One of the biggest challenges in running a small business is finding the right members for your team. When interviewing employees, are you asking the right questions? Are your favorite applicants going to rise to the challenge of the real-life work? Here are a few elements to consider:
1. Works Well on a Team
Your employees need to be team players in order to be effective in your business. It is important that your employee can work independently, but it is equally as valuable to get someone who can easily work on a team. If you hire someone who a sole focus on themselves and their own ambition, you may find yourself struggling to get them to work toward the bigger picture for the company.
In your interview, test this by asking about specific instances where the candidate has worked on a team. Encourage them to elaborate on specific times when they thought they did well, and when they thought their approach could have been better. This will help you identify individuals who are familiar with and value team dynamics.
2. Comfortable with Customer Service
As a small business owner, you’re looking for someone who is responsible and has a clear view on customer service practices, and are great with follow through. Remember, your employees are likely one of the first contacts your customers have with your business:
“Most people don’t understand it’s not the product or service that gets that customer jumping up and down about how wonderful you and your business is, it’s the social experience they had with the person serving them” (Be Interesting, Our Businesses Need You).
In your interview, do some role playing. You be the customer, and present a challenging situation. Watch carefully as the candidate answers. Do they hesitate and search for the right answer, or are they ready and confident with a solution?
3. Willing To Learn
Employees in small businesses can be required to wear many hats from time to time. As a small business owner, it’s also more effective for your employees to grow and prepare for progressively more challenging roles within the company. When interviewing a candidate, look for individuals who demonstrate a history of growing professionally. Have they invested in classes to learn new skills? Do they frequently attend industry events or read books to increase their understanding of leadership? What are their professional development goals for the next year?
This will help you see the candidate as they want to be in the future, and what they are willing to do today to prepare themselves for that “dream job.”
4. Strong Work Ethic
In a small business, there is no room for slackers. When someone on the team isn’t pulling their weight, the system falls apart. In your interview, ask the candidate to talk about specific instances where they have gone above and beyond for an employer. Ask them what they would do if asked to perform a task that may be outside of their job description on occasion. Their responses and body language will be telling as you seek out a new employee who will help you grow your business.
Writing a business plan is one of the first steps toward success in small business. Even if you’re not seeking outside investors, it sets the tone for your new business – and can be a great resource as you grow. Here are a few elements you need to include when you build your business plan.
One of the first things you want to check of the business plan “list” is determining how your business will bring in revenue. In the business model, you want to include a brief overview of your company including the company’s structure, products and services your company plans to provide, and the short- and long-term goals your company has. You’ll also want to include your plan for achieving those goals.
Your business plan needs to be clear and concise. This is the document you will be referring to when it comes time to make the tough decisions about growth, competition, pricing, and employee relations. It is imperative that your business plan be well organized and thorough to help keep you on track.
In your business plan, a financial strategy is key. Cash flow issues are one of the most common causes of small business failure. With a proper budget, and appropriate short- and long-term goals, you’ll be taking the first steps toward protecting your hard work. The more specific you can be, the better. Remember, your budgets and financial goals are living things – they will change throughout the life of your business. Visit them often, and adjust as needed.
No matter the size of the business or what your business does, success weighs heavily on how you market your product or service. Your business could be the best at something, but if you don’t market correctly, you will likely never reach your goals. This is where a marketing strategy comes into play. When developing your marketing strategy, you want to consider questions like:
Who is your target audience & where do they get their information?
What pain points can you solve for your audience?
What makes you different from your competition?
How will you demonstrate this difference to your target audience?
It is important to do an industry analysis to determine if your business will have success in the industry. An industry analysis you will help you to determine the size of the industry, your primary competitors, how much market share do the top companies hold, and the common barriers to enter this industry. A great source of information for this analysis is your trade association. Most associations publish annual reports with this data. Joining your trade association may be beneficial for future analysis and training as well.
There is no shortage of leadership advice out there. With all of the noise, how can you separate the valid advice from the quality insight? We talk a lot about how to be a great leader on Wright Stuff Radio, so today – we’re going to talk about the worst advice we’ve heard about leadership.
“Fake It, Til You Make it”
This advice may work for certain things in life, but leadership is not one of those things. Today’s 24/7 information society is all about transparency. People can spot a fake a mile away, and they will call you out on it. This is especially true if you are leading a team of millennials.
As a leader, you’re allowed to be human. You’re allowed to not know everything – nobody does. What you shouldn’t do is leave it there. Instead, consider these moments as an opportunity to be a leader. Let your team see you ask for input, let them see you study to solve a problem.
It is better to show your team that you are constantly learning, and always open to new, innovative approaches to problems than it is to guess your way through and lose their trust.
“You Have to Micromanage to Get Results”
There are many ways to be an effective leader, but micromanaging isn’t one of them. In fact, it will often drive your team to seek opportunities elsewhere. High turnover means a higher cost of doing business.
When you are constantly micromanaging your employees, it can be demoralizing. You will make them feel incompetent and frustrated. Micromanaging also stifles creativity and innovation. In a small business where every team member counts, you need every one of those employees ready to present new ideas and see them through.
Remember: Leadership is about growing individuals within your company. You want them to progress, and eventually become leaders themselves. You need to give them the opportunity, freedom, and mentoring to help them build their skills and confidence.
“Leaders Lead from the Front”
There are mixed reviews on this advice. While it is important to let your employees see you leading with confidence and direction, able to make the hard decisions in a time fashion – it is also important for them to feel like you’re in this with them.
If you set a goal for your team, you can inspire them by working alongside them. Checking in often, listening to new ideas, and rewarding great performances. How will you be able to identify your star employees (or your weak ones) if you’re not seeing how they operate day to day?
Lead from the trenches, don’t stay in a tower.
“Do As I Say, Not as I Do”
If you want your team to resent you, then this approach will work well. If you’re asking for long hours on a project, but you cut out early for a three day weekend – you’re not going to have those team members for very long. Alternatively, if they do stick around, they won’t respect your requests and will become lazy about their work.
If you’re going to be a good leader, you need to set the standard in your business. Refuse to cut corners – if you’re going to ask them to stay late, you need to be right there with them. They are adding their valuable time, energy, and ideas to your business, great leaders honor those contributions with more than just a paycheck.
A friend called me to ask a question. So instead of just sharing my opinion with them, I decided to share from my past experience. Personally, I find that I get the best advice when someone tells me what they have done in a similar situation.
If I was to give you advice from anything other than my own experience, how could you trust that advice? Opinions are rampant, and what I have found is that to truly understand what you should do when you have a problem or an opportunity, is to learn from the direct experience of others.
When you have a question or need advice – you need to ask. Find others to share what they did, getting the information on what worked or didn’t. Once you have that information, you then need to decide what you are going to do. You can’t really copy what that other person did, you need to take that information and build a new strategy that fits your style and situation. Your business is your business, you create your own decisions, and your own systems and processes.
Use the experience of others to create a solution that you feel is right. That may look very different from the original solution. If it doesn’t work exactly as you planned – modify it, change it, adapt to what isn’t working. It’s up to you to stop wasting time, stop getting unfounded opinions, and come up with a viable solution to your situation.
So when I tell you my story or share my experience on the show or in person, it’s for you to analyze whether there is anything that can apply in your situation.
I’ve always been a free thinker, and my business has always been a representation of myself. I’ve used advisory boards, mentors, friends, and those that have had great success to create solutions in my business. Through this process, I’ve found success myself.
To summarize: When you need outside advice, seek feedback from others of their experience from their life or business. Then, take their experience, and devise your own answers and strategies for your unique situation.
Just remember: Problems or opportunities are only solved or achieved by action. The most effective action happens when there is a plan with an overall strategy that’s been put in place. Build your business around how you think it should be and don’t worry about what others think – and just do it.
After 17 years of business, Brandon has dialed into a winning formula. He has created a simple business model that requires a small number of people to run, and it makes money, and give him the freedom to enjoy what he does.
“I want to be successful, and I want Wright Stuff Radio to help influence others. Many of my guests are those who have helped me in my darkest days in business. We’re here to help you through yours too.”
Join Brandon on this journey of how we share our strength, experience, and hope. At Wright Stuff Radio, we’re here for the courageous business owner who is out there making it work.
We invite you to listen to Brandon and his community of those who lead, inspire, and grow themselves and their companies on Wright Stuff Radio Show.
I found this discussion on a Facebook post from another business owner: “What are your two best and worst things about owning a business?”
I feel compelled to write about this post, because I think it’s an important question. I found that many of the comments that were posted below the original question lacked meaning, in my opinion. There were comments such as they “no paid time off”, and assumptions about good employees or bad employees. There were also comments talking about not having a boss, setting your own hours, being at kids events, tax season, flexible hours, higher pay than as an employee, or picking your customers that you want to work with…and the list goes on.
I want to ask the question to our Wright Stuff Radio following, what are the best two things about owning your own business?
For me, I have to pause and think about that question before I can answer. Because when I answer that question, my answer has to have emotion – there is a great deal of feeling behind it for me. If I am quick to rattle off my two worst things about owning a business, I have to have a reason for my two best to supercede those two worst.
The two best must overpower the two worst so that I can validate why I do what I do each day. I must have those two be so strong that I’m willing to sacrifice for something greater than what I have right now.
One comment on the original Facebook post really resonated with me. The person said “you can follow your dream”.
Isn’t that why we are in business – that we have some sort of fantasy about how our business looks, how it feels, and where we see ourselves and our company? This is what motivates us to get up each day, this is what we tell our friends what we do. This is the vision we create in our business. The vision is how we get employees to come work for us, this vision is the why customers buy from us, and ultimately our dream is our vision of where we are going. It gives us something to strive for, and hopefully reach one day.
From the many comments on what are the worst things about business, we can all come up with our own things we don’t like. Those are the things we have to do whether we like it or not.
For the best two things, if you can’t answer those that will inspire someone else, then think about it for awhile. What is it that you like so much about your business – what gives you the strongest feeling? Feelings and emotions are what drives us, and must inspire us, our employees, and attract customers.
So – what about you? Think about your top two best things about owning a business, what are they?
Leading by example drives your employees to work efficiently and smoothly. How well you lead greatly affects how well they perform.
One of the most important aspects in leading by example is working hard. You need to show your employees how to do things and how hard work got work got you into the position you are in. If you are working hard your employees will be more motivated and likely to work hard as well, but if you are lazy it will cause your team to believe that laziness is acceptable in your business.
Effective communication is key to success in a business. Good communication builds trust between the employer and their employees, and amongst the employees themselves. Talk to your employees about their work, and take extra care to listen to them.
Have frequent meetings with your employees to discuss any concerns or questions they may have. Listen carefully to address the questions and concerns they have. Listening to your employees concerns and questions will show them you care and that you want to make the workplace more comfortable and effective.
The more consistent your meetings are, the more effective your employees will work as a team. Showing employees how to communicate efficiently will get them to communicate adequately back to you and to other employees.
Treat Everyone Equally & With Respect
Treat all your employees equally. You do not want to be known for picking favorites as it will affect the dynamic of your team. If you were to let something slide for an employee you liked more than another employee, it would instantly create tension amongst the team. The other team member will be upset with you and the employee who is being favorited. This is especially true when it comes to time to give out promotions, employees will feel cheated and that the person who got the promotion whether or not they deserved it got it because of favoritism.
Treating all your employees with respect will encourage them to treat you and other employees with respect. When working in a business that relies heavily on customer service showing respect to everyone is most important. If you show respect for the chain of command and your employees will do the same.
Training new employees into the company with policies and how to do things will give them a better understanding. It can be demoralizing for a new employee to start a position, and be punished for something they simply didn’t know. Take the time to train your employees, and develop a plan for continued learning as they progress in the business.
Your employees can be a great asset in your company. Having additional insight from these individuals with a unique perspective can help to drive innovation. In order for this to happen, you need to maintain a student mentality – even as a leader. By keeping an open mind, and encouraging new ideas, you will teach your employees to adopt the same mentality.
When many businesses start a social media strategy – they hone in on what their competitors are doing, what the current famous experts are telling them to do, or they stick with platforms that make them feel comfortable. While all of these items can contribute to a direction for an overall strategy, there is one major component missing from these sources: What does your audience want?
Today, we’re dealing with three generations with major purchasing power: Baby Boomers, GenXers, and Millennials. Before you begin creating a strategy for your content, it’s important to identify which generation fits your audience demographic. Then, create a plan that reaches them where they are.
Content Consumption: Baby Boomers
Surprisingly, Baby Boomers spend more time consuming content online than any other generation. However, they are particular about where they get the content, how they share it, and which brands they choose to trust.
Baby Boomers tend to review their content from a laptop or desktop rather than mobile devices.
Baby Boomers primarily use digital media to stay current on news and political updates. In fact, Baby Boomers seek content about world news 94.7% more than Millennials.
Content Consumption: GenXers
GenXers and Millennials are pretty much neck in neck regarding the time they spend consuming content online. Unlike Baby Boomers, GenXers are becoming more mobile-friendly. However, many GenXers still use laptop and desktop devices more often than mobile devices.
What are GenXers reading these days? The top ranking content for this demographic was healthy living and wellness information.
Content Consumption: Millennials
Millennials are the most mobile-friendly demographic. In fact, 52% of users who use mobile devices as their primary way to view content are Millennials.
What is the top-ranking content for Millennials? Tech-related content is extremely popular with this demographic, followed by content fueled by nostalgia (think Throwback Thursday).
Across all three demographics, Facebook still reigns supreme in content sharing – by far. Users across all three generations are 5-40x more likely to share content on Facebook than other popular platforms like YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
If you are targeting GenXers, Twitter may be a solid option for your strategy. Members of Generation X are 70.4% more likely to use Twitter as a primary content sharing platform than Baby Boomers. At the same time, Baby Boomers are 92% more likely to use Google+ than Millennials.
Another important statistic is that 76% of all three generations find content posted by other consumers to be more honest than brand content. So – when creating your strategy, you need to engage that audience to leave comments and reviews on your platforms to back up your brand messaging.
Contributor: Erika Heeren is the founder of Heeren Content & Strategy and serves as Project Manager for Wright Stuff Radio. A 14-year marketing and public relations veteran, she has a professional focus on integrated media spanning 16 different industries. She works with small businesses and non-profit organizations to provide affordable, professional-quality content development, marketing, and public relations services.
For new business owners, one of the most challenging milestones is knowing when it’s time to hire your first employee. Hire too early, and you risk cash flow issues and earning a poor reputation as an employer. Hire too late, and your clients may feel the effects of you stretching yourself too thin.
The decision to hire that first employee means different things for different businesses. However, there are a few things you can consider to see if you’re ready to take that next step in your business.
Are You Turning Down Work?
This is a big indicator, especially in the service-based industry. Before you hire a new employee, you want to make sure that there is enough work for them to do.
If you find yourself turning down business (and money) because you simply cannot take on any more clients – it may be time to hire part- or full-time help.
A word of caution here: There is a huge difference between hiring because you are too busy, and hiring because there is more opportunity. The work you have for your employee should contribute to your revenue, not to simply take things off your plate.
Is the Investment Worth the Return?
In order to scale your business, you’re going to need to hire new employees. However, timing is critical. Cash flow issues are one of the biggest contributors to small business failure. Part of that comes from entrepreneurs who don’t understand the true cost of hiring a new team member.
Do your research. What will you pay the employee? Can you pay a fair wage? Will you be able to afford health benefits, tax payments, insurance payments, and other requirements? You need to understand exactly how much you will need to invest into that employee, and set expectations for the return on that investment.
If the numbers don’t work out, you may not be ready.
Do I Know Enough About My Business to Train an Employee?
This one can be tough for many entrepreneurs. You may think you know your business and your industry, but do you know it enough to teach someone with potentially limited experience? Do you know it well enough to educate an experienced professional on your brand?
Success with a new employee is highly dependent on your ability to effectively train them.
Are you ready to be a leader?
For more information about hiring your first (or one hundredth) employee, be sure to tune in to Wright Stuff Radio!
There are a lot of social media messages out there. In fact, as of 2015, there were 50 million active small business accounts on Facebook alone. Even if a fraction of those accounts are pushing content on a regular basis, it’s still a lot of competition. What can you do to stand out? Part of the answer can be found in your stock image selection.
Social Media Imagery By the Numbers
A Kissmetrics study found that content with relevant images commands 94% more views that content with passive imagery. Xerox released a study that showed that consumers are 80% more likely to read a piece of content if it contains colorful visuals. Buffer released data that suggests that social media users are 40 times more likely to share visual content than plain text.
What can we learn from this data? The stock photography you use has a powerful impact on your social media strategy.
So, how do you choose the right imagery for your brand?
#1: Do It Legally
Avoid the temptation to simply download images straight from Google. Invest in a stock photography package from Adobe Stock, iStock, Getty Images, or a similar company. This can save you thousands of dollars in litigation for copyright infringement.
#2: Keep the Text to a Minimum
Facebook will actually prevent you from promoting posts that contain more than 20% text. To avoid this, only select pictures that represent your topic or focus area. Avoid images that state the topic in big, bold letters. Your goal should be to grab the focus of the user, then to hook them with your content.
#3: Incorporate People Into Your Imagery
The images you choose for your social media marketing should include people as often as possible. This helps your user relate to that image. In order to be truly effective, use a diverse segment of models in the images to demonstrate an inclusive brand, and to engage a broader audience.
#4: Capture the Feeling
Whether you’re sharing an image for your website, blog, a quote, or any other post – your goal should be to relate to a human emotion. Your images need to match the emotion associated with the content. That may be “trust” or “confidence” or “security.” You’ll find much more success by hitting that emotion than posting a lovely landscape.
Finding a work-life balance can be challenge for any professional. Achieving that balance between your personal life and your small business can feel next to impossible. When you have a 9-5 job, it’s easy to leave the office at the office. When you run a small business, the work tends to follow you wherever you go.
While perfect balance may be unattainable, there are a few things you can do to avoid allowing your personal life to suffer when running a small business.
#1: Set Work Hours
This can be extremely challenging for small business owners, but it is necessary to set boundaries for yourself to protect the time with your family. You may have a few days where you have to work longer hours and can spend less time with the family. Try to offset this by working fewer hours on the weekends and a couple evenings during the week.
#2: Ask for Help
As a small business owner, you have a lot on your plate. If you’re a parent, that’s more responsibilities. You want to do your best for both sides of this equation, but it’s important to know your limits. Seek out the help of your partner, family, or friends. Regardless of your situation, open communication is key to a sustainable approach to finding that balance.
#3: Get Organized
Investing time upfront to get yourself organized will go a long way toward helping you manage your business and still have time for your family. Start by setting realistic goals for yourself. Take the time to build your calendar every week, and have the discipline to stick to it.
Finding a balance between work and family can be tough for even the most organized entrepreneur. Open communication and establishing clear boundaries are both key to success in maintaining a healthy lifestyle for yourself, and your family.