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2 Simple Habits to Avoid Stress And Burnout

Stress and exhaustion are not strangers to entrepreneurs, however, setting some boundaries and taking care of yourself can help you combat and even escape stress.  As business owners, we often consider solving other's problem as our number one priority, while this is one of our tasks, it should never be at the cost of our rest.  Take some time off, do things that you enjoy and refuel your energy for the new working day and new challenges.   Like most entrepreneurs, I had a compelling reason to start my business. I had a desire – a drive – to teach other people that there are other ways to live. I spent over two decades as an employee, slogging away – battling to overcome being overwhelmed, exhausted and stressed to the max. That is until I experienced my own Armageddon and crashed to the floor, unable to get up again. In the ensuing two years of the most excruciating, painful and confronting work it took for me to recover, I learned a thing or two about the way we live our lives, the things that pull us off track and the things that can support us on our journey forwards. The more I learned, the more I realised that this knowledge is invaluable to everyone, and that understanding this knowledge is the key to being able to thrive in this modern-day world. This knowledge underpins all of my day-to-day activities and is always the starting point of the work I do globally – whether I’m working with a large, medium or small organisation, or on one-on-one basis.  Every entrepreneur steps into the breach to create a solution to a problem that no one else is addressing. Without entrepreneurs, life would be static and pretty boring because nothing would change; everyone would be sitting around bemoaning all of their issues that no one would ever ‘fix’. We’re all under pressure, we’re all connected 24/7 and we’re all constantly overwhelmed by the enormity of things we need to get done in a day. The things that scream the loudest are the things that get done, but we need to understand what happens when we let everything else take complete control of our time. Here’s what you need to know about ignoring stress and exhaustion and pushing on through. There are 2 simple things you can do to avoid burning out.  Make your own decisions When I became an entrepreneur, I found myself working in a different industry – one I had had nothing to do with before. Despite having almost two decades of experience helping other people to grow and develop their businesses, I felt like I was starting from scratch and knew nothing because I hadn’t worked in that industry before. I turned to everyone else for answers … and all of them told me about all the things I HAD to do for my business to be successful. Before I knew it, my business was structured in a way that didn’t support the life I wanted, or the things that were important to me. I was trapped in a life that didn’t support me in any of the ways I wanted or needed. Because I spent so much time listening to the advice of others, I also spent a lot of time and money on things I didn’t like doing, and that didn’t align to who I am as a person. Despite having learned all the things I’d learned – the hard way! – I was back on the track of doing everything to please everyone else and on the path to being stressed and exhausted. It wasn’t until I stopped and started looking at how I felt about things – and I began prioritising the things that were important to me – that I was able to find the pathway for my business to support me in my everyday life. You are the ONLY expert in YOUR life … so until you start prioritising the things that are important to you and making sure your business supports those things, you will have bought yourself a job that is masquerading as a business, and that runs your life. Understand whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert One of the greatest lessons I learned from my journey back to recovery was to understand my personal energy – where it comes from, how it is renewed and the things that will help you to refuel every day. Most people think that an introvert is someone who is really shy, and an extrovert is someone who is really outgoing. Actually, the introversion/extroversion spectrum measures the way in which you refuel your energy. As defined by Wikipedia Introversion is the state of being predominantly interested in one’s own mental self. Introverts are typically perceived as more reserved or reflective Introverts generally prefer solitary activities but do not necessarily fear social encounters. They need solitary and usually inwardly-looking activities to refuell their energy stores. Conversely, Wikipedia defines extroversion as The state of primarily obtaining gratification from outside oneself. Extroverts tend to enjoy human interaction and tend to be enthusiastic, talkative, assertive and gregarious Extroverts generally prefer and are energised by being around other people. They thrive on large gatherings and can be prone to boredom when they are by themselves.     Understanding where you sit on this scale then enables you to understand how your energy is refuelled. Once you know this, you know what activities you need to make a priority in your day. So, introverts tend to need solitary time every day so that they can refuell their tank, while extroverts need social interaction every day so that they can be refuelled. Make a list of the activities you love doing, the ones you automatically say ‘yes’ to when you’re offered the opportunity to participate in them. These activities will be things you walk away from feeling as though you’re full of energy and your soul has been fed. Create non-negotiable time in your diary where these activities can fit in. I find that having the same non-negotiable time every day works for me, while others love mixing it up. Where you schedule the non-negotiable time doesn’t matter – the only imperative for this time is that it is non-negotiable! If you’ve been putting off making yourself a priority, you’re not alone. Most of us receive social conditioning that teaches us that everyone else comes first – and apparently, we’re selfish if we live otherwise. We need to remember that times have changed, and we must change with the times before we can thrive in our lives. Never forget that if we don’t look after ourselves first, we’ll have nothing left to give to anyone else. Understanding where you sit on the introvert/extrovert spectrum and then making sure you refuel your energy appropriately EVERY day is the best way you can avoid burning yourself out. When your energy levels are high, your commitment to your passion is fully fueled and you can achieve so much more, and easily.

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3 tips on how to reinvent yourself

I thought I was different. There has been a stirring inside of me that I couldn’t define. My life on a personal and business level was shifting and as someone who has been through some major reinventions, I can say that this felt unsettling yet at the same time there was a feeling of anticipation and excitement for what is coming. After speaking to other entrepreneurs and my clients, I realised I wasn’t alone. There is certainly change in the air. More than ever, they were feeling the desire to stop living by other people’s rules, to let go of a life of “shoulds,” and to create a life aligned with their true purpose, that is full of happiness, with the wealth to live a life they dream of and success on their terms. Reinventions are not just external. They require huge paradigm shifts. True reinvention happens on the inside more than on the outside. By the time people start to notice you’ve reinvented yourself, they can only see the external changes. I have begun to release what hasn’t been serving me – mentally, emotionally and physically. Each time I release what hasn’t been serving me, I understand on a deeper level that these unsettling feelings and shifts in our worlds are imperative to our happiness.  It doesn’t have to be a painful experience so here are three tips on how to reinvent yourself. Have faith. Trust that the changes that are happening are occurring in the exact way that they need to for you to fulfill your goals. We can get caught up in thinking that achieving the goal should be, look and feel a certain way. The problem with that is that the way we expect things to happen occurs from our preconceived ideas rather than the exact process that needs to take place to achieve your desired goal. I have a saying on my wall that reads: “I am positively expecting great results no matter what I see in front of me. The Universe is rearranging itself for me best interests right now.” If I ever feel like I am out of faith, I read this and instantly I am back on track. Take personal responsibility. Everything that occurs in our life is a direct response to what you have asked for. You may have asked for something consciously or even subconsciously. It has been quoted that 95% of what occurs in our life is a result of what is happening in the subconscious. Even if you do not understand why something is happening, recognise that is being created from your subconscious. You then have the power to look within yourself for the answers to “Why is this happening?” Look for the opportunity. Sometimes when we are in the process of reinventing ourselves, we experience what is perceived to be misfortune. We could lose a major client, have technical issues or even experience a financial setback. Opportunity is often disguised in these temporary moments of misfortune and it becomes imperative to ask yourself “Where is the opportunity right now?”. By focusing on finding a solution, you will ensure a positive, stress free outcome. Now I would love to hear from you. In the comments below, tell me your biggest insight you are taking away from this? If you found value in this article, please share it with your friends – it would mean the world to me. Thank you!

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Business networking for profit

The problem is, many of us can’t stand the idea of business networking. It feels fake and contrived. And if you’re an introvert you are probably breaking into a cold sweat from the thought of it. Just thinking of spending countless hours on small talk in a loud and crowded room of strangers is enough to make you exhausted. Here is a healthy reframe on business networking to make it a whole lot easier. Get clear on what business networking really is: Business networking isn’t entering a crowded room, talking to as many people as possible, swapping business cards frantically and seeing what you can get from others. Quite simply it is building long-term relationships with key people for a mutual benefit. It is important for you to really understand that sentence. When you come from a mindset of “how can I help this person” (and actually help them) then you will be rewarded in return. Understand exactly the kinds of people you want to meet: You are doing yourself a disservice if you aim to do business with everyone. It is costly, time consuming and in some instances, can be very stressful when you are dealing with the wrong kinds of clients. Be very specific about their demographics, interests, beliefs and where they congregate as well as ensuring you understand their problem and exactly how you can solve it for them. Then aim to build relationships with the people that fit your ideal client profile. To make business networking even more effective for you (and to quickly increase your results), you’ll want to build relationships with your ideal clients, but strategic alliances as well. Strategic alliances are people who share the same ideal client as you do, but whose company or service doesn’t overlap with yours. For example, a wedding photographer could have strategic alliances with a florist, wedding dress boutique, wedding venues, wedding organisers, make up artists, hairdressers and more. Strategic partners are usually your best referral partners. Be the ultimate icebreaker: The idea of business networking can be very daunting for some – especially for first timers. You see these people looking nervous, standing by themselves or hiding in the corner. Take the first step and make these people feel welcome and comfortable by approaching them and saying “My name is Marika, please tell me about your business”. And if you are feeling daunted, then this tip works just as well for you. It is guaranteed to get anyone talking effortlessly and confidently. Greeting attendees at the door of a business networking function is also a great way to get known and break the ice with a wide variety of people. It gives you the opportunity to meet everyone and assess who may be the perfect person to approach. Once the introductions are over, get mingling! You can’t hide at the door the entire time. Perfectly define how you help your clients to pique their interest: When the conversation turns to you and your business, the biggest failure I see people do is talk about what they do rather than how they help their clients. Most people know what a bookkeeper does, an interior designer does or a florist does. Instead of saying you are a bookkeeper how about a statement that talks about the results you get clients. What about “I help small businesses in the plumbing industry who have 2-5 employees gain control of their accounts, decode the numbers into meaningful information that enables them to support and focus on the critical business decisions and activities that need to occur in order to grow their business”. Notice how this also mentions a broader version of the ideal client profile (we can’t mention every element of the profile as it would take too long but the listener starts to get the idea)? This will certainly be more interesting to listen to than the other bookkeepers they would have met and will encourage that person to ask questions. Make a date and circulate: When the conversation is coming to the end and you feel that you could assist each other then agree to connect the next day to set up a time to get together. Then it’s time to move along and meet other people.When there is nothing left to say, you see someone else you want to talk to or you feel you aren’t able to assist this person be polite and say, “It’s been really good to talk to you. Thanks for your time. I don’t want to keep you from networking with others. Enjoy the rest of the evening!” Stay connected: Business networking is about the long-term so it is important to stay connected with your key contacts. Provide referrals for them, support them by using their services and always add value. The more value you give, the more people want to spend time with you, the more they’ll follow your lead, the more they’ll recommend you.

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Find, Share and Honor Your Value

Well over 100 years ago Mark Twain wrote: " The two most important days of your life are the day you were born and the day you find out WHY!" - This is such a remarkable statement as so many people don't take heed and never find let alone give back to the world their innate, value. When I was in the planning stage of my business I went for a long walk through the bush with the pure intention of answering one question for myself: What do I stand for? I just kept asking myself the same question over and over in numerous ways: What do I stand for? What do I help people achieve? What do I give back to the world? How do I want people to feel when they meet or work with me? "Value, value, VALUE!!" The answer that came back in a resounding way was VALUE! Everything I do, stand for, provide and lobby for is VALUE. For myself, my children, clients, community and businesses I interact with. My heart sang and my mind was now clear! I had my reason WHY I exist! I want to give value, I want to help people find their value and I want people to value themselves and others. Again and again, I hear this word erupting from my mouth with every coaching and strategy session I run. Value yourself, give value to your clients, provide value to your industry, followers, community and admirers. We see it showing up more and more with a free value being delivered by all industries - blogs, podcasts, eBooks, social media content, webinars etc. All of these are not just a way to market yourself and business they should be a way with which your sole focus is to add value back to your loyal followers. This has many benefits, with every word of yours they read, hear or share they are becoming closely aligned to you, your business and your mission. Whether you're a social media marketer, sales person, business growth expert, artist, teacher or warehouse worker; You have something special and unique to share with the world. Something that only you possess! Imagine if we never heard music on the radio? Or watched free to air TV? How much talent and entertainment would we miss out on enjoying? See, not everything you get value from is something you pay for - so don't get caught up in the same thought pattern. What if Elvis decided to only sing in the shower and never in public? Honestly, I am not a die-hard Elvis fan, however, I see the impact he has made in the world. To both males and females alike, he gave them value through his music, movies and life-loving personality. Unfortunately, he got lost when he only aligned his value with what others gained from him. He, like many other artists, actors and actresses are pushed, used and abused from within the Industry. Their valuable talents lost too soon because of high expectation and over capitalisation from others. Towards the end of his life, I doubt he got any happiness or joy from in his talent any more. Thankfully for a lot of people he has lived on stronger after his death and still inspires many people. There is one man in the town I live in who still whole-hearted believes he is still alive, he walks around town signing his songs and dresses like him, has his young son playing his music also. Elvis didn't live a long life but it definitely gave his all; this is why he created such an everlasting impact. What's the value? I believe true value is not monetary, your worth is not measured in $$$ - determine your value by how true you are to yourself, others and what you give back to the world. Mother Teresa will forever be known as one of the most valuable people to ever walk the earth - do you think she cares about how many dollars she had in her habit? No, she was too concerned about the value she could give to others than to ever worry about the monetary value of her time. That was her superpower and she used it to its full potential. Recently I began volunteer mentoring for a fantastic service aimed at helping Small Businesses. I was so grateful for the opportunity last week I got to spend 3 days travelling around Rural Victoria talking to business owners, established and aspiring, as apart of the Victorian Government Small Business Festival. On the first day, someone questioned me Why? What do you have to gain from giving up 3 days of your time to sit on a bus? My Response: Everything! I get to meet new people, I get to learn from them and hear about their business. I get to use my superpower of idea generation and draw on my personal and business experience to help them formulate an action plan to see them overcome challenges and help their business grow. I get to inspire, support and help in any way I can doing something I love to do! For me, that is the Value I want to give to others and when you love something, do it as much as you can! Now don't get me wrong Yes, we do all need to eat, pay bills and we definitely deserve to enjoy life. So don't be giving away your time and talent 100%. Value yourself too! What I am suggesting is give what you can whether you gain from it or not. Exceed expectations of your customers and clients - this is not only a nice thing to do on your behalf but all those little things you can do to have happy customers means much bigger returns for your business from repeat customers and raving referrals. Don't get so caught up in the profit of business and your time that you forget to give back. Find ways to give generously of your time and value instead of just buying a $5 badge and hoping that is enough to get you even with the Universe. Get involved with helping your community group market their next event because they have no idea how to set up a facebook page let alone run an ad campaign. Do a presentation, offer advice for no reward, organise an showcase, run a demonstration. That is truly honouring your gift and you will always be rewarded in many ways. Or if you are like my incredible sister who is passionate about health and fitness but her personality thrives on stability. So now she works full time, runs gym classes 3 days a week and is building a Girls Stand Strong movement that is by helping teenage girls by teaching them to have Healthy minds, bodies and spirits. You don't have to be working in your own business, company, agency or practice that is based around your genius to be fully giving value back to the world. Do it on the side where you are able to give fully without needing it to sustain your financial obligations if that's what is comfortable for YOU! Be grateful for your talent, superpower, executive functioning whatever you want to call it and share it proudly with the world so that we all may have the opportunity to become better people from experiencing it. Step Up , Show Up and Own It!!  

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How to Free Up 2 Hours a Day as a Busy Entrepreneur

Sparing two hours in a busy workday is possible for entrepreneurs if they employ time-saving tips for each task throughout the day.  Distractions, urgency, and priorities are the common reasons that prevent business owners from having free time on their hands.  It takes time to find the right tips that will boost productivity. For starters, try these ones. Being an entrepreneur can be quite stressful. Everyone looks up to you, your schedule is filled with all kinds of responsibilities, you spend long hours in the office, and you feel like you don’t have time for anything else than work and chores. It’s a fact, most new entrepreneurs have difficulties finding time and resources to cross all the tasks off their lists, and finding some additional time for fun, family and rest seems impossible.  “So many tasks, so little time” This mentality is often the only thing that prevents us from achieving our goals and freeing up some time for ourselves. Here are some general tips, which can help every busy entrepreneur free up to 2 hours a day if you’re lucky. Get rid of distractions We are blessed to live in this modern era, filled with all kinds of comforts. Unfortunately, our world is also filled with all kinds of distractions. In fact, we are so used to the distractions on our computers, that it sometimes feels like our heads and hands have different priorities. For instance, you’re ready to work on a project, you have everything sorted out in your head, but your hand starts scrolling through Facebook posts instead of working. This is how productivity dies and in order to avoid that you need strong motivation and focus on the task at hand. If you limit your access to social networks during your work hours, you will save at least half an hour every day. If you lack the self-control, then you can use a program or application, which limits your access to these websites on demand. Follow a defined timeline A big part of being an entrepreneur includes being chained to a desk trying to figure out better solutions for some projects. However, spending prolonged hours forcing ourselves to work doesn’t mean that everything will happen faster. On the contrary, scientists have proven decades ago that this affects our productivity in a negative way. Instead of wasting hours on pointless head banging, you should consider the Pomodoro Technique. It’s a very simple technique that can be broken down to 5 simple steps: Choose one task to work on. Set the timer to 25 minutes. Work until the timer rings. Take a 5-minute break. Repeat the previous steps 3 more times, and then take a 10-15 minute break. The approach is named after the classic tomato-shaped timer, and its goal is to help you take advantage of bursts of focus by removing distractions and providing you with a time limit. Once you start employing it, you will notice that some tasks will take you less time, allowing you to save a couple of minutes from every project. Learn to delegate It’s amazing how many tasks can be done by practically everybody in the company, but we are still the ones who do them. Most entrepreneurs are just so protective of their projects, that they don’t think anyone else can finish the task the same way or with the same quality. This is all part of some delusion, which keeps us from having more time to ourselves. So, to free up some time from your schedule, you need to revise all your tasks and delegate the least important ones to someone you trust. This process can be both scary and refreshing, but it’s for a good cause – you will have up to an hour to yourself, and you’ll give someone else the opportunity to grow and develop. Evaluate your priorities Being an entrepreneur doesn’t have a clear job description, and in our strive to find and learn new things. We often get caught up doing something non-essential, which just takes our precious minutes away, like reading some interesting publication or catching up on mail. This is why if you want to save those 2 hours a day, you need to learn to prioritise. Make a list of the essential tasks that need to be done right away, and leave everything else in the background. Once the important things are done, you can get back to those secondary tasks. A good tool to help you organise your online resources is Pocket. It allows you to save everything you find online across all your devices – laptop, tablet, smartphone, etc. Batch tasks together Batching your tasks together will allow you to not only perform them quickly but also mindfully and time-effectively. The most successful entrepreneurs in the world use batching both in their professional and personal life. First, you’ll need to divide your tasks into categories according to skills and resources needed to finish them, as well as the logistics involved in each of them. Then it’s just a matter of combining the tasks together, so they can happen faster and without any additional effort. An example from personal life – when you go shopping, you also think what else can be done while being out – paying bills, taking clothes from the dry cleaners, etc. You just need to apply the same principle to your work.

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Networking: How to Have a Conversation with Anyone

We often hear that networking is essential to business success. Yet to be honest, few of us are good at it. We either avoid it altogether, or when we enter a face-to-face networking situation, we fail to engage and make the most of the opportunities it presents. Why is that? A key reason, I believe, is fear - a simple fear of conversations. This may seem far-fetched. However, social anxiety is more common than most of us realise. Just as research has shown that many people fear public speaking more than death, the thought of initiating multiple conversations with complete strangers can fill some nervous systems with fear. It’s a concern you can easily overcome, however, if you remember that most people you meet are in the same situation, and also actually enjoy talking about themselves. Your task is simply to encourage them. Here are a few techniques: Introduce yourself with a smile The smile comes first. When you approach someone at a networking event with a big, genuine smile and an outstretched hand, they’ll welcome you into a conversation 999 times in a thousand. If that one occasion in a thousand occurs and you sense rejection, the issue is generally with the other person, not you. Just move on to the next person. Ask Questions You’ll never be lost for conversation topics if you have a few questions prepared beforehand. They don’t need to be profound questions. Just open-ended enquiries that encourage your conversation partner to elaborate on their own life, work or pastimes. In fact, they can be as simple or trivial as “What kind of work do you do?”, “What kind of business do you run?” and “What did you do on the weekend?” It’s usually best to be superficial at first. If the other person appears willing to open up as the conversation continues, you can then ask more personal and more complex questions. Listen A big mistake people make at networking events is trying to talk the other person into submission. This rarely works. What works is active listening. If possible, allow the other person to say twice as much as you do. Get to know them. Find out what gives them pleasure and pain in their business and personal life.  How can you do that? Just ask them. They’ll appreciate your genuine interest. And don’t forget to respond positively, with your voice, your expressions and your gestures. Nod when you agree with something. Smile when they say something light or humorous. Maintain eye contact as naturally as possible. Add simple, encouraging comments such as “Really?”, “That’s interesting,” or “I agree.”  'Cherry-pick' words and phrases One of my favourite techniques to keep a conversation going and make it interesting is to ‘cherry-pick’ some of the other person’s words or phrases that are most interesting to you. For example, your conversation partner may say: “I spent the weekend with my family, gardening, going to the beach, helping with homework.” You notice the word ‘beach’, so you ask. “The beach sounds like fun. Did you go surfing?” This can open an interaction about surfing. As you pick up on different words and phrases, you can eventually reveal activities and pastimes of common interest. Use Names Most people like the sound of their own name, so take note of the other person’s name and use it liberally in your conversation with them. This will also help you remember the person later. Some business commentators suggest taking notes about the people you meet during an event. I find that just using a person’s name repeatedly in conversation is a useful memory tool. Remember your elevator pitch In a previous article, I wrote about how to prepare and deliver an effective elevator pitch. When someone at a networking event asks what you do, have a few words prepared that explain the problems you solve, the value you deliver, the credibility you have for doing what you do, what makes you different and how the other person might benefit from what you do. Generally, it’s best not to embark on your elevator pitch until you’re asked to say something about yourself. When you are asked, however, a finely-tuned elevator pitch, delivered naturally, can be a powerful aid in furthering the conversation and developing a relationship.     Introduce people to others Once you get to know someone at an event, take every opportunity you can to introduce your new acquaintance to someone else. Many will appreciate this gesture, as they may be hesitant to introduce themselves to others. It will also enhance their perception of you, your status and your potential worth to them. Acknowledge when the conversation has ended Occasionally, despite your best efforts, maintaining a conversation is difficult. You may find that you and the other person share little in terms of interests or values. Sometimes a conversation just runs out of steam. It’s all right. There’s no rule saying you have to persevere. Just smile, tell the person you enjoyed meeting them, and suggest you should both get to know some of the other people at the event. Practice these techniques and you should never feel uncomfortable at a networking event again.

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No more Mr Nice Guy!

I like to think all people are nice, honest, friendly and helpful. I like to see the best in people and trust that they will do the right thing. To me, personal values are important and coexist with making money. But there are times that I wonder if this personality type belongs in the business world; a space which seems to be dominated by people who negotiate hard, who can play dirty and see business as a fight with only one winner. In a dog-eat-dog world where survival of the fittest is the unspoken law, is there a place for a ‘nice guy’? To me business is challenging, exciting and always interesting. The pace, dynamism and endless complex questions intrigue me. There is nothing more rewarding than starting, growing and building businesses. But day-to-day business life means working with a lot of different people, some of whom are sharks that will bite if you let your guard down. During my time in business there have been a few bruises, breaks and injuries from such people. I had business partners that knowingly deceived tens of thousands from me and 9 others. There was the nightmare landlord who ripped off rent extra payments, scared off a business buyer and refused to contribute a single cent to his own building. I had clients that purposely didn’t pay their account, then went into voluntarily liquidation to dodge their debts. Even a co-shared office ended with a civil claim because I damaged a bookshelf (worth $50!) A hard-nosed, aggressive approach to business seems counter-productive to me. I understand that assets and livelihoods need protection, but can’t grasp a ‘win at all costs’ attitude. Whilst some of the perpetrators of negativity in my past have just been devious people, others just felt they needed to fight rather than lose a single cent or (even worse) risk not being ‘right’. Simple, outcome-focused and honest conversations with willingness to compromise can bring speedy resolutions where all sides can win. They build relationships that can be prosperous, rather than torching every single bridge between you. It’s a problem of short sightednessvs. long sightedness. The disagreement that I mentioned over a $50 bookcase meant that I never referred a single business to that accountant,  worth many thousands of dollars per year. The irony of this hardass approach is that a softer human touch has infinitely more appeal and can actually be a very solid foundation for business growth. Customers love it. Employees love it. Co-workers love it. Suppliers love it. Business partners love it. Interactions with real care and feeling stand out like a dog’s proverbials. There are huge strengths to business in maintaining softer human qualities, in fostering sensitivity, compromise, kindness and a genuine interest in other people. It increases retention of staff and not only keeps your clients, but drives new business through word of mouth. My local cafe owner greets me by name every single time I walk in and make my coffee by heart, so I never go anywhere else. Virgin money is another example – their call centre is the most helpful and understanding I have ever dealt with, so they keep my business and get referrals. Small and medium businesses work with feeling the best, just because they are still small enough to be personal. In these businesses values are not just a corporate statement or taglines coming from the marketing department. So it seems that there is value in being a ‘nice guy’ in business, but you do need to protect yourself. It is very easy to become hardened in business; to lose your open, friendly attitude and get sucked into believing that you need to be a warrior to succeed. The skill is in setting boundaries around what you will accept, without building an emotional armour around yourself. Here are a few tactics that I have developed along the way: • Be aware that people will take from you whatever you let them take. Ultimately it’s up to you to protect what’s yours. • Saying ‘no’ or sticking to your values doesn’t have to be done in a inflammatory way. Calm conversations are much more effective. (Assertiveness and voice volume are not correlated). • Understand the difference between a short term ‘win’ and and long term financial returns from business relationships. • Avoid battles; even if you win, you will lose something. They waste a lot of energy, time and emotion. • Get legal protections. Small business owners are very poor at contracts, terms and conditions and knowing the law. Verbal contracts and handshake deals fall apart with a puff of wind, so get everything in writing. • Watch for warning signs: if you see bad behaviour, it is probably going to continue. • If clients are not paying you, be strong enough to stop supply. It doesn’t get any easier for them to pay their bills as they get bigger. • Family and friends. If you are going into business with people you know; get legal advice and have contracts for everything. Avoid it if you can. • New ventures and contracts.  Take your time; do due diligence and get lots of advice. Take the advice. • Do business with people you like and trust – there are a lot of really great people out there. • Do your best to stay away from sharks and learn the personality types. • Remember that satisfaction comes from living your values, which don’t always result in financial reward.   Dr. Warren Harmer    

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Skyrocket Your Business - The 4 Steps You Were Missing

Being an entrepreneur is not easy. It all sounds very fun and intriguing, but as a business owner, you have certain responsibilities in order to grow your company. You can't remain in one place - literally and figuratively. If you want to see your company grow, you need to grow yourself - develop new skills and gain more knowledge on a daily basis. You also cannot afford to target everyone out there - just like you can never please everyone. Find your precise niche and work on nurturing them. That is the best way to ensure your company will actually grow in its industry. Starting a business is undoubtedly a process that’s thrilling at first, but that can quickly become daunting as you go along. Sometimes just keeping it going is difficult enough, let alone growing it into a thriving company. However, there are certain guidelines that any new business owner can follow in order to see development and growth. Below you will find four tips that can help you grow your business: 1. Learn Something New Every Day Since you are the very core of the business, it only makes sense to ensure it’s a strong and knowledgeable one in order to sustain further growth. As an entrepreneur, it’s very important to never stop learning and figuring out how you can consolidate and innovate your business. Having said this, remember to take part from time to time in business and management courses, accounting courses and marketing courses. While there is a certain initial price to pay for these early investments, the return will be truly beneficial in the long run, both for your company and your future employees. 2. Don't Underestimate the Power of Building a Solid Network It may come as a surprise at first, but it’s actually true just how much word of mouth and peer-to-peer communication can do for your business. You need to have a network of people - preferably an online one, that can share your work and believe in your brand. Once you have a couple of followers that truly understand why you do what you do and what your business stands for, you need to nurture them and keep them engaged throughout your company’s development. In the meanwhile, it’s also a great idea to follow influencers in your industry, appreciate their work and show them why your ideas are valuable. Networking is no easy task and it never truly ends, but it has tremendous potential for growth for your business. 3. Don’t Try to Be Everything to Everyone What many entrepreneurs get wrong when they start a business is thinking that their items or services must cover everyone’s needs. When, in fact, it’s only the opposite. The sooner you find your specific niche, the better it will be for your company. This will not only allow you to sell to your ideal target audience, which in turn will bring more profit, but will also prevent you from dissipating your resources and energy while trying to please everyone. To this end, it's advisable to earnestly analyse the feedback you are receiving and depending on this, to focus more on what works for you, while also weeding out what performs more poorly. 4. Bring Your Social Media Game into the Spotlight Nowadays it's crucial to also have an online presence, especially if you have a business and would like to see it succeed. The great thing about it is that you have a myriad of social media platforms to choose from and each of them yields better results in a specific industry. Try starting out with only one or two platforms and see which fits you better. Once you have chosen, work on your brand consistency, post on a regular basis and make sure to engage with your followers. With perseverance and hard work it will all eventually fall into place. As long as you start with these basic guidelines and persevere in implementing them, growth and development are sure to follow. Your work as an entrepreneur is never actually over, as you will constantly need to challenge yourself to bring more value to the company by gaining more knowledge and innovating the way you do things.

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