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Are you spreading your business too thin?

b2ap3_thumbnail_Woman_exhausted_web.jpgI am sure you have heard from business experts that your business should be adaptable and versatile. If those experts are referring to being able to quickly evolve to meet changing needs in your industry, then this is good advice to heed. But there are some of us who interpret this as needing to provide a diverse range of products or services in order to gain enough customers.

For example, when I started my graphic design business, there was almost no type of print design work that I would reject. I was doing everything from business cards to wedding invitations and my marketing materials covered pretty much everything I could think of! But I soon found that by narrowing my niche, I gained more clients.

Think about how you seek expertise: if you are looking for an accountant for your business, you are more likely to retain a firm that specialises in small business, than one that focusses on tax for individuals. Or if you were looking for someone to make a wedding cake, you are unlikely to choose someone who creates children’s cakes. You want the experience that comes with the understanding of a specific product or service.

So how do you work out what to focus on in your business? One way to help this decision is to choose the areas that you most like to work on. You are going to be much more motivated to improve your skills and become the best at what you do if it is something you actually like doing! The passion you have for your niche will be evident to clients via the way you promote and the manner in which you engage with them about the product or service. You should combine this with researching the needs of your clients, to find out what they may need. You will begin to establish yourself as an expert, and are likely to find that people are happy to pay more because they know they are getting quality results.

 


Michelle Grice writes a weekly column for business women in The Western Weekender

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What International Women’s Day Means for Women (and Men)

Every year, it seems that International Women’s Day isn’t just about celebrating women, it also generally creates many discussions and debates about equality. Some of these discussions are not helpful and only result in widening the gap in understanding between genders (and often amongst women themselves).

It should be a great opportunity to challenge stereotypes for women in business, not only to champion the cause of women, but to also shift the consequences for men. Although stereotypes have some measure of reality, this doesn’t mean that everyone fits the stereotype. For example, there is often an assumption that men are more rational than women, or that men are the ‘strong’ ones. Being more realistic about the variations amongst men and women, which are probably due more to personality than gender, takes the pressure off both sexes.

A big part of showing what women in business are capable of (and a way of smashing stereotypes) is to tell their stories. Via this column I have showcased some inspiring women (and I plan to do it a lot more!), because role models are a powerful way of showing women what they can achieve (despite stereotypes and attitudes of others perhaps indicating otherwise).

Malala Yousafzai, despite her young age, is one such role model, whose bold actions, and subsequent speeches, have provided us with many inspiring quotes. This one perfectly summaries this topic: “We cannot all succeed when half of us are held back.”. What a profound yet simple statement! Of course she is right: equality for women in business is not solely for the benefit of women. When women are given opportunities, and a culture in which to succeed, it benefits all of society.

“Here’s to strong women. May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them” (Unkknown)

 


Michelle Grice writes a weekly column for business women in The Western Weekender

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Australian (business) let us rejoice

b2ap3_thumbnail_Aus-Flag_sml.jpgAs Australians, we are known for having a bit of a whine about, well, almost everything! And the reality is, it is not hard to create a list of things that make operating a business in Australia a hard task.

According to recent research, the average Australian small business spends about five hours a week on red tape and compliance. This includes GST and BAS compliance, employment laws and superannuation regulations.

We have the highest minimum wage in the developed world and penalty rates are high. Adding up four weeks of annual leave, two weeks’ worth of public holidays, sick leave and other entitlements, means that small business owners are paying employees for nearly two non-working months each year.

Our transport costs are high, trading hours are regulated in some industries, rent is astronomical in urban areas and I could go on!

If you look only at the disadvantages of operating a business in Australia, your outlook would be very grim. But we can choose to focus on the negatives (which can only lead to failure) or we can give more attention to the positives.

Particularly as we mark Australia Day, a great way to do this is to look back on all the inventions that have come from Australia (most of which have turned into thriving and valuable enterprises). These include: the black box flight recorder, spray-on skin for burns victims, cochlear implant, the electric drill (back in 1889!), permaculture, wi-fi technology, the inflatable escape slide for aircrafts, and many more examples. I guarantee you that each of these inventors and entrepreneurs would have spent a great deal more time on their passions and projects, than focusing on the negatives.

We have a culture of innovation and exploration. Tap into that history and acknowledge that we truly live in the lucky country. Happy Australia Day!

 


Michelle Grice writes a weekly column for business women in The Western Weekender

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Time is Ticking Away

“How did it get so late so soon? Its night before its afternoon. December is here before its June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?” (Dr. Seuss)b2ap3_thumbnail_drseuss.jpg

Maybe it is just me (although I suspect not!) but this quote definitely sums up my head space at this time of year. Most of us know the basic ‘rules’ of time management, which include tools such as making lists, prioritising tasks and breaking larger tasks into more manageable chunks. But have you stopped to consider that it may not be possible to ever be truly ‘on top’ of all your work? It can take us a while to learn that each day has a finite amount of time and that we cannot work until we drop!

For a perfectionist like me, this has been a steep learning curve over the past nine years of running a business. I have had to learn not only to prioritise tasks in order to get through my work, but also prioritise to the extent that some things may remain on the ‘to do if I get time’ list.

But once I learnt that hard lesson, it actually became easier to make better choices about what I was going to work on. It means that things rarely fall through the cracks now because I have a better (more realistic) system for my workload.

The trick though is to identify the right things to work on and then to work on them! It can be easy to react to the random things that pop into our inbox or across our desks and be distracted by them. So it takes deliberate (ongoing) choices of what to pay attention to and a commitment to getting those things done.


 


Michelle Grice writes a weekly column for business women in The Western Weekender

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Going with your Gut Instinct

Although not exclusively a ‘female trait’, many women use gut instinct or intuition (or other ‘unmeasurable’ methods) in their personal decision making. But do you use it in your business decision making? And should you?

b2ap3_thumbnail_eye.pngMy answer is: yes you should. Early on in my business, I learnt the hard way that I needed to listen to those niggly feelings. Too many times I listened to what seemed like the logical factors in a situation (all very valid factors), but failed to take notice of the unsettled feeling I had which I couldn’t necessarily explain.

Most of the truly innovative and great inventions were born from someone trusting their gut instinct, because if they had listened to logic or the knowledge available at the time, it would not have looked possible.

Henry Ford is a really great example of this. Not only was he a great innovator in the car industry, he realised he needed to do something to change the extraordinary 370 percent employee turnover rate in his factories. So despite people thinking he was crazy, he shortened the work day from nine to eight hours and paid his employees a higher wage. By following his gut instinct, he reduced his employee turnover to 16 percent within one year, and began the successful empire we know of today.

Deepak Chopra says that “There are receptors to these molecules in your immune system, in your gut and in your heart. So when you say, 'I have a gut feeling' … you're not speaking metaphorically. You're speaking literally.”

So don’t be afraid to take heed when you’re your get that ‘gut feeling’. Learn to be attuned to it and use it to question whether your ‘logical decision’ is really the right one to make.


 


Michelle Grice writes a weekly column for business women in The Western Weekender

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How do you define success?

Success is an interesting idea to ponder. Each of us are likely to have different priorities and definitions of what success is. Even though the aim of any business is to generate income (otherwise it is essentially a non-profit organisation), how much profit, and what we do with that profit, is where the definitions start to vary greatly.

 

One dictionary definition I found starts with a general statement: “The accomplishment of an aim or purpose”, and one of the sub-definitions is “The attainment of fame, wealth or social status”. Personally, I think this is a very narrow view of success, because it focuses on the external results – which become quite subjective.

 

I much prefer this definition of success: “the fact of achieving something good that you have been trying to do”. I think this allows for a much broader spectrum of experiences that I know many female business owners would measure themselves against. For example, part of the ‘success’ of my business (in my opinion!) is that I have been able to earn an income while also being involved in the day to day of my children’s lives. I have created a flexible working environment that helps me to achieve that ‘balance’ between work and family.

 

I am certain, though, as female business owners that many of you will have come across other standards of success by which your business is measured by others. ‘Success’ for you may mean working part time even though working more hours might result in more profit. ‘Success’ might be achieved when you are in a position to donate and give away large amounts of money. Whatever your definition, don’t let other people’s narrow definitions discourage you to continue to strive for your own idea of success.

 

 


Michelle Grice writes a weekly column for business women in The Western Weekender

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An inspiring woman in business

There are many women in business who have inspirational stories and lessons we can learn from. Arianna Huffington is visiting Sydney this week, so this is an opportune time to write about what we can learn from her.

Arianna Huffington is most well-known for the news and blog site ‘The Huffington Post’ that she launched in 2005. If you are on social media, you are likely to have seen an article or two from this website, which has become a “frequently cited media brand”.

Aside from Huffington’s forays into politics, book writing and even some acting, an incident in 2007 gave her another ‘platform’ to push. She suffered a facial injury when she fainted at work, because she was severely exhausted and not getting enough sleep. In many of her books and within her own workplace, she promotes a healthy balance between work and the ‘rest of life’ and the ‘power of a good night’s sleep’.

Her latest book, ‘Thrive’, is the culmination of what she has been practicing and preaching since her fainting incident. It is an attempt to ‘redefine what it means to be successful in todays’ world’.

What is success to you? Is it about the amount of money you are earning? The number of staff you have? Arianna Huffington has learnt the hard way that our traditional notions of success lead to burnout, illness and “an erosion in the quality of our relationships, family life, and, ironically, our careers”.

Most business women I know are not getting enough sleep and operate their work and lives in a way that can have disastrous effects. As Huffington says “The essence of leadership is being able to see the iceberg before it hits the Titanic."


Michelle Grice writes a weekly column for business women in The Western Weekender

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Finding a Human Connection

b2ap3_thumbnail_Camera_vintage.jpgHave you seen the Facebook page and blog called ‘Humans of New York (HONY)’? When you find the page, you may wonder why I am recommending it. It’s not a business. It’s got nothing to do with women in business. But just today I realised what an amazing example it is for business owners.

The creator of the page says: “I began Humans of New York because I thought it would be really cool to create an exhaustive catalogue of New York City’s inhabitants…but somewhere along the way, HONY began to take on a much different character. I started collecting quotes and short stories…these portraits and captions provides a worldwide audience with daily glimpses into the lives of strangers in New York”.

Although it is not a commercial/business venture (aside from a #1 New York Times bestseller book that has now evolved from the blog), the creator of this page has tapped into a dazzlingly simple ‘niche’ market.

The page creates a ‘global village’ culture, where readers feel connected to the subjects. His images provoke response. His stories are not embellished – he just lets the words speak for themselves.

This popularity has come about because the creator of the page has appealed to basic human emotions. The absolute best marketing does exactly that too. Luxury car advertisements are a classic example. Rarely do these ads give the viewer a list of specifications or the price. Instead, they sell a ‘feeling’ and appeal to desires. They want you to fall in love with the product first.

What we can learn from Humans of New York is to find ways to appeal to the most basic of wants and needs in order to elicit an emotional response to your product or service. This will be far more successful than trying to convince potential customers to buy in to your latest sale without first investing themselves.

 

 


Michelle Grice writes a weekly column for business women in The Western Weekender

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A Ship in the Harbour

“A ship in harbor is safe - but that is not what ships are built for.” This quote by John A. Shedd is so interesting for women in business. Most of us spend a great deal of time in our personal lives protecting and keeping safe those around us. So sometimes our instinct in business can be the same: to avoid risk and keep our business ‘safe’.

Occupational and hazardous risks aside, taking risk and moving outside the ‘safe zone’ is something that every highly successful business has done. Read the biographies of any entrepreneur or industry leader, such as Richard Branson or Steve Jobs, and you will see numerous examples of pushing themselves and their companies into ‘risky’ situations.

This is not to say that all their risks paid off: in fact many of them didn’t! And I am also not suggesting that we all need to follow the extreme examples of Branson and Co. in our own businesses.

But as this quote suggests, as a business owner, you have a particular set of skills. You likely started your business because you dared to dream that you could be a success. If you are being ‘safe’ are you doing what you were built to do?

So I am challenging you to re-capture those big dreams! Ask yourself:

-       What needs to change?

-       How can I do business better?

-       How can I exceed the expectations of my customers?

-       What can I do to create a truly unique experience for people who come into contact with my business?

-       What calculated risks can I take?

-       How can I generate passion and excitement amongst my staff to help me achieve my goals?

Are you prepared to try and fail rather than wonder what might have been?


Michelle Grice writes a weekly column for business women in The Western Weekender

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Exceeding Expectations

I have written many times about the importance of good customer service. I was compelled to write another article on this topic because of a fantastic example of customer service that I came across.

I recently booked a hotel in Hong Kong. I was a bit apprehensive about booking it because it was not a hotel that had been recommended to me and I was booking it online directly with the hotel.

My fears were very quickly eased. They responded to my queries within a few hours and provided me with comprehensive information. But what really made them stand out though was the email I received from them a few days before my arrival. Although obviously a standard communication sent to all guests, it was personalised with my name, the weather forecast for the days that I would be in Hong Kong, the events happening during my stay and contained a repeat of all my transfer and accommodation information. It also showed photos and names of their staff and was generally a welcoming and friendly email.

None of the actions this business took were difficult to implement and did not cost them any money. But those actions speak volumes about the quality of their business. They do seem to genuinely care about their customers, and seem to be seeking to make their customers’ experiences of their hotel positive.

The key to this ‘easy’ aspect of customer service is that they have great systems in place. And those systems have a good balance between personalised touches and automated actions so that staff are not ‘manually’ creating this communication each time. What systems like this can you implement in your business?

 


Michelle Grice writes a weekly column for business women in The Western Weekender

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What's in a name?

At some point in your time as a business owner you most likely agonised over your business name, or the name of a new venture or project. You probably switched back and forth between the ‘practical/descriptive’ name and the ‘creative/unusual’ name, and everything else in between. You probably asked friends and family what they thought of your top choices to gauge reactions.

That process was important. Not only because your business name is a key aspect of your business, but also because it gave you lots of opportunities to evaluate what your business is about and what you want people to ‘hear’ or ‘see’ when they come across your business name.

But is the name the be all and end all? That is, does your choice of business name determine the success or otherwise of your business? In some extreme cases, when you’ve chosen badly, the answer might be ‘yes’. But in general, your business name does not matter that much.

Over 99% of your success is going to come from the decisions you make after you name your business. There’s no ‘magic’ in the name. You could have chosen the most perfect, fantastic name in the world, but if you make lots of dumb marketing decisions after the fact, then it will be wasted. Conversely, if you market well, develop your brand, consider products carefully, have great customer service and so on, your name becomes secondary.

You have probably learnt a long time ago that there’s no ‘magic formula’ for anything in business – if there was we would all be doing it! Business success, no matter how well or poorly the business is named, will come from hard work, determination and will power.

 


Michelle Grice writes a weekly column for business women in The Western Weekender

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You Are Powerful

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? … And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” (Marianne Williamson).

What a powerful statement! Do you think it is true? Do you think that your fears are not about failing but about succeeding? Do you listen to often to self doubt and let it dictate your actions?

Many business coaches would agree wholeheartedly with this statement, particularly in relation to female business owners. The vast majority of women (in business and other areas of life) struggle with giving themselves permission to succeed or be ‘the best’. Many have been conditioned to promote the interests of other people before their own.

This is not to say that we should not care for others. But Marianne Williamson’s quote can be aligned with the practical example of oxygen masks in a plane crash. Parents are instructed to place their oxygen masks on first before their children. Otherwise, if the parent passes out from lack of oxygen, they will be of no help to their children.

Likewise, if we, as female business owners ‘let our own light shine’, Marianne Williamson asserts that we will give others the same opportunities. So by fulfilling our potential, we not only help ourselves, we become role models to those around us.

 


Michelle Grice writes a weekly column for business women in The Western Weekender

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Coming Second

Richard Glover recently wrote a fantastic article in the Sydney Morning Herald titled ‘I’d rather be a second-class citizen’. The premise of the article was that while coming first is fantastic, it essentially requires you to be obsessed and to sacrifice many things for your goal. He wrote it in response to the focus on winning a gold medal at the Olympics and how “suddenly everyone has a problem with people who come second. It has to be gold or nothing”. His personal preference is for coming second in everything because it signifies a much more balanced and therefore happier life.

Does this also apply to running a successful business? At the risk of sounding like I’m suggesting that you aim low, I think it does apply. In a previous article, I wrote about someone who said that she is “a slave to her business”. Although she appeared to be talking about her business in a positive light, I was horrified at the thought of being trapped by my business. My aim is for my business to work for me, not the other way around.

So in business, if achieving ‘gold’ means sacrificing time with my family then it is silver I choose. If it means I have no interests outside of running my business, then silver seem like a much better option.

I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t aim high and achieve the best you can. But ‘the best’ should mean that you are not forsaking everything else in order to reach your goals. Are you really successful if in the process you’ve lost everything else?


Michelle Grice writes a weekly column for business women in The Western Weekender

 

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PO Box 8142, Glenmore Park NSW 2745
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ABN: 88 695 161 542

Contact Us

Shel Design
PO Box 8142
Glenmore Park NSW 2745
0412 701 147
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
ABN: 88 695 161 542

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