July down time: Cleaning up your brand image!

brand image tips

Our guest blogger is Loreto Cheyne of Lola Design.  Summer is a great time to work on your branding and marketing gear, getting ready for the busy 4th quarter…

After what seemed like an endless winter, summertime’s here, and that means joining colleagues at a patio, leaving the office early, and honing your BBQ skills. It’s a nice fantasy-but if you’re a business owner, it means if there’s any downtime, you’ll likely be catching up on the marketing projects you had hoped to tackle much earlier in the year.

You may not have days on end to devote to marketing catch-up. But if you can organize your projects and time, here’s three things that will let you communicate a little easier in the fall and have you ready for more marketing and networking:

1) Update your business cards. I’m always going on about the importance of your business cards, and with good reason. If social media is part of your marketing mix, be sure to have your contact info on your business card. You can:

  • add the actual URL (ex. www.Facebook.com/LolaDesignLogos)
  • simply use the social media icon (blue “bird” for Twitter)
  • incorporate a QR code that when scanned takes readers to your blog.

2) Take a look at your marketing calendar and review major events coming in the fall. If you have a conference or a tradeshow you have already committed to, this is the time to do the prep work. If your tradeshow is October 1, don’t wait until September 25 to get your signage ready, or your rack cards, or sellsheets. Get ahead of the game now so you can do it right, proof properly and avoid rush charges. That way they are done, printed, and you can forget about them.

3)  Do a logo inventory. Is your logo still working hard for you? Because if it isn’t, now is the time to alter it, or completely redo it (not a week before your new ad campaign is launched). Find a designer you can work with (I will be glad to set up a consultation with you) and be sure to discuss your needs, likes, dislikes, deadlines and budget. Be realistic. Make sure your logo is created as a vector file, which will give you the most versatility over the long run (that’s an Illustrator .eps or .ai file).

These three marketing communication tips should give you plenty to fill up those pockets of “spare time” you may have this summer!

Loreto Cheyne is the principal and owner of Lola Design, an Ottawa-based graphic design studio. To book your complimentary consultation, email loreto@loladesign.ca

Website:www.loladesign.ca

Blog:www.loladesing.ca/blog

 

The Power of Time

“What would you do if you knew you could not fail?” – Anthony Robbins

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

These two great quotes are making the same point while coming from different directions; the authors are saying that our lives are in our own hands and that we should look at all the parts of our lives honestly and make conscious choices confidently so that we may benefit.

We have the power to change our lives by using what we already have inside ourselves: Tony Robbins knows that lack of self-confidence often holds us back; Ralph Waldo Emerson shows us that it’s what’s inside of us that counts more than the past and the future.

Even though they haven’t written books called “Time Management”, these authors teach us a lot about successful time management and successful life management.

The past 19 months have taught us that time can stand still, expand to fill how long it takes a task to be done, stretch out endlessly before us or reduce itself so small that there simply isn’t enough of it.  Yet, we all still have 24 hours in a day.

Another great quote is from David Allen, author of “Getting Things Done” and “Ready for Anything”. He gets right to the point when he says, “Time is just time, you can’t mismanage it. What that really means is that you mismanaged the agreement you had with yourself about what you should have accomplished.” He goes on to say that time management is really a complex issue of self-management where work needs to be captured, clarified, organized and reviewed in line with your purpose, values, vision, goals, and strategies. When these things are in line, you’ll feel good about how you’re managing time.

It’s really that simple.

Coping With Unexpected Change

It’s inevitable. Change will happen whether you are expecting it, or not, in your personal lives, in society and in the workplace. Generally speaking, when we expect a change, it is more manageable to deal with and depending on what it is, it can be a good thing. Unexpected change is the one that takes a little more effort to get through as it may require a re-adaption to processes, environments and people around us.

So, what are some things we can do to manage unexpected change? We can’t plan for it. Forbes Magazine touches on a few methods to deal with change in the workplace, such as preparation calming fears, letting go of perfection, and so on.

  • Take a look at the situation objectively, removing thoughts that these changes are directed toward you.
  • Think of the potential that can grow from this change. Think positively about the “surprise”.
  • Keep up to date those things that have not changed by continuing to take care of yourself and maintaining your routines.

When change happens, it might be wise to take a look at the entire situation from an objective standpoint. Instead of focusing on how this is affecting you as an individual, take a look at the big picture. Was it perhaps necessary from an organization standpoint for your workplace to change in order to keep up with a changing industry? Are there redundancies your employer is trying to work with? At times, we may look at changes at work and think “What did I do to deserve this?”, but in fact it may not have been something you did or didn’t do, but something that just happens in the course of running an enterprise. No, it is not pretty and sometimes human beings have to make difficult decisions.

Consider that the changes at work are an open door to something new. Although change may be scary and it may not always be easy to flip around a negative impression already established, it may be needed to help you move forward. The opportunity to grow can found by moving past fears you may have about the change to come and making a decision that this change is going to be good. Maybe there is an opportunity to learn a new skill within your job as a result of this change, or maybe the new skills can be learned in leaving this job for another one. Either way this can be an opportunity to further develop your skillset and knowledge. If you are leaving to find a new opportunity, what you have learned in this job can help you determine the things you like or may not like in going to the next job.

During a time of work change it is very important to keep up with personal care and maintaining your regular routines. You might think “Well I’m not going into work so why should I bother getting up early?” Maintaining your schedule and using the time that would have been at work doing something productive can help stave off negative feelings and allow you to keep a sense of consistency during a time that may be anything but consistent. Regardless of the situation, stay strong and forge on to a better path carved out for you by change.

Practicing Mindfulness

I started to reflect on the cause of why some days are more productive than others and landed on the concept of distractions; how one has a tendency of thinking back and thinking ahead.  Have you ever caught yourself worrying about the tasks that need to be done later in the day or tomorrow, whether this or that will turn out the way you hope or stressing over things that happened yesterday or last week?  I’ve found that the days where it is easier to get things done are the days where I am totally focused on the task at hand, in other words, I’m being in the present moment.

I can’t be the only one that has discovered this pattern, and this fits nicely with the term ‘mindfulness’.  It’s one of those things we hear so much about, but what does it mean to be mindful?  Some might think it is like meditating (that can happen as part of practicing mindfulness), or like forgetting about things (depends on what you are thinking about), but what it really means is to bring you to the present time and to be present and aware of what you are doing now, at this moment in time.

What is Mindfulness?

According to mindful.com, it is “…the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.” That sounds simple but can be challenging in practice.

My colleague shared her own experience in trying to be mindful and said she lasted maybe two minutes before she became distracted.   She tried it as just a re-adjustment of her thought processes to try to concentrate on what she was doing and even tried it through meditation.  However, she didn’t give up.  She started slowly with one simple process, when she found herself becoming overwhelmed and distracted, she stopped everything she was doing for a moment.

At that moment she decided that she was going to fix this through her thought processes by taking note of what she was thinking about the moment she felt overwhelmed.  If it was something in the past or something not yet to take place, she stripped it away and thought to herself, “What am I doing right now?”  She would listen to her breathing, acknowledge where she was in her physical location and set her mind to the task at hand. Turning back to what she was trying to accomplish she would attempt to focus on that alone.

Now that’s not saying there haven’t been many times where she tried and still became distracted, but the key was not giving up.  Mindfulness is learning process and takes time and practice.

Why is it so important?

Some of the common benefits of practising mindfulness include:

  • reducing stress;
  • better sleep patterns;
  • weight management (maybe because we are thinking about what we are eating);
  • reduction in automatic negative thought processes;
  • assistance in managing anxiety and depression;
  • improved general health (physical and mental); and
  • improved concentration. 

Even therapists that suggest mindfulness to their clients have noticed a change in how they provide therapy by practicing it themselves.  As noted by the American Psychological Association in 2012, studies suggest that by practicing mindfulness, therapists not only benefit from the reduction of anxiety and depression but it is found to improve how they care for their clients through more empathy and compassion to their clients with improved skills in counselling.

There we have it!  I focused and this blog is now finished! One small victory!

If you’re seeking your one small victory, don’t give up and remember:

“All that we are is the result of what we have thought.  The mind is everything.  What we think, we become.” ― Buddha

Outsourcing To Win

In order to break down the bigger picture of outsourcing your business tasks to a remote resource, let’s have a look at some of the ways to get started on the “how” of outsourcing (rather than the why, when or the where).

Starting with the basics, have a look at your business tasks and processes first, and look at your personal strengths and values (and be honest about it!) Ask people you know for feedback about you as a person. What do they think you are really good at?  What things aren’t you so good at? Make a list and go from there, being brutally honest with yourself. Look closely at your list on paper – the pluses and the minuses – and determine what makes sense for you to do, and what is reasonable for someone else to take care of; it might be an ‘us and them’ kind of thing. Every business is different, so the first key to effective outsourcing is to identify exactly what you need.

Along with your ‘us and them’ list, start brainstorming and list all the things you will do to build your business once you have all that extra time that comes with outsourcing.

Recognize that outsourcing is a process that takes time and planning. It’s your business, and it’s your responsibility to ensure things are done and done right. Plan for your needs, tell people what challenges you might be having, always be on the lookout for exceptional people through your circles and networks and ask for referrals. Don’t discount family and friends, either, if you are comfortable having that kind of relationship with those closest to you; not everyone is so inclined! Take the time you need to find the right people for the right work. Hire slowly, fire quickly.

The number one caveat in all of this is to remember that outsourcing is not a “set it and forget it” way of getting things done. Dropping a task list in someone else’s lap and saying “Here, you do it!” is essentially business suicide. 

The key to success is finding the right balance and developing a trusting relationship between you and the resource. It’s a very fine balance, too, and one that requires finesse and management. If you micro-manage your resource, they’re going to either quit because they don’t want you constantly in their face, or they won’t take initiative to get things done without your input. If you take a hands-off approach, and leave them on their own without checking in regularly, you’re setting yourself up for disaster, with tasks done wrong, a disregard for your timelines for completion or, worse still, tasks just aren’t getting done at all. All of these scenarios translate into spending more time that you don’t have, defeating the purpose from the outset. It pays to plan ahead and spend a bit of extra time finding the balance that allows you to delineate what they’re responsible for and what you’re responsible for, and also allows for how your remote resource likes to work and how they like to check in.

It’s your business and you’re responsible for managing the resources who work for you. Keep in mind that if you micro-manage your resources for fear of not being in control, you will miss the whole point of outsourcing. Commit to regularly checking in with your remote worker. You want to make sure they are doing the work as explained to them, identifying any challenges they might have, and ensuring that they understand that they’re expected to 1) report their progress to you, and 2) immediately let you know of any problems that arise. 

If things aren’t going as smoothly as would be ideal, step back and ask yourself if you’re the bottleneck. Many business owners feel a commitment to their business much like a parent’s to a baby. They gave birth to the idea that grew into the business, they have all the business knowledge in their head and they have a need to do it all to ensure it gets done right. For someone like that, it’s very hard to let go and delegate

Having all the knowledge is critical; however, it’s smarter to get out of your own way and delegate the back office tasks so that your business can thrive and grow with you at the helm. By using remote support, your time will be freed up so that you can focus on high-growth activities effectively and get on with growing your business. It’s really more about mindset than it is about logistics.

One of the first things to do when talking about outsourcing to a remote worker is to state your expectations and requirements clearly from the outset and don’t assume anything. This holds true whether you’re hiring a Virtual CFO or a teenager to cut your lawn. The resource doesn’t know what you know and they are also looking at the task from a different perspective than you are. Opening conversations with a potential resource to identify deliverables is essential.

Have an open and frank conversation about what each of you expects in that relationship. Be clear in knowing how they operate, what their reporting style is, how they like to work, where they work, in a remote support setting. Remote resources can work anywhere, from a fully kitted out office in their house or from a dining room table. You really have to get into how they operate and what makes them productive and the circumstances that allow them to thrive in being productive. 

The other thing to remember, in that open conversation, is that the resource doesn’t know what you know, as a business owner. Therefore, they’re looking at the tasks from different perspectives than you are. For example, as a business owner, you may know how an audit works. If the resource you’re hiring is going to do the bookkeeping, they may live for numbers and do their bookkeeping at lightning speed. However, if they haven’t experienced going through an audit, they’re looking at the bookkeeping from a different perspective and wouldn’t pick up on things an auditor would notice. This holds true whether you’re hiring someone to do your bookkeeping or someone to cut your lawn.

Ensuring expectations are clear begins with an open conversation that results in the business owner drawing up a specific contract that outlines exactly what was talked about and what the performance metrics are. The contract must outline exactly what is expected – remuneration, terms and conditions, confidentiality, security, who’s going to provide what – and will be as detailed as possible. Both parties can then carefully review and sign the contract before work begins. (It’s a good idea to have all business contracts reviewed by your lawyer.)

In this time of instant gratification, managing our frustrations when things don’t go smoothly is important, so get prepared and be patient!

Allow yourself – and your resource – time to transition. Letting go of tasks that you have always done yourself is not merely a matter of handing over a to-do list and walking away. A time investment by the business owner is essential for providing insight to the remote worker as to how things are to be done, as well as the time frame for completion. This can be as simple as open dialogue or a conference call with all stakeholders to discuss how and when transition is to take place, scheduling, etc. Once the handover is complete, let go and trust that all will be well. 

If you have provided clear instructions (and it’s your job to do so), there should be no problems.

Be prepared for a learning curve on the part of the resource. Be patient and, with time, they will find their groove and you can let go of the task completely. Manage success by checking in at periodic and scheduled intervals.

The bottom line? It’s still all about relationships. The key to successful business is building and maintaining relationships in every facet of your operations. An absolute must for business owners is to network to build relationships and gain referrals. The same can be said for building relationships with outsourced suppliers:  getting the right team in place, at the right time and for the right reason creates winning relationships and goodwill all around.

Keep these last few tips top-of-mind:

  • The lowest priced outsourced solution may not be the best; good people cost money and beware that even these days, you still get what you pay for.
  • Don’t outsource a task just because you don’t want to do it! There will be tasks that only you can do because they’re important to operations and your strategic plan.
  • Always strike a fair deal with your resources and treat them with respect. You’re relying on them to handle important tasks for you and your business so don’t take advantage of them.