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5 Success Indicators to Knowing If You Have a Hobby or a Business

I’d like you to take a step back, look at your business as an outsider would and ask the question “Is this a hobby or a business?”

Put aside the anger that immediately boils to the surface because, after all, you are working 12 hours a day, 7 days a week; eating and non-sleeping this entity known as your business with little financial return and look at it objectively.

There will come a time (if it hasn’t come already) when you get up one morning, exhausted and overwhelmed, and ask yourself “What happened to my vision of carefree self employment where I’m my own boss, there’s plenty of money and I’m a raging success? Did I take a wrong turn on the road to success?”

Be thankful for that day. That is the day you realize you have a great opportunity: to step up and act like a business (and recognize the limitless possibilities) or keep playing with your “hobby” (and be realistic about your income potential). Up until that point, chances are you’ve been more focused on your specialty (bookkeeping, massage therapy, virtual assistance, etc.) than on running your business (think “technician” rather than “manager”).

As a “business”, you must focus on the future and look at planning and revenue. As a “hobby”, you focus more on today.

If you wish to create a business, especially a successful one, you must have certain success indicators in place (just ask the IRS):

1. You have a business and marketing plan.

If you want your business to be successful for the longer term, you need to define what “successful” and “longer term” mean to you. Your business plan must be written and adaptable to the change that will happen.

I strongly recommend that you have a separate marketing plan which outlines the activities you will do to attract more clients. Your business and marketing plans should be living, breathing documents which you use to keep on track.

2. You act like a business.

Your business has its own identity or brand. You have a “look”, possibly a tagline and cohesive marketing materials.

Your email address has your domain name in it (e.g., [email protected]) rather than you using a generic account such as [email protected].

And, most importantly, you are not mixing money between business and personal. You track your business income and expenses in a software such as QuickBooks and not in a shoebox timidly carried to your accountant each year.

3. You’re making money.

Your business needs to be holding its own and then some. OR, at the very least, well on it’s way to profitability. You can’t be drawing out of your savings or racking up credit card debt with no idea of when you will actually start making money.

Hobbies can cost a lot with no hope of financial return aside from the sheer pleasure of engaging in them. Businesses can not.

4. You have a team.

As a solopreneur, there is only so much you can do. . .and do well. To build your business to the point where you are focusing only on your core strengths (which should be the same things that bring in the revenue), you need someone to delegate to.

5. You continue to learn and improve.

As a business owner, you must continuously review what’s working and what’s not in your business and make changes accordingly.

Personally, I do two things to insure that my business (and I) continue to improve: 1/ I invest in myself by hiring good coaches — I currently belong to a very small, high end Mastermind program run by Alexandria Brown in addition to working with another coach who consistently challenges me and 2/ I created a “Flash Report” for my business — one of my virtual assistants populates the report and sends it to me each Friday. It tells me what’s working and what needs tweaking within my business (more on this coming soon).

If you dream of a business where you fulfill your passions, work less, yet make more while making a difference in the lives of your clients, these are just a few of the indicators that you want to insure are in place. The proper systems will do more for you than a thousand networking meetings. :-)

I challenge you to take a hard look at your business over the coming days and see where you can improve — make a list and choose one indicator to work on over the next 90 days.

Business Process Improvement

Do You Need Business Process Improvement?

If you are trying to decide if you need to consider business process improvement, you first need to look at the business processes that your company or business utilizes. If the processes are working effectively and your business is running well then you may wish to leave the processes alone. However, if you feel that they could be improved and operations improved as well then considering business process improvement is a very wise decision.

If you feel as if your business could use a great amount of reorganization then one of the best ways to do this is by doing a business process improvement. While the process of doing a business process re-engineering plan may seem better, it is typically much more expensive as well as can cause a huge upset in the flow of business. For this primary reason most establishes will instead opt to participate in a business process improvement plan.

Another benefit to a business process improvement is that it is much cheaper than an engineering or even re-engineering process. This means that the business process improvement can be easier to fit into the budget than the re-engineering process. While some businesses do decide that the overhaul of their processes needs to be drastic enough to warrant using the re-engineering procedure, most businesses are able to find the best results possible from merely using improvement.

Some businesses do not always understand how a business process improvement can really help them. Yet an improvement in the processes can equal out to a greatly improved profit margin for the business. Aside from this, a business process improvement plan can also equal up to a streamlined improvement in the operations from a management position as well. Many times any problems with the overall organization of a business can be resolved with a simple improvement.

This means that most of the re-engineering processes are merely a waste of time and money. There is no reason to disrupt the normal operations of most businesses just with a small tightening of processes. However, if a small tightening will not resolve the needs, then often times a complete re-engineering is necessary. If you are trying to keep your business operational and functional, the best option you have is using the business process improvement plan, rather than only the re-engineering method.

As you can see there are several reasons why business process improvement is a good idea. The time and expense spent on the process can result in a huge improvement on overall business procedures. With an effective improvement plan, you will definitely notice a huge amount of difference in your business. There should be a higher profit level, less downtime and a much-improved streamline effect for your entire business.

All Grown Up – Why Your Small Business Needs A Web Solution, Not A Website

Raise your hand if you have a website for your small business. Now keep it raised if it is generating a significant volume of prospects or sales. Not holding your hand up anymore? You are not alone.

Just a few years ago, small companies flocked to the web in droves, rushing to post their first website, anxious at the prospect of low-cost instant exposure. The web was going to be the great equalizer, putting small business on par with the big brand names, dangling the promise of visitors flocking to a company’s site to purchase its wares or partake in its services. Sound familiar? Unfortunately, for most small businesses and organizations, the promise fell short and company sales did not skyrocket from an unending march of site visitors.

So, what happened? For one, the web quickly became ultra competitive. Millions of sites sprang up in every business category making it virtually impossible to be found in the search engines. What little bit of traffic the businesses may have enjoyed when the site was first launched began to dry up. Also, as the web evolved to become a more interactive user experience, it became more technologically complex and many small business websites did not keep up. The other part of the problem was in the approach; not understanding that just putting together a website, even a pretty one, and finding some faceless company offering cheap web hosting services is not likely to make you the next great success story. A large hurdle that many small business owners and managers face is the tendency to compartmentalize the web into a few oversimplified tasks: grab a cheap domain name, find a budget small business website design and development person, look for some impossibly low-priced website hosting, and then expect their website to magically appear on page one of Google. Unfortunately, this ends up being a waste of time and money.

A Solutions-Based Approach with Professional Guidance

To create an effective web presence requires a solutions-based approach with clear ideas about what you want to accomplish and who the audience is you are targeting. The right elements have to be present; a well orchestrated website design with cohesive branding, solid technical acumen, clearly defined objectives for the organization, reliable small business web hosting services and some method of marketing your site and tracking the results. The web is constantly evolving and search engine competition is fierce. Being successful on the web requires consistently evaluating the site’s effectiveness based on your objectives, understanding the latest technologies and trends, having a dynamic website marketing plan and constantly fine tuning.

While you don’t have to spend a fortune to create real value on the web, you should also be realistic. Understand that being successful will require an investment that you should plan for and a clear vision of how your website fits into the goals and objectives of the organization. If you don’t have the experience and technical resources in-house, working with a professional web solutions provider, preferably one specializing in small business web design and development can provide great benefits. A good starting point in the process is to have an understanding of the core elements that are part of a successful website strategy and how they fit together.

The Elements of a Web Solution

1) Domain names – Choosing the right domain name is an important branding decision which impacts how your organization is perceived and also how it is found in the search engines. Purchasing from a cheap bulk registrar or choosing can spell trouble.

2) Website Design & Development Services – Find a provider that specializes in small business web design and development. An organization that offers a solutions-based approach can assist your company in doing thorough needs analysis and in designing all of the elements to work well together. First impressions count!

3) E-mail Management – E-mail is a key communication tool for your business. The right system will help you maximize communications within the company, on the road and with your customers.

4) Social Media – Social media such as blogging, Podcasting and other web 2.0 tools can greatly enhance customer communications. Your web services company should be able to help you evaluate how social media tools can best benefit your web presence and business objects.

5) Small Business Website Hosting Services – All web hosting is NOT created equal. There are many nuances and technical consideration involved with hosting solutions. It is best to stay away from budget hosting companies. Look for a managed hosting provider who can help you select the right plan for your web solution goals, get your website up and running and support you as it grows and evolves.

6) Website Maintenance – How will your site be maintained and updated? Having both small business web development and managed web site hosting as a package is immensely helpful for maximizing web server resources, identifying problems and keeping the site maintained and updated.

7) E-Commerce – Will you be actually selling on your site or using it for lead generation or information dissemination? If you are selling products, who will create and maintain your product database. How will transactions be handled? What about web server requirements? Working with a professional can help ensure you make the right choices for your e-commerce site.

8) Business Process Interaction (database development, customer relationship management, integration with your business management systems) – A website needs to be more than just an ad on the Internet to be effective as a business tool. There are many ways the web can be used to improve your business processes and integrate with your existing systems such as accounting or contact management.

9) Website Marketing – How will people find you on the web? Will you optimize your site for organic search or employ paid marketing techniques or a combination? What directories should you list your site in? Search engine marketing has evolved to be a complex specialty. It’s critical that you understand the tools available for driving traffic to your site and if needed, know how to evaluate and engage a web marketing specialist.

10) Website Analytics and Conversion – Having a great site isn’t enough if your visitors aren’t doing what you intended; buying something, contacting your company or using your site for an information source. Does your site have usability issues? What kind of reporting will you use to track site visitors? What do you need to know and do to convert your visitors into action-takers?

It’s a Process and a Work in Progress

While there is certainly a lot to think about, creating the best possible website solution for your business doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Your website can and should be a work in progress, evolving as your business grows. Because most small businesses do not have an internal IT staff to handle the technical elements of web development and planning, working with a web solutions provider that specializes in small business website hosting services and small business web design and development is a good start. Such an organization can help you identify your goals, manage the technical aspects of your site and guide you in your marketing efforts. They can also help you work within your budget to develop a plan that combines all the elements into a cohesive whole for creating and maintaining a successful web presence.

Conclusion

The web has grown up to be a terrific marketing medium for small businesses and organizations. Done right, it can be the most cost effective and powerful marketing and communication tool in your arsenal. The promise is still there. However, to truly leverage the power of the web, it is important to take a good, hard look at the website you currently have or the one you are thinking about creating. The elements of a successful web presence: small business web hosting, website design and development and web marketing are only the framework for a well thought-out web solution designed to reach your customers and truly benefit your business.