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The Corona Virus for Small Businesses

Corona Virus

How should small business owners manage the corona virus, aka COVID-19? It’s a question on the minds of many entrepreneurs, as Fortune 500 companies announce new protocols for travel, meetings and even use of coffee cups. At Consultant Journal, we know many entrepreneurs, small business owners and consultants wonder about the business impact.

Refer to the CDC, WHO, your local health authority or another reliable, science-based source for health information. Their recommendations should inform your decisions. Keep in mind that recommendations may change. In the meantime, based on current information, you can take the following steps:

Managing Employees

  • If you have employees, you’ll want to review the steps you take to make sure they are safe from illness.
  • Wipe down and clean surfaces frequently
  • Encourage workers to stay home or leave work if they have symptoms noted by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Instruct workers to cover coughs and sneezes with tissues, elbows or shoulders, not their hands
  • Encourage frequently soap and water handwashing for 20 seconds or use of alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • Make sure staff have access to well-stocked washing facilities
  • Encourage waving or nodding for greetings
  • Consider whether racism or profiling may be affecting your employees and review HR protocols to help provide emotional and work support

Client Engagement

If your business meets with clients in person, you may want to look at your policies and processes to help keep clients and yourself healthy. Think about what’s actually needed for your sales and marketing:

  • Wave or nod instead of shaking hands
  • Keep washrooms well-stocked with paper towels and soap
  • Bring along hand-sanitizing hand wipes or cleanser, if access to washing facilities is difficult
  • Consider which appointments must be made in person, whether trips are necessary and how you can make better use of teleconferencing and web meetings
  • Offer flexibility for cancellations related to health, review your fees and pricing around cancellations for illness and suggest tech tools for managing communication as needed
  • As with employees, check that racism and profiling are not affecting your work and look for opportunities to improve engagement, diversity and human rights
  • Update your website, social or client communication to let people know how you’re managing health and what options you are offering
  • Make sure you have two-way communication options for clients.

Business Process Review

From a business point of view, you may also need to take precautions:

  • Look through your HR policies, including paid time-off, sick leave, caregiver, short-term disability benefits and policies. Look for opportunities to offer work from home, make-up shifts, sick days, leave or other flexible conditions that promote health and wellness
  • Review internal and external communication policies and protocols. If there is a shut down, how will you inform staff and stakeholders, for example?
  • Do trial runs and document practices for using telemeetings, including teleconferences and web meetings. You may be already doing these, but sometimes employees, contractors and clients may be new to the experience.

Business continuity

  • Prepare your company for the possibility of a shut-down. Review what you would need to do to maintain inventory, reserves and contract fulfillment.
  • Take some time to review your childcare and family caregiver situation; encourage employees to look into options too, including working from home
  • Take a look at your cash flow and what a change to sales or staffing could do. Consider arranging financing ahead of time, as part of business continuity preparations
  • If you haven’t already, you may want to look into business continuity plans and insurance
  • Look for opportunities to automate business processes to minimize disruptions and make sure any credit cards, lines of credit and other investment tools are up to date. Some tools you may find helpful include Zoom, Slack, Google Docs, Trello
  • As with employees and clients, review whether racism and profiling may affect your business or those around you. Look for ways to address issues, provide better support and be a better member of the business community
  • You’ll also want to stay up to date on news around the virus. Be reasonable and make sure you’re using reliable news sources. The CDC and your local health authority are likely good options.

While COVID-19 may impact your business or your personal life, this situation also presents a good opportunity to modernize and automate your business and determine where you can create the most success with personal contact. You may actually find some of the steps improve your workflow, customer engagement, employee retention and other important performance indicators.

Related to Business Management:

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What social media platform should I be on?

 

Social Media Platform - person watching train from platform

 

Running a business can be hard work – made even harder by all the choices out there. If you find yourself asking, “What social media platform should I be on?”, that’s understandable. Friends, colleagues, competitors, clients and even the big social media platforms themselves are only too eager to make a recommendation…and a sale!

What social media platform is the wrong question

Many small and mid-sized businesses end up scrambling to embrace an array of tools and technologies. But asking what social media platform you should use is the wrong question to tackle first. Sure, you’re going to want to look at social media tools and they may well be part of your final decision. But, as we note in our Consulting Fees book, that’s not the first question.

What to consider before you choose a social media platform or tool

  • Start with your end goal in your sights. Coming up with a solid marketing plan and sticking to it is more likely to bring you toward your goal than signing up for an Instagram or Twitter account, just because you see competitors or even friends doing it.
  • Think about your target clients, their needs and what message you need to get across.
  • Review your competitors and what they’re using – and see if you can determine what’s effective for them.
  • Think about your brand, your messages and the ways to connect with clients.
  • Look at where your target clients hang out on social media, how they’re finding you now, and what your web analytics and other tools show is working.
  • Again, meet your clients where they’re at. Try surveying your existing clients to find out what they’re using.
  • Put some tracking tools in place, so that you can start measuring your efforts and figure out what’s working. Google Analytics is free and easy to install and can help you figure out what content engages your clients and drves them to your site. Other apps, like Twitter, have some basic tracking, but you can also look at more sophisticated offerings.
  • Take a look at all the social media available. Start with one or two solid options. Trying to market on multiple platforms will tie up a lot of resources and can be exhausting.
  • Put together a social media calendar and plan your content.
  • Look for opportunities to reuse and re-market your content.

Establish goals for using social

It’s critical to know why you want to use social media. Some common goals include wanting to:

  • Build your brand
  • Create awareness about a problem your clients face
  • Help clients discover how an issue affects them
  • Nudge clients toward envisioning a solution to a problem they face
  • Position your company or your solution as the best offer for solving that problem
  • Affirm clients who have already purchased from you
  • Get existing clients to come back
  • Generate referrals

What social media platforms do you use?

Related

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Social Responsibility Coaching Spaces

Sometimes, even for the most successful entrepreneurs, life comes up out of nowhere and gives you a hard dose of reality. It can be hard to pick up yourself, your family and your business.

Most supports for people in crisis look at counseling or mental health. And, often, the supports available to entrepreneurs involve large-scale projects, like business continuity planning, crisis communications or revamping a business plan. Sometimes, you just need a guide to help you out of the crisis.

As part of our corporate social responsibility, our founder, Andréa Coutu, has decided to open up 1-2 coaching spaces for entrepreneurs on a sliding scale basis.

Aimed at helping people who already have other crisis supports, such as counseling, in place, these sessions are meant to bring Andréa alongside you, while you get your business back on track. This is business coaching, not counseling. But Andréa has complemented her years of experience as a business consultant and educator with further training in psychological first aid, trauma-informed practice, collaborative problem solving, inclusive practice and indigenous cultural safety. She also draws from extensive lived experience and lay advocacy experience with navigating complex health, education, legal and social services systems.

So, if you’re facing tough times or historic or current barriers, we welcome your application. Space is limited. If you think this may be a fit for you, apply at https://andreacoutu.typeform.com/to/H7hBqs. There are limited spaces available at $125 for 45-minutes per session for up to five sessions ($625).

If you’re not sure whether you’re a fit, take a look at the form and apply anyway. I won’t judge you by the size of your crisis.

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Are you friends with your clients and vendors?

I’m a people person. I like people. And I like talking. I don’t like being fake, though, so I tend to be straight up with people. As a result, I find that I connect with a lot of people. Because I run a business, this means that some of my clients and vendors have become close friends over the years. In turn, many of my friends seek me out as a supplier.

I grew up in a small town and so it seems completely normal to have such blurry boundaries in my life. In a community, people do business with people they trust. If you trust someone, it makes sense that you might sometimes see a friendship emerge. And, if you have friends who need business services, you may sometimes find yourself in a business relationship with those friends. Sure, it makes for some complicated dealings, but it means that there’s some authenticity to the business relationships you have. Why would you treat your clients and vendors any differently than the other people in your life? Trust is at the core of any relationship, whether it’s business or personal.

That being said, boundaries are important. If you do find yourself socializing with clients, service providers, suppliers or others, you may want to think about ways to keep the relationship feeling safe and sustainable. Often, working with written agreements for business can help keep things clear.

Are you friends with your clients or vendors?

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Consulting business plan template – free outline

Many people write to ask where they can find a consulting business plan template. Well, here’s a free outline of a consulting business plan template.

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Entrepreneurial FOMO: how to deal

Entrepreneurial FOMO can affect even the most confident of entrepreneurs. Here’s how to deal with entrepreneurial fear of missing out.

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Consulting as a lifestyle business

Consulting can be a lifestyle business, but people who use that as a criticism may be hiding their own insecurities by pushing them on you.

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Authentic ways to reduce client churn

Looking for authentic, meaningful ways to reduce client churn? Keeping existing clients from walking out the door should be top priority for any company. After all, you’ve worked hard to saw these clients to your vision and you’ve already invested in getting to know them. As long as there’s a fit, continuing to work with and grow existing clients should be a key focus. Unfortunately, clients something leave and managing client churn needs to be part of your overall strategy.

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How to Set Up a Website or Blog with Bluehost

So you’re looking to set up a personalized email address, website or blog. I’m a Bluehost affiliate partner and I want to be clear that I receive a commission if you sign up with them. You are certainly welcome to set up a website, blog or personalized email anywhere. I spent a fair bit of time researching where to send Consultant Journal readers, though, and I chose Bluehost because they’ve been around the block, they’re a recognized name and their approach seems good. I’ll walk you through the steps.

  1. Click here to go to the Bluehost website (it will open in a new window).

bluehost welcome screen

 

Got it? Good. I am a big WordPress fan and I find it’s pretty easy for most people to set up, so I suggest going with that.

2. Choose a plan.

I’m a bit of a klutz, so I like having a backup for my websites. You can choose any of these plans, but I personally feel most comfortable with one that comes with a site backup, so that I can recover anything I lose. However, when I was starting out, I used to just keep copies of my stuff in a folder saved in the cloud. If you’re just going to have a few pages, you can start that way. However, think about whether you also want domain privacy. I also pay the extra for my sites to have my registration details kept private, so that I don’t end up with someone showing up at my office or home unannounced, except for the courier folks who bring my chocolate subscription!

Okay. So click the plan you want.

3. Choose a domain.
There are lots of places you can buy domain names and you’re certainly welcome to choose one from your vendor of choice. Bluehost includes a free domain with your registration setup, though, so you might want to stick with them and keep it simple.

If you’re choosing a domain name, I recommend going for something short and sweet. I’m a bit biased to .com domains, but it’s fine to look at other options. With so many people just relying on search engines and links, you have a bit more flexibility these days. Still, I prefer to find something short and easy to spell, pronounce and remember. I also suggest making sure you aren’t infringing on any trademarks or existing business names. You may want to try using the domain suggestion tool to find something, if your preferred options are taken.

Make your choice and click next. Depending on what you chose, you’ll either be on to your domain naming or the payment details.

4. Set up your account

Now you’re on to the account information screen. Provide your registration details. (Many countries require you to provide your contact information to comply with laws about website registration.)

Then choose your package. (It’s okay to choose the shortest time frame. You don’t have to go for three years and, although, as a partner, you might think I’d push you to go for the longest term, I suggest you just do a shorter term, so that you get a taste of what’s happening.) You can’t pay by the month, but you can choose a 1, 2, 3 or 5-year package that works out to a decent monthly amount.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I set up website, I click the domain privacy protection button. I don’t like my personal details out there for anyone to find. If you happen to work from home, it’s especially important that you consider a privacy plan – it doesn’t add very much and it keeps your address and other details private. Otherwise, just ignore all the special offers and details.

5. Add your billing details

website cc account details

 

 

 

 

 

Read the fine print and the terms, cancellation and privacy policy. If you agree, click submit.

6. Create your password.

website password setup

 

 

 

 

You’re almost there.

 

Click the Congratulations button.

congrats

And there you go. You’re done.

Okay. You’re all set up. You can set up your email, website or blog now.

While you can choose one of the website themes they offer, I generally stick with the themes that come with WordPress. That’s because themes get updates fairly regularly and you could be stuck with an out-of-date theme that hackers would exploit. (This has happened to me and it really hurt my brand. So now I make sure I use popular themes, not custom or one-off themes.)

Go check out your new domain – and don’t be surprised when you see it isn’t ready yet. It takes a while for all the new domain and name server info to percolate through the Internet. Give it a day or two. But, in the meantime, you can start building.

Click the all done button:

all done

Set up on WordPress

wordpress set up

 

 

Ta da!

So, from here, I would just click “I don’t need help.” Okay, I understand. You’re thinking, “BUT I DO NEED HELP!” I get it. It’s just that the options with the blue buttons come with things set up and then you might find you’re trying to undo some of what’s been set up. If you click “I don’t need any help”, you can start from scratch and just set up the way you want.

If you’re just doing a blog, you can simply have one page and do everything there.

If you’re doing a website, I recommend you do what I teach my university students! Set up the main home index page, About and Contact. From there, you might want to add pages for Blog, Services, Products. Keep it simple.

Check your email

Make sure you’ve activated any account and website links sent to you by Bluehost.

STUCK? HAVING TROUBLE? CONFUSED?

Contact Bluehost at https://www.bluehost.com/contact. Calling usually works better than chatting and, personally, I find I usually connect better with people on the phone, when I can hear their voice.  I don’t have your account information! Bluehost has all that and they can help you figure things out.

Enjoy your new website or blog!

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5 ways to reduce client churn and turnover

Looking for a way to boost your bottom line? Taking steps to reduce client churn – account turnover – can help. Maintaining a strong relationship with existing clients and past clients offers an opportunity to improve efficiency and revenues.

Client churn or loss of customers can be a critical situation for any business. When you face turnover from even a small percentage of clients, it can reduce your revenue and tie up valuable resources as you try to recover. It can also affect your reputation.

Fortunately, by taking time to understand causes of client churn, you can figure out what causes clients to turnover – and what you can do about it.

Build credibility

Trust forms the base of customer relationships. Focus on clients most likely to be a good fit. If your client feels that you are not being honest in your dealings, they may stop engaging or returning and may even start telling others to do the same. Strive to build a culture of trust with clients. Be honest, predictable and reliable.

Set client expectations

Every client has individual needs, wants and expectations. By working with the client to understand their unique situation, you can help them build a vision to overcoming problems and finding solutions. As part of that, you need to position your services and products as key, without pushing anything on the client. If a client feels that there’s a lack of fit and that you’re not meeting their expectations, they won’t want to come back.

By taking the time to build relationships, you can better set client expectations. Let them know when you can and can’t help – and work with them to find solutions, even if you need to refer them to others to create a complete solution. Focus on delivering high quality services and products that align with your client’s needs and expectations. Wherever possible, under promise and over deliver.

Leverage champions

Your current clients can amplify your brand. They not only may continue to buy – they can influence others to buy from you. Create a marketing campaign focused on your current clients. Since you’ve already done the hard work of winning them over, it should be less work to convince them to buy again than to find new clients. Remind them why they sought you out, what successes they have and how they can continue working with you. You can also create a referral program to encourage them to use word-of-mouth to market your business.

Deliver outstanding customer experiences

In the age of globalization and online services, clients can easily move to new providers. But, by building a relationship that delivers a superior customer experience, you can help retain them – and make changing providers feel like a bigger risk. Listen to each clients’ needs and encourage them to give you feedback. Rather than getting caught up in conflict, look for opportunities to meet complaints, better explain options and even cross-sell your products and services. Clients prefer to work with providers who value their input and their experiences – so set up a feedback system and a way for responding. Look for opportunities to communicate how you’re responding to feedback and continuing to innovate.

Reward loyal clients

Create loyalty programs for clients to reduce churn and turnover. While that might make you think of a little card that your local coffee shop stamps each time you buy a coffee, this concept can scale up to even Fortune 500 firms. You can offer discounts, rewards and incentives for frequency of purchase, length of relationship, referrals, variety of services and products used and more. Sometimes, even a card or email that thanks a client for their ongoing business can make a difference, without requiring you to cut your fees.

While any business will face some client churn, successful businesses look at client turnover and make plans for addressing it. What steps do you take?

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