must model healthy habits with technology and respect others’ boundaries. For example, leaders should put late night emails in the “draft box” to be sent during normal work hours to allow team members to psychologically detach from the office and recover from the workday stress. Consensus among teams and organizations about offline time and reasonable response times will help limit the build up of the inbox over night.

Checking dozens of times each day results in hours of lost productivity and accuracy because time is lost while reorienting to the original task and more mistakes occur after returning to the work task. Productivity and accuracy can be improved by spending focused time on email and turning off notifications between email sessions. For example, employees can schedule 30-minute email sessions three times a day or avoid email until the most important task of the day is done.

For those who feel addicted to technology, digital “recovery” starts by changing their self-talk. For example, it is important to recognize:

  1. people are in charge of technology and not the other way around;
  2. flexibility does not mean always available;
  3. busy answering emails does not mean productive; and
  4. emergencies are rare.

Additionally, like the principle of scarcity, which suggests that people value the things that are not easily available, people who are not always available are valued more by others. Employees should be encouraged to identify their strengths beyond, “always available, first to respond.”

Highly addicted people may need to start small, such as going to the grocery store without a cell phone or doing morning routines without checking email and turning off notifications to quell the urge to check. Separating personal and work emails will avoid inadvertently getting sucked into work matters after hours. Practicing mindfulness — being present and attentive where you are — also improves relationships and boundaries between work and home.

Following a heart attack, one chief executive officer at a national real estate company took a hard look at his life and his company’s “always on” culture. He surprised his employees at a national meeting by challenging them to disconnect more and to create time for deep thought and reflection. In the knowledge economy, people are the company’s greatest assets. Ignoring the costs of the constantly connected work culture is dangerous. There is no need to wait for a wake up call; developing a healthier relationship with and use of technology will benefit the organization, the employees, and their clients.

Jill GoldsmithJill Goldsmith is an executive and leadership coach and professional speaker.  Jill strengthens leaders and teams through coaching that focuses on leadership behavior, communication effectiveness, emotional intelligence, organizational development, and strategic planning.

Guest post by NAWBO member Jill S. Goldsmith, J.D., LAC, NCC. Article originally appeared on the Huffington Post blog.