SIMPLIFY SERIES: What is a Lifestyle Entrepreneur?

What is a lifestyle entrepreneur?

We’re all familiar with the general entrepreneur. They’re the ones with a knack for business; the kids selling lemonade out on the sidewalk, or mowing lawns for everyone in their neighborhood. They embark in the business world with an idea and a pitch, hoping to land investors or funding. They build their empire quickly, taking big risks thriving at the center of their growing company. They’re the Bill Gates and Steve Jobs of our world. We know them well.

But there’s a new kind of entrepreneur entering the scene, one whose popularity has grown almost seemingly overnight. They are the lifestyle entrepreneur. The lifestyle entrepreneur is one who often exists quietly in the background, slowly waiting for their budding business to grow into an empire. These entrepreneurs aren’t at the center of their business, in fact, it mostly revolves around them. They put their ideal lifestyle first and let the business work around them. They’re the Lewis Howes and the Tim Ferriss of our world. We may not know them well now, but we certainly will.

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What is a Lifestyle Entrepreneur?

The term “Lifestyle Entrepreneur” was coined by Lewis Howes, and though it has various different meanings, the general idea is that the lifestyle entrepreneur is a person who creates a business with the intention of altering their lifestyle, and not for the sole purpose of making profits. They focus more on the rewards provided to those who enjoy and have a passion for what they’re doing in life. Generally their business does well because of their true passion – it can be contagious. People (and customers especially) can’t help but to flock toward those who’ve “figured it out” – the ones making money doing what they truly love.

And though the lifestyle part looks different for each lifestyle entrepreneur, the point is they don’t work in their business and then come home for the day – their business supports their life, it’s a part of it, it’s in everything they do because it’s what they’re passionate about.  

Regardless of the differences among lifestyle entrepreneurs as individuals, they all tend to share some similar traits. Here are some things that set lifestyle entrepreneurs apart from the business crowd.

Lifestyle Entrepreneurs Put Life First

Of course money is important to anyone starting a business or working in the professional field in general, but for some entrepreneurs, money isn’t everything. A lifestyle entrepreneur will often measure success by how much they love their work, not how much they earn.

To a lifestyle entrepreneur the freedom to work in their own way by their own rules, the flexible schedule from any location, and the ability to spend more time with the people important to them are all more important than the money in the bank. Paying the bills and being able to survive are still a must for them. They wouldn’t thrive in their lifestyle if they weren’t making ends meet. The difference is that they aren’t defining themselves by their net worth – they don’t focus so heavily on the numbers, and center their business around the other benefits they receive.   

Lifestyle entrepreneurs

Lifestyle Entrepreneurs Spend Time in Their Business Because They Love It, Not Because They Feel Like They *Have* To

For the lifestyle entrepreneur, business and life become one symbiotically working machine – and that’s a great thing! – because they’ve taken what they love and figured out how to make that pay for their lifestyle, rather than the other way around. It’s an idea that is sometimes called a muse business, one that starts with an interest and then turns into a product or service.

It can be thought of as a sort of means to an end, though oftentimes for a lifestyle entrepreneur there is no hard “end” in sight. They’re doing what they love so what’s the rush? Their business may take some time to build, but for them that’s cake compared with spending the rest of their life working a standard 9 to 5.    

Lifestyle Entrepreneurs Turn Passions and Interests into Products and Services

Given that your standard lifestyle entrepreneur is going to wind up putting in a lot of long hours building up the business that will eventually buy their freedom, it’s critical that they build off of this idea of a muse business and stick with it. Though the particular qualities for a business will vary depending upon the person building it, they should at least adhere to a few standards of success.

First, the business needs to be able to grow without demanding a ton of extra time. If freedom and flexibility are the heart and soul of a lifestyle entrepreneur’s ideals, a ton of extra time being “plugged in” isn’t going to align with that.

Of course, there are going to be times when the lifestyle entrepreneur is going to have to put in a few extra hours here, maybe a weekend there, which is fine, because they’ve built it all around something they enjoy. There isn’t anyone breathing down their neck or keeping them on the clock, so if they don’t like what they’re doing, it can be detrimental to their business.

Second, the foundation of a muse business is that it’s automated for the most part; the lifestyle entrepreneur is a professional at delegating tasks, and constructing things in such a way that they are easily repeatable. They are well organized and don’t make major changes all the time, which means that they aren’t spending extra time monitoring tasks or redoing those that weren’t done right. They have time to focus on the big picture, so they can grow over time, in a way that works for their business.

It’s about striking a balance between knowing what only they can do, and knowing what can easily be outsourced to virtual professionals.

Lifestyle entrepreneur

Lifestyle Entrepreneurs Embrace the Value of Outsourcing Early On – and Reap the Benefits Later

Which brings us to the last characteristic: lifestyle entrepreneurs know the value of outsourcing. In fact, small businesses often center their success around outsourcing the tasks that used to have to be completed by an in-house team.

Technological advances have made it easier than ever for businesses to outsource all kinds of professionals, from receptionists and assistants, to entire sales, marketing, and accounting departments. If a function repeats at regular intervals, it’s likely something that can be systematized, automated, and handled by an entirely virtual team.

We’ve written plenty of articles about why businesses should take advantage of virtual assistants and tips for succeeding with virtual help, but at the heart and center of it is this idea that the virtual assistants take these everyday, repeatable tasks – the social media posts, phone calls, copy editing tasks, etc. – and complete them as if they were a part of the actual in-house team. There are cost saving benefits on top of time saving benefits and increased efficiency – all details that are familiar to the lifestyle entrepreneur who’s comfortable handing off a thing or two.

The business style of a lifestyle entrepreneur isn’t for everyone, but it’s a growing trend that’s here to stay. It’s likely that technology will continue to empower these kinds of people to get out there and craft the life they’re excited to live. May they continue to bring us innovation and inspiration (and maybe a little envy for their laptop lifestyle!).

How To Actually Take a Vacation as a Small Business Owner or Entrepreneur

Small business entrepreneur vacation blog

If you’ve read our article on Why Business Owners Should Be Comfortable Taking a Vacation, you understand just how beneficial a vacation can be for your productivity, creativity, and overall well being. The thought of going on vacation is an exciting one for most people, but when you’re a small business owner or entrepreneur the idea of time off can be somewhat daunting.

Instead of booking flights and planning the details of your excursion, you’re busy thinking about the projects that may get missed or the emergencies that might arise. But vacations are an important part of any working person’s life, regardless if they own a business, and they’re possible if you have a good strategy with a bit of planning.

It can be scary to think about leaving your business behind for a few days or weeks at a time, but we’ve got some advice on how to actually take a vacation and ensure that your business is still thriving when you return.   

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Delegate and Keep Your Staff Prepared

One of the best ways to get your business to a place that it’s well-prepared for your absence is to delegate your tasks – especially the ones you don’t need to be doing anymore anyway. Having a trusted person or group of employees who can handle the bulk of your work while you’re out can ease your mind, and will show you that you can also rely on those people to cover tasks on a normal daily basis too, allowing you to focus on the business and expand your opportunities.      

Having someone that you trust in place to watch the business is only half the battle though. You still have to make sure they’re well prepared to handle the regular tasks in addition to any surprises that may come their way.

Have meetings with your staff well in advance to discuss the types of things they’ll be covering while you’re gone, and run through what-if scenarios to prepare for the unexpected. Train the most important key player as if you were hiring a replacement for yourself, because, in essence, you are (for the short-term anyway). You can leave detailed instructions or checklists for them to access in case they’re still unsure of something while you’re away, and if you’re still not comfortable, set aside a window of time when they can call you each day, just to check in if nothing else.

You may find it useful to do a test run before you actually leave, to make sure everything runs smoothly, or you can take a shorter vacation the first time around and gauge future trip lengths based on how it goes.

how to take a vacation blog

Set Boundaries Ahead of Time and Make Them Clear      

If it makes you more comfortable to check-in here and there on vacation that’s fine, but set your expectations ahead of time and stick to them. Let your staff and fellow vacationers know so they can make plans around them.

Realistically speaking, if you planned ahead and prepare your staff for your absence there won’t be a need for daily check-ins anyway – and it will be better for everyone if you don’t plug-in quite so often. But a block of time here or there probably won’t hurt anything, especially if people know to expect it ahead of time. If your staff has questions, they can wait until you’re available to answer them, and likewise, your family or friends will understand that you’re taking the time so it won’t disrupt any plans.   

If you decide to have scheduled check-ins though, make sure it’s clear that this is the only time you’ll be doing work stuff while away. If you’ve set up boundaries that people know you won’t be working outside of, your work won’t disrupt your vacation nearly as much. If that means you have to turn off your phone or mute notifications outside of these times that’s fine, but you’ll get more out of your vacation if you can unplug often, and your fellow vacationers will thank you.

Let Customers and Clients Know You’ll Be Away

This is especially important if you’re the one that does most of the legwork when it comes to interacting with customers or clients, but it’s a nice courtesy even if you’re somewhat removed. Let them know exactly when you’ll be gone and who best to reach out to if a question or issue arises so that there aren’t any surprises.    

If you have multiple people taking over for you while you’re away, let these employees know ahead of time who will be able to answer which particular types of questions, and then make a list of those people to send to your client so they aren’t getting bounced around if they call.

Preparing your employees and your clients ahead of time increases trust for both parties and sets you up for success, so it’s a win-win situation.  

how to take vacation small business owner entrepreneur blog

Be Okay with Almost Perfect

The reality of the matter is, regardless of how much you prepare, things still might not exactly go as you planned. If you go into your vacation knowing this, not only will you be able to relax better while you’re away, but when you get back you’ll be able to use the issue as a learning experience, rather than a reason to panic.

If you trained your staff well before leaving and set them up for success, the mistakes they do make – if any – are likely going to be minor. With all of the resources you empowered them with before leaving (and with a periodical check-in if it’s needed), they’ll realistically be able to handle anything that comes their way.

If you handle the mistake with a cool head upon returning, your staff will feel more confident when you decide to leave again in the future and will know how to avoid the same mistakes again.

Schedule That Vacation

It can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking that your business will fall apart without you there 24/7, but in reality if you and your staff are prepared, you’ve set up the right expectations, and you have fail-safes like check-ins in place, things are probably going to run just as smoothly as they would if you were there.

It may take a few times of you taking a vacation before the process is perfect, but each time you can fine-tune it until you feel comfortable stepping out whenever it’s needed. Empower your staff, set the necessary boundaries, make preparations, and trust the process if you’re ready to get out there and go on your next adventure.

Why Business Owners Should Be Comfortable Taking a Vacation

Business owner entrepreneur vacation blog

Come back in two weeks for our follow up piece about how to get your business to the point where you actually can take a vacation.

 

As a recent Forbes article by Victor Lipman pointed out, America is becoming the “No Vacation Nation.” So much so, in fact, that 47% of Americans didn’t take all of their vacation time last year. And while the reasons for not taking the time off varied slightly (“too many projects or deadlines,” “decrease the chance for advancement,” and even being pressured not to take one by their manager), the bottom line is, American workers simply aren’t taking time off – but they should be.

The effects of not taking time to recharge can be felt by anyone in the workforce but can be especially hard on entrepreneurs and business owners who tend to put their all in the company they worked hard to build. Taking a vacation is about more than just travel, though. Studies show that our productivity dips after logging long hours for an extended period of time (CNBC), so burning the midnight oil might actually be doing more harm than good in the long run.

There are a countless number of benefits to unplugging and taking a little “me” time every once in a while. Here are a few good reasons why business owners and entrepreneurs should be comfortable taking a vacation.  

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Recharging Is Good for Your Brain and Your Body

Working non-stop all the time can really take a toll. In fact, a study at the University College London found that people who worked more than 55 hours per week had a 13% greater risk of heart attack and were 33% more likely to suffer a stroke when compared to those who worked 35-40 hours per week (Harvard Health Publishing). So being overworked is about more than more than just a little-added stress.   

Being stuck on “go” for so long can leave you mentally drained as well, which leaves you vulnerable to making mistakes, and zaps your creative energy. Sure, you’re making it through the day-to-day stuff just fine, but are you still finding it easy to come up with exciting new directions for your business? If not, a small break from the grind might just be the thing that gets those juices flowing again so that you can get back to innovating.

And if you’re looking for a reason outside of a good mental charge, studies have shown that spending some time outdoors can improve memory, help ward off depression, and lower blood pressure to name a few. Business Insider recently listed off 12 science-backed reasons to spend more time in nature and, I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I need much more convincing.

Unclog Your Thinking Path to Find a New Perspective

Sometimes the best way to gain new insight on a problem or project you’re working on is to disengage and find a new perspective once you’ve had some time away. Not to mention the fact that being away from your business will force you to see it in a new way. A new outlook can show you how the business can operate without you there since by leaving you will have of course left it in some capable hands.

Often you’ll hear that a business owner actually missed working while they were away – and that’s great! That means that you’ll come back into work eager and ready to produce at your full potential. Without the break, you may have been so stuck in the motions you were really not thinking about why you were doing them in the first place. You know what they say, distance makes the heart grow fonder.

You’ll come back with excitement and some new ways of looking at things, and hopefully with a deeper appreciation for the people you’ve chosen to share your journey with. Looking at things from the outside can often help you truly see them, so take a step back every once in a while, and see what kind of perspective you can gain.

Find New Inspiration

You can’t have a new perspective without a wealth of new ideas. Just the mental and physical break alone is likely to open up your channels for inspiration, but add in the change of scenery and routine and you’re likely to find some killer insight that may have previously been blocked out by stagnation.

Staying in the same setting for too long can have a surprisingly negative impact on thinking. In fact, pretty high up on Inc.’s list of 25 ways for entrepreneurs to find inspiration is to find new surroundings. It’s been shown to boost creativity and increase productivity, and not stepping away every once in a while can have an adverse effect. You fall easily into a routine, your blinders go up, and you sort of just go through the motions.

Out on vacation, you may meet someone whose conversation sparks a great new idea, you may see a new way of doing things that you may never have thought of before, or maybe you’ll simply come back to work and be able to see things through a new lens. All of these outcomes would be great, but you won’t have any such opportunities behind your desk every day of the year.

 

If your business is at a point where you feel like it couldn’t possibly run without you, consider reevaluating a bit to find out what it needs to get there (and check out our next blog post for some tips on how to do just that!). You won’t be able to sustain at 100% the entire time your business is running, so why not start figuring out how to get it to a place where it could stand on its own to legs for a while without you?

The evidence for the benefits of vacation is quite convincing, and at the end of the day, stepping away from the job every now and then will pay off in the long run. So book that cruise, plan that week-long hiking trip in the mountains, or even take a long, relaxing weekend with the family. Close your laptop, turn your phone on silent, and go find out what a little time off has to offer for you.    

The Ultimate Guide: In-House Receptionist vs. Virtual Receptionist

in house receptionist vs virtual receptionist blog

It’s a rivalry for the ages, a question at the forefront of the minds of many small business owners, entrepreneurs, and professionals: In-house receptionist or virtual receptionist?

In the days of questionable answering services and outsourced companies based outside of the US, the answer may have been an obvious one. Now, though, tools and technology have made virtual reception better than ever. Many businesses tout the service as their secret to success, as it allows them to cut costs and increase adaptability.

Still, some people remain on the fence when it comes to comparing the two. They’re left wondering if the savings are truly that great with a virtual receptionist, or whether their customers will be negatively affected by the lack of personal interaction.

We understand these questions and concerns better than anyone and are here to clear it up once and for all with our Ultimate Guide to picking which is best for you: In-House Receptionist or Virtual Receptionist.     

Cost of a Receptionist

In-House Receptionist

Wages for full-time, in-house employees are a major expense for any business, especially if you add on things like taxes, insurance, and benefits that are often provided. Vacation, sick time, personal leave, holidays, and even breaks throughout the day start adding up when it comes to a company’s employees.

  • The average in-house receptionist has an annual salary of $27,920 (U.S. News).
  • On average, life insurance costs $150. Health coverage adds $2,000-$3,000 for a single person, more if the coverage is for families, and dental plans can run $240-$650 (MIT).
  • Turnover costs an average of 16% of the annual salary of your receptionist (so $4,467.20 for the average salary mentioned).
  • On top of this, office supplies and overheads can tack on an additional $922-$1,106 annually, per employee (Chron).
  • Add in the costs of paying a manager to oversee this person or even the amount of time an owner has to spend managing them instead of working on more important tasks, and things really start adding up.

Virtual Receptionist

With a virtual receptionist company on the other hand, you only pay for the services you use. here is no additional cost for training, you don’t pay for vacations or sick time, and most importantly, you aren’t paying an annual salary with benefits and insurance.

  • You pay a service fee, not a salary.
  • You can select from various plans to fit your budget and needs.
  • No downtime or turnover costs.
  • Pay by the task, not by the hour, so there’s no downtime (The Admin Center Pricing).

Customer Service

In-House Receptionist

You really can’t beat the smiling, familiar face of a receptionist greeting you as you walk into a building. That human touch can be very important to some businesses, especially in a situation where walk-in clientele are fairly common.  

  • Familiarity with your clients.
  • In-person, human factor.
  • If you’re short staffed or your receptionist steps away, missed calls can happen, or customers can be left on hold waiting. In fact, 58% of people say they hate being on hold, and 15% are likely to hang up after waiting just 40 seconds (Salesforce).

Virtual Receptionist

Gone are the days of questionable service with virtual receptionists. Quality virtual companies will make it a point to learn every aspect of your business, and will give your callers an exceptional experience that stands on its own against (and may even rival) an in-house employee.

  • Multiple people trained extensively on your business, so whoever gets the call is going to be knowledgeable and helpful.
  • No long holds or wait times for customers; just quick, friendly service.
  • Often virtual reception companies will go above and beyond in their hiring, recruiting people with additional skills and who speak more than one language.

Availability

In-House Receptionist

When it comes down to it, an in-house receptionist is available when you are. From the time the company doors open to when they close, an in-house employee can be there, but this simply doesn’t cover the extra hours that are possible with virtual alternatives.

  • Available from open to close, but early mornings, nights, and weekends are left unmonitored.
  • On top of this, in-house employees require time off for vacation, sick days, or anything else that may come up, leaving gaps in your coverage at times (remember those stats about how much people hate to be on hold?).
  • Not to mention the fact that 50%-80% of people will simply hang up the phone if their call goes to voicemail (DestinationCRM), resulting in a lot of lost potential.

Virtual Receptionist

For ample coverage during the times that matter most, you just can’t beat the support that virtual reception services are able to offer.

  • Available for extended hours, from before you open until after you close, and on weekends too if you need it.
  • Virtual teams are comprised of multiple people, so when one is out for the day it goes completely unnoticed on your end – no disruption, no wait times, and no voicemail in place of a person answering your calls.  

Efficiency

In-House Receptionist

The reception department of a company is usually a “one man job.” And while multitasking skills are a part of the job description, it’s still one person doing everything.

  • An in-house receptionist is there in person with you, so if you have questions for them or want to exchange ideas they’re readily available.
  • They’re able to do unique, one-off tasks generally easier.
  • As their employer, they really get to know the ins and outs of your company.
  • They’re only one person – that means their skill-set is less robust and their time is limited.

Virtual Receptionist

When a virtual reception company is hiring, they usually try to find people with diverse backgrounds, broad experience, and unique capabilities that you simply can’t find all in one person.

  • With virtual reception services you have access to an entire team of people.   
  • There is no downtime in their service, so you can get things done faster and more efficiently.
  • Technology has made it easier than ever to be in touch with your virtual team at any moment. Their work is possible through the use of intelligent software and modern technology, so they’re familiar with how to keep you up-to-date and in-touch with your customers 100% of the time.

Scalability

In-House Receptionist

When business is booming and it’s time to bring in a few extra hands to help out it’s exciting, but recruiting, training, and keeping employees happy is a tough task and can be a burden on resources. And on the flipside, when seasons get slow or the business enters a lull period, letting people go isn’t fun for anybody.

  • On average, it takes up to eight weeks for a new receptionist to achieve a full level of productivity, meaning that you have to wait that long to truly scale up, and lose money in the meantime (MIT).
  • That translates to a loss of 1%-2.5% of a loss in total revenue while the new hire gets up to speed.
  • Hiring and firing takes time, takes resources, and there’s no guarantee that the new person will stay around, meaning that you could potentially have to do it all over again.

Virtual Receptionist

Virtual reception services are set up to scale with you as quickly as you need, with a small increase in service fee.

  • There’s no need to hire temporary or seasonal workers to increase support during busy seasons.
  • No lag in productivity for training periods, and no loss in revenue as a result of downtime.
  • No turnover, because you always have a full staff of people at the ready to support your business.

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in house receptionist vs virtual receptionist infographic

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When it comes down to it, it’s hard to beat the quality and value that you can get with a virtual receptionist. Whether you’re looking to support your business entirely with virtual help or you’re interested in supporting your current in-house staff, you’re guaranteed to benefit from virtual reception services.

5 Ways to Start Working On Your Business, Not In It

working on your business not it in blog

Maybe this scenario sounds familiar: a client has a question about your product or wants to change some minor details in their account, so you hop on the phone and offer them some support. You spend a few hours each day sending outreach emails, connecting with potential clients on LinkedIn, or even making cold calls in order to grow your client base; or maybe you’re pouring over financial documents and budgets, or putting some final edits on web content and blog posts until everything looks just right.

You push yourself to the limit and because of that your business is thriving, but you notice that you haven’t seen much growth in a while. You’re happy with where you are at, but you know that your business could reach greater potential if you could just push a little further, maybe put in a few more hours to start seeing the payoffs.

But there are only so many hours you can put in before all of your brain power and energy are spent on the day-to-day things, and you can’t even think about growth, let alone concepts like diversification, innovation, or any of the things that brought you here in the first place.

If any of these situations sound like you, don’t fear! You aren’t suffering from a lack of motivation and you certainly haven’t lost that fire that brought you here in the first place, you’re simply working in your business rather than on your business.

Here are five ways to turn the tables back around to start working on your business once again.

Put Aside Time for Dreaming

Working on the day-to-day stuff is fine, especially early on in your business when time and budgets are limited. But if you’re finding it hard to put aside the time needed to plan and strategize the big picture, then make that time.

Add a block of time to your calendar each day – it can be an hour, 30 minutes, whatever you can spare – and make sure you don’t do anything else during that time – ever. Treat this block of time as if it was a meeting with your most important client or a phone call with a potential investor. Anything you aren’t likely to push aside for other tasks.

If you aren’t growing or innovating your business, there may not be as many of those big client meetings or investment opportunities as there would be with a clear growth plan in place. A small investment in time now can pay off big later.

Systematize What You Can to Make it Repeatable

Efficiency and repeatability are the grease that gets those squeaky business wheels really rolling. If you’ve got tasks that get done at a regular interval and with an almost identical process each time, consider documenting the process to create a system. Once the system is in place, someone (ideally not you) should be able to follow the steps and carry out the project with little difficulty and a small margin of error. The more of these systems you can put into place, the more efficient your business will be, and the more smoothly things will run over time.

Now more than ever, some of these day-to-day tasks can even be automated, so consider looking into the processes that don’t need a human touch every step of the way, and find a software to fit the need. Social media automation is a great example of how this can work. You or someone on your team can write a batch of social media posts at the beginning of the week and set them up in a system like Hootsuite to post them automatically throughout the week on your chosen schedule. It’s quicker than writing a new one each day, and lets you keep your mind focused on other things for the remaining days.

Outsource the Smaller Tasks

Building off of the idea of systemization and automation, if you have tasks in your business that are simple and repeatable, but don’t quite merit hiring a full-time employee, consider outsourcing the tasks to a team of virtual assistants. We’ve written about the benefits of utilizing virtual assistant services before, but the basic idea is outsourcing saves you the money and hassle of hiring in-house employees for small tasks where full-time attention isn’t required.

There are virtual assistant companies that offer the basics – answering calls, scheduling appointments, etc. – and full-service companies that can even help fill roles like sales and marketing in addition to the basics. It’s something we at The Admin Center call “teamsourcing” because in a sense they become an extension of your team. So take the time to do some research and find the one that’s right for you.

After the initial set up the process is really like automation. For the tasks that are simple but still require human involvement, outsourcing is kind of the best of both worlds. Some companies will even manage the automations you already have in place, too, so you can really start taking things off of your plate to spend time on the things that need your attention most.  

Hire Properly, Train Well, and Treat Your Employees With the Golden Rule

It’s great to get those small, day-to-day tasks out of house and in the hands of an experienced team of virtual assistants, but sometimes in-house employees are inevitable and making sure they are a good fit can save you endless time and money down the line.

Finding the right people from the start is going to set you up for success now, but training them thoroughly and treating them well are going to set you up for success forever. Give people all of the tools they’ll need to do well on the job, show them your expectations early on, and then empower them with the confidence they’ll need to meet them. Encourage growth and learning along the way, and you may just find that your employees are inspiring you on the business, too.

If you feel like you’re finding the right people and offering adequate training but still don’t have great retention, consider doing some self-reflection; the more you lose people, the more you’re pulled back in, so do your best to not lose sight of this. Are you paying fairly and to industry standards? Is your work environment pleasant? Do people feel heard and appreciated?  

If you treat your employees with the respect you’d want to be treated, they’re going to return the favor. Not only will they do their job well, but they’re more likely to go above and beyond, really maximizing their capabilities to ensure that you achieve the change you want to see in your business.

Trust That Someone Else Can Do What You Can

No matter how much time you put aside, regardless of the solid systems you have in place or the superstar teams you’ve hired, if you can’t let go of the little stuff, you’re never going to make it out. It can be very tempting to feel like you’re the only person who could possibly perform some of the tasks it takes to run your business. You did them in the beginning and now your business is a success, so of course at times you’ll feel like you’re the only one who knows how to do them just right. When it comes to the small stuff that keeps your business running though, a little bit of trust will set you free.

In reality, that team of outsourced experts is going to have no trouble at all churning out those simple, automated tasks that you sent to them (you know, the ones you set up efficient systems for; the same ones they do for countless other businesses successfully), it’s literally what their business is set up to do. Their model thrives on doing great work just like yours does, and they’re bound to manage your business needs above their own even, often putting their clients first, so it’s safe to say you’re in good hands.

And what about those employees that you hired, tirelessly trained, and work so hard to nurture? If you trusted them then, you can trust them now. At the end of the day, your success is equal to theirs, so they’re going to make sure they’re doing what they can to make it happen.

If you find yourself working in your business and start losing hope about all of those things that fit into the “working on your business” category, consider taking a step back to assess that things really are set up the way they should be. Chances are you’ll find some processes that can be automated, some tasks that can be outsourced, and some quality people that can take some of the load so that you aren’t the only one bearing it.

Your business will always require a bit of you in it – that’s why it’s your business in the first place – but take advantage of all of the possibilities out there and starting working on your business, rather than just in it.

What Your Professional Website Says About Your Business

What a professional website says about your business

(And what it should say)

We’ve all been there; you’re excited about a new company or product, or maybe you’re applying for a new job and want to check out the company before committing. You’re searching for more information, so what’s the first thing you do? You visit a website. Whether you’re sleuthing a potential new tool, investigating a competitor, or simply browsing around in a fit of boredom, chances are you visit websites quite often – they’re ubiquitous! – which is why it’s more important than ever to have a killer site representing your brand and business.

First impressions are everything, especially in today’s highly saturated and competitive environment. It’s someone’s introduction to your brand – like the business card of modern technology – so it needs to be a great experience; otherwise, your prospect may pass you over for the competition.

There can be a lot of pressure and confusion around setting up a good professional website, after all, it’s meant to represent YOU, so naturally, you want it to be perfect. Here are some of the most important factors to consider when setting up or improving a website, and what you can do if yours doesn’t adhere to these standards.

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Navigation

It may seem like common sense, but good website navigation is one of the most important aspects of a quality website design. Think about it this way, you don’t want your site visitors to have to figure out how to use your site, you want it to be intuitive. Their journey around your page should be well thought out and choreographed based on the journey you want them to take; tell them where to go so that you can show them exactly what you want!

The Bad:

  • Cryptic and confusing menus with no clear structure or flow.
  • An overwhelming number of choices and options, creating confusion and communicating a general lack of planning.
  • An illogical setup that isn’t in-line with your buyer persona or what you want to express about your brand.
  • Clunky or out-of-date design that leads to unnecessary difficulty when finding things on the site.

The Good:

  • Your navigation bar is concise and free from clutter, and any menus you have are straightforward and easy to follow.
  • The buyer’s journey is intuitive and purposeful, with no excess information or choices beyond what is necessary.
  • An architecture that’s based around your target audience, your brand goals, and the content you might create in the future.
  • Modern, responsive design that keeps up with trends and communicates that you care. It tells potential customers that you are paying attention to your field and adjusting accordingly.

Branding and Appearance

Branding is at the core of your business; it’s the essence of who you are and what you want that to mean to the world. Your brand is something you should have well-defined before even starting your website design since it’s central to everything you do – from the conversations you have to the content you publish.

Your website is the first thing a potential buyer is going to look at, so make sure that the appearance – the font, images, logo design, even the type of language and voice that you use – coincides with your brand.

The Bad:

  • Your design is generic, you use obvious stock images with no weight behind them, and your color scheme is random, out of place, or non-existent.
  • The tone and feel of your content changes drastically from page-to-page, communicating a lack of planning or focus.  
  • Your web copy feels forced, generic, or simply out of place.
  • Your logo doesn’t fit in.
  • Your website does little to reflect your business or the message you’re trying to send.

The Good:

  • You’ve either customized your design in-house or hired a company to do so, but it’s tailored perfectly to your brand colors, fonts, and graphics, and reflects exactly who and what you want your business to be.
  • Your voice is confident and consistent. It is obvious that you are a thought leader in your area of specialty and your content always delivers value and purpose.
  • The copy on your site is clearly written by someone who understands your brand well and can articulate your purpose. It isn’t overly wordy and helps carry a site visitor along in their journey without any extra fluff or jargon.
  • Your logo is a professional representation of your business; an embodiment of the company’s mission, values, and culture rolled into one graphic.
  • Your website lets visitors know exactly who you are and what they can gain from interacting with you. It is branded well and is something you proudly share within your community.

Function

Your website will do nothing for you if it doesn’t work. If it’s slow to load, isn’t mobile-friendly, or if it’s generally not easy to use, people are going to click away just as soon as they came in. Regardless of changes in design trends and technology, these core aspects remain important and it’s easy to see why.

Forty percent of people say that they’ll abandon a site if it takes more than 3 seconds to load (source) and 56 percent of people access websites from their phone, rather than a desktop computer (source). Simply put, if your website doesn’t work well people aren’t going to want to use it.

The Bad:

  • Your site has so much going on that it takes ages to load.
  • On the desktop your site looks great, but it isn’t mobile optimized and information is lost when people access it from their smartphones and devices.
  • Your visitors aren’t sure where to find the information they’re looking for and spend too much time navigating its layered, complex structure.

The Good:

  • Your domain hosting service is rock solid and you’ve reduced plugins, custom applications, media, and anything else slowing down your load speeds so that your site is lightning quick – on the homepage and anywhere else a user might be landing.
  • Your whole site shows on a mobile device. Information is readily available and easily digested in the smaller formatting. If your hosting platform didn’t have this feature built in naturally, you employed the help of experts to make sure that your customers could find you from anywhere.
  • Simple is better in today’s website trends. Your site is free of clunky layering, unnecessary add-ons or pages that distract from the real purpose of the site. A visitor knows exactly where to begin on the site and exactly where their journey ends. There are clear calls to action, contact information is easy to find, and important details like pricing and testimonials aren’t hidden away.

If you put a genuine focus on making your site good for your target audience, you’re guaranteed to increase traffic, secure more conversions, and inevitably land more sales. With so many countless resources available for improving your site there’s really no reason not to make a few changes if you feel that the time has come.

Take back the control and make sure your website says exactly what you want it to say about your business.

8 Common Small Business Problems and How to Overcome Them

Smal business outsourcing services companies

Entrepreneurship is amazing; if you’re reading this article, go ahead and give yourself a pat on the back, because it means that you were brave enough to start your own business. You refused to listen to the inevitable naysayers when they told you that you would fail, and your tenacity pulled you through the tough beginning stages of getting up-and-running. You’re in full-fledged small business mode. Go you!

But the thing is, business is hard. Or at least, it can be at times. There are challenges that come at all business owners from seemingly nowhere, and if you aren’t prepared it can really shake that confidence that brought you here in the first place. But don’t fear, help is here with some advice on how to keep on track during those unavoidable small business problems.

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Fatigue

As a small business owner, it can be tempting to take on the world. You think you can do it all, but rather than being productive and getting ahead, you find yourself disorganized, unfocused, and making avoidable mistakes.

Setting up a manageable pace for yourself is critical to keeping at it for the long term. This might include reevaluating processes to see where there might be redundancies, researching new technologies that can help you to automate and streamline the way you do things, and most importantly, it includes delegating out tasks that you either can’t do yourself, or don’t need to in order to perform at your most efficient.

You can still be a passionate entrepreneur and not know every aspect of business. Instead of spending the time to learn about the tasks that are outside of your wheelhouse, consider bringing in some help. Accountants, bookkeepers, marketers, and even receptionists can all be hired on a task-by-task basis, meaning that you only pay them for the work they do, not the time they spend in the office.

This can help save money and ensure that your important backend tasks are getting done accurately and professionally. And with all that extra time, you are free to do the things you love; the things you got into business for in the first place.

Diversification of Client Base

All business owners love a dependable customer who pays on-time consistently and brings in great revenue. But, if you have a single client or a small group of a few making up more than half of your income, it’s time to start thinking about diversifying.

Diversification can be tough, and that one rockstar client might make it seem like an obsolete necessity, yet relying on a few for the majority of your cash flow can be a major handicap in the long run. Set up like this, you are acting as a subcontractor for a potentially larger business. This allows the client to avoid all the risks while you and your employees take it on fully. Your client gets away without adding payroll in areas of the business that may take a downturn at any time and you’re left with an excess of help when it’s no longer needed, and a deficiency in work and income.

Strike a Balance between Quality and Growth

If business is booming, it can be easy to become prematurely celebratory of the growth. There’s an increase in customers, but many small businesses can fall short of the demands that increase can make if they haven’t planned ahead.

It is essential for businesses to scale up without sacrificing quality. This may mean bringing on some new team members or hiring outside help to manage the things that the business owner can no longer do alone. Maybe this means bringing someone on who can keep an eye on front and backend functions so that you can focus your efforts on client relationships, or maybe it’s hiring a salesperson so that you can get back to the big picture.

Relinquishing control doesn’t mean that the business quality will automatically decline; there are plenty of people out there eager to care about your business as much as you do, it’s just a matter of finding them. The business owner must strike a compromise between quality and growth that allows for scale without damages to the brand.

Hiring Problems

Possibly one of the greatest small business problem is finding the right staff. Your employees are the gatekeepers to your brand. They are often the first point of contact for clients or customers, and are relied on for tasks that can sometimes make or break a company. There is an exceptional amount of trust put into employees – especially when it comes to small businesses, as individuals make up a greater percentage of staff – so ensuring that you have the right help can be critical.
On top of the difficulty with finding dependable, passionate, and hardworking individuals, there is the cost of it all. Time spent posting job openings, conducting interviews, and training, could be better spent finding new customers or strengthening relationships with those already active, so high turnover can be a nail in the coffin.

In small businesses especially, it’s important to learn how to deal with different personality types, figure out early on what motivates individual team members, and then structure your management to fit these needs. When you can develop a respected, open, and honest relationship with your employees, communication will come freely and growth can happen together.

Though there isn’t an ‘easy button’ that allows you to sift through all of the bad apples, there are options available to make the process more simple. Especially if you’re hiring part-time or for specialized roles, you can consider hiring a virtual team instead of hiring in-house. With a virtual team you are essentially employing an entire company full of people – the accounting department, receptionist, sometimes even marketing and sales – and only paying for the time that you use them. You aren’t pressured to hire full-time, so if things get a bit slow you can scale down your virtual work to match that. And without the cost of things like insurance and benefits, you’re drastically saving more money in the long run. Virtual companies generally have a solid base of workers, too, so you’re no longer having to vet your options and hope for the best.

Resource Management & Cash Flow

You’re turning a healthy profit, so business is great, right? But what about those accounts receivables that haven’t come in yet, or the capital expenditures draining your cash flow? All of these factors affect the ability to keep the business balanced and running for the long run.

To combat this problem, businesses must be sufficiently capitalized, and need to shore up reserves to meet obligations and react to emergencies that may arise. This is especially important during economic downturn and during slow times of business, but it’s a good standard to set for the entire life of the business.

This kind of resource management might be possible completely in-house, but it takes an expert hand, so if you aren’t comfortable with it you might consider bringing in outside help. Seeking professional help for things like bookkeeping, accounts payable/receivables, and document management can save you time and money over time, since there will be more standardization and fewer inaccuracies.

Working IN the Business Rather Than ON the Business

Entrepreneurs have a tendency to kill themselves focusing on all of the small things that keep the business running. They get wrapped up in paperwork, obsess over customer satisfaction, even doing things like bookkeeping and accounting because they know they can do it – and do it right – and trusting someone else to take over can often be a scary challenge. This is an understandable occurrence, and is often fine in the short run, but it doesn’t allow the business owner to do the important task of analyzing the business.

Analyzing the business is critical; how else will you know which areas need a bit of extra attention, or what the status of cash flow is at any given time? This comes back to the idea that the owner simply cannot do it all forever. At some point a team of people will need to be brought in to alleviate some of the pressure of everyday business. Whether that means hiring professional people for tasks like payroll and reception desk management, or employing a virtual team of people to do it all, the point is that you as the owner are able to step back a bit and look at things in the bigger picture.

Going it Alone

Many business owners think that they are alone in everything; they think that they can manage all aspects of the business and don’t need advice or help from outside experts. While it’s definitely important to trust your own ideas and instincts when it comes to your business, that doesn’t mean that a bit of advice wouldn’t do some good, either. Afterall, outside perspectives are invaluable if they’re coming from the right people.

If you feel like you’ve got things figured out but aren’t 100 percent sure where to take the business next, consider finding a business advisor or business coach to help push it to the next level. Business is what these people do; it’s likely that they’ve run at least one business from the ground up and have helped many others along the same journey. It may seem a bit over-the-top to bring in outside help for business planning and strategizing, but even large corporations use resources like business coaches, mentors, and advisors to help them make decisions. It’s like bringing a cheerleader onto the team; one that’s great at boosting your confidence, but who can teach you how to be the best version of yourself so that you can do the same for your business. S-U-C-C-E-S-S!

Drab or Non-Existent Marketing

New clients can’t find a business if they don’t know about it, and they won’t ever know about it without good marketing. Simple as that. You can have the most detailed business plan in existence, the best possible product to offer and unparalleled customer service, but if you don’t have good marketing, all of this could be going to waste.

Marketing is great for helping your business reach your target market, but it’s good for so many other things, too. Marketing teaches you about the climate your business is in, and where your competitors are in relation to you. It can help make you appear as a thought leader in your field, and bring in a deeper level of customer loyalty as well as a wider client base. Marketing can teach you about where your business is at now, where it needs to be to fit your vision, and how to get you there – it’s an essential part of business!

Understanding how to market – and who to market to – can be tricky, and unless you’ve got a knack for the skill yourself or have a team in-house, it’s imperative to hire an expert. Markets change; marketing tactics change; your customers are constantly changing their interests and lifestyles, and a team of experts understand how to keep up with these changes in order to stay in the market trend. When it comes to picking a team of professionals, though, gone are the days of having to go with high-cost companies that only sell large package deals. Nowadays you can find contract workers to do one-off projects for you, you can hire a team of virtual administrators and pay them on a per-project basis, or you can hire an in-house expert – the options are plenty and it really depends on your business needs.

(Click infographic to enlarge)8 common small business challenges infographic

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Owning a business is an amazing endeavor, and no one said it would be easy. There are likely going to be challenges that you face at every turn, but if you know how to prepare for them, nothing will be able to shake you from your path to success. The competitive drive you have – the one that made you start your business in the first place – is the same one that will carry you through the inevitable hard times.
So take a deep breath, take a step back and assess your business situation, and know that you don’t have to go it alone. There’s a whole team of people out there eager to help you when you need them.