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The 9 Questions To Ask Before Taking Your Business To The Next Level

So you’ve been in business for a couple years and you’re drowning, but in the best way possible. People love your products and they can’t get enough of them. You can hardly keep up and you’ve got back orders on back orders. You’ve considered your options and realized it’s to time to expand — or scale — your venture.

This is a big decision and you absolutely shouldn’t take it lightly. Here are some questions you should consider before scaling presented by American Express OPEN. Read on for some snackable knowledge.

Does my demand exceed my supply?

If so, go right ahead. Just make you you don’t compromise quality for quantity and that your infrastructure can support this move to more supply. If you’re outsourcing any part of production, find reliable vendors, build relationships and invest in them for the long term.

Do I have enough space to expand?
Make sure you don’t turn out like this guy and outgrow your place. Once you have enough profits to afford a bigger place, take the plunge and go for it. Not only will you be more comfortable, but so will your employees and customers.


It Takes a Little Work to Take a Vacation

Two years ago, Chad Oakley realized he had to change the way he took a vacation.

Afraid of what might happen if he were out of touch too long, Mr. Oakley, president of Charles Aris, a Greensboro, N.C., executive search firm, said he would spend most of his vacation time on the phone or at a computer, squeezing in “pockets of relaxation” when he could. The result: “I tried to do both things at once — work and be on vacation — and ended up doing both poorly,” he said. He returned home feeling more stress than when he left.

To take a real vacation, Mr. Oakley knew, would require planning. So he started to rely more on his 30 employees. He prepared those he worked with regularly on recruiting assignments and handed responsibility over to them well before he left. And he began letting his clients know he would be away. Now, according to Mr. Oakley, he is able to get a real break when he goes on a vacation with his wife and three children.

“I’ve found a way to make it work for everyone,” he said.

Of all the challenges small-business owners face, one of the toughest is taking a vacation. Like Mr. Oakley, many worry that they will lose potential business or alienate clients, or that the business will not be able to handle a crisis. And these days, with fast response to e-mails expected and the economy still rocky, many small-company owners are particularly unwilling to take a real break.

Such an attitude, however, can be bad for the health of both the owner and the business.

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4 Ways to Make Massive Progress Toward Your Goals This Week

Right now your calendar for the coming week probably has a lot of white space. You may have a few meetings and appointments scattered here and there, but for the most part you may have 25-35 hours of unscheduled time. For the record, white space is no good.

Most business owners and entrepreneurs spend their time in reaction, rather than being proactive.

One of the best ways to make marked progress towards your goals is to schedule every moment of your week in advance, as in before you walk in the door to your office Monday morning.

I recommend the following 4-step process for making the most of the time you work, so you can relax and enjoy the time you’re not working:

  1. Get clear on your top 3 goals.
  2. Treat each goal as a project and determine approximately how many hours you need to achieve your goal (complete the project).
  3. Based on the time-frame for achieving each goal, how many hours this week do you need to focus on each one?
  4. Pull out your mostly-empty calendar and block out time* to work toward their achievement.

*Note: This blocked-time becomes a non-negotiable appointment you have with yourself. Your goals, if well chosen, are worth it (and so are you). If something more important comes up (read: you get a meeting with a potential client, someone is writing you a check, signing a contract, or your office building catches fire), simply reschedule that blocked time so your project gets the necessary time needed for accomplishment.

Important: If something is non-revenue generating, delegate it, or do it during the time of day you feel least productive (even during non-business hours). Do business when it’s time to do business. Have fun and be off the clock when it’s time for that, too.

As an executive, you have two functions: make money and enjoy the money you make.

Here’s to a profitable, productive week — with some fun thrown in for good measure.

What is your best tip for staying productive and making consistent progress toward your goals?

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17 Habits For Success And Happiness From A Dad Who’s Found Both

My dad (Bill Murphy Sr., if you’re doing the genealogical math) has enjoyed business success as a lawyer who built his own firm, and who has worked for himself since the early 1970s. He and my mom raised five kids together, and they’re still going strong. They’re devoted to their grandchildren, and moreover my dad is a man who enjoys both his work and the rest of his life.

In fact, as I read his email, it occurred to me that he’s achieved many of the things that younger people tell me are among their goals in life. (Of course, I’ve been too close to realize it.)

My dad went on to offer four daily habits, each of which made great sense to me, and which I know he’s backed up with experience. However, I also know my dad well enough to realize that offering only four pieces of advice isn’t exactly his nature, so I racked his brain. Here’s what we came up with.

1. Carpe diem.

You know that this is Latin for “seize the day,” right? This is the first daily habit on my dad’s list. No matter how yesterday went — whether you had great triumphs or whether you wish you’d spent the whole day in bed, remember that every new day is a new opportunity. You can’t rest on yesterday’s accomplishments, and you never have to repeat yesterday’s mistakes.

2. Spend as much time as you can with the people you love.

Your spouse, your kids, your parents, your close friends — whoever they are — make sure that you find lots of time to spend time with the people you truly care about. If you want to feel really guilty about this, check out the calculator at seeyourfolks.com, which will calculate how many more times you’re likely to see your parents based on past experience and life expectancy. (We’ll wait here while you go give them a call afterward.)

3. At the same time, love the ones you’re with.

There are many different kinds of love, and here my dad is talking about showing respect and concern for the people you spend your days with. “That is simply, love everyone,” is how my dad put it, and he added a quote from Thomas Merton: “Love is our true destiny. We do not find the meaning of life by ourselves alone — we find it with another.


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10 Reasons You Should Stop Working Long Hours Today

If you have a job in the present challenging economic times, you are probably doing everything you can to hold on to it. If your employer asks you to put in 50 hours of work every week, you likely go further and put in 60 or more hours. You might think you are getting more done by working longer, but in fact every hour you put in over 40 hours a week is making you less productive, both in the short and long term. Studies have found that the “sweet spot” for optimum productivity is 40 hours a week. Here are ten specific reasons you should stop working long hours today if you want to maintain optimum productivity.


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What your poor e-mail etiquette says about your business

How you and your team present yourselves when communicating by e-mail says a lot about the quality of business you’re running. Based on the variety of e-mail approaches I’ve seen, many small business owners are not paying enough attention to this detail. Some of it is awful, and it’s not just employees who are getting lazy. It’s the owners too.

Take, for example, a recent experience I had hiring a local arborist to help clean the trees and branches from my yard after the Christmas ice storm in Ontario. I’ve got an over-sized lot, and had an above-average amount of damage. The trimming, chipping and disposal was going to be a job for a professional.

Within a couple of days of the storm, a local arborist had a hand delivered brochure in my mailbox, offering to solve my problem. Nice: An opportunistic arborist sees a need in the middle of what would normally be his/her slow season.

The brochure was professionally designed and printed and the website was equally well done — if not a little plain and to the point. But that’s OK. I didn’t need a whack of social media options, a blog, and embedded video to understand that this company was capable and qualified to trim and dispose of trees.

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Become an Information Exchange

Written by Jeff Wilson   

Networking involves constant interaction with people from all walks of life and, if you keep your ears open, you can learn a heck of a lot.

And, guess what?  Knowing a heck of a lot makes you smarter.  Guess what’s even better?  Being able to communicate what you know and using it to help people get what they need makes you a valuable contact and a master networker.  It makes you an information exchange.

Start by listening to everything. Train yourself to listen to conversations you might ordinarily tune out, and to evaluate every issue you hear with an eye to how it fits into the pool of talent, expertise and resources your network represents.

One way to enhance this skill is to write down a list of your networking contacts and their products, services and special capabilities. Read the list every day, keep it up to date and respond quickly when something you hear connects up with something else on the list.

Learn as much as you can about the special terminologies of your contacts’ businesses. When you’re referring someone with a problem to someone with a possible solution, it adds to your effectiveness and credibility to speak the language of both.  It also helps you recognize the connection.

Last but not least, always follow these tips when communicating information to those in your network:

  • Speak simply, clearly and  in plain language whenever possible.
  • Keep the message short and relevant.
  • End with your offer to help.

The Art of Conversation

Written by Saint Jon of Rochester   

In BNI we believe networking is the key to growing our businesses and networking means we must develop meaningful relationships. Relationships are built on communication so we must become experts at conversation.

Here are five areas we can grow in:

1.     BE more social

o    Arrive 15 – 30mn early each week to our BNI meetings and engage in conversation

o    Stay a few minutes late each week and converse with people

2.     BE a better listener

o    Give people our sincere attention

o    Resist the temptation to ‘rubber neck’ as people we know enter the room and distract us

o    Display attention with head nods, un-crossed arms, facing them, vocal cues like ‘yes’, etc.

o    Ask open ended questions that start with ‘why, what, and how’ and avoid questions that can be answered with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’

3.     BE balanced

o    Meaningful conversations are a give and take

o    Don’t be an interrogator and ask all the questions

o    Don’t do all the talking

4.     BE prepared

o    Don’t show up to BNI with a blank slate in your mind

o    Read interesting articles and books

o    Watch interesting videos, movies, tv (is that possible?)

5.     Be influenced

o    Know a great conversationalist? Hang out with them and learn.


5 Conversation Mistakes When Networking at Business and Social Events

Written by Jeff Wilson   

Most business people agree that networking is a great way to make professional contacts—but only if you do it the right way. However, make one of the following conversation faux pas and your career and professional image could be headed for trouble. Here are five career-crunching networking mistakes people make when attending social or business events.

1.     Chatting for too long with your officemates

Shooting the breeze for a few minutes at networking events with your colleagues is all part of the fun, but if you stay ensconced in your closed circle of friends for too long, new coworkers, prospects or others will quickly cast you and your colleagues as cliquish, disinterested and not open to outsiders.  Also, staying in one place too long, whether you are talking to someone or nibbling on the appetizers will make you appear shy, self-conscious and lacking confidence. It’s better to briefly chat with your buddies and then move to different areas of the room to introduce yourself to others you want to get to know better.

2.     Asking more than three closed-ended questions in a row

Lots of networking takes place during informal get-togethers after work or at work-related social events. Avoid peppering people with one question after the other. “Do you work on our office?” “How long have you worked here?” “Who is your supervisor?” Yikes! You’re networking—not conducting a job interview or interrogation! Asking three or more closed ended questions in a row will certainly stifle any conversation, make others feel uncomfortable and definitely not win you any communication awards. Instead, show interest and a desire to find common interests by asking open-ended questions that encourage others to elaborate and reveal free information. Then based on what you hear that interests you, respond with follow-up questions and information of your own.

3.     Talking too much or too little about yourself

“So enough about my job! Let me show you pictures of my kids (cats, car, etc.)!” Sure people love to talk about themselves, their pets, kids and grandchildren, but if you are the one doing all the talking at a social or business function, you’re probably boring the other person to tears! On the other hand, if you are too tight-lipped, then people may see you as secretive, defensive or lacking interest and enthusiasm. The remedy here is to exchange information about various light subjects at about the same rate so that you both know what each other enjoys and likes to talk about.

4.     Complaining or gossiping about colleagues or clients

You might be tempted and it may even be well-deserved, but never get involved in a gripe session about a colleague or client while attending a networking event or social/business get-together. As obvious as this blunder is, people seem to do it all the time, especially after a few drinks. Even if you’re not the one making the crass remarks, if word gets back to the “offending person” you will still pay the price long after the party is over. If possible, politely excuse yourself from the conversation as quickly as possible. However, if you find yourself stuck with this group, then take the initiative and bring up something that moves the discussion to a more positive topic.

5.     Talking about politics, controversial subjects or sporting events (that’s right!)

It never fails—there always seems to be at least one person at the social or business affair who likes to snag others into political “discussions,” offer longwinded lectures about his or her pet social issues, or wants to debate the outcome of a soccer match. (Sports fans, watch out for this one!) The trap often begins with the seemingly innocent words, “Don’t you think that …?” or “In my humble opinion ….” or “You people always …!”  However, if you rebut with even a few words you’ll be in for an earful—and not the kind of conversation that most people at networking events enjoy or benefit from. Furthermore, discussing controversial topics in this situation often polarizes people who otherwise get along.  The best thing to say when someone brings up a controversial subject or challenges your views at a business or social event is to say, “I think I’ll just keep my opinions to myself about that.” Then it’s up to you to change the discussion to a less volatile topic. 

Social and Business Get-togethers Offer Golden Opportunities to Hone Your Communication Skills

Social and business get-togethers are great place to network, make small talk, establish rapport and build better relationships with your colleagues, acquaintances and clients. When you talk about light, upbeat subjects that lead to sharing common professional and personal interests, goals and experiences you’ll have plenty to talk about while boosting your career and honing your communication skills!


Lead Systems – The Fortune Is In The Follow Up

Written by Kalynn Amadio   

Do you have a follow up system for your leads? Is it a shoebox where you throw all the business cards you collect having every intention of sorting them out later but later never comes. The fortune is in the follow up. So having viable lead systems that you find easy to use becomes critical to building small business success.

A super simple follow up system is best for beginners. There are plenty of ways you can follow up as part of a small business lead systems strategy. If the system is too complex, you or your employees are not going to make good use of it. In the beginning, it’s perfectly acceptable to create lead systems from the tools you have at hand.

Something as simple as an Excel spreadsheet with contact data, notes, dates of contact, proposed follow-up and more will work. Many people start out using Microsoft Outlook to catalog contacts and calendar to maintain some sort of follow up system.

If you have a shoebox handy, you can go even more old school with lead systems. Create monthly dividers for your shoebox. When you have collected business cards from a networking event, attach them to index cards and write notes about your prospect. Simply file the index card behind the date you’ve already agreed with the prospect to follow up or date in the future you intend to follow up. Once this system is rolling, you only need to check the calendar date within your shoebox and DO the follow-up.

If you have an assistant, virtual assistant or family member that supports you in this role, they can keep your lead systems organized and create your follow up list each day. A solopreneur doesn’t need to spend a lot of money on fancy software and services to stay organized though those systems do have their advantages when used properly.

Electronic systems can send you email updates and reminders to follow up. In essence, they can check the box for you. Any lead systems, no matter how simple or how complicated, require human input to make them work. It’s basic garbage-in, garbage-out that could hamper your success with any small business lead systems.

In the end, you have to be diligent, organized and thorough, no matter what follow up business systems you decide to use. But the bottom line is this: No lead systems – No business growth.


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