The Business Women's Group
  1. “Small Stuff” With BIG Impact

    April 1, 2014
    Myrna Marofsky
    This article first appeared in the April 2013 edition of HERLife magazine.

    Remember the old adage, “Don’t sweat the small stuff?”  In the scheme of things that seems to makes good sense to business owners who are encumbered by “big stuff” all the time. Bills, employees, customers, family issues consume most of our time and energy.  Here’s a switch, take a new look at the “small stuff”–actions that can make a huge difference in three critical areas of Finance, Operations, and Relationships.  And that’s just the beginning.  I’m not talking about time wasters or procrastinators. We all know about these and practice them often.  It’s the small pivotal behaviors that, if intentionally practiced, can change your company for the better.  The best part is that they generally take under 15 minutes to accomplish.  When done repeatedly, these behaviors become imbedded in your operations and your culture.  It’s becomes the way you do things.

    Consider this question: “What quick action or small behavior change could positively impact your company right now? Then do it!

    This is a teaser to get you thinking.  If you have additions, send them to us at info@thebwc.org.  Note that each item begins with an action…a behavior that if done regularly becomes a habit.

    Finance

    Benefits: You and your accountant will be very happy at tax time. You will avoid risks of errors or overpayment.

    • Buy 12 file folders and label them for each month.  Then use them for all receipts, deposit slips, bills paid, etc. Include bank statements for easy reconciliation and record keeping.  The IRS has three years to audit you or for you to claim an error.  So keep these available.
    • Ask for receipts for everything and file them in appropriate files.
    • Keep receipts for large purchases in a safe place….just in case.
    • Jot down who you were with and the purpose of your lunch and dinner dates on receipts for events you pay for.
    • Review monthly credit card statements immediately to make sure there are no errors. You may only have 30 days to claim a mistake. Circle tax related items as you review.
    • Ask suppliers for a discount on early payments.
    • Deposit all cash and check payments in a timely manner to avoid losing track of them.
    • Copy all checks before they are deposited and file copies by month.  Include copies of your bank deposit tickets. They come in handy when there is an error.
    • Review past due invoices and call on any overdue balances.   Email doesn’t work as well.
    • Use online banking tools.
    • Only use technology that makes you more efficient. Then learn how to use it  or hire an expert. Keep a paper backup of essential documents, in case of a major computer glitch.

     

    Operations

    Benefits: You will save time and resources.

    • Cancel all subscriptions to catalogues, online newsletters, and periodicals that never get read anyway.
    • Save your work on the computer every 10 minutes.  (doing that now).Back up your computer to an external drive or the cloud at least once a week at a set day and time.
    • Use Google maps when heading to a place you’ve never been before.  Figure out where you are going to park. This may take a phone call in advance.
    • Walk around and then sit for five minutes to access the efficiency of space use, outlets, lighting, ventilation, etc. to determine changes that will make you more efficient.
    • Keep a database or simple notebook with notes on procedures or little tips for working through situations. (Think about the notes on a recipe card after you’ve made it once. ) Enter them in a detailed document at a later time.
      • Secure paper documents in locked cabinets and electronic records in password protected files.
      • Give yourself one hour at work before you check email.
      • Force yourself to deal with the email when it arrives — open it, delete it or delegate it.
      • Set up a couple 20 minute breaks to check email and/or work online.
      • Keep your passwords in one secure and easily accessible place, either on your computer or in a file.  Also, keep the answers to those irritating security questions someplace too.
      • Download apps that help you be more productive.  Beware some apps are more trouble than a pen and paper.

     

    Relationships

    Benefits: You will build loyalty and customer satisfaction.

    • Pick up the phone.  A five minute conversation can eliminate 20 emails.
    • Don’t answer the phone. Check caller ID to avoid calls that will engage you in a non-productive conversation.
    • Review the potential attendees before signing up for network events.  Then, if you choose to go, set a goal to have one quality conversation, not gathering a pocket full of business card.
    • Make an outbound follow-up call of gratitude or appreciation, to a customer, potential customer, or someone who has made your life easier.
    • Say “I’m sorry.”
    • Say “Thank you.”
    • Show up when employees or customers least expect you or when it’s the right thing to do.  (Attend a funeral of a member of an employee’s family and you will quickly learn how important this is.)
    • Check your Talk/Listen ratio.  Ask questions and then listen…really listen.
    • Speak in terms of “it” and “we” versus “us” and “them.”
    • Follow-up a transaction or encounter with a client to see how they are doing.  A call is nice (think about your dentist calling after a visit), but an email note will do.
    • Confirm appointments in advance to make sure all is set, including verifying the time and place.
    • Extend your Out of Office notice for one day longer than you are out for vacation keeping it as a catch-up day.  Then remove it.

  2. Move From Survival to Growth

    March 1, 2014
    Myrna Marofsky
    This article originally appeared in the March 2013 edition of HERLife magazine.
     

    Women owned businesses represent nearly 50% of privately held companies in the U.S., however, three quarters of these businesses are not able to grow their businesses past $50,000 in annual gross revenue. (Forbes, May 2012)

    Why do some businesses grow, while others languish or fade away? I don’t know the answer for every situation, but in my work with women business owners I have observed some patterns that are instructive. It’s these patterns that The Business Women’s Circle members try to break while coaching their peers through their blind spots.

    We know that sustaining a business is hardest in the early phases. This is when owners are working 100% “in” the business, leaving little time for thinking about growth. It’s survival. There is ample research demonstrating that growth begins when a business owner hires that first person, thus relieving the owner to do what they do best. For me it was hiring someone to do my bookkeeping. Ahh what a relief!

    Growth requires steady and steadfast attention to today and tomorrow. That means, time spent planning, producing, innovating, and building. It also means getting out of your place of business, turning away from the computer, and meeting other entrepreneurs from diverse businesses who will broaden your perspective, allowing you to visualize opportunities.

    ————————————————————

    Five Factors That Inhibit Growth and How to Reverse Them

    1
    Women tend to start their business from an idea or passion. The “business” of running a business isn’t what’s fun and exciting to them. Their time and energy spent on “tasks” we call Urgent/Not Important…but easy or fun to do. Having a simple business plan establishes a disciplined approach, so time can be spent on the Important/Not Urgent growth activities.

    2
    As sales increase, so does the workload. Overwhelmed owners try to solve their problems with short-term solutions. They ask family or friends to “help out”, rather than find a contractor or employee with the skills needed to do the job. A bigger mistake happens when lonely owners give away a stake in their business to bring in a partner. This short sightedness leads to unanticipated problems that keep the business from moving to the next growth phase.

    3
    Sadly, many business owners stumble as they try to describe their business, let alone their Brand Promise. These are lost opportunities. Having a Brand Promise that clearly articulates what a business is and what it is not, is what drives people to you, and not your competition.

    4
    Getting the pricing right and then asking for it is a major stumbling block for women. Once the price is established based on a real cost analysis, including profit, then it must be asked for with confidence – no apologies. Too often women wiggle on price. They are quick to discount, negotiate, and give things away, then wonder why they don’t generate revenue.

    5
    Surprisingly fear of failure shows up in research on women owned businesses. I prefer to say “fear of success” caused by lack of confidence. Some owners are working so hard in their business they can’t visualize success. They don’t see themselves as a CEO, so they don’t act like one. I say, brag about your business. Let others know how proud you are. Your business is an opportunity to be amazing!


  3. February’s Featured Member: Lorri Weisen

    February 10, 2014
    Lorri Weisen

    Lorri Weisen

    Business Name:
    BeWISE Organics, LLC (formerly Greenbody Greenplanet Company)

    What is your Core Focus? What do you do?
    AHNESTI Professional Haircare:  My company creates and manufactures haircare and styling products designed by salon professionals and formulated with pure flower and plant extracts and 100% natural essential oils. All products are color protecting, sulfate-free, paraben-free, organically based, non GMO, non-toxic and safe for us and the environment.

     

    Her Company Focus:
    My company was created with a single focus in mind: The health and well-being of our hair, scalp, body and the planet—while never sacrificing personal style and beauty. I wanted to create high-performance haircare products for salons, stylists and consumers without the use of toxins and chemicals which are found so often in salon professional brands. Many think natural or organic haircare cannot perform as well as the big salon professional brands and I am out to prove that is simply not the case.

    What is a milestone that you have reached in your business that you are proud of?
    About a year ago I was focusing on expanding the line, when I discovered the trademark to Greenbody Greenplanet had never been secured. I chose to look at this as a great opportunity as I had originally started Greenbody Greenplanet as a ‘side’ company to my salon business, Hairs to You. This re-focus gave me the chance to really think about what I wanted for myself and for the future of my company and helped me to forge a well-thought-out, solid business plan.Looking back at what I have accomplished in the past 10 months, I can honestly say I am very proud. Here are a few highlights:
    • BeWISE Organics, LLC was formed this summer along with her flagship brand AHNESTI Professional Haircare
    • I hired Jay Miller from Imagehaus as my rebranding, packaging and design expert
    • I sought out a USDA Certified Organic manufacturing plant and collaborated with like-minded chemists to produce 4 new styling items that fall under my strict ingredient criteria of toxin-free, non GMO, natural, organic and biodegradable
    • I moved my office to East Hennepin Ave, and hired my first employee this past November
    • Strategically planned and implemented the phasing out of Greenbody Greenplanet and the phasing in of AHNESTI

    Where are you taking your business? What is your 5-Year Target?
    I want AHNESTI to be a household name and to be on the shelves of salons, spas and natural stores throughout the country. The company will monitor it’s growth closely and continue to grow organically for the first 1-2 years. Expansion is on the horizon but only after a strong, solid foundation has been achieved.

    What are you doing to reach your goal?
    Along with eCommerce, the AHNESTI website will provide education and resources for consumers and stylists wanting to live healthier, more toxin-free lives. We believe knowledge isn’t powerful unless it is applied and so we plan to create community outreach programs within the next 2 years. We will also be a self-distributed company. The first sales rep will be hired this spring to focus on B2B sales, i.e. salons, spas, and natural stores and more will be hired as growth continues. Monthly company assessments will insure we are always keeping the horse before the cart.

    How do you define success?
    Being an entrepreneur is at the core of who I am and I feel my business success is only mirrored by my personal success. If at the end of each day I have given love and respect to others, appreciated others instead of judging them for being different, spoken kindly about others and myself, chosen to see the beauty that surrounds me, woke up with excitement for the day and went to bed in anticipation for tomorrow —then everyday I have been successful.

    What advice do you have for our readers?
    Carve out your own path and follow it. If you are not living your own dream, you are just a part of someone else’s and may end up somewhere you don’t want to be. Ive had a quote hanging in my office for 15 years that I read out loud everyday: “Choose Your Destiny or Someone Else Will.”

    Why are you a member of The BWC? How does it help you?
    I felt the knowledge and expert advice I could receive and share with the other BWC members would help me bring my business to the next level. I love that there is structure and accountability to the meetings, without any judgement. I’ve learned how to set achievable goals and track and gauge my progress in a way that is easy and successful. As my company is growing, the tools and resources I am receiving from being a BWC member is invaluable!

    Anything else we should know?
    A salon owner for 14 years and owner of Fair Do’s at the Minnesota State Fair for 12 years, I have recently closed both business to focus on bringing AHNESTI to fruition. Go to www.AHNESTI.com for more information on the product launch!

  4. Strategy, Focus, Momentum, Discipline, Celebration

    February 3, 2014
    Myrna Marofsky
    This article first appeared in the February 2013 edition of HERLife magazine.
     

    These are the words that the successful women business owners I work with repeat as their themes each month. Five words that have become their guideposts to growing strong and sustainable businesses.

    Notice that the word action is missing. There is lots of action going on. The question is where is it getting you? What are you “so busy” doing? The trick is to spend more time working “ON” your business, so your time working “IN” is directed toward the outcomes you desire. That’s where the five words I opened with come into play. (See more below).

    Our curriculum centers around Strategy, Focus, Momentum, Discipline, Celebration. If these guideposts challenge you, you are not alone. That’s why The BWC exists. To offer you a circle of like-minded smart women who will keep you focused and hold you accountable. You will not be alone.

    ——————————————————-

    Five Guideposts To Working “ON” Your Business:

    STRATEGY. Design a roadmap for the next 12 months using three to five goals that reflect your company’s core values and the guarantee you make to your customers. The goals need to be realistic, written, reviewed, verbalized often, a stretch, yet achievable and measurable in small steps and big results.

    FOCUS. Keep your eye on your strategy. Use it as your compass and the litmus test for decisions and actions. The demise of many women owned businesses is the plethora of shiny ideas that distract them from their strategy.

    MOMENTUM. It’s hard to stop a woman business owner driven to “make it work.” Don’t look back. Don’t dwell on mistakes. Keep driving forward. Your plan will get you there.

    DISCIPLINE. Like a marathon runner training for a race, it’s the planned, repetitive, measured, activities that build your strength and endurance. The more you become disciplined, the better your end results.

    CELEBRATE. Who tells you they are “proud” of you these days? (My mother never understood what I did, so I never got it from her.) How great would it feel to hear “You rock!” from a woman who gets what a big deal your accomplishments really are?


  5. More on Big Data

    March 21, 2012

    Lani Basa

    John Jantsch recently posted an article titled “5 Ways for Small Business to Jump on the Big Data Train” on his website – Duct Tape Marketing. His article continues the trend we discussed about “Big Data” at our February Open Circle.  And, as John does – he offers great ways on how Small Business can take advantage of it now!

    5 Ways for Small Business to Jump on the Big Data Train

    By John Jantsch

    The idea of something that’s being called “Big Data” has definitely reached the trend tipping point. Tech firms like are all about it. PR firms are forming teams to promote it and consulting firms have their business technology teams all over it.

    Read the Rest at Duct Tape Marketing

     


  6. BWC Connection to Pinterest?

    March 19, 2012

    Lani Basa

    Well, maybe in a very roundabout way! Our own Sasha Westin of Fabuliss and member of Circle 3 was featured in a Fox9 News story that looked at the popularity of Pinterest – what it is, who is using it, how it is being used, etc.

    Click below to watch the story!

    What’s The Big Deal With Pinterest?: MyFoxTWINCITIES.com


  7. High Tech = High Touch

    Lani Basa

    This phrase has been around for a while. I’ve heard it used in context with new technology or IT firms selling software to “non-techies”.

    There is no doubt we are a high tech world. As mentioned earlier – screens will become a way of life. Customers will find the info the need to justify their purchase or how they feel about it or the company.

    Because of technology though – we are in danger of creating “non personal” interactions, “virtual” everything, paperless, text versus calling… While all good and desired – there is also a desire for experiences, for the tactile, for the physical, for the “real deal” – be that a person, an object or live experience.

    A term called the “Retail Safari” has been identified. It speaks to the idea that customers expect to feel or experience something they can’t get online when they are in a physical space.  This might be a compelling spectacle, exclusive products, ability to test and feel things or learn how to use the product.

    Here are some things that are happening in this area:

    • Objectifying Objects – “motivational objects” that accompany digital property to increase perceived value:
      -Boxed Sets with special containers -
      -Postcards on the Run “a real keepsake they can hold close to their heart, put up on the fridge or display at work.”
    • Personal Creations – digital tools that enable the creation of physical things: custom Converse, iPhone cases, earphones, cars.
    • Melding of Tech & Touch
      -Hai Di Lao a hot pot chain in China where you can share your meal with family or friends on screen.
      -Apple – select your laptop and features online – show up in store to pick it up and get a lesson how to use with at the Genius Bar.
      -A fully online shopping store – Jewelmint “selects” jewelry recommendations for you, lets you keep a virtual “jewelry box” online of what you own or your favorites and sends their jewelry in little “velvet like” bags in boxes.

    So consider how to deliver that “High Touch” experience no matter your business model. How do you ensure that interactions with you, your company, your web presence has a “personal touch”?


  8. ReCommerce

    Lani Basa

    Novel brand buy-backs, exchange schemes, online platforms and mobile marketplaces offer smart and convenient options for consumers keen to ‘trade in to trade up’, alleviate financial strains, or quell environmental concerns.

    These ideas are also affecting consumers’ initial purchase decisions. Consumers are factoring an item’s resale value into the cost of ownership for an ever-wider range of purchases.

    Here are a few things that are driving this “recommerce” mind set:

    • nextism – a driver of this trend – it’s about consumers craving new and exciting experiences promised by the “next” (new, improved…) – iPhone 5 anyone?
    • statusphere – the “considered consumer” – where it’s smart to get cash or discounts for old or (un)used items, or to dispose of things responsibly – Herberger’s Goodwill Sale where you receive a 20% off coupon for each item of gently used clothing is a great example.
    • excusumption – still cash-strapped or making do with less – consumers are looking to spend less and still enjoy as many experiences and purchases as possible – trade-in programs like Best Buy offering trade-ins for the newest version of electronics or online valuation services for products you currently own.
    • ecocycology – recycling on steroids – this is where brands take back all of their products and recycle them responsibly and innovatively.  Patagonia’s Common Threads initiative is where the company takes back items bought from them that have reached the end of it’s life and recycle it back into new fiber or fabric.

    So what does this mean for you?

    • If you have a product or a service – now is the time to think about promoting long term value of an item/service which will help with a higher price point.
    • Help a customer realize a value in a past purchase (coupons, trade-ins…).
    • Use your expertise to help in valuation and reselling.

    Keep in mind, with today’s consumer – value is still top of mind even as we start to come out of the economic times we have been in.


  9. Screen Culture & Infolust

    Lani Basa

    This is maybe less of a trend and more of a medium through which everything will be available. It ties tightly to the Reputations are Exposed trend.

    How many have seen the YouTube video of the 1 year old who is growing up with screens? The mother writes at the end – “For my 1 year old daughter, a magazine is an iPad that does not work.”

    Consumers will care less about the screen and more about what’s being accessed through them. This opens up opportunities to inform, engage and motivate consumers as never before.
    It’s important because of “Infolust” – an insatiable desire for the most relevant information.

    Consumers are lusting after detailed information on where to get the best of the best, the cheapest of the cheapest, the first of the first, the healthiest of the healthiest, the coolest of the coolest, or on how to become the smartest of the smartest. Instant information gratification is upon us. You know about infolust – you’ve done it – googled that person, pulled up a handbag review, or checked prices.

    When 8 out of 10 consumers research purchases online – over 1/2 buy in-store. Because of smartphones – some customers will even research while in the store and buy online while still there if the price is better! Information and knowledge give consumers power, control and certainty (or illusion of).

    So think about it – Can your customers find you? What can they find out about you? How do you share information about you and your company? Being able to answer these questions will help ensure you can inform, engage and hopefully motivate potential customers to work with you.


  10. Health Care Reform – Is Your Business Ready?

    Jill Bickford

    Adoption of consumer driven health plans, especially HSAs continues to be a leading trend.

    Shopping for alternative insurance carriers still paying off as underwriting competition will remain fierce until 2014.

    Premiums are projected to increase 40-70% for individuals and businesses.

    For companies with <50 employees – Small Employer Tax credits were made available thru the Affordable Care Act of 2011. Be sure to check into this.

    There are Federal Penalties as well as Federal subsidies for Individual and Businesses – talk to an expert to navigate through this!


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