Guest Post: Networking and Social Media

Our guest author today is Mary Erlain, and her contact info is below.  Thanks Mary!

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Networking grows increasingly complex with the explosion of social media channels and technology. In turn, what worked in the days of our parents and grandparents to bring people together may not be enough today. Networking is the lifeblood of a successful business, and those who master it reap fantastic results.

So I ask the question, “what and who are you looking for in your business networking efforts?” You are probably saying to yourself something like “Duh!” or “That’s a dumb question,” or perhaps just find yourself saying the word “leads” out loud. Yes, that’s true, but what are you missing and why is it not working for you?

If you do work in advance of an event, you can determine several things. Wouldn’t it be better to spend some time to determine the value of the event in advance instead of wasting precious time at an event that doesn’t meet your needs? Wouldn’t it be worth spending some time in advance to exploit your networking efforts by deploying a predetermined plan instead of shooting from the hip, crossing your fingers and hoping you walk away with a lead? So let’s explore this a bit more.

I am all about the “give first” mentality in business. Have you asked yourself what you can give to this event? Strange question?

Give:

  • Leads from your network of contacts. Ask the people you talk to loads of questions that would prompt them to talk about what they need in business. These would be questions that may not relate to what you do in business at all. One of the best questions would be:
  • “I have a large network of contacts and love to connect people with each other. If there was one person you needed to meet outside of your next prospect, who would that be?”

Another great question would be:

  • “What is your greatest challenge or obstacle in growing your business?”

By all means, track your results when you use this strategy and compare them to your past results in your networking efforts.

Where do you go – Who do you know?

So your efforts so far have come up with less than desirable results, what now? Who can you ask to find productive networking and referral opportunities? Your first choices can be:

Current clients – are a wonderful resource for ideas. Reach out to talk to your clients in a non-BD conversation to find new organizations and areas to network. Ask them where they find their leads. Share your experiences with them as well. Maybe what was not successful for you, could be just what they need. Schedule these meetings into your calendar once a month at the minimum depending upon your client load.

A similar approach to your clients works well here. Become a resource for the latest events and share them with your vendors and strategic alliances. Teach them to do the same for you. If you want more from your business relationships…you do it first! Invite them along to network together. Shoulder-to-shoulder networking can be very effective; it is like having a walking testimonial attending the event!

Mary Erlain ( m.erlain@peak-ds.com )

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Mary is the President of Peak Development Strategies and a principal in E Group Partners. She is a certified Change Management Specialist (CMS) who believes an organization’s foundation is their people – the employees, management and owners. Her focus is to help companies and individuals meet their goals through uncovering talents and potential. Erlain is a published author/speaker with her most recent books that address the 5 generations in the workplace. Diversity issues are a root cause of many of the problems in business today that effects growth, productivity, and profitability.

She has a mission to strengthen an organization’s core foundation to be competitive in the marketplace. She also has a support system of resources and knowledge of marketplace trends within various industries. Mary works to incorporate the needs of businesses into leadership planning and marketplace strategies.

 

9 Business Records You Should Always Have on Hand.

Below is a list of documents every company should keep in one place, probably a three ring binder.  In the old days, this used to be called a “Corporate Book” and you can still use one of the fancy ones you get from an online service like Atlas Corporate and Notary Supply, etc.  But nowadays, most people just use a three ring binder.  The main rule to follow is that this book should contain actual filed and signed documents ONLY.  No letters.  No drafts without signatures.   No notes.  The purpose of this binder is to have the ability to trace back every legal change that has actually occurred in the ownership and management of your company.  So unsigned documents don’t count, and hence don’t make it into the book.  It helps immensely to keep them in chronological order so someone later on will be able to piece together your full corporate history very easily.

Terminology is a little bit different for LLCs versus corporations, so I’ve listed both.  Your corporate book should include:

  • Articles of Incorporation (corp) or Articles of Organization (LLC)
  • Shareholder Agreement (corp) or Operating Agreement (LLC)
  • Subscription Agreement (same name for LLC or corp)
  • Stock Certificates (corp) or Membership Interest Certificates (LLC).
  • Any amendments to any document on this list.
  • Stock Register (corp) or Capitalization Table (LLC, but LLCs can call this just about anything).  Whatever it is labelled as, this is just a list of owners and a record of every transfer of ownership interest to anyone (or anything, like a trust).
  • Any document which is filed with the Secretary of State.
  • Corporate shareholder and board minutes.  LLCs are not required to maintain meeting minutes in all states, so check your local statutes.  But if you do keep minutes, they should be in the book (only if signed).
  • Board and shareholder resolutions (corp) or manager and member authorizations (LLC).

I recommend against keeping financial statements and tax returns in the corporate book.  The idea behind the book is to create a history of ownership and control, and not a financial history.  But this is more my personal opinion than a legal opinion.  I’m fussy about what I put into corporate books.

That’s it for today.  Make it an awesome day.

JDV

Guest Post: 5 Crystal Clear Signs to Consider Hiring

Please welcome guest Blogger Matt Wilhelmi.  His contact and other info is below.

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At the last YourBizDr.com Workshop, I spoke on the importance of a budget and cash flow management. After the workshop, I was approached separately by more than a few people about when and how to expand their workforce. Small business owners are often reluctant to ask questions about hiring. Maybe they think hiring is too expensive, or giving up control will tarnish the brand they’ve strived to create. They all seem to want to know the same thing about hiring, “How do I know when to hire my next (or first) employee?”

Business decisions, and hiring is a great example, can’t be made in a vacuum. So instead of just giving you a list of conditions that, when met, means you must hire an employee, I’m going to give you 5 signs that you should consider hiring. Consider this statement: “If you don’t manage yourself, it’s going to be very difficult to manage someone else.”

Do you know how many hours you worked last week? I mean hours worked, not hours checking Facebook or LinkedIn. What about your last few projects; do you know how many hours it took you to complete? Were you profitable? What pay rate did you pay yourself for that work? What were your margins on those projects? If you hired someone to do that work, and they were 80% as efficient as you (I’m being slightly optimistic) and you paid them a fair rate, what would your margin be? How many more hours would you have to do other things?

Many business owners and entrepreneurs think that hiring employees will make their life easier. Don’t get me wrong. That’s the goal! However, if your operations, process, and finances are messy now, adding staff will amplify this problem. If you have a solid foundation of sound operations, smooth process, and profitable finances, adding staff will help build your organization.

 

Once you’ve ensured that you have solid operational systems in place, look for these 5 Crystal Clear Signs to Consider Hiring:

  1. Decreasing Quality: Missing deadlines due to an abundance of work
  2. Missing Revenue: Turning down opportunities for work because you’re too busy
  3. Work/Life Balance: Spouse or friends complaining because you are too stressed out to enjoy life
  4. Consistent Revenue: You’ve built a steady stream of revenue from a diverse book of business and the work isn’t something only you can do
  5. Objective Measurables: Very efficient way of forecasting and determining profitability

To be clear, this list doesn’t necessitate hiring an employee. I mean that, just because you can check off each one, doesn’t mean you should go out and hire someone right away. These are simply signs you should consider hiring an employee.  As I said earlier, business decisions can’t be made in a vacuum and many other things should be considered before hiring an employee. What’s your Business Strategy? What’s your financial position? How long will it take to train someone? Are your systems set up to handle additional users? I don’t mean to overwhelm you with cautionary questions as they are simply supposed to provoke thought.

So now you are properly framing your thoughts around whether it is the right time to hire. Once you decide to hire, though, you want to be sure to do it right.  In my next guest blog post, I will share 6 Critical Rules to Avoid a Hiring Debacle.

Thanks for reading.

Matt Wilhelmi ( matt@individualadvantages.com )

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Our guest blogger today is Matt Wilhelmi with YourBizDr.com.  Matt is a Business Consultant at Individual Advantages, LLC, the parent company of YourBizDr.Com. Matt is an entrepreneurial minded professional who works well with complicated business strategies and excels in developing and implementing operational processes to achieve business goals.

When to use multiple companies.

Depending on the type of business you are in, you may find yourself owning multiple companies as your business (or businesses, I suppose) grow.  Most people are aware that when you’re doing business with a large global company, it is likely that you are technically dealing with a smaller affiliate of that larger company.  Health insurance is a great example.  I tell people that I have Blue Cross for health insurance.  But technically my insurer is Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, Inc.  It is a subsidiary or affiliate of a larger company.

There are benefits to this type of arrangement for small business as well.  The times when this is appropriate generally fall into three categories.

  1. Real Estate.  Whether you flip real estate, develop real estate, or hold real estate for rental, it is a good idea to divide up your real estate holdings into separate companies (almost invariably LLCs in today’s legislative environment).  This way, if something happens on one parcel, the others are isolated from those losses.
  2. Cash Cow vs. Liability Pit.  Another reason to separate into separate businesses is when you have one aspect of your business that is a cash cow or has valuable assets and another that is high-risk.  A great example is a distributor that runs its own deliveries.  Trucking is a high-liability operation with trucks on the road, potential accidents and injuries, etc.  Distribution can also be relatively dangerous with expensive equipment and high value inventory.  Why subject the valuable assets of each of these operations to the liabilities of the other?  We would advise that clients consider running one trucking company, and one distribution company.
  3. Profit Balancing.  In the example above, perhaps your distribution operation is running too high a profit and will incur tax.  But your trucking operation just purchased a few new trucks and was able to write them off under Section 179 accelerated depreciation.  So you’ll incur a tax on the distribution side, and a paper loss on the trucking side.  Why not just raise the prices your trucking operation charges your distribution operation to move profits over to trucking where they will be absorbed by the Section 179 depreciation?  The key is to keep your pricing reasonable.  Keep the price increase within reason.  It still needs to be similar to an “arms-length transaction” or it won’t pass muster with the IRS.  But this profit balancing can be a great benefit of operating your business through separate entities.
  4. You own the land where you operate.  A simple rule: If you own the land where your business operates, you always purchase the land through one company (usually an LLC) and operate the business through a separate company (often, but not always, a corporation).  If the business fails, you still have a valuable piece of land you can lease to another tenant.  And there are also profit balancing opportunities here as well, as noted above.

The concepts described here only scratch the surface on what can be a fairly complex business structure.  But there are more benefits to this concept beyond just those listed here including estate planning benefits, and possible benefits when it comes time to sell your business (Exit Strong!).  If you think your operation may be well suited to splitting up into separate companies, talk to your lawyer and CPA about it and see if it’s right for you.

Have an awesome day.  Go launch, build and exit strong!

JDV

6 keys to dealing with business bullies.

There are people in business who see their key to success as the ability to intimidate others in order to get their way.  I personally like these people a lot.  Because it is exceptionally fun to say no to them, often setting them off into a tirade that can be very entertaining to watch.  But there are some key things to do right when dealing with a bully.

Most small business owners are relatively nice people.  And some unscrupulous types like to take advantage of this and prey on the natural tendency of people to avoid conflict whenever possible.  The easiest way to avoid conflict with a bully is just to give them what they want.  But sooner or later, what they want will be more than you’re willing to give them.  The hassle of dealing with them becomes less painful than the price of what they are asking for, and it’s time to meet them head on.  Here are some tips.

  1. Know your facts.  Bullies love to rattle off facts to “prove” their position, but they also tend to love to distort facts or present only limited facts that help them.  They do so aggressively and apply time pressure to keep you on your heels.  But a mastery of your facts can be a great asset to rebut their partial truths or outright false claims.  Now they are on the defensive instead of you.  It also allows you to call out their empty threats.  We had a bully threatening to kick our client our of her commercial space later that day if they didn’t get their way.  I calmly reminded him that on a verbal lease in Illinois the best he could do was remove her on the last day of the following month.  Knowing the facts took the wind out of the sails of his empty threat.
  2. Only use facts to rebut.  Knowing your facts is important, but don’t rely on them exclusively.  It’s easy to get sucked into a debate about what did or did not happen, while entirely bypassing the basic truth that what the bully is asking for is fundamentally wrong.  With confidence, continually steer the conversation toward what is right, and what is true.  Use facts primarily just to rebut their lies and half-truths as noted above.
  3. Don’t allow distractions.  Typically, people are bullies because the facts are not on their side.  They substitute intimidation for simply being in the right.  Since the facts don’t favor them, they love to introduce distractions.  Your issue is with payment on five invoices that are seven months old.  They are trying to bring up the fact that last month one item was missing from their shipment.  “Okay, we’ll talk about that missing item once we’ve resolved these older open invoices.  Let’s take care of that first.”  Don’t let them distract you.
  4. Remain absolutely calm, if not cordial.  You notice in the quote above that my tone is absolutely calm.  I often enjoy actually being overly nice (to a degree, don’t overdo it) to bullies because they hate it.  They rely on their ability to make you angry, because people make poor decisions when they are emotional.  Make the conscious decision that you are not going to blow your top.
  5. Don’t allow false time pressure.  One of the most common tools of the bully is to invent false time pressure.  “I need an answer by noon today or I will do XYZ.”  If moving quickly is possible, then do so.  Don’t intentionally slow the process down if you don’t need to.  But when it will take time to handle the situation correctly, calmly inform the bully that their deadline won’t work but you will get back to them by XYZ date.  Be specific, don’t leave it open ended.  But don’t buy into their false sense of urgency.  But remember to know your facts.  If there is REAL time pressure in a situation, you need to know that before slowing things down and paying the price for it.
  6. Communicate via email, but never argue via email.  I’ve covered this in a prior post, but email is great for communicating.  It is terrible for resolving conflict.  When you get the inflamed email from the bully, pick up the phone and call them.  Pursue a solution, not an empty “email victory.”

Have an awesome day, and go launch, build and exit strong.

JDV