business development

Systems 101 for your business

Systems 101 for your Business.png

As a business owners, there are certain buzz words you hear over-and-over again, in any industry or on any topic. You hear them so many times you start to think, “I’d better get on that," but then you think... "I don't know what or how to do it?"

When it comes to owning a business, one of those buzz words is 'systems' for your business.

And you think to yourself... "Great. Systems. Ok… I guess I’ll figure that out… later."

I want to share a bit more about what systems are and what they can mean for your business – because systems do not need to be complicated and having them can mean creating consistency in your business. Consistency means less headaches for you, more brand recognition and a great reputation.

SO… what is a system anyways?

It’s pretty simple, a system is when you write down how something in your business should be done – step-by-step.

That’s it.

Think of it as a way to have someone else be able to do what you do in your business should you have to walk away.

“Lara, I’m not going to walk away from my business and if I do, the business isn’t going to exist any more! I don’t exactly have time to write down all the things I already know how to do just so I can do them myself.”

And therein lies the problem with systems – that’s how most of us feel about them and what stops us from getting them down on paper. We don’t see any kind of pressing need and so it gets put off and put off... and put off.

The thing is, until you get them down it can be really hard to grow your business and on top of that, no matter how well we know our own business, we forget steps too, especially when we get really busy. 

Examples of Systems

A system can be as simple as a bulleted list of actions and steps you take in your business. It can also include instructions, templates of content for different things, and more. It’s basically whatever you think you need to run your business efficiently, which means that it’s hard to explain and possibly vague for you to grasp what you could do. So, let’s go through a few examples:

Sales

The beautiful packaging at  Jolie Folie

The beautiful packaging at Jolie Folie

You probably have a process for your sales.

If you sell a product, this includes creating a receipt, putting the product into a bag, box or envelope (possibly in a very specific way), and maybe writing a nice note to include in the package. That’s a system – if you wanted someone else to deliver your product to a customer exactly the way you would so that it always has a consistent look and feel to it, you've already got a simple system, you just need to write it down.

Onboarding

When you have a new client, what needs to happen? How do you want to welcome them? Right now, are you being as consistent as you want to be and are all the steps happening every time?

There are all kinds of things you could include in a system for a new client:

Do you want to send them a note or a gift?
Do you need to create a paper folder and a digital folder?
Do contracts and non-disclosure agreements need to be signed?
Do they need to be added to any email lists or Facebook Groups or membership sites?

What are all the pieces that need to take place to make sure that your new client has an amazing experience? List them in a document, and you've got your onboarding system.

Invoicing

When you invoice someone, do you always include the same information? Do you have a process if they paid by email money transfer that’s different than if they pay by cheque or by Paypal or credit card? If there are multiple payments do you have to manually input anything?

If you need to track any hours for your invoices, how do you track those, where do you track those, what information do you need to extract for the invoice?

Invoicing is a task that often gets outsourced sooner than later, if you have your process written down, you'll be able to share that with someone else so they can take invoicing off your plate and you'll feel confident they can do it the same way you would.

For all three of these examples, putting every step down for something that you do on a regular basis will help make sure that you maintain regular quality and that you can pull people in to help support you when you’re ready.

How will you start creating systems in your business? Where will you start and what are you going to get on paper first?
 

ACTION STEPS:

1.     Read/listen to the E-myth Revisited.

2.     Make a list of all the things you do regularly. Then, pick the thing you most often miss steps on or that you are most likely to outsource and outline it step-by-step in a Word document.

3.     Leave a comment and let me know what system you’re going to be working on so I can cheer you on!

4.     Check out the Biz Advantage and get feedback on your systems during the weekly coaching calls or in the Facebook Group!

My Favourite Business Tools

My Favourite Business Tools.png

I use many tools to keep my business running and I am always honest about what works and doesn't work for me.

These are some of the tools I use to keep my business running smoothly, as well as services I use for things like printing and marketing products.

I based my list on what I use, not on affiliate links, so if they have an affiliate link, I used it, but if not - I still use the tool, so I am sharing it! :)

Staying Organized

Acuity Scheduling - This tool gives current and prospective clients the freedom to schedule their own appointments with me based on the availability I pre-set up through my linked calendar. I also link Acuity to Zoom (my video chat software, which I mention a little later) so when someone books a call they automatically have a Zoom ID generated, which creates and sends the call information manually (this is a huge timesaver for me!). I also create custom forms for each appointment. This allows me to create different sets of questions depending on what we're meeting about. These questions give both me and the client or prospective client as much information as possible about each other, and the topic at hand, before we get on the call.

Freedcamp - There are many great project management tools out there. It's important to find the one that works best for you. I like the fact that in Freedcamp I can drag things around (probably because it's a lot like Post-it Notes and that's how my brain works). Project management tools are a great way to manage multiple projects at the same time, set deadlines and work with a virtual assistant or team to accomplish those goals and tasks.

Lastpass - passwords, you shouldn't use the same one everywhere but how are you supposed to remember all the passwords? A post it on your computer is not only not the best idea, it's easy to lose and not at all useful if you're logging in to something when you aren't at home. I love lastpass because it saves all my passwords and also creates secure passwords for me to use. It also lets me share passwords with my team, either so they can see the password or so they don't know what the password is - very handy!

Finances and payments

Quickbooks - Quickbooks is what I use for invoicing and it also helps me track all expenses and HST so I can easily file my taxes. I like that it's got a fairly simple interface and that it has the ability to deal with far more complex things than I'm doing now so it will grow with my business. 

Moonclerk - Moonclerk connects with Stripe and it allows me to be able to auto process monthly membership payments. This is how members from the Biz Advantage pay their recurring membership fees even though I don't formally have a shopping cart system that has that functionality.

Stripe - Stripe is a great alternative to PayPal for accepting payments. It integrates with a lot of softwares and websites, including my website shopping cart that is through Squarespace.

Staying Connected

Active Campaign - Sending emails is really important for any business. There are so many options with many different functionalities. Active Campaign is a good fit for my business because it is affordable and gives me the ability to not only create automations, but also to separate clients on multiple lists and the ability to tag customers so they won't get emails trying to sell them into a program they are already invested in. 

Belive.tv - This is a fun tool for running Facebook Lives and they have a two week trial. You can easily add branding to your Facebook Lives and you can pre-schedule headers to pop up, making your broadcast look slick and professional. You can also have multiple people on a Live at the same time without having to use your phone, something I don't have a great set up to do, so try to avoid.

Buffer - Scheduling content may not be the best way to get engagement on social channels, but it is definitely the easiest way to make sure there is always consistent content being shared to your channels. There are lots of great programs for scheduling content. I have been a longtime user of Buffer and like the clean look of it and it's ease of use.

Zoom - If I were only allowed to keep one tool in my business, I would keep Zoom, that's how much I love and appreciate this software. Zoom is an amazing platform for video calls and it is how I run 99% of my coaching calls. It allows me to record the calls, and it allows me to give permission to my clients to also record the call. It allows screen sharing and I can use it as an informal webinar tool too, which has come in handy several times. Having previously used other video chat softwares, Zoom is infinitely more stable as a platform and has far less connectivity issues than any other video software tool I've ever used. 

Marketing Materials

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Moo - I love getting my business cards from Moo. I can upload up to 100 different photos! They become almost like trading cards. ;) People love that there's a photo on my business cards. They remember who I am, and they love getting to pick which card they want, so it becomes this great conversation starter and it makes conversations more memorable because the card is something they don't want to get rid of.

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Sticker Mule - I love stickers and other personalized business stuff. If you have clients who would like stickers, or you ship a lot of things, you can get personalized mailers and packing tape, as well as all kinds of other fun stuff. They have samples and frequently run promos which is how I tried out some of their products to make sure I liked them before committing to too much (but honestly, I love everything I've gotten from them)! :) 

This link will get you $10 off your first order.

Canva - Creating attractive images for your business is something that is no longer optional, it's required. You are expected to share images with blog posts to get people's attention online. If you're not a professional graphic designer (like me) this might feel VERY stressful. I love that Canva makes it really easy to try different things and that they have all kinds of templates. I know that I'm not creating something TERRIBLE (and trust me, I used to try to create images in MS Paint - they were TERRIBLE!)!

There you have it - a list of the important tools that I use in my business. Are there others that are critical to your business? Let me know in the comments below.

Mastermind your way to success

Have you ever heard of a Mastermind Group? I'm lucky because I got to be a part of one over a decade ago (though it wasn't called that then) and it was instrumental in helping me grow my career in the field of communications. I've now created one for myself as a business owner and in the few short months since we began, the members in my group have been pushing me to new places with my business - it's incredible!

What is a Mastermind Group?

A Mastermind Group can be run in many different ways, but the basic explanation is that it is a group of people (in my case, business owners) who come together on a regular basis to support each other and help each other achieve goals. That's it. How it runs is often different, but the basic concept is that this group of people is there to make you the best that you can be.

What are the main benefits of being part of a Mastermind Group?

There are many many benefits, but here are my top five:

1) Support

It can be hard (and kind of lonely) to be a business owner. Finding a group of people who understand what it's like to do what you do, who have experienced what it's like to run a business, and who can support you as your run your business is extremely valuable all on its own.  

2) Accountability

I don't know about you, but I often need outside accountability to get things done. In each meeting everyone in the group sets out three things that they will do before the next meeting and they tell the group how they did on the three things they committed to at the previous meeting.  Admitting to not doing what you said you would can be incentive enough to scramble in the hours before the meeting (I say this from personal experience).  Accountability is huge.

3) Insight

At every meeting someone is in the hot seat. This means that almost half of the meeting is devoted to just them and their business. They bring a question or an issue and the entire group is focused on giving them their thoughts, ideas and insight to solve that problem or move things forward.  

We need people on the outside to be able to tell us what they see looking in to our businesses and the members of a Mastermind Group can do that.

4) Safe space

All of the members of my Mastermind signed a Non-disclosure agreement when we started. It's made talking about anything and everything we're worried about or considering safe to talk about when we're together. 

Not every problem we face as business owners can be discussed publicly - that's just how things go in business. Being able to talk with others who understand what it's like to run a business about the things that are concerning or scare you is huge.

5) Push

My Mastermind Group isn't afraid to push each other. Scared to do something? Too bad - your group thinks you should and CAN do it so they'll push you to do it. Trying to hide in that comfort zone? No go with a Mastermind Group watching what you're doing. Putting yourself into a position to be pushed to be all you can be is a scary but amazing thing to do.

How can you be a part of a Mastermind?

Keep your eyes open. A lot of business coaches run them (click here for more information on the group coaching programs I offer) and you might be able to Google and find something in your area. Or do what I did and set up your own.  

Have any questions?  Leave them in the comments - I'd be happy to try to help you figure out how you can get the incredible value I do out of your own Mastermind Group!

 

How speaking can help you build online relationships

Social media for business isn’t always about making connections online. It’s also about making connections in person and then bringing those relationships online so you can nurture them far more frequently than you could if you had to wait until you saw that person again.

A great way to get in front of new people is to offer to speak at events. I do this a fair amount around Ottawa and it has not only been a great way to grow my network, it’s also been a great way to grow my mailing list.

Today I’m going to share a few tips on what I’ve done with in-person networking and speaking opportunities that you can use for yourself. 

Offer to share your expertise

Knowing what value you bring to your audience is key whenever you’re marketing yourself and your business. Come up with a few topics that are in line with your key messages that would be of value to others and offer to share them with the group. This often means a quick 10-15 minute talk, not a full hour or longer.

Some of the main topics that I suggest for myself include:

  • Is social media important for business?
  • Do I need to send email newsletters?
  • How to create a simple plan to simplify use of social media for your business

If you aren’t B2B (business to business) this may feel like more of a struggle, but it's doable, especially if you do the work to find the right event.

  • Share personal stories of success that incorporate what you do. This way you’re sharing a lot about your business while also providing them with value.
  • Find events that make more sense to your group. 

Do you teach “mom and me yoga”? Reach out to  some breastfeeding groups, early years centres, pre-natal workshop leaders, etc. and offer to do a 10 minute talk on how to relax, find calm and maybe go through a few simple poses on your own.

Do you clean houses? Find an event that helps promote work life balance and share tips on how to stay on top of cleaning without feeling overwhelmed.

Do you sell shoes? Find some women’s events and offer to talk about the latest fashion in boots or how to transition shoes when fashion changes.

Tips for speaking

If you don’t do much speaking the idea of getting up in front of a group of people and talking about something, even for ten minutes, might feel really scary. Here are a few tips to help:

  • Make basic notes (bullet points) so that you don’t end up reading a speech instead of talking to the crowd.
  • Have a hand out that you can refer to and look at. It becomes a prop and something to help you stay on track when you lose focus.
  • Find someone friendly in the crowd to look at whenever you feel overwhelmed or nervous. There’s always at least one friendly face in the crowd.

How to then get online

One of the biggest reasons you're doing this is so that you can start connecting with the people you're meeting online so, here are a few things to do during and after the event to do that:

  • Tell people what you do and carry around a paper newsletter sign up sheet and ask them to sign up to keep getting more free valuable content from you on a regular basis.
  • Connect with the people you meet within a day or two on Facebook, Linkedin or Twitter. Let them know it was nice to meet them and that you'd love to keep in touch.

Leave a comment letting me know what kinds of events you've found speaking opportunities at and how well you do at bringing your in-person networking contacts online after the events.

Join us tonight for a Twitter chat about email newsletters from 8-9pm using the hashtag #wwcnewsletters. Twitter chats are a great way to learn a lot in a short period of time AND meet some great people to stay connected to online!