The When, What and How of Making Your First Hire

The When, What and How of HiringI love the thrill of starting something new! Hanging out a shingle and embracing the adventure of opening a new business. It’s just like bungee jumping – exciting and overwhelmingly terrifying at the same time! I was only 25 years old when I made that decision, so it helped that I was naïve and fearless. But I was also filled with determination and optimism. And in no time at all, I was booming with business.

So I did what most small business owners do – I learned to do everything that needed to be done. I was in charge of customer service, sales and marketing, finances and operations. Then, I had three babies in five years and was trying to stay on top of everything at home as well. Eventually the one-woman show ran its course and I realized I needed help.

If you’re overwhelmed with tasks in your business or at home, I know you can feel my pain. And you probably know you need help. But where do you start? Well, I’m not a human resources professional but I can tell you what has worked for me over the past 20 years in making decisions to hire help.

When to Hire Help: Well, if you’re wondering if you need help then you probably should have already hired someone. I say that because most of us moms wait until we’re completely overloaded before we even recognize that we need help. But sometimes it’s difficult to determine if we really need help – or if we just have a problem setting boundaries.

When you own your own business you have to realize that there will always be more work to do. You will never be completely finished. (Kinda like laundry!) So, I think the best litmus test for deciding if you need help is to ask yourself, “What would happen if I took a week’s vacation and didn’t do ANYTHING in the business at all?” If the business or ministry would shut down, then you probably need some help. [Read more…]

My Favorite Books of 2014

IMG_0946My Word of the Year this year is “Nourish.” Among the many reasons I chose this word was my desire to grow and strengthen in body, mind and spirit. With this goal as my focus, I have been on a steady diet of reading (although I admit I haven’t been able to read as much as I would like). Here are a few of the books this year that made a significant impact on my life and my effort to seek nourishment:

[Business Category] Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World by Michael Hyatt

I actually read this book in 2013 but it became my business bible in 2014 as I continued to reference it and implement the strategies Hyatt outlined in the book. In fact, I was so hooked on the idea of platform building that I attended Hyatt’s 3-day conference in Colorado Springs, Co in November, where I had the opportunity to dive in deeper and learn from the author in person. Here’s a short video review of the book and my top takeaways.

[Spiritual Category] The Best Yes by Lysa Terkeurst

I pretty much devour everything written by Terkeurst but I ALMOST missed the opportunity to read The Best Yes. The book is about making wise decisions in the midst of endless demands, and at the time of its release I was feeling pulled in many directions. Two friends suggested we do a Bible study with the book and it just sounded like one more thing to add to my plate. But I found my own personal Best Yes and agreed to the study. I admit we didn’t stick to our meeting schedule as planned, but I read every word of the book – twice – and am so grateful that I made it my Best Yes to read it this year!

[Parenting Category] Smart Money, Smart Kids by Dave Ramsey and Rachel Cruze

I’ve been waiting for this book to be published because I’m a huge fan of Ramsey and I was looking for some practical guidance on raising my children to have financial wisdom. The father/daughter team of authors share their perspectives on everything from earning an allowance to saving for college and weddings. Woven throughout the practical strategies are Christian values of stewardship and contentment. Here’s a short video review I did of the book if you want more details! [Read more…]

Six Old-School Ways to Grow Your Business

Old School WaysWhen I started my own business more than 20 years ago (I know, that makes me sound old!), most of the tools I use today didn’t even exist. I remember being so excited that I figured out how to sign up for AOL – and then being immediately discouraged because nobody I knew was using email at home. Very few of my friends had computers outside of work. Social media hadn’t been invented – in fact, Mark Zuckerberg was in elementary school. We had yet to discover the vast capabilities of the World Wide Web.

But there I was…a new bride in a strange city, with no contacts, no history and no job. Yet, remarkably, I managed to grow a successful freelance writing business from my apartment with nothing more than a computer, an old fashioned portfolio of my work, handmade business cards and a whole lot of determination.

Of course, I’m grateful for the evolution of technology and the ease with which I am able to do business today. I don’t know what I would do without smart phones and virtual assistants…without Quickbooks and online bill pay…without CRM databases and shared calendars…without web conferencing and screen sharing. But I think we’ve forgotten some of the basics. I think there are a few tricks from the “old days” that we need to incorporate into our digital lives.

Six Old-School Ways to Grow Your Business

1. Pick up the phone. Not the one you use for texting – but the one you use for speaking to other human beings. You would be amazed at how effective a 20-minute phone conversation can be in qualifying leads and working with clients and business partners. Now I’m not suggesting you chat the day away. But I do want to encourage you to take conversations offline every once in a while. After all, business is really about relationships and you’ve got to nurture those relationships if you want them to grow.

If there is a prospect, or a client or a potential business partner connecting with you via social media, email or texting, then consider scheduling an appointment to talk on the phone. (If it’s appropriate, then take it a step further and meet in person – in real life!)

2. Create a list of prospects. There are all sorts of fancy database programs (called CRM for Customer Relationship Management) that will help you keep track of information and conversations with customers and prospects. Those tools are helpful for automation and organization but for most of us, they fall short when it comes to mining the field for customers. That’s because those programs are often too robust for what we need – which is a simple list of prospects.

You can use a Word document or Excel spreadsheet or even a legal pad to keep track of leads. Just add a name and email address to the list each time someone expresses an interest in your product or service. Then, make it a priority to reach out to those folks on a regular basis. Keep the list updated by making notes about your conversations and removing or adding people frequently. If you make it a simple process, you might actually use it!

3. Give yourself quotas and deadlines. These strategies are alive and well in many successful organizations – they just seem to get lost when you are self employed or running a small business or ministry. It’s so easy to ignore the numbers and let things slip another day…or another week…another month…another year. We’re too busy putting out fires and managing the daily operations that we don’t accomplish the bigger goals. But if we’re racing the clock, trying to meet a quota or a deadline, we tend to perform better. So instead of saying you want to “get more clients” and “make more money,” go ahead and quantify your goal and give it a deadline. Then write it down and post it on the wall where you can see it every day.

4. Ask for the referral. If you are not comfortable with sales then you probably find it difficult to ask for business. And unless you come from a sales background or the direct sales industry, you’ve probably never been trained in the art of sales. But you have to start somewhere. [Read more…]