How to Set Up a Communication System for Your Business

DV-00147797-001I’m all about using systems in business. They allow us to streamline everyday processes and to focus on the important stuff. Like serving our clients.

An effective communication system helps you stay in touch with potential and current clients — without feeling like you are bugging them or being pushy.

My next 4 posts are all about communicating with your clients in simple ways, complete with tips to do it professionally.

Let’s start with the most important form of communication — in person conversations. Most business relationships start with a face to face meeting. It might be at a networking event, a presentation, a gathering among friends and acquaintances, or just while out and about. These first meetings go a long way towards building a long term relationship. Here are 3 easy tips for effective face to face conversations:

1. Remember to keep the conversation about the person you are talking with.

Maya Angelou is right when she says:

“…people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

2. Learn about the other person by asking questions or using conversation starters like these:

  • Tell me about your business.
  • Who do you serve?
  • What made you start doing what you do?
  • What do you love about your business.
  • What are your plans for the future?
  • What does your work day look like?

These conversations are short and to the point.

3. Make a conscious decision to always end with a final statement and a simple question:

“I’d love to contact you to see how I might be of help. Can we exchange information?”

Nothing can replace in person conversations. In fact, experts tell us that over 50% of what we intend to say is conveyed via body language and facial expressions, not by the words we are actually saying.  Smile, nod your head, shake their hand. Show them that you are interested in them and what they are saying.

In the next few weeks, we’ll take a look at 3 more kinds of business communication: the telephone, email, and written communication. In the meantime, make it a goal to meet some new business contacts this week and get to know them!

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5 Steps to Marketing in Your Business Community

Participating in your local business community is a great way to help others and promote your own small business at the same time. In an earlier post, we talked about building relationships.  Let’s take it a step further with a few ideas on how to specifically market your business and find new clients.

1. Make a Plan

Make a list of local businesses that allow others to leave behind information. Think of establishments that have community bulletin boards or a table with local papers and fliers. Coffee shops, nail salons, doctor’s and dentist’s offices are all good examples. Also list businesses that are complementary to yours or who serve the same type of clients.

2. Design a Marketing Piece

This will be your “leave behind” piece. A business card is fine, but even better is a flier or a 4×6 card that briefly explains what you do. Better still, include a short term offer or special that will peak interest and encourage potential clients to pick up the phone.

3. Print Out Just Enough Copies for this Round

…perhaps a dozen per business establishment.  Your special offer will change in a few weeks and that gives you another opportunity to drop into businesses and leave new information.

4. Be Ready to Tell Other Business Owners and Their Staff What You Do

Most of the time this explanation will come up as part of a conversation. But sometimes you will need to open with a sentence or two describing your business and the services or products you offer. Ask if you can leave your fliers and offer them the same special, or a deal tailored just for them.  These fellow business owners have the potential to be your biggest supporters and referral sources.

5. Ask How You Can Help

Continue to spread the word about your fellow neighborhood businesses.  Send them referrals and they will be more willing to do the same for you. If your businesses are complementary, figure out if there is a way you can partner with one another with a more formalized referral program.

The benefits to being an integral part of your business community are many. The key is simply getting out there and getting to know who you work alongside!

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5 Steps to Building Relationships in Your Community

Building relationships in your town or city is one of the best ways to find new clients. In fact, there are many benefits to getting to know other business owners.

My friend, Karen Grosz, says that the key to networking is to make it your main goal to help other people instead of focusing on how others can help you.

Here are 5 steps you to help you become more comfortable meeting and learning about others in your community:

1. Practice introducing yourself.

Many new business owners find it difficult to make an initial contact. So rehearse! Stick out your hand to your imaginary acquaintance, tell them your name and ask for theirs.

2. Remind yourself that this is about them, not you.

The person you are meeting might just end up being a new friend, great referral source, a mentor, someone who has an incredibly interesting story to share.

3. Begin the conversation by asking questions.

Find out about their business, what products or services they offer, who they serve, how they got started in business and what they love about what they do.

4. Offer to help!

It may be as simple as promising to think about who you know that could use their services. Take a few of their business cards and then pass them on to your friends.

5. Let them know you will be back.

Don’t feel compelled to buy something right now, instead remember to stop back by when you next need this business’s product or service…or just stop back by to say hello and find out how things are going.

Next time, we’ll talk more about how to network and promote your business during these meetings.  For now, get out there and meet the business people in your community!

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Reinvention: Six Steps To Change

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Like a lot of people, my career history has not been a straight trajectory to unqualified success. Instead, it’s been a quirky, jerky road of sharp rights and lefts and sometimes even u-turns.

I won’t bore you with the details of my resume. Let’s just say that what I thought I would be when I was a student in college is not what I am now.

On paper, my job history looks like a hodge podge of employment with no real connection or relation. Like random jobs fell into my lap. Like I took a job simply thinking “what the heck, this might be fun.” Like there was no career counselor or long range plan whatsoever. And this would all be true!

In retrospect though, I can see how beautifully the puzzle fits together. Each job or degree or experience led to the next.

Everything I learned on the crazy journey prepared me for what was coming next.

The moral of this story is that life happens and so do careers. Most often, where you start is not where you end up. Or even a place you ever dreamed you be. And that’s ok.

So, if you’re feeling stuck, or bored, or thinking it might be time for a change; or if you’re worried that where you are now is so not where you want your future to be. Or if you feel like you have one last great career in you but your running out of time…

Then let me share what I have learned over the years. These steps will help you get over the worry by being proactive.  They will lead to real change in your life:

#1. Learn all you can.

Take a class. Do some continuing education. Read a book. Subscribe to a trade magazine. Get a degree. Don’t be worried about being locked into learning only about topics that apply to your current career. Keep your mind sharp and be ready for whatever might be coming next.

#2. Know what you are good at.

Be aware of your strengths. Sit down and make a list of all the skills and experiences you have. Be ready to tell people what you do well. But also know that what you do, or what you are at this moment, is not necessarily what you will do, or be, or do well in the future.

#3. Be open to the possibilities.

We live so much of our lives with tunnel vision, focusing only on the things that are right in front of us. Open up. Talk to people and ask questions. Explore! Be ready to accept an offer, a challenge or a new opportunity.

#4. Get to know your colleagues and nurture those connections.

Sometimes when you leave a job, or move on to the next thing, you can’t help but say a mental “goodbye forever” to your colleagues. Resist. You will be surprised how often you will find yourself working again with former fellow employees. There will be a time when you need a recommendation, some advice, or even a bit of reminiscing when you are feeling nostalgic. Or someone will need those things from you. It’s what business is all about. Making connections. Helping one another.

#5. Find some help.

Getting some outside expertise or advice is a great thing. I have relied on business coaches and mentors time and again. There are times when we just need a little outside perspective and expertise. Ask for recommendations. Read experts on the internet. Invest in yourself.

#6. Trust.

Regardless of whether or not your believe in a “master plan,” believe that all things work for good. We just have to be ready.

What about your career journey? How has it surprised you? We would love to hear from you – leave a comment below!

Canvas Creek: Pairing Art and Team Building

Karen Grosz is founder and owner of Canvas Creek Team Building. I’ve known Karen for a long time. She has all the qualities that make a talented business woman. She is incredibly smart, tenacious and not afraid to take risks. She has the ability to dream up a concept and then make it a reality.

The result of all these wonderful talents combined is Canvas Creek, a growing business that serves both families and organizations. You are going to love her story!

Tell us about your business and the services you offer.

Canvas Creek Team Building is a company with two main offerings, team building and coaching certification. The team building events are tailored to the needs of the business, the coaching certification allows business and life coaches to add Canvas Creek to their list of offerings.

How did you come up with the idea?

Canvas Creek is the intersection of my business coaching experience and a collaboration with my daughter on a contemporary ceramic studio. While starting a new coaching company I wondered what would happen if we paired art with team building. We tested the concept and were blown away with the results. In the ceramic studio I’d watched people go from fearful to proud of their creations. That’s exactly what happens with a team. But a team also experiences a profound reaction which bonds them together.

I also like to say I jumped and the universe caught me.

What do you like best about being a small business owner?

Knowing something I created has such a profound impact on people. I also like being my absolute own person. I run my schedule, design my appearance, and give my time to the things that matter to me.  In the corporate world, these are choices made for you.

What are the frustrations?

That the day is only 26 hours long. What, it’s 24? That could be part of my problem.

Getting the word out is my big frustration. This is not the kind of business you put in a commercial. I just can’t seem to get the point across that we travel- that Canvas Creek helps businesses everywhere, not just here. We’ve traveled some, but not nearly enough.

How do you see your business making a difference in people’s lives?

I have a list of quotes that make me proud. One seven year old said to her parents “I think when we are yelling and screaming at each other we should look at our painting and remember we can be quiet and we love each other.”

A business owner credits the three hours they spent at Canvas Creek as the kickoff of explosive business productivity.

Canvas Creek helps people to be more creative, but also kinder to each other. The insights in working together are amazing and empowering. We have many clients who return time after time because they like the burst of energy this experience gives them.

What advice do you have for others who have a great idea and dream of turning it into a successful business?

Join your Chamber of Commerce. The networking will help take your dream from infancy to success very quickly.

You cannot network enough when you start something new.

I cannot tell you how scary and how satisfying it is to just jump in and swim with your idea- you have to experience if for yourself…and network.

Did I mention network? There are people out there who can and will help you, who need what you offer. Go find them.