Monthly Archives: November 2016

Best Ways To Impress Your Boss

With declining 401(K) accounts, job sharing and cutbacks, there’s a good chance the recession may has ruined your career plans. A recession may be a dicey time to ask for a promotion, but it’s certainly a perfect moment to get positioned for an ascent up the corporate ladder. As the economy continues to heal, here are six tips to allow you to shine in your boss’s eye and be a top candidate for recognition come the year-end review.

Ask What Needs to be Done
It sounds like a no-brainer, but quiz your boss on what is the most important way you can spend your time and then make those tasks a priority, suggests Steve Langerud, director of professional opportunities at DePauw University. By tackling the objectives that your boss holds in high esteem, you’ll naturally be in a better spot to get attention and praise for your work.

Demonstrate Your Value
Forget what your job description says, create an action plan for how you can be doing your job better, says Mary Hladio, founder of Ember Carriers Leadership Group. Consult your boss and other leaders within the organization for their input, and put the ideas in motion.

Be a Team Player
Shaunti Feldhahn, author of “The Male Factor,” says high-level managers of both sexes want to know that their employees are on board with the team, especially at critical moments. “In a demanding period, you want to make sure you are sharing the same pain,” she says. For example, this might mean staying late for a meeting or pitching in on a company-wide initiative.
Brief Your Boss
Even if it’s not part of your job requirements or you haven’t been asked to do it, voluntarily offer your boss reports on your progress, says former Human Resources trainer, Mimi Donaldson. “Bosses are busy,” she says. “You cannot expect them to notice when you do something great.” But a routine email summing up your day-to-day accomplishments and where you stand on major projects is an influential way to keep your boss informed without monopolizing time.
Network Like You’re Unemployed
Langerud also advises reaching out to colleagues in other departments and requesting their feedback on how you can help them be more effective. Around the company, it will only improve your reputation, he says, and it will likely get circulated back to your boss that you are a problem-solver and a dedicated worker.

Be Heard and Seen
It’s not about gossiping around the water cooler every morning, but finding subtle, yet powerful, routes to contribute to your firm. For instance, it may be presenting a strong, thoughtful point in a meeting, or sharing innovative ideas up the ranks about ways to improve your company’s operation. Plus, being seen at company events, such as holiday parties and other social gatherings, volunteer activities and corporate retreats, shows you care about your job.

Simple Steps To Becoming Your Own Boss

Working in your pajamas, setting your own hours, having good coffee at your desk for a change … there are lots of reasons people dream of leaving the normal workplace and launching out to become their own boss. The perks are great, but the work is still hard. If you’re serious about being your own boss and working from home, you can definitely do it; here are the steps you need to take.
Know Your Financial Situation
The essential first step to becoming your own boss is figuring out how you’re going to write your own paycheck. You need to know – to the dollar – how much money your own business will have to make in order to keep operating and keep providing you with a livable wage.
Before you start mentally decorating your new home office, sit down with your financial records and your calculator. You need to not only know your personal finances, but also the projected financial situation for your new business. How much money do you need to get started? How much money do you need to keep operating, week after week? With these numbers in hand, you’ll be able to see if your business is financially viable.

Critique Your Stability and Personal Discipline
Money isn’t the only factor when it comes to being your own boss. You need to have stability in several areas of your life:
Your own emotional state: Are you easily upset or panicked? Do you freak out in times of crisis? How do you respond to pressure?

Your personal support system: Do you have support from your family or close friends? Do you have at least one business-minded, trustworthy person to talk to about decisions and options?

Your time management skills: Do you overload yourself constantly? Do you meet deadlines? Can you make yourself stay organized? Being your own boss means keeping track of your own time, money and projects.

Figure out Your Work
If you’re going to be your own boss, you’ve also got to be the employee; so what’s the work going to be? Hopefully the answer is based not only on your professional skills but also your personal passions.
If you can find something you love to do, you do it well, and you can make money doing it as your own boss, you’ve found the sweet spot. Get specific with exactly what you mean; don’t just decide you’ll be a business consultant. Decide what kind of consulting you’ll do and who your ideal clients are.

Start Part-Time
Unless there is an ethical or legal reason for not doing so, take several months to start being your own boss on a part-time basis. Set aside an evening or two a week and a day out of the weekend to start building up your business.
Why do this instead of jump right into it? Well, the simple truth is that it takes time to build up a client base big enough and regular enough to provide you with the income you need to live on. In the first several months of building up your own business, you may find that you don’t have enough work to take up all the time you now have. So start part-time, hang on to that stable income and squeeze your “extra” work in on nights and weekends. Yes, it means you will be busy. That won’t change once you quit your job and go at it full-time, so this will simply help you hone those time management skills. (We provide six tips for creating a winning business in a losing economy. See Starting A Small Business In Tough Economic Times.)

Figure out the Transition
As you build up your client base, you’ll start feeling the call of the home office stronger and stronger. At this point, you need to figure out how you’ll transition from your office job to your be-your-own-boss job.
If it’s an option, talk to your boss about cutting down to half-time or part-time at your current job. You can ease that financial switch by extending your income, saving up whatever is extra and take off some of the pressure. If there’s no part-time option at your job, then figure out a time frame for quitting and where you need to be in terms of clients and money at that time.

Set up Shop
Once you’ve got a time frame in place, you need to get serious about becoming a legal business entity, keeping tax records and financial documents organized, and having adequate space in which to work from home. If you haven’t already, look into the options for legal business structures; you can choose anything from sticking with a simple sole proprietorship to forming a C Corporation. All have different benefits, drawbacks, requirements and, of course, taxes. Get professional help if you’re uncertain about any of the options, because this is one thing that needs to be done right.
Along with your legal structure, you’ll also want to take some of that transitional time to make sure your home office is set up for productive work. If you’re having problems getting quiet time, private space or regular hours to work at home, you’ll want to start figuring those problems out now and working on a solution.

Don’t Burn Your Bridges
When the time comes to say goodbye to your old job, do it graciously – even if you hated everything about it. Chances are your old work somehow relates to your new work and you’ll run across some of the same people. There’s no need to tell people off or leave everyone with an unprofessional memory in their minds. So be courteous in your leaving, stay in contact with the people important in your new work, and don’t slam the door on your way out. (Incorporating these steps will help your business thrive. Check out In Small Business, Success Is Spelled With 5 “C”s.)

Keep the Work Coming
The main secret to success in running your own show is to keep the work flowing in. Make it a priority to spend a regular amount of time cultivating new work even when you’re already swamped. Even if you’re booked solid, don’t assume the work will come in automatically. Work tends to ebb and flow; if you don’t hustle before the ebb, you’ll be living on rice and beans until the flow comes back in. It’s up to you to keep the flow going; make it a regular part of your schedule every week, and you’ll find that you’re actually a good boss to work for.

Tips To Starting A Small Business In Tough Economic Times

a small business is hard work. In a tough economy, it can be even harder. This is partly because when credit markets are tight, it can be tough to get startup financing. That’s why it’s crucial for small business owners to hone their business plans. In other words, if you want a slice of the financing pie, you had better work your cash projections really hard and know your bottom line down to the penny – how much money you need to put into the business, how much you will need to charge to meet your operating costs and, hopefully, what you need to do to realize a profit. If you’re thinking about making the leap into entrepreneurship, consider the following tips to successfully build your business in a difficult economy.

No.1: Finding Financing
Before applying for a loan, ask trusted friends or professional advisors to review your plan to make sure you’re not overlooking anything critical or making inaccurate assumptions. You could ask:

a friend who owns his or her own business
a loan officer at the bank where you do business
an accountant (ask for an estimate – preferably a flat-rate fee – for reviewing your plan)
In addition to securing financing for your new enterprise, come up with a financial back-up plan both for your business and your personal finances if you fail to hit your initial revenue projections. You should also build up your own personal cash reserves so that you have enough to live off of for six to 12 months, and budget carefully to make sure you can continue making your most crucial payments (i.e. rent/mortgage, insurance premiums, etc.). Finally, check your gut – and your bank balance – to make sure you’re ready to start your new venture.

No. 2: Market Smartly
Starting a new business when the economy is on the downturn takes creativity and ingenuity. Marketing is vital in getting ahead of the game – and your competitors. Take your business plan and really flesh out the marketing components. What exactly are you going to sell, who are your targeted customers, how will you price your products or services, and what is your plan for promoting your business?

You stand a better chance of succeeding by thinking niche. Slice and dice your original customer base to come up with smaller segments to market more strategically. For example, if you offer a professional service geared toward women, could you narrow it to target women within a specific age range, career type or geographic location?

Or, alternatively, think about ways to alter your products or services to broaden your businesses’ appeal and customer base. For example, if you have invested in opening a “make your own dinner” franchise, could you also offer dinner delivery or premade/prepackaged dinners for customers who want “grab and go”?

Remember to keep a close eye on the competition. Do ongoing competitive analysis and watch what other providers are doing and what marketing techniques they’re using to build their business. Are they tweaking the product? Lowering the price? Using creative promotional tactics? You’ll need to know where your competitors are so you can differentiate yourself and gain market share. For example, think about where your competitors aren’t operating or which potential customers they’re missing – then be the first to capture that segment of your market. (To find out how to attract new clients, read Generational Marketing: Harvest The Whole Family Tree.)

No. 3: Start Small … With an Eye to Expand
Manage your expectations and your expenses by starting as small as possible, with an eye to expand when business takes off. Review your business plan and reconsider what you need to start. For example, could you start in a smaller – and less expensive – location, or stay “virtual” and eschew a physical office completely?

After deciding upon the best, most affordable space for your business, think about your staffing needs. Before hiring full-time employees think about filling needed positions with contractors, temporary workers or part-time staff. If you’re opening a business in an area that has seen local businesses fold, you may be able to pick up some great talent for less compensation than in an “up” market.

Be realistic about what employee benefits you can offer and shop competitively for the best prices. It’s better for your employees to offer fewer benefits up front and then add benefits as your profits increase.

No. 4: Use Technology to Your Advantage
Technology can provide you with numerous ways to save money and increase profits. For example:

Expand your market by selling through multiple online channels.
Do email marketing instead of more expensive electronic or print advertising.
Use websites like Entrepreneur.com, Score.com, BusinessInfoGuide.com or bizSugar.com to get ideas from fellow entrepreneurs and successful business leaders.
Optimize your website for search engines to keep your site coming up at the top of your customers’ searches.
Produce affordable marketing vehicles like podcasts or webinars through your website.
Create an online customer loyalty program offering advanced notices of sales, discounts, referral bonuses and coupons.
No. 5: Network, Network, Network
Get to know other people in your community who can refer customers and help build your business. Don’t know where to start? Find a local business networking group or contact your chamber of commerce. Look into joining a professional association – either a local one where you can meet people in person or even an online group – to tap into others’ ideas. (For related reading, see The Benefits Of Joining A Professional Association.)

No. 6: Ideas for Lowering Costs
A gloomy economy can actually disguise some great ways to save money. Creative ideas to lower your start-up costs include:

Using the economic situation as leverage when negotiating rents, equipment leasing agreements, etc. Leasers, developers, and vendors need businesses to pay their rent and fulfill their contracts. You may be able to get a lower price if you can demonstrate an ability to pay on time and in full at the lower rate.
Buying supplies from businesses that are closing or need to reduce inventory, particularly for big-ticket items like electronics, office furniture, etc.
Bartering with other business owners. Look for business alliance possibilities and suggest offsetting costs by trading products or services.
Doing your own legal homework. Before shelling out big money to a lawyer for business startup costs like incorporating or obtaining a trademark, use online sources like Findlaw.com or Legalzoom.com, which provide free resources and low-cost services.
Comparison shopping for the best deal on a business credit card. Find the card that offers the best terms, conditions, rates and benefits for your business credit needs on sites like Creditcards.com. (Learn how to reduce your rate, see Cut Credit Card Bills By Negotiating A Lower APR.)
Conclusion
There are unique benefits and opportunities to starting a business in a tough economy. If you do your homework, think strategically and take advantage of every opportunity to minimize costs while maximizing the value you add for customers, you can build a foundation for long-lasting business success.