Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Please Consider This...

As the news continues flashing picture after picture of the devastation by Hurricane Katrina, our neighbors in Mississippi and Louisiana are fighting for their lives. Stripped of most of the essentials of life, the survivors of this storm face huge hurdles just getting through the day. As the flood waters begin to recede and people are able to return to what used to be their homes, the devastation will truly begin to sink in.

Not only are their homes gone, but their businesses and workplaces are gone, too. They will face not only personal devastation but economic devastation as well. Large companies like Walmart will be able to rebuild, other companies will have insurance coverage for their losses that will allow them to rebuild in time. But for many small businesses, Katrina will be the final nail in the coffin.

Small businesses operate close to the edge without a safety net. Many small businesses have no insurance coverage for this type of loss and few have the reserves they should have to help them through even the smallest bumps in the road.

Katrina’s wake leaves behind death, devastation and despair. I ask you to help bring the light of hope back to our neighbors by making a donation to the American Red Cross (www.redcross.org) or the Salvation Army (www.salvationarmyusa.org). Even the smallest donation can provide fresh drinking water or a meal for a family.

To my clients and newsletter subscribers in Louisiana and Mississippi: When services are restored, I hope you will find this heartfelt message and know that my thoughts and prayers are with you. Please be in touch.

Until next time, when we have more cheerful news…
Caroline Jordan

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

The Parable of the Marketing Garden

Anyone who has known me for any length of time knows that I love a good parable. It’s a great way to explain sometimes complex topics in terms that everyone can relate to. So here is my Parable of the Marketing Garden…

A farmer was working away in his fields, harvesting his crops and raking in the cash. Life was good. Living was easy. Suddenly, a storm blew through his acreage changing the landscape of his farm forever. His cash crop was destroyed and he had no other crops to harvest.

In desperation, he threw some seeds into the dirt and stood by hoping against hope that a crop would once again grow. As he anxiously awaited signs of growth times grew dark at the farmhouse. The roof needed fixing and the youngsters needed new shoes. Still the farmer waited, hoping against hope.

As he was passing his neighbor’s house one day, he noticed that her garden was in beautiful bloom and she seemed to have an endless supply of fresh vegetables to harvest. The farmer stopped by and asked her what her secret was.

She replied, “During the growing season I plant some seeds each week so I always have something ripening every week during the harvest. That way I always know I have more vegetables coming. And I plant different kinds in case one crop should fail. That way I know I’ll always have something to eat.”

Many small business owners make the mistake of thinking because they’re busy, they don’t need to market. So, they often find themselves at a loss when suddenly the work dries up. Marketing is the number one way for a small business to ensure a constant stream of customers.

Often, I see professionals working their hearts out to create success for others without creating success for themselves. They often find themselves suddenly out of work and struggling with cash flow problems. They become like the farmer who suddenly realizes that he needs a crop fast. And business is like farming—things happen in their own time, not when you need them to happen. Developing a constant stream of business takes work and it doesn’t happen overnight.

Try viewing marketing as planting a garden. Decide what you want to achieve (a great harvest of steady business). Prepare the soil (develop your marketing materials, tap into your network). And systematically plant your seeds (this week I will send out 25 sales letters to my target market or I will seek out one speaking engagement per month). Don’t stop when you get enough business. Keep systematically tending your marketing garden.

Some of the seeds you plant will not grow. Some will grow better than others. So, it’s important to plant a variety and to track how each performs. Once you establish a good garden bed, the gardening becomes much easier with each year. It’s the difference between spending a little time on garden maintenance and trying to reclaim Sleeping Beauty’s garden from the thorny hedges that grow as a result of years of neglect.

The moral of the story? Marketing means you make more, you make it more regularly, and you make it more easily. That’s a harvest you can really sink your teeth into!

Until next time,
Caroline Jordan
Get Knowledge. Get Focus. Get Results.
www.TheJordanResult.com

P.S. If you need help with your Marketing Garden, stop by my brand spanking new website at www.TheJordanResult.com and check out my new results driven consulting package called “Help! My Business Dried Up. Now What Do I Do?” For the first time ever, I’m offering consulting with *GUARANTEED* RESULTS*!

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

A Day in the Life of a Self Employed Professional

A Day in the Life of a Self Employed Professional

It’s Monday morning and Connie the Consultant sits in her executive office chair overseeing her business empire. Her desk is strewn with half finished projects, several weeks worth of to do lists (none of them completed), scribbled post it notes, and a permission slip for her daughter’s field trip to the Planetarium that should have been turned in last week. Somewhere, buried deep in the rubble is Connie’s business plan. The last time she saw it was during the Clinton Administration.

The phone rings. She checks her caller ID and groans. It’ Dee Dee Demanding calling again, wanting to make one more change in the project that should have been wrapped up a month ago. Connie scribbles Dee Dee’s current list of demands on yet another post it note. She hopes this will be the end of the changes so she can finally get paid for the project. She sure won’t be making a profit on THIS project.

Connie picks up the Joann Marden file to find the notes from their last meeting. She looks through the entire folder twice—no notes. She starts to dig through the stacks on her desk muttering, “I had it in my hand, where did I put it, I just saw it, where can it be?”

The phone rings again. This time it’s a telemarketer wanting to sell Connie a vacation trip. Connie laughs and says, “No sense calling me, I’m self employed. I don’t get vacations.”

She thinks back for a minute to when she became self employed. She actually believed she’d be able to take time off whenever she wanted to. What a joke! Every time she thinks she can get time off, something comes up with one of her clients. Or the check she was expecting to receive didn’t come in. Or, she didn’t dare spend money because she didn’t have any new projects lined up.

Her email dings and she stops to check the new message—a notice that her online credit card statement is ready. She clicks through and signs in. She sits back stunned, “I spent HOW MUCH?! Shaking her head she goes back to work looking for the notes from the meeting with Joann Marden. Instead she finds the estimated tax payment that she should have sent in a month ago. She groans and checks the clock. It’s nearly lunch time and she’s accomplished nothing so far.

Another email comes in. It’s a newsletter from a small business expert telling her she needs to work “on” her business, not just “in” her business. “Yeah”, she says, “I’ve got all kinds of time to learn about working “on” my business. Right after I find the Marden notes, make the umpteenth change on Dee Dee’s project, and get these proposals done that have been sitting on my desk for three weeks.”

She hits the delete key and goes to lunch…

Caroline Jordan, MBA helps self employed professionals find the cure for “business as usual”. Visit http://www.thejordanresult.com/ for strategies and resources to help you Get Knowledge. Get Focus. And Get Results.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Proper Care and Feeding of the Business Owner

That sizzling sound you’re hearing may be a symptom of a major hidden cause of businesses closing their doors. It’s called burnout. And you may be its next victim. Often the last thing a business owner considers is his or her health and sanity. The burnout that results from overwork and stress can deliver a death blow to the very enterprise you’ve been giving your all to create. Setting a course for your business that includes the proper care and feeding of the business owner is a critical success factor in every business.

Burnout occurs after prolonged periods of stress and physical and/or mental fatigue. It leaves business owners feeling hopeless, powerless, cynical, and resentful. It creates an atmosphere of failure, stagnation and reduced productivity. Burnout carries throughout your business showing up in your relationships with your clients and employees and ultimately impacts your bottom line and the growth pattern of your business.

Typically, burnout occurs in situations where you feel:

  • overworked
  • like no one understands what you’re going through
  • confused about priorities and direction
  • resentful about tasks that you don’t feel rewarded for performing
  • concerned about financial survival and security
  • you have more on your plate than you feel you can handle.

In short, self employment and burnout go together like salt and pepper, peanut butter and jelly, and Donald Trump and real estate. The result is often a very unhappy, unfulfilled business owner who finally decides to throw in the towel and get a nice simple 40 hour a week job.
Recognizing that burnout is a serious threat to the survival of your business is a critical step in preventing or bouncing back from burnout.

Burnout steals your passion, the very passion that caused you to start your business. Without that passion, your ability and willingness to do whatever it takes to make your business a success quickly diminishes. You find yourself resenting your customers instead of wanting to help them. You dislike your employees because of their constant demands. You snap at your spouse when asked how your day went. And you constantly feel pressured and unable to relax.

Understand that you have two roles in your business. You need to play both the role of employer and the role of employee. If you worked for an employer who expected you to work non-stop, never allowing time off, paying you far less than you’re worth with no benefits, you’d soon have your resume updated and be out the door. And yet, that is the daily reality for many small business owners.

Remember, you are your employer. Are you creating a work environment of tyranny and maltreatment? Treat your help like you would want to be treated—incorporate benefits like flex time, comp time, and regular time off. Review a list of job duties to see if it’s a fair and logical distribution of work. You need to take care of the talent just as you would if you had actual employees. Your business depends on your health and sanity.

Preventing burnout is a critical piece of your business plan. How will you keep yourself fresh and engaged with your business? What do you need to do to keep yourself from becoming overwhelmed? What tasks are overwhelming you? Develop a plan to outsource those tasks or find easier ways to do them. What adjustments do you need to make in your business so you can take regular time off?

Often business owners insist they can’t take time off and can’t afford to hire help. Regardless of where your business is today, as the owner of the business you have the power to chart the course of your business. If you feel you can’t step away as things stand right now, begin to plan a direction for your business that will allow you to do so in the future.

Caroline Jordan, MBA is adept at helping self employed professionals create successful businesses without losing their minds. She provides advice, training, coaching, and services to help her clients Get Knowledge…Get Focus…and Get Results. If you are a self employed professional who is really serious about wanting to end the stress, frustration, and confusion you feel trying to run your business, visit http://www.thejordanresult.com/ for more tips, articles, and services designed just for you.