The Four Books You Need to Read as a Small Business Owner

Running your business is hard enough, I bet you didn’t expect to also be assigned homework! You have to read to keep up with new business trends and marketing strategies; you have to read to keep yourself relevant; you have to read as you continue your growth as an entrepreneur.

The truth is, the literary market is saturated with “How To” and “Yes You Can” business books, and while there are plenty out there that I haven’t read, I have certainly read enough to discern which books have permeated my mind and altered my strategy.  Ironically, the books I’m about to recommend to you do not talk about what’s current and what’s new because I don’t find that useful as a foundational tool. While it’s important to remain abreast of #trending, I believe it’s key to first hone in on a clear vision, a clear market, and a clear flexibility. Once you’ve mastered these key elements, #trending is a lot easier to grasp.
I am listing these in no particular order and using my Amazon affiliate link to show you where to find the books:

From Good to Great by Jim Collins

One of the greatest – no pun intended – points that Jim Collins makes in this book where he studies how companies move to sustained growth over a fifteen year period is that real change takes real time. He explores management and entrepreneurialship as a captain of steamship stewarding his/her crew. It takes slow, steady movement and buy-in – whether by employees, family members, or even yourself – to establish leadership. It means asking the tough questions to all the stakeholders, in our case, that would be our customers and investors, to drive the decisions. He explains the force of change should not be forced.

 

Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson, M.D.

Who Moved My Cheese? ties in so well with From Good to Great because while Collins’ book explores change, Johnson’s book focuses on how to view change with a positive attitude. He discusses the need for flexibility, planning, and foresight to handle both the intended and unintended consequences. Using simple language, he creates a hierarchy of understanding about the expectations of change and changing our expectations.

 

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

Malcolm Gladwell, famed writer for The New Yorker, best known for his break-out book, The Tipping Point, discusses what exactly makes a mathematical outlier. Translating standard deviation and statistics into a readable narrative, he explains how it takes 10,000 hours of practice at anything to create an outlier, like Bill Gates. Using business and real-world examples, such as how Korean Air shifted from one of the world’s worst airlines to a 5-star airline with stellar customer service and safety records, he illuminates that anyone with enough diligence can make him/herself an outlier.

 

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey

“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” -Stephen Covey. This quote from Covey’s highly-proclaimed work was a profound eye-opener for me; I realized how much time I spent wasting on what is ultimately unimportant. In this book, Covey breaks down 7 habits into numerous charts, graphs, and mantra-like-aphorisms to reframe your thinking. He challenges you to dismiss many of your old methods of managing time, relationships, work, and more to lead a rich and fulfilling life.


Spend a little time to read every single day and use it as an opportunity for both “you” time and professional/personal growth. Whether you block out a half hour before bed, DVR your favorite show, skip on social media, or simply “clock-out” of your small business, taking this time to read each of these books will greatly impact your thinking to make you accountable, effective, flexibile, and a leader.

Do you have any other reading recommendations for small business owners? I would love to hear them in the comments section and add them to my Amazon Wish List!

Kristen Fusaro-PizzoPresident

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Owning a Small Business is NOT Easy

I took some time off from work last night to just relax. I was browsing through my cable channels and found A League of Their Own on. The movie came out in 1992 and is easily one of my favorites of all time, and every time I watch it, I glean more wisdom from it than I did the last.

This time around, a quote from the character Jimmy Dugan (the Rockford Peaches’ coach), played by Tom Hanks, is what resonated with me:

“It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.” –A League of Their Own

I immediately thought of owning a small business and being an entrepreneur. Being a small business owner and an entrepreneur is hard.  Anyone who promises easy success from starting and running your own business is either a fool or selling snake oil.

What Makes it So Hard

  • Unless you’ve done it before, knowing all the rules and regulations is a job in itself. Taking the time to start something and to do it legally and ethically is exhausting.
  • You are always working. I mean always. Being an entrepreneur relies on how much you put in, and between managing your business, marketing your business, attending to clients, and planning ahead, there leaves little down time. Time is money, after all.
  • There is no such thing as a get-rich-quick formula. Even people who sell and/or create a product that seemingly has overnight success have done an extraordinary amount of pre-work to give that appearance.
  • You will get rejected…a lot. Whether you’re rejected by a customer, a major retailer, haters who don’t believe in you, rejection is inevitable.
  • Losing money is bound to happen. Sometimes your money gets tied up in inventory, in supplies, in legal, in web design, in poor decisions, entrepreneurship costs money.
  • Self-doubt is a monster lurking beneath the bed. Can I do this? Should I do this? Did I do this correctly? Why did I do that? What happens if I fail? Oh, the doubt, doubt, doubt.
  • Everyone will think they know how to run your business better than you do.
  • Competition is inevitable. Envy is indubitable. Sadly, some people don’t want to watch you succeed, even worse, others will actually try to tear you down.
  • Some people will expect to get things for free from you – maybe friends, maybe family. It’s a truly uncomfortable position.
Donna Marie IBN Entrepreneur
Quote by Donna Maria Johnson, Owner & Founder of the Indie Business Network

With so many negatives (and I’m sure I’m missing a bunch), it makes you wonder how or why anyone ever gets started at all? Because the hard is what makes it great.

How to Succeed

  • Stop trying. Be like Yoda. “No. You must not try. Do or do not. There is no try.”
  • You will struggle, without any question, but your drive to want to succeed must outweigh everything else.
  • Accept each downfall and learn from it. Switch your mindset from “failure” to “experience” and look to it as an opportunity to capture data for future decisions.
  • Make changes when you need to; don’t wait “for the right opportunity.” The moment you can see a change needs to happen, do it. If something is not working, don’t be afraid to just change it.
  • Get creative with money. Try Kickstarter, try Shopify Capital, try Kiva. The key is plan before you get money for what you will do when you get money.**
  • Join a network of like-minded people who will collaborate with you to inspire and empower you to succeed.
  • Find your cheerleaders who will support you. Find one or two objective folks who will tell you the truth without any personal gain. Keep these people close, treat them well, and listen more than you speak.
  • Invest in only what will pay you back 10-fold. If it will lose value after one-or-two uses (whether it’s a piece of equipment, software, or a service), don’t bother.
  • Envision what you want your business to be in one year, three years, and five years. Do one thing every day that will move you towards that vision.
  • For as hard as you’re working, give yourself a little time to unplug and unwind. Whether this is once a day, once a week, or even once a month, make sure the break is long enough for you to unpack yourself and shut-down.
  • Don’t try to do everything yourself. Even if this means hiring someone to do your accounting or to clean your house, allow yourself to be just the business owner while you’re working your way up.

**I have not been paid to endorse any of these companies in this post.

Do you have what it takes to be a small business owner? I think you do.

kristen-fusaro-pizzopresident-2

Direct Sales or Starting From Scratch – Which Business Model is Right For You?

You’ve been bitten by the entrepreneurial bug and now you’re itching to start your own business.  Luckily for you, with over 5 million self-employed entrepreneurs in the United States, you’re in good company.

So now that you’ve decided you want to start your own business, you have dozens of options, but we’re going to focus on the solo-preneur and micro-business decision of Starting from Scratch or going into Direct Sales.

Just like your mother always advised you, we’re going to explore the pros-and-cons of each type of business:

Direct Sales – Pros

  • The business and branding are already established.
  • Customer recognition of quality and branding.
  • Minimal inventory management.
  • Inexpensive buy-in (for most, but there are consultant companies where the buy-in is hefty).
  • Built-in customer service.
  • Opportunities for growth through leadership and consultant acquisition.
  • Clear target market.
  • Large support network.

Direct Sales – Cons

  • Saturated market with many consultants in one area.
  • Competition between local consultants.
  • Products and services are not unique.
  • Unable to stylize your business in your own fashion; limited to regulations of the mother-company.
  • Expense for mandatory marketing, brochures, website maintenance.
  • Tiered earnings which can become discouraging.
  • Minimum sales required to remain active.

Starting from Scratch – Pros

  • Innovative products and services that highly engage customers.
  • You determine your own profit margins.
  • Your own website, marketing, logo, graphics, etc.
  • Growth and expansion plan determined by you.
  • No minimum purchases, minimum consultant sign-ups, or tiered earnings.
  • Ability to offer free shipping, specials, discounts, rewards, etc.
  • Detailed and customer-centric service on your own terms.
  • Unique and independent presentation at vendor events and trade shows.
  • Opportunity to own trademarks and patents.

Starting from Scratch – Cons

  • Expensive start-up costs such as a website, logo design, inventory, etc.
  • Inventory and shipping management on you.
  • Necessary to maintain accounting and bookkeeping.
  • Required to obtain proper certifications and licenses to remain compliant.
  • Support networks may be limited.
  • Seasonal inventory forecasting.

When it comes down to making a decision on how you want to start your business, it really requires introspection and self-reflection. Try asking yourself these questions:

  1. Do I need autonomy when I run my business?
    1. If so, you may consider starting your own business from scratch. While direct sales certainly allow you flexibility regarding your schedule, you have to follow parameters of the mother-company. Sometimes these rules help maintain structure, especially if you’re new to being an entrepreneur.
  2. Do I work better with pre-determined goals given to me or goals I create for myself?
    1. If you’re someone who likes a structured timeline of goals, direct sales are great – you know exactly what you need to achieve the next step. If you’re someone who prefers to achieve at your own pace, your own startup might be the answer.
  3. Am I comfortable with other people selling the same products that I do?
    1. There will always be competition, even if you invent something new, but the competition of the exact same products in direct sales can be tough.
  4. Am I technology-savvy and capable of maintaining a website and social media?
    1. Direct sales companies usually handle all the overhead of maintaining a website, so if you don’t have the time or know-how to manage your own site, direct sales may be a great way to go. On the other end, if you like the ability to customize and create a site and social media presence, an independent business may be a great choice.
  5. Do I have the space to hold/manufacture inventory or prefer products were drop-shipped directly to the customer?
    1. Starting up, you will probably need to maintain your own inventory and manufacturing; in time, you may outgrow your space and have to consider renting other space – while this can be tough to manage, you also have control over inventory. For direct sales, you don’t have to worry about space or shipping, the mother-company handles that, but selling-out or website downtime can be frustrating.

Any opportunity to be an entrepreneur is going to be hard work. Remember to be patient with yourself and always plan at least 3 months in advance. Envision your ultimate goals and that will help guide your choice.

Any other advice for people trying to decide? How did you make your choice?

kristen-fusaro-pizzopresident-2

Top 5 Investments You Need to Make as an Entrepreneur

Being an entrepreneur today doesn’t offer the same mystique and je ne sais quoi it once did. The idea of the successful entrepreneur has us envisioning a Gatsby-esque gentleman lounging on a yacht wearing white board shorts, a deep tan, calling people “Old Sport” while his dollars just rolled in.  This is the American dream, isn’t it? To become so successful as an entrepreneur that our business functions as a well-oiled machine and runs itself.

According to a 2016 Kaufmann Report, 0.31% of the adult population in the United States became entrepreneurs each month. As Fast Company explains, “That translates to just over half a million (530,000) new business owners a month.” A MONTH. With this much growth, it doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, the competition is steep. With survival rates at around 48% by the fifth year, the chances of success drop by more than half.

There is clearly a huge gap between the Gatsby fantasy of success and the reality of entrepreneurship, and the gap falls within this one major point:

You need to spend money to make money. 

If you constantly cheap out in your investments, your business will become trapped. If I told you that for every $1 you invest, you will make 3% back in six months, would you do it? Yeah, you would, and you should invest as much as possible because your $1 becomes $3, your $100 becomes $300, and your $1000 becomes $3000.  If you find the right service providers, the return-on-investment will show itself.

So, you’re ready to spend some money, now the question becomes where because there are money-pits that will do nothing for your business. Most of these money-pits lie in the get-rich-quick schemes, lofty promises for followers, link exchanges, or sample-suckers. Investigate, do your research, get recommendations, and schedule calls to avoid falling for any traps.

Top 5 Investments You Need to Make as an Entrepreneur

  1. A Great Website. This is so incredibly important in every industry today. With brick-and-mortar stores on the vast decline – about 6,000 stores closed in 2008 during the recession, and 2017 is projected at 8,500 store closings – business survival is all about websites and reliable e-commerce. No more whining about not making sales if your website still follows dial-up speed, or worse, you don’t have one at all. It’s so easy to get a website started, even if you’re in the direct sales industry, your mother-company probably has an option for you to pay for an e-commerce site each month – do it.  The next step is hiring a competent web designer who knows how customers interact with websites. This person needs to not only have e-commerce programming knowledge, they need to know the consumer side of website experience. This type of expertise is expensive. But, in these circumstances, you often get what you pay for.
  2. Elegant Vendor Events. As a small business, one of the ways you start to market your brand is usually through vendor events. Sometimes you start at local schools and churches, and these are fantastic to build the community around your brand, but there comes a time when you need to step up your game.  If you’re not investing in vending at quality vendor events, guess what type of clients you will meet?  Ones who don’t want to invest in your products.  Running a business means turning a profit and unless you’re reselling items intended as yard sale goods, you need to step up your game and spend money on good events. No more whining about “flea markets” if you only want to spend $25 on a table.
  3. Product Photography and Brand Development. Building your brand is one of the most challenging aspects of being an entrepreneur and the one aspect that constantly requires upkeep. Without the right marketing, quality labels, packaging, and displays, customers will not take your brand seriously. Sometimes finding the exact way to project your image requires hiring a graphic designer who works in tandem with your product photographer – these are far worth the investment.  Both of these people really need to understand your vision and be able to help you clarify any cloudiness. Hire good people and they will keep it real. Having swag creates a feeling of brand authority and representation – buy a tablecloth and shirts for your vendor events, get quality business cards, customized bags/boxes. You need to create an entire lifestyle around your brand, and while everyone loves your face, you cannot be the only person photographed using your products. In direct sales? Stop with the stock images you get from corporate – everyone sees them and they become boring; have your own photography done integrating that brand into a real lifestyle. Spend the money on your branding – from new swag to a new website, a business is nothing without the image. 
  4. Inventory. Seems obvious that you need to invest in inventory, but there are so many entrepreneurs who are too scared to take the leap to order and/or create inventory for fear of it getting stuck on shelves. You know what’s worse than leftover inventory? Customers who cancel orders because they weren’t shipped fast enough. Direct sales folks – Do you really expect people to just peruse a magazine at your parties and/or vendor events and suddenly purchase from you? Do you expect them to wait 3 weeks for a shipment to arrive? We’re living in the age of Amazon Prime where literal drones are being used to get people their orders in fifteen minutes. Customers want tangible items that are cash-and-carry, especially at vendor events. Unless your brand strategy is highly-exclusive one-of-a-kind items, you really need to have inventory on hand.
  5. Labor Outsourcing. When you first start your business, you want to do everything and be everywhere, and this could work in the very beginning, but if you’re to have long-standing success, you need to start outsourcing. As mentioned in #1 and #3, a good place to begin outsourcing would be a website designer, graphic designer, and product photographer (unless, of course, these are your businesses). In time, you could outsource a reliable accountant (or even a quality inventory/accounting software). Sometimes it’s as simple as hiring someone to help you clean your home, help you with your family, chores, and pets. The point is to allow yourself time to grow. Remember, in your business, time is your most valuable asset and if you’re too busy to actually work on your business, then you’re losing money.

 

What would you invest in to make your business a success?

kristen-fusaro-pizzopresident-2

Ignore the Business Competition

A famous photo of Chad le Clos and Michael Phelps from the 2016 Rio Olympics circulated the internet.

 

rio-2016-olympics-michael-phelps-chad-le-clos.jpg
Photo Credit: Time Magazine

The photo shows Michael Phelps focusing forward while Chad le Clos focuses on Phelps. Phelps took the gold for that race and the photo has become a mantra for what it means to keep your eye on the prize and ignore the competition.

This is no different in business.

Most of us as entrepreneurs are not inventing something absolutely new and amazing. We may be improving on an idea, but rarely are we creating something from a chaos of nothing. Because of this, it’s easy to become hyper-focused on our competition.

Maybe we’re checking their social media, maybe we’re concentrating on what they’re making, maybe we’re studying their marketing, whatever it may be, it’s not a healthy way to conduct business.

What happens when we pay attention to others:

  1. We lose the focus of our own business.
  2. We waste time watching what others are doing instead of growing our own.
  3. We question our values and belief systems.
  4. We become irate, agitated, and overly concerned with their next step.

The same works in reverse – as long as you are successful, there will be people who try to mimic your business. This can become extraordinarily frustrating because you know how hard you work to grow your own network. The reality is that the competition does not matter. 

Spend time on coming up with your own creative ideas and techniques, nurturing your customers, rising above and you will watch your business soar. If you have five people copying you today, make your business worthy enough so ten want to copy you tomorrow. The businesses that rise and thrive are the ones who disregard any other competition.

Another issue in competition is when we have friends who are close in our business network who suddenly want to shut you out. Maybe they are not selling the same products as you, but perhaps they are envious – maybe even jealous – of your success? This type of toxic business relationship is one I advise you to move away from quickly and quietly.

I sat in on a talk by Aileen Gemma-Smith, the owner and founder of Vizalytics Technology, and business mentor for WENYC, and she said that we need to surround ourselves with our “cheerleaders.” The people who are like-minded and willing to support you – sometimes these are business peers, sometimes these are our friends and family, sometimes they are our customers – whoever they end up being for you, those are the people you want in your corner.  Simultaneously, you need to be your own cheerleader. If you are busy worrying about the competition, you are creating a negative mindset; you are creating a mindset where you are only as good as another person as opposed to the goals you have set for yourself.

As you succeed, you may find people blocking you from social media, banning you from their groups, suddenly ignoring you; this is sad and unfortunate, but it’s all part of rising up. Keep persevering – ignore the haters – give them a swift ByeFelicia – and be sure to never be one of the haters yourself.

The more you help others rise and celebrate their success, the greater your own success will be, and more so, the easier it will be to sleep at night.

kristen-fusaro-pizzopresident-2

 

The Need and Power of Networking for Small Business

As a small business owner, you know how much hard work goes into truly making a successful business. I’m not sure who originally said it, but the famous Lori Grenier from Shark Tank says: “Entrepreneurs are the only people who will work 80 hours a week to avoid working 40 hours a week.” Absolute truth. There is one aspect of entrepreneurship and marketing (which is included in that 80 hour work week) which is often overlooked: Networking.

You probably started your business through networking. You contacted your friends and family when you started out, letting them know about your business, but friends and family can only take you so far – their contact is not enough to sustain a business; however, asking your friends and family to reach out to their friends and contacts will help you begin to grow your business.

According to Harvard Business Review: “Networking is a necessity. A mountain of research shows that professional networks lead to more job and business opportunities, broader and deeper knowledge, improved capacity to innovate, faster advancement, and greater status and authority. Building and nurturing professional relationships also improves the quality of work and increases job satisfaction.”

Networking can be uncomfortable, especially if you’re an introvert, but it’s an essential part of growing your business. It makes us uncomfortable because we feel like we’re being pushy, demanding, and annoying.  The trick is to understand how to network without crossing the line.

Networking involves working with people to help bolster your business, not just getting people to buy from you – that’s advertising. It means asking for help or asking for a way work together.

  1. Join a group or professional organization dedicated to networking, like the Vine Vendor Network. By joining these professional groups, you are working with like-minded people who have the same goals of networking. There’s no need to feel like you’re being pushy because you’re all there for the same reason.
  2. Talk to your current customers and ask them for friend referrals. This is an informal way of networking and marketing altogether. The best way to do this is to host an event and ask each customer to bring a friend.
  3. Chat and share your business card with other vendors who target the same market as you at vendor events. You can grow a mutual partnership and understanding of promoting one another.
  4. Feature and follow other small businesses that you love in your blog or on your social media. Contact those businesses to let them know you love their products and would like to feature them. Ask them if they would like to sample yours.
  5. Attend networking events. There are many opportunities for local networking events through your Chamber of Commerce, incubator spaces, and more. A general search of small business networking in your local area should pop up several events. Check Eventbrite, as well!

Networking Example & Success Story: RoseMary Algerio of Thirty-One Gifts was looking for a way to target her business towards real estate agents. She posted this in the Vine Members-Only Group, and Vine members were quick to refer her to real estate agents. She made contact and sure enough, she will be a featured vendor on a real estate web page!

What are some networking successes or struggles that you face? How can the Vine help you?

kristen-fusaro-pizzopresident-2

Advice for Starting Your Own Business from Entrepreneurs

Advice for Starting Your Own Business from Entrepreneurs

The best advice for those of you seeking to start your own business is advice from people who have done it!  Whether you’re building your own brand or establishing yourself as a direct salesperson, it’s key to always listen listen listen. Listen to the needs of your customers, listen to wisdom from the people who have achieved success, and listen to your gut instincts.

Starting with my own piece of advice for you:

“Start a blog to build your brand and your business, but remain conscientious and consistent about it. People will judge you and your products on how effectively you communicate. If you’re inconsistent, people will think you lack the same drive in your business. If your grammar and punctuation are poor, people will believe you’re careless.” – Kristen Fusaro-Pizzo of Bath, Body, Candle Moments

Some advice from fellow entrepreneurs who HAVE done it!

“If you believe in your business, don’t ever give up. The going WILL get tough, but keep believing!! Only YOU can make your dreams come true!” – Jenn Rivera of LuLaRoe

“1. Find capital (savings, loan, or what I did -sell your car)  2. Figure out your costs to the bottom penny.   3. If you like sleep, starting your own business is not for you.” – Igor Yakolev of BeezyBeez Honey

“Research! There are so many resources that you can use. Your business will benefit in the long run if you took your time to gather as much information as possible before you spent a nickel on inventory.” – Rolande Sumner of Butter Angels

Always be productive. Make sure you have a business plan that you are following and constantly assessing and reassessing your goals. If something is not working toss it out and find out what does, of course after trial and error.”  – Tiffany Semmons  of  Imbued, LLC 

“Know what your competitors do right and learn from what they have done wrong! Also, set specific goals each month.” – Univerze Ramos of Bubbly Moon Naturals 

“It takes time to see the results that you bring to yourself, to your business, and to your customers. Don’t let a little slow period discourage you, keep pushing forward and upward.” – RoseMary Algerio of Thirty-One Gifts

“Work on creating contacts and the sales will come.” – Sandra D’Auria of Origami Owl

“Expect to fail. You may fail in big ways or tiny ways. Go into entrepreneurship with your eyes wide open and a pocket full of grace–ready and willing to forgive, forget and move on as you cycle through the great highs and lows of business ownership.” – Kayla Fioravanti of KaylaFioravanti.com

“Spend your time focusing on your business, not your competitor’s. If you’re worried about what someone else is doing, that’s energy you’re not putting into what you need to be doing.” – Sarah Nesbitt of Coastal Carolina Soap Company

“Working out/exercise in some form or fashion is a critical element to one’s day….and when you clear your mind and body you are refreshed to keep working on your business. Namaste.” – Hilary Goldman of A Slice of Delight 

“Be prepared to wait a LONG time before showing a profit.. and only do it if you love what you are doing so much you can’t NOT do it.” – Marge Clark of Nature’s Gift Aromatherapy


There’s a common theme amongst these phenomenal entrepreneurs: Starting your business takes hard work, dedication, and a sincere passion. You can do anything with the right drive and desire to succeed.

kristen-fusaro-pizzopresident-2

Top 5 Ways to be a Savvy Business Owner

In this day and age, advice for all types of business is readily available. I believe all advice has its value, and no one is above receiving advice from someone who has been through it before. Absorb wisdom, translate it for your own business. For all the tips and tricks there are to being a business owner, these are the top five bits of advice I have learned:

  • Get Yourself into a Strong Network. The trick to finding networks worth being involved in is to understand exactly what the network’s visions and goals are. At their best, networks offer the ability to gain knowledge, to share expertise, collaborate, and ways to help your business move forward. You do not have to stick to only one network. In fact, I am a member of three. The first network I joined was the Indie Business Network because it offered me product liability insurance, but it became so so much more. It’s a group of powerful artists and entrepreneurs who also handcraft skincare, soaps, candles, etc. This group is tailored especially to my business type, and I often rely on it to learn about product development and business growth for my field. The second network I belong to is The Handcrafted Soap and Cosmetics Guild, mostly for the same reasons as IBN, but especially pertaining to soap and soap materials. Finally, I created the Vine Vendor Network to collaborate with local entrepreneurs to help us build our business in the local community. We share information about events, host our own event, and help each other succeed while we’re close by.
  • Make Customer Service Your Number One Priority. Our businesses are absolutely nothing without our customers. Especially as small business owners, we need to focus our attention on the needs of our customers. Customers shop at small business because they like the close-knit ties they can create with business owners. We have the ability to go above and beyond by revealing parts of ourselves, working directly with a customer, offering fast and effective service. Customers want to feel valued and the personal attention you give them is exactly how you can make them return.
  • Build Up Other Small Businesses. Along with joining networks, it’s important to actually network. That means helping other small businesses grow and achieve by promoting them, by sharing them with your customers, by featuring them, by shopping there. When you build direct connections with other business owners, you are both supporting their business, but also your own; you are demonstrating that you are not just involved for personal gain, but for the good of the entire team. People will then think of you for the future because you have worked with them in the past; it’s the same concept as saving in a bank.
  • Be Detail-Oriented. Whether this is pertaining to your bookkeeping, your inventory, your supplies, or instructions, one of the best ways to be savvy is to pay attention. While it’s imperative to always keep the big picture in mind as a business owner, it’s necessary to understand all the minor parts that are involved in creating the big picture. When you focus on the details, it gives you insight into the workings of your business and how to improve it. Think of it like owning a vehicle. Yes, you drive your car, but you have to maintain it through getting gas, following traffic laws, changing the oil, getting tune-ups, inspections; all of these moving parts will equate to a smooth ride.
  • Know the Rules of Your Industry. You may be a ground-up enterprise, or you may be an independent consultant for a company, in any circumstance, you need to know the rules inside and out. “I didn’t know” is not a valid excuse for making mistakes. When you know the rules, and follow them, it’s the opposite of constricting – you now understand how to make your business work giving you the creative license to think outside-of-the-box. When you follow the rules, you also build trust and authority in your brand, which makes customers and people you network with feel comfortable working with you.

I would love to hear any tips and tricks you have to be a smart and savvy business owner. Please comment below!

kristen-fusaro-pizzopresident-2

What Employees Really Want From a Boss

What Employees Really Want From a Boss

Part of owning a small business is being a boss. You may be leading a team of 20, but you may also be a one-person show. In any circumstance, there are certain expectations employees have for a boss that they may not realize. There are the typical gripes, such as micro-management, but the truly critical issues are much more subtle and nuanced. Even if you are your own boss and you are your only employee, you may need to stop and reflect on addressing your own needs as an employee, as well.

  • Employees just want someone to listen. This was an eye-opening piece of advice imparted upon me when I first transitioned into a leadership position. There is nothing truer than this statement. Employees want to be heard and want to know that their concerns are validated. They want someone to understand them and know that if the concern is big enough, something will be done to help them.
  • Employees want to offer input. No one likes being told what to do, and while sometimes this is necessary for your role as a boss, most decisions made with the input from all of your stakeholders are better decisions. Your employees will highlight certain aspects you may not have considered, which can give you a rounder perspective. Also, if employees offer their input, they gain ownership of the idea which creates a stronger buy-in.
  • Employees want to feel appreciated. Generalized thanks and appreciation is important, but the most meaningful appreciation is personal and personalized. Take a moment out of your day to thank someone for the work he/she is doing. Give specific thanks by highlighting an anecdote or activity to praise. Employees who feel appreciated are harder-working because they understand that what they’re doing is being valued.
  • Employees want you to be honest with them. This is so simple but incredibly important. If you don’t know the answer, tell them you’ll get back to them. Give a truthful explanation for a decision, be frank about evaluations. Honesty builds true relationships.
  • Employees want you to be the boss. They want someone they could look to for leadership, guidance, and support; a boss who will take control of situations. They want someone who will correct and address issues that are wrong. They want you to know what you’re doing and make them feel safe.

Remember, no matter the size of the team you’re leading, lead with grace and with an open mind. Never forget your employees are people first – with families, sadness, celebrations – if you keep your humanity in check, with their well-being always at the forefront, you will be an astounding boss.

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Leading Your Small Business With Grace

Leading Your Small Business With Grace

Every position comes with its rewards and challenges. The role of a small business owner is no different, but often comes entangled with multiple roles all at once. You’re an accountant, a salesperson, a photographer, a lawyer, and above all, you’re a leader.

What does true leadership mean?

True leadership means making the tough decisions, the ones that will benefit the majority, even if you are not in that majority.

It means understanding that real change takes real time; that the best results are a series of small steps.

It means having empathy, compassion, and caring, while still remaining fair and pragmatic.

It means service; you must continue to give.

It means stewardship. You must guide your ship, but you cannot force people to row if they do not know or believe in your direction. It’s understanding that the winds and tides will change, but having a plan in place to continue towards your vision.

How does true leadership affect small business?

While many of us run our small businesses individually, it’s rarely a one-person show. It takes cooperation and networking. If you cannot lead, you cannot successfully run your business.

You have to look at the big picture and form a vision. You must work every day to bring your vision to life. Sometimes this means making cuts and eliminations, sometimes this means trying something new, but this always means eliciting feedback from the people who are affected.

There are dozens of hard decisions to be made as a small business owner, but as a true leader, you have to know when to make those decisions for the betterment of your business. Some customers or employees will be unhappy with your choice, but you must take the time to hear them out and then explain how and why your decisions will create a better business.

Leading With Grace

The key difference between just leading and leading with grace is the commitment to explanation. Taking the time to have conversations with all the important stakeholders, whether they are your customers, employees, friends, or family. It’s hearing each person’s side of choice before making the best possible one.

Change for the sake of change, or remaining at the status quo for fear of change is not leading with grace.  Learn how people will be affected before making changes, and learn how the status quo is affecting your vision.

Leading with grace includes passing-the-torch. Understand that you can’t be 100% of your business all of the time. Leading with grace is teaching, mentoring, and guiding without fear. To lead with grace, you must see the strengths in others and show them how to use those strengths for absolute potential.

Leading with grace is recognizing when you need to say no. An honest no, not a maybe, not a false timeframe, but a sincere no followed by an explanation. But leading with grace is also understanding when you need to say yes, no matter how difficult it may appear to be. Leading with grace is having the ability to discern the two.

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