sjsmith

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Beautiful watercolour prints from Australia

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Previous Blog 2 Jan thru to Mid Aug 2016

Do Unto Others

I read this week that how you treat others is how you feel inside and I got to thinking about how that relates to business.  I firmly believe in karma.  You get what you give, treat others how you want to be treated, give right to get right.  But there are times that we don't feel right.  Maybe you're not well, or dealing with a new family or a young baby, maybe you've suffered a bereavement or the sickness of someone you love.  There are times when, through no fault of your own, that life is tough.  We all have those times. But when you're in business for yourself the wheels need to keep turning.  Maybe, like me, you don't always have support staff who can step in when you need some help.  Read More


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Previous Blog 1 Feb thru to Mid July 2015

A Reflection of You

Cruising Pinterest recently (as you do) I came across a meme stating "Dress for the job you want, not for the job you have". As a business owner you are a vital part of your business and its image.  Like it or not you will be judged on how you present yourself (and I'm not just talking about the women here!). Some research suggests that when people meet you for the first time they make judgement about you in the first few seconds, often before you've even spoken to each other, so it matters how you are seen in the world. I'm not suggesting that you put on your pearls when picking up supplies from your local hardware or that you try to be something you're not but appearing as your best self when you're out is just good sense.  Read More


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Branching Out

It's been a challenging few weeks with one of my businesses but it's given me a timely reminder that you can't afford to be complacent.  We have lost a few clients recently due to them having a slow down in their own businesses.  What six weeks ago was our biggest sales year, has now turned to looking not so rosy.  Don't get me wrong, we're not going out of business but, we are having to make some adaptions to cope with a sudden downturn.  It can happen in any business and it's not always foreseeable. We weathered the financial crisis and I've no doubt we'll weather this but the universe has given me a timely reminder to quit cruising.  Read More


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Passive Income

After talking last week about broadening your sales offerings I thought we should also talk about Passive income.  Exactly what is it?   Passive income is income that you generate for little or no effort (except in the initial set up).  Examples of passive income might be selling ebooks, online courses or seminars which people subscribe to, affiliate sales of other people's products, products that can be digitally downloaded, rent etc.  Why does it matter?  Passive income is a great way to  top up any other income you generate and can be a great support for when you have a slow down in sales. (See last weeks blog no. 59).   Read More

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Keeping on Track

There's one certainty when you're running your own business and that's that there is always something else to do! So how do you keep track of it all? How do you remember all of the tasks, calls, paperwork that needs to be done and ensure that they are all actually done?

I have a very imperfect system but I have to say that for the most part it serves me.  At the beginning of each week (either Sunday night or early Monday) I write in my big A4 notebook.  I like writing because it helps me to remember things.  I have three columns.  One column for my primary business, one for my other businesses and one for personal and home tasks.  I list everything that needs to be done that week under one of these headings. I include appointments, birthdays, meetings, payments that need to be made, Read More

Macy

Moving the Goalposts

Can you believe there's only three months left of the year? It never fails to amaze me how quickly time passes.  I've only just gotten used to typing 2016 instead of 2015!  With that being said, are you feeling like me, that you've been largely derailed from what you wanted to achieve this year! Don't panic!

I've had a tough year, with the last three months being particularly challenging.  The illness and death of a loved family member, the terminal diagnosis of our beloved dog, my own health problems and shrinking business sales have made this some of the toughest times to deal with. Read More

Macy

Good Advice

I read a really interesting blog recently about a lady with an invisible illness and the amount of unsolicited advice she has received about treatments, cures and therapies for her condition.  Much of this advice has come from complete strangers who know little or nothing of her history.  This got me thinking about the amount of advice out there, both asked for and unasked.

Now the internet is a wonderful tool with endless possibilities for finding out information but as they say a little information in the wrong hands can be deadly. Read More

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This is Your Circus

When things are not going well it can be very tempting to look for a scapegoat.  Blame something or someone else for your misfortune and you can let yourself off the hook without too much conscience. But the thing about being the person in charge is that while not everything is your fault, everything is your problem! I mean that you may not like it but, ultimately it's up to you to take charge and tackle the problem.

Sometimes you're lucky enough to be able delegate someone else to tidy up.

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Treading Water

There's a saying that "Comparison is the thief of joy". But in this Information Age it can be very hard not to compare yourself with others.  I belong to a few business groups, both online and in real life and it can be easy to be caught up with other people's success.  If you believe everything you hear and read, everybody's business is doubling year on year! Wow.  Don't get me wrong, there are a number of businesses where I can see that happening and good on them.  But here's the thing,  I'm not sure I want that kind of relentless growth.

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A Strong Finish

There’s a tendency at this time of year to take your foot off the pedal and cruise to the end of the year.  How do I know this?  Because I’m guilty of it.  I was self talking to myself this morning about this very subject and finding every excuse about why its too late in the year to get things done! “ I’m not well, I’m too tired, it’s too late.”  But let’s be honest, there are still well over two months left the year.  In fact there’s over two months till Christmas to get on with something, anything.

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Macy

The Secret to a Happy Christmas

I used to be one of those people who took Christmas way too seriously.  Everything had to be right.  The decorations had to be coordinated with the gift wrapping of the the presents under the tree.  If Christmas was at our house, the table had to be dazzling (and different every year), the food had to be making the table groan (and later the guests), there had to be every drink imaginable on offer as well as a big selection of deserts.  No more.  I have managed to scale back considerably and I have to admit it makes for a much happier time (for me at least).

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The Perfect Time

A few weeks ago I talked about making the most of whats left of the year (Blog 66 - A Strong Finish) and it got me to thinking about how we perceive time.  If we were two months into the year we would feel the year had just begun but if we have two months till the end of the year we feel that the year is nearly over.  Thats because we are thinking of an ending on December 31st.  Theres ten months left as opposed to two months left.  But this is the wrong way to think about it.  We use the year as a yardstick to measure success and accomplishment.  

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Macy

Business Icons

When I think about the business people I admire, I sometimes find it difficult to stay away from the temptation to compare.  I think that's one reason I'm drawn to people in such diverse occupations because it then becomes a mute point.  Let's leave the comparison as the thief of joy conversation for another day!

When thinking about business people it's hard to avoid some of the big names because they are often the ones that make the headlines.

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Macy

When Things Fall Apart

Its been a really tough week! My little dog has been poorly and stopped responding to chemo.  Between vet visits, oncology visits and trying to get him to eat it's been a roller coaster.  Then Donald Trump was elected President of the United States.  The outpouring I had from friends about how hard this was going to be for so many Americans was so sad. For Muslims, for Mexicans, for Hispanics, for women, for lgbtqi Americans,

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Macy

How to Flourish

Last week I talked about how to weather a storm and, let's face it, we all have stormy times.  But life is never just one thing because as surely as we all have tough times we all, also, have good times.  How do we recognise and even capitalise when things are going well?

For me, one of the big gifts I've gotten this year is to be more present.  I've tried to take at least part of every day and really look around me and appreciate all that there is.  I was driving back from the shops at lunch time and the sky was soo blue I wished I could bottle it.  It was just so beautiful.

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Macy

Gearing Up

It's December! Wow that came fast didn't it? Only another four weeks or so and we'll be starting a new year. You better watch out, you better not cry, you better not pout, I'm telling you why! Cause now is one of the most exciting times of the year. Not just do we have Christmas and New year to look forward to but, we can start planning next year.

I can already hear you all groaning and you shouldn't be.  This year I waited till well into January to get my plans for the year crystallised and it was half way through February before I started implementing them!

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Macy

Think Bigger

I was talking last week about getting some planning done for next year before this one has come to a close and I've been thinking a bit about what my own plans for 2017 will be.  The thing is, I find that for a large part, I'm quite focused on the individual steps and haven't given a lot of thought to the big picture.

It can be easy to set small goals for yourself that are easily achievable or, at least easy to visualise but you (and me) should also give some time to thinking about the bigger stuff we would like to achieve

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Macy

Christmas on Your Terms

You know when you're on an aircraft and the safety instructions always tell you to put on your own oxygen before seeing to your children? There's a reason for that! If you don't take care of yourself first, you'll be in no condition to take care of others!   At this time of year I think that's a great lesson to remember.

It's hard not to get caught up in all the madness of Christmas.  If you're in business it might be your busiest time of year!  Add to that, the gift buying, wrapping, the parties, the entertaining, the food shopping, the decorations and it's hard not to become overwhelmed.

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Macy

Seasons Greetings

Well it's only a few days till C-Day and I hope you're all looking forward to it.  I think it's so easy to be caught in the busy-ness at this time of year.

We're all so focused on the presents and the decorations and the food and, sometimes the travel, that we can forget that it is supposed to be a time of celebration.  Whether you support the Christian traditions of Christmas or not I think that that's something we can all share in.  Celebrate that you have a roof over your head, that hopefully, all of your family are safe,

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Macy

Summing Up

I love a new year. All that bright, shiny promise. A blank canvas each and every January. I've always done a bit of a summary at the end of each year about the things I accomplished, the projects I finished, the highlights, plus, a rough plan for the next twelve months of what I'd like to get done and always, always, how many holidays I hope to take. This year I ordered the Amazing Biz and Life planner (this is my third one). I've spent much more time on planning what I want to achieve this year (I've still listed how many holidays), The biggest thing on my agenda for the year is to amp up education for myself. I'd already dipped my toe in the water but this year I have decided to be much more focused.

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Macy

New Beginnings

I know sometimes it can be hard to be fired up by the start of a new year.  There’s that post holiday slump, the Christmas hangover, not to mention the weight a lot of us have gained (me included!).  But that general malaise that we feel is kind of a ripe atmosphere for dreaming your dreams for what’s to come!  

Its a great time for laying in the pool or the bath and imagining what new products or services you can come up with for your business. If you live in the Northern Hemisphere those cold walks can be a great time to daydream

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Macy

Finance Basics

When I first started running a business the thought of managing the accounting and finance side was pretty daunting.  I had no real background in those areas and was really wary about making any mistakes.  I decided to start simply with a basic exercise book.  One page for money coming in per month, the opposite page for money going out per month.  It may not have been very high tech but it was what worked for me. We got a little bigger and I decided I needed something to save some time so I set up a basic spreadsheet.  Again one sheet for money in and one for money out

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Mostly

Theres a real danger, especially with creative businesses, to prolong releasing anything until its perfect.  I’ve come to realise its completely the wrong attitude.  Most artists I know are never completely satisfied with a piece of work and if you wait till you're happy you may never get anything out.  While making things and being creative is lovely, if you're not getting a product in the market, its just a hobby.

The same thing can be said of many other businesses.

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Macy

Not Just Business

I’ve talked before about when people use the phrase ‘Its not personal, its just business’. It’s usually when they've not paid their bill or treated you badly.  I’ve also talked about why I think its a load of bull.  People shape businesses.  They make the decisions, they decide the policies and the corporate culture.  If their culture is one that always pays people late then a person or people made that decision.  It wasn't made by some invisible entity.

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Systems Baby

There's always a lot to do when you run your own business so why would you bother setting up a formal manual for the procedures you use for your business? Simple.  Because there will come a time (hopefully not too long away!) when you are no longer concentrating on running your business but on growing your business.  Other people will be handling most of your day to day functions and if you already have each procedure documented you can be reasonably sure that they're doing things the way you want!

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Macy

Your Real Worth

I talked last week about putting yourself into your business and why its important, and this post emphasises why you are, (or should be), your company biggest asset.  Any self-employed person knows how easy it is to become caught up in the day-to-day running of your business.  Particularly solo-preneurs, find it hard to find the time to take any stock of the big picture for the company or even, to assess how they are doing beyond just sales.  If your sales are going well, you may think that you have no need for further analysis and, if they aren't doing so well you may feel that you should be putting your efforts into boosting them.

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Why you Want a Mentor

Even people who are pretty smart in business know one thing for sure - there's always more to learn!  One of the easiest, and fastest, ways to learn is from other business people. Where do you find these people?  There's numerous places - at your local chamber of commerce, a local business group or, in one of my favourite places - online.

Finding a mentor can be as easy as following one of your business idols.  I particularly love the late Anita Roddick - who set up The Body Shop.

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Macy

Business Made Easy

I hear a lot of small business owners talk about how hard some aspects of business are.  Social media - "I'm no good at it - it's so hard." Accounting - "I've got no idea - it's so hard."  Taxation - "it's so hard."  I think many of us confuse something that's hard with something that's unfamiliar!  Until I started my own business I had no real idea about accounting practices, social media or taxation along with a hundred and one other things!  While learning some of them has been daunting, all of them have been learnable.  Some more easily than others. You're not going to be an expert at everything and you're not going to enjoy all of it but some of it will be easy and much of can be enjoyable.

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Macy

Your Most Important Asset

There's long been a saying that the customer always comes first!   Personally, I don't agree. Treating customers well, listening to their concerns (and addressing them), and communicating effectively are all vital aspects of any business but I subscribe to Richard Brandon's view that your staff always need to come first.  If your staff are well treated, if you listen to their concerns (and address them) and communicate effectively with them, then your staff will always treat your customers right.  One follows the other.

Some of you may not yet have staff but the same is true if you are the only member of staff.  If you are continually paying yourself last (or not at all)

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Macy

Building Wealth

I read a lot of books about money. How people make it, how they manage it, how you should manage yours!  There are a number of things that have struck a chord with me that gives us all lessons in becoming more wealthy.

Firstly, spend less than you earn.  This may seem like a no brainer but it's surprising how many people I know, who have seen substantial rises in their pay checks over the years and yet, don't really have a lot to show for it.  If every time you get a windfall you go on a splurge you're never going to increase your wealth (though you may increase your wardrobe or your credit card debt).

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Macy

The Best Advice I ever Got

I can't remember who said that you should always listen to good advice but you shouldn't always take it!  A lot of the good advice I've heard has come not from business gurus or business experts but from friends and family.

One of my dads favourite sayings is, "You catch more flies with honey." In other words, you do better when you're sweet and this can be said to hold true not just in business but in life.  If you have a disagreement, if you can avoid losing your temper but discuss an issue in a calm way, you stand a much better chance of getting it sorted - and usually more quickly than flying off the handle.

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Recharging

Anyone in business these days relies heavily on a mobile phone.  Whether it's to keep in touch with clients, to access the internet while away from the office or even, to assist with your accounting while on the road!  Our reliance on our phones means that we need to be vigilant about making sure we keep them charged.  Imagine being away from your workplace and a client needs to contact you urgently and you've got a flat battery.

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Just Pictures

I talked last week about taking time to re-charge. I wasn't sure that I'd have a ton of time for blogging when I got back from my short vacation so to take the pressure off myself I decided to treat you to a compilation of some of my latest prints.

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Tough Customers

If you've been in business for a while chances are you've had to deal with an awkward customer. You know what I mean.  They take up a lot of time wanting to know minute details about what they're buying, they have a hundred questions about your product or service, they want discounts or freebies and they want it all yesterday.

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Macy

Favourite Money Books

About a month ago I talked about building wealth and that I read a lot of books about money.  I thought I might share what some of my favourites are.

What Rich People Know & desperately want to keep secret by by Brian Sher.  This is not quite as cheesy as it sounds and has lots of great advice about money mindset and habits for success.

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Macy

Business - Like Life Really

I'm always surprised by people who talk about separating life and business, especially people who work for themselves.  I'm not talking about not having boundaries and taking regular breaks from working but more about that people compartmentalise this area of their life.  

My work takes up about one third of my time and I consider it to be an important part of my life - not seperate from my life!  I view it like any other part of my life and some days are good  and some days not so much.

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Enough Already

I recently got turned down for a bank loan.  I tell you this not because I see it as a failure, or because I want some sympathy but because when things don't go my way it usually leads to a fair bit of navel gazing on my part.  The thing that I came to is to question how much is enough.  I wanted the loan to buy another investment property.  I've had some big dreams about the amount of property I'd like to own. Unfortunately, the bank, do not at this time, share my dream!

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Macy

Getting Seen

One of the scariest things when you first start in business is putting yourself out there.  It's the number one thing that business owners seem to struggle with (me included!). Lots of business owners find the prospect of presenting themselves and their business to be one of the hardest things to do.  It feels icky to be trying to promote yourself, unnatural and even a bit fake. Try to remember that if you feel like this, you absolutely are not alone. The fastest way to overcome the feelings of awkwardness is to do more of it.

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Investing

One thing that I was not entirely prepared for when I first started working for myself was the amount of outgoings that were necessary.  Along with the costs of buying raw materials for manufacturing products, theres the stationery costs, the internet and phone costs, costs for software, costs for advertising.  The list can seem endless.  Before you start moaning about how much there can be to pay for I want you to think about what you can do to improve this situation for the future.

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Macy

Branding Yourself

Way back in Blog  58 (A Reflection of You), I talked about how you present yourself to the world and why it matters.  Over and above putting your best foot forward, how you present yourself also matters in the context of your business as a whole.  If you're a corporate recruiter and you present yourself in your hippie boho people may find the discord between you and your business confusing.  I'm not trying to say that you shouldn't be yourself but is your image consistent with all the other branding of your company

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Macy

Making Room for Uncertainty

One of the few certainties when you run your own business is that life will be full of uncertainty.  I think it's probably the number one reason why people are reluctant to strike out on their own!  

There's the uncertainty of whether you'll have any sales, whether you'll make any money, whether you're capable of keeping all the plates spinning, whether you're capable of leading a team, whether you can manage marketing, social media, budgeting, financials.

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Macy

Analyse Your Audience

It's not always easy determining who your real audience is but it's worth taking some time to try and pinpoint exactly who it is buying your goods and services and from where.  The whole reason for doing this is so that you can target your audience more specifically.  So how do you decide your buyers profile?

Firstly, you need to have a clear idea about who is buying from you as opposed who is following you.  Aside from my Etsy store, my largest following is on Pinterest but I have yet to secure a sale from this platform.

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Macy

Tighten Your Numbers

When you've been in business for while it can be easy to get in a bit of a rut when things are running okay.  Maybe it's a case of you stick to a schedule that's no longer efficient, stay with a supplier that no longer meets all of your needs or keep on using a contractor that's no longer a good fit for your changing business.  That's why it's so important to routinely do a business health check on what's working, what's not and, what could be better.

One of the easiest checks to do is a financial check.  How are sales?  Growing, steady or falling?

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Macy

Should've, Would've, Could've

There's an old saying, 'Don't look back, you're not going that way!' While we should all be careful not to spend too much time and energy hand-wringing about mistakes of the past they are worth noting for the lessons they can teach us.

Some of my best lessons have come from old mistakes.  Back in our early days we had a client who was an unreliable payer.  Every invoice had to be chased up for being overdue and we were laughingly told that 'you always get paid eventually!'.

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Macy