Business management

Archive for the ‘Business management’ Category

Consulting Reboot

If you’re at this stage of your consulting business journey, you’re ready for a change. In the Reboot stage, you give your existing business processes, branding and offer a shake, so that you can get back on track.

If this is you, you’re probably experiencing the following:

  • You’ve had some initial successes, but you’ve hit a road block. Maybe a key client or team member turned over, your industry or market shifted, or you hit bump in your life.
  • You may have experienced personal or business challenges that led to a major change. Health, relationships, caregiving, financial and other pinches may have led to a few big or small bumps.
  • The way you were landing projects, bringing in clients, or getting work done worked for a while, but you hadn’t put in place recurring, scalable, predictable model, so that you could be assured of ongoing success
  • Maybe what you had in place was leading to feast or famine cycles, where you might have a large amount come in for a short time, but then you got so busy that you couldn’t keep up with maintaining the systems for marketing, selling and getting paid.
  •  Perhaps you ran into situations where there were communication barriers, contract or invoicing barriers.
  • Or maybe your business is doing pretty well, but you feel like it’s time for a reset, a new way of moving forward, and you know you have the ability to take it higher, if you can just refresh your existing assets and processes.

The great news is that your existing investments and experience can help you with finding the way forward. If you’re open to change, a growth mindset and you’re coachable and willing to make changes, you can find your footing again.

Does this sound like you? You could also be at Startup or Scale Up.

Consulting Scale Up

Once you pass the Startup phase with your consulting business, you’re ready for Scale Up. If you’re at Scale Up, you’re probably hitting a number of targets:

  • You have $3,000 to $8,000 a month in recurring monthly income
  • You’re focused on your business as your main work
  • You’re open to ideas, input and training so that you can make the mindset shift to building a business team, scaling your business, delegating work, and getting ready to pay yourself a six-figure income
  • You’ve got at least the basics behind your business systems, although you may still need to shift to where that revenue, client intake and workflow becomes more automated, predictable, sustainable and scalable
  • You want to take your business beyond its initial offer and start leveraging your intellectual property so that you can achieve scale by selling products, building a team to take on more work, or hiring in coaches and consultants to take on part of your offer
  • You recognize that the skills that got you to this point mean you can put the processes in place to build to $500k, $1M or more, but that you’ll need more sophisticated systems and a mindset shift to do it right

Where are you in your business journey? You could also be at Startup or Reboot.

 

 

Consulting Startup

If you’re in the startup phase of your consulting business, you’re probably working through some common processes:

  • What’s my business?
  • How do I make my business stand out?
  • How do I get clients and how do I keep clients coming in the door?
  • How do I price, set fees, negotiate with clients, put together quotes and get business?
  • What systems do I need in place to get paid, manage workflow and grow?
  • How do I get my business to the first $100k or $250k?
  • How do I make sure I have a sustainable, recurring model that helps me avoid feast or famine cycles and provides for stability and growth?
  • How do I set goals?
  • What skills do I need to hone for selling, financials, automation and delegating?
  • How do I build the leadership and management skills to pivot to a business mindset, so that this business becomes more than a job and leaves me with the energy to focus on what gives me energy, income and opportunity?
Does this sound like you? You could also be at the Scale Up or Reboot stage.

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:

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. It’s just an outline, though – see here for my full business plan kit, which includes the actual materials I use to help clients with their business plans.

    1. Executive Summary
  1. Business Overview
  2. Products & Services
  3. Sales & Marketing Plan
  4. Operating Plan
  5. Management and Organization
  6. Action Plan
  7. Financial Plan
  8. Investment Opportunity
  9. Appendices
    1. Personal Financial Statements
    2. Financial Statements
Having run a business and marketing consulting firm for most of my career, I’ve written countless business plans. Every last one of them counts, though. While I’m not someone who would ever tell you that you must follow your business plan to the letter – it’s a roadmap, not a jail term – I do believe that having a good sense of direction for your business is important. For most people, the process involved in developing a business plan is actually more important than the output. All the work and thought involved in figuring out where you’re headed is what will really drive your business.
With that in mind, if you are looking for a consulting business plan template, you want one that is easy to customize around your own business. Otherwise, if you follow a pre-written, off-the-shelf plan, how will you stand out from the competition? Your business plan, while following a prescribed template, should help create a business that is unique, sustainable and achievable.
At the same time, it’s no good to have a plan that just sounds pretty. Ideally, your business plan helps you set up the systems you need to get traction and growth in your business. That means creating systems for engaging and retaining profitable clients, operating your business and more.

In the meantime, it’s still okay to start exploring the kind of business you want to start, the marketing you want to do and the fees you want to set. You can start on your business while working on your business plan, if you want.

Related:

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!

CPD for BC CPA accounting members

Continuing Professional Development (CPD) requirements for BC CPA (Chartered Professional Accountants) refer to the annual learning investment these financial professionals need to make every year. As with other chartered, certified and licensed professions, accountants need to maintain their right to practice through ongoing training and learning.

Our discussion of CPD explains both online and offline courses and examples of the kinds of continuing education many professions recognize. More than just British Columbia’s CPAs may find this CPD discussion helpful.

Many professional associations distinguish between verifiable and non-verifiable CPD — in some cases, organizations recognize self-reported learning. After all, members of chartered, licensed and certified professions are required to show good character and professional judgement. So time spent in self study on books and courses counts too. Some professionals from a range of careers – not just accounting — have turned to our books on consulting practice management for CPD course credit.

Verifiable credit usually needs to be supported through proof of attendance, examination or other third-party evidence that you took part. Professional organizations often give more weight or focus more hours on such programs.

CPD for BC CPA Accounting Members

For the specifics of what British Columbia’s CPAs need to meet outcomes, take a look at their CPD page on the professional association site.

CPD online courses – Canada, US & International

CPD online courses – in Canada, US & International – and other offerings for continuing professional development can help busy legal, medical, financial and other professionals meet their annual requirements. In many fields, professionals need to take a minimum number of CPD courses each year to meet requirements for maintaining membership, licenses, certifications or other designations.

Online CPD benefits

Traditionally, many people turned to their professional society or to annual conferences and cruises in warm and sunny climes. But the advent of online CPD course offerings has opened the door to new ways of accessing continuing professional development. With ebooks, videos and online courses, busy practitioners can access CPD online.

For people with busy practices and careers, active family lives, remote locations or just a preference to work on their own or in small groups, online CPD may be the way to go.

Online CPD and Offline Options for Continuing Professional Development

CPD is just one of the many terms for ongoing professional development. Other terms:

  • Continuing Education Units (CEU)
  •  Continuing Renewal Units (CRU)
  • Professional Development Points (PDP)
  • Professional Learning Units (PLU)
  • Continuing Legal Education (CLE)
  • Mandatory Continuing Legal Education(MCLE)
  • Minimum Continuing Legal Education (MCLE)

CPD – online & other formats

Continuing professional development may happen on the job (in-service) or outside the workplace. It might be through formal or informal programs. In some organizations, the Human Resources department may offer programming or there may be dedicated training departments in some firms. Some employers may also include CPD and other professional development courses as part of annual reviews and ongoing workforce planning. In other cases, it’s up to the individual to pursue their CPD.

 

CPD Online & Traditional Formats:

  • Lecture
  • Workshop
  • Academic course
  • Case studies
  • Coaching
  • Small group communities of practice
  • Individual study or reading
  • Mentoring

Some organizations award CPD credit for:

  • Teaching
  • Mentoring
  • Writing and publishing
  • Supervision

Looking for individual study options for you? Take a look at our online CPD resources. We have also partnered with CareQuadrant to offer socially innovative online CPD courses on inclusive language, advocacy, reflective practice and more.

 

Should I get a Twitter account?

Should I get a Twitter account? That’s the question a friend of mine asked recently. She was about to make a presentation at a conference and the organizers had asked for her Twitter handle. Although she knew what Twitter was, it wasn’t part of her typical social media use and she wondered what it might offer.

When she asked me “Should I get a Twitter account?”, I took some time to find out why she was asking. After all, the answer to whether you need a Twitter account varies.

Twitter, which launched in 2006, is a social media and news platform where users post and interact with messages. Messages on Twitter are called “tweets” and are limited to 140 characters. Brevity rules on Twitter.

Messages are sent directly to people when you put an @ symbol in front. If you write @usernamehere and then a message, it will be seen by that person, but it’s still visible to the larger world. If you put that @usernamehere into a message, such as “Hey @username here, this article on accounting might help you start your business”, it will also be seen in the Twitter feed of anyone reading the post.

People often use hashtags on Twitter (#consulting, for example) to create conversations that others can follow. So, if you want to know what’s happening in #consulting, #marketing, #Seattle or with the #WHO, you can search or click on those tags. You can add tags to your conversations to help others find them, too.

You may choose to follow people on Twitter, so that you get a sense of what topics are popular or what’s hitting the news. Here in Vancouver, when an earthquake rumbles, an accident occurs or even fireworks burst, people will search Twitter to see if anyone else has mentioned the situation. News, business events and laws may also be topics of conversation, along with scientific discoveries, magazine articles and entertainment. If people think about it, it’s probably on Twitter.

If you decide to start posting on Twitter, it can help with building your profile — assuming you get in front of the right audience. I’ve used Twitter to make business connections, generate blog traffic, share information, get media interviews and build my profile.

Since Tweets are so short, it takes very little time to write a tweet. It’s less commitment than writing blog posts, articles or taking part in other marketing.

That being said, if you’re going to do Twitter right, you need to have a goal, a target audience, key messages and a plan for using it. Like anything else, it may or may not work for you. It’s always better to choose effective campaigns for your business than to do something poorly.

Do you have a Twitter account? Would you recommend it to others?

Related
Should I become a marketing consultant?
What is free publicity?
Should you be on Facebook?

Consulting Fees

Consulting business names – 25 ideas for great brands

Looking for fresh consulting business names? Whether you’re giving a name to your upstart business or looking for ideas for consulting business names to rebrand your existing practice, it can help to review best practices. When it comes to choosing a consulting business name, you need to do more than thinking about just the words that appear on paper.

consultant business name

Need help establishing a rate for your newly named business? Check out our best-selling book on setting rates, available through our store, Amazon and major bookstores.

25 Ideas for Consulting Business Names

  1. Identify your niche, mission statement and business direction. Before you dive into naming your consulting business, make sure you have a solid sense of your business, your market, your pricing, your goals and your direction.
  2. Look for a name that is easily understood. Good, clear names work better than invented terms, unless you have the brand power to help people understand.
  3. Avoid narrowing your business to a geography. If you need to move, expand or sell your business, a geographic name could become a liability. “Duluth Business Consulting” may be confusing if you move even a few cities away.
  4. Likewise, opt for a name that gives you some wiggle room. Some names can date your business – remember all the dotcoms? Others may limit future offerings. I used to hire a company named “Copytime” to do all my photocopies. I was shocked later when I discovered they could also do offset and digital printing, stationery, packaging and custom mailouts. It’s no surprise that they rebranded and grew the business when they came up with a name that showed they did more than print copies.
  5. Consider whether the name can deliver unexpected benefits. Early on with my business, I chose the name Abakai Management Company as an umbrella name for my other businesses. At the time, Yellowpages directories and online directories usually listed companies in alphabetical order. Since only AAA could come before “Abakai” and most professional consulting firms shied away from putting AAA in their names, I got tons of leads because I was first in directories under Marketing. “Abakai Management Company” sounded like it had been around for a while, compared to a lot of the dotcom names of the time. I eventually rebranded years later, but that name worked for a long time.
    Consulting Course - Become a Consultant - Learn to Consult

Likewise, you often see other companies listed in directories using similar tactics, such as A1 or AAA. This tactic is increasingly less important, but worth thinking about if you do work in a relevant field.

  • Think about whether other people will join your firm or whether you’ll sell it. “Robin Smith Consulting” might work now, but what if you add a business partner or a few employees? Will you still be comfortable having your name on everything? If you go to sell your company, what brand equity will be lost when you leave, especially considering so much brand equity in smaller consultancies is tied up with the owner in the first place.
  • Take a look at the international portability of your name. If you’re planning to do business with people from other countries or cultures, find out how the name translates. The Chevy Nova worked in the US, but it meant “no go” to Spanish-speaking customers.
  • Stay away from puns, unless you’re a coffee shop. Witty names like Hazbeans and Higher Grounds might work for some, but a professional consulting firm needs a professional name. Find another way to stand out.
  • Figure out whether you want to stand out or blend in. This will help you figure out if you want to go with something more memorable and out there – such as Menopause Chicks – or something more familiar – such as Acubalance Wellness Centre.
  • Make it memorable. Choose something easy to remember, but stay away of anything so quirky that people remember it by “that place with the weird name”.
  • Check to see if you can get social media handles. While marketing trends come and go, you don’t really want to find out that all variations on your name have already been taken on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other channels, if you really hoped to use them.
  • Make sure the domain name is available – and make it a good one. If you can only get chosennamewithlongwordsstuffedbehindit.com or chosennamefromunexpecteddomain.ly, you may want to keep looking.
  • Check to see whether the name has already been trademarked. Take a look at the US Patent and Trademark Office and the trademark office in the countries where you will do business. While a trademark need not be registered to be enforceable – prior use goes a long way – a quick review of what’s already trademarked can save you from future hassle.
  • Find out if anyone else already uses the name. Avoid choosing a name that is already in use. It can lead to mix-ups and brand confusion. And another company’s prior use of the name may be enough to establish a trademark, so you’d just be shaping up to get into legal trouble later. Choose something that stands out.
  • Ensure the name is available where you plan to do business. In most places, you need to register a business name, although there are some allowances for using your own name. Find out whether you can register the name with your state, province or country.
  • Choose something easy to spell. You and your employees will soon tire of spelling your name over and over. And you want people to be able to get your name right in emails and social media. So choose something easy to spell.
  • Find a name with a positive connotation. Give clients a shot of optimism with your business name. There’s a reason “Mr. Clean” shows up on shelves, not “Mr. Messy Kitchen and Bathroom”. Include information about what your business does. Marketing, business strategy, accounting, sales – those are all broad terms that avoid the limits of things such as “social media” or “Year 2000 Planning”.
  • Choose something short. You’re going to have to fit your business name on business cards, emails, ads, stationery and more. Find a short name.
  • Take a look at the portfolios of naming companies. These will give you some tips for what’s trending and perhaps what works.
  • Consider the future of your business. If you want to eventually sell your business or have employees, you may not want to name the business after yourself. Do you want your name on things other people will be doing? Do you feel comfortable marketing under your own name now?
  • Check the initials, domain name and anything else that makes sense. Property Management Systems sounds good till you have to start abbreviating it. “Rogers Exchange and Hedge Management” might sound good till you write it as “rogersexchange.com”. I know a very successful independent publishing company that recently rebranded when the owner found that it contained an anatomical description.
  • Test the business name. Consider running some cost per click ads to test market ads using your chosen name or domain name. (Be sure to offer legitimate ads, given advertising laws.) Look at click-through rates. What works? What doesn’t?
  • Run your business name (and the domain name) through trusted people and even prospective customers. Do you have to explain the meaning? Can they understand it without having you spell it out? Do they like it? Can they see recommending your business to others?
  • Consider talking to an intellectual property lawyer about ways to protect your business name and other intellectual property.
  • Set up a Google alert to monitor the web for references to your business name. You’ll know if anyone starts using it.

 

Above all else, choose a name you like. You’re going to be spending a lot of time with your business name.

Working on a business plan? See Write Your Business Plan Now.