LinkedIn: A Powerful Business Tool at Your Fingertips

linkedin tipsLinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network, with over 300 million registered users in over 200 countries and territories, so it should come as no surprise that LinkedIn is one of the most powerful business development tools available today. Business owners and key sale leaders can leverage the power of LinkedIn for forging strong connections and finding new business.

LinkedIn has become the new “Rolodex”, the go-to place for finding colleagues, current clients, potential clients and vendors. With a professional profile, image and regular participation in groups, your network will increase, which in turn increases your reach and exposure and potential business opportunities. Many business owners would agree that LinkedIn has great potential, but are either concerned about the time commitment or are unsure how to go about getting started.

Here are a few simple steps to get you started in engaging in business development activities on LinkedIn:

  • Step 1 – Look Professional: Just like a face-to-face introduction, your profile page is your first chance to make a good impression. Users with complete profiles are 40 times more likely to receive opportunities through LinkedIn. This means:
    • Invest some time in writing a professional summary
    • Add your skills
    • Have a professional picture taken (do not take a selfie)
    • Add volunteer experience and any awards you have won

They have recently added a recommendation feature on LinkedIn, which is like having an endorsement for your services. Try to have at least 4 recommendations on your profile page.

  • Step 2 – Make Connections: Having a long list of connections is essential for increasing exposure and the likelihood of others finding you, but make sure they are the “right” type of connections.
    • Decide if there is an industry you want to target or a type of job title e.g. accountant – simply search for exactly what you are looking for
    • Once you have a few potential connections, find out more about them by visiting their profiles, seeing if you have connections in common, where they are located, etc.
    • Send them a connection request by introducing who you are and the reason for contacting them
    • If they accept your invitation, be active and take the initiative by arranging a phone call or a face-to-face meeting
  • Step 3 – Join Groups: Think of these as a local Chamber of Commerce. There are groups for every industry, and they function as a place to ask questions, perform research, make new connections, and get noticed.
    • Search groups that you think your target audience will visit
    • Join ONLY as many groups as you can manage. Groups tend to send notifications, which is good if you plan to keep up with them, but annoying if you don’t
    • Participate in the groups on a regular basis if you can. Your audience needs to hear from you and see you being active and offering expert advice
    • Comment on other people’s posts, “like” them, and most importantly see who the regular contributors are and see if there is opportunity to work together or connect in some way
    • To connect with them, follow Step 2

In addition to using LinkedIn as a business development and marketing tool, the platform can also be used for recruitment. Whether it’s sharing a job posting on your company profile, or paying for a job posting or sponsored job ad, LI allows you to see in a click of a button a more complete look at your candidates.

As you can see, LinkedIn has a lot to offer but the biggest step is making the decision to give it the time it deserves to foster and manage potential leads. From personal experience, investing time in LI as a business development tool will yield results that far outweigh that time investment.

Do you use LI for business development now? How much time do you dedicate to it and are there other features of LI that you have found helpful for business development?

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Strategic Planning Sessions – a Manager’s Perspective

strategic planning imageMid-sized business owners are tasked with the responsibility of ensuring that their vision, mission and goals are understood and executed throughout the company.  However, what often happens is that some employees, while clear about what these are, do not know how their specific job helps to support them. Unfortunately, there is a possibility that most will remain unaware of the existence of the vision, mission and goals.

Therein lies the problem many mid-sized companies face, which is communication and support for the overall business strategy. The key to conveying these fundamentals is insuring your key management understands these so they are equipped to relay this message to their staff.

In my role as a business advisor, I am often called on to facilitate strategic planning sessions with senior management teams.  I’d like to share with you an interview with one of the marketing managers who participated in a recent strategic planning session.

Q: Before the session, were you clear about what your role was within the organization?

A: No. It made my daily duties innocuous and frustrating because I did not have a clear understanding of what I was supposed to be doing. Being part of a smaller business often requires employees to wear many different hats and sometimes that can blur the lines of responsibility and accountability.

Q: How were you feeling about the company and your role before the meeting?

A: I felt my skills were not being best used in helping to move the company forward. There was no clear goal in sight or a clear idea of who we are. I became increasingly frustrated and unsure about what I should be spending my energy on.

Q: What were you hoping to get out of this meeting?

A: I was hoping to gain a clear sense of the identity of the company, roles of people in company, and vision of where the company will be next year, two years and beyond.

Q: How do you feel this session has helped you in your role?

A: Projects and initiatives are more defined in terms of relating back to the company’s identity. There is now an accountability structure in place so projects don’t fall by the wayside.

Q: Was the session valuable?

A: 150% yes!  Every business needs to understand who it is, where it has been, where it is now, and where it is going. Without this direction, you are floating on the ocean without a compass.  For me, it has brought clarity, defined goals and a structure to help measure success and shortcomings.  It has created cohesiveness and has tied everything together to reach a common goal.

Strategic planning sessions get the whole organization pointed in the same direction and can catapult your results to even higher levels of success!

Do you feel your organization could benefit from a strategic planning session? If so, in what way do you think you could benefit from this? I look forward to hearing from you in the comments below.


Are You Communicating Effectively?

communicateEffective communication skills are the foundation of success not only socially and personally, but in business as well. Communication is essential to the success of any business, but it is often overlooked. In my many years dealing with business owners, I have seen time and time again the effects poor communication between team members can have on a business.

As a business owner, it is important to understand that communication can only be successful if the recipient of the message comprehends what they are being told. The communication process is a two-way street – how the message is delivered is just as imperative as how we listen.

You cannot expect your team to take anything away from your meetings, briefs, or presentations if you do not engage them and take the time to craft your message to help them understand it. Your expectations and desired outcomes must be made clear in order for your team to deliver.

Follow the three easy steps below to improve the communication in your business:

1.    Listen

  • Learn to listen to your team, both verbally and non-verbally. Observing how something is said can be just as valuable as listening to what exactly is said.

2.    Encourage

  • Be supportive of your team and encourage others to be involved in discussions and meetings. Open and honest dialogue will provide you with great insight into your business.

3.    Be Consistent

  • Deliver your message consistently each time, using precise and exact language, clear ideas, and an assertive manner. Regardless of whether the message is positive or negative, your language and manner should not change.

Your team, and business will benefit exponentially from improved communication in the workplace. How do you effectively communicate with your team? I would love to hear your feedback in the comments below!


3 Steps To Making Better Decisions

The-power-of-good-decision-makingAs business owners, your number one responsibility is to make decisions and lead the team.  That said, in all my years as a business advisor, it is surprising that the one area that I see many business owners struggle with is decision-making.

As the leader of a company, people are relying on you to make prompt, clear-cut decisions – whether you delay or run away from the decision-making all together will directly impact the success of your business and team.  Having a good process in place for making decisions is the best way to ensure you are making the right decision, and keeping all matters consistent.

I’ve outlined below a simple three-step process that will help you make better decisions

Step 1: Clearly Identify the Issue

The first step in solving any problem for good is making sure that you’re addressing the cause, and not the symptom. Too often I see business owners or leaders get stuck looking at the symptoms and mulling them over and over, yet never addressing the root cause of the issue that needs to be addressed. When you identify the issue, it sets the groundwork for making a decision.

Step 2:  Solicit Input

Depending on what the issue is, invite staff or senior management to share their input and partake in a group discussion with you.  Hold a meeting in which you clearly state that you value their opinions and want to have a frank and honest discussion. Listen to their opinions.  This should be a one-time meeting on the topic and once you have heard from all the parties, you can tell them when you’ll be making a final decision on this issue and thank them for their participation.  The point of the meeting is NOT to have the team make a decision for you, but rather to weigh in on the topic so you can make a more educated decision.

Step 3: Make a Decision

The final step in the process is the most basic, but sometimes the hardest. Make a decision and move on. You are the boss and making decisions is your top job responsibility. So after you’ve heard from your key people, it’s time to decide what you’re going to do, assign responsibilities for getting it done, and move on. Remember there is no perfect decision!

A successful company needs a leader with clarity; one who can make decisions and communicate the rationale behind them.  Wouldn’t you want to follow a good leader?

 

Do you find it hard to make decisions?  How has good or bad decision-making affected your business?  Please share your experiences in the comments below.


Is Joining Your Parent’s Business Right For You?

family-business-conflict-resolutionWhether you have parents with a business, or know of family businesses, you may read the title of this blog and instinctively answer, “yes” in your head. Working alongside your father or mother sounds great! Employment at your fingertips, stability, and less pressure sounds ideal, but is it?

My experience with a number of family businesses has lead me to believe that it takes a very special parent-child relationship to achieve success. If you’re thinking of joining your parent’s business, there are some important questions to ask yourself before making a decision.

1.    Do you have the right skill-set/education?

It is important to add value to the business, not just for obvious reasons, but also to feel like you truly have earned and deserve your spot. If your skill-set does not align with the business, the experience may be challenging – either because you’re not engaged (due to a lack of interest) or because you can’t grasp the work.

2.    What relationship do you have with your parents?

Critically analyze the relationship you have with your parents. Will the level of respect that is necessary in a professional setting be met? If your relationship is tumultuous outside of work, chances are that will translate into the workplace.

3.    What type of work environment are you looking for?

If you’re looking for camaraderie amongst coworkers and equal treatment, working in the family business may not be for you. As the child of the owner, the company employees automatically see you differently, and work can even become a lonely place.

4.    What are your long-term goals?

Do you plan on staying with your family business forever? If so, do your parents plan on having you there forever? Your goals must be aligned with those of your family. If you plan on taking over the business, how long are you willing to wait? Your parent may not be ready to relinquish the business to you as soon as you think.

5.    Will you have the autonomy you want?

Are you trusted enough to make decisions and have your voice heard in a family business? It is often easier for parents to undermine the opinions and ideas of a child rather than someone they have a professional relationship with. If you’re looking to have creative ownership and freedom, you must decide whether it exists for you in your family business.
Ultimately, it can be difficult to successfully integrate yourself into the family business. Whether you’re starting from the bottom and working your way up through the organization, or moving right into the corner office, you must understand the risks that come with mixing your professional and family lives.

Have you ever worked for a parent, or experienced second-hand a parent-child relationship in a business? Please share with me any experiences or input you have on this topic in the comments below.