12 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Acting on a New Business Venture

Photo by tran-mau-tri-tam

Photo by tran-mau-tri-tam

I contributed to this Huffington Post Article:

“Eureka” moments can hit entrepreneurs hard. After all, it’s natural to see opportunities where others don’t. But before you decide to act on that new business idea, you need to make sure it’s not just a flash-pan plan. In order to help you decide, ask yourself the following questions:

A. Is it a product or a business?

A lot of great ideas out there make great products, but creating a business is quite different. Whether your idea is a product or a business changes the way you should proceed. For products, focus on getting the product to market and maximize sells. For a business, think about the bigger picture of putting together a growth strategy, building a team and creating a defensible position. - Andy KohmVendOp

A. Have I done the research?

Doing the research and talking to your potential customers now before you start is much cheaper than after. A lot of work actually needs to get done before you officially start acting on your next business idea and research is the bulk of it. So before you dive head first, ask yourself: Have I talked to my potential customers? Is this something they want? - Christopher SwenorEast Coast Product

A. Is there value in solving this problem?

Business ideas are a dime a dozen, but successful businesses aren’t built on ideas alone. The idea has to solve a real problem and the solution has to create enough value for people to be willing to pay for it. Make sure the value is there before you waste time, money and opportunities building castles in the air. Lack of product-market fit has caused the demise of many a startup. - Vik PatelFuture Hosting

A. Am I ready for the sacrifice and risk?

Assuming you’ve already validated your idea, being an entrepreneur comes with big sacrifices which can undermine your success if you’re not ready. You have to sacrifice time with family and friends, and the security of that regular paycheck will be gone. Oftentimes I think about the early struggles when I started my first company. I never had to beg, borrow or steal until I became an entrepreneur. - Tim MaliyilAlertBoot

A. Can I scale?

The core business idea will be the single-most important step in building a successful business. An OK idea will only take you so far, but a great idea will set you apart from the rest and offer true returns on your time. Asking yourself if your business can scale will be a litmus test to identify if you are onto a great idea or not. The more scaleable a business is, the more you can succeed. - Diego OrjuelaCables & Sensors

A. Who is on the team?

It’s easy to find opportunities. It’s even easy to map out a business plan. It’s difficult to understand who else is needed for a new business idea to succeed. Successful entrepreneurs realize they can’t do everything by themselves, and often the cost of doing so is too high anyway. You have to factor in your expertise and then bring in partners who can complement what you don’t know. - Krish ChopraUnited Medical Rotations

A. What’s my competition?

Competition is not a reason to discount a business idea. Disrupting existing niches and executing better than the incumbents is the game we’re in. But entrepreneurs should ask themselves what the real cost of being better is and whether they can build a product so much better — or cheaper — that users will be motivated to switch, especially if there are established players with deep pockets. - Justin BlanchardServerMania Inc.

A. Would I buy my own product?

Would I buy this myself? If you aren’t willing to be a customer of your own products, then you have no business selling them to someone else. If you’re on the fence, resolve your own objections to win over yourself, and by doing so, you’ll be proactively resolving objections that your actual customers may have. - David CiccarelliVoices.com

A. Is this what I want my life to be about?

Before starting your next business venture, ask yourself the overarching question: Is this what I want my life to be about? How does this build the life that I want? Does it fit into the vision I have for myself? If it doesn’t fit into what you want your life to be about, ask yourself if it’s really worth the sacrifice. - Rachel BeiderMassage Greenpoint, Massage Williamsburg

A. Am I thinking big picture or instant gratification?

It’s important to step back and decide whether this is just something that you want right now or something that will benefit your company as a whole in the long term. Sometimes you get lucky and those right now desires pan out in the long run, but usually they’re short-sighted and a waste of everyone’s time. - Kevin ConnerVast Bridges

A. Do I have the time and resources for proper execution?

We as entrepreneurs are always on the go, and we’re constantly thinking about our next great idea. Before you act on your next idea, ask yourself if you have enough time and resources to devote to the project. Nothing is worse than a half-ass job. If you truly believe in your idea but don’t have the time and resources, take a second and give it some thought and planning before you get started. - Dave NevogtHubstaff.com

A. What’s my contingency plan?

Once you’ve done your research and are ready to move, you still need a contingency plan. Nothing in business is linear. One minute, for all you know, you’ve created a workable prototype, have backers, and a ripe and ready market. The next, your product is being scrutinized and found to be completely unnecessary. What’s your contingency plan when something like that happens? - Cody McLainSupportNinja

Rachel Beider in Huffington Post: 11 Ways to Involve Employees in Creating Company Culture

11 Ways To Involve Employees In Creating Company Culture 

via Huffington Post

There are a lot of different ways to create a company culture. One of them is getting employees involved in the process. This not only builds buy-in, it also improves engagement. The people influencing decisions are naturally going to choose activities or goals that interest them. So how can you creatively encourage employees to build their own company culture?

1. Lead by example.

Start your next meeting by announcing a new team event or activity. Explain that you’d like to do events or activities on a monthly basis and that you’d appreciate everyone’s involvement. Get each individual to contribute ideas for fun activities to do as a company. This is an easy way to get the entire team to build a company culture and be involved in these types of decisions. - Russell KommereSoftware Associates Inc

2. Put them in charge of events or activities.

Have employees create an activity or event schedule around certain types of cultural norms they want to integrate into the main culture. This empowers them and helps them feel more involved in the process. Plus, it helps you know exactly what they want to do. - Drew HendricksButtercup

3. Ask team members to share stories.

Each week during our team meeting, I ask a question that lets people share something about their life. One of my favorites is, “If you could save one non-essential good from your home and had to leave everything else behind, what would you save?” I feel it’s a practice that fosters a culture in which everyone on the team feels very connected. - Mark KrassnerExpectful

4. Create a Facebook group.

My company is spread out over two locations, and as we grow, one of my favorite ways to keep in regular contact with all of the employees is via our Facebook group (for employees only). They share videos, pictures of their families and post events that they are hosting, like performances. This creates a fun company culture that is created and run by the employees. - Rachel BeiderMassage Greenpoint, Massage Williamsburg

5. Get out of the office.

Deep personal connections among team members require time away from the computer and out in the real world. Whether it’s food or drinks after work, a monthly outing or a quarterly retreat, having a chance to leave work at work and have real conversations with each other is key. Add a unique activity or environment, and you’re likely to see a big boost in relationships. - Ross BeyelerGrowth Spark

6. Hire the right people from the get-go.

Culture is built by the team organically over time and can’t be forced. As a leader, you set the loose guidelines, but your team is what brings it to life. The key to encouraging your ideal culture is hiring the right people for your company from the start. Employees that fit and agree with your vision are crucial. One bad egg can ruin culture, so keep it in mind whenever interviewing candidates. - Kyle GoguenPawstruck

7. Treat everyone to lunch.

Every Friday, we bring a catered lunch into the office. Because it’s only once a week, it’s something that most people are able to join. It’s an informal break where employees can chat, talk shop and in general forge stronger relationships with each other. Plus, everyone loves a free lunch! - Stan GarberScout RFP

8. Designate time for non-work-related conversation.

As a remote company, we have to be creative when it comes to facilitating company culture. We have special Slack channels designated for topics that aren’t work-related and encourage our team to take part in the conversation. This gives our team the chance to get to know one another on a personal level and take initiative with creating and building their own culture within the organization. - Jared BrownHubstaff Talent

9. Let them brainstorm alone.

I recently had my team meet without me to discuss their goals and ideas for the company. They’re compiling what they came up with on a vision board to review with me. I’ve found this gives them a forum to be creative, share ideas and feel invested in the direction of the company. - Leila LewisBe Inspired PR

10. Trust them with an assignment.

The only way your employees will truly buy into your company culture is if they take pride and ownership in what they do. They might be intimidated, but they’ll rise to the challenge knowing that you are trusting them with your business. Employees seldom want to disappoint their boss, so you can expect to see good results! - Duran InciOptimum7

11. Encourage individual freedom.

I like to give my individual teams the power to create their own schedules, internal dynamics and personal workflow. For example, our production team organically initiated daily walks around the block, which has now become a key opportunity for them to clear their minds while bonding on a personal level outside of the office. I’ve found this has even boosted overall productivity. - Justin LefkovitchMirrored Media

These answers are provided by the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

Rachel Beider in Forbes Magazine

When To Open A Second Location To Grow Your Small Business 

Article by: Marcia Layton Turner for Forbes

“When you are completely booked solid, you have only two options: raise your rates or expand (or both!)” says Rachel Beider, licensed massage therapist and owner of Massage Williamsburg, in Brooklyn, NY. Beider’s solution to growing a small business was to add a second location in Brooklyn, named Massage Greenpoint.

“After raising our prices, we still had long waitlists of clients,” she explains, “and I knew that many were coming from the neighborhood just north of ours.” So Beider found real estate a little farther north from her original studio and opened her doors. Massage Greenpoint has been open now for six months and is continuing to grow. “It is the best investment that I’ve made,” she says.

Many business owners question whether it's time to open another location, wondering if they're creating new opportunities or spreading themselves too thin. While you can never know for certain before taking the leap, these entrepreneurs found that certain conditions were signs that the timing could be right.

Increasing Capacity

For Beider, capacity was the factor that most impacted her decision to open another location – her first was fully booked. She was confident that opening a second location would in no way cannibalize her first, and would allow the business to continue to grow.

Opening a second location improved customer service, by making it possible for more clients to book appointments. Since many clients were traveling south to Williamsburg, opening a location closer to their homes and offices also improved customer satisfaction.

Establishing Growth Criteria

While Beider used the fact that her business was consistently full as a sign that it was time to expand, Jeff Shapiro, owner of Spindle Fitness, set specific milestones that his business needed to hit before the company would consider opening additional locations. While the company’s goal was to become a multi-location business, Shapiro first wanted to achieve a positive cash flow and have trained staff in place, ready to train others.

Reducing Shipping Times and Expenses

In contrast, OnlineLabels.com wasn’t having capacity issues – the company could produce labels quickly - the impediment to growth was shipping cost and speed, explains CEO Dave Carmany. “To ensure people all across the country received our labels on a timely basis without having to pay premium shipping rates, we looked into opening a second location.” Its original space in Florida yields quick shipping to East Coast customers but slower delivery to the West Coast.

Evaluating the Cost of Expansion

“When we calculated what it would take to create a second manufacturing facility, hire a new set of employees, and cover the additional overhead that comes with having two locations, the benefits didn’t offset the costs. While our volume was increasing, it wasn’t at a quick enough pace to justify such a substantial business move.” Instead, OnlineLabels turned to its shipping carriers to negotiate deals that would speed delivery at reduced costs. Carmany admits it’s not a permanent solution, but it “bought our company time.”

Attracting New Business

Once you’ve decided the time is right to open another location, begin to communicate frequently with your current and potential customer base to prime the pump for future sales. Beider kept her community informed about the build-out of the second location via social media. She also emailed current clients and prospects with an offer to try out the second location. Finally, she had postcards printed up with a new client discount that she left at local stores, yoga studios, gyms, and other complementary businesses to help attract more clients. And they did.

Marcia Layton Turner writes frequently for and about small business. She is the author of The Unofficial Guide to Starting a Small Business and many others.

Rachel Beider featured in Entrepreneur Magazine

5 Stories That Will Make You Rethink Your Leadership Style

CEOs speak candidly of times they fumbled on the job, and what they learned in the process. Originally posted here

When he first became a business leader, admits Krister Ungerboeck, CEO of Courageous Growth, in St. Louis, Mo., he was a bit of a jerk. “I assumed that the CEO should be the smartest person in the room,” Ungerboeck told me recently via email.

Related: 22 Qualities That Make a Great Leader

That was a mistake, Ungerboeck now acknowledges. Thanks to that mentality, he says, he tended to lead through criticism, he says. And that in turn led him to doubt the abilities of his team, and created an unproductive work environment.

But after receiving less-than-stellar feedback on an employee survey, Ungerboeck says he realized his leadership style wasn’t working. “When I finally realized that my leadership style left my employees struggling to feel inspired, I made a major transformation,” he wrote. “I learned that criticism is lazy leadership that is intended to pump up the ego of the boss by making the employee feel smaller.”

Since that epiphany, Ungerboeck has tried to do better by leading through encouragement. In fact, he now refers to himself as a “recovering a-hole.”

While his employees are now better off for the change, Ungerboeck is hardly the first boss to rethink his or her leadership style. Here are five stories of how other leaders came to realize they needed to do things differently:

Always be learning.

By his mid-20s Glenn Phillips was an award-winning entrepreneur. There was just one little problem: His software company wasn’t making money.

“While we delivered great systems and support, we were not profitable and I was not addressing the problem well,” Phillips told me. “I thought that I was smart enough and hard-working enough to ‘figure it out’ and solve our issues.”  

Related: 9 Ways to Recognize a Real Leader

Eventually, though, Phillips realized he needed help. “I started educating myself about running a business,” he said. “The education included peers, classes and lots of reading. I studied businesses, cognitive thinking, sales, capital and more.”

Soon, his business began to turn around. Today, as the head of Lake Homes Realty in Pelham, Ala., he says he makes continual learning a priority for everyone at his organization. He says he hosts regular lunch-n-learns at the office and leads in-person trainings. The company even has a reading library, and if an employee finishes one of the books, Phillips takes that individual out to lunch to discuss what was learned.

Leadership takeaway: Set a good example for employees by constantly seeking new knowledge. This will ensure that your entire company will always be learning and improving. Tools like Workramp can help your team reach its potential.

Accept your new role.

When Rachel Beider, CEO of Massage Williamsburg + Massage Greenpoint in Brooklyn, N.Y., set out to expand her business, she quickly saw she was spreading herself too thin.

“I was trying to do too much, including still seeing massage therapy clients directly, and being involved in the day-to-day tasks,” she told me recently through email. “I started to feel perpetually stressed and burned out, and I knew I wasn't giving my best to the position.”

That’s when Beider set a deadline for herself so she couldn’t make excuses and put off the change. “Though it was a scary transition, it has allowed me a lot more time to work on important things and see the bigger picture," she wrote. "I had to learn to delegate. Now, I'm a lot more 'present' at work, with less on my plate, and open to more suggestions on improving the company.”

Leadership takeaway: First-time CEOs often need time to adjust to their new responsibilities. And it can be hard to give up old tasks that feel comfortable. But, as a leader, it’s important that you step up and accept the fact that it’s time to stop spending energy on things others can do, and focus on running the organization.

Be adaptable.

“When I had five or six employees, I managed them all the same,” Beck Bamberger, founder of Bam Communications, in San Diego, Calif. said in an email.

That worked for a while, she said, but once the company grew to dozens of employees, she saw she’d have to adapt. “There was one particular client meeting where I noticed a highly independent, quiet but well-liked employee was not taking my feedback as well as a bubbly, vivacious employee,” Bamberger went on to say.

What he told her, though, just didn’t seem to click. “We had this awkward pause in the meeting where we sat in silence for nearly 20 seconds before we started (thankfully) laughing. Then I said, ‘Okay, you're different from her.’ This was a little a-ha moment for me in terms of leadership that was adaptable for each individual.”

Leadership takeaway: Not every employee responds the same way to the same leadership style. Great leaders recognize each individual’s needs and adapt accordingly. This ensures that every employee can perform at his or her best.

Think quickly.

“A few years ago, when my companies were just starting out, my employees or potential business partners would ask me questions, and I would let them linger for a long time rather than answering them right away,” said Tony Jakstis, founder of Casa De Lago Event Centers, in Orange, Calif.

Not wanting to make a bad decision, Jakstis took his time coming up with the best answer. But, sometimes, stalling can mean missing out on big opportunities. “A good leader needs to be able to hear any kind of problem or opportunity and make a key decision that will benefit the company,” Jakstis said. “If it fails and something goes wrong, then at least I’ll find out quicker. If I’m right, the job will be done.”

Leadership takeaway: Don’t be afraid to be decisive. Even if a decision doesn’t turn out as planned, see that not as a failure, but a chance to learn.

Find support.

Danielle Wiley, CEO of Sway Group, in Corte Madera, Calif., never wanted to be a leader, she says. Nonetheless, she found herself at the helm of a fast-growing company.

“With the rocketship success that Sway saw in its first few years, my own personal leadership growth couldn't keep up,” she wrote in an email. “We were no longer a small company, but one that 35 employees' livelihoods depended on.”

The weight of that responsibility led Wiley to isolate herself -- and her team to suffer as a result. “I knew I needed to do better, I just didn't know how,” she told me.

Around this time,the executive attended a dinner for women executives. She was at the same table as a woman who kept talking about a CEO advisory group that she had joined. Wiley decided to give the group a go.

Related: How to Retain Employees Through 'Servant' Leadership

“At my first meeting, I quickly realized this group was exactly what I needed," she said. "I began to see that my concerns and frustrations were the same other CEOs were experiencing. The group gave me a newfound sense of confidence and direction that I was able to bring back to the team.”

Leadership takeaway: Being a CEO is an experience unlike anything else. Finding others going through similar situations can provide much needed support and guidance.

Rachel Beider on Small Business Trends

"Keeping employees happy and healthy is good for business: You get more tasks completed (and with more creativity) if the people doing the work aren’t ill or tired. Some people love having a company-funded chance for personal development, while others prefer the options for flexible hours or 401(k)s. To narrow down what job perks resonate the strongest, we asked members of the Young Entrepreneur Council:

“What company perk (bus pass, outside learning opportunities, etc.) do your employees find most helpful/useful and why?”

Best Employee Perks

Here’s what they have to say:

1. Continuing Education

“I will happily pay for my employees to develop new skills on their own time and bill me for the hours if it’s something they can bring to their role at the business. If you like to hire self-starters in the first place, you want to keep them at the top of their game by encouraging them to learn as much as they can.” ~ Adam SteeleThe Magistrate

2. Working Remotely With Flexible Hours

“Empowering our employees with the ability to manage their own schedule and work remotely has been a huge advantage for us. By allowing them to self-manage, they feel more invested in getting the work done as efficiently as possible, something we weren’t achieving by making sure they were in their chairs by 9 a.m. For us, it’s about the work getting done on time, not about where or when it’s completed.” ~ Kim KaupeZinePak

3. Team-Led Exercise

“Most teams seem to have a yoga enthusiast, a couple of runners, a cycling guy, couple ballers, and so on. We’ve had a ton of fun as a team allowing different employees to “lead” workouts during, or right before or after work. Not only does it empower the teacher and allow them to show off their passion, but it promotes a healthy work environment and usually involves a few laughs after the fact.” ~ Matt MurphyKids in the Game LLC

4. Personal Development

“We are planning on bringing our leadership team of 12 to the Gestalt Institute of Cleveland three times this year for intense personal development. In addition to learning new communication tools for their roles at work, they are working on marriage issues, identity issues, parenting issues and more. Supporting our staff in their lives impacts their work, while deepening loyalty to the company and one other.” ~ Corey BlakeRound Table Companies

5. Access to Entertainment

“Our company sits at the intersection of entertainment, technology, and the ultimate fan experience, so we stay at the forefront of new trends. Our employees get to try all the latest gadgets (such as Snapchat Spectacles and hover boards), go to the hottest shows, and enjoy exclusive experiences as part of their job. This ultimately helps them stay in touch with trends and excel at their position.” ~ Justin LefkovitchMirrored Media

6. Free Monthly Massages

“My front desk staff love getting the perk of free monthly massages at my massage studio. Sitting at a desk can take its physical toll, and regular massage therapy can make a huge difference in lowering blood pressure, alleviating headaches, reducing stress and tension, and decreasing anxiety. By providing them with regular massage therapy, they feel valued, and are happier and more productive.” ~ Rachel BeiderMassage Greenpoint

7. Health and Wellness

“My team takes advantage of a health and wellness perk that subsidizes things like gym memberships. Obvious benefits include a healthier, happier and consequently more productive work environment. Providing ample space and resources for employees to take great care of themselves is also a good way to illustrate the extent to which the company values them beyond their ability to drive revenue.” ~ Ryan WilsonFiveFifty

8. Annual Trip

“We do an annual, three-day trip that acts as several different things. It is a reward for another great year of work; an amazing team-building experience, as our entire team gets out of the office to hang together; exposure to something new, as we always pick a new place; and a recruiting tool. The trip has consistently proven to be one of the most valuable things that we do.” ~ Erik HubermanHawke Media

9. 401(k)

“I’m biased, but we hear over and over from employees at all types of companies that a tax-advantaged way to save for retirement is a valuable perk that gets both the employer and the employee a lot of “bang for your buck.” It also shows a strong sense of thoughtfulness and fiscal responsibility in a way that a bonus or a ping pong table does not.” ~ Roger LeeCaptain401
Bus Pass Photo via Shutterstock"

 

As seen in Small Business Trends

Interview with Rachel Beider for Business Collective

Image by Ben Chasteen for Epoch Times

Image by Ben Chasteen for Epoch Times

Meet Rachel Beider, CEO of Massage Williamsburg + Massage Greenpoint

Rachel Beider is an entrepreneur, educator, speaker and mentor. She is the proud owner and CEO of two Brooklyn-based clinical massage studios, Massage Williamsburg and Massage Greenpoint. She has made her career about empowering women to start and grow their own practices, via her company Wellness Business Consulting. Follow her @rachelbeider.

Who is your hero? (In business, life, or both.)

My hero in business is Paul Newman. He was the ultimate multipotentialite, who excelled in multiple areas and committed himself and his life to philanthropy and political and social activism. He was an incredible entrepreneur, actor, race-car driver, investor, environmentalist and philanthropist.

What’s the single best piece of business advice (unorthodox tips welcome!) that helped shape who you are as an entrepreneur today, and why?

The single best piece of advice that I followed that shaped my career was to get out of my own way. I often found that I was so nervous or critical of myself and my ideas that I’d spend more time worrying about doing something than actually doing it. It was challenging, but I learned to address the things that I dreaded first to get them out of the way. What I’ve discovered is that the task I was fearful of was typically not nearly as bad as I thought, and it felt like such a major relief to get done.

What’s the biggest mistake you ever made in your business, and what did you learn from it that others can learn from too?

The biggest mistake that I’ve made in business was not delegating daily tasks soon enough and feeling burned out. I had to learn to ask others for help and truly depend on their strength, skills and wisdom, so that I could fully commit myself to the bigger picture. It can be scary at first to depend on others, especially when you’re used to doing everything a certain way at a certain standard of quality, but it is absolutely necessary for a business to grow and scale. If all information must pass through you as a business owner, you can never truly scale up.

Another important mistake that I see business owners making is being so nurturing of others: their clients, family and friends. They often forget to nurture their business, which should be taken care of as its own entity.

What do you do during the first hour of your business day and why?

People typically don’t answer this truthfully, so I will tell you my honest answer. I spend the first hour of my day in bed, snuggling my dog, and eventually stretching out and catching up on emails on my cell phone. In the morning, I like the coziness and indulgence of working from bed and I cherish the warmth of spending time with the sweetest dog ever, my Cavalier King Charles, Winston.

What’s your best financial/cash-flow related tip for entrepreneurs just getting started?

Don’t spend money on anything that doesn’t directly lead to income at the beginning. It can also be helpful to get a 0% interest credit card, or a low interest line of credit. When starting a small business, don’t get yourself into more debt than you can pay off yourself within a year.

Quick: What’s ONE thing you recommend ALL aspiring or current entrepreneurs do right now to take their biz to the next level?

To take your business to the next level, consider what your major values are — what you want to make your life about. Think about what kind of world you want to leave for the future. When you want to get to the next level, do so with that ultimate goal in mind. This will help you stay true to your vision.

What’s your definition of success? How will you know when you’ve finally “succeeded” in your business?

I define success by having an abundance of life, love, joy and experiences. Success for me is a balance of feeling satisfied by the challenges of my work and fulfilled by the contributions that I can make in other’s lives. It’s about leaving work with enough energy to enjoy the time I spend with my family and friends, and often with more energy because I love my job and career. I feel the most successful when I watch my business grow and when I help other small business owners, via consulting, feel empowered and proud of their work, and achieve their dreams.

Article and Interview by YEC for Business Collective

Rachel Beider in Huffington Post!

"You can brag about follower counts but likes alone —don’t translate into purchases.

These 17 small businesses have figured out a Social Media strategy. Minus the marketing Oz behind the emerald curtain. (Wizard of Oz reference, FYI). Social Media is one of those “the best things in life are free“ for small businesses. It doesn’t cost much but time & creativity to start seeing results. And captivating your ideal clients like Dorothy’s ruby red shoes. 

You can create an online presence, locally, globally or even worldwide in a few clicks. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We first, must draw in the people who need your service. And that takes more than hopping on an app and posting, “I’m open for business”

 

How do you sell an intangible product online?

 

These service-based businesses have uncovered a strategy that works for their brand and sanity. In return, they’ve closed more deals and exploded their online/offline influence. Pay attention to what’s said here, they’ve given up their best-kept Social Media secret to help more businesses (like you) score the same results. 

 

They’ve discovered how to promote, grow the brand and engage with their audience because another FYI profits happen more often when you’re NOT selling at all. 

 

You won’t be hearing from me until the end, I’ll let these 17 service-based businesses tell you for themselves. 

“You can use social media to turn strangers into friends, friends into customers and customers into salespeople.”— Seth Godin

 

PROMOTE LE BRAND

 

GIPHY

“Social media can be tricky, if you’re just going to post random pictures and the same ole-same ole do not waste your time there’s too much noise out there.” - Bryan Clayton

 

1. 

 

“Social media can be tricky, if you’re just going to post random pictures and the same ole-same ole do not waste your time there’s too much noise out there. However, if you’re going to invest time to make something new, funny, or informative people will pay attention to it. We created a meme account specifically focused for the lawn care industry on our Instagram. It’s one of the only accounts dedicated to poking fun at the lawn care industry and the nuances that go along with it. We have grown our following base to over 10,000 and people love the funny memes we make related to the lawn care industry. It’s a good way to build awareness about GreenPal and our community of lawn care services that are ready to hire at the touch of a button.” Bryan Clayton, CEO of GreenPal the Uber for Lawn Care

 

2.

 

“Instagram has been such a useful marketing tool for us. We’ve been using high-end photographers with thousands of followers and tagging them in our posts and have seen results with more followers and likes on certain photos. Instagram is one powerful, free tool. All you need is the manpower behind it to make it succeed!” Carly Moore, PR Manager, Bond Collective

“A huge part of my brand revolves around promoting my versatile personality, energy, and style.” - Jam Gamble

 

3.

 

Be Y.O.U. All Of The Time:

“A huge part of my brand revolves around promoting my versatile personality, energy, and style. Being a self proclaimed #S layerofTheMic it’s imperative that I use Twitter and Instagram to post videos of me in action: public speaking, performing at events, and connecting with my audience/potential clients.  I’m getting BOOKED! The amount of booking requests I’ve received when my potential client says, “Honestly, your energy is off the charts! I’ve heard you’re the woman for the job —just from what I’ve seen via social media.” They’ve even started to use my hashtag! #SlayerofTheMic. Now that’s success. “ - Jam Gamble #SlayerofTheMic and Connector of People, Ideas, and Energy

 

4.

 

“Currently, Twitter is the number one platform I’m using. Not only is it great for reaching new audiences, but it has also proven useful for building relationships with media and influencers, which has helped get my site’s name out there more. As for growing my audience, I’ve recently found offering relevant giveaways to be a great means of reaching new followers. Last month, we did a gift card giveaway that ran a month long. One of the ways to enter was to follow us on Twitter (@CutCableToday), which netted us 200 new followers. I plan on continuing our giveaway strategy and eventually expanding to Facebook.” - Chris Brantner, founder of CutCableToday.com

 

5.

 

Find Your Place In The Social World:

“I find podcasting on BlogTalkRadio, and putting out an e-newsletter through Constant Contact are the most powerful social media tools for my business. LinkedIn gives me the chance to connect with my target audience and position myself as a thought leader. Podcasting allows me a greater reach and connects me to leaders around the world. It also helps me build relationships with other gurus around the world. These relationships have led to my inclusion in online webinars, summits, and programs.” - Diane Helbig, Growth Accelerator

 

GROW LE BRAND

 

Giphy

“Many friends and colleagues told me I shouldn’t bother using paid advertising and I should just ‘hustle’ in online forums, groups and communities to find paying clients. But I made the decision early on that I didn’t have time for that.” - Amanda Davies

 

6.

 

“Facebook is without doubt the most powerful marketing tool around. I have grown my business as a solopreneur to multiple 6-figures in just over 12 months by using Facebook advertising alone. Many friends and colleagues told me I shouldn’t bother using paid advertising and I should just ‘hustle’ in online forums, groups and communities to find paying clients. But I made the decision early on that I didn’t have time for that (I was still working in my 9-5 job at that stage) and it’s unsustainable if you want to grow and scale your business to mighty levels. Using highly targeted ads that are put in front of the right people at the right time, has grown my list by thousands of customers and sold out my programs. The financial results speak for themselves. You also have the ability to re-target potential customers who have already shown an interest in your business, which puts you ahead of the game to an even greater scale. The power is in the targeting.” - Amanda Davies, Psychologist + Coach at lightpurposeliving.com

“There are 40 million active small business pages but only 2 million of those businesses pay for advertising.” 

 

7.

 

Give The People What They Want:

“Facebook is successful for us because of the visual nature of photos and videos. It allows us to engage with a target audience of Disney and travel lovers across the country. Our main Facebook page has 120,000 organic likes and well over 1,000,000 post likes. The interaction that occurs helps us build a relationship with our “fans” thus creating a virtual bond. One of the things we do that is showing results is being relevant. We’re one of the first on the web to announce any BIG Disney theme park news. It gives us credibility and our Facebook page becomes the place to be to find out the latest and greatest news. Additionally, we ask our fans what they want more of. Catering to them is important as opposed to merely guessing what they want.” Greg Antonelle, Mickey Travels LLC

“A high click-through rate is often more valuable than “likes” or comments. Tips, FAQs, and informational articles that are of incredible value to families everywhere are posted on our Facebook fan page.” - Simplify Experts

 

8.

 

“Over the past year, over 15% of their web traffic has come from Facebook, where we post regularly. Although engagement and followership on Facebook isn’t huge, a lot of Facebook users that see the content click through to the website. A high click-through rate is often more valuable than “likes” or comments. Tips, FAQs, and informational articles that are of incredible value to families everywhere are posted on the fan page. So our general strategy is: write relevant, quality blog content, share that content through social media channels where your customers already live, and get them to want to visit your website to read on.” Simplify Experts, Professional Organizers

“We regularly ask our clients to post reviews and this practice has produced measurably results.” - Matthew Weiss

 

9.

 

“Many prospective clients will use Google/Yelp/Facebook to find and vet our services. Having many positive reviews stationed there gives us a competitive advantage. The most powerful word in the English language is “ask? We regularly ask our clients to post reviews and this practice has produced measurably results. We “push” our reviews URL to prospective clients that are considering retaining us.” Matthew Weiss, President of Weiss & Associates, PC

 

10. 

 

Twitter is the only completely open platform where anyone can see my posts. To grow my reach, credibility, and mailing list, I use key hashtags on tweets of my blog articles and I run the weekly #PeopleSkills global Twitter chat which trends every Sunday. Hosting a Twitter chat has helped to show my expertise. I leverage the chat and all my Twitter activity for workshop announcements and for my upcoming book and associated workshops on leadership and morale. The open design of Twitter is the greatest no cost neon sign ever invented.“ - Kate Nasser, President, CAS, Inc., The People Skills Coach™

“Posting consistently has been key to engagement growth.” - Kunle Bristow

 

11.

 

Instagram is by far my favorite platform. I create memes that relay news that will happen 5 years into the future or forecasts what will happen within 20 years. Instead of what’s in the news today. In addition to providing commentary on our human future —I also re-purpose these memes on Twitter and that has increased my engagement on both platforms. Posting consistently has been key to engagement growth and I have seen an increase in my (website) opt-ins as we continue to tape episodes of our web television series Futurism Weekly.” - Kunle Bristow, Managing Director / Anchor Futurism Weekly

 

ENGAGE LE AUDIENCE

 

 

12.

 

Networking Social After-Party:

“We have a ruthless social media connection policy. As a busy networking professional attending daily real-life events, we insist on connecting with a new contact on ALL their social media platforms WITHIN TWELVE HOURS. Why? We’ve identified this as the ideal window for facial recognition leading to smooth professional connections. Using this approach, we’ve been able to massively boost our outreach, particularly on LinkedIn, with demonstrable and quantifiable successes coming out of this approach. Continuing the conversation on Social Media within this time span, we’ve struck while the iron is hot. So far, I can think of four deals that have come out of this. Sometimes, it’s difficult to come home from a networking event and have to spend time connecting - but I’ve seen the results. They’re real. This policy is bearing fruit.” Sarah Sajedi, Director of Research & Development at ERA Environmental Solutions

“Breaking the post length rules.” - Janis Isaman 

 

13.

 

“On my Facebook page, I can post articles and lengthier opinions that accentuate a point of view and my voice. Breaking the post length rules as most of my posts are “too long”. But the longer they are, the more engagement improves.” - Janis Isaman, My Body Couture movement specialist & coach

“Rather than using the machine gun approach, spamming hundreds of people and hoping a small percentage reply, the one thing we do is contact directly, with a thoughtful and very personalized message.” - Steve Acho

 

14.

 

“LinkedIn has by far been the best social platform for our B2B technology staffing company. Like all good social platforms, it allows one to get deep context for other professionals, including showing mutual connections. Rather than using the machine gun approach, spamming hundreds of people and hoping a small percentage reply, the one thing we do that has shown the best results is take the time to target specific people, and contact directly, with a thoughtful and very personalized message. It’s extremely time-consuming to do well, but last month I went from cold email to contract with a $4B company in 24 hours.” Steve Acho, Founder & CEO of a technology staffing tool company

 

Another LinkedIn Maneuver... 

 

 

15. 

 

“LinkedIn is the best means ever created to help OTHER people look good in the context of business. Instead of lauding my own accomplishments, I use LinkedIn to highlight those who book me to speak at their conferences or events, as well as friends and colleagues in business who are accomplishing great things. Start highlighting other people (be sure you tag them to let them know) via LinkedIn, and watch your likes, shares, and comments grow.” - Spencer X Smith, Speaker

 

16.

 

“I primarily use Instagram to promote my massage therapy studios in Brooklyn. Instagram is awesome because you can geolocate new potential clients by searching for nearby images recently (publicly) posted. It has become a great place for us to look for clients including: local gyms, yoga studios, Pilates studios, etc. We know these are our ideal clients because they care about their health, active, local, and likely sore from working out so hard. We reach out by writing words of encouragement and support on their gym selfies or progress pics. Which feel personal and at the same time let them know that we are here for them if they need us! This has resulted in tons of new clients for my studios (we only opened a few months ago).” Rachel Beider, Massage Expert CEO of Massage Williamsburg

“I get new followers all the time that are actually organically interested in my brand.” - Luna Matatas

 

17.

 

Organic Reach Is Not Dead:

“My brand is colourful and friendly - Instagram allows me to project these flavours through my photos on the platform. It keeps the visual attraction of my brand and content in tact. The followers on Instagram seem to be more responsive then other platforms, so I get new followers all the time that are actually organically interested in my brand. While my follower count is low, each of those followers are meaningful. I use the platform with customer service principles in mind. If someone sees a workshop they want to take and comments “omg I want to go to this”, I respond directly to their comment on the page and invite them to DM me to order. Instead of sending them to the registration form on my website. This interaction feels personal. The fact that I’m offering a service that is sensitive and shame-prone, building a personal connection encourages people to feel safer. The PR part of my marketing is more important to me at this stage than solely basing my marketing decisions on reach.” - Luna Matatas, Sexpert

 

Follow The Yellow Brick Road... 

 

After hearing from over 100 business owners (in the making of this article) confess their favorite platform of tried & true strategies, I am exhausted but most importantly —thankful for those who shared their online marketing secrets. THE RESULTS ARE IN Social Media is your best chance at reaching the people who need YOU, my precious." From Tennile Cooper for Huffington Post

Rachel Beider in Forbes Magazine

How Small Businesses can Capitalize on the Growing Wellness Trend

Rachel Beider in Forbes Magazine

Stress has always been a driving force in the wellness industry, but we seem to have moved past just personal stress to a collective, politically-induced stress. No longer are people simply seeking to remedy relationship or financial troubles; stress about politics and the security of the future is becoming more and more common. As a business consultant for wellness practices and the owner of two massage studios in New York City, I have seen this trend unfold firsthand.

Like many, I was exhausted by last year’s tumultuous election, so imagine my surprise when I learned that it was actually great for business. I first noticed an uptick in client bookings in the fall of 2016 and my sessions -- which are typically pretty quiet — became more lively as clients voiced their worries and concerns about politics. Stress and anxiety commonly manifest themselves in physical ailments like muscle tension, TMJ (jaw tension from teeth clenching), headaches, insomnia and fatigue, which are problems we treat frequently.

I had a feeling that trying to deduce electoral math and being glued to Facebook, cable news and Twitter were physically impacting my clients and the demand for my business. The numbers proved me right: We saw a 20% increase in new clients in Q4 of last year and in the week after the inauguration, we saw an additional 50% surge in bookings —and there’s no sign of it slowing down. The demand has been so high that we’re adding additional employees to our roster.

 

ADVERTISING

 

At the same time, I saw a growing trend in the corporate world as blue chip companies like Aetna and Facebook adopted progressive workplace wellness programs, and media mogul Arianna Huffington launched Thrive Global, a wellness company dedicated to helping companies and employees reduce burnout. At a time when people were dealing with a new kind of post-election stress, I felt wellness was reaching an audience that hadn’t previously been tuned in.

Growing a business isn’t without trial and error, and there are specific challenges that small practices should keep in mind when catering to stressed out clients. Keep these tips in mind to capitalize on the latest wellness trend:

Don’t Be Afraid Of The Big Fish

Just because your business is small, that doesn’t mean you can’t work with a large company or corporation. Small businesses can reach new audiences and build partnerships by offering services to large companies and coordinating office wellness events. We have partnered with Red Bull, WeWork and Whole Foods to offer chair massages to employees for on-site stress relief.

Companies are interested in the benefits of having wellness services at work, which can keep insurance costs down and boost employee productivity. With just a few practitioners, your business can reach a new customer base that wouldn’t otherwise discover your practice. When approaching a new partner, make sure to tailor your approach and market the specific benefits that they can expect from working with you.

Diversify, Diversify, Diversify

At a time when customers are becoming savvier in the wellness space, it’s important to diversify your services. Consider including massage, reflexology, acupuncture, aromatherapy, reiki and alternative wellness treatments. Before seeking new talent, look at the expertise you already have in house: Many practitioners are trained in multiple disciplines but don’t always promote all of their areas of expertise.

You Absolutely Cannot Skimp On Talent

This is imperative. For small businesses to stand out in the wellness space, it’s critical to hire excellent staff members who can provide high-quality care. This is important for all service-based industries, but even more so for practitioners who have close relationships with their clients. This is the easiest way to keep retention rates up and your clients coming back.

To make sure that your guests are getting the most out of their experience, consider using client feedback software or post-treatment surveys. A great practitioner will have a consistently high client retention rate.

 

ADVERTISING

 

Focus On Consistency

One of the biggest challenges small businesses will face as they grow in the wellness space is maintaining consistency and a high caliber of customer service. Our clients know exactly what to expect from each visit, so we are confident they will want to return. Having a clear manual of operations goes a long way in helping keep things running smoothly, and I always encourage clients to speak up if they are unhappy with their service.

Aim To Exceed Client Expectations

When your goal is to help your clients cope with pain and stress, I encourage my team to aim to exceed a client’s expectations. Just because you provide excellent service, that doesn’t mean their ailment will vanish, so we provide clients with additional information and therapy for self-care at home. I’ll frequently recommend specific stretches or strengthening exercises that become integral to a client’s daily routine. We also collaborate with other practitioners, such as acupuncturists, chiropractors, physical therapists and pilates instructors. It’s important to create an atmosphere where practitioners feel like they can and should go the extra mile for their clients.

Though there is uncertainty about the future, it appears that the trend toward wellness is here to stay.

Article By: Rachel Beider as seen in Forbes

Rachel Beider in Entrepreneur Magazine

Being a Trusted Leader: What You Need to Know As Your Company Grows

The first step is to avoid any "us. vs. them" mentality.

The family-like environment of a new business can be a powerful thing. It allows both employees and leaders to come into work each day feeling as though they’re there to make a difference. By being a team, employees feel the company is stronger.

“When I first started Overit, it was just a small marketing agency,” Dan Dinsmore, the founder and CEO of Overit, in Albany, N.Y., told me. “I was involved in everything and got to interact with employees on a daily basis.”

But, as startups begin to evolve, that relationship may be hard to maintain, as Dinsmore said he discovered. In order to take his company to the next level, he needed to hire middle managers to oversee operations. Doing that, however, created a distinct divide between him and his employees.

“It started to feel like an ‘us versus them’ environment,” Dinsmore pointed out. “That wasn't the kind of company I wanted to build.”

To get things back on track, Dinsmore said he needed to rethink his company and how he could once again be a trusted leader. It took a lot of work to rebuild a culture of transparency and honesty.

Luckily, it’s possible to avoid that “us versus them” mentality altogether. Here are four strategies for keeping your startup employees and leadership united:

1. Admit your mistakes.

One of the hardest things for a leader to do is to own up when he or she is wrong. The feeling is that any mistake will be viewed as weakness or incompetence. But, in order to be a trusted leader, being accountable for failure is a necessity.

“Right out of college, I was an assistant receptionist for a big-time entertainment executive in New York,” recalled Kirsten Helvey, now the chief operating officer of Cornerstone OnDemand in Santa Monica, Calif. “One day, I got his lunch order wrong.”

It wasn’t long before Helvey’s boss called her and screamed at her for the mistake. Despite the fact that any of his other assistants could have corrected the issue, he wanted to make sure she knew she’d messed up. “At that point," Helvey went on to say, “All trust was broken: his trust in my ability as his assistant and mine in his temperament as a manager.”

Related: What Employees Are Saying When They Say They Don't Trust Leaders

Luckily, her boss had a change of heart. About 30 minutes later, he called Helvey back. He apologized for his behavior and said there was no excuse to speak to her that way. The incident turned into a life lesson Helvey uses now that she’s part of the C-suite.

“It showed me that even if you’re at the top, you can still mess up and damage the trust between you and your employees. But, if you hold yourself accountable and make amends to the people your mistake has impacted, you can recover, grow and even strengthen that relationship.”

2. Delegate.

As a leader, you may find it difficult to let go of control of any aspect of your company. But, to be a trusted leader, being able to delegate is a must. Otherwise, employees may believe that leaders doubt their capabilities.

“When I first hired employees for my small business, I found that it was challenging for me to let go of certain tasks and trust that my employees could handle them,” said Rachel Beider, CEO and founder of Massage Williamsburg and Massage Greenpoint, in New York City. “I was used to doing everything myself and at a certain standard.”

However, it wasn’t long before her micromanaging began to take a toll. “I think it drove everyone a little crazy at first,” Beider said. “We weren't being as productive as we should have been at that time.”

Once she decided to take a step back, however, things began to run more smoothly,  she said. Her employees began to feel trusted, and she was able to concentrate on the company’s growth and long-term goals.

To make delegating easier, take a moment and think: Is there anyone else who can successfully do this task? If the answer is yes, pass it on to that person and focus on big-picture strategies.

3. Empower your employees to ask for feedback.

Things move fast at a growing startup. There is always something to do, and sometimes, providing employees with feedback gets overlooked. But that in turn causes them to feel forgotten by their leaders.

After working in a fast-paced company, following college, Steffen Maier soon learned this lesson firsthand. Whenever his manager actually did find time to give him feedback, months had typically passed since the project was completed. This time gap left him unsure of his own personal career progress.

“The interesting thing is that after I left my job to pursue a master’s degree in strategic entrepreneurship, I was surprised to find that many of my peers had faced a similar experience," said Maier, now the co-founder of Impraise in New York.

As a result, he and a few others teamed up to create Impraise, a platform designed to make it easy for employees to ask for and receive feedback. Using this or similar tools allows employees to continue to feel supported and connected with trusted leaders.

4. Put trust above all else.

Never forget that a huge part of organizational trust is communication and honesty -- without them, employees find it impossible to know where they stand. And that creates a division between those in the know and those who aren’t.

“For us, success begins with trust,” said Tom Morselli, senior vice-president of people operations at PulsePoint in New York. “Trust in our leadership, trust in our mission and trust amongst the team: It takes hard work and must be earned by ‘walking the walk,’ keeping promises, following through and aligning one’s leadership style with the company’s core values.”

All of that happens through clear and consistent communication at all levels of the company. Luckily, there are multiple, easy-to-use tools that help keep teams connect. One option is Simpplr. The platform offers organizations an intranet that promotes and maintains productive information-sharing. It gives employees access to company news and a way to formally and informally interact with one other.

Employees should also recognize, however, that all of that talk needs a follow-up.

“The most empathetic and best-intended talk is hollow if it isn’t followed by action,” Morselli pointedout “Trust erodes quickly if you consistently fail to meet your commitments.”

 

HEATHER R. HUHMAN       

Waldorf, Md.-based Heather R. Huhman is a career expert, experienced hiring manager and president of Come Recommended, a content-marketing and digital-PR consultancy for job-search and human-resources technologies. She is the...

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Rachel Beider on ABC News

Photo by Bebeto Matthews 

Photo by Bebeto Matthews 

Check out this awesome article about my business on ABC News!

STRESS IS UP, SO'S HIRING

"Business surged at Rachel Beider's two massage businesses in New York's borough of Brooklyn after President Donald Trump's inauguration, with revenue rising 50 percent that first week. Bookings have remained high and Beider, who has a total of 46 part-time massage therapists at Massage Williamsburg and Massage Greenpoint, needs four more to keep up. She's also hired a full-time receptionist.

Clients stressed about the political climate are making appointments in hopes that a massage will help them feel better, Beider says.

"Their anxiety is taking a physical toll on their health, manifesting as shoulder tension, neck pain, headaches, insomnia and jaw pain," Beider says.

Beider was surprised by the increase in her business.

"I wasn't expecting the volume or frequency of appointments — people are making more visits," she says."

To Read More:

http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/big-thaw-small-businesses-ending-hiring-freeze-45992408