How to Stay Motivated In Your Home Based Business

Having a home based business sounds great. In theory, it is wonderful to stay home, raise your children, and also support them with your business. However, it can be very challenging. Many people struggle to find a balance between work and family (whether they own a home business or not). Because you are your own boss, you may not have deadlines to keep you going. It can be difficult to find time to work and grow your business. You need to be motivated to be successful.

Here are some tips to keep you motivated in your business.

  • Set a goal and stick to it. You can make a goal based on how much time you want to devote to your business. You might want to decide how much money you want to make each week. No matter how you define your goal, once you decide, be sure to work toward it.
  • Get dressed every day. Part of the reason that home based businesses are so popular is because you can work at home in your pajamas. However, many people are not as productive unless they get dressed and ready for each day.
  • Find out when you work best, whether it is morning, afternoon, or evening. Many people have a time when they are most productive.
  • Use that time wisely. Set a schedule and be sure to follow it. Work when you say that you are going to work.
  • Sometimes, it can be helpful to think about how far you have come with your business. Maybe you started with nothing. Maybe you have paid off some of your bills with the money. Did you have enough to pay for a special family outing? This may motivate you enough to keep going.

It can be very difficult to be motivated when you are your own boss. Many days, you won’t feel like working and there is no one there to make you. It helps to see how far you have come in your business and set goals so that you have something to look forward to. Many people do better if they get dressed every day. You should also pick a time to work and stick to it.

Contact us for more help with your home based business.

Should Your Home-Based Business Outsource Work?

If you’re operating a home based business, you probably don’t have anyone working alongside you. Which is nice in the fact that you don’t have to bother with managing anyone. However, once you start to pick up a lot of business, you might feel overwhelmed with all the work you now have to do on your own. At that point, you might find the idea of outsourcing some of the work to be very attractive. But is it really a good idea?

Get More Done in Less Time

The biggest advantage of outsourcing work lies in the fact that it will allow you to get more done in less time. So if you’re behind in filling customer orders, then outsourcing might be the way to go. Because you definitely don’t want to be late in delivering your product or service to your customers.

Delegate Tasks You Don’t Like

There are many tasks involved in running a business. Of those many tasks, there are sure to be quite a few that you hate having to do. Therefore, instead of doing those dreadful tasks yourself, hire someone else to do it. You’ll enjoy your work day a lot more by doing so.

Always Keep an Eye on Things

Just because you’re assigning the job to someone else doesn’t mean you get to completely forget about it. At the end of the day, it’s still your business. Hence, you need to make sure that everything that’s going to be delivered to your client is of great quality.

Don’t Just Go for Cheap

Outsourcing can be great for your business. However, you must be careful about who you choose as the person to outsource to. Don’t just hire the cheapest person willing to take on the work. Opt for someone who is an actual good fit for your company instead.

Contact us to learn more about having a successful home-based business.

Tips For Raising Kids and a Home Based Business

Working from home can be a blessing for many but there are many disadvantages also. Many people think that they can have a successful home based business while watching their kids at the same time. This can make for long and challenging days filled with many interruptions. Some days, they might play well and you can get a lot done. However, there are going to be days that you feel like you don’t get one business item done.

So, what can you do with your children?

  • If your children are little, utilize nap times. As soon as you lay them down, be prepared to start working on your business.
  • When your children are in school, savor the quiet time and work hard to get things done.
  • Have a game plan. Know what needs to be done BEFORE you sit down. That way, if you get a few minutes here and there, you can work instead of deciding what needs to be done.
  • Hire a mother’s helper. Sometimes it would be helpful if you just had someone to get drinks for the kids or to make dinner. There is nothing wrong with getting a little help so that you can settle down and make some money.
  • Have special toys that you only get out when you absolutely can’t be interrupted. Often, children get bored with the same toys that they always play with. New toys tend to occupy them for a little longer. However, you do not have to spend a lot of money. Dollar stores are filled with lots of cheap toys.
  • Use tools so that you can work wherever you go. Get a tablet or a laptop with a good battery so that you can work while your kids play outside or at the park.
  • Utilize quiet times. There is nothing wrong with letting your children watch a little television when you really need to get some work done. You may also decide to have quiet time where they need to play in their rooms and not bug you.
  • Savor the times that you do spend with you children. Be sure to live in the moment and spend quality time with your children.

Balancing a family and business at home can be challenging but it is well worth it. It is important to have a game plan so that when you have time to work, you know exactly what you want to do. You should also use nap and school time to the best of your ability. Though, you should spend plenty of time with your children. After all, they are probably the reason that you work from home!

Contact us for more information about personal and business development.

Building Customer Loyalty

by Jack Pyle

Four years of Gallup Organization polls say consumers believe service quality in the U.S. has fallen and will continue to fall. Brand loyalty has been declining for years. The biggest gripes of customers are failure to do work correctly, slowness, high cost and employees who are unqualified, indifferent or even rude.

Some typical examples of poor service:

  1. Government agencies that emphasize paperwork rather than personal service. And many federal offices have almost incomprehensible voice mail systems.
  2. Hospitals whose first concern seems to be patients’ finances rather than healing.
  3. Car dealers who are only open for sales and service when their customer have to be at work.

The goal of organizations should be to provide value to the customer. But in most organizations, rules and policies are more important than customer needs.

Many managers take the wrong approach to building customer loyalty. They work on customer service-defined by the organization. The emphasis should be on customer satisfaction-defined by the customer. To build customer loyalty, you must focus on customer satisfaction.

The only way to know what your customers want is to ask them. Both qualitative and quantitative research is helpful. Build a customer satisfaction model. Ask managers and employees what customers want, and determine what employee behaviors will deliver it. Then ask customers to review the model and make changes.

Often the internal model is not what customers want. A hotel industry story illustrates this. A seminar group was asked to create a model of the service they wanted during coffee break. Then their trainer asked hotel management and service employees what was important in setting up coffee service.

Hotel people said coffee should be of highest quality and well brewed, served in polished urns with attractive china on a well-arranged table. What did their customers want? None of the above. They wanted fast service-no long lines. And they wanted phones and restrooms nearby. Not a single item hotel people considered important for good service was valued by their customers!

Is customer service worth the trouble?
A loyal customer spends about $150,000 over a lifetime with a car dealer. Does it make sense to argue over a $100 part? American Express research says a loyal customer spends about $180,000 over 10 years-employees make extraordinary efforts to keep them happy. Service is so good that U.S. citizens in trouble overseas are far more likely to call American Express than the U.S. Embassy.

Poor service causes 42% of customers to switch banks. Only 14% of car owners switch dealers because of the cars-68% switch because of “indifference” from sales and service employees.

Good service creates legends-and profit leadership.

  • Federal Express spawned an industry by providing a new customer service-reliable overnight delivery.
  • Nordstrom’s chain of fashion specialty stores saw sales skyrocket 700% in 10 years while profits soared nearly as fast.
  • Embassy Suites beats competition almost every way and is growing 10 times faster than the hotel industry. It recently was rated first by Consumer Reports readers against both mid-priced and high-priced chains.
  • Scandinavian Airlines saw its bottom line change from an $8 million loss to $72 million in profits 18 months later, following a $30 million investment to change its business approach and focus on service for the business traveler.

How do dissatisfied customers behave?
Managers still tend to think their customers are satisfied because few complaints come to their attention. Classic research conducted during the Carter Administration revealed 96% of dissatisfied customers do not complain. Smart managers use this research. They know that for every complaint, there are about 25 other customers with the same problem. If the problem is not resolved, they know people with problems will tell 10-20 people.

Smart managers encourage people to complain to the company and make it easy for them to do so because:

  • Complainers are more likely than non-complainers to buy from the organization again-even if their problems aren’t resolved.
  • 54-70% of complainers remain loyal to organizations when complaints are well handled; 95% will do business again if problem is resolved quickly.
  • Complainers whose problems are resolved tell five others about the good service they received.

The cost of getting a new customer is 3-5 times the cost of keeping an existing one. Yet most organizations spend 80-90% of their marketing budgets seeking new customers.

Creating a service organization
Building customer loyalty means creating a customer-centered management and staff. Service leaders typically do the following:

  1. Research. Excellent customer service professionals know that you begin with open-ended questions, focus groups and other non-directive methods to find out what customers really value and want from the organization.

    Common research mistakes include asking the wrong questions. One failure mode is to ask staff to brainstorm a list of service attributes, then turn them into a customer questionnaire. This approach gives you data for developing a service strategy that supports the existing approach.

  2. Develop a service strategy. Create a simple, long-term strategy focused on customer needs based on your research. It is difficult to provide excellent service to more than one market segment. Liz Claiborne and Frito-Lay concentrate on store owners, not consumers; Scandinavian Airlines and Embassy Suites target business travelers. Shelby Williams Industries sells chairs only to hotels and restaurants. (It owns the largest share-20%-of a tough commodity market.) Every aspect of American Express service is shaped by research. Frequent focus groups and two-hour follow-up interviews are used to develop 4-page customer satisfaction surveys which are sent to 12,000 customers annually.
  3. Encourage two-way communication. It’s an essential foundation for building employee and customer satisfaction. Managers and executives must model the behavior they expect from others. They need to learn to ask questions and listen well. Recent research has shown most quality improvement and worker empowerment programs fail because top managers continue their autocratic methods.
  4. Educate the organization. An absolute truth for creating customer satisfaction is that you first must achieve employee satisfaction. To develop a customer-service culture, front-line employees must be allowed and encouraged to make decisions. That’s where the service action is!

    Education is more than a training seminar. People forget 90% of what they hear in one week, according to communication research. Education is a continuous process which includes on-going formal training and on-the-job reinforcement. Managers and supervisors must be trained to be mentors and coaches so they help employees rather than give orders.

    Typical service training at most corporations involves a $1,000 expenditure per site. There is little on-the-job training, no follow-up to training and few programs to motivate employee behavior, such as bonuses. Only front-line employees are trained (sometimes only those in customer service departments). Usually there is no training for managers and supervisors.

The right kind of training is essential
Contrast that with training done by America’s service leaders. A survey by Citicorp of 17 companies known for excellent service showed that service training costs for front-line employees, managers, and executives averaged 1-2% of sales. Typical training programs share two key concepts:

  1. Vertical cross training. where employees learn jobs above and below their own level. Delta and Singapore Airlines require flight attendants to learn to handle reservations and trace lost luggage before they can fly.
  2. Horizontal cross training, in which employees learn most of the other jobs at their level. Hotels and food chains pay hourly workers extra to learn most of the hourly jobs.

Why cross training? It allows job switching and creates better understanding of how organizations operate, helps employees more easily solve customer problems and increases employee self esteem. Everyone has done the work of sales clerk at Nordstrom; at McDonalds everyone has flipped burgers; everyone can inspect a room for cleanliness at Embassy Suites; Avis vice presidents work at the front desk serving customers; and every officer has fielded customer complaints at Xerox.

Is it worth all this effort? Research suggests customers remain loyal to good service organizations even when things go wrong. Customers tend to be sympathetic when they feel a front-line employee cares about them, understands their needs and does his/her best to fix things.

Jack Pyle, APR, Fellow PRSA, builds trust by improving face-to-face communication through his company Face to Face Matters, Inc. His strategies and training help organizations with change, teamwork, leadership and crisis response.

5 Tips for Choosing a Web Designer

by Jamie Kiley

If you’re in the market for a new website, one of the first things you’ll need to do is hire a web designer. As in any field, there are good web designer and bad web designers, and it’s important to know how to determine which is which. Here are 5 tips to get you started:

1.  Don’t judge a designer’s skill solely on graphic design skills.

Just like you can’t judge a book by its cover, you can’t judge a web designer based on his or her graphic design skills alone. While graphic design is important, attractive images are not the most significant determinant of good design. In fact, they are a comparatively small part of what makes a good website.

Instead of focusing completely on visual image, concentrate on evaluating a designer’s other skills. Evaluate the designer’s portfolio by asking these sample questions:

  • Does this designer design with usability in mind? In other words, is the site designed for form or for function?
  • Does the designer have good organizational abilities? Look for organization of the entire site as a whole, as well as the organization of individual page layouts.
  • Does the designer employ good navigation techniques? Try out some of the sites in his or her portfolio and carefully examine how easy it is for you to navigate around the site and find specific pieces of information.
  • Instead of using graphics just for the sake of pizzazz, does the designer use graphics purposefully to organize the page and to direct a visitor’s attention to important points?
  • All sites should motivate a visitor to do something, whether it is buying a product, filling out a quote request form, signing up for a newsletter, etc.
  • Does the designer do a good job of visually showing visitors how to take action?
  • Does the designer design sites that are easy to use?
  • Instead of asking, “Does this site look good?” ask, “Would this site make me want to buy a product if I was in that site’s target market?”

2.  Talk with references.

Don’t just peruse the sites in a designer’s portfolio. Get in contact with some of the designer’s past clients and question them on the specifics of their experience. Ask how long it took to complete their website, as well as how easy it was to work with the designer.

Also, be sure to ask how effective the client’s website has been. How many visitors do they get? By how much have their sales increased? How well has the site accomplished the client’s intended goals?

3.  Have a basic knowledge of good web design techniques.

It helps significantly in evaluating a prospective web designer if you know at least the basics of good web design. This way, you’ll be in a better position to judge good techniques from the not-so-good.

Before you get ready to hire a designer, spend some time browsing the web and the shelves of your local bookstore. If possible, try to get a feel for the basics of usability and online marketing. Also, glean information from a variety of different sources. The experts often disagree, and it’s helpful to hear from a variety of perspectives and understand why they hold particular positions.

4.  Don’t necessarily go for the lowest bidder.

Remember, it’s not just about getting a website; you’ll need a website that will actually perform. Price and quality usually have a direct relationship, so you’ll get what you pay for. Designers who are overly inexpensive ordinarily lack experience, are difficult to work with, don’t understand much about online marketing, or don’t truly have a grasp of good web design techniques. A website from such a designer won’t be beneficial.

5.  Look for a designer who asks good questions.

Astute designers should probe you for specific answers to such questions as:

  • What is your primary goal?
  • By what standard will you measure the success of your site?
  • Who is your target audience?
  • What are the primary benefits of your product or service?

Look for a designer who obviously understands marketing, not just graphic design.

Jamie Kiley is a web designer in Atlanta, GA.