business tips

3 business lessons from my trip to Antelope Canyon

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This winter I visited Antelope Canyon, Arizona. I’d never even heard of it before we were brought there as part of a tour of the Grand Canyon, but now everyone needs to know about it.

It is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. My husband, Eric, and I went into this underground cave that you can only visit if you take one of the tours run by the Navajo as it is part of a Navaho Tribal Park.

But that’s not really what this story is about… even though I would love to show you the hundreds of photos that I took there. :)

As we were driving out of the dirt parking lot in our little tour van, one of the van wheels slid into a sandier patch and started to sink. Our tour guide clearly hadn’t driven in anything that you might get stuck in before and so gunned the gas pedal, which spun the wheel and sunk us in further. We were stuck.

Having grown up in Canada, I’ve gotten stuck before – not in sand but in snow – so I knew that things needed to be done slowly and knew what to do to try and get out of the situation.

“Maybe try to rock it?” I suggested.

He nodded and got out of the van and started walking across the parking lot.

Confused, I watched him go and as he leaned down to pick up a few small bowling ball sized rocks I realized that a language barrier (his first language wasn’t English) and a lack of context, had him completely misinterpreting what I meant when I said he should "rock it."

Lesson one: Don’t assume people have the same information and context you do when you’re trying to guide them. Be as clear as possible and make sure they really understand what you mean.

Soon everyone in the van was out and a couple driving an RV stopped and started pulling out supplies and, together as a team, people tried to figure out what to do.

Lesson two: People like and want to help. Don’t assume that you’re being a bother when you need more people to get something done.

The problem was, there were now too many cooks in the kitchen, and nobody really acting as a leader, nobody really running the show. Then we heard someone yelling and I saw an older lady, clearly an elder from the Navaho Tribe, walking over as briskly as she could, with a clear purpose in her eyes, and she brought some of the other women of the tribe with her.

She tells everyone to stop, gets one of the tour guides in the van and tells her what she should do to get the van moving properly, and then tells everyone else to just push the van as hard as possible. Within two minutes the van was out of the sand.

Lesson three: Sometimes we just need to go to the voice of experience and let someone be the clear leader so things get done and move forward.

Soon we were in the van heading back to Las Vegas, and I couldn’t help but think my last experience in the Grand Canyon was a great lesson that I needed to really take note of (and share with you!).

Here’s what I hope you takeaway from this:

·      Definitely add Antelope Canyon to your “bucket list.”
·      Always make sure you’re being clear and people understand what you actually mean when you’re helping them.
·      Know that people want to help you, don’t try to do everything alone (if you’re not in the Biz Studio Community - join us! There are LOTS of people there who want to help)!·      Sometimes you need help from a confident leader with experience.

Systems 101 for your business

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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

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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.

5 Ways to Build Your Community Online

5 ways to build your community online

Whether you're trying to build engagement in a Facebook Group or on a Facebook page or just on Twitter or Instagram, there are a few things that are important to keep in mind to build community: 

1. Set the tone

Lead by example! You are the leader of your community. The way that you behave in that community, from the kind of support you give, to the language you use, to the amount that you're present in the group, is key. If you're not willing to demonstrate through your own behaviour how you want the group to look and feel, you can't be surprised if things go off course. 

In my group there is always a distinct drop in participation if I'm away too much. I need to participate a lot if I want others to participate a lot. Also I find that people are really helpful, respectful and follow the "rules" without having to be policed because they see what the group is meant to be like. 

2. Ask simple questions

People have short attention spans, you need to ask questions (at least some of the time) that are so easy to answer people don't even have to think.

Where are you from?

How many kids do you have?

What's your favourite colour? 

Questions like that seem like fluff but what you need to remember is that your goal is to get people to participate, even just once. Once they've commented on something, they'll be more likely to comment again another time. They'll also be more likely to see your content if you're building your community on a tool that operates with an algorithm.  

Even if you're going for something more complex than the questions above, keep the questions pretty simple so they don't have to think too long. If a person is required to think too long they often decide it's not worth the effort and move on. 

3. Always go first

People hate going first. If you ask them a question they worry that what they want to say might not be what you're actually asking for or they don't know how to share the information they want to share. 

When you ask a question or if someone in your community asks a question, do your best to answer it. You're taking away a lot of the anxiety of being the first to post and you're essentially providing them with a template for their own answer.

4. Be relatable

Share you. Share your realness. Let people see that you're human and not that different from them.

The more you can do that, the less intimidated they feel, and people don't engage in places they feel intimidated. It's why the idea of sharing messy realities works so well.  

The time I accidentally uploaded a draft version of my podcast to iTunes I was horrified. I shared that in my community and it was one of the most popular posts I've ever shared. Why? Because people like to know everyone makes mistakes sometimes. Because they like to know that I'm not that different than them. 

5. Make people feel important


When someone posts anything, like it. Even better comment on it. It's a lot of work but you're rewarding people for their participation. When you give them answers and make them feel like they are truly in a place that is there to support them, they will keep posting and commenting, and that's what you want.  

Creating an active online community is a lot of work, but it also can be really rewarding, fun and help you reach your sales and business goals. 

I hope these 5 tips were useful - and that you'll join me in the Biz Studio if you haven't already! 

Business Resources: Toastmasters

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I’m always looking to learn more skills to make me a better businessperson and I love sharing them with you guys! 

Speaking on stage and creating video is something that I have been doing in the last couple of years and it turns out, I really love it! I enjoy sharing my knowledge and I like the personal connection that happens when people get to see me speak instead of just reading the words that I type (though I like to think you can hear my voice in my written words too!).

Toastmasters has been on my to do list for a long time and this past fall a couple of friends decided to join, so I went along for the ride. My goal? To improve my speaking skills.

But aren’t you already comfortable speaking in front of a crowd?

So, the short answer is yes. And, um, I’ve been getting better and better. But, um, I can’t seem to stop using a lot of filler words when I speak – um, so, LOTS of “so". 

I wanted to clean up my speaking so that it sounded more professional and polished.  Originally I told people it was because I wanted my speaking to be more formal, but that’s really the wrong word.  I just want it to be cleaner and more concise without my mouth constantly sounding like it’s trying to keep up with my brain.

What am I learning?

Toastmasters gives you a lot of opportunities to get up in front of a crowd in a lot of different ways. You can give the toast for the evening, you can be the Toastmaster for the evening, which is like being the emcee, you can tell a joke, or you can be the timekeeper.

I'm looking forward to being pushed out of my comfort zone because that's when you really get the opportunity to learn things. I gave my first speech and I was more nervous than I've been in a long time speaking in front of a crowd, simply because it was so different. I gave a 5 minute speech that was about myself and that I had planned from start to finish.

I spent hours preparing and it paid off because the crowd enjoyed it, I got great feedback, and I now feel more confident going forward towards my next speech, both for Toastmasters and in my business.

Tell me in the comments, are you comfortable with public speaking? What helped you? And if you aren't, have you ever considered Toastmasters?