10 Ways to Dazzle Your Customers with an In-Store Experience

Making sure your customers have the best experience when they shop at your brick-and-mortar location will turn them into loyal consumers who return frequently and buy even more from your store.

That’s why we asked 10 successful entrepreneurs from Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) the following question:

Q. Brick-and-mortar stores have advantages over their online counterparts. What is one way you can make sure customers have a positive in–store experience they’ll want to repeat?

1. Focus on customer experience

 

For brick and mortar stores to survive in the age of online shopping, they need to focus on what they do best: providing product advice and insider knowledge like online sites never can. Nothing beats this. I browse in-store because it is enjoyable, and when accompanied by knowledgeable salespeople, I’ll take home 10 times more things than I would if I am just looking for a specific item online. —Vanessa NornbergMetal Mafia

2. Offer superior service

 

When you own a brick-and-mortar store, you can provide yourcustomers with high-touch and personalized customer service that they would not be able to get in an online setting. You can show different product demonstrations, offer in–store VIP programs and events, reconnect with old customers, and consider the overall customer experience from their perspective. —Kristin MarquetCreative Development Agency, LLC

3. Take advantage of the face-to-face encounter

 

If customers trust you, they will be loyal to you. That’s why transparency is so important. Keeping information secret and not being honest about your intentions will damage your relationship with customers. With a brick-and-mortar store, you have a chance to genuinely get to know your customers and their needs. Don’t treat them like any other patron. Smile and engage them, then find out their names and what brings them into your store. —Blair ThomaseMerchantBroker

4. Observe, then suggest

 

One thing still missing (even with 24/7 customer service chats and phones) is the ability for a human being to make observations and suggest products. Websites can suggest other products that other customers frequently buy together, but that is not the same as saying, “Hey, I notice your dog is pulling you around the store. Can I offer a suggestion for a training product that might help with that?” —Alisha Navarro2 Hounds Design

5. Be sensitive to customers‘ shopping style

 

My favorite stores have this in common: The staff are attentive but not overly so. They don’t ask me if I need help every two minutes, but when I do need help, they know the stock well enough to respond intelligently. Sensitivity to the customer’s social preferences is key, and it’s something that online retail can’t replicate. —Vik PatelFuture Hosting

 

6. Make eye contact

 

One strong way to make sure customers have a glowingly positive in–store experience is training your staff to make eye contact and to smile. At my massage studio, our goal is to be “the best part of our clients’ day, every day.” —Rachel BeiderMassage Greenpoint

 

7. Be polite and offer free swag

 

We are primarily an online retailer, but we do get local pickup orders and it is essential that we wow them! We carry their items to the car for them and give them a free lanyard of their favorite sports team (Go Miami Heat!). Some customer place pick-up orders just to come see us, even though they know we offer free delivery. —Michael BarnhillSpecialist ID 

 

8. Provide in-store entertainment

 

Apple has done an incredible job with this, providing in–storeentertainment to their customers and making the environment enjoyable. Use digital displays, interactive games, and strong music that appeal to your target audience’s psychographics. As part of entertaining them, make sure you appeal to the five senses, with enticing scents, engaging visuals, and of course, fun music. —Marcela De VivoMulligan Funding

9. Let them test your products

 

Have presentations and demonstrations, or offer free samples of your product. Give people a hands-on experience that the internet can’t give them. No matter how big or small you are, you can take a tip from the big innovators like Apple. An Apple Store is more than a distribution point; it is an experience. To compete with the internet, you need to experiment with creative options. —Zev HermanSuperior Lighting

10. Design a welcoming space

 

In our mattress showrooms, we’ve trained our staff as sleep specialists to educate customers about our products and provide strategies for improving their sleep habits. We encourage customers to come in and take a nap, providing them with a space they can enjoy. For your retail store, design a welcoming space that encourages customers to come in, learn more about yourbrand and products, and simply relax. —Firas KittanehAmerisleep

 

More at: https://www.allbusiness.com/10-ways-to-dazzle-customers-in-store-experience-116438-1.html

Streamlining your Startup - Rachel Beider on Small Business Trends

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Ensuring your business flows effectively is key to the success of your company. In the first few years of any business, it can be difficult to achieve a new level of efficiency that you are comfortable with, and that helps your operations steadily keep up with demand. That’s why we asked 15 entrepreneurs from the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) the following:

“How can you successfully streamline operations when there’s so much else to focus on in the first few years of business?

 

How to Streamline Operations at Your Startup

Here’s what YEC community members had to say:

1. Create an Operations Manual and Software

“Streamline your efforts by creating a dynamic manual of operations and by using free management software, such as Podio, to get information out of your head and make it more easily accessible to your growing team. This also helps create generative thinking to problem solve.” ~ Rachel BeiderMassage GreenpointMassage Williamsburg

 

2. Review Processes Often

“When processes aren’t streamlined, your business will be faced with customer complaints, frustrated employees, mistakes, delays and wasted resources. A business, especially a small one or a startup, can’t afford to not streamline processes. A good place to start is with designating an employee to regularly map and analyze processes to avoid inefficiencies, low productivity and poor customer satisfaction. ” ~ Blair ThomaseMerchantBroker

 

3. Process, Document, Train

“The only way to build and scale a company is to create replicable processes and document them. Otherwise, employee turnover will lead to massive brain drain and your team will be re-learning from mistakes that have been made before. Ensure the team has access to these documents, and train new employees during onboarding. Teach people that if a process breaks, they need to fix and document the changes. ” ~ Jonathan GassNomad Financial

4. Implement Automation Technology

“You can implement various platforms and tools that automate tasks for you. This maintains a streamlined organization so you don’t add people just to do very basic, yet time-consuming tasks. ” ~ Serenity GibbonsCalendar.com

5. Make Operations a Priority

“One of your early hires should be a natural operations person, even if that’s not their formal role. What you’re looking for is the type of person that naturally organizes as they go, and if you give them the reins to do that, they will. ” ~ Tim ChavesZipBooks Accounting Software

6. Look for Multifaceted Talent

“Look to bring on talent that can assist in multiple areas or that is willing to learn more skills to do so. This can keep the streamlined effect while allowing you the time to focus on strategy and execution. ” ~ Drew HendricksButtercup

 

7. Have a Mentor

“Use a mentor to help you focus on the process and operations. It helps to have an expert guide your work and show you what you may not see. ” ~ Murray NewlandsChattyPeople

8. Hire the Right People

“There are a lot of processes you can streamline yourself — but there’s nothing like efficient, hard-working employees to make those processes easier for you. If you’re filling your company with out-of-the-box thinkers who believe in the mission of your company, you’re going to see processes streamlining left and right.” ~ Kevin ConnerBroadbandSearch

9. Focus on Systems Over Strategies

“The first thing is to focus on your systems over your strategies in order to streamline the process. How are you going to track your revenue and what systems pertain to helping you track ROI? Those are the systems that need to be set up first so they can support you during the tough times of your business. Your systems will sustain your business and propel it forward.” ~ Sweta PatelSilicon Valley Startup Marketing

10. Find the Bottleneck and Fix It

“Pick the single biggest bottleneck in your company and start there. If you don’t know what this is, consider your activities and determine whether that activity yields the highest value and makes the best use of your time. If your time is wrapped up in a repetitive task, you can choose to delegate this responsibility, automate parts of the process or systematize it to make it as fluid as possible.” ~ David CiccarelliVoices.com

11. Take a Granular Approach

“Take a more granular approach and look for ways to streamline the smaller things involved with running a business. Maybe you find a way that your team can get customers taken care of more quickly and efficiently, as one brief example. Then, move on to the next operational point. That usually will give you the time to focus on all of the other items in the first few years.” ~ Andrew SchrageMoney Crashers Personal Finance

12. Keep Asking What You Don’t Need

“When you keep adding on, whether it’s staff, equipment or any type of tool or system, you’re making things more complicated. Sometimes this is necessary and beneficial, but streamlining requires you to do the opposite. In any process or project, ask what could be cut back and simplified. This often helps you save time and reduce costs. ” ~ Kalin KassabovProTexting

13. Do Constant Research

“Many people have attempted similar business ventures and operations with varying degrees of success. In order to capitalize on this, it’s important to study your peers, rivals and mentors. This is a great way to ascertain what aspects of operations can be streamlined without negative ramifications, almost like a form of A/B testing. If others have attempted similar strategies, learn from them.” ~ Bryce WelkerCPA Exam Guy

14. Start From Day One

“Streamlining and automation is not something you should “start someday,” it is a practice that is best applied when it is implemented from the very beginning and routinely exercised. Streamlining grows increasingly difficult the further you are in your business. Take simple steps to automate your business and make them a routine, you will thank yourself later for starting early in this process.” ~ Diego OrjuelaCables & Sensors

15. Outsource, Outsource, Outsource

“There will be many things that you’re not an expert in, and whether it’s accounting or IT, work with a consultant or agency that knows what they’re doing. You’ll be much more effective in organizing the operations of your business if you’re able to step back and manage several functions and their relative workflows, as opposed to actually learning about and doing all this work yourself. ” ~ Roger LeeCaptain401

 

Article on SmallBizTrends

How to Support an Employee during a Rough Patch: SmartBrief incl Rachel Beider

 Photo by Jeremy Bishop from Unsplash

Photo by Jeremy Bishop from Unsplash

Q: How can you show your support for an employee you notice going through a rough patch without overstepping your boundaries?

1. Make a kind gesture  

A kind gesture can go a long way towards showing an employee you care and want to support them. Having soup delivered when they are homesick or sending a quick video message to say hello or to make them laugh are simple, inexpensive ways to show that you’re thinking of them. -- Mark KrassnerExpectful

2. Create a safe space  

The work begins in culture setting before the rough patch ever begins. Have you created a culture of authenticity, vulnerability and a real human touch? With those in place, an employee going through a rough patch can know that it's a safe space, that you really care, and you're there for support. With a safe space, you can shift into listening and even coaching if it makes sense. -- Jonathan Gass, Nomad Financial

3. Acknowledge the situation

Sometimes the simple act of showing that you are listening and are there if they need you is all it takes. A simple acknowledgment of the situation, "Hey, I know you are going through a tough time," followed by, "let me know if there is anything I can do," is enough for that person to reach out if necessary without you overstepping your boundaries. -- Jen Brown, The Engaging Educator

4. Listen without judgment or trying to fix things

In business, we tend to be biased towards action and problem-solving. It can drive us nuts to be presented with a problem that seems to lacks a solution. Listening is the solution. Listening is the be-all and end-all. While listening, do your best to avoid judging or trying to fix things. Instead, focus on asking questions and summarizing what your employee is saying. -- Kevin TaoNeuEve

5. Let them know their job is secure

I don't want an employee to have to worry about losing their job during a difficult time. I let them know that I want them to take care of themselves and work through any issue they may be facing. I find that the act of standing by an employee during a hardship builds loyalty. -- Brian GreenbergTrue Blue Life Insurance

6. Be a human being

Talk to your employee, ask them how they are doing, tell them you notice they seem to be having a hard time and listen to them as a caring friend would. Ask if there’s anything they need or that you can do for them. Be kind and respectful, and make sure they know that you’re there for them. -- Rachel BeiderMassage Greenpoint, Massage Williamsburg

7. Offer flexibility  

Employees may not be able to share their problems with you, and that can make it hard to support them. But when it's obvious they're stressed, you can always discreetly help by allowing more flexibility in their schedule and on their projects. This will allow them to deal with their issue in their way. -- Adam SteeleLoganix

8. Take them to lunch

Sometimes removing the employee from the work environment will allow them to feel more comfortable and open up on their own. Just ask how they're doing and what is going on, but do not press if they want to talk as they will on their own terms. Even if they never actually express the rough time they are going through, the one-on-one time outside of the office can help them feel better. -- Stanley MeytinTrue Film Production

9. Prioritize their personal needs

Be a good listener when your colleague wants to talk. While you may have business to discuss during a one-on-one, when someone is going through a rough time, you need to demonstrate that work can wait. Show some humanity and defer the business talk for another time. By putting yourself in their shoes in that moment, you can get some understanding of their needs and help them best you can. -- David CiccarelliVoices.com

10. Ask what you can do  

While you can't necessarily ask them what's wrong, you can ask if there is anything you can provide or do that would help them. Offering assistance is a way to open the conversation and let them know you are there. That's enough. Then, it's up to them to share or ask for something so you know how you can help. -- Drew HendricksButtercup

Article on SmartBrief.com

Should businesses comment on politics? Here’s what eight entrepreneurs have to say.

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1. Don’t do it unless your business is directly involved in politics.

Unless your business is heavily and directly involved in the political industry, it’s wise to keep your thoughts to yourself. You risk alienating a percentage of your customer base. For what? To express your personal opinions via your professional platform? If you want to be outspoken about politics, do it via your own personal brand. – Ali MahvanSharebert

2. Choose your battles and avoid aligning with a party.

No company can afford to stay completely out of political issues. Many issues that are described as ‘political’ are in reality about equality, social justice and climate change. Staying on the sidelines has become the same as taking a side, and it’s one that could alienate your employees. However, companies should avoid aligning with specific political parties. – Amishi Takalkar, NAILBITER

3. Don’t cause unnecessary damage to your brand.

Companies should stay as much out of political issues as possible. There is no benefit to a business choosing a side. By going political you can only do damage, whether it’s be ostracizing customers who don’t agree, or it may be seen as opportunistic to use a political event as a chance to sell. Whatever the case, it can only do damage. – Baruch LabunskiRank Secure

4. If you do, test your messaging to avoid alienating your tribe.

There are some huge opportunities in political marketing, for those who are brave enough to seek them. Politics is expressing a desire to impact the world around us. That’s why it resonates with us. Audiences are very sensitive to phrasing and implications, so test your messaging out by sending it to a small base of friends you trust. Their feedback will help you avoid an unintentional firestorm. – Kevin TaoNeuEve

5. Take a moral stance, not a political one.

A company is not a person despite what your accountant or lawyer tells you. It’s a group of people that collectively make up an entity. Not every team member will agree politically, so don’t go out making claims that can potentially cause rifts internally. Remember, morals and politics are two different things. Take a moral stand, not a political stand. – Stanley MeytinTrue Film Production

6. Don’t comment unless the issue directly impacts your business.

My company’s server hosting customers understood that the end of net neutrality would hurt their businesses. We took a strong stand on that issue because the removal of net neutrality regulations affects our clients and the internet as a whole. Outside of unifying industry-relevant issues like net neutrality, entrepreneurs should think twice before addressing sensitive political issues. – Vik PatelFuture Hosting

7. Take social stances to be on the right side of history.

Companies can and should take a political stance in instances of bigotry, sexism, homophobia or any sort of prejudice. The best practice to follow is to be on the right side of history; have empathy and embrace what makes diversity beautiful. – Rachel BeiderMassage Greenpoint

8. Do what feels right.

Companies should never feel pressured to speak up simply because they feel like they should, but don’t feel too comfortable. These types of situations turn out badly when it’s based on an emotional whim. Freedom of speech is the freedom to speak or not speak. Reflect before choosing to make a statement (or not make one) and think through the outcome and fully understand why you’re doing it. – Cassie PetreyCrowd Surf

 

More on: https://thenextweb.com/contributors/2018/03/30/businesses-comment-politics-heres-eight-entrepreneurs-say/

Going With Your Gut: Why You Shouldn't Rush Into a Career - by: Rachel Beider for Forbes

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Many people don't have the clarity of knowing what they want to do after college, and so many just wing it. Today, more Americans have college degrees than ever before, with one-third holding a four-year degree, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Yet, the majority of college graduates do not find employment in their field. 

We frequently discuss and sometimes place blame on job market trends for how we fit into our changing world of work. But what is less often considered are the changes and fluctuations within ourselves that can drastically alter the course of our careers. Often this comes after a period of feeling stuck, overwhelmed or burned out.

Instead of rushing into a career, take the time to let it find you through self-exploration, travel and diverse immersive experiences. I know firsthand that life experiences can be the stepping stones that lead you to a career you are truly passionate about.

 

I earned a photography degree in 2005 and spent years in working every part-time photography job imaginable. To make ends meet, I also worked as a nanny, dog walker, server and bartender, as well as in retail shops and office jobs — all while hustling to get my own photography gigs. I was exhausted and work was inconsistent.

On a chilly day in March 2005, I helped an elderly man find his route on the subway. This simple act of kindness caught the attention of a tall, cute man in his twenties, who was heading in the same direction on the L train. I later learned his name was Danny. As I entered the train, I noticed Danny looking at me as I put my headphones in, smiling to myself. I took the opportunity during the ride to steal glimpses at him. I thought for a moment about speaking to him but reluctantly got off the train at my stop. He gave me a longing look, like he wanted to say something too.

As I walked home to my apartment in the East Village, I immediately regretted my decision to not be bolder and speak to him. Feeling frustrated, I decided to write a Missed Connections post on Craigslist. It was a long shot, but as a hopeless romantic, I felt I may as well give it a try. When he wrote back the same day, I was excited, nervous and overjoyed. After some back and forth emails, we quickly realized we were both the same age and has a lot in common. We spoke on the phone for a couple of hours and decided to meet at Yaffa Cafe on St. Marks. We stayed up late, locked in the kind of deep conversation rarely had with a stranger, talking about our lives, work, friends and families, and I felt immediately connected to him.

While my romantic relationship blossomed, professionally I felt extremely lost and depressed. The inconsistent work was exhausting and gave me anxiety. When Danny asked me to join him on a trip to India and Southeast Asia, I added shifts as a cocktail waitress to save for the trip, storing my pay in the remnants of old film development canisters that lined my book shelves.

Our trip was one adventure after the next, though physically quite taxing. After carrying a heavy backpack and sleeping in cheap hostels for months, I jumped at the chance to take a Thai massage class in Thailand. I had no idea I would fall in love with the flow and movement myself.

When we came home from our trip, I enrolled full-time at The Swedish Institute of Massage Therapy. My business and career that followed would not exist today if not for that Missed Connection post. While Danny and I ended up moving in different directions with our lives, meeting him carved the path to discovering a career I fell in love with instead.

That trip changed my life and opened me up to so many possibilities that were previously unimaginable. It took getting out of my comfort zone, taking a risk and admitting what was working and what wasn't working for me in my career. I discovered similarities between photography and massage, oddly enough. Certain qualities easily translated from one profession to the other. I love working with my hands, with people and not having a standard 9-to-5 desk job. The transition felt seamless, like it was meant to be.

Most successful entrepreneurs and individuals I've spoken to over the years didn't make a career change because they were excited or happy. It came from a place of frustration, annoyance, not feeling satisfied and wanting something to change. While listening to your inner voice to find your career, it's important to be open to new ideas and directions and have a willingness to take chances regardless of where you are. Let your career find you by staying open to opportunities as they arise. Your career path will likely change as you do.

Article Written by Rachel Beider as seen on Forbes.com

The Must-Have Traits of a COO: Rachel Beider in Forbes

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Hiring a chief operating officer (COO) can be a daunting task for any business. Much of the operations lean on their shoulders, and you need to have consummate trust in their abilities. You want someone who is professional, yet in touch with your customers as well as your employees. It can be overwhelming to choose.

Whether you are scanning the global market or looking locally for a COO, there are some innate traits that go into ensuring you hire the best. Although the costs of a bad hire are sometimes difficult to quantify, they are definitely hard to ignore in terms of staff morale, productivity, and ultimately, financial losses.

Below, leading members of Young Entrepreneur Council give some insight into what makes for a great COO, whether it’s experience, attention to detail, integrity or other essential traits.

Members of Young Entrepreneur Council share the top things every founder should look for in a COO.

1. Integrity And Honesty

Hire someone who has high integrity, honesty, and is hardworking and willing to learn rather than someone who has a ton of experience. I interviewed a few candidates for my COO position and ended up hiring someone who is extremely dependable, fair, honest, and interested in the success of my company. We have a great work dynamic and he truly compliments areas that I need help with. - Rachel BeiderMassage Greenpoint

2. Being Able To Cross The T's And Dot The I's

In general, founders are excited by big ideas. A COO should balance out that visionary tendency with practical follow-through. The perfect COO for a startup is someone who can take the ideas of plans of the CEO, break them down into actionable steps, and ensure that they're done efficiently. With the right balance of a grounded CEO and a practical-but-ambitious COO, startups can go far. - Brennan WhiteCortex

3. A Lover Of Systems

I've founded two companies, and in each, I have brought on a different COO. There are a few things they have in common that made them successful: They love details, they're meticulous, they do what they say they'll do, and they are lovers of creating systems to make the company operate better as a whole, whether it's with or without them. - Darrah BrusteinNetwork Under 40

4. A Drive For Data And Actionable Metrics

To make sure daily operations are running in the most optimal conditions, a COO should utilize strategies based on data-driven decisions and actionable metrics. A COO should never rely on vanity metrics that show nothing valuable, such as having 800 sign ups for a service but only a few paying customers. Actionable metrics are more work, but are the only way to effectively evaluate and set goals. - Kristopher JonesLSEO.com

5. A Strategic Vision

It helps to get a COO with considerable strategic vision because they provide the framework for your overall vision and put a definition to it along with actionable steps. They can find the people to achieve that strategy and oversee their execution. I've found that a COO with considerable experience helped to direct where I was headed with my startup and offered new insights. - John RamptonDue

6. The Visionary And Integrator Archetypes

In Rocket Fuel: The One Essential Combination That Will Get You More of What You Want from Your Business by Gino Wickman and Mark C. Winters, the case is made that a great business team requires a "visionary" and an "integrator." When these archetypes work together, they have effective synergy. Even if the founder isn't one of these, it’s good to notice what qualities they embody. Finding a COO who complements the founder means that the management team has a fuller, more diverse set of skills. - Peggy ShellCreative Alignments

7. The Right Mindset

As a venture studio partner, I see many startups focusing on skill set when hiring an appropriate operator, which often leads to major issues down the road, like conflict between mindsets. You have to make sure the attitude of your operator is aligned with the key strategic priorities and commercial impact of the decisions that are made by the business. - Artur KiulianColab

8. Experience Growing A Business

The one major skill you should look for in a COO is that he or she have experience with actually expanding and growing a small business or other venture. After all, that's going to be a major part of their work for you if you bring them on. They should have had previous experiences where they took an organization from its infancy to higher growth, and from medium success to over the top success. - Andrew SchrageMoney Crashers Personal Finance

9. A People Person

COOs are useless if they cannot connect with people. As enforcers and systems developers, they implement and create ways to operate more efficiently. If they cannot connect with the people whom these systems affect, the chances of success and ROI are very slim. Communication is paramount, and being a cheerleader is preferred. Everyone wants solutions that make a system run smoother with less effort. - Matthew CapalaSearch Decoder

 

10. Attention To Detail And Bluntness

I need a COO with close attention to detail. If he/she notices all the small issues, it frees me up to focus on the big picture. He/she can fix daily problems while I worry about where my company is going long-term. It's helpful to have a COO who tells it exactly like it is. If they're handling the gritty details of what's going on in my organization, I want them to come to me with total honesty. - Kevin ConnerBroadbandSearch

11. A Keen Understanding Of Your Own Limitations

A COO is an extension of your hands and the person who accomplishes what you cannot. They fill in your deficiencies, whatever they may be (sales, managerial, technical). You are hiring someone to fill the business needs created by the inescapable fact that you are an imperfect person and the business requires more than you can give. The one thing you must know when trying to hire a COO is yourself. - Matthew NederlandenSecurity Camera Warehouse

 

As seen in Forbes

How can I find my niche and define what is unique about my personal brand?

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1. Be Genuine But Be Different

People see right through fakers, so make sure your personal brand reflects who you really are. Find what the leading social influencers are doing and find something different to take a different segment of the market. I am in the fitness industry, which is full of individuals with no kids and disposable income. My personal brand is that of a family man who runs two successful companies and raises three kids. – Marc Lobliner, TigerFitness.com and MTS Nutrition

2. Find a Balance Between Passion, Knowledge, Profitability

Everyone is always talking about “niche marketing” like it’s the easiest thing in the world to figure out. Finding a niche is easy, but it’s not so easy to find one that you are interested in, knowledgeable in and also want to create a business around. Before jumping into your next niche focus, be sure it applies to those three factors and that it also shows off your expertise. – Zac Johnson, Blogger

3. Don’t Forget to Be Human

Marketers look around and see competition. Human beings look around and see other human beings. The best personal brands are the ones that make one-to-one connections from which to derive value. Thus, it’s less important to stand out and more beneficial to be human. – Logan Lenz, PartsMarket

4. Answer “What Would Happen If I Stopped Tomorrow?”

To identify what makes your brand unique, ask yourself the question: “If I stopped providing services tomorrow, what would customers miss the most about what I offer?” This is what makes you special and different from other brands. – Rachel Beider, Massage Greenpoint, Massage Williamsburg

5. Do Something You Would Do for Free

The only way to become an industry leader is to do something the very best. That’s easiest when you’re fully enthralled in and passionate about what you do. You’re passionate about snowboarding? Make snowboards. It may take 20 years for you to become successful, and it may never even happen. It sure won’t feel like you wasted 20 years if you spend it doing something you love. – Ali Mahvan, Sharebert

6. Pull Back the Curtain

Publicly share who you are and what you are passionate about as an individual. Demonstrate value surrounding a potential niche by exchanging stories and knowledge with others who are already in it. Learn from those experiences and test other variables before deciding if that is what you want to focus on. Most importantly, be yourself. Authenticity increases the value of every personal brand. – Kage Spatz, Spacetwin

7. Don’t Force It

The best way to find a niche is to simply do your job and isolate your strengths. Then expand on those. Don’t chase the latest news story and build your niche around it. Instead, find what interests you and what you have a track record of success doing, and become an expert and opinion leader. – Ryan Bradley, Koester & Bradley, LLP

8. Determine Your Value-Add

 

As an entrepreneur, there is something specific to the value you bring to your company, relationships and areas in which you serve. Identify your unique skills and attributes and expand upon them. Identity the “why” behind your “what” and you will quickly find that which makes your personal brand unique. – Jennifer Mellon, Trustify

9. Create Buyer Personas

It’s better to laser-focus and do an excellent job for a niche group of people than do a mediocre job for everyone. This creates loyal brand ambassadors for your product. A place to start is to create buyer personas for your customers. You don’t have to start from scratch; there are many free online templates that can guide you through the market research. – Syed Balkhi, OptinMonster

10. Know Who You Are and Bet on Yourself

Sometimes, we have to try different things to find our niche and what we’re really good at. Choose something you’re passionate about, already know or are skilled at, and continue to build based on that. Once you’ve found your niche you add your own sauce to it with your personality, which makes it unique. Now your personal brand is easily defined by who you are and what you do. – Daniel Griggs, ATX Web Designs, LLC

11. Talk to Friends, Family and Colleagues

In my experience, the best way to do this is to talk to your friends, colleagues or family members. Ask them what they think you’re good at. How would they describe you? What do they value in you as friends or family? Tell them to be brutally honest with you. I found that my friends and family were really able to give me insight on my personal brand and what I’m able to offer others. – Johnathan Solorzano, Solo Media Group

12. Make It Personal

If a brand is personal it is, by definition, unique: It is an expression of an individual’s interests, values, priorities and style of communication, among other things. If you do not introduce consumers and invite them to experience your world, there is nothing unique for them to witness or enjoy. Let the following rule govern your brand: Stand apart by standing out. – Alexander Westgarth, Westgarth Wines

13. Be True to Who You Are

Dr. Seuss had it right: “No one is youer than you.” Be true to who you are. Authenticity goes a long way in entrepreneurship, as customers and investors see straight through facades. Credibility establishes a strong foundation with others. No need to be a distraction to yourself while trying to be someone you’re not. – Jessica Gibson, Ariel Precision Medicine

14. Run a Competitive Analysis

Take a look at your competitors, compare topics and figure out the intersection between the topics they are talking about and the most popular questions online relating to your industry. Dive deeper into topics people aren’t diving that deeply into, and you’ll be able to find and develop a loyal niche for your personal brand. – Jared Atchison, WPForms

15. Create a Personal Brand Blueprint

Finding your niche can seem daunting but there is an exercise you can do that makes it much easier. Start by creating a three-circle Venn diagram: One lists your strongest skills/expertise, another your strongest passions, and the third lists the market’s strongest needs. Once the lists are done, pick the top choice from each and you now have the theme of your personal brand. – Dan San, Meural

Read more at https://www.business2community.com/branding/15-ways-define-makes-brand-unique-02028672

Rachel Beider in Bustle: 7 Signs You're Way More Stressed Than You Realized

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I was recently telling a friend about my insomnia: all my desperate attempts to picture beaches, which are always eclipsed by bad memories or work worries. "I'm not a doctor, but there's one obvious diagnosis: stress," she said. Which made me wonder: How do you know if you're stressed? I'd probably been so stressed for so long, I realized, I couldn't identify it. I had nothing to compare it to.

"Stress is a heightened state of activity and engagement," naturopathic doctor Dr. Gabrielle Francis tells Bustle. "There are both good and bad types of stress. When negative stress continues for long periods of time, there can be wear and tear on your nervous system and endocrine system that impacts the entire body and your health. Some of the symptoms associated with prolonged and unrelenting stress are anxiety, depression, fatigue, muscle tension, headaches, digestive problems, insomnia, and interpersonal issues with friends, family, and work."

Since stress can manifest in so many different ways, it's not always obvious when we're under it. Sometimes, we get so caught up in our busy lives, we don't even stop to think about our mental health. Here are some signs you're more stressed than you realize.

1 You Have Insomnia, Especially Due To Racing Thoughts

My friend might not be a doctor, but she did identify that symptom correctly. "If you’ve never suffered from insomnia before, then this is a telltale sign that you are stressed out," Weena Cullins, Licensed Clinical Marriage and Family Therapist, tells Bustle. "Stress can keep you up at night by disabling your ability to quiet your mind and get restful sleep."

 

2 You're Having Nightmares

Issues you're not addressing when you're awake can come out when you're sleeping. "It’s not abnormal to have disturbing dreams when you’re super stressed," says Cullins. "These dreams can serve as a subconscious warning that you are worried about someone or something, overwhelmed, or even feeling lost."

 

3 You're Being Ditzy

If you're forgetting things or making careless mistakes all the time, that doesn't actually mean you're a ditz — it could mean you're stressed. After all, there's only so much we can fit in our minds at once. "When stress consumes our thoughts it doesn’t leave much mental bandwidth for anything else," says Cullins.

 

4 You Have Mysterious Aches & Pains

Headaches and body aches can of course have physical causes, but if they're always there for no apparent physical reason, the source could actually be stress-induced tension, says Cullins. Since stress people often can't find the time to address these problems, they often just suffer through it or use painkillers, which makes the issue persist.

Headaches when you wake up in particular could reflect a habit of grinding your jaw in your sleep, Rachel Beider, Licensed Massage Therapist and owner of Massage Williamsburg, tells Bustle. Shoulder and neck pain are also common signs of stress because anxiety can cause you to tense your shoulders.

 

5 Your Eating Habits Have Changed

When we don't address stress directly, we might comfort ourselves through emotional eating, says Cullins. Or, we might lose our appetites. Either way, drastic changes in eating habits are a warning sign.

6 You're Seeing The Negative In Everything

Typically, if something potentially upsetting happens, you can comfort or reassure yourself. If somebody says something negative about you, for example, you can tell yourself they're wrong. If you have an irrational worry, you can remind yourself it's irrational. But stress prevents you from thinking clearly enough to do this, NYC-based therapist Kimberly Hershenson, LMSW tells Bustle. Your thoughts are just racing and you can't keep up, so the negativity spirals. Instead of diving into this hole to rescue yourself, Hershenson recommends addressing these thoughts indirectly by reflecting on or even writing down things you're grateful for.

 

7 You're Being A Control Freak

To regain a sense of safety in a stressful situation, you'll grasp for control over anything and everything within your power, says Hershenson. You might become more protective of your living space or schedule, get obsessive about your spending, eating, exercise, or work habits, or even try to control the people around you. If you find yourself in this situation, Hershenson recommends accepting what you can't control and focusing on the things within your control that actually matter.

Fortunately, there are tons of ways to curb stress, says Francis, including eating healthy, exercise (especially yoga), massages, and talking it out with a friend or therapist. Making time in your schedule to curb stress may be the last thing you want to do when you're stressed out, but it'll save you time in the long run.

 

Article by Suzannah Weiss for Bustle

Rachel Beider Published in Forbes: Using Imago Technique to Deal with Unhappy Customers

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We've all dealt with our fair share of challenging situations in the workplace, and among the most trying are unhappy customers. Sometimes our clients are having a bad day and other times the business is at fault for doing something genuinely wrong. Ten years ago, a co-worker of mine at a luxury day spa had a client come in and leave with an angry expression. He was expecting to have a sports-oriented massage and deeper specific work done on his shoulder area, but he felt that the service was too much of a generic approach. Later, when pressed, he complained that his shoulder still hurt. The massage therapist became defensive, insisted that he shouldn't have chosen the style of session he did and that he should have communicated more clearly. This approach did not help the situation, rather escalating it into a negative experience resulting in a poor online review. Most issues stem from either miscommunication or unmet expectations leading to disappointment. Using Imago dialogue may have prevented this situation entirely.

Often, clients just want to feel that they've been heard. Enter Imago Dialogue: a powerful tool to aid in communication.

Imago Relationship Therapy (IRT) was co-developed by married couple Dr. Harville Hendrix and Dr. Helen LaKelly Hunt in 1980. It was popularized in Dr. Hendrix’s New York Times best seller Getting The Love You Want. The technique uses Imago Dialogue to help couples understand, validate and empathize with one another’s unique reality, rather than resorting to anger and reactivity.

For nearly four decades, Imago Dialogue has helped people have intentional conversations and develop deeper, more mindful relationships. Each party comes into a place of mutual understanding and acceptance, creating a win-win situation.

Today, this communication tool is not only being used in romantic relationships but also by business professionals and clients. Imago is all about deepening relationships and turning conflict into an opportunity for compassion and growth. Imago Dialogue involves three steps: mirroring, validation and empathy.

Step One: Mirroring

Mirroring is when you repeat back everything that your customer has said, so they understand that you are truly hearing them. For example, a client will state their complaint, such as: "I was unsatisfied with my service today. I asked for specific work on my shoulder and it still hurts me." And you will restate: "So, let me see if I got that. You wanted specific work done on your shoulder and it's still hurting you, so you're feeling unsatisfied with your session today. Did I get that?" The client will agree with you if you understood. If not, they will clarify. If they clarify, repeat (mirror) the new statement until the client is sure that you heard them. It is important not to get defensive during this time. The only goal here is to make the client feel heard and understood.

If a client is triggered by the mirroring, it’s important to clearly communicate the purpose behind it, thereby helping to eliminate the “us versus them” mentality. Explain that your goal is to come to a mutual understanding about their concern and to make sure you're fully hearing them. It is a friendly but professional way to clarify your intention and illustrate your willingness to work together as a team.

Step Two: Validation

Make a validating statement that addresses the client's issue. For example, in the issue above try: "It's totally understandable ..." or "Anyone would feel that way ..." or "That makes sense to me...." This validates the client's concerns and lets them know that you're wanting to not only hear them but to also understand them. Make sure to ask: "Did I get that?" and get the client to clarify if anything is misunderstood. Validation is a necessary part of feeling heard.

Physical cues, along with timing and pacing, can help you accomplish your goal. Slow, long nods usually indicate understanding, whereas fast, rapid nods can convey urgency and impatience. Sudden movements or shifts can indicate an unspoken thought or feeling, while slight movements or changes in visual focus can mean your attention has shifted. Shrugging your shoulders implies doubt. Relax your shoulders down, away from your ears, to suggest ease and comfort. These subtle physical cues, combined with verbal affirmation, ensure validation. Often validation comes with visual signs of relief, especially because at this point in a typical conversation, someone may become defensive rather than validating. The unexpected validation can cause their walls to break down and a client to feel really good.

Step Three: Empathy

Empathy is the ability to understand and identify with another’s feelings, thoughts or attitude. Unlike sympathy, which calls for understanding and feeling concerned, empathy involves sharing another’s experience and having the capacity to relate. It requires an authentic, heartfelt, human-to-human connection.

Imagine what your client may be feeling in that situation. Try, "I imagine you feel disappointed or frustrated that your needs weren't met during your session today." Try to include "feeling words" rather than "thinking words" and ask after your statement: "Is that how you feel?" By placing yourself in your client's shoes, you communicate to them that you understand just how upsetting their experience must have been for them. This shows them that you're a human too, that you get it and that you want to get it.

Using these three steps might just lead to a better customer service experience and save a client relationship.

 

 

As seen in: https://www.forbes.com/sites/yec/2018/04/05/using-the-imago-technique-to-deal-with-unhappy-customers/#185ed4b327d8

Rachel Beider in Massage Magazine: 7 Effective Ways to Manage Your Stress

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Everyone faces stress; however, studies show that some people are afflicted more than others.

For instance, according to the American Psychological Association (APA), women report feeling slightly more stressed than men, with an average stress rating of 5.3 on a 10-point scale as opposed to 4.9 from their male counterparts.

Furthermore, millennial stress levels are almost double that of “matures,” with scores of 6.0 and 3.5 respectfully.

While it’s only natural to experience some sort of stress in life, the problem with this particular emotion is that it can negatively affect your health, if it’s allowed to accumulate over time.

Case in point: the APA goes on to reveal that, along with higher stress levels, U.S. adults also have poorer levels of health than ever before. In fact, almost one in four label their health as either “fair” or “poor,” a number that is up four percentage points from just three years prior.

Certainly, there’s no way to get rid of stress entirely. However, there are quite a few things you can do to help ease it before it starts to affect your quality of life. Here are seven (and one extra) that work for other massage therapy experts, so you may want to give them a try.

1. Practice Time Management

Time management is really the key to creating balance in life,” says Amanda Mittan, Massage Therapy Program Director at Carrington College. “Making sure you don’t overextend yourself as a practitioner is so important to career longevity.”

If this is an area where you typically struggle, motivational speaker and self-development author Brian Tracy offers several tips to better manage your time. Among them are to take care of small tasks immediately when they arise, prioritizing your tasks so you always handle the most important ones first, and limiting your distractions so you can focus and get things done.

2. Seek Variety

Another stress-relieving tip offered by Mittan is to change up your routine. Incorporate variety into your day and you likely won’t feel so stressed out. One way to do this is to constantly learn new things, even if those new things involve massage therapy.

“The more disciplines of massage you study, the more diverse your work day will be,” says Mittan. “I love clinic work, but I know I can’t do that all the time so I integrate spa, sports, and Eastern theory into my practice to keep my skills in check and also to give my body the times to relax while I work.”

3. Spend Time in Nature

“I am really lucky to live in San Diego [California], where I can enjoy the ocean and our beautiful canyons,” says Kathleen Lisson, C.L.T., C.M.T., owner of Solace Massage and Mindfulness and author of Swollen, Bloated and Puffy. Lisson says walking every day helps her clear her head, something she has placed more focus on after being diagnosed with skin cancer in 2016.

“I knew it was time to lower my stress levels,” says Lisson.

What do you do if you live in an area that doesn’t have Southern California’s notoriously beautiful views?

“If there is no ocean or park near you, join a garden club,” suggests Lisson. “I volunteer pulling weeds in a public garden once a week and it gets me in contact with the earth. I can watch the plants grow, flower, and die back, immersing myself in nature’s rhythm.”

4. Engage in Guided or Silent Meditation

Another stress-relief tactic that Lisson uses is meditation. “I meditate for at least 10 minutes a day, most often in the morning right after I wake up,” says Lisson. “This relaxes me and lets me bring a peaceful attitude into my day instead of becoming overwhelmed with the things I have to do to run a massage practice.”

Lisson uses the free app Insight Timer, which has over 6,700 guided meditations, music tracks, talks and courses. If you prefer to meditate in silence, you can simply use the app’s timer to set your desired session duration. You can also set different interval bells, ambient sounds and ending bells.

5. Take Relaxing Breaths

Relinda Reynozo, lead massage therapist at The Elms Hotel & Spa in Excelsior Springs, Missouri, says breathing to pre-selected counts delivers a body-relaxing response. “I inhale to a count of six, hold it for a count of three, and exhale to a count of seven,” says Reynozo. “I do this three times in a row just about every night before bed.”

Not only can relaxation breathing make you feel less stressed, but the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health shares that engaging in relaxation techniques such as this can also have positive effects by reducing your risk of or symptoms associated with several physical conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure and rheumatoid arthritis, just to name a few.

6. Stay Physically Active

Rachel Beider, L.M.T., owner of Massage Williamsburg and Massage Greenpoint, both in Brooklyn, New York, finds that staying physically active helps her reduce stress levels. “I find it’s important to engage in physical activities at least two to three days a week,” says Beider, who finds solace in both spin classes and weight training.

The American Council on Exercise shares that exercise reduces stress in four different ways.

First, it lowers your anxiety levels. Second, the neurotransmitters and endorphins it releases creates a relaxation response, which also leaves you in a better mood. Third, it increases your feelings of self-worth; and, fourth, it encourages you to eat healthier, which helps ease your stress as well.

7. Get Regular Massages

Although this should go without saying, the one response that was received most often when asking a number of massage therapists about how to relieve stress was to get regular massages.

Take some time and treat yourself to the same form of stress relief that you provide to your clients daily.

That’s what Joann D’Armetta, L.M.T., with Advanced Wellness in Marlboro and Parlin, New Jersey, suggests because it offers two benefits in one.

“Not only will you be effectively reducing your own stress, but at the same time you can pick up some great techniques from the therapist giving you the massage,” says D’Armetta. “It’s a win-win situation!”

One Final “Extra” Tip…

Melody Althaus, L.M.T. with Here & Now Wellness Massage in Orange County, California sums up stress relief in one simple statement: “Do whatever makes you feel happy. Whether it’s doing some form of exercise, meditation, craft or hobby, just make sure you’re taking the time for you daily.”

Some massage therapists start their day with stress-relieving activities and others place them at the end. Wherever you decide to take advantage of yours, the key is to do them and to do them often.

In other words, make it a point to get rid of your stress before your stress threatens to get rid of you.

Article by Christina DeBusk for Massage Magazine