Management

How To Project Your Future Business Expenses

Business Basics: Planning Business ExpensesPlanners, colored pens and sticky notes in hand, entrepreneurs are constantly creating or revising our business goals. Your plan probably has income goals, but does it prepare you to manage future business expenses?

Planning can be an exciting time, Mapping out our dreams and the steps it takes to get there is exhilarating. A successful business plan has measurable goals, and a logical set of steps in place to achieve each goal.

Now that you have your business vision defined, you are the leader of your own destiny. CEO. Jedi Biz Boss! As the boss, it’s  also up to you to create the financial structure to support your dreams for the coming year.

Tracking Business Expenses and Living Expenses

Money management is an important part of the work for a business owner. If you have been following me, you know I counsel entrepreneurs to wait to quit their day job until there is enough income from the new business to cover all monthly expenses – not just business expenses.

That means you need to know what your monthly expenses are.

In addition to your recurring monthly expenses for housing and utilities, you will need to look ahead and figure your business costs for the coming year to budget for the supplies and services you need for your product launches.

Making business projections sounds harder than it really is. Avoid the temptation to just take a wild guess.

We all tend to underestimate if the real facts might make us a wee bit uncomfortable. Like when we estimate that cream filled doughnut with sprinkles can’t be much more than 120 calories – because it isn’t any bigger than an apple. Yup, keep making those kind of guesses and you will wake up one morning to find that you can no longer zip your jeans or afford your business.

Business Overhead

Overhead, or the “costs of doing business” are the everyday expenses of your operation. This category includes things like internet fees, printer ink, software programs, and business development courses.

This may include the cost of hiring short or long-term team members, like a web designer or virtual assistant, and the cost of hosted servers or monthly fees for programs you use to run mailing lists or online shops.

You overhead costs also include tax preparation or accounting software and legal or accounting fees. You are getting professional tax advice, right?

Add up all these costs and make sure they are in your spending plan.

Production Costs

Sit down with your written business plan for next year, and for each goal or product launch spend some time picturing the process in your mind.

Are you planning to sell a physical product like jewelry or home decor? List all of the supplies you will need to use, including general supplies like glue or staples or tape. How many of these items will you produce? How much of the supplies will you need? Calculate your supply needs even if you already have some things on hand, like paint or brushes. and include those replacement costs in your list. Now figure out how much those supplies will cost. Don’t just guess, run some Google searches or call your suppliers to find out prices.

How will you ship your product? Do you plan to make it a pretty package, include a note or printed coupons? Even if you are going to collect shipping costs at the point of sale, you will need to spend money before the sale for your packaging and promotional materials.

Just as you did for your product supplies, figure out what you will need for packaging and shipping your product. For each item, how many sheets of tissue paper? Ribbon, stickers, note cards?

Whether your product is physical or digital, you will likely have some business expenses associated with marketing for that launch, especially if you purchase ads. Include your marketing costs in your plan.

Add up all the production, marketing, and shipping costs for that product launch and divide by the number of finished items to get a unit cost. This will help you figure out how much to charge for your product, as well as helping you make sure you have enough money on hand to execute your plan.

Chance Favors the Prepared Mind

This is one of my favorite quotes, attributed to scientist and innovator Louis Pasteur. Successful innovators and entrepreneurs are not only open to inspiration, they are prepared for the work that follows to make that inspiration a reality.

Is your business ready for the future? Do you need help with business planning, product launches or money management?   What money management tips do you have for new business owners? Share your wisdom in the comments below.


Business Basics for Entrepreneurs: Productivity Management

Business Basics: Productivity Management for EntreprenuersThe same productivity management tools and strategies used by Fortune 500 companies can be used by entrepreneurs like you!  No matter the product type or services of your small business, offered online or from a brick-and-mortar location, productivity management is an essential part of your business administration.

Are we there yet?

Look at the business goals you set for this year. Defining your productivity measures will help you figure out where you are now, how much and what kind of work you need to do to get where you want to be, and  identify areas of your process that need improvement.

Productivity is formally defined as a measure of the efficiency of a person, machine, factory, system, etc., in converting inputs into useful outputs.

Productivity is computed by dividing average output per period by the total costs incurred or resources (capital, energy, material, personnel) consumed in that period. Productivity is a critical determinant of cost efficiency.

Does that sound way over the top for your little business? Even if you are just starting out as a virtual service provider, you need productivity management – and are probably already doing it on some level!

How To Measure Productivity

Measuring productivity can be done for any business, but the way you figure it out depends on what your business is producing. What is it that your customers buy from you? That is your “output”.

Tangible Goods

Do you create and sell tangible products – items that can be touched like jewelry or clothes or decorative items?  What counts as a “unit” on your sales page? It might be one item like a necklace, or one unit may be a collection of pens, paper and stickers for a three month planner box subscription.

How much have you spent for the materials to produce each unit? You probably already have the information to calculate this part, if you have kept track of your business expenses.

Don’t include the cost of shipping, especially if you bill your customer for shipping and handling, but if you use special packaging or always tuck extra little goodies in the package, include those costs.

Next, you need to know how much time it takes you to produce each unit. Don’t guess and don’t assume! This is where the management rubber meets the road … you will need to track your time, or your employee’s time (even if your helper is your family member) to create that unit.

Track your time spent every time you create or assemble your product. Include time spent packaging the item. Keep a log of the dates, items and time spent. After a few rounds of making your product, you will be able to calculate and average of time spent for each unit.

Selling Services

Do you provide services like tax preparation, coaching, writing or virtual assistant services?  Your productivity measurements will be a bit different because you won’t have the cost of raw materials.

It is very important to track your time actually spent, just as you would if you were creating a tangible product like clothing or jewelry.

Your unit may be sold by the hour, or by a flat rate.

If you charge by the hour for your services, you can start from that, but add on any time you spend for preparation or research that is not billed directly to your client as part of their “hour”.

The same goes for flat rates.  Track all the time you actually spent writing that article or designing that customer’s website. Eventually, you will be able to use that information for future planning.

Virtual Evergreen Products

Virtual evergreen products are things like online courses, workbooks, planner inserts, knitting patterns … anything you create once that any number of customers can purchase and download on their own.

You will want to track the time spent actually creating the product, and if virtual products are the main focus of your business it makes sense to also capture the time you spend creating promotions for your product including podcasts, webinars, and YouTube videos.

Value Added

How much is your time worth?   How much do you want it to be worth? By including the worth of your time in addition to the cost of materials to create your product or service, and comparing that to your unit sales price to the customer, you end up with a measurement often used in business called Value Added.

In other words, Value Added is a measurement of everything you put in to your product to create wealth for your company.  Value added is more accurate than if you simply deducted the cost of your materials from the sale price of your product. This is the measurement that helps you quantify if your goals are realistic and if your business is sustainable.

Using Value Added for Business Planning

For example, let’s say you are a brand new freelance writer, and your goal is to earn $500 per week. If you get an assignment to write five 1,000 word blog posts in a week at $100 per post, you’re good to go, right? That’s $.10 per word… not bad for a newbie freelancer!

But wait… each article is on a subject you have no experience with and takes a lot of research. By tracking your time all week, you discover that by the time you sit down to write, do the research, draft the article, make the final edits and hit send to your client, you are averaging eight hours per article, or roughly 125 words per hour. That makes your time worth $12.50 an hour, and it will take you 40 hours a week to reach your $500 goal if you keep doing the same type of work at the same rate of pay.

If your goal is to make $500 per week working part time while your kids are little, or to eventually get to $2,000 a week, something has to change. Don’t be discouraged!  Your Value Added calculations will help you figure out what you need to do to make your business objectives a reality.

Tracking your actual time is critical.  Tracking showed you that you average 125 words an hour for technical topics outside your niche. If you continue tracking your time every time you write an article, it may show that when you are working on articles the same 1,000 word length, but in your area of expertise, you can bang those out in three hours!

Now you have the information to make informed decisions for your business. You know what areas to pitch, how to set your rates, and what your workload will be for the assignments you accept.

The same general method of number crunching can be used to arrive at the Added Value for tangible and virtual products to help you evaluate pricing and which products make sense for you to produce.

Are you already measuring productivity for your business?  How do you determine the value of your time as an entrepreneur?  Please leave your questions and comments below!
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Consider The Dark Side of Being A New Business Owner

Image of fountaijn pen and to do list illustating the dark side of being a new business ownerIs the Force With You in Your New Venture?

Do you see yourself as a business Jedi, ready to unleash your entrepreneurial force on the world? Are you prepared to encounter the dark side of being a new business owner?

As Yoda counsels, “Do… or do not. There is no try”. In other words, it will all be on you to successfully launch your new business and guide it through the virtual galaxy.

Search your feelings, Jedi. Have you been so excited you haven’t looked at all aspects of running your own business?

That’s no moon. It’s a Space Station!

There are plenty of online business coaches and communities that will exhort you to follow your dream, shoot for the moon, have faith in yourself and to go ahead and jump into your new business. They tell you not to get stuck on trying to make everything perfect and figure it out as you go. Sound familiar?

Usually these sites have testimonials about how they launched a successful business in weeks, and immediately began to multiply their income.

You are particularly vulnerable to the shiny lure of instant gratification business coaching if you are already restless or unhappy with your day job.

You are particularly vulnerable to the shiny lure of instant gratification business coaching if you are already restless or unhappy with your day job.

According to the Small Business Administration, the dark fact is, on average less than half of new business ventures survive to five years.

You ready to captain this ship? Start here! Take charge now and figure out your finances and business obligations before you jettison your day job so you will be one of the long-term winners!

Ready To Run A New Business Are You?

You need provisions for this trip, my Jedi friend. And there is no room for excess baggage.

Get out of debt

It you have consumer debts, car payments or other obligations outside your basic living expenses, try to get them paid off before you quit your 9-5 job. And for star’s sake, don’t add anymore! You will need the flexibility to handle unexpected business expenses or income dips.

Build an Emergency Fund

Have at least six months’ worth of your household living expenses in savings. A year’s worth is better. That’s household – not just your contribution if you have a spouse or partner that works. Stuff happens, and need to be able to cover your bills. Don’t plan to rely on credit cards.

Track Your New Business Income

Start your new business as a side hustle. Yes, you will basically be working two jobs until you get established. “A Jedi must have the deepest commitment, the most serious mind!” Keep track of your net income. Set realistic goals and prove to yourself that your business income is sustainable. For example, set the goal that you can quit your day job (or cut back to part-time) after your net income stays above $xxxxx for six months. Make sure your target income will cover all your expenses.

Tell Jabba I’ve Got His Money

Are you disciplined and organized enough to keep up with the administrative side of running your own being a new business owner? Have you educated yourself and have a system in place? Or do you have some vague notion that you’ll hire someone to take care of the numbers stuff but have no idea who, or how much it will cost you?

This information is primarily for new business owners based in the United States, but the administrative categories apply to businesses anywhere.

As an entrepreneur in the United States, you are considered self-employed by the Internal Revenue Service. You will be responsible for paying your income taxes quarterly and will also be responsible for paying a Self-Employment tax that covers Social Security and Medicare. You must keep careful records and report your income accurately.

If your day job provided your health insurance coverage, when you are flying solo you will be responsible for acquiring a replacement policy and paying the monthly premiums without fail. In the U.S. you may be subject to penalties if you fail to arrange for qualified healthcare coverage.

A Tremor in the Force

Do you have a workflow in place for running your new business?

Hopefully you are serious enough about being a new business owner that your idea of being self-employed is not limited to wearing pajama pants and only working when inspiration hits you, but that doesn’t mean you have to lock yourself in to a standard 40 hour work week.

You will need a planned workflow and the discipline to execute it consistently.

To be a successful business that survives beyond the first year or two, plan specific blocks of time for marketing, administrative tasks, responding to client inquiries, creating and delivering your goods or services, and future product development.

Be prepared for social isolation. You may be looking forward to being able to work in peace and quiet without distractions. You may also be surprised how much you miss having real people to talk to, to complain to, and to share a laugh with. Don’t burn your bridges. Take steps to maintain your work network. Plan to meet folks for lunch occasionally.

Keep in mind that when you are self-employed if your computer crashes or your supply order doesn’t get delivered on time, you are the one who will have to identify the problem, get it fixed, and manage any repercussions. Are you mentally equipped for crisis management?

Your Shield Is Up

Now that you are aware of the dark side of being an entrepreneur, you won’t be fooled into blasting off before your ship is loaded and fully functional! You will be a successful business owner… and a positive force in the business community!

Are you launching a new business? What have you done to defeat the dark side? Are you a current business owner with suggestions for new entrepreneurs? Please share your thoughts in the comments section!

If you like this article, please share on social media!

 

What Freelancers Need to Know About Debt Collection

Image of pens, paper and reading glasses symbolizing What you need to know about debt collections.Have you done work for clients who haven’t paid? Here are important things you need to know about debt collection that will keep you from making costly mistakes.

The Legal Stuff

This article is not legal advice. Opinions offered by your family, friends or Facebook group are not legal advice. To obtain a reliable legal opinion you must consult an attorney in good standing admitted to practice in the state where you live and base your business. You can find information about law firms and attorneys in your area on the Martindale-Hubbell website.

You can save yourself a lot of money in the long run by getting good advice up front. A couple hours of consultation to help you avoid mistakes is a lot less expensive than defending yourself in a lawsuit and paying statutory penalties.

This article underscores why you may want to consult an attorney by providing general information about debt collection mistakes that can get you in trouble.

Federal and State Laws

There are consumer protection laws and guidelines on a Federal level and for each state. In the United States, the Federal Trade Commission is the nation’s consumer protection agency that enforces the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act  which is the Federal law that protects consumers from being abused by debt collectors. This law is often referred to as the “FDCPA”.

States have their own consumer protection laws. A state law is allowed to be more restrictive than the FDCPA, but it cannot be less strict in protecting consumers from debt collectors.

In other words, you run the risk of breaking both Federal and state laws by collecting debts before you know the rules!

Debt Collectors

You, as the freelance service provider, are not a debt collector, but you still should play by the rules.

The FDCPA defines a debt collector as anyone whose main business is collecting debts, or who regularly collects or attempts to collect, directly or indirectly, debts owed or claimed to be owed to someone else.

The rules are specific and the penalties are high when it comes to debt collectors. Before you hire a person or agency to collect debts owed to you, protect yourself by asking an attorney what your liability will be if any collection rules are broken.

Freelancers are a rapidly growing part the business world, including freelancers that provide services to other freelancers! One area of “services for freelancers” that I find very troubling are individuals who offer to collect your debts, at the same time emphasizing they are not debt collectors.

Paying someone a fee or commission to be your virtual “accounts receivable” employee for the specific purpose of contacting and collecting money from clients who have not paid you is not going to fool anyone, least of all a jury. If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, the jury will call it a duck!

Debt Collection Mistakes

Collecting your own debt does not make you a debt collector under the FDCPA definition, but you will still want to play by the rules, including the rules for your state. These are some of the general areas that can get a bill collector in trouble.

Bankruptcy

If your client has filed bankruptcy, you cannot keep contacting them about the debt. You may file a “proof of claim” with the bankruptcy court but if the debt owed to you is unsecured (meaning no collateral) the chance that you will recover anything is slim.

Privacy

Legally, you can’t talk to anyone other than your client or their attorney about the debt. In some instances under federal law you can talk to a spouse, but you better make sure the state laws allow it.

You can also talk to a parent if the person who owes the debt is under eighteen.

You can’t publish the name of anyone who owes you money, leave messages or even send postcards. Basically you have to avoid shaming or embarrassing the person who owes you money.

Harassment

You will need to be careful when, where, and how often you call someone about the money they owe you. There are many rules that protect debtors from abuse or harassment by bill collectors. A few examples of things to keep in mind are:

  • A bill collector cannot call a debtor over and over, even if they are not answering the phone.
  • A collector cannot call the person at work the person is not allowed to get calls there.
  • The debtor cannot be called before 8:00 in the morning or after 9:00 at night without permission.
  • The collector cannot call the person names or use obscene language.
  • No legal action may be threatened unless the collector has the right to the legal action and actually intends to go through with it.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to debt collection and does not consider various state laws.

Summary

The best way to protect your personal and business interests is to invest in reliable legal advice from an attorney with experience in consumer issues or small business law.

Consider making a proactive investment in your business and consult an attorney before you have delinquent client accounts. Do you know if your service agreements or business contracts will help or hinder you if the client doesn’t pay as agreed?

Take advantage of good legal counsel to establish statutorily compliant business practices and collection procedures to keep your business profitable!

What is your experience with clients who don’t pay? Are you interested in more legal topics for freelancers and small business owners? Please contact me or leave your comments below.


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Mid-Year Business Strategies for Entrepreneurs

Rock the March Madness vibe to update your business plan! The weather has changed and we are nearing the halfway point in the year. Before the end of Q2 is a great time to update your business strategies!

Revisit Your Business Plan

By now you have already analyzed your prior results. Did you grow your list, sales or product offerings? Did you meet or exceed your expectations? What flopped?

You will have prepared a business plan for this year with general goals for the year and interim goals by month or quarter. Your plan will have included a calendared To-Do list of product or service launches at certain times throughout the year and cost projections of expenses for your business.

So many entrepreneurs admit to developing a beautiful and inspiring business plan for the year and then never looking at it again. But not you! Now is the time for a thorough review and revision session with your business plan for this year.

Compare expenses already paid to your projections. Are you up to date on your expenses tracking?

Double check your assumptions of cost for the year. After reviewing the expenses you have already paid this year, have you found expenditures that are costing more than you had originally planned? Are you aware of any price hikes coming up for postage, supplies or raw materials needed to make your products? Make the necessary revisions to your cost projections.

Review scheduled launch dates. Did you miss a planned launch that needs to be re-scheduled? Are there secondary launch or event dates to be moved because the starter launch was delayed?

Incorporate new events. Are there business or life events on the horizon that you were not aware of when you drafted your annual business plan? Business conferences, training seminars, new baby on the way? Be realistic about the amount of time these events will take for preparation and execution, and adjust your plan accordingly.

Look hard at planned launches that follow the new event. Do you need to scale back or postpone a product or service launch? Is it still doable if you arrange for additional resources? If you anticipate hiring a person or team to support your launch, whether a virtual assistant or a cleaning service, update your task schedule and budget to allow for finding, hiring and training your staff in advance of your key dates.

Bookkeeping

Even the most creative entrepreneur has to deal with the reality of business finances.

There are special rules and responsibilities that apply to Small Business Owners and Self-Employed entrepreneurs in the United States.

If you are not comfortable dealing with taxes and bookkeeping, hire someone. Keep in mind that this is the busiest part of tax season for accounting firms and tax professionals. If you plan to delegate your tax preparation to a pro, make the appointment now.

Heads up: If you are self-employed and required to pay estimated taxes, the payments are due quarterly!  Be ready!

Carefully look over the documentation, receipts, invoices, etc., for all your income and expenses year to date. Make sure you have all the paperwork set aside you will need for tax purposes.

Business Strategies Include Action

The days are getting longer, the weather is warmer and this is a time of year when folks traditionally would fling open all the doors and windows and clean house from top to bottom.

Utilize that same energy to freshen and re-energize your business!

Start with actual cleaning. Clear off your desk. Sort through any papers and file or shred. Clean the surface of your work space and surrounding area. Do you have a dusty tangle of cords under your desk? Are there crumbs in your keyboard?

Clean the window in your office. If you don’t have a window, wipe off the light bulb in your desk lamp (when it is off and cooled) and dust the lampshade.

Set a timer for 15 minutes and speed clean your desk drawer. Toss out pens that skip and curled pads of note paper. Anything in your drawer that you have to push aside to get to regularly used items needs to go.

If your business involves creation of physical products, be sure to do the same with your materials inventory and production work space.

Accumulated dust and clutter sends a subliminal message of stagnation. A quickie clean of your work space is refreshing. Getting rid of excess or unhelpful items clears the space for positive energies to flow into your business!

Include Personal Care In Your Business Strategy

Entrepreneurs have a tendency to burn the candle at both ends. Burn, as in high level of burn-out. As a savvy business owner, you need to take care of your most valuable asset – you!

While you are in planning and revamping mode, schedule your maintenance appointments like annual physical, dental cleanings and eye exam.

Plan you work and work your plan, but plan to include adequate time for sleep, exercise and relaxation. It is your focus, drive and creativity that drive the success of your business. Keep your tools sharp!

Is this a crazy time of year for you and your business? How are you managing so far? Please share your comments below!

 


Back to the Future with Hard Copy Business Planners

hardcopy planners are back Calendars, meetings, notes, event tracking… if you are a successful business person you rely on one or more business planners to keep everything straight. We all have smart phones, laptops and tablets. It’s great to be able to synchronize our data across platforms. So why the phenomenal resurgence of paper business planners?

Paper Makes You Smarter

Digital is more efficient, no doubt about it, but do you feel like you remember things better if you have written them down by hand? That’s because you do learn better by hand-writing your notes and reminders, as supported by the study results published by Princeton University researchers Pam A. Mueller and Daniel M. Oppenheimer.

In repeated studies, Mueller and Oppenheimer found that “students who took notes on laptops performed worse on conceptual questions than students who took notes longhand.” While digital note takers are faster, it is precisely because longhand writing is slower that understanding and retention is improved. Rather than simply transcribing and typing, longhand writers have to think about the subject, process it, and summarize the content to make effective notes.

Writing by hand actually lights up a part of your brain called the reticular activating system or RAS. The RAS is sort of a gatekeeper for information your brain needs to process. Content that is written by hand is given a priority pass by the gatekeeper!

The Way We Were

In my mortgage banking days back in the 90’s, a hard copy business planner was essential. Corporate management at all levels flocked to Franklin Planner seminars. Everyone had read the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, still relevant and popular today, and our leather-bound ring binder Day Timers never left our sight.

We were busy managing in minutes, looking for our cheese, and laughing at Dilbert, all the while entering everything in our daily, weekly and monthly planner pages.

Our planners were utilitarian and functional, protected in conservative colored faux or real leather binders, some (like mine) with the tasteful addition of a small monogrammed plate in the lower corner. In later years there were a few more colorful options for planner page “themes” but the emphasis was all business.

Time Marches On

The 90’s also saw the rapid development of the personal digital assistant or PDA and cellular phones. As connectivity and memory sizes improved, paper planners soon gave way to Palm Pilots and Blackberries and we were off to the digital races.

The race is still on with no end in sight. Technology continues to improve with newer, faster and more comprehensive devices on the market every year.

We all use digital calendaring, trackers and reminders, and we love them. So why the explosion in paper planner sales?

Psychological benefits and learning curve aside, the fact is that writing on paper is satisfying.

Writing on paper is satisfying.

Writing is a tangible creation and highly personal. No one writes like you do, thinks exactly like you do, or expresses ideas like you do.

All Things Old Are New Again

Planners aren’t just for office workers anymore. Online “communities” are active, growing and influencing commerce with members groups that range from students, to stay-at-home moms to highly successful entrepreneurs. There are planner types and systems for every taste and lifestyle.

Planners come in several sizes that are generally standardized according to size, from larger letter-sized, to the very popular A5 size, and the easy to carry small personal sized.

Planner Types

Paper planners today come in a variety of off-the-shelf and customized covers and inserts. There are many styles, a few of the most common mentioned below.

The good old ring-binder with pre-printed daily, weekly and monthly planner page options are still around, with covers and inserts that range from simple and economical to highly coveted designer planner binders.

Ring binders are still boardroom-business meeting appropriate, but today’s users are just as likely to decorate and embellish their planner pages with stickers, washi tape and illustrations!

Franklin Covey still sells ring-binder planners. Other very popular planner covers are produced by Webster, Filofax, Kikki-K and Kate Spade, to name a few. Limited editions and color styles of some of these are highly coveted and collectible – with a price tag to match!

Spiral bound planners are colorful and popular, with very active communities of users. The most popular spiral bound planner I have seen is the Erin Condren planner system, with a choice of vertical or horizontal layout. Economical and attractive spiral-bound planners like Sugar Paper Planners are sold at most retail stores like Target.

Disc bound systems, like the MAMBI (Me and My Big Ideas) Happy Planner can be purchased in kits that come with inspiration cards, stickers and other goodies. The pages can be removed and replaced, but a special paper punch will be needed to add your own pages.

Traveler’s Notebooks have beautiful covers, often leather, that wrap around paper booklets, like Moleskine Cahier notebooks. The paper books are slipped under elastic bands to hold them in the leather cover. The entire notebook is held closed by a leather strap or elastic band. While the Michael’s craft stores have recently come out with an inexpensive line of traveler’s notebooks, the non-retail covers are usually hand crafted and unique, and easily found on artisan sites like Etsy.

I have purchased heirloom-quality traveler’s notebooks from the Leather Quill Shoppe at shopmandyjeanchic.com. (This shop also has a special edition travelor’s notebook called Thin Blue Line with a percentage of proceeds going to support mental health services for first responders.)

Bullet Journals are extremely popular for calendaring, tracking, note taking and journaling. Any style notebook can be used from a simple composition book to the favored Moleskin hardcover and Leuchtturm 1917 hardcover notebooks, links below. I have these, too!

Bullet journaling systems can be very plain, simple and strictly functional like the method outlined at bulletjournal.com or highly decorative and elegant.

Bullet journaling has created a remarkable renaissance in calligraphy, handwriting, special inks, and fountain pens. The Bullet Journal Junkies group on Facebook is nearing 25,000 members! There are links below for fun and affordable fountain pens I have purchased and still enjoy using for writing in my journal.

Bullet journals are another no-frill business option, and some folks are applying the bullet journaling concept to their traveler’s notebooks.

Have you added a hardcopy planner system to your business tools? Are you interested in any of the planner options mentioned here? Leave your questions and comments!


Archetypes for Entrepreneurs: Are You Batman or Superman?

archetypes for entrepreneursComic book heroes are a great place to start when looking for archetypes that align with entrepreneurs! Archetypes are ideal examples of a type of person, an original model for others to follow, a symbol derived from the collective experience of society. Archetypes serve as icons or role models that can be inspirational – or cautionary!

Action Archetypes for Business Owners

No question about it, starting or building any kind of business takes some entrepreneurial hustle!

Batman is a guy who spent years developing incredible tools and technology for detecting and fighting crime before he launched his brand. Batman’s utility belt is loaded with the ultimate in personal and portable devices! When he is called, he has the systems in place to respond with amazing services.

Modern entrepreneurs embrace technology and build responsive business systems. Landing pages, mail lists, virtual market baskets and customer analytics are all examples of super technology used by successful business owners. What’s in your utility belt?

Are you in the early years of creating your business? Newer entrepreneurs need to be faster that a speeding bullet and more powerful than a locomotive to launch a new business. Superman may be your archetype if you are balancing a family life, a full time day job and creating your super side-hustle all at the same time!

Fortitude Archetypes for Entrepreneurs

It takes guts to create your own business and build it up to a profitable enterprise. Success doesn’t happen overnight. It is easy to get discouraged but the winning entrepreneur is the one that won’t quit.

In the Wizard of Oz book and film, young Dorothy starts out musing that she just might be able to make her dream come true. Once she lands in Oz, her goals are refined.  Her main goal is to get back to Kansas. The first step in her implementation plan is more immediate- get to the wizard! Along the way she runs into one obstacle after another, but she keeps going. Each challenge makes her pause to reevaluate. She not only perseveres, she develops alliances that stick with her in good times and bad.

Frodo Baggins in the Lord of The Rings was determined to reach his goal, and eventually saved Middle Earth despite serious setbacks. Frodo kept going even when he was scared and unsure if he could survive the struggle, sometimes helped by a diverse network of supporters who believed in his cause and respected his diligence.

Moral Value Archetypes for Management

The public’s perception of the moral character of a business owner has a direct impact on the bottom line. A potential customer of your product or services not only needs to know you are providing something they need or want, they have to trust you to deliver. Not only that, your customers want to relate to your core values.

A Higher Calling

The character of Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird is an enduring archetype of honesty and compassion. A sole practitioner attorney in a small town, Atticus defends his innocent client because it is the right thing to do, even when he and his family are threatened and harassed.

King Arthur is a legendary leader who symbolizes honor, chivalry and loyalty. Folklore tells us that Arthur protected his county from invading armies, then went on to lead his country into a magical era, complete with Knights, wizards and the beautiful island of Avalon.

Bad Guys

Shady characters are just as iconic, and the bad guys aren’t always guys – like Scarlett O’Hara from Gone With The Wind who takes over a growing business from her wimpy husband and makes it a huge success by using unsavory business practices like prisoner labor.

Then there is narcissistic Voldemort from the Harry Potter series who spreads death and destruction everywhere as he seeks to rule the wizarding world by means of force and intimidation.

Common Elements of Archetypes

These are just a few examples of archetypes that illustrate qualities found in entrepreneurs.

Not all archetypes have super powers or live in magical lands, but they do have other traits in common. Characters that become iconic are usually remembered for actions that illustrate courage, determination, and strong personal values. They are often dreamers or visionaries that overcome resistance to their ideas.  Archetypal heroes remember where they came from as they forge ahead, making alliances or building community as they progress.

What traits do you relate to as a business owner? What icons do you suggest for entrepreneurs? Please share your favorite archetypes in the comments below!

Business Ethics for Super Entrepreneurs – Top Reasons to Define Your Values

Business Ethics for Super Entrepreneurs Are you ready to be a super entrepreneur? The kind of business owner everyone respects and trusts? Here are four reasons why defining your values will improve your business!

Super Entrepreneurs Have a Plan

A good starting place for a business plan is figuring out why you want to be in business for yourself and what you hope to accomplish. To work from home? Be your own boss? Make money? All of these may apply and probably more.

All businesses provide some kind of product or service that will solve a problem or enhance the lives of their customers. Core values will help make your brand distinctive.

The successful entrepreneur identifies a marketing niche by getting clear on what makes their product different from any other, and builds a plan to reach their target customers. There are loads of courses and applications to help new business owners build their list and automate ads and emails.

Building and marketing a better mousetrap can make you a successful entrepreneur, but a super entrepreneur’s plan will also build a business culture, and that is where values come in.

There are companies, and then there are super companies. It is no accident that super companies are as known and respected for how they treat their customers and employees as they are for their products and services.

Super companies come in all sizes, from mega corporations to solo super entrepreneur businesses.

I have been fortunate to spend the more than a decade with a company whose owners have been consistently recognized as “super” by peers, employees and customers for their integrity, excellent work product and community service. They have clearly stated values that guide their business practices.

Defining core values and incorporating those values in your business plan will give you a firm foundation for succeeding in your business as an entrepreneur.

Established Values Help Decision Making

Once you have established your core values, it will make it easier to draft your business procedures and make decisions. Sooner or later, you will run into a difficult situation that falls on you, as the boss, to resolve. Always look to your core values.

When problem solving, eliminating those options that run counter to your core values will help you drill down to making the best decisions for your business.

Your business values should be reflected in your processes and procedures that are given to employees, including virtual assistants.

Keep your values in mind in your selection of vendors, suppliers, sponsors and affiliates.

We all love to see and participate in collaborations with other entrepreneurs, and of course you will want to make sure your collaborations are with business owners whose values are in sync with yours.

Values Promote Customer Trust

Articulate your values as part of your brand. Let your customers know what to expect from you, your products and your customer service.

Who can forget how Superman used to say he fought for “truth, justice and the American way”?

Customers appreciate hearing about your commitment to them, so make the effort to communicate more than just an intent to be honest. Do you promise orders to be shipped with a certain number of business days? Do you welcome emails from your customers? Respect for your customers time and attention is a value, too!

Values Build Loyalty

Customers will try out your product and services if they trust you, and consistently providing value-based products and services create loyalty.

In retail, the rule of thumb is that loyal customers make up about 20% of a customer base, but are responsible for 50% of sales. Not only that, but loyal customers are more likely to recommend you to new customers!

Customers are more loyal and secure when dealing with people and businesses they perceive as having compatible values. Are you a “green” business when it comes to your raw materials and waste? Do you donate a percentage of profits to charity? Share those values with your customers.

Whether you have a brick-and-mortar business, a full time online business or are just starting out with a side hustle, you can be a super entrepreneur by establishing core values that are unique to you and your brand.

What values define your business? Are you more likely to give repeat business to a value-based company? Please share your comments below!

Are Your Balls to the Walls? How To Avoid New Biz Burnout

Are your balls to the walls? How to overcome overwhelm!

Even girl bosses can have their Balls to the Walls, and usually do! The term came from aviation and is used to describe an extreme or intense situation. In many airplanes, the throttles (or power levers) are sticks with ball shaped ends. When a pilot wants full power, the throttle is pushed towards the front wall of the cockpit. So… “Balls to the Walls” means “full power”.

Nothing beats being an entrepreneur! Fueled with enthusiasm and amazing ideas, those first weeks and months when you decide to go for it are spent at full throttle, fueled by some dream of an overnight success story, because our products and services are completely awesome!

In our rush to get our business launched we spent hours late into the night setting up the framework, domain names, web sites, and producing products for prospective clients. We are launching a new business with a single mindedness that makes it practically noble to ignore housework, yardwork, shopping, laundry, and a slew of other daily life-tasks.

Look At This Mess!!

Just as in a new relationship, reality eventually sets in – probably sooner for entrepreneurs still working a full-time day job and bosses with multiple family obligations.

You can ignore the stats after you first go “live” convinced the public just needs to discover you before your offering will be on fire! Then after Tweeting your heart out, adding more blog posts, or whatever you do for marketing ……. crickets.

It is awful to realize that you really did build a better mousetrap, but the world has not beaten a path to your door… or your website!

Worse, you lift your red-rimmed eyes from the cruel statistical reports and look around your home at all the chores that have piled up in the meantime.

A Moment of Reckoning

You are discouraged and disillusioned, with a hefty dose of overwhelm thrown in. I know, I have been there (and go back to visit that place occasionally.)

“To be or not to be, that is the question”. Or, “What would Shrek and Fiona do?” if your frame of reference is a little more contemporary. It is a time of reckoning… with yourself.

Your first inclination may be to chuck the whole entrepreneur thing. It would be easier to hide in your swamp or tower and obsess about everything that went wrong.

It is also easy to blame your circumstances, your family or the universe to justify quitting.

Don’t give up. You are still the main character and there are lots of chapters left in your story!

Your business, like “true love”, is closer than you think. Just like any hero, you have to go through a few adventures before you can learn what your true love actually looks like.

And like any hero, you will need to make some sacrifices.

Changing Focus

What about your dreams, your vision of your business? Your dream are great, that’s what got you started as an entrepreneur. But to keep going, you have to let go of a static image of your successful business. Be prepared to refine and re-define what success looks like to you.

This does not mean flying by the seat of your pants without a business plan that includes measurable goals, and a written calendar of progressive steps to get you there. It means giving up the notion that anyone is really an overnight success.

Make your business goals reasonable and your steps manageable. Track your progress, and celebrate the positive trends. Do you have fifty new followers? Is that twice what you had last month? You want a daydream? There’s one for you! If you double your stats each month, where will you be in a year?

What are you learning as you go? You may find that your first business vision was too small! Plan big for the future but keep your present planning steps small enough to be executed well.

Gathering the Clan

Every hero has helpers along the way and every hero stops along the way to lend a helping hand. By the climax of the story, everyone has played a part in the hero’s big success.

You will need to sacrifice the idea that you can do this all alone.

Joining a community of like-minded people will give you tools, tips, and encouragement. You will have a place to bounce ideas, get feedback and learn how others have dealt with problems you are having.

Tip: Identify your weaknesses and find experts in those areas for coaching.

Did your first launch flop? Do you need help with branding, marketing or video production? There are established experts that offer free webinars, cheat sheets and paid courses in these and other key areas critical to online entrepreneurs. The added bonus is that the best experts have community forums that you can join!

Be the Boss

Back to the annoying reality that there are only so many hours in a day. Even while building a business, we are still faced with cooking, cleaning, laundry and other domestic details.

Remember that sleep and exercise can be skimped on for only so long before your overall performance suffers.

You must allow adequate time for sleep and exercise. It helped me get more sleep when I calendared an audible alert on my phone to remind me to Go To Bed!! I start to get sleepy when I hear it and it marks a shift in my evening activities. Pavlovian, but it works.

Think about your business or domestic tasks that can be delegated or skipped all together. You are the boss, so you get to decide: delegate or don’t do it. Delegate business tasks, domestic tasks or a combination that works just right for you.

You can hire a maid service to clean every other week. You can hire a teenager to mow the lawn and pull weeds.

Do you really need to change your house and yard decorations? Can you say no to making 47 dozen cookies for the school fund raiser?

Alternately, you may find it helpful to hire a Virtual Assistant to help with some business related tasks to free you up for content creation and personal care.

Bottom Line

Have you been going full throttle? Balls to the Walls and feeling overwhelmed?

The bottom line is, every hero gets smacked down at least once before they triumph. They keep going, build community and adjust their strategy until finally, they find what they were looking for. Success!!

You are the hero of your business story! Has your vision changed? Are you building community? How’s that delegating thing going for you?

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Defeat Chaos- Small Business Continuity Planning for Entrepreneurs

how to keep your business going when the unexpected happens.

Are you a small business owner with multiple responsibilities? Almost every entrepreneur I have met since starting my own freelance business has one or more competing priorities, including:

  • Growing a small business
  • Continuing education
  • Full time day job
  • Small children
  • Health issues
  • Elder care

If you are already feeling stretched thin between your personal and business goals, you are not alone. What will happen if you have to deal with an unexpected event?

Small Business Continuity Planning

Big corporations and government agencies have put together what are essentially uber to-do lists that they can pull out in the event of an emergency or disaster that disrupts their daily workflow. Whether you call it Disaster Recovery, Business Continuity, or a Business Resumption Plan, entrepreneurs can take a page from the big business playbook to manage our business and personal lives when things get hectic.

Disruptive events don’t have to be huge disasters like hurricanes or a critical illness. Anything that would take your full attention and make you change your priorities can be disruptive, even good things like a product launch, a new baby or six bushels of peaches that need to be made into jam.

The Department of Homeland Security has a Business Continuity Plan outline that we can use to create a planning framework for micro-businesses like yours and mine.

Impact Analysis

If you are the chief cook and bottle washer for your home and business, you do not need a fancy questionnaire to figure out all the important tasks that you do on a regular basis. Think back over the last week or two, and refer to your planner for the last six months.

Make a list of the vital things that have to be done. Include everything, even if it seems obvious, for both your home and business. Leave lots of space for notes after each space on your list.

Grocery shopping, meal preparation, cleaning, pet care, blog posts, product packaging and shipping, laundry … if it is a task that you perform regularly for your home or business, add it to the list.

Wow, you are a busy person!

Recovery Strategies

For each of the tasks on your analysis list, start making notes of ways that job can be handled, even if you aren’t able to do it the way you normally do. Can it be skipped for a while? What is the bare minimum?

For example, my normal housecleaning schedule includes deep cleaning each area of my home on a regular basis. When I have to spend several days processing and canning garden produce, any cleaning outside of the kitchen just doesn’t get done that week, much less deep cleaning.

But when I spent three months taking courses, building my website and preparing to launch my blog while working a full time job, I did a weekly bare minimum. In other words, the bathrooms were cleaned enough to be sanitary, but I certainly didn’t scrub tile grout with a toothbrush!

Plan Development

Now that you have an idea of the most essential tasks that have to be done and how often, flesh out how you would go about getting those things done if the situation is not “normal”.

Think about backups and work-arounds.

Do you send a regular newsletter or update to your mail list? What if your computer crashes and burns? Is your mail list stored somewhere besides your computer hard drive, like the cloud? Can you log into your blog site or mail scheduling application from another computer?

You can develop backups and work-arounds for personal tasks as well.

Meal planning for a day or two could be delivery, so your backup can be a folder of menus from the nearest Chines restaurant and pizza parlor.

The work-around for longer disruptions can be a week-long menu for very simple and easy meals and a matching grocery list. Don’t forget the deli when making that meal plan and grocery list. Rotisserie chicken and cold cuts are user friendly, as are microwavable entrees and sides. If you make more than one weekly menu and list, you can alternate!

Testing and Exercises

This is where you try out your carefully thought-out backup plans and work-arounds to make sure they work!

Borrow a friend’s computer or go the library to make sure you can get to your online business essentials.

Try asking your spouse to validate your business resumption plan by preparing meals for a week. Hand over your menu and grocery list. Revise the plan as needed… you may get surprising feedback!

This is your opportunity to revise your plan and discover things you may have missed. Revisit your plans at least annually and always before any anticipated events that will impact your home and business.

Conclusion

There is no wrong way to prepare your Business Continuity Plan. You most likely will not have a full blown written alternative in place for every aspect of your home and business, but by making your Impact Analysis list, the most urgent things to plan for now will pop out at you.

What are the most critical tasks you need to cover with a Plan B? Are there tasks that are less important but really easy to work-around?

Do what you can now, and consider calendaring time to work on a back-up plan for the rest.

How do you handle disruptions to your home and business? Would you like to see more information on business continuity planning for entrepreneurs? Please share your comments and questions below!

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