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7 Ways Online Appointment Software Can Benefit Small Businesses This Year

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7 Ways Online Appointment Software Can Benefit Small Businesses This Year

Appointment-based businesses working on a smaller scale might not see the benefits of online appointment setting right away. After all, a single hairstylist doesn’t see as many clients each day as a fully staffed hair salon. Yet the truth is that a small business can get just as much value out of online appointment software as its larger competitors, if not more so. 

This article will outline seven of the most tangible and immediate benefits of online appointment software for small businesses. Each one can specifically help your startup to grow and flourish in 2021 and beyond:

1. It Snags More Customers

The biggest thing small businesses require is new customers! Startups need all the support they can get, especially as they work to make the kind of name for themselves that will keep retention rates high. Online appointment software will not only bring in new customers, but encourage them to stick around for the long haul. 

Online appointment booking is so easy for new customers to use — they don’t have to get on the phone and talk to a stranger. Such a simple and efficient booking method is sure to pique the interest of numerous prospects. Win them over with a stellar appointment experience, and they’ll be booking a return appointment the minute they walk out the door. 

2. It Speeds Up the Appointment Process

There are a number of variables that can slow the appointment process down. Long wait times can be especially bothersome for both customers and your employees trying to keep a consistent schedule. By enabling online appointment booking, much of the process is sped up, keeping everybody happy. 

For example, employees are no longer distracted by as many phone calls that can pull them away from in-house customers. Online appointment software also eliminates a lot of manual work, such as inputting customer information or selecting appointment slots manually.

3. It Enables Quicker Payments

Few things are as worrisome for small businesses as outstanding payments. While most transactions will be conducted in person, some organizations — such as a doctor’s office — will rely on invoices sent after calculating insurance coverage.

Where third parties aren’t an issue, though, online appointment software can facilitate the payment process. When customers book their appointments online, they can also make advance payments simultaneously. Even if they settle up after service is rendered, online payment methods such as PayPal will encourage timelier payment. And that means small businesses can balance their checkbooks more quickly. 

4. It Reduces Booking Mistakes

Booking errors are inconvenient at best and can lose you customers at worst. Incorrectly inputting appointment times, overbooking appointments, or even forgetting an appointment entirely is a bad look for your organization. Using online appointment software helps to reduce human error that leads to these mistakes. 

Since online software will track appointments for you, overbooking is nonexistent, and accuracy is practically ensured. After all, clients are signing up for your available slots themselves. All you need to do is briefly review your upcoming schedule, and you’re good to go. 

5. It Lowers No-Show Rates

No-shows are an appointment-based business’s worst nightmare. The healthcare industry alone loses billions of dollars annually due to no-shows. These inconveniences take away valuable time slots from other patrons who would be happy to show up, and they waste a good portion of your day. The only party who loses money from a no-show is the business, unless there are well-advertised no-show fees involved.

Using online appointment software, you can slash your no-show rate by sending direct and effective notifications prior to the appointment. Consumers aren’t as likely to answer reminder phone calls, but they are typically quick to check a notification on their smartphone. A good notification system will at least remind them to reschedule an appointment they can no longer make. 

6. It Provides Quality Data

As a small business owner, you should never underestimate the power of data. Any information you can collect will prove to be invaluable to your business when implemented into your strategy. Since online appointment software tracks everything about your customer’s interaction with your business, you can start gathering and analyzing data immediately. 

Data will offer you lots of valuable insights you can use to grow your business. You’ll be able to spot common demographics to target with marketing campaigns as well as which appointment slots are most popular. This concrete information will allow you to make informed decisions to improve your business for present and future customers.

7. It Increases Availability

When booking appointments the old-fashioned way, prospective customers have to call in to their business of choice and inquire about availability. This process can take a long time, especially if they’re put on hold. Other customers simply want to minimize interaction as much as possible and will avoid making such phone calls.

By enabling online booking, customers no longer have to call in to check availability and book an appointment. Online servers are also open 24/7, meaning appointments can be booked long after your business has closed its doors for the day. This allows customers to make appointments anytime, helping you to fill your schedule even more and increase your revenue. 

Loving what you’re reading? You need to see it for yourself. Get started on implementing online appointment software now, and you can expect great things for your small business. 

How Analytics Can Help Your Small Business

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How Analytics Can Help Your Small Business

In our increasingly digital age, it can be all too easy for a small business owner to become overwhelmed by a sudden glut of available data. It seems like every new gadget or operations upgrade connects to the internet and includes an opportunity to accurately measure something or other to which they previously gave very little thought.

Some business owners make the rookie mistake of collecting as much data as possible, meticulously entering it into spreadsheets, and more or less leaving it at that. Successful entrepreneurs, on the other hand, understand that increased opportunities for data collection can be helpful, but only when those analytics are leveraged. Simply stated, they know the difference between raw data and actionable data.

The time to be impressed by internet-enabled devices that spit out new forms of previously uncollectible data is over. Small business owners, in particular, need to bring an increased level of discernment to data that’s merely “cool” vs. data that can help them increase efficiency and profits.

The best place to start is not by compiling all the data available to you but instead pausing long enough to write down a few simple questions. Only after you’ve decided which questions you’d like to answer can you begin to assess which analytics might actually prove helpful. Listed below are four questions just about any small business owner can adopt or adapt, along with pointers for how newer forms of data can help provide actionable answers.

1. Where are we wasting time?

The difference between time and money is that money can be replaced. Business owners and managers should be setting the tone in terms of effective time management during office hours. When management consistently demonstrates respect for the value of time, that attitude tends to filter down to the frontline staff. Conversely, managers who call meetings for no apparent reason can’t reasonably expect employees to place much value on anyone’s time.

Nowadays, there are many scheduling apps that include reporting features that will allow you to more effectively track how you’re spending time and whether or not that investment is paying off. For example, time-tracking analytics can be cross-referenced against customer billing numbers to assess ROI. This relatively simple exercise can be eye-opening in terms of surfacing high-maintenance individuals who, as it turns out, are not contributing all that much to revenue. 

Is the relationship worth the ongoing effort? Time-reporting analytics can help you decide whether to limit specific client contact to certain levels of time commitment or not.

2. Which demographics are falling away?

An investment in customer relationship management (CRM) software can provide individualized feedback on customer preferences, allowing your business to tailor its offerings accordingly. Marketing campaigns can be tweaked to highlight products and services that seem to strike a chord with your regulars. Emails can include a higher degree of personalization. Special events can be designed to respond to feedback.

Additionally, CRM data can chart changes in your customer base and help you do a little exploration. For example, visits to your salon by your 50+ customers may have driven the lion’s share of high-end sales, but those visits have declined precipitously. Is the falloff in any way related to how your business is operating in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic? Or did your product or service line shift such that your more mature customers are no longer interested? 

If the latter, are you OK with that shift? Analytics provided by just about any CRM package should provide the data you need to analyze who your customers are, what they care about, and how you can tailor your business to their needs.

3. At what point do our website visitors lose interest?

Website analytics, in particular, are one area where it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of available data. This is where your ability to formulate relevant, niche-specific questions before you start excavating data is most likely to save you from being over-informed and under-actioned. In particular, owners of appointment-based need to pay close attention to website bounce rates and abandoned scheduling forms.

Did you lose the booking when they read your terms and conditions or when you requested prepayment? Was the user confused by being presented with too many options too soon? Website analytics can provide the when, but you might need to investigate further to find the why.

If, for example, you notice a high bounce rate on a website resource that features one of your most popular offerings, that definitely merits a closer look. The problem might be tied to something as complex as mobile browser compatibility or something as easy to fix as a lousy photo. As you study online analytics, scan for any anomalies as your first step.

4. What do our Wi-Fi analytics reveal about peak business hours?

By encouraging customers to freely use your on-premises Wi-Fi, you can learn a lot. What days and times of the week see the most walk-in traffic? You can use this information to make sure you have enough staff on hand to serve these impromptu clients.

If users sign on via their social media accounts, you can glean further insights from demographic data. Are certain age groups more apt to patronize your business at certain times of day? You can tailor everything from promotions to in-office music choices accordingly.

Proceed with caution, though. There’s a fine balance to be struck between using Wi-Fi analytics to enhance your bottom line and being too nosy. Customers are growing increasingly wary of the data that any service provider collects, so you’ll want to be proactive about this. 

A simple disclaimer informing customers that you collect data to enhance their experience with your business is typically sufficient. Not every customer will agree to your terms and conditions, but many will, thereby helping you increase the overall effectiveness of your staffing and outreach.

Analytics can be powerful tools … or they can be powerful distractions.

There is no denying that objective, empirical data is a good thing. The question every business owner needs to address is whether or not specific forms of data can be utilized to foster growth. Depending on the niche you occupy, newer forms of analytics might be interesting but not helpful. Focus on data that facilitates needed changes.

Don’t fall into the trap of collecting and charting data merely for the sake of collecting and charting data. As you encounter newer forms of analytics that can be conducted, stop and ask yourself whether you should. By keeping an ongoing log of relevant business issues you hope to address with data, your data-sifting process will become much simpler.

Small Business Owners and Social Media: How Much Time to Spend Online

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Small Business Owners and Social Media: How Much Time to Spend Online

Are you running a small business or offering freelance services? One thing you’ve probably heard by now is to establish a strong social media presence and start marketing yourself online.

It’s true, many entrepreneurs have been able to make a name for themselves and grow their customers and client list by effectively utilizing social media. Social media is free, but it can also cost you quite a bit in terms of your time. Social media was designed to help people connect online, but its algorithms today are often geared toward keeping people scrolling mindlessly all day long. So how much time should small business owners spend on social media truly?

Are you spending too much or not enough time on social platforms or do you even need social media at all? Here’s how to consider the right amount of social media for you.

Setting Social Media Goals

If you’re going to get on social media for your small business, it’s important to set clear goals that you’d like to achieve as a result. For example, most people just go online to see what they can find or gain some new followers. However, you’ll need to get more specific than that if you want to make the most of your time.

Do you want to post 5 promotions per month for your products or services? Do you want to gain 500 followers organically during the first 90 days? Is your goal to build yourself up as an authority figure and lead people back to your website to do business with you?

Narrow down what your true goals for social media are and how they contribute to the success of your business. Having a clear focus can help you eliminate time wasted browsing on social media or getting stumped on what to share.

Decide Which Platform You’ll Start On

I’m a firm believer that you shouldn’t try to be on every social media platform if it doesn’t serve a purpose for your business. If you’re selling clothes, you may not find a ton of value on Twitter but find that Instagram helps you communicate with your target audience.

Look at the type of business you have and the services you offer. See how certain social media platforms might fit in with your offering and goals is key. If you’re wondering how much time small business owners already spend on social media, a Vertical Response survey indicated that 43% spend 6 hours per week on social media marketing.

If this fits in with your schedule then great, if not or you find you’re spending a ton of hours on social media, try to limit the numbers of platforms you’re on to only the ones that serve you best.

Allow Extra Time to Implement a Launch Plan

Realize that actually getting established on social media may take up more time than maintaining your profile and scheduling posts. Allow extra room in your schedule to complete and optimize your social media profile(s) and create some cohesive branding.

For Facebook, you may want to create an offer or make sure your phone number and address are added to your page details. For Instagram, you may want to create a bio link that leads to some of your top content, advice, or service pages on your website. With Pinterest, you’ll have to set aside time to create images for your content and write all your board descriptions.

That said, small business owners may spend much more time on social media in the beginning stages until an effective strategy is determined.

Spend Less Time With a Social Media Strategy

So now you know the good is that you don’t have to spend more than 1 hour per day on social media if you don’t want to. Yet, you can still get some great results from having a social presence. Small business owners don’t even have to get on social media each day if it’s not the main driver of profit for the business.

Instead, develop a proven strategy based on your goals and what works. Find out who your ideal follower or customer is and what they’d like to see on your social profile. Track analytics to see how much traffic or business you’re already getting from social media, then make tweaks and test out new strategies.

One thing I enjoy doing to save time is scheduling out my posts on social media in advance. This helps me stay active on the platform and continue to provide value to others without spending too much unnecessary time on social media.

Allocate Time Fairly Among Other Marketing Efforts

Small business owners and social media can be a great mix but realize that social media is often just one aspect of a marketing plan. Sure, adding social media to your marketing tasks may help you save money, but you should always diversify your marketing and test out other strategies.

If you’re marketing in several places, you won’t be limiting yourself to certain clients or customers who will find your business another way. Take email marketing for example. Some people are actually more responsive to emails than they are on social media. In fact, email marketing converts better for some business genres and unlike social media, you actually own your list and can’t get kicked off the platform.

Summary: Small Business and Social Media

In summary, I wouldn’t spend too much time on social media unless it’s returning sizeable profits for your business. Even 5 hours per week is 260 hours per year. If you calculate the value social media has added to your business, you’ll have to determine if that time is worth it to you. I would ramp up social media efforts as business leads and profits grow as a result, but get clear on your goals and narrow down a specific strategy first.

Find ways to work smart while establishing your social presence and don’t neglect other forms of marketing as well.

6 Tips for Instilling Wellness in Your Company Culture

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Motivation Secrets of Productive People

Wellness is more than a corporate buzzword: It’s the work of keeping employees happy, healthy, and productive.

Many leaders realize that wellness is a worthwhile investment. But what they don’t know is how to do it: The reason many programs don’t move the needle on health metrics is that companies preach wellness without building it into their culture.

To make wellness a cornerstone of your company culture:

 1. Promote breaks.

A company that does not understand the value of breaks is sure to struggle. Workers can only handle so much stress before it starts to sabotage their productivity. Letting them take 15-minute breaks periodically will help them sharpen the saw of their productivity.

Don’t dictate what workers do on their breaks. There are plenty of ways to use a spare 15 minutes well. Some people enjoy walking around. Others would rather sit, read, or do a crossword puzzle.

2. Create a calm environment.

Clutter isn’t just unsightly. According to Psychology Today, cluttered environments reduce wellbeing, cloud thinking, and impede mental health. Chaotic spaces tend to be more stressful and less productive places to work.

Think beyond the physical environment. Poor time management creates mental clutter. The result is procrastination, overextension, unpunctuality, and over time, burnout.

3. Offer healthy foods and snacks.

Food is fuel. Stocking healthy foods for the team ensures that they don’t have to reach for a candy bar or drive to a local fast-food restaurant when they get hungry.

Place bowls around the workplace with snacks like bananas, apples, and protein bars. Fill the fridge with hydrating drinks like sparkling water and Gatorade. Be sure to ask team members about allergies before introducing new foods.

4. Set up group activities.

Learn what you team members like to do outside of work, and create hobby groups for them. Go on walks together, try group yoga, or simply set up a recreational basketball league. Socializing is good for mental and physical health, and it reminds workers that they are part of a team.

If workers aren’t interested in physical activities, set up discussion groups. Current events clubs, company improvement task forces, and foreign language groups give team members a voice.

5. Invest in perks.

Gym memberships and massage therapist visits cannot create culture alone, but they do get the message across that the company cares about the health of its team members. You can even include concierge services for when workers need groceries or office supplies.

If you aren’t sure where to start, look at the tech giants. Take Google: The Alphabet subsidiary offers its employees a host of unique perks, such as decompression capsules, a full on-site medical staff, and even free cooking classes.

You may not be able to afford all of the benefits that Google offers, but you can use them for inspiration. Create a list of perks that might fit in the budget, and ask team members for feedback on which ones are most important to them.

6. Ask for feedback over and over.

In order to be happy, positive, and productive at work, employees need to feel like they have a say. Sit down with team members monthly to get their thoughts on the company’s culture and how it’s affecting their personal habits.

Reward workers for suggestions on how to improve workplace conditions. Don’t penalize people who see flaws: Providing honest feedback is not the same as complaining. If employees’ suggestions conflict, get the group together to talk about how best to proceed.

Focus particularly on areas where multiple employees may need help. If two or more members of the team want to quit smoking, set up a cessation program that includes private counseling. If weight management is an issue across the team, perhaps activity trackers might make a good quarterly gift.

Workplace wellness programs are well and good, but a culture of wellness is what actually makes a difference. Leave no stone unturned: Physical, mental, and social health all matter in the context of overall wellbeing. Give employees the tools they need to improve in all of those areas, and you’ll be surprised at just how much stronger your company’s culture becomes.

5 Unique Follow-Ups for Preferred Customers

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Morning Routine Hacks

Closing a sale is just the start. If you don’t want to ruin a good relationship, following up and staying top of mind is essential.

Think about what’s at stake. Get the follow-up right, and the customer not only comes back but also spread the word to other potential customers. Do it poorly, and that customer will spread the bad news even further. 

Not all follow-ups are created equal. The secret to a great one? A personal touch. Here are six ways to provide it:

1. Write a thank-you note by hand.

In the digital age, a handwritten note goes a long way. More than eight in 10 American adults see handwritten messages as more meaningful than those sent by text or email.

What if you aren’t the best writer in the world? Don’t worry about it. Nobody is going to judge you for a misspelling or missed period when you’re writing to say “thank you.” Keep it conversational and concise. Be sure to add something personal you learned about the customer during the sales process.

This follow-up technique works even better if the note is written on a visually appealing postcard. Pick one that your customer will want to hang on his or her fridge to stay top of mind. If the customer spent an unusually large amount, toss in a gift card to your favorite restaurant. 

2. Check in over coffee. 

Your customers know you’re a busy person. When you reach out to schedule a conversation over coffee, you signal to them that they are a priority. 

People can be picky about coffee shops, so try to find out what your preferred customer likes. Is she a Starbucks person? Is that indie coffee shop on the corner more her style?

The best part of this tactic? It’s a chance to open up new business opportunities. But don’t spend the whole time talking about work Ask about her as a person: What does she like to do in her free time? Does she have kids? What causes does she care about? 

3. Give a thoughtful gift.

Your best customers have been generous with your business. Return the favor: Give them something that you know they’ll find valuable.

Choosing the right gift is important. It could be something sold by your business, a book you know they’ve been dying to read, or a floral arrangement. Aim for the $50-$200 range, depending on how close your relationship with the customer is.

It’s also important to present your gift well. Wrap it appealing paper or put it in a bag with a bow on it. If it’s a gift card, package it in a colorful card. 

4. Highlight them on social media. 

Everyone appreciates a public shout-out. Especially if you have a strong social media presence, say “thank you” by featuring your top customers in a post or image. 

If you’re a B2B company, reach out in advance to ask how the customer would like to be positioned. Help them cultivate that image, and you might even earn them some new business.

Encourage members of your team to engage with social posts that mention customers, but make clear that authenticity is key. A salesperson who worked directly with the customer might be able to make a meaningful comment on the post, but someone in an HR role probably cannot.

5. Invite them to a company party. 

Your holiday party, after-work happy hours, and company game nights are great opportunities to make your best customers feel like part of the team. Invite them, ideally by phone or in person, for a night of fun.

Give customers a chance to interact with each other, too. Not only do your best customers probably have a lot in common, but bringing multiple of them to a company event can minimize awkwardness. That way, they aren’t the only “outsiders” at a team event.

High-value customers don’t come along every day. Make them feel special — because they are — by spending some extra time on the follow-up. Get it right, and they might just spend some more with you, too. 

Should You Ask Your Team to Track their Time?

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The 11 Biggest Symptoms of Poor Time Management

For those working in professional services, like lawyers, consultants, advertising specialists and anyone else who has clients, time tracking is inevitable. Billable hours are billable hours, and poor time tracking can lead to some angry clients.

What about everyone else, the working professionals who do not necessarily need to track every minute of their workday? 

As entrepreneurs love to say, time is money: Is the time spent tracking time worth the squeeze?

Why Track Time?

1. Improved efficiency and accountability

Probably the greatest argument for time tracking is that it makes workers accountable and efficient. If someone knows they have to track what they are doing, they are likely to put more effort into getting things done in a timely manner. They’ll probably also block their time to make the process easier.

Time blocking is a time-management technique that encourages practitioners to estimate how much time a certain task will take them, and then carve out that exact chunk of time to complete the task. This prevents multitasking and procrastination, and it sometimes produces a better finished product. 

2. Insights into employee development

Time tracking isn’t just helpful to the boss. Employees who engage in it benefit, too.

When workers see where they’re spending their time, they tend to spot opportunities for improvement. Are they a faster writer than an editor? Are they spending too much time building out certain product features? Is one stage of the sales process taking longer than it should?

Time tracking also helps workers showcase their contributions. An employee who has  documentation of working long hours, taking on an extra-heavy workload, or going beyond their job description will have an easier time asking for a raise. Similarly, tracking time makes it easier to ask a supervisor for extra help or delegatory authority. 

3. Data to support company goals

Employee time is a company’s most important asset. Examining where it’s spent helps leaders identify priorities for the next month, quarter, or year.

If you do decide employees should track their time, compile it into a single spreadsheet. Look at the proportion of company time spent in key areas, like sales and product development.

Think about whether those investments line up with your priorities: Should a third of company time actually be spent on sales? Or should a larger slice of it go to things like culture-building and mentorship?

Before you decide the tracking time is right for you, though, think about its cons. 

The Problems With Tracking Time

What are the downsides of asking employees to log their hours? The four primary ones are:

1. Rushed work

Asking employees to state the time they spend on each task may cause them to give short shrift to tasks that deserve some TLC. Work that was done too quickly is likely to contain a lot of mistakes.

Some work simply takes time. In a creative field like advertising, it’s worth taking a few extra days to think through a campaign. Otherwise, the damage won’t be obvious until it’s already out in the public eye. 

2. Time lost on tracking

In a perfect world, time would be tracked on an “as you go” basis. The fact is, though, that time tracking is often the easiest task to push to the back burner.

Expect employees to put it off. Come Friday afternoon when the timesheet is due, many may spend an hour trying to think through how they spent the past five days. Employees are so bad at tracking time, in fact, that the average firm loses around $50,000 per year in revenue due to mistracked emails alone. 

3. “What category do I put my bathroom break in?”

Nobody wants to ask about how to track their human needs, which may cause workers to ignore them. Not only can that hurt morale, but studies suggest it can actually hurt productivity.

Researchers studying interruptions to prolonged sitting found that periodic movement helps to lift mood, combat dry eyes, and reduce fatigue. Even if employees do track when they get up for coffee to use the bathroom, employers are likely to discount the productivity benefits those breaks provide. 

4. A sense of distrust

One of the most common arguments against time tracking is that it creates feelings of distrust among employees. Given that nearly two in three employees already distrust their leader, think carefully about whether time tracking would perpetuate the problem.

So should you ask your team to track their time? There’s no clear answer, unfortunately. Weigh the pros and cons carefully, and remember: You can always change your policy if it isn’t working like you thought it would. 

Why Small Business Owners Deserve Vacation Days + How To Take Them

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Should You Offer Unlimited Vacation Time?

Small business owners deserve vacation days. There I said it. It’s essential to take time off no matter what type of work you do, but when you run a business, this can be extremely challenging.

When you work for yourself, you can enjoy individual freedoms and flexibility, but you also don’t have anyone around to recommend you take a break. Kids have winter and spring break, and employees get around 2-4 weeks of paid time off each year.

Entrepreneurs need to plan to take time off on their own somehow. Check out these three compelling reasons why small business owners deserve vacation days, along with some key tips and strategies to help you take time off.

3 Reasons Why You Should Take Time Off When You Run a Small Business

It’s no secret that everyone needs a break from time to time, but this is a crucial step for business owners to take. According to a Gallup Poll, 39% of business owners say they work over 60 hours per week. That many work hours is way more than the average 40-hour workweek that most employees have. Working more likely requires more rest time to recover.

Another reason why is that small business owners don’t seem to have a reasonable level of work-life balance. Sure, you can set your own hours and choose who you work with, but running a business puts an insane amount of pressure on an individual. If you are in the beginning stages and don’t have much of a team, this can leave you carrying most of the burden.

According to a Bank West Small Business Growth survey, at least 50% of business owners live with considerable uncertainty about the future; nearly 40% struggle to balance work and leisure time, and 43% admit always being on the job.

The third reason why you should take time off is pretty apparent. With you working all the time and handling most of the pressure of running the entire business, you are merely not scheduling enough vacation time into your budget. But this can change if you’re willing to make an effort. Here are a few key strategies to implement when you want to start taking more time off because let’s face it – you deserve it.

Budget In Your Own PTO

Aside from time, one of the most significant factors that stop small business owners from taking some much needed time off is money. You may not feel like you can afford to take a few unpaid days off from work, or you may fear that your business will stop making money while you’re gone.

The best way to combat these doubts is to budget in your own PTO. Since you won’t get paid for vacation time, start saving up for it in advance. Realize that you may need to take time off for health reasons or take a few personal days. Calculate how much you typically earn during a workday and start stashing some funds away so you won’t have to deal with any financial blowback when you take time off.

Work Ahead on Projects

In addition to budgeting in your own PTO, you may want to work ahead on projects regularly. I like to work ahead on projects often because it provides peace of mind to know that if I have to change my schedule, my deadlines for the following few days are met.

Whether you’re planning a week-long getaway or want to take the week of Christmas off to relax with family, make it a habit to get your work finished ahead of time. Working ahead may mean you are stuck working on projects one Saturday out of the month or have to pull a few late nights.

Planning ahead is not just perfectly normal — it’s a way to help yourself and your productivity. Above and beyond that — nothing beats knowing that your work is completed a week or two in advance so you can get paid even if you take time off.

Delegate Tasks

Stop trying to be a one-person show and start delegating to team members and contractors. You can work fewer hours and have more time for vacations and personal days when you delegate tasks.

Start by outsourcing a single task that is time-consuming or that you’d rather not do. For there, you can hire a virtual assistant or a part-time team member to help regularly with specific responsibilities.

Delegating tasks or asking for help can ensure you have more work done in less time. Once you train the right people, you can rely on them to hold down the fort while you take some time away from your business.

Put Things on Autopilot

Work smarter and not more laborious by putting more things on autopilot so you can take time off when it’s necessary. Start with your most tedious tasks then look into free and affordable ways to automate them.

You can set up an email auto-responder to help you filter through messages and prompt leads to schedule calls and meetings with you. You can schedule out content on your website along with social media posts and email newsletters.

Use a combination of working ahead, delegating, and automating your business to free up more time and energy so you can have the freedom to step away from your business if you feel you need to.

How do you plan for more vacation time as a small business owner? Which one of these strategies is your favorite, or do you prefer a combination of all of them?

4 Tips to Start the New Year Strong

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4 Tips to Start the New Year Strong

If winter weather gets you down, remember: Each new year offers an opportunity to create the company — not to mention the life for yourself — you want. Prioritizing your goals ensures that you make progress on those critical projects.

Those projects may feel endless, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get a jump on your list. To start out the new year strong, make these four changes now:

1. Rethink your morning routine.

Starting your day right is one of the best ways to make it productive. Nothing is worse than waking up late, missing breakfast, and putting yourself behind schedule for the rest of the day. Crafting a morning schedule that promotes physical and mental health is a skill that will help you in 2020 and beyond. 

Start every day with something physical. Run, ride your bike, or work in the garden — whatever works for you. Be sure, too, to eat a healthy breakfast. If you’re not taking care of your body, you can’t hope to take care of a whole company. 

Mental health is often overlooked but is equally important. As an entrepreneur, you will experience moments of fear and doubt. One of the best ways to improve your mental health is by practicing grounding habits, such as meditation, reading, or writing, in the morning. Not only do these activities kickstart the brain, but they give you time to address personal issues that would otherwise weigh on your mind throughout the day.

2. Map out your day — but be flexible.

For many entrepreneurs, their planner and calendar are their most important tools. Before you ever arrive at the office, map out your day. Things can change quickly, though, so build in breathing room. That way, if a colleague ropes you into an unexpected meeting, your whole day won’t be thrown off.

Breaking your day in 15-minute blocks is a fantastic way to see work get done while also building in time for things like responding to emails and calls. If you use a digital calendar, set it so that you receive notifications 15 minutes ahead of time. Then, when it’s time to switch tasks, you’ll get a notification.

3. Write out the “why” behind major tasks.

If you’re going to spend a significant number of those 15-minute blocks on a project, you need to be clear on your reason for doing so. In a single sentence, write out your larger goal behind each of those tasks.

To slot those tasks into your schedule, think about the goal associated with each. Order them not by the difficulty or the size of the task itself, but by the goal behind it. Even if finding that next salesperson takes time and is less important in the moment than other tasks, you might prioritize it because boosting revenue is your biggest goal for the new year. Good things take time.

4. Learn your natural rhythm.

Knowing when you are most productive, when you tend to slow down, and when you want to be around people is key for entrepreneurs. The better you know yourself, the better you’ll be able to make use of your time. 

Start with standard business hours. If you are most effective with sales and relationship development between 8 a.m. and noon, schedule your appointments in the morning. If you struggle to get work done between 12:30 and 2:30 pm, schedule this time to respond to phone calls and emails.

Think about your after-hours productivity as well. If you have some clean-up work to do later in the evening, should you do that around 7 p.m. or 9 p.m.? Make sure to leave ample time for family, self-care, and personal development as well. And don’t forget about your commute time: Could you respond to proposals or reach out to leads during that time?

2020 will be here before you know it. Re-evaluate how you’re spending your time, think back to your goals, and know when you’re best equipped to tackle each task. The more changes you make now, the easier next year will be. 

5 Reasons Why a Calendar Tool Helps You Manage Your Time

By | Time Management | No Comments
You must learn to manage your time. As Renzo Costarella perfectly put it, “Time management is a skill that even the most seasoned business people struggle with.” But, it’s also one of the most important if you want to succeed in both business and life. That’s why I make the most out of my calendar tools. They’ve been able to help manage my time so that I’m productive day-in and day-out because of the following five reasons.

1. Creates a daily routine.

Let’s say that you wake-up on a Saturday morning and don’t have anything planned. Sure. There are things that you should do, like clean the house, but since it’s not set in stone you aimlessly wander around. The next thing you know you just binge-watched the entire new season of Stranger Things. There goes your entire Saturday — wasted. Sometimes it’s a good thing to not have anything planned. You’ve had an exhausting week and you need this time to rest and recharge. But, you can’t do that every day. In order to stop wasting time, you need to create a schedule and stick to it. When you have a plan, it prevents you from getting caught off-guard so that you remain productive. For me, that involves blocking out time for specific tasks in my calendar. My daily routine is something like this. I wake-up at 5:15 a.m. and spend the next two hours exercising, clearing out my inbox, and planning out the rest of my day. From around seven-eight a.m. to noon I work on my most important tasks. After lunch, I spend an hour responding to emails and phone calls. From two p.m. to four p.m. I go back to work and conclude my work day by finishing up some soft work, like tidying up my workplace. After dinner I go over my emails again and then plan my next day. This could change if I have a meeting or travel, but that’s my daily routine that I have scheduled into my calendar. Bonus tip: Make sure that when you block out time for your most important work that it coincides with your peak energy/focus levels of the day. For me, that’s between eight a.m. to 11 a.m. and two p.m. to four p.m.

2. Puts time limits on tasks to manage your time.

In my calendar I make sure that have set aside specific time limits for tasks. If I have to write a blog post, then I block out from eight a.m. to 10 a.m. For weekly time meetings I block out one p.m. to 1:30 p.m. every Tuesday. Doing so prevents working or meetings from dragging on-and-on. As a result, I’m not taking away from other activities.

3. Schedules meetings in advance.

Some meetings or appointments, such as weekly team meetings, can be planned in advance. I can then schedule these meetings for the foreseeable future into my calendar and share it with my team. But, what about unexpected meetings? To be honest, unless it’s an emergency, I don’t accept last minute meetings. It forces me to juggle my work day around, which can then throw my entire week out-of-whack. I at least try to plan a meeting 24 hours in advance so that I’m prepared and can still attend to my priorities. And, the best part, is that thanks to tools like Calendar, this can be done effortlessly. With Calendar I I share my availability via email or embedded link with the other party. They then select the time that works best for them. Once they do, the event is added to both of our calendars. Since this eliminates those back-and-forth emails, meetings can be scheduled pretty much automatically. Now I can focus on getting my work done without frequently going into my inbox.

4. Keeps your time in-check.

What time does your next meeting start? When are your guests expected to arrive at a dinner party? When do you need to finish a certain task. I mark these deadlines and times clearly in my calendar and organizer so that I can keep my time in-check. For instance, if I block out three hours of meetings on a Monday, then I use appointment slots in Google Calendar. This way if I have three meetings I can split this time into three meetings – an hour for each. If my friends are coming over for dinner at six p.m., then I’ll schedule the previous hour for getting dressed, straightening-up the house, and getting dinner started. If I have a deadline with a client, then my calendar reminds me when it has to be completed. Simply put, calendar tools keep my time in-check is that I’m not scrambling around at the last second.

5. Manage Your Time by plannning for breaks.

Despite the misconceptions, breaks are not a waste of time. In fact, breaks are essential if you want to remain productive. This is because regularly scheduled breaks help you recharge, refocus, gain perspective, and ensure that you’re taking care of yourself. In my calendar, I schedule a half-an-hour break at around 10 a.m. During this period I go for a quick walk, make a fresh cup of coffee, and quickly catch-up with my spouse, friends, or mentor. Taking this break clears my head, gets the blood pumping, and provides guidance when I hit the wall.
Originally published here.

How to Make Sure Your Personal Life Doesn’t Negatively Affect Your Business

By | Business Tips, Knowledge Base | No Comments
Let’s be real. Sometimes, your personal life can wreak havoc on your business. As much as we try to keep personal and business separate, we’re human. The problem is when the issues in our personal lives affect our productivity. In recent weeks, I’ve engaged in multiple conversations with business owners who have all been dealing with things in their personal lives. No one makes it public, of course. However, when they are in circles with other business owners they trust, all the personal life dramas are shared. I’ve also had my fair share of drama in my personal life in recent months. As such, I’ve learned several strategies for not allowing it to affect my business. Here are some of the strategies I find work best.

Always prioritize savings.

As a business owner, the amount of money you make can be directly correlated to your output. Sometimes, things in our personal lives do require more of our attention and it causes us to take a temporary step back. That’s why it’s always good to have savings in the bank. For example, a couple of years ago I had to take a step back from my business to help my family with some things. Because I had savings, I was able to do it without any issue.

Give yourself a set period of time to feel your emotions.

Making sure your personal life doesn’t affect your business doesn’t mean ignoring things. This can actually escalate conflict and make everything worse.  It simply means managing them. For example, if you’re going through an emotional period in your personal life, give yourself a set period of time to feel your emotions. Christine Hassler, a life coach for millennials, suggests giving yourself a few minutes each day to really feel your emotions. This way, you’re not ignoring them, but you’re also not letting them affect your business.

Be careful who you surround yourself with.

Sometimes, issues in your personal life can be traced back to those you surround yourself with. While you may be careful who you surround yourself with your business, perhaps this is a lesson you’re still learning in your personal life. I know I definitely am. If you notice that drama always seems to surround one or two people, then it’s time to cut them out. The last thing you need as a business owner is to always be involved in some mess because of the company you keep. Keeping your personal life out of your business becomes impossible when the people in your life consistently drag you down. Toxic people can easily overrun your life with their energy, which is why they need to go if you plan on running a successful business. Bottom line is if you don’t want your personal life ruining your business, then you need to take the preventative measure of making sure unnecessary drama won’t be caused.
Originally published here.
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