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    26 Dec

    relax2

    Every now and then you get handed a slow week – usually the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, but sometimes you’ll get a quiet week other times during the year.  Maybe you’ve officially taken the whole week off – which is great!  However if you’re like most business owners, you’re ‘working’ this week, you’ve just planned it to be slow.

    Slow doesn’t have to mean unproductive though – here are a few ideas of what to focus on to make sure it’s a great slow week and not just…well, slow!

    Finish your planning

    Planning is a four letter word for most entrepreneurs – it runs counter to your instincts…and for most of us it’s just not any fun.  But if you want to succeed, you need to at least go through a planning process.  It doesn’t have to be complicated – try this:

    Identify your top 5 priorities for the next year…if you could get these 5 things done / achieved / etc. you’d make it a great year!

    Identify at least 2 or 3 key targets you want to hit – usually one of them is revenue, but it could also be profits, number of new clients, some sort of quality metric.  The key is to make sure it’s something easy to measure and it’s a valid, important measure of your business success.

    Finally – with the above in mind, identify the top 5 (or so) things you need to get done in the next 90 days.  What will move the ball forward?  What’s achievable?  Be specific and layout at least a framework of how you’ll do what you’d do.

    Make a list of people to contact

    Your long term success is also going to be driven by the company you keep…and if you don’t make time to stay in touch, you’ll lose out on a lot of opportunities. 

    Make a top 20 list of business (and some personal) contacts who are likely to either refer you business or be a great contact for you in some other way.  Once you’ve got a good list, make a commitment to meet with someone on the list at least weekly.  Relationships only get built when you spend quality time with people.

    Take a nap!

    It’s a slow week, take some time and give yourself permission to relax a little bit.  Seriously…when was the last time you took a nap (and being sick doesn’t count).  You’ll be amazed at how good you’ll feel after a quality nap.

    Clean off your desk

    There have been tons of studies that prove that clutter on your desk, in your office causes stress…and with that stress you’re going to be a lot less productive.  Don’t believe me?  Try doing a great cleanup job on your desk…and let me know if you don’t feel way better about what you’re doing afterwards. 

    My experience is that it’s like a weight coming off your shoulders…one that you didn’t know you were carrying!

    Hang out with family and friends

    This one’s obvious – the reason you planned a ‘slow’ week in the first place was to build in some time to relax, but if you’re like most business owners, life often gets in the way of your plans.  An important email comes in, you get some phone calls you have to handle, you just remembered a commitment that had to be done…before you know it the week’s up and you didn’t spend any time with those most important to you.

    Don’t let that happen.  On your slow week…make sure you build in hard stops and walls for your business activities…and give yourself some quality time away.

    What are the most important things you do on a slow week?  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below, especially if you’re just relaxing around this week!

    Shawn Kinkade   Kansas City Business Coach

    Photo by Arvee5.0

    19 Dec

    crew

    It’s a simple idea…the best ideas always are.  2 people can accomplish more than 1 person on their own, but the real trick is that 2 people working together can accomplish a LOT more than 1 person…or even 2 people working independently.  Bottom line, if you want to achieve more, you’ve got to have teamwork…and teamwork starts with leadership.

    Joe Calhoon would describe it as the critical importance of having everyone On The Same Page, which is also the title of one of his books.

    I was fortunate to hear Joe speak at an event last week and he covered a lot of important ideas – I don’t have the room to cover the entire talk, but here are a few of the key points that really stood out to me.

    You’ve got to have a plan!

    Only about 12% of businesses take the time to put together a written business growth plan…and it’s no coincidence that those businesses perform much better than their peers who are reacting and drifting.

    The thing is – the plan doesn’t have to be overly complicated.  You don’t need a 40 page executive summary in front of a 200 page business plan.  Joe advocates a 1 page plan and I’ve worked with clients on 2 page plans.  What’s really important is that you’ve gone through a planning process and you can easily communicate what’s important and how you’re getting there.

    Employee Engagement will make or break you!

    According to studies, about 28% of employees are actively engaged in their work.  An engaged employee is one who fully buys into what you’re doing and proactively does what’s needed to help the business be successful…the kind of employees you want and need to have if you are going to make it, much less thrive.

    Conversely 50% to 60% are disengaged…which matches up with a study I found earlier this year that over 50% of employees are very unhappy with their job.  Disengaged employees show up to work most of the time, do the bare minimum to keep their job and generally avoid any kind of proactive or creative endeavors.  It’s an awful existence for the employee (imagine coming in every day to a job you hate) and it’s even worse for the business owner.

    The difference between a business with a high level of engagement and a typical business is night and day.  It’s the difference between dragging a heavy weight behind you and having a supercharged engine help you push up the hill!

    Keep it simple!

    The other thing that really resonated with me was the need for leaders and business owners to keep it simple.  We live in a complex world…and it’s getting more complex every day, but complexity confuses…complexity keeps people from taking action…complexity doesn’t get talked about (at least not in a positive way).

    Simplicity doesn’t mean dumbing things down, simplicity is about finding the core idea, the MOST important things and keeping the focus on that.  I love the idea of being able to tell people what you’re all about in 1 or 2 sentences…even better 10 words or less.  Try it – it’s not easy, but it is amazingly powerful if you can get there.

    Thanks Joe

    Joe covered lots of other important ideas and I would strongly encourage you to catch him at a future speaking engagement if you get the chance…and until then, check out one of his books and start thinking about how you could get your team on the same page!

    Have you heard Joe speak?  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

    Shawn Kinkade  Kansas City Business Coach

    Photo by The Happy Rower

    16 Dec

    cashregister

    The end of the year is a great time to think about money – today we have a guest post from Carolyn K. from the BlogContentGuild.com – take it away Carolyn.

    The holidays have descended upon us, and the end of the year is rapidly approaching. If you are a business owner, you’ve probably noticed how difficult it can be to manage cash flow around this time of year. One of the greatest things about November and December is that your sales usually go up during these months. One of the worst things about this time of year is inventory management and order management become more difficult largely because of all the sales you you’ve made.

    Here are some tips to help you control your cash flow this holiday season:

    1. If you sell goods, double-check your inventory every day. Don’t solely rely on the stock information logged in the computer. Clerical errors are easy to make, and you could end up thinking you have enough of a product to go around when you simply don’t.

    2. Make sure you ship orders or deliver services to customers in a timely fashion. Customers don’t want to wait around for you just because it’s a busy time of the year. They expect what they ordered to reach them as soon as possible, just as they would expect any other time of the year. You and your employees may need to work overtime around the holidays to ensure that customers are satisfied with your swift service.

    3. If your customers pay you on a monthly basis, make sure you call or email them to remind them about their payments in November, December, and January. These months are when customers are least likely to pay you on time because they have a lot going on in their lives and many of them are low on cash. However, the health of your business during the holidays may depend on payments received.

    4. Have a talk with your employees about stepping up their game around the holidays. Everyone at the company needs to be on the same page and devoted to accomplishing all necessary goals before Christmas and in between Christmas and New Years. You might want to ask employees to work overtime for a few Saturdays just to make sure everything gets done.

    5. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Mistakes happen. If you and your employees work your absolute hardest during the holiday season, your company’s cash flow situation will remain favorable.

    Some great ideas from Carolyn – we’d love to hear your thoughts on holiday cash concerns.  Let us know what you think in the comments below.

    Shawn Kinkade  Kansas City Business Coach

    Photo by TibChris

    13 Dec

    finances

    It’s that time of year – the end of the calendar year and for most the end of the fiscal year. For many businesses, when it comes to their financial statements, it’s the time of year spent reviewing their “numbers”. 

    In fact, it’s likely that small to medium sized business owners spend more time looking at their financials between Christmas and New Year’s, than any other time of the year. Why? Because it tends to be a slow time of the year (unless you’re in retail), it’s planning time for next year, and everyone is anxious to see how their year ended, even if everything isn’t entered yet.

    However, if you’re like most business owners, you probably didn’t get into business to spend all day looking at financials. You got into business to deliver your product or service. The financials are just a by-product and your accountant pulls information off them to keep Uncle Sam happy. Sound familiar? You are not alone – most business owners have a real fear for numbers!  You know they’re important, even if they’re sometimes baffling, but it’s likely you aren’t really learning what you need to from those numbers…!

    Try This

    The basics are important…but you need to go deeper than just the accounting reports or the tax impacts that your accountant is looking at.  This year, as you look at your Balance Sheet, Profit & Loss, and Income Statements, try focusing on questions like these:

    - Did I really make any progress this year?   (How do I know?)

    - Why do I have less cash in the bank but my sales increased?

    - What areas of my business generated the most revenue?  The most profit?

    - Is my spending in line with other companies that provide similar products and services?  (If you’re not sure…we have a really cool financial benchmarking tool that can help you figure that out – call us!)

    - Are my employees, department, or staff generating acceptable amounts of revenue for our industry?

    - What kind of Return on Investment did I get on my marketing investment this year?  What worked the best?  What was worst?

    The list of potential questions is long and they are all valid and yes, there are answers. Unfortunately instead of buckling down and finding the answers, many business owners get overwhelmed and shift their focus back to delivering their product or service, because after all that is why they got into business in the first place. Right?

    If you want your business to succeed long term, don’t fall into that trap. If you don’t understand what the numbers mean, raise your hand and get some help. If you do understand your financials, but you aren’t sure if they mean you’re doing good or bad or you struggle to figure out where the opportunities lay for improvement, get some assistance. A fresh detailed Financial Analysis of a business can be an incredibly enlightening and profitable experience for a business owner.  Sometimes a 3rd party can see things that you’re too close to (or help you ask questions you might not have thought about).

    Do you know what to look for in your financials? Besides sales and profits, what are the drivers that you scrutinize? Feel free to share your comments below.

    Chris Steinlage, Kansas City Business Coach

    Photo by MeddyGarnet

    05 Dec

    engagesm

    I was talking with a client of mine the other day and we were brainstorming ways she could promote a new white paper / product offering and one of the things we talked about was using Social Media as a way to get the word out.  Through the course of our discussion it struck me that there are 4 levels of engagement that small business owners are using when it comes to Social Media and business.

    You can find a lot of examples of each of these levels…especially the first one, which is unfortunately the largest of the four.  The remaining 3 tactics are all viable business strategies.  Which one you use will be driven by how much time you can invest in Social Business overall, what your personal style is and ultimately what you’re trying to accomplish.

    The 4 levels of Social Business Engagement:

    • Non-existent
    • Visible
    • Educate
    • Engage

    Let me take a shot at breaking this down into something more meaningful.  Here’s a quick diagram I drew up on my iPad.  The Y axis reflects the value a business owner gets from a particular tactic…higher is better.  The X axis reflects the amount of time spent on each tactic.

    Socialbusinesstactics500

    Level 1 – Non-existent

    Although it’s not a tactic it is sadly the state that most business owners are in when it comes to their Social Business approach.  If you have a half filled out LinkedIn profile or a Facebook page that never gets updated or a Twitter account that was started but only has 2 tweets from last April (one of those being “Trying to figure out what this Twitter thing is all about”), then you are at the  non-existent stage from a Social Business perspective.

    When you’re non-existent, you are not getting any value…in fact, you are potentially hurting your cause with an incomplete profile…but at least your not spending any time on anything.

    Visible

    The next level up is Visible, which is actually a viable tactic for a lot of small business owners.  This approach can provide a lot of value, especially relative to the small amount of time spent.  Being visible means that people can easily find you via search and get more information if they’re interested. 

    In order to be visible, you need to pick at least 1 of the major social media platforms and invest a few hours into creating a quality profile.  I’d suggest LinkedIn if you are Business to Business and Facebook if you are Business to Consumer.

    A quality profile includes a picture and a clear, interesting write-up on what you do and why someone else should care.  It should have at least a little bit of personality and include some personal information.  It should be easy to further engage with you and learn more – your profile should have a link back to your website.  You should also have a reasonable number of connections (say a couple hundred for LinkedIn…Facebook will vary based on what you’re doing) and you should spend an hour or so a week keeping it updated, posting status updates, answering questions, etc.

    Educate

    As a tactic, Educate includes everything on the Visible level and also includes regular educational updates across multiple channels. The best way to educate is to create great content…it could be blog posts, videos, podcasts or anything else that adds value to your target market.  With an Educate approach, not only can your prospects and partners find you, they also can see your enthusiasm and expertise – especially as you consistently share great stuff over time.

    This approach can be effective with as little as a 2 to 4 hours per week – that would be the time it takes to write 1 blog post and share it in multiple places (and interact as you would for the Visible tactic).

    Engage

    Finally the Engage tactic is the high end of Social Business strategies.  Engagement is when you immerse yourself into 1 or more social media platforms and consciously and consistently develop your own tribe of followers (Customers, prospects, partners, etc.).  Engagement strategies are often built on education, but there are other successful engagement strategies built on personality, customer service or just being part or leading a community.

    If you can successfully Engage in Social Business, you will create a fan base that can dramatically amplify your message and help drive word of mouth and opportunities your direction.  Done the right way, it’s extremely powerful and beneficial.

    However…Engagement takes a lot of time and presence (there’s an expectation of real time responses, so you need to be always ‘on’).  Additionally you have to genuinely enjoy the process of connecting with your virtual tribe – if you don’t have the right kind of personality you will struggle to make this work.

    How are you investing your time?

    Every business owner should at least be at Visible on 1 platform.  It takes a low investment of time, anyone can do it and it will greatly enhance the number of people who can find you…remember if they can’t find you, they can’t do business with you.

    Going beyond Visible is a choice.  I’m a big proponent of content marketing and Education, but there are a lot of small business owners who aren’t set up to make an Educate tactic work…and they certainly don’t have the time or effort it takes to Engage.  However it’s not all or nothing.  On the chart the levels show as discrete options, but it’s actually a smooth curve and you can scale your efforts up and down depending on your resources.

    Where are you on the Social Business Engagement spectrum?  Does this model make sense?  I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments…Engage with me in the comments below and let me know what you think!

    Shawn Kinkade   Kansas City Business Coach

    Photo by JD Hancock