Are you sitting on the sidelines or are you an innovator?

Champion Assistants supports innovators

Champion Assistants supports innovators

According to Wikipedia, “An innovator or pioneer (pronounced /ˌpаɪəˈnɪər/) in a general sense is a person or an organisation who is one of the first to do something and often opens up a new area for others and achieves an innovation“.  Not sure what an innovation is?  Check out Wikipedia’s Timeline of Historic Inventions for examples from pigment to PageRank.

You don’t need to invent a wheel to be an innovator.  In fact, just creating a useful product or service makes you an innovator in my book! Innovators are those special people who are able to take an idea, test it, tweak it and put it out there for others to consume and criticize.  Being an innovator is not for the faint or heart, but it is for the determined.

Successful small business are run by innovators – people who think and act ahead of the curve and able to create and adapt.  They are people who aren’t afraid of feedback because they know they can use it to their advantage to tweak improve and leap ahead of their competition.  Most people are stagnant in their own self-doubt.  I don’t know how many times I’ve left a networking event or luncheon remembering complaints and criticisms such as “anybody could have thought of that”, “My boss keeps me so busy I don’t have any time to pursue my real dreams”, “nobody would ever buy that”, and other criticisms and self-defeating thoughts.  I usually navigate away feeling bewildered, but the truth is these people just aren’t innovators.  Innovators take action!

I know business owners who sit around for months just considering whether or not to update content on their website, and exactly what content to use, etc.  How can people get consumed by such trivial matters – after all updating website content is a couple hours with provided content! – why waste so much energy when there are much bigger issues to face?  The bottom line is these people aren’t innovators.  Innovators don’t get tripped up in the small stuff.   They see the big picture, a larger goal, and put whatever they need to in place in order to achieve it.

Innovators are exciting people to be around.  They don’t sit still, stew or cluck at how things could/would/should be – they do!  Opportunities abound even in this economic climate and innovators prove this to be the case.  Nearly all of our clients sell online whether they work from a commercial office or at home after the rest of their family is asleep.  They have products they believe strongly in.  They challenge themselves to live their business dreams, take consistent action towards their goals and seize opportunities that help them along the way.  They are exciting people to be around!

I started Holiday Assistants in October 2007 after mulling it over on the side since June.  That June I was in a group of women and one of them holiday-assistants-making-your-holidays-sparkle1complained how next thing you know the holidays will be around the corner and it’s going to get stressful all over again.  A huge holiday fan myself, at first I was shocked at how she could dread what should be a festive and joyous time 5-ish months in advance, and then the opportunity lighbulb went off.  I spent the next few months doing a little research on the side and after developing basic business plans kicked myself to launching the company in the beginning of October even though I didn’t have everything planned out to the finest details.  I reassured myself by approaching the season as 1st year research and see how it goes.  As it turned out the 1st year just turned a profit (and the 2nd year was up 600%).  Why did this happen?  Yes, sound business planning and being in tune with the local community needs, but the real answer is because I took action.  I could still be thinking of this today and not getting anything off the ground.  Instead, I have a successful second company that has even been recognized as Best of the City by Seattle Metropolitan Magazine.

Now is as good a time as any to step out self-doubt or other limiting beliefs and step into innovating.  It’s much easier to sit on the sidelines, but a whole lot more rewarding to take risk and reap the rewards of great ideas, persistence and passion!

Best,

Heather

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Operating Strategies – The Human Connection

Champion Assistants Business NegotiationThe last tip I will share with you for overcoming any economy is to focus. Know where your company is going, what your goals are and how you plan to reach them. Never forget your customers, but reward them again and again. Always keep in mind that business is more than a word, it’s an emotional connection. Every sale is someone saying, yes I like this product/service and it is up to you to maintain a connection with that someone. Letting these connections in on your goals through promotions or incentives is a great way to make them feel special and desire to do business with you again. Keep the customers you have, find a way to reach the customers you want and above all stay true to your core business.

As human beings we are driven by a need to connect with each other. In business this is referred to as the Know, Like, Trust connection. In essence we do business with the people and companies we know, the products/services we like, and we trust that those businesses, products, and/or services will be as good as advertised. If the trust link is broken, it is extremely difficult to re-earn that trust. The only advise I will give in this area is to be honest in your dealing and truthful in your advertising. Give your clients as much information about the products/services as you can so they know what they are getting into from the start.

I hope the information you have learned in this series of articles assists you in creating a lean, economically sound strategy for your business.

Kristi

Operating Strategies – Expanding Your Market

Champion Assistant Virtual Business Team

Champion Assistant Virtual Business Team

The first three articles in this series spoke about your current business practices and ways to increase their productivity. Now we are going to change gears a bit and ponder a bit on expanding as a way to increase your potential. Yes, even in a time of recession there are ways to expand your reach and your business. Considering a new market is a good way to refine how you reach your current market as well as increase your pool of available customers. Expanding does not have to mean spreading yourself thin or revamping your entire company ideal. In fact it should be more about refining that ideal and finding other avenues to accomplish your goals.

Do you sell overseas? Have you thought about it? It doesn’t take much to market to an international market, but it does take planning. Consider contacting some of the expat communities around the globe. Even if you don’t market all out, this is a great base to make aware of your offerings. Expats living in foreign language countries still buy in their mother language and often want products that are familiar to them. You don’t need to translate everything in order to deal internationally. You just have to know the rules. Be aware of customs fees and regulations before you begin to market yourself abroad. Customs fees vary by country, but it makes sense to look into that and if the barrier to export is low, take advantage of the opportunity!

If you don’t want to expand internationally, consider what other markets in your area might have an interest in your products or services. Talk with online and offline communities to get their reactions and ideas. Expanding interest in your products/services does take effort and research. Before making any changes do your homework and talk with other business owners catering to the markets you are considering expanding into. Use their knowledge to decide what avenue is best for your company.

The last article in this series will be on the human connection and how it affects your business and how you reach your goals.

Kristi

Operating Strategies – Referrals

virtual_meetupReferrals are the best way to increase business with little to no expense. Referrals are about networking with other people, other businesses. Make a connection, allow these businesses and people to know who you are, what you do and why you do it. Allow them to work for you so you can focus on making more connections.

You know your products or services are intended for a specific audience, find where that audience hangs out or live and find a way to work with other businesses that cater to that crowd. Don’t be afraid to talk with businesses marketing to the same market. What you do may compliment what they do and so referrals back and forth will be forthcoming. Don’t ignore competitors as a source of referrals. Often we view similar businesses as competitors, when we should focus on what is unique about our own business and view our competitors as partners in our success. Competitors spur us to do better, and we can also pass along referrals when things unique to them/us come along.

Even your past customers can be a source of referrals. Word of mouth referrals are wonderful because they come from someone who has used your services and obviously liked that service enough to recommend it to someone else. In cases where a former customer refers new business to you, it is a good idea to send a Thank you to that customer for their support. Maintaining a connection with past customers not only makes them feel special, it makes them want to be repeat customers. We don’t do business with people who are rude, belittle us, or make us feel poorly. We do business with people we know, like and trust. Build that trust and you build a solid referral network in the process.

The next article will focus on expanding your market. I hope it will inspire you to consider the possibilities!
Kristi

Operating Strategies – The Media Advantage

newsMedia is more than the local newspaper. It’s a network of information resources that every human being utilizes on a daily basis. Media is everywhere! Traditionally media was defined as belonging to the associated press, but in recent time the internet has changed that definition. Today, media refers to any and all information resources including blog posts, social networks, search engine front pages as well as the traditional TV, newspapers and magazines. Learning to use the media to your advantage is what will separate your company from your competition. Be-friend the press!

Champion Assistants sister company Holiday Assistant is booming after being voted ‘Best of the City’ by Seattle Metropolitan Magazine and getting front page press in several newspapers. Their reputation is soaring higher than ever and orders are flowing in. All this because they befriended the media! (for more information Holiday Assistants visit http://www.HolidayAssistants.com)

Make yourself known to the local press through press releases and other media opportunities. Let them know about the charity work you do, the unique services and products you offer and the ways you share those unique products/services with others. Be specific, be unique, and don’t be afraid to speak up. If your local community has an issue that you or your company might be able to solve, let them know. One of the best ways to get the media on your side is to share information. Offer to write a column for them on a topic their readers are interested in. Use your blog to keep others informed and don’t be afraid to share your knowledge. 

Another great place to share your knowledge and ideas are in social networks such as Facebook and Biznik. Connecting with likeminded business professionals can open doors to new markets and new media outlets. If you don’t let people know you’re here, you won’t be here for long.

Tomorrow we’ll look into referrals and how they can affect the flow of business!
Kristi

Operating Strategies for Surviving the Economic Slump

connectingLarge businesses are scaling back and the bubble looks to have burst, but don’t count yourself out just yet. There are ways to succeed where others have failed. In fact, smaller companies have a better chance of surviving an economic slump than larger corporations because change is that much easier to implement. Corporations have layers of processes that slow down their reaction times. Smaller companies have fewer layers and so are able to react much faster and with much more accuracy. Over the next few days we will share 5 elements that you can implement in your business to not only stay in business, but to flourish!

One of the easiest ways to react is to operate lean. That’s all well and good, but what does it mean? Operating lean is a way of managing your operations, budgets, and processes so they are as effective as possible at as little expense as possible. This means in essence cutting the fat. If you’re paying for a service you don’t use, stop! If you’re a member of an organization that you never meet and get nothing from, drop them. If you don’t have enough work for a full-time employee, think about hiring a part-time contractor. Cut out both the employee expenses and the wasted time you spend every day finding work for that person to do.

Streamlining your business is the simplest way to increase productivity and profits. You know what you do best and where you need to focus. If you consider all the extra tasks you are doing in addition, it becomes obvious that a little help could in fact help to increase the bottom line instead of pulling it out from beneath you. Consider out-sourcing the tasks that are wasting your valuable time and energy. Professional VA’s work towards achieving your business goals and require little more than instructions on the task to be completed and a deadline for completion. There’s no need to supervise, to walk through each task step by step, or deal with breaks and habits that grind at your nerves.

We’ll see you tomorrow when we delve into the media advantage…
Kristi