Introducing Garage to Global

Garage to Global

What does it take to start a home-based business and turn it into a global organization?  I am sharing the many lessons I’ve learned to do just that.

In 1985, I started a small business from my home in Southern California.  Today, BNI has ovBNI Member Growth Through 2014er 7,400 locations in more than 65 countries around the world (see the member growth chart to the right).

From business networking to management, scaling a business, and surrounding yourself with good people, I will be sharing with you the secrets for building a global brand.

Go here and subscribe to my new Garage to Global Channel (part of the Entrepreneur Network) on YouTube: http://tinyurl.com/garagetoglobal.

Share with me below what you think it takes to go from “garage to global” (but don’t forget to subscribe to my new channel. 🙂

How Well Do You Know Your Business?

ID-10063353Established business owners often hit a point where they don’t think that they need to continue improving themselves or their businesses. Even if you have thus far been successful, it is important to continue identifying strengths and weaknesses. Businesses evolve, and the needs of an organization easily change over time.

As your business evolves, you may need to take time to focus on the facts of your business. Even though it sounds silly (we all know what we do, right?), taking time to identify the basics can be helpful in the long run.

To start, reexamine who you are. Not you personally, but your business. Where does the business stand today? What are your motivations for keeping it going every day? These things can change over time, and are likely different than they were when you first started. Other questions you may want to ask yourself to get to the bottom of this:

  • Who are your customers? Your target markets?
  • What are your core competencies?
  • Who are your competitors, and how well are you competing?

Next, you must clearly communicate who you are to your network. This can be people you work with who pass referrals to you, this could be friends, family, and coworkers. Anyone who may pass a referral to you, or at the minimum connect you with someone who could help you grow your business.

Your newly developed understanding of your business can even come in handy when you are asked what you do by strangers – telling people your job title does nothing to strengthen a relationship.

To learn more about this topic and more, check out my book with Brennan Scanlon, The Networking Disconnect.

Why We Need to Stop Reinventing the Wheel

ID-10026461As business people and networkers, and even in our personal lives, we are often trying to make things harder than they need to be. There is an abundance of techniques, for sales, communicating, and general business practices, that are tried and true, so much so that they seem too simple to truly be effective. We re-evaluate them, we “improve” upon them, and we overcomplicate them. Possibly worse, we sometimes just scrap the old way and try to start over from scratch.

Often, we think we are smarter than those who came before us. Our egos prevent us from listening to those who have more history. The danger here with reinventing the wheel is that it puts us in danger of history repeating itself.

Here are three common warning signs that you may be falling into the danger zone of repeating work, and what to do about them.

  • Instead of solving a problem, you come up with new features to cover it up. First and foremost, this is poor customer service to add features to try to distract from a known issue with a good or service. Instead of wasting your time coming up with new features on an old issue, spend time diving into the old issue and make minor changes on existing features to elevate the whole product.
  • When something with history doesn’t work perfectly, you think it might be easier to start over. Without a doubt, there was a reason things got to where they are. Instead of erasing all of the work of those before you, do a little research. Take time to talk with your predecessors and learn what the motivation behind choices were. Chances are you will discover the core problem, and be able to instead make moves to target that issue, instead of starting over.
  • The wheel you’re looking at reinventing is a common wheel that many business people are faced with. Is your wheel unique to you, or is it something that many in your profession are faced with? If the latter, it is highly possible that there are many people also working to reinvent that wheel right now. Perhaps it is a standard business practice in your field that simply doesn’t work. Instead of putting forth resources (including time and money) to tackle it on your own, see if there is a group in your field working on this issue. If you are working to forge new paths at the same time others are trying to do the same thing, you’re all wasting resources and could likely work more effectively as a team.

Have you ever tried to reinvent the wheel? What happened?

Tips and Tools of the Trade…Show

For most business professionals, a trade show in your field is a great opportunity to get out and meet other professionals who own or work for businesses similar to yours. Here, you can garner new ideas to bring home with you and make your business better, receive valuable feedback on what you’re currently doing from other professionals, and possibly develop relationships and connections with people who may help you grow your business as part of a Power Team.

ID-10069835While trade shows can be extremely beneficial, they can only really help you if you go into it prepared and ready to grow. As the new year began, many organizations begin promoting their 2016 trade shows, and I’m sure countless of you have already registered for one, if not multiple.

Before you go, consider some of these do’s and don’ts to get the most out of your trade show experience.

DO research the multiple trade shows happening in your field for the year before making the final decision on which to attend. While you can attend more than one, you should only attend as many as will benefit you. Talk to contacts whom you know have attended a specific trade show in the past to get their feedback, do a quick Google search, and always read all of the promotional brochures you can get your hands on. 

DON’T go to the trade show without a specific goal in mind. Want to meet someone who can give you advise on using social media to hit your target market? Looking to build a relationship with someone who has been in the field 20 years longer than you have? Going in with a specific goal can go a long way.

DO become familiar with the layout of the space that the trade show will be in. You can identify quickly if there are certain booths you’d like to make sure you hit, and perhaps even mold your own booth to fit in (or better, stand out) from those positioned near you.

DON’T just hang out by one booth, or if you’re working the show, your booth. You can’t expect your potential contacts to come to you. We never expect this in our day-to-day business, so why would we expect this at a business convention with hundreds of busy professionals, all with their own businesses and goals in mind?

DO make sure you get to as many seminars that make sense for you, and attend group activities. You’re there to make contacts and get to know others in your field, or in the fields represented at the trade show. Don’t waste your time at the show by not circulating and getting to know people.

DON’T forget the follow up! Meeting someone in the first place is only have the battle. You have to actually follow up with them after that initial introduction to really begin to establish a meaningful relationship.

DO go into the trade show with an open mind, and a willingness to both learn and teach.

Are you planning to attend any trade shows this year? What are your goals for them? Share with me in the comments below!

Marketing Your Business for the Holidays

holidayAre you taking advantage of the holiday season when it comes to marketing your business? You should be! Festive posts really attract audiences who are feeling sentimental, or those who are looking for some services specifically around the holiday season.

Marketing for the holidays doesn’t mean adding a few snowflakes to your Facebook page, and seasonal networking doesn’t mean drinking egg nog with a contact you haven’t spoken to all year. Instead what this means is utilizing the season to show others how much you appreciate them, whether you appreciate their business or their support. Get small gifts for your clients, send out a sweet holiday-appropriate email blast, or even mail a card via snail mail. People love feeling like they’re being appreciated, and it really does increase your reputation with them to show those feelings.

Other ways to take advantage of the holiday season is to offer discounts or other offers to customers who follow your social media. Announce on your Facebook that you will have free shipping on all orders placed between a certain time frame, or say when someone makes an appointment for your service, if they use the phrase “Happy New Year” they get a discount. There are plenty of ways to get creative around the holiday season.

How do you market and network during the holiday season? Share with me in the comments below!

Does Your Business Card Take Care of Business?

Earlier this week, Danealle Marshall of a BNI chapter out of Orlando, Florida, BNI Gold Partners, reached out to me via Twitter to ask a great question that a lot of business professionals will face during their career.

I love this question. Why? As I often say, giving out and receiving business cards is an extremely powerful part of connecting with new contacts. That being said, sometimes your business card can be what sparks someone’s memory of you. Why wouldn’t you want yours to stand out?

In 2003, I released a book with Candace Bailly and Dan Georgevich titled “It’s In the Cards!” In this book, we discuss the powerful tool that is your business card, and how so many people may be under-utilizing this networking tactic.

ID-100275566To answer Danealle’s question, and to build off of some of the ideas we published over a decade ago in the aforementioned book, here are four things that I have seen in my years in business that have really elevated some business cards.

  1. Mix up the orientation. It is such a small change, but making your business card vertical instead of the more traditional horizontal orientation can really help it stand out. People receive and look at innumerable horizontal business cards on average, but you are likely able to remember the last time you saw a vertical card.
  2. Utilize graphics. And no, I don’t just mean your company’s logo. If you include your Twitter handle, consider using the Twitter bird logo instead of using the word “Twitter” on your card. Another option, though use with caution, is including your picture. This can work, but only if the rest of your card is completely spot on and has more of a creative feel. I recommend this more for marketing agencies, or those more right-branded ventures.
  3. Color your card accordingly. Have you ever heard that fast food companies frequently use red and yellow in their logos because these colors subconsciously promote hunger? Think about your product, and about your brand, and if you choose to use color on your cards (which I recommend to at least do minimally), use a color that conveys what you want contacts and consumers alike to associate with your brand.
  4. Consider your company and alter your card accordingly. I’ve seen some very cool cards that really cater to what services or goods a company provides, but I will warn that these can get costly. I’ve seen a video company with cards shaped like a clapboard, and a software engineer whose cards looked like HTML coding. Where this gets ineffective is where you take it too far – bakeries should steer away from an edible business card, despite the appeal.

Have a question you want me to answer in a future blog post or podcast? Write me at AskIvan@bni.com to submit your questions.

Three Essentials for Women in Business

femalesIn my decades as a professional networker, I’ve seen the professional atmosphere change dramatically. The internet, of course, has been a huge influence on this change. However, outstandingly, more and more women have begun to take the plunge and start their own business. Earlier this year, the U.S. Census Bureau released a study that said that women were starting businesses at 1 and a half times the national average.

Despite this though, not all recommendations for starting a business will succeed equally for men and women, and some are more true for women. Here are three quick tips especially helpful for a female entrepreneur.

Don’t be afraid to be wrong

Sometimes, we worry that being wrong or having a problem is a sign of a character flaw. Women, particularly, can be susceptible to feeling this way due to societal pressures. When you allow yourself to ignore a problem, or try endlessly to stop a problem from existing (despite the fact that it is very much present), you allow the issue time to manifest. Instead of letting something spiral out of control to save possibly your ego or pride, identify your problem and quickly do something to correct it.

Create a brand that you would want to use

It seems like a no-brainer, but you wouldn’t believe how passion can play into the success of your business. If you ensure that you are creating a brand that not only are you passionate about, but you would want to use, then the chance for burn out diminishes exponentially.

Ask for help when you need it

Research has shown that women frequently feel more hesitant to ask for help if they need it than men do. Why? This ties in with the fear of being wrong. Struggling to handle everything on your own will just ultimately lead you to downward sloping. Don’t allow yourself to fall into the trap.

If you are a female entrepreneur, what tips to do have for others who may be aspiring to follow that path? Leave your thoughts in the comment field below!

Networking is a Contact Sport

Networking is a Contact SportMany entrepreneurs belong to networking organizations, but they simply don’t know how to effectively get a return on that investment of time.  Thoughtful engagement is the answer.  Engagement is an absolutely critical step in the networking process.  It involves a promise and an action.  In order to achieve success with your networking partners, you must promise to support one another, and then you must take the action necessary to fulfill that promise.  The only way to do that effectively is to connect on a deeper level than you do with most of your business contacts.

There are several ways that you can become more engaged with your networking partners:

  1. Have you taken the time to regularly meet with the people in your network on a one-to-one basis?  This means setting up times outside the context of any normal meetings and getting to know them on a deeper, professional level.
  2. Have you taken the time to educate them regularly on the key elements of your business, so that your products or services will be top of mind in the event they meet someone with a need for what you do?
  3. Have you taken the time to become educated on the key elements of your networking partners’ businesses, so that you can do the same for them?
  4. Have you visited their offices to get first-hand understanding of their services?
  5. If possible, have you used their products or services to get first-hand knowledge of the quality their products or the services they provide?

Networking truly is a “contact sport.”  It involves full engagement in order to get solid results. In fact, research has shown that reciprocal engagement in a business relationship results in higher productivity.  According to Psychology Today, people who are “actively engaged” in a business environment are “43% more productive” than those who are not.  Furthermore, they say that engagement includes “regular dialogue, quality of working relationships, perceptions of ethos and values… and recognition.”   Effective networking is all about building meaningful relationships that include most, if not all of these characteristics.

Every time I hear someone talk about how networking didn’t work for them – I discover it’s because they have never done a deep-dive on the relationship building process relating to their networking.  Most of their networking activities were very superficial.  Or worse yet – it mostly involved an attempt at direct selling.  Networking is not a face-to-face, cold-calling opportunity!  When it’s done right, it’s about building long-term meaningful relationships.  In fact, networking is more about “farming” than it is about “hunting.”  It’s about the slow process of cultivating long-term, professional relationships.  Over time, this long-term process gives you the opportunity harvest a substantial amount of business, but it only happens with full engagement in the relationship process.

Spend some time thinking about new ways you can support your networking partners.  This will help you promote engagement with them in the various networking groups to which you belong.  You will find it is time most well spent.

Three Things Your Business Degree Didn’t Teach You

graduatingOne common misconception among business people, especially those new to the field, is that a bachelor’s degree in marketing or business will provide all the necessary skills to own, operate, or work in a business of any size.

Time and again I’ve seen men and women struggle in business, flabbergasted because they followed the steps taught to them as undergraduates. It isn’t until they get involved in post-degree programs specifically geared toward advanced business techniques, or professional organizations like BNI or the Referral Institute, that they pick up these three concepts that are truly paramount in business.

 

Social Capital

Relationships, and their potential value, are vital in business. These relationships can be in our personal or professional networks, but both can lead to business opportunities, quality referrals, new and innovative ideas, someone to bounce ideas off of, and ultimately, increased business success.

As you build relationships, identify their strengths and weaknesses and focus on fostering the weaknesses. While it can be counter-intuitive to focus on anything other than your business when trying to help it grow, putting effort into your relationships will ultimately lead to greater business success.

 

Emotional Intelligence

The ability to identify, assess and control one’s own emotions, as well as an astute awareness of the emotions of others improves communication in all facets of life and can up one’s connection game. In fact, studies show that a higher emotional quotient (EQ) can help develop more social capital.

When you can learn how individuals around you respond to you, and cater your interactions to the individual person, you will see the positive response received hit the roof. While not rocket science, it can be challenging, so as you work to develop your EQ don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t happen immediately.

 

Networking

You knew it was going here. This critically important business skill is grossly under-represented in higher education. This proficiency combines the elements of emotional intelligence and social capital, and is an important tool to have in your wheelhouse.

The vast majority of businesspeople say that in some form or fashion, they have gained some success through networking, and this isn’t a coincidence. Those who haven’t found networking success likely haven’t built a strong foundation of social capital and emotional intelligence, as networking is simply the mechanism used to combine word-of-mouth techniques and social capital.

 

In the same way businesses who refuse to adopt cutting-edge technology begin to fall to the wayside and face difficulties, business school graduates (and the schools they hail from) who do not adopt these lessons into their curriculum in some ways will quickly find themselves outdated and outpaced.

Are there other vital business skills you feel aren’t taught in general business education? How did you pick up those skills? I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please leave your comment in the forum below! Thanks!

The Secret to Success

I do a countless amount of interviews each year, and one of the questions I get asked most often is: “What is your secret to success?”  In this video, I tell my personal story about my journey on the road to success and, if you are thinking the road was a quick and easy one–think again.  

I often tell people who are striving to achieve success in a snap that I am a twenty-year ‘overnight’ success.  In other words, there is no such thing as overnight success.  It took me twenty years of working diligently and consistently, day in and day out, doing the same things over and over in order to achieve some degree of success.  I firmly believe that the secret to success without hard work is still a secret.  However, there is a key idea which I talk about in this video that I learned through doing research for my book Masters of Success, and it can really help when it comes to attaining success.

What’s your take on the secret to success?  Are your ideas on how success is achieved different than the ideas I discuss within this video?  Please share your thoughts in the comments section.

How to Create a Spectacular Life

Last week, I posted a video where my friends and partners in the Referral Institute® and I offered our individual thoughts on how to create a truly amazing business.  Today, I’m following up that video with this one where the four of us talk about what it takes to create a spectacular life.

Watch the video now to learn about what each one of us views as an essential key in establishing the ultimate, ideal life which you have always envisioned for yourself.  We also offer specific, actionable steps you can take toward achieving your unique version of a spectacular life, so make sure to watch the video the whole way through.

After watching the video, we’d love to hear your thoughts on the ideas we shared, and we’d also love for you to share your own ideas on this topic within the comment forum below.  Thanks so much for watching–we’re looking forward to hearing from you!

 

How to Create a Truly Amazing Business

I recently had the opportunity to get together with my partners in the Referral Institute® (Eddie Esposito, Mike Macedonio, and Dawn Lyons) to discuss a really interesting concept: What exactly does it take to have an amazing business and a spectacular life?

So, we decided to do a couple of quick videos to share our individual ideas surrounding this concept.  In today’s video, each one of us shares both a key idea and a surefire action step (to implement that idea) which we believe are crucial in developing an amazing business.

What I really appreciate about our discussion here is that each of us contributes our own unique and specific piece of insight, so the gamut of advice shared within this brief video is actually pretty comprehensive being that there’s such an element of diversity within our individual comments.

After watching the video, please share with us in the comment forum below your own thoughts on what it takes to create an amazing business.  And, be sure to check back next week to watch the subsequent video we filmed which will address what it takes to create a spectacular life. 

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