Expanding Your Business in 2019

A new year can bring all new goals and aspirations. Are you hoping to increase your revenue, open up fresh business opportunities or explore uncharted markets by scaling up? Whatever your motivations may be, the following steps will help you successfully expand your business in 2019.

What’s Your Motivation?

How will you know that expansion is not only desirable, but also necessary? Are you up for a challenge? Taking a successful business to the next level is hard enough. To survive the inevitable rough days, everything in your current endeavor must be running smoothly. You need knowledge, commitment, and stability to scale up successfully, so determine early on if you are ready to take on all that is involved in expansion, and whether or not your team is willing and able to offer you support.  

Understand the Market
When we considered expansion, we chose to do it gradually without rushing any decisions. You need to do your research, evaluate new markets, and understand them intricately before moving ahead with any new plans. Analyze the trends, research your competitors, and determine if an additional location will be a good fit for your product and services. Also, be prepared and ensure that your financial situation can bear additional strain.

Beware of Pitfalls

A major pitfall that often plagues expanding businesses is insufficient staff or trouble with hiring. It takes time to identify the right new employees and provide them with adequate training. If you don’t time it well, you could be faced with vacant positions, underprepared staff and the destruction of your reputation. Allow plenty of time to seek, vet, train and evaluate your new team members before your busy season begins in full force. Expect growing pains and plan for how to survive them.

Messaging can also be a challenge for newly expanded businesses. Make sure you reach out to your current clients and colleagues and explain what is happening with your company, how it might impact them, and how you plan to ensure a seamless transition. Get ahead of the rumor mill so you can deliver your own news the way you want it to be heard. Finally, know that expansion does happen overnight. You must plan ahead. Prepare yourself for the rough moments, celebrate your victories, and dare to dream about a bright new future for you and your team! 

Work on spreading the word in your new location since they might not be familiar with your product or service. It is helpful to let your current clients and colleagues know that you are expanding. You never know who they know or work within the new area that can help to expand and build relationships.

Heather Rouffe is the Director of Sales and Partner of Atlas Event Rental, a full-service event rental industry serving the Southern Florida market for over 30 years based. Recently named one of the top 30 rental companies in the US by Special Events Magazine, Atlas provides top quality merchandise and unparalleled customer service to each and every customer.

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Successfully Automating Your Business for 2019

A new year means new goals! In coaching clients, I stress the importance of laying a good foundation to your business. Just like a house, if you don’t have a solid foundation, your house will crumble. But what should you focus on that will result in the highest return on investment (ROI)? One area that’s guaranteed to help you do more in less time is having systems in place so you can automate your business. 

Below are just a few examples of areas within your business that you can automate. 

Client Onboarding/Nurturing

If you’re not already using a client relationship manager (CRM), make 2019 the year you bite the bullet. It takes time to map out your client onboarding processes and create email scripts. But, the time invested up front will save you countless hours in the future. When you have a thoughtfully mapped out client experience, you’ll have a clear picture of the experience you want your clients to have.

You’ll want to document every touch point you have with a client based on a timeline. This becomes your workflow. Once you have this mapped out, you’ll need to create email scripts written in the language of your most ideal client.

The last step is where your CRM comes into play. Gone are the days where you need to recreate the wheel with every sent email or to-do item. Instead, use one of many CRM’s such as 17Hats, Dubsado, Aisle Planner, and HoneyBook. With a CRM, you can upload your email templates and schedule them to send automatically, as well as send contracts for e-signing and send invoices.

Social Media Posting

If you struggle with posting to your social media accounts consistently, then you’ve never heard of programs such as Planoly or Later. Both programs allow you to bulk schedule your social media posts so you don’t have to day in and day out. I dedicate a few hours once a month to plan my social media posts, then schedule them out for the next 30-days. This way, my posts are ready to go and I can put my social media posting on auto-pilot.

Client Scheduling

Gone are the days of sending back and forth emails trying to schedule a consultation or client meeting. If you’re not yet using a scheduling program such as Calendly or Acuity, you’re wasting valuable time. You can set your schedule in the app, which then syncs with your calendar. You can even create automatic email and text reminders and follow-ups, so you don’t have to. All you do is email a link to your calendar and the user selects a date and time that best fits their schedule (based on your availability). 

Project Management

I’m a huge proponent of Google Docs, but sometimes you need a little help keeping all of your projects and tasks organized. Trello and Asana are more commonly used and both help keep you on track with your to-do list. They have reminders, due dates and allow you to collaborate and share tasks or projects with other users. 

Other Ways to Automate

If you’re not yet familiar with Zapier, let me introduce you. Zapier, in a nutshell, allows different programs to “speak” to each other. Example: when someone completes your contact form and has given you permission to add them to your email list, Zapier has a “zap” that allows you to add that contact to your email database such as Mailchimp. It cuts down your administrative time allowing you to automate your work and integrates with over 1,000 apps.

As you can see, there are several ways you can automate your business. Why not start the new year off feeling organized and with a little more time to focus on what’s important: working on your business versus working in your business. 

Lane’ Richards is a multidisciplinary entrepreneur and owner of Wedding Pro Coaching, offering mastermind business coaching and educational programs to wedding industry professionals who need help building, running, and growing their businesses in the crowded wedding industry.

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Podcast Guest Strategies

Embracing podcasting is good 21st century business sense. Once you’ve taken the leap and booked your first guest appearance, it’s natural to be nervous. Even seasoned speakers and presenters feel trepidation at the thought of the technology involved.  Relax and breathe. Podcasts are simply authentic conversations between industry professionals. You can do this.

There are best practices, however, that will make your journey easier. Following these steps will help you become a superstar guest, or at the very least one who is conscientious, engaging and well-prepared … a podcaster’s dream. 

Request the Questions in Advance

Some hosts are happy to share questions before a broadcast, and it is absolutely fine to ask. Others prefer a more spontaneous format, so there is no guarantee of a sneak peek, but you won’t break any secret protocols if you do request them.

In the event that you are able to secure the questions, review them and practice possible responses. Concentrate on points that you’d like to make that are in line with your company’s message and core beliefs, but don’t script answers and expect to recite them verbatim. Rather, use the opportunity to ensure that you have something to add to the conversation and a general direction you would like to go.

Topic Selection

In some cases, your host or a producer might reach out to you and ask what you would like to talk discuss. Have a list of go-to topics handy in case you are asked. Think of conversations you have frequently. If they are of regular interest to you, they are likely on the minds of the podcaster and audience as well. Trends and hot-button industry issues are ever-popular topics and should be relatively easy for you to discuss. You could also propose less common topics about which you feel passionate and establish yourself as the guest expert in your podcast niche.

Be Prepared

Know the tech expectations for the show. If the host or producer requests that you use headphones and a mic during the interview, use them. You may be given a phone number to call in your interview; in which case it should be handy an hour before the appointment and your phone should be fully charged. If you log in with a computer, the show will probably want you to hardwire to the internet. Make arrangements early so you are completely ready.

Take your role as a guest seriously. If you follow these steps and act professionally, you can look forward to booking future appearances and diving deeper into the rewarding world of podcast marketing.

Andy Kushner is the creator and host of The Wedding Biz Podcast, interviewing prolific thought leaders and talented icons within the wedding and events industry, such as Mindy Weiss, Preston Bailey, and Colin Cowie.. He recently launched The Wedding Biz Podcast Network, the only global platform of its kind to serve the business development needs of wedding industry professionals.

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Goal-Setting and Strategy Going into 2019

The end of 2018 is near, and we hope that as you read this you are wearing a comfy, colorful sweater, holding a cup of cocoa, and celebrating a year of successes and achievements. As realists, we know that is highly likely that you have had at least a few challenges that you need to address going forward. Before you switch those calendars and ring in the New Year, spend some time goal setting and strategizing for 2019.

End-of-Year Meeting

One of the best practices that we follow annually is holding an end-of-year meeting for our entire staff. This gathering allows us to wrap up the year’s loose ends, discuss our successes and setbacks, share suggestions that might improve things in the coming season, and include the voices of all of our employee stakeholders. Annual meetings help to identify concerns while simultaneously increasing employee buy-in, which builds loyalty and morale.

If the logistics of your business permit, definitely consider holding your own first annual end-of-year meeting before you launch into setting new goals.

The Goal-Setting Process

After you have had an opportunity to reflect on what went right in the past year and what needs improvement, begin the process of setting goals. These should be measurable and specific. “We will earn more money in 2019,” for example, is too vague, whereas, “We will improve our revenues by 25% by December 31, 2019,” is concise and actionable. You can easily break down the latter into quarterly targets with specific steps and review your progress regularly.

Be particular when choosing your goals for 2019. Think about the areas that you determined in your annual meeting need to be addressed most urgently. Every company will have different goals. Some might work on profits while others may want to scale up or open a new location. Improving customer reviews could be a priority, or you might decide that increasing the number of times your press releases get picked up by desirable media is top of the list. You can’t do everything at once, so select three or four goals that you and your team feel will make the greatest impact in the coming year, and commit to those.

Be reasonable. If you decide you want to make a million dollars by June 2019, you are likely to be sorely disappointed and demotivated when you are not even close. Use your past performance to help gauge your actual potential and choose attainable goals. 

Make a Plan

Once you have goals in mind, make a specific plan to achieve them. Spell out the steps you need to take, who is responsible for overseeing and carrying out those steps, when and how you will measure your success.

If you already have a comprehensive overall business plan, you may only need to tweak parts of it to fit your latest priorities. If you are newer to the industry or making sweeping changes, you might need to start from the beginning. There are many resources available through local professional associations and industry organizations to help you make or overhaul your business plan. 

Leaders who invest the time necessary in regular reflection, goal setting, and planning achieve the biggest business successes. Begin your end-of-year review today and start 2019 ahead of the game. 

Kevin Dennis is the editor of WeddingIQ and the owner ofFantasy Sound Event Services, a full-service event company based in Livermore, California. Dennis is the past president for Silicon Valley NACE, and national vice president for WIPA.

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Sales Strategies to Help You and Your Team Be Successful

Sales are a team endeavor in many companies, but it’s not always treated as such. At the end of the day, every booked sale and lost lead has an impact on your business. That’s why it’s up to you to train and lead your sales team to success. Consider these strategies a way to jumpstart your sales cycle and get your employees on the same page.

Understand the stages of a sale

Making a sale isn’t just about reciting a script about your product or service — it requires a more fluid conversation to truly understand what a prospect need. The six stages of a sale are:

  • Ask and listen

  • Educate

  • Know the client’s needs

  • Present solutions

  • Gain trust

  • Close the sale

While all of these steps are important in their own way, the first three are arguably the most essential. Without taking the time to truly listen to a prospect’s needs, your proposed solution won’t always fit the bill and you’ll lose a prospect’s trust. Don’t rush into closing the sale — take your time on each of these steps to ensure full client satisfaction.

 

Schedule weekly sales meetings

Rather than spending time rehashing the past weekend’s events or looking ahead to the next, allocate some time for your team to focus on new business and building your client base. Work alongside them to monitor sales tracking, closing ratios, new leads, or educational opportunities that come up. Keep this time regular each week so everyone comes prepared. It can also help to use these meetings as a time to ramp up some healthy competition — weekly recognition or small prizes can keep employees motivated and empowered.

 

Assess your pay structure

Companies are likely to pay salespeople salary with commission more than any other pay structure, like hourly, salary only, or commission only. However, are you paying your employees the right amount? If you pay an employee too little, you risk disengagement and complacency; too much, on the other hand, can have an impact on your bottom line. Add your employees’ salary and commission together and see what you get — that total should be between 5-10% of their total sales pre-tax, give or take.

 

Reach out to lost sales

When a prospect books elsewhere, it’s important to understand why they didn’t choose your business. That feedback will allow you to tweak certain parts of your sales cycle in order to increase your team’s closing ratio. It could be something as simple as that you didn’t offer a certain dish, but you’ll want to know if it’s something more serious like not liking your food or not seeing the value in your price tag. The only way for you know to know is to ask, so don’t be afraid to check in with lost prospects to see what was missing.

 

As the leader of your company, prioritizing sales will show your team the importance of bringing in new business and will push them to focus on digging up leads. However, don’t lose sight of the importance of your team’s morale — whether it’s a little bit of healthy competition to keep them hungry or a friendly reminder of certain procedures, be kind and show your team how much they are valued.

With nearly 30 years in the special event and catering industry, Meryl Snow is the co-founder of Feastivities Events and the creator of The Triangle Method. As a Senior Consultant for Certified Catering Consultants, Meryl travels throughout North America training clients in the areas of sales, marketing, design and branding to help businesses get on their own path to success.

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