Do your clients make unreasonable demands?

TAB-Demand (1)As a business owner, it’s always very difficult to turn away business, especially in challenging economic times. However, the reality is that not every client is a good client. In fact, some clients make unreasonable demands. You know the kind of client I mean; we’ve all had to deal with them.

In my experience providing advice to business owners, I’ve heard hundreds of stories of unreasonable clients, yet many owners are unclear as to how to improve their relationship with these clients.

I’ve outlined below some of the classic unreasonable client requests and some steps you may want to consider trying to better the relationship.

1. They expect you to be available 24/7.

Unless this is the type of service you offer, you should clearly define your boundaries. Let your client know what your working hours and days are.

2. No matter what you charge, it’s always too expensive for them.

An unprofitable client takes time away from your profitable clients. Set your pricing and be prepared to negotiate but only within preset parameters. Be prepared to say no and walk away if necessary.

3. They consistently pay slowly which has a negative impact on your cash flow.

If you’re spending a lot of time and energy chasing a client for money, this may be a client worth letting go – unless you can afford to wait for your money. This type of client will not change their paying habits until you enforce your payment terms. You may have to hold back on your deliverables to make your point.

4. They keep changing their mind about what they want.

If you have a client that keeps changing their mind about what they want after you’ve done the work, start charging them for the changes.

5. They don’t respond to your calls/emails/texts in a timely fashion.

Ask if there is another person who perhaps has more time to be responsive. Let them know that the lack of response may delay timelines and keep a paper trail in case it does.

6. They rarely turn up at meetings or cancel at the last minute.

Your time is valuable. If your client is consistently not turning up at meetings or cancelling at the last minute, start billing them for your time.

I recommend that you try to convert an unreasonable client into a good client, but that’s not always possible. When all of your best efforts fail, it may be time to fire the client.

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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?


Top 5 Myths for Business Owners Wanting to Mentor Employees

Business_MentoringMany business owners feel that mentoring their employees is part of their job, particularly when hiring millennial junior staff, but I caution you against doing this as it can have detrimental effects on your business. When you are in a position of power, and responsible for hiring, evaluating, disciplining, and firing, if you blur the lines of this employee-boss relationship into a mentoring relationship, you give up this power and therefore must live with the consequences if something was to go wrong.

When you need an employee to perform for you, how can you possibly mentor them? A mentor, as I outlined in my last blog, “is a trusted “go-to” person with decades of expertise and a deep interest in helping you succeed. They take a personal, active, and thorough interest in your growth and work in partnership with you to provide the support you need.”

Although many owners provide guidance and business expertise, it is to help their staff learn their job and to familiarize them with the industry. It is, in fact, to help them grow in their role and with your company.

I discuss employee mentoring all the time with business owners because it can have serious consequences to your business. I have outlined a few myths about mentoring employees that I hope will provide you with some insights to help you better understand the issue.

Myth #1: As a business owner, mentoring your employees helps them perform better, improves morale, and can help your business succeed. The opposite is true because an employee you mentor begins to see you more as a mentor (there to help them) rather than a boss who is there to teach them, ensure they perform well, and also discipline them if something goes awry.

Myth #2: Being a supportive boss is a type of mentoring. Being a supportive boss is a fantastic managerial style, however, do not mistake this style with mentorship. There always needs to be a clear line between an employee and an owner. If the relationship becomes too casual, you could run the risk of favouritism, or providing biased critiques, and this could lead to performance issues and profit loss.

Myth #3: My staff needs a mentor to show them the ropes. A mentor does not show employees how to do their job; rather, they encourage them to reach their career goals. If you need your staff to learn the ropes, then what they need is a good manager, or senior staff to job shadow.

Myth #4: I know what my employee needs to succeed. As an expert in your field, you may have some insights as to what your employee needs to succeed, but your role is to help them succeed in the job for which you have hired them. If, for example, their career goal is to work overseas, are you willing to help them meet this goal as a business owner when it runs counter to their employment with you?

Myth #5: The best bosses are mentors that help an employee grow. Being a good boss with a supportive management style will help your employee grow. As a business owner, you can help your employee grow by reaching their goals of the job, and challenging their boundaries to success; a mentor helps employees grow their careers, reach external goals (e.g. moving overseas), and support them regardless of performance in their current role.

As a business owner, if you want to mentor someone, then I would suggest looking at external opportunities. If you want mentoring to take place within your organization, then I’d suggest you could hire an external business mentor or ask your senior staff if they are interested in mentoring some of your junior employees. If you hire an external business mentor, they could also mentor your senior staff.

There is no doubt that mentoring offers huge rewards to everyone involved, but as a business owner you need to be clear when and where you should be mentoring because you could be setting yourself up for blurred lines that impact communication, discipline and ultimately loss of respect.

As a business owner, have you mentored your employees? How did this help or hinder your business? I look forward to a lively discussion!


Business Networking 101 – Networking Tips

networkingI’ve found connecting with others, personally or professionally, enriches your life. Traditional networking tips and guides have made networking seem like a dry transaction, but I believe networking is far more. Networking is most effective when you meet and get to know people before you ask for help, or offer your products or services. Remember that networking is about being genuine and authentic – your aim is to build trust, relationships and figure out how you can help others. Here are a few networking tips that I have found helpful and hope you will too:

TIP 1: Make Networking a Regular Part of Your Life 

I understand your time is valuable and it’s easy to say you don’t have the time to network, but you should make the time for it! Schedule time each week (a meeting, lunch, coffee…etc.) where you can connect with colleagues and key stakeholders. Identify a couple of organizations that will be good resources for your professional development and join them. Finding organizations that align with your values will make networking feel natural, thus, it will become a regular part of your life.

TIP 2: Connect With Professionals who are Different from You 

Your network is a source of knowledge, opportunity, prospective business partnerships, future hires, and more. You never know whom you may meet, or whom they know. A diverse network is a strong network!

TIP 3: Keep In Touch with Alumni

As important as it is to make new connections, you still need to nurture existing ones. People like former bosses, colleagues, and school alumni already know what value you bring to the table. Keeping in touch with old connections can be a great source of support, connect you to other people, and they can recommend new opportunities to you.

TIP 4: Reach Out 

There’s the obvious LinkedIn connection and the obligatory “thanks for connecting” message, but when you hear or read about someone that impresses you, why not reach out over e-mail? Sending a quick and thoughtful e-mail (keep it to a paragraph or two to avoid information overload) can be a quick and easy way to make a new connection.

TIP 5: Join a Board 

Joining peer boards, like TAB, is a great way to meet professionals outside of your industry. You’ll already have common interests since you both chose to be there, so connecting and finding common ground will be that much easier. Bonus tip: Step outside your bubble and look for boards outside of your industry (see Tip 2 for why!).

TIP 6: Help Others First

When you make a new connection try to focus on how you can help them first, and be prepared to give without receiving. Did they mention their brother or girlfriend is looking for a job and you happen to know of one he/she may be interested in? If so, follow up and ask for a resume to pass along to the right people. Even if you don’t get their brother or girlfriend the job, you’re helping your new connection by trying to fulfill a need they or someone close to them has. Most people will naturally reciprocate, and if you continue to help others you’ll be known for your pay it forward attitude. People will come to you for help, and offer theirs without you having to ask.

TIP 7: Tell Your Story and Speak with Confidence

Start by sharing your personal story. Rather than asking for something or talking about what you want from others, share how you got to this point in your life and why you’re talking to this person. Your story will show off your values and beliefs, and will help spark that connection needed to build a professional relationship. Oh, and don’t forget to smile!

TIP 8: Be Prepared So You Can Relax

When you attend events or meetings do your research so you can ask thoughtful and informed questions that people will remember you by. When you go prepared you’re able to relax so you can have fun! People will naturally be drawn to this energy.

Doing your research also means you might learn about some key people you want to meet.

TIP 9: Remember the Small Stuff

You don’t have to add all your contacts’ birthdays or anniversaries into your calendar, however making sure to send your well wishes will go a long way. Small gestures get noticed.

February Networking Challenge

I challenge each of you to get networking, and meet at least one new person this month. Develop a professional connection with them, or, deepen an existing professional relationship. Use the above tips to help you, and remember to have fun!

Do you find the above tips helpful? Share your thoughts and questions with me in the comment section.


The Art of Networking

Networking Blog ImageSuccessful business owners will tell you networking is a key component to being prosperous and having influence. The art of crafting powerful and mutually beneficial relationships can do wonders for your career and your business. Like any other form of art, time and practice can help you master your skills. I’d like to share with you some things to keep in mind while you’re working to grow your network:

Invest In Your Relationships

Building social capital (a network of personal and professional relationships – nothing to do with money!) is one of the key assets in your portfolio. Your network will help you connect with influencers and build your personal professional brand. Network strategically and you will find your professional world rich with opportunity.

Network Proactively

Being proactive and staying connected is imperative. Having a network you can tap into is highly valuable, and provides an advantage by supporting you with a collection of smart and powerful people. Being active on LinkedIn and attending business events, such as the TAB 2015 Kick-Off event held by TAB Ontario earlier this month, are easy ways to meet new people.

Be Strategic

Do more than exchange business cards! Rather than focusing on meeting everyone in the room, be intentioned and find one (or a few people) to create solid relationships with. These people will help support your business goals, while you help support them with theirs.

Identify whom you already know and whom you need to know, to help you build a powerful network and reach your business goals.

Create Diversity in Your Network

May I suggest stepping out of your comfort zone? Moving away from your comfort zone will help you separate those who can help you build your business from the people you just like to be around.

Leverage Relationships and Pay It Forward

Focus on the business relationships that really matter – mutually beneficial partnerships.

The right people have power and influence. Identify and develop a relationship with the right people, then build trust in your relationship. Paying it forward comes into play when you are willing to ask others for assistance, and provide some help when others need it.

To Be Successful, Surround Yourself With Success

As Jim Rohn once said, “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Think about it – you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. That means others assist in determining how you think, act, and ultimately, how successful you could be.

Look around and ask yourself, “Who do I spend the most time with?” Picture your friends, family, coworkers, mentors…etc. Have they reached the goals they’ve intended to?

Find others with focus and determination, and feed off their enthusiasm and passion.

What has your biggest networking challenge been? Share your experiences with me in the comment section, and stay tuned for the next blog where I will share networking tactics to help your network grow.  

 

Image Link:

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“Mentorship is not for me” and other mentorship myths

mentorshipBusiness mentorship can be a source of support, enlightenment and perspective for all parties associated in the relationship. Mentees will often commend their mentor for helping to both ground them and challenge them to take the calculated risks that will push their business to the next level. As a TAB Facilitator, I meet business-owners who have not yet incorporated mentorship into their business strategy and who hesitate to enlist the support of a business coach, which has led me to explore some misconceptions about business mentorship to share with you.

Mentorship is for junior people: Many people assume that mentorship is solely reserved for those just beginning their careers, where a seasoned person mentors a young, fresh individual. These days, people can change jobs and even career paths multiple times, meaning that mentorship can occur in every phase of your career or business ownership.

Your mentor needs to be within your industry: While it can be helpful to receive advice from someone who understands the intricacies of your industry, the benefits of a completely different perspective cannot be overstated. With a set of fresh eyes on your business, you can stand to gain insight into strategies you would have never considered for yourself.

As an expert in your field, you don’t require a mentor: Business owners undoubtedly have long and successful careers behind them, but as the business world changes and evolves, you may find you need to keep educating yourself on trends and best practices to keep your business on the cutting edge.

Mentorship is a formal, long-term relationship: Mentorship need not be a rigid, inflexible process! You can have many mentors, drawing on strengths you admire in each of them and learning from their diverse backgrounds. As well, you may decide to have an ongoing mentorship relationship or choose to have a short session over coffee. Mentorship can come in whatever format works well for you as long as you understand what you are looking to gain from the experience.

Mentorship is a one-way transaction: As a mentee, don’t discredit what you can offer your mentor. Mentors may be at another point in their career, but you can offer perspective, feedback and support to your mentor based on your skill set and experience. This can keep a mentorship relationship fresh and evolving so that both parties gain something valuable.

Are there any other reasons for being hesitant to engage with a mentor? If you have a mentor, what have you gained from the experience? I look forward to your comments below.