I love a good list! I have compiled 13 things that I believe –in some order– should be on your to-do list for the New Year. Some of you may only need one or two while others may need the whole lot. Take them and digest them as you need to and it is my challenge that on the other side of the year you create greatness. Of course if you need help, I am available through the Brand Mapping program where we navigate your business or personal brand to fill any gaps, create new plans, or shift into some new territories. I bid you a Happy New Year and hope that you find prosperity in areas beyond money!
1. Social Engagement: Yes, there are a minimum of 25 articles a week about social media; new developments within the platforms, and many experts/gurus sharing their advice/opinion on how to navigate them better. However, through all of the muck I still believe businesses need to get back to the core basics of each platform 1) to engage 2) to listen to what customers, competitors, and general people are saying 3) to provide a snapshot of you and your business and 4) to tell your company story. The beauty of the storytelling is that engagement can also happen offline, in social settings beyond social media.
2. Collaborations & Partner Programs: At the top of 2011 I vowed that working with others, in greater ways, was only the natural next step for my company. There is room for everyone and many times no two companies—even within the same industry—do the same thing. I have a partner program that incorporates complementary businesses as well as those businesses who manage accounts that may need my services and I can supplement their efforts. Create a partner program that fits your company culture, don’t be afraid to partner with larger companies that can subcontract to you OR send you business they cannot take.
3. Create products: As a business owner sometimes you can find that there is a large difference in the way people value products over services. You may encounter a few that don’t find what you do as a service measurable or always tangible although there is limitless value. So what is the solution? To capture a different audience, those who may not be ideal for ongoing services, create a product for them. Consider this! You can be the product and a chunk of your time partnered with workbooks, slideshows, audio and/or video could be a product offering that many will find value in. All you need is a shift in thinking about you as a brand.
4. Get certified with the government: In short, I am working on a project and I received an email kind of like this “…do you have any colleagues that are certified? We really want to do business with a minority/woman owned business…” This email happens everyday across the city, state, country and many of us are not filling the gap. My response was “I don’t believe I know anyone but will ask around.” While the certification process can feel uneasy it is indeed quite simple. Pick up the phone and call the supplier diversity departments, ask them everything you need to know—even the ‘dumb’ questions, and get certified. Government checks don’t bounce and if/when they do then we are all in trouble.
5. Mind your own business: Sounds self-explanatory but for so many it may not be. The hardest thing to do is to look at others and wonder why you don’t have the same perceived success. As I explain to clients we don’t know what resources (money) they are spending, how long they have been working at it, or what their objectives are. We can go chasing after someone else’s business goals but our end result may be that we 1) never accomplish our own and 2) end up in the very place we wanted to stay away from. The saying goes “the grass may be greener on the other side because they use a different type of manure!” Plant and harvest your own grassy knoll and see how amazing (and much more sane) you will be.
6. Learn multiple skills within your industry: In this fast paced world you now need to know much more than how to work in your core field. You also want to have a loose understanding and even how to implement some of the complementary skills in your industry. As a PR professional I have made it my business to know how to operate a camera, record a voice over, some video and photo editing, slight coding, search engine optimization, and copywriting with the search engine’s in mind. Be sure to find points in your business where you can add additional value and even where you can keep your clients in one place.
7. Write everything down: I made a huge mistake in my business last year and I failed to write down every single goal. Of course I wrote down many of the major ones that would take several months to occur but it’s the smaller, weekly/monthly/quarterly goals that I missed. I don’t mean your to-do list of checking emails, sending out sales material, prospect calls but I mean items that could vastly enhance your business but don’t take a whole year to complete. An example would be to record and upload an audio podcast once a month. While it is something that I may do naturally I don’t have “record 12 podcasts in 2012” written down to check it off the list. At the end of the quarter or year it is gratifying to be able to see all that you have accomplished and celebrate it. This will be helpful to review on the harder days of your business. It will confirm you are doing the right thing and to keep pushing. I now vow to write every single thought down so that I can track the progress consistently.
8. Rev up your customer service: people have many options for who they should and can do business with and the deciding factor usually lies within the customer’s experience. Know that customer service may not be that “the customer is always right” but rather what am I going to do to make them feel better about the situation, regardless of the error. While sometimes you can’t make someone happy there are a few steps to take before you throw in the towel.
9. Change your scenery: Looking at the same wallpaper, photo in your desk, and arrangement of your office can be so uninspiring day in and out so I encourage you to move around a little. That doesn’t mean that you don’t spend most of your day in your office but it might be helpful to work with a group of colleagues at a large roundtable in the conference room, meet up at the local coffee shop, or rent a desk or office for a day at the local incubator or collaborative working environment. If you are stuck on a project or just need a different pace of working then get out of your own way and move from behind your own desk/space.
10. Network in the Right Places: many times we join organizations or attend networking events that feel comfortable to us. We go to the meetings and speak to those we know the best and ignore everyone else. Well, how in the world will people know that you exist and that your business is of value to them? I went to an all female networking event and there was one man. He and I made ourselves to each other and my first statement was “you are the smartest person in the room!” He had figured out that the business he was in primarily was a female service and that he would stand out in the room. Find yourself being more strategic in the places you go, boards you sit on, organizations you join, and people you connect with. I challenge you to talk to someone you don’t know, join organizations where you are the only one offering your service, and ask for personal connections from colleagues with people that you would like to do business with.
11. Peer to Peer Mentoring: I speak to entrepreneurs, specifically women, all the time and the main concern I hear is that they have no one to truly support them. I don’t mean a networking organization that provides blanket information or the ‘get into gear’ pep talks but the one-on-one conversations (with your personal board of directors) that can leave you close to tears. I have been so fortunate to provide that to some colleagues but I am so grateful that I have a strong support system of women. Get together and help each other with your pain points and dig into the crevices of the issue. How do you know if you have the right person or group to do that with? You will probably leave your meetings overwhelmed at the work ahead of you but relieved that you have someone who supports you and shows you how to get it done. Teach each other.
12. Systems: The constant thing about life is that it keeps going regardless of your gender, race, or socioeconomic status. Because that is true it is important to have systems in place that allow for your business to run when life– sickness, death, divorce, school– happens. In 20 Tools for Entrepreneurs I mention Asana.com as a task management system that will allow you to outline every task that exists for your company to operate. There are other systems like Basecamp or Zoho.com but whichever you use be sure to create the task and train others to use the system when life kicks in.
13. Give Back: Some of you may have heard me discuss “How to reach your greatest potential” and one of the first things I share is that the most successful or perceived successful people in the world care about others and give their time, talent, and resources for the benefit of others. It’s not because they have money or fame but rather because they use their influence to impact the community. Many businesses and people who understand that being socially responsible is a part of their culture know that giving breeds getting—not of money or notoriety but getting to the core of why you were placed in the position you have been placed in.
Kia Jarmon is a Public Relations & Brand strategist with boutique public relations firm, The MEPR Agency (www.MEPRagency.com). She speaks, blogs, mentors, and is soon to be an author. You can find more information at her personal brand site, www.KiaJarmon.com