Tuesday, December 29, 2015

6 Behaviors of the Most Successful People

6 Behaviors of the Most Successful People 
Successful people actually develop behaviors that keep them focused and working on the right goals
by Rhett Power  [Full Article]

Recommended article published in Inc. Magazine, written by Rhett Power. Click here to read the full article. 

IMAGE: Getty Images
In this article, Rhett highlights six behaviors exhibited by successful people. Read his article for the details, and below are some additional thoughts on these six important behaviors.
  1. They are always learning.
    Learning how to learn, and understanding that you must be prepared to and enjoy continuous learning, is a must in today's world. This applies to the business owner and the career builder equally. A passion for learning - a curiosity for all things around us - is critical to successful entrepreneurship.
  2. They establish clear goals. 
    You should establish a clear vision for your future, and then support that vision with a plan and goals - both short-term and long-term. It's productive to establish personal goals and also business goals. Be flexible with your goals, and be willing to adjust as you make progress.
  3. They manage their time well.
    Effective time management is essential. There is simply not enough hours in the day to get it all done, so you must learn to prioritize and delegate.
  4. They have positive attitudes.
    A positive attitude not only keeps you properly motivated, but it also instills a sense of confidence and trust in those around you. A positive attitude is infectious. It's also about enjoying the journey, and not focusing so much on the results.
  5. They create a supportive network.
    Leveraging the support and advice of others whom you trust is indispensable. It's important to develop, foster and utilize a network of like-minded individuals who can help you along the way. It's also why working in partnerships can be so effective.
  6. They take calculated risks. 
    There is always an element of risk in every business venture. But the professional entrepreneur carefully analyzes the risk and rewards, and applies knowledge and experience to mitigate the exposure. What entrepreneurs believe is most "risky" is continuing to sit on the sidelines - and enduring the job that provides no real security.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

BizNotes - Start with Why









[Levante BizNotes]

The latest Levante BizNotes is now available...


BizNotes - Start with Why (Now Available!)

Book: Start With Why - How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action  
By Simon Sinek
About the book: This book is about a way of thinking, acting and communicating that gives some leaders (and their companies) the ability to inspire those around them. It all starts with “why” – your purpose, cause or belief.


BizNotes are summary highlights of books for small business owners. BizNotes include our highlights of what we think is most important or valuable in a book we have read (from a small business owner's perspective), and they are no more than two printed pages in length

Thursday, December 3, 2015

2 Realities Business Owners Must Embrace

Making Decisions & Accepting Mistakes

by Henry Lopez

The list of realities for entrepreneurs is long. It’s definitely longer than just two. Entrepreneurs face and embrace a multitude of realities every day. There are countless books, and a seemingly endless supply of articles on this question: what does it take to be a successful entrepreneur?

I agree with just about all of the content I have read on this topic over the years. The two realities of small business ownership I highlight in this article are not unique – they have been written about and discussed many times by others – but I think they are worthy of special consideration and focus. 

In my experience, making decisions and accepting mistakes are critical to successful business ownership and the two are tightly interrelated. If you accept responsibility and accountability for decision making, and understand that a business owner has to make lots of decisions, then you must also accept that not all of your decisions will be correct. You must, however, have the desire and courage to make those decisions. To be a successful small business owner, you also must try to learn from your mistakes and keep charging forward. 

Embracing Decision Making
Do you enjoy being the one person people come to for a decision? Do you embrace being in charge? Do you welcome having to make the hard choices? If you answered “no” to any of these questions, I don’t necessarily believe it means you are not cut out for entrepreneurship. Perhaps it just means you are being honest with yourself, which is great. The reality is, however, that you either already embrace being the decision maker or you need to learn quickly how to do so.  

In the corporate world, there are often executives above us who have to make the tough decisions. Or perhaps the decisions are made as a group and they gather consensus. The board of directors may be responsible for the overall decisions that guide a large company, leading to success or ruin. In the world of small business ownership, conversely, the decisions must be made by the owner. If you are fortunate, you may have partners or mentors whom you rely upon to help you make the tough calls, but most often it’s the lone entrepreneur who bears this responsibility for their business. 

To succeed as your own boss, I believe you have to want to be the person who makes the difficult decisions. It’s not that you don’t feel pressure and stress related to decision making, but instead it’s more about your confidence in your ability to do so. Furthermore, it’s probably one of the things you wanted and that drove you to become an entrepreneur in the first place. The freedom to choose your own path…to run your company the way you see fit.

Accepting Mistakes
All successful entrepreneurs will tell you that making mistakes, and learning from them, is an essential part of the process. As Henry Ford explained succinctly, “One who fears failure limits his activities. Failure is only the opportunity to more intelligently begin again.” 

I believe you have to plan to succeed, but prepare to fail. That may sound self-defeating, but I accept it as the reality of being an entrepreneur. I can live with the probability that some of my ideas and decisions will be wrong, but I am confident that my experience and knowledge will lead me to more good ones than bad. Most days, I have confidence in my decision making abilities and I trust that my instincts will guide me in the right direction. On the bad days – the days when I fail – I try to learn from my mistakes and look forward to the next day when I can start anew. 

Small business owners must accept that mistakes are part of the process. If you are making enough decisions, then the odds are that some of them will be blunders. Nobody is capable of avoiding mistakes if they are truly taking risks and pushing beyond the status quo. If you try too hard to avoid mistakes, then you will likely over-analyze every move and become paralyzed. You can’t be afraid of making mistakes. You must accept this, and have confidence in yourself that most of your decisions will be right.

Others will probably be quick to point out when you stumble. I suspect those people are probably not small business owners! It’s certainly much easier to make no decisions and remain on the sidelines; all the while critiquing those who do make decisions, of course. It’s much harder, and braver, to apply your intellect, experiences and skills to predict the future – which is partly what decision our businesses require from us. 

This absolutely does not mean that we enjoy failure. I hate to fail! But when I do, I try to get past the grieving and self-pity phases as fast as possible and learn from it. I understand that I am not perfect, I don’t own a crystal ball that works consistently, and I have learned that with making lots of important decisions come some poor results. The famous football coach Vince Lombardi summed it up nicely when he said, “If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not trying hard enough.”

Embracing and enjoying decision making, and accepting mistakes, is essential to a fruitful entrepreneurial life. When you make decisions – particularly the hard ones that help determine the future of your business – you are going to make some bad ones along the way. Sometimes, you make a lot of bad ones in a row! The successful entrepreneur understands that this is part of the process, and keeps moving forward. You must have confidence in yourself, and believe that you are capable of overcoming mistakes and making choices that keep you on the path to greatness.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

How to Generate More Good Ideas

Methods to Try, Questions to Ask and Apps to Use

Article published on Zapier.com written by Belle Cooper / October 23, 2014

[Find the article here.]

I recently found this great article written last year. I find the content and message to be timeless on the important subject of creativity and generating ideas. We published a previous post on the creative process, and this article expands on this topic. 

Some of the valuable points and quotes from this article include:

  • "Every artist gets asked the question, 'Where do you get your ideas?' The honest artist answers, 'I steal them.'" - Austin Kleon, Author ("Steal Like an Artist")
  • "Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something." - Steve Jobs
  • "You can't have good ideas unless you're willing to generate a lot of bad ones." - Seth Godin
  • "You've got to be free to say any dumb thing, because a lot of times when you say something stupid, a good idea arises from it." - Thomas Schnauz, Breaking Bad (TV Show) Writer
  • "Not everything that goes into the wide end of your idea funnel should be utterly change-the-world-I-have-to-make-this-happen-at-all-costs, yet at some point in that funnel from idea to product someone will have to be personally convicted of the idea and want to fight for it." - Stef Lewandowski, founder of app maker Makeshift


This article highlights some additional thoughts from Steve Jobs on the value of experiences in helping us generate new ideas. Jobs said creative people are able to "connect experiences they've had and synthesize new things." In his observation, creative people consistently have "had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people."

I agree wholeheartedly with Jobs' perspective on experiences and how for some people it informs and inspires their creativity. Travel experiences are a perfect example. When I travel I often focus on what I can learn and observe about the people and their environments. The habits they practice, the beautiful things they create, and how they interact with each other and the world around them. These experiences definitely influence and feed my creative abilities, and it's one of the many ways we can continue to develop our ability to generate great ideas.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

To Grow Your Business, Get Organized!

To Grow Your Business, Get Organized!
By Henry Lopez

Is your laptop, monitor or desk covered in sticky notes? Do you use a different notebook or pad of paper each time you take notes at a meeting or on a call? Do you scribble notes and tasks on odd pieces of paper and then keep them in stacks on your desk? If you answered yes (and hopefully cringed) to any of those questions, then I’m going to venture to guess that you are perhaps in desperate need of improving your organizational skills!

Personal organization can have direct impact on your small business’s success. When your important tasks, projects, events and schedule are all managed in a productive way, the result is likely to be that your business is also organized and able to grow. Poor organization skills lead to low productivity, which in turn leads to wasted time and effort. That’s wasted time and effort you simply can’t afford when you are working hard at growing your small business.  

To improve your personal organization skills, it’s important to develop a system that works well for you and your particular environment. An effective organization system is ideally developed over time, and requires consistency and discipline. As I believe the saying goes, “it takes 21 days of repeated action to form a habit.” However many days it really does take, we typically don’t develop our bad habits overnight so we can’t expect to correct them in a day either. 

Your personal organization system does not have to be complex or high-tech for it to be effective. My personal system, for example, includes using a traditional hard-bound notebook where I make all of my notes and maintain my to-do lists. I compliment this paper-based tool with Microsoft Outlook® for scheduling and reminders, and other cloud-based tools to for managing tasks I have delegated. 

To get started on improving your personal productivity skills, I recommend focusing on and improving how you manage your to-do lists and your schedule. 

How do you manage your To-Do list?

For small business owners, a high stress environment with a seemingly endless to-do list is often the norm. Without consistent and thorough organization, the result is lost productivity and endless days of work.

Managing your to-do list is important not just for getting the most important things done on time, but also for what it does for the culture of your business. As the leader of your organization, it is vital that you do what you say you’re going to do when you say you are going to do it. By staying true to your commitments and your word, you reinforce a culture of accountability and responsibility for your leadership team and your staff

To do your to-dos the right way, you must find a means of organization that makes sense for you, your company and your environment. A paper system may work for me, while a technology-based system may work better for you. You need to consider how you work and think best, and where you do that work. Are you mostly at your desk, or are you always on the road? Do you usually participate in meetings over the phone or in person? The answer to these questions can help you determine what tools might work best for you. 

I recommend that you maintain two to-do lists (regardless of the tool you use to maintain them): one for items that require action this week, and another for items that don’t have to be completed this week. On your to-do list for the week (which you ideally create on Sunday evening or first thing Monday morning), prioritize the most important items and the items that you may be able to delegate. Try to avoid the temptation to work on easy things that are not of high priority (tasks that usually don’t add much value), and make it a habit to tackle at least one hard item first each morning (when most of us are usually at our peak mentally and are less likely to be disturbed or sidetracked). Make adjustments to this approach over time, until you have evolved it into a system that works best for you and your situation. 

How do you manage your schedule?

Do you make time commitments without first checking your schedule? Do you have one, and only one, place (tool) where you keep track of your schedule? If you answered yes to the first, and no to the second question, then I am once again going to make an assumption that you may need to improve your organization skills.

During my sales career in the 1990’s when I was traveling constantly, I always carried a DayMinder® with me to manage my schedule. It was a bulky, cumbersome tool that did not support sharing with others, and it was disastrous when I forgot it or much worse when I misplaced it (there was that one time I left it on the roof of the rental car…never to see it again!). But it worked for me at the time and I used it consistently. 

Now that we are always connected, there are a multitude of calendar tools you can use to manage your schedule. I happen to use Outlook (soon migrating to the online version), simply because it’s what I know how to use and it works well for me and the rest of my team. I maintain both my personal and business schedule on this one calendar tool, and I use the reminder capabilities to keep me on schedule.

Regardless of which scheduling tool you select, I do recommend that it should provide some level of integration with Outlook since many of the people you will interact with are likely using that platform. As with the tool you use for your to-do lists, it’s important to select a scheduling tool and stick with it until you find a truly compelling reason to change

Ensuring that your schedule runs according to plan is easier said than done. Once again, it all comes back to doing what you say you are going to do. By having a well-managed schedule, you can keep track of the appointments and events to which you have committed and it’s easier to say no to the things that are not the best use of your time. If you’re often on the go during your workweek, consider tools that work on the different devices you carry with you. Accessibility is one thing that makes it easy to update and check your schedule, thus committing to following your productivity plan through. 

For most small business owners, our personal lives and business lives are endlessly intertwined. Remember to also schedule time for personal commitments, family time and exercise. These commitments are just as, if not more important than most business activities. Striking that ideal balance between the two helps you stay healthy and give you the needed energy and perspective to grow your businesses. 


The key to improving your organizational skills and productivity is to stick with a system for a period of time, until it either becomes a habit that works well for you, or you move on to another system. Once you’ve found a system that works fairly well for you, then you evolve it over time. You make adjustments and fine-tune, picking up new tips and tricks from other highly organized people along the way. If you want to grow your business, start by getting yourself organized, and a great place to start is with your to-do list and your schedule. 

Thursday, October 8, 2015

BizNotes: Book Highlights for Small Business Owners









[Levante BizNotes]

Levante Business Group announces BizNotes summary highlights of books for small business owners

BizNotes include our highlights of what we think is most important or valuable in a book we have read (from a small business owner's perspective), and BizNotes are no more than two printed pages in length. We also include relevant and applicable examples of how you might apply the knowledge to the realities of your small business environments. Our first BizNotes is now available:


BizNotes - Priceless (Now Available!)

Book: Priceless, The Myth of Fair Value (and How to Take Advantage of It) 
By William Poundstone 
About the book: The complex and powerful psychology of pricing, the myths related to how we perceive and calculate fair value, and how to take advantage of it (in your pricing and negotiations).

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

6 Steps to Deliver Remarkable Customer Service

6 Steps to Deliver Remarkable Customer Service
By Henry Lopez

How do you instill a culture in your small business that motivates your staff to deliver consistently remarkable customer service, resulting in increased customer loyalty and revenues?


From a viral video to a positive review, a customer’s motivation to share their experience with your product or service usually comes down to remarkability.  By remarkable we mean something that is worth commenting on and sharing with others. 

Sharing can be in the form of ratings, reviews, comments, posts, and good old fashioned word-of-mouth. For small businesses, what your company offers must be remarkable, and the largest opportunity to make a guest’s experience notable lies within the domain of customer interaction. From the smallest details to the overall company culture, the customer’s experience is what makes or breaks continued client attraction and retention. 

Here are six steps to delivering consistently on your customer promise and improving your business.

It Starts and Ends at the Top

Customer service begins and ends with YOU, the owner.  Nothing else really matters, and all other efforts are pointless, unless the owners truly believe in the value of delivering remarkable customer service.

Do you believe your customers are looking to take advantage of you, or do you realize that the vast majority of them are honest and will reward you with their loyalty if you treat them right? Are your employee policies all about control and avoiding theft, or is your staff truly empowered to take care of the customer? The “Employee of the Month” plaque on the wall is meaningless if the owners and management of the company don’t truly believe in delivering remarkable customer service, and the investment it requires.

The investment from the top includes believing in and instilling a persistent culture of superior service. It should include a shared manifesto which serves as a foundation for your company’s culture. It’s not just the cliché posters about leadership and team work, but your true conviction about running your company in a way that proudly represents you and your staff. It’s about delivering the service you enjoy experiencing when you visit your favorite establishments – the places you go back to again and again because they make you feel great, and which you share with others!

Culture

The interaction between customer and company has become increasingly transparent, thanks in part to technology. Company brands are no longer static entities, but rather dynamic and personified. Culture is everything in today’s business environment, and customers can smell insincerity from a mile away. Part of a brand’s culture must be built from the values and core beliefs of the company’s owners. Your company should foster an environment where a passion for remarkable customer service can thrive. Like much in life, it all comes down to balance. If you believe in your core values and have faith in the ability and training of your employees to deliver, it will be easier to develop an environment of empowerment and trust.

Culture is a living, breathing organism that needs to be supported and nurtured. It evolves over time, but the core tenets should never waiver. One way to measure if you have successfully instilled a strong culture is to observe how your team handles a new member. Does the team automatically correct and guide the new member’s behavior and actions if they vary from the accepted norms of your culture without being told? Are they quick to tell managers that this new employee is not a fit? Does the new employee stand out from the other employees and feel as if they are a “fish out of water”? These are good signs that your team embodies the culture of your business and leads to consistently delivering on your customer promise, even when you are not watching.

Systems

Systems are the ways in which a company’s culture is carried out consistently and repeatedly. Without the infrastructure of systems (including software, manuals, forms, training, and checklists), remarkable customer service deteriorates quickly. Systems are the key to executing consistently in every aspect of your business.

As it relates to customer service, your employee training and development systems are critical. Well trained employees that have access to protocols and procedures which foster good client relationships are a key to the success of any business. Your focus should be to develop systems as if you are a multi-unit operation, even if you are running a single-location company. This approach supports the repeatability of your process which should ensure that every new employee is hired, trained and developed to the same productive and effective standard. 

Employees

Your culture and systems mean nothing without the right team of highly motivated people to execute them. When it comes to your company’s team of workers, it’s important to take the time and focus on finding people that will make a good fit. 

Always remember to hire slowly, and fire quickly. If a member of the staff is not a good fit, it is critical to sever ties quickly. Remember, just because an employee is unsuited for a particular position does not make them a bad person or poor worker, it’s just likely not a good fit.

When hiring customer-facing employees, personality and character are often more important than skills or experience. You can teach a person new skills, but it’s extremely difficult to teach someone how to enjoy working with and serving customers. It’s helpful to have a baseline of a great employee, and also use employee assessment tools like Kolbe’s RightFit™ solutions when possible to help you choose the right candidate for the position.

Listen and Measure

How do you know if you are delivering consistently remarkable customer experiences? How do you measure customer service and satisfaction? It’s imperative that you and your management team listen and measure to objectively assess your progress and execution. Your customers will tell you what they think about your product and service, but you have to listen and be receptive to their feedback. You must also measure, and reward or correct, how your staff is executing. Doing so keeps your focus on customer service top-of-mind throughout your entire organization. 

From online reviews to mystery shoppers, the trick is to make sure to listen and take into account what your customers are saying. Try listening for broad themes that permeate from a variety of sources. Ask your employees what they think, or ask a friend to test out your business as a customer to get an unadulterated and trustworthy view of customer-facing interaction. Monitor social media platforms and use alert technologies to stay attuned to what people are saying about your business. Take reviews and feedback to heart, and take input from the loyal customers who love your company.

Execute Consistently 

Consistency is the true test of your commitment to delivering remarkable customer experiences. Are you dedicated to delivering remarkable service for the life of your business, or was it just a fading phase?

An individual customer does not really care that you have executed flawlessly on the previous thousand customers – it’s their transaction and interaction that matters most. Furthermore, a high opinion from one customer can be cancelled out by a bad opinion from another. And people are more likely to share a poor experience than a positive one – a reality which is greatly amplified by the relative anonymity and ease of the internet to share with others and encourage everyone to become a critic. 

Delivering consistently, with each customer and every interaction, is the most difficult thing to achieve, and it should be your ultimate goal. While it’s impossible to be perfect, your standard must be set extremely high so that you execute as closely to 100% as possible. And when you fail, as we all naturally do at times, your process should include a fast and genuine resolution for your customers. Most customers understand that we all make mistakes – what they don’t usually tolerate is indifference and lack of follow-up. 


Being remarkable is often what sets us apart from the competition. Our products and services must be of high quality, but it’s the experiences our customers enjoy when they interact with us that they value and share the most.



Want to learn more about Customer Service?
We invite you to listen to episode 14 (Delivering Remarkable Customer Service) of The How of Business podcast on this topic:

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Disaster recovery tips for your business...

Paul Beers

Tips To Help Mitigate Damage and Disruption to Your Business

By Paul Beers, GCI Consultants

Are you prepared for a natural disaster at your business? What about a water leak that floods your offices or business in the middle of the night? Or a bad storm that causes damage and water penetration through your building's roof or windows? 

A little planning and preparation now can save you lots of wasted time and money later, not to mention being able to sleep at night without the worry of a significant disruption to your business operations. 

In this article, Paul provides 10 valuable storm readiness tips for your business. Most of these tips apply not just to potential storm damage, but to all other types of possible unplanned disruptions. 

All small business owners should have a Disaster Recovery Plan in place, and this article provides valuable input for you to either develop a plan or improve and validate your current one. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

3 Reasons to Get Better at Delegating


3 Reasons to Get Better at Delegating          
By Henry Lopez &
David Begin

The growth and success of your business, not to mention your health and happiness, depends to a great extent on your ability to delegate effectively and consistently. Delegating frees you up to focus on what’s most important, what you are best at, and to spend time away from your business. It also utilizes the strengths of your team and their unique abilities, builds a stronger organization.

Why is it that we hesitate to delegate and why are we often so poor at it? Perhaps it’s because we think we can do it better than anyone else. Most small business owners are obsessed about control, and have had to do it all themselves at some point to get to where they are today.  You understand best what you want and the results you are looking for, and the truth is, sometimes you are the "best" at it. But to grow and have time to enjoy your life, you must learn to delegate effectively.

Perfectionism is also partly to blame for undermining our ability to delegate. Delegating also takes time, energy, effort and a process to do it effectively. Always remember that it’s a process. Be prepared for and expect that you will not always be successful on your first attempts at delegating.

Refusing to delegate to your team members can lead to frustration, confusion, and often fails in the end because you never find the time to complete the task yourself. Nothing gets done because you are waiting until you can do it “perfectly”. Instead, you should try to focus on the “good enough” (80% rule), and continue improving your delegation skills.

Here are three reasons why you need to get better at delegating.

1.     Get more done in less time.
By delegating certain tasks and projects, you can focus on what’s most important and what you are best at. Initially it may take more time to delegate, but as you get better at it and you implement and execute a system, you will begin to reap the rewards. Your team also needs to learn how to own these delegated assignments, but once they understand the system then they are free to add their value to the task and to help you grow your business. 
Focusing on where you add the most value and delegating to others means you have more time off from the business. That time off in turn keeps you energized and focused on managing and growing your business.


TIP: There are three types of tasks to consider delegating: things you don't like to do, what you are not good at, and tasks that don't move your business forward or are not strategic.

2.     Leverage the skills, strengths and great ideas of others.
One of the big surprise benefits of delegating effectively is that you get great ideas and input from those to whom you delegate. We may think we are the only ones who can get something done perfectly, but the truth is that if you have a competent team of people they will come up with ideas and approaches to solving a problem you may never have thought of. If you have not built a strong complimentary team of employees, consultants, or utilizing crowd sourcing, then you are limiting your growth by not fully leveraging them and their unique ideas. 

3.     Develop your team.
Delegation is perhaps one of the most important business leadership skills and you should strive to get better at it every day. When done correctly, it saves you time and develops and fully leverages your team. Through delegation of not just of menial administrative tasks, but important and meaningful tasks and projects, you can teach your team members new skills and give them the opportunity to develop themselves and achieve their personal goals as well as those of the company. A good team should be eager for these challenges and for an opportunity to demonstrate their skills and talents.

If you want to continue being frustrated with too much work and not enough growth, then by all means, keep trying to do it all yourself. If you want to do great things and grow your business, however, then learn to delegate effectively. As with any other skill, it takes dedicated effort, patience and a system to make significant improvements and reap the benefits. Consider using a tool like the Levante Delegation Worksheet which increases effective communication with your team members.

Also ask yourself these questions:
  • What are the real reasons why I am not good at delegating?
  • What tasks can I consider delegating today?


Want to learn more about Delegation?
We invite you to listen to episode 26 of The How of Business podcast on this topic:


Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Business Lessons from Disney

Image credit: Disneyland Park Website
Great article on Entrepreneur.com by Brandon Turner
4 Magical Business Lessons From 'The Happiest Place on Earth'

Highlights from the article:

  • The 4 Magical Lessons:
    • Perfected Systems: It's Disney's execution of systems (repeatable, documented, tested) that allows them to deliver consistently remarkable service. Do you have proven systems in place for your small business?
       
    • Intelligent Pricing: Their pricing may seem overly-complicated, but it's designed and tested to meet the demands and needs of a wide range of customer types.
       
    • Mass Appeal: There is something of value for "kids" of all ages to enjoy.
    • End with a bang: The ending matters, perhaps most (i.e. nightly fireworks display...every night is magical!). Question to ask yourself: What is the last thing my customers experience when they leave my business (or end their interaction with my business on the phone or my website)?

Friday, June 5, 2015

Stealing Creativity

[Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means we receive a commision if you make a purchase using the links.]

Stealing other people's ideas is one of the keys to developing your own creative abilities. That may sound rather crude, but this is truly how it works. From painters developing their skills by copying great works, to writers mimicking the style and tone of their favorite author to arrive at their own - we develop and strengthen our creative abilities by copying, mimicking, and learning from the art of others.


 Click image to buy this book on Amazon.com
"Steal Like an Artist", by Austin Kleon, is one of my favorite books on this subject. One of the main themes of this book is that every new idea is just a mash up or a remix of one or more previous ideas. Nothing is truly original (well, maybe Paleolithic cave wall paintings are)...

Kleon quotes many known artists and highly creative people, and they all share this common theme of stealing (or borrowing) ideas from others, applying your perspective, and using that input for the creation of your "unique" ideas. We are not talking about blatant plagiarism or mere imitation, but rather the process of taking ideas from others as a source and inspiration and influence on your own art.

"Imitation is about copying.  Emulation is when imitation goes one step further, breaking though into your own thing." - Austin Kleon

How do you apply this to running your small business? Let me share one recent example...
I am a DirecTV subscriber, and recently received this thank you note with my monthly statement. When I first saw it, the design caught my eye. I liked the simple and clear layout. I left it on my desk for a few weeks, and eventually came back to it and made some notes on it. 

This is a simple example of how you can draw inspiration and ideas from the work of others. 



That thank you note with my handwritten edits then sat on my desk for another few weeks, until I finally picked it up yesterday and created my version of it. I will now use this graphic for social media posts and on our in-shop digital signage. 

The takeaway: Use all sources of inspiration and ideas. Emulate the work of others. Be observant of the art of others - from ads in magazines to great works at museums to nature - and let it help you develop and strengthen your own creative abilities. 

Monday, June 1, 2015

Do you Canva?

We use Canva to create all kinds of graphics, from Facebook cover art and post images to coupons and flyers for our businesses. It's easy to use, and VERY affordable: it's free for basic designs and any images you upload, and just $1 (yes, just one dollar!) for any images from their library of 1 million images!

There is no technical skill required, as it's all point and click and drag and drop. The templates and other free graphical components make it easy to create a professional-looking graphic in minutes.  It's definitely one of out favorite tools! Give it a try...

You can also sign-up to be put on the waiting list for Canva at Work, which is coming soon.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Seth Godin Quote...

This is one of my favorite quotes from Seth Godin (from the book "Free Prize Inside").


"Satisfied businesspeople (and non-businesspeople, for that matter) are happy because they're actually doing something. They're building and creating and designing and leading and shaping and making something come to life."
Seth Godin, "Free Prize Inside"

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Are you really cut out to be an entrepreneur?






















Great article on Virgin.com by Natelie Clarkson. 
"Are you really cut out to be an entrepreneur?"

Highlights from the article:

  • 67% of millennials said their goals involve launching a business (respondents in a recent Bentley University).
  • Clearer Thinking (a non-profit that develops decision-making tools) has launched a free test designed to help would-be start-up founders to better understand if they have the skills and personality traits required to make their start-up idea a success. The test is fairly comprehensive and rather insightful.
  • Stamina is a critical characteristic for successful entrepreneurs.
  • Successful business founders also have two intertwined characteristics: a relentless pursuit of success and a simultaneous ability to learn from feedback.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Welcome!

Welcome to the Levante Small Business Blog! The focus of this blog is on sharing information and moderating discussions on the topic of small business ownership.

We welcome your comments and suggestions. What specific topics would you like us to explore?

We look forward to great business discussion on this blog!