What Can Small Business Learn From the Rich and Successful?

What Can Small Business Learn From the Rich and Wealthy?

I’m a big fan of learning from the people I admire, and while I certainly know that money isn’t everything, I do take notes when I encounter a successful business person who’s made it big.  Why?  Because I already have a firm handle on my values and needs, but I can certainly learn more about how to scale my business for big growth.  Here’s what I’ve observed:

What You Can Learn from the Rich

1. Don’t Borrow Money

Debt is a set of shackles.  You have to work harder to pay money back than you would have to earn it in the first place.  The ultra-rich understand that sometimes it’s best to defer a purchase until you can pay for it in cash.  You’re far better off learning to accomplish your goals with creativity and determination than you are if you ask others to shoulder your risk for you.  Find ways to cut costs, create a new way to make money…do everything you can to be beholden to nobody.

2. Put Others to Work for You

All the money in the world doesn’t do you much good if you don’t have the time to enjoy it.  If you insist on doing everything yourself, then your earnings are determined (and limited) by your hourly rate and the finite number of hours in each day.  Say you can bill $100/hour for your time.  If you work ten hours a day, then your earnings are $1000.  But if you need more than that to keep your business and family afloat, then you’re in a pickle!  But imagine that you employ ten people who earn you $15/hour.  You’re instantly pulling in $1500 for a ten-hour day, and if you add more employees, you can continue to grow your company.  Think big!

3. Memories > Stuff

One thing you’ll discover if you observe rich folks is that while they may have expensive things, oftentimes, their focus is on experiences rather than stuff.  If you’re contemplating purchasing a frivolous item — like a sportscar or a Rolex — consider instead what it could mean to your family to take a trip of a lifetime.  When we’re old, we’re unlikely to wish we’d had more stuff.  Instead, we’re likely to wish we’d spent more time living it up with the people who matter to us.

4. Love What You Do

When I’m giving advice to entrepreneurs who are looking to refine their niche, one question I like to ask is “What would you be doing if it weren’t about the money?”  Now the answer can’t simply be “Drinking margaritas in Mexico.”  The point is that if you can find a way to incorporate your passion into your work, then you’re learning one of the rich folks’ secrets.  They don’t derive pleasure simply from amassing wealth.  They feel motivated because they love what they do.  You can do that too!  Ask yourself what matters to you apart from money … and then find a way to make money from it!

It pays to learn from the experts.  And if you’re looking for ways to improve your financial standing, it only makes sense to look at the folks who’ve already done it.

Champagne and Caviar Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “What Can Small Business Learn From the Rich and Successful?” was first published on Small Business Trends

5 Great Tips on Successful Small Business Branding

5 Small Business Branding Tips

We all understand how important brands can be.  There are brands that signify all over the world.  Nike.  Harley Davidson.  Starbucks.  These are companies that are more than just the products they sell.  They’re lifestyles.  They’re statements, both about the company and the consumers who choose them.

If you think bold, memorable branding is only available to big companies with massive marketing budgets, think again!  No matter your industry, you can cultivate a unique brand that resonates with your clients.  Want to know how to do it?

Small Business Branding Tips

1. Clarify Your Company’s Purpose

For a brand to be meaningful, it must connect to your company’s reason for being (which, incidentally, assumes you have a reason for being above and beyond simply earning an income.)  Why did you start your company?  How do you think you’re making the world a better place?  Without a firm grasp of your purpose, you’ll never be able to communicate what’s unique and important about your company.

2. Enlist Your Employees

Along with clarifying your purpose, you must also ensure that every single member of your staff understands that purpose and knows how and why to communicate that purpose with every customer.  In a perfect world, your purpose isn’t something that’s pounded into your staff.  It’s something you hire for.  When you hire an employee who shares your values, then you’re on the right track.  Effective branding isn’t an afterthought.  It infuses everything you do!

3. Create a Rallying Cry

So for my company, Profit First, our purpose, our rallying cry is “We want to eradicate entrepreneurial poverty!”  We say it, and we mean it.  Every morning huddle (our quickie standing meeting) reiterates our purpose and the steps we’re going to take that day to accomplish it.  Our rallying cry lets us communicate our purpose and values quickly … to anyone and everyone.  That’s our brand.

4. Enlist Your Customers

You know your purpose.  Your staff knows your purpose.  But do your customers know your purpose?  Letting your clients know that they’re buying more than just your goods or services is key to enlisting them in your brand building efforts.  Consider the Life is Good brand.  When people don a t-shirt, they’re making a statement about a lifestyle, rather than just getting dressed.  Folding in what makes you unique and worthwhile is a big part of successful branding.

5. Hire a Pro

Sometimes we think we should be able to do it all, but no matter how talented you are, you need help in the areas that aren’t your strength.  If marketing isn’t your thing, consider hiring a consultant or agency to help you crystallize and evangelize your brand.  Professionals can help you avoid spinning your wheels and wasting money on ineffective tactics.

Your brand is more than just your company name and a slogan.  It’s the expression of your values, your quality, and your unique vision.  Branding done right cements you in the minds of your customers.  It makes it easy for people to understand who you are and what you do.  Branding differentiates you from your competitors, and it speaks to your ideal customer, resonating with the people who will most appreciate your work.

Dollar Brand Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “5 Great Tips on Successful Small Business Branding” was first published on Small Business Trends

Is There a Profit Crisis in Your Small Business? If So, Here’s How to Face It

Here's How More Small Businesses Can Make a Profit

Think there’s not a profit crisis?  The Small Business Administration conducted a recent study and found that of the 28 million small businesses in the US, about 83 percent are not profitable.  That’s a shocking statistic.  The vast majority of small businesses lose money.  That means these small businesses are likely to close, ending job opportunities and reducing incomes for millions of families.

How do so many small businesses fail to turn a profit?  It turns out that it’s because of the way we think about profit — our profit mindset.  We talk about “year-end profit” or “the bottom line.”  We consider profit to be whatever is left over after we pay all our bills.

The problem?  Too often, there’s nothing left over.

We think of profit as an event — something we will eventually, at long last achieve.  It’s just over the next hurdle, just around the bend.

The trouble?  Profit isn’t waiting for us to arrive.

How to Make a Profit

What we need in order to solve the profit crisis is a new perspective — a completely new way of thinking about and achieving profitability for our companies.  And here it is:  You take your profit first.

Every single bit of revenue that comes into your company becomes a step toward profitability.  When you get a check, you deposit a predetermined percentage into a separate account that’s designated as your profit account.  You open this account at a new bank, and you don’t link it to a debit card.  You don’t pull funds from it to pay bills.  This is your profit account, and you fund it first, every single time money comes in.

Now you may be just barely getting by right now, and you may worry that you won’t be able to pay your bills if you start setting aside profit first.  But here’s the secret … you’ll find a way.  You’ll become more frugal.  You’ll drum up more business.  You’ll learn to do more with less.  Think about it — if you lose a client (and future revenue) you don’t just close up shop, right?  You find a way to make it work.

Now I know that putting profit first works.  I’ve seen hundreds of companies all over the world transform themselves into lean, specialized, profitable businesses.  But for people who are apprehensive, I suggest starting small.  Try taking 1% of your revenue as it comes in and starting that profit account.  1 percent?  You’ll never miss it!  But as you watch it accumulate, as you realize that you can still pay your bills and sign your staff paychecks, you’ll begin to understand how it works.

We must learn to prioritize profit if we are to succeed as entrepreneurs.  And to be clear, I’m not saying that money is everything in life.  But if you want your business to thrive … if you want to be able to provide for your family, you owe it to yourself, your employees, and your community to run your business profitably.

The solution to the profit crisis is to shake off the old mentality — that profit is what’s left over — and to adopt a new mindset — profit comes first.

Profit Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “Is There a Profit Crisis in Your Small Business? If So, Here’s How to Face It” was first published on Small Business Trends

How to Defuse Tense Situations with Angry Customers

How to Handle Customer Complaints

There’s not a one of us who enjoys hearing criticism or complaints about our businesses.  Criticism is inevitable, and it’s actually a useful tool if you learn how to handle it effectively.  Healthy companies grow and evolve, and customer complaints can actually help you focus your efforts to improve in a way that’s seriously productive.

How to Handle Customer Complaints

Have complaints?  A crummy online review?  An irate customer?  Try these strategies:

1. Take Your Time

One of the most useful strategies I’ve learned is to wait 24 hours to respond to a customer complaint.  Unless you actually have a customer in front of you who needs immediate attention, taking a breather before you address criticism can help give you perspective.  If you’re angry or upset, you’re likely to say something that’s less-than-professional, and you could end up making the situation worse.  Think about what you want to achieve in your response and craft it accordingly.

2. Ignore Criticism That’s Purely Inflammatory

While it’s important to monitor reviews and in-person complaints (as they’re wonderful for finding ways to improve,) you shouldn’t lose a wink of sleep about complaints that are clearly ridiculous.  Whether a competitor posts a fake review or a customer is just having a wretched day, sometimes the best response is none at all.  Most consumers are savvy enough to write off online reviews that are clearly not legitimate.

3. Don’t Be Offended by the Tone

It’s healthy to ignore crazy complaints, but it’s important that we not discard valid criticism just because it’s delivered in a less-than-ideal way.  Maybe your customer is rude, but maybe he also has a point.  Particularly if you’ve received the same complaints on more than one occasion, don’t ignore suggestions for improvement, even if they’re impolite.

4. Identify What You Can Learn

If a customer takes the time to make a suggestion, you’re missing an opportunity if you don’t take the time to consider it.  One of my favorite instances of a criticism that ended up being a wonderful suggestion was at a book signing for one of my books.  A customer handed me her book, and I started to sign it.  She said, “You’re signing the wrong page.”  I was a little taken aback at her blunt tone, but when she suggested that I sign the title page, rather than a blank page, I saw the genius.  Now I see pictures of my title page — complete with my signature — on Facebook and Instagram … free marketing!

5. Get to a Solution

When you have a valid complaint or review from a customer, in addition to learning what you can improve in your company, the most important thing you can do is resolve the customer’s problem.  If  patrons of your restaurant received slow service on an understaffed day, then apologize and offer incentive for them to return.  If customers are disappointed in a product’s performance, ask how you can make them happy.  If customers take the time to complain (legitimately, of course,) we as business owners have an obligation to make it right.  Be solution-focused, and you stand a good chance of keeping that customer and encouraging them to become even more loyal.

As hard as we try, we all end up disappointing clients from time to time.  Perfection isn’t possible, but conscientious entrepreneurs learn from mistakes and always strive to deliver excellence.

Defuse a Bomb Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “How to Defuse Tense Situations with Angry Customers” was first published on Small Business Trends

7 Qualities of Leaders Who Inspire Loyalty

7 Strong Qualities of Leaders Who are Likeable

Sure, the best leaders sometimes have to make decisions that are unpopular, but we all crave respect and support from the staff that make our companies work.  Being a likable leader isn’t about currying favor or tiptoeing around the people you employ.  In fact, being likeable means being the best leader you can be.  Employing these strategies will not only help you gain big-picture abilities that will benefit your business, but you will also gain the loyalty of your employees.

Qualities of Leaders Who are Likeable

1. Be Honest

First and foremost, we don’t like people we don’t trust.  Even if you have to couch comments in diplomatic ways, you’re always better off telling the truth about your expectations, your view of the future, and where your employees stand.  Honesty begets honesty, and your company will benefit from mutual trust.

2. Be Positive

While I’m not counseling entrepreneurs to see the world through rose-colored glasses, but I do advocate staying focused on the goals you want your company to achieve.  Being goal-oriented and forward-looking means that you’re invested in being a great leader today.

3. Be Humble

No man (or woman) is an island, and leaders who insist on taking all the glory for their successes end up with resentful, lackluster staff.  Take every opportunity to shower deserving employees with public praise, and you’ll be rewarded with loyalty and continued support.

4. Empower Your Staff

Employees who don’t feel empowered to make decisions don’t feel responsibility when things go wrong.  If you want staff who treats your company like it’s their own, then you must give them authority and support for appropriate decision making.  You may have to accept some mistakes along the way, but invested, proud, responsible employees are worth it.

5. Be Approachable

Every member of my staff knows I have an “open door with a caveat” policy.  I am always available to my staff.  I’m always happy to listen, to advise, and to mentor, but I am not the company’s chief problem solver.  Unless you want to spend all day putting out fires, you must train your staff to solve problem for themselves.  Don’t just give you staff a fish; teach them to fish for themselves.

6. Ask Questions

It’s far too easy to settle into the mindset that information flows primarily from you to your employees.  Not only will that mindset rob you of valuable perspectives, but it will also result in leaders who know little about their staff.  Take the time to find out what matters to your employees.  Learn about their concerns, their stresses, their families.  The key here is to find ways to emphasize the connection between your company goals and your employees’ goals.  Make success a win-win for every member of your staff.

7. Learn Your Staffs’ Names

Yes, of course this one should go without saying, but I’m always stunned when I discover how many business owners fail to learn and use their employees first and last names.  Nothing signals contempt for people like the failure to learn the most basic piece of information about them.  Don’t use a lame excuse about being “bad with names.”  Learn your staff’s names.  Period.

Leadership isn’t simply a role.  It’s a mindset.  Owning a company doesn’t necessarily make you an inspiring, likeable boss.  That takes work, but it’s work that will pay big dividends – in productivity and in loyalty.

Leader Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “7 Qualities of Leaders Who Inspire Loyalty” was first published on Small Business Trends

7 Tax Saving Tips You Can’t Afford to Ignore

Check Out These 7 Tax Saving Tips

As we turn the page on the calendar it’s always a good idea to make sure you’re wrapping up the old year right and getting the new one off to a great start.  We know we have to pay taxes, and we may even appreciate the benefits we get from handing over our money to the government, but we owe it to ourselves to make sure we don’t hand over more than we’re required to by law.

Important disclaimer:  While many of the following strategies can help you reduce your tax liability, you should always consult with a tax expert before making any changes.  Tax law changes frequently, and you need the most current information.  That said, here are strategies that have worked for me and many others.

Tax Saving Tips

1. Max Out Your Retirement Contribution

401k, SEP, or Roth IRA … no matter what your form of retirement plan, setting aside all the money you can lets you defer paying taxes until later in life, when you’re likely to pay a lower rate.  Not only are you building your nest egg, but you’re also reaping tax benefits.

2. Build Up Your HSA (Health Savings Account)

Typically, contributions to HSAs roll over indefinitely, and your contributions are tax-free!  Sure, you will have to spend all of your HSA on medical expenses, but allowable expenses may be broader than you realize, and medical bills are something we all face eventually.

3. Leverage Your Losses

Deducting losses from your investments can soften the blow from decisions that turned out differently than you expected.  Not only can you deduct losses from stock purchased in publicly traded companies, but your own business may provide you with deductions as well.

4. Defer Capital Gains

If you’re considering selling off large amounts of stock for profit, think about holding onto those shares until the new year.  You’ll move the tax liability out of the year that’s ending, and then you’ll have an entire year to find ways to offset the gains.

5. Defer Deposits

If you’re looking at big year-end receipts, consider holding onto those deposits until after we turn the calendar page.  Just like deferring capital gains, you never know what the future holds.  You may encounter losses or expenses that help reduce the tax burden from huge deposits.

6. Donate to Charity

This strategy both reduces your tax liability and makes the world a better place!  Find worthy causes that speak to you and improve your community, and donate what you can afford.  Make sure you get receipts for your charitable donations.

7. Combine Business and Vacation Travel

This one’s my favorite!  I travel a lot for my speaking engagements, and anytime I can, I build a few extra days into my itinerary for fun.  Since work travel incurs legitimate business expenses, I can deduct a portion of the costs for my vacation.  Make sure your records are clear about which portion of expenses were business and which were pleasure.

As hard as you work for your money, you should put a little effort into making sure you keep all you’re entitled to.  A good accountant can help you maximize profit and minimize tax liability.  Resolving to pay less in taxes makes good business sense and starts your year off right.

Tax Blocks Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “7 Tax Saving Tips You Can’t Afford to Ignore” was first published on Small Business Trends

These Are 7 TED Talks Every Entrepreneur Must Watch

7 Must Watch TED Talks for Entrepreneurs

I can’t say enough about TED talks.  The concept of taking a few minutes to explore personal, important stories that connect us and help us become better versions of ourselves is just a magnificent wonder.  I’ve collected some of my favorite TED talks that promote ideas all entrepreneurs should consider.

TED Talks for Entrepreneurs

1. Steven Johnson:  Where Good Ideas Come From

Author Steven Johnson challenges the common misconception that problem solving is based on some brilliant moment of inspiration.  Rather, Johnson argues that it is hard work, preparation, and being connected to people with complementary skillsets that bring about solutions.

2. Reshma Saujani: Teach Girls Bravery, Not Perfection

This one’s not just for women, though it does emphasize the importance of inclusiveness for future success.  Saujani connects a willingness to boldly take risks to the evolution she’d like to see in the future of computer science.  Men and women alike can benefit from letting go of a fear of failure.

3. Tim Urban:  Inside the Mind of a Master Procrastinator

Not only is Urban a champion of long-form writing in a world of listicles, but he is also seriously funny.  Urban urges viewers to take a more critical look at their procrastination tendencies in order to better prioritize their lives.

4. Dalia Mogahed:  What Do You Think When You Look at Me?

As our workplaces become increasingly globalized, it’s important to be cognizant of how we respond to people who are different from us, whether that’s in skin color, culture, religion, or political leanings.  Mogahed, a Muslim scholar, shines a light on the compelling reasons why empathy is a critical skill.

5. Bill Gross:  The Single Biggest Reason Why Startups Succeed

We all know that new businesses face a ridiculously high failure rate.  What Bill Gross has done is explore – in a masterful display of data analytics — what differentiates startup success from failure.  It turns out there’s one surprising factor that correlates with success.

6. Malcolm Gladwell: The Unheard Story of David and Goliath

Few writers are better than Malcolm Gladwell at taking the familiar and turning it on its head in a way that challenges all our assumptions.  Gladwell tackles the classic Bible story of the underdog who wins in spite of insurmountable odds and transforms it into a call to reimagine our understanding of power and its effects on our relationships.

7. Pamela Meyer: How to Spot a Liar

In addition to being flat-out fascinating, author Pamela Meyer’s exploration of the hundreds of lies we are told each day evolves into a compelling case for striving to become a more honest society.  Ethical entrepreneurs will enjoy the pep talk while simultaneously picking up tips that will help detect deception.

We all have stories, and in fact storytelling is one of the powerful rituals that unites us, inspires us, and reminds us there’s more to life than the balance of our bank accounts.  TED talks open our eyes and minds in ways entrepreneurs should embrace.

Oh — and here’s a bonus TEDx talk:

Mike Michalowicz: “Profit First” is better for entrepreneurs than “G.A.A.P.”

I would never put myself on the same level as the speakers above, but my talk explores a proven, practical strategy that can eliminate entrepreneurial poverty.  Enjoy.

TED Talks Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “These Are 7 TED Talks Every Entrepreneur Must Watch” was first published on Small Business Trends

7 Positive Traits Productive People Share

How to Be Productive Everyday

We all struggle with feeling like we’re not as productive as we should be.  But really, any discussion of productivity must begin with a definition.  You see, productivity isn’t necessarily about doing more, working more or spending more energy.  Productivity is really about accomplishing what’s necessary and doing it as efficiently as possible.

So productivity isn’t about working longer or harder.  It’s about working better, working smarter.  So how do you go about it?  Let’s take a look at eight traits that super productive people all share.

How to Be Productive Everyday

1. Make Lists 

I have a pretty good memory.  I used to pride myself on the amount of information I could recall.  But then I realized that I was spending way more energy than I should have been on remembering important stuff.  It turns out that productive people don’t waste brainpower on remembering stuff.  They write it down so they can use that energy elsewhere.  Old school list making frees your brain up for more important work.  And it also ensures you won’t forget things.

2. Eliminate Distractions 

Multitasking is a myth.  We think we’re so clever, juggling twelve tasks at once, but productive people know better.  Switching from task to task requires refocusing, and it takes time.  In many cases, you’re better off clearing your desk, computer and mind of competing work and focusing on doing one thing at a time.  Set aside periodic breaks in which you can manage email and demands for your attention, and when you get back to work, shut down your notifications.

3. Eliminate Bottlenecks 

When you’re feeling frustrated by your difficulty in accomplishing as much as you’d like, sometimes it helps to take a step back and look at your workflow.  Identifying the steps in your company’s processes where work gets hung up can clue you in to the changes you need to make work flow more smoothly.  Identify the causes of your bottlenecks and eradicate them.

4. Don’t Get Hung Up On Perfection 

Yes, there are times when only flawless work will do, but in most cases, doing a really good job is sufficient.  If you’re insisting on polishing absolutely everything to perfection, you’re wasting time and effort that could be better spent elsewhere.  Know when good enough is good enough.

5. Work to Your Strengths 

Yes, I know most of us think we’re superheroes.  But let’s face it … we can’t do everything equally well.  Identifying your weaknesses (hint – it’s usually the things you hate to do or that take you forever) and hiring staff who have strengths that complement yours can let you delegate tasks and get back to doing what you’re good at.

6. Listen to Criticism 

When my wife called me a workaholic, it took me a while to realize that she didn’t mean it as a compliment.  She saw me slaving away, working way too many hours, and she recognized that I needed to make some changes or risk burning out.  When I looked at the big picture, I realized how right she was.  Hearing her criticism forced me to confront the ways in which I wasn’t working as smart as I should.

7. Cross That Finish Line 

Over and over, I see capable people who work hard only to slack off once they near their deadline.  Resolve to finish strong, and you may even find yourself beating deadlines and producing work of better quality.

I encourage you to look around you.  Find the productive people in your life and see what you can learn from their habits.

Productive Team Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “7 Positive Traits Productive People Share” was first published on Small Business Trends

If You Believe, You Can Achieve — 40 Affirmations for Small Business Owners

If You Believe, You Can Achieve -- 40 Business Affirmations for Small Business Owners

Henry Ford said “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.”  His famous quote gets at the heart of the concept of an affirmation: the notion that it is our beliefs about ourselves that determine who we really are and what we can achieve.

Here’s how you make affirmations work in your life.  Study the list below and select an affirmation that speaks to you.  Maybe it resolves a problem you’re facing.  Maybe it addresses something about yourself that you’ve always wanted to change.  Pick your affirmation and say it to yourself first thing in the morning.  Repeat it at several predetermined times throughout the day – when you take a mid-morning walk, stop for lunch, or just before you wrap up to leave your office.  Then repeat it right before you go to sleep.  Do this every day for thirty days.

The key is that you must mean it.  You must believe in your affirmation.  It will be hard to believe at the beginning of your thirty days, but as the month progresses, you’ll discover that you’re actually beginning to behave the way you’re conditioning yourself to act.  Find your affirmation and put it to work!

Business Affirmations

  1. I am a top performer.
  2. Success and achievement naturally come to me.
  3. I always do better than I did yesterday.
  4. All my thoughts and efforts lead me to the success I desire.
  5. There is an opportunity in everything that presents itself to me.
  6. Obstacles and challenges strengthen me.
  7. I choose to be happy.  I choose to be healthy.
  8. I love what I do.
  9. I have the best company in the world.
  10. I succeed with ease.  I succeed with grace.
  11. I attract success.  I attract happiness.
  12. I always do a little more than expected.
  13. I always do a lot more than expected.
  14. I love being positive.
  15. I sell my ideas because I believe in my ideas.
  16. Every day I improve.
  17. Everything I need to be successful is available to me.
  18. I celebrate my successes.
  19. I am happy.  I am successful.  I am fulfilled.
  20. I can achieve any result I want when I put my mind to it.
  21. Productivity is about working smarter, and that’s what I do.
  22. I am persistent in all that I do.
  23. Every day I’m more confident in myself.
  24. Successful people are attracted to me.
  25. Supportive people are attracted to me.
  26. I find solutions.
  27. I am always in the right place and right time because this is the only place and the only time.
  28. I am destined to achieve what I want to achieve.
  29. I am serving a higher purpose.
  30. I powerfully envision what I want.
  31. I track my goals and cross out the ones I achieve every day.
  32. I release pessimism and doubt about achieving my goals.
  33. I visualize the results and benefits of my goals.
  34. I am firmly on the path of achievement
  35. I always achieve my goals on time.
  36. I enjoy the challenge of achieving my goals.
  37. I plan my work and work my plan.
  38. I have the power, the intelligence, and the capability to achieve any goal.
  39. I am a lean, mean, goal-achieving machine.
  40. I will transform obstacles into opportunities with grace and creativity.

Most people are skeptical of affirmations.  They think there’s no possible way that simply repeating words can make a difference, but they couldn’t be more wrong. In fact, words are how we shape the world around us, and looking yourself in the eye in the mirror and telling yourself that you’re going to become the person you want to be is taking a giant step toward shaping your own future and fortune.

Affirmation Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “If You Believe, You Can Achieve — 40 Affirmations for Small Business Owners” was first published on Small Business Trends

You’ve Got to Ask Your Employees These 6 Questions

6 Questions to Ask Employees

So often, being a leader is about having (or getting) answers.  We’re accustomed to being in charge and making critical decisions, and it’s easy to forget that one of our primary goals should be to aggregate knowledge.  We hire great employees, and if we don’t take to time to mine their valuable knowledge, we’re missing a colossal opportunity.

So your staff knows valuable stuff.  And how do you get it?  You ask!

6 Questions to Ask Employees

What Are Your Personal Goals and Visions?

You know why you started your company, and you know what you hope to achieve.  But don’t ever miss an opportunity to find out what your staff is striving for.  Why?  Because if you can tie your employees’ goals to those of your company, then they’re going to be even more motivated to see your business succeed.  Working to make your company a win-win for everyone involved pays huge dividends.

How Can I Serve You Better? 

Helping your employees to see that you’re ready and willing to support them is another strategy for strengthening loyalty.  Not only will this question give you insight into how you can bolster your staff’s success, but it shows your investment and engagement in seeing satisfied employees.

What’s the Biggest Roadblock You Face?

While your employees may rely on you to be the chief problem-solver, you can’t solve problems you’re unaware of.  Just ask.  Your staff may have struggles you know nothing about, and the first step to eliminating roadblocks is identifying them.  Helping your staff work more efficiently and effectively not only improves their outlook, but it benefits your bottom line as well.

Who In the Company Do You Admire?

This question serves a dual purpose.  First it helps you identify the rock stars in your company, particularly the ones who might be flying under the radar.  Second, it helps you uncover the social network in play at your company – connections that might be invisible to the boss.  Understanding who gets things done and who supports their fellow employees can be key for promoting future success.

What’s Wrong In This Company? 

You may not like all the answers you get, but it’s critical that you take advantage of the diverse perspectives in your employees.  There could be problems you didn’t know existed.  There could also be solutions you hadn’t envisioned.  Diverse points of view are a great asset, but only if you access them!

How Can We Serve Our Customers Better? 

Another dual purpose question, this inquiry takes advantage of your staff’s varied experience and insight, and it also serves to bring your employees’ focus back to where it belongs:  delivering excellent service.  Modeling for your staff that it all comes down to putting out a great product helps demonstrate your priorities.

Asking these specific questions not only helps you understand and benefit from your staff’s knowledge, but it also serves to keep communication lines open.  Too often we transmit information to our staff, and we forget just how valuable it can be to collect information.  Open communication fosters growth and success.

Question Mark Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “You’ve Got to Ask Your Employees These 6 Questions” was first published on Small Business Trends