Business Fears that Cripple

Business Fears

In the spirit of Halloween, this post is dedicated to fear… more specifically, the fears that we face when starting and operating a business.

Here are a few of the fears that many of us face as we decide to become entrepreneurs;

  1. Start-up costs – The initial investment required to start a business can be the biggest obstacle to overcome, and some never do.
  2. Benefit costs – Benefits are expensive, specifically health insurance, but life and disability insurance too
  3. Long hours – It’s time consuming to start a new business or even grow an existing one. Many business owner go years without a vacation.
  4. Overhead – office space, utilities, equipment, computer hardware and software
  5. Liability – The risk of a lawsuit can be a real concern. Of course this can vary based on your industry and type of business entity that you establish.
  6. Information Security – With our reliance on computers and other devices, technology malfunctions and hackers can be a complicated issue.
  7. The Unknown – At any stage of business development, surprises can be costly.
  8. Failure – Not making enough money and/or finding enough clients to stay in business

These issues, along with other worries, can be crippling to a start-up company if not dealt with properly. However, if you can expect these fears and address them early, the benefits and rewards of building and owning your own business can far outweigh the risk.

Please feel free to comment with your own business fears and/or how you’ve overcome them.

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5 Tips for a GREAT Networking Event!

Networking is essential for the small business owner and entrepreneur, especially in the start-up or growth phases. Networking allows you to meet other like-minded people, learn about local business and events, and hopefully find your next great client(s)!

With all the networking options available and the limited schedules of busy entrepreneurs, what makes a GREAT networking event? What makes an event worth your time? And what should you be sure to offer at the next event you host?

Here are 5 aspects that I look for in a GREAT event;

  1. Attendance – First thing’s first, you need people to show up, in order to have a great networking event. Getting the word out about an event is essential. Post it on any local calendars that are available, send out e-mails to your contact list, and use social media to promote your event.
  2. Atmosphere – The venue needs to be easy to find, welcoming, and have ample open space to allow for mingling, but there should also be seating for those that prefer it.
  3. Diversity – The attendees should come from diverse industries, to encourage and promote sharing of information and interesting topics.
  4. Mingling – Attendees should be encouraged to meet new people. If this does not seem to be happening, then the coordinators should take initiative to introduce people or offer some form of activity that encourages mingling.
  5. Food and Beverages – While the quality and quantity of food and/or beverages can vary greatly, depending on the time and place of the event, there should be something available to help attendees fill those moments in between mingling.

I found all of these factors at two local events that I attend regularly; Maine Successful Thinkers and Maine Freedom Networking! You can typically meet and greet with dozens of local business owners, walking away with at least 15-20 business cards from people who you had meaningful conversations with. Plus, they are fun to attend!

If you are looking for local places to network, check out the Maine Networking Calendar on the Office Solutions ME website!

Feel free to contact us for networking details and coordination, and read our earlier post for more information about how to be a great networker!

5 Ways to Network like a Pro!

Networking is essential for the small business owner and entrepreneur, especially in the start-up or growth phases. Networking allows you to meet other like-minded people, learn about local business and events, and hopefully find your next great client(s)!

With all the networking options available and the limited schedules of busy entrepreneurs, it is important to make the most of each event!

What can you do to make sure that every networking event you attend is worthwhile? Here are five tips to help you maximize your networking opportunities;

  1. Mingle – Work the room! Catch the eye of someone you don’t know and introduce your self. A good way to do this is to give someone a compliment, but be genuine. Make a goal for yourself to meet at least two new people at each event you attend!
  2. Exchange Cards – Bring plenty of business cards! Create a system for easy card access and exchange. For example use one pocket for giving cards and the other pocket for collecting cards. Be sure to look at each person’s card when they hand it to you, this will help you to remember the person and their name.
  3. Introductions – Use your connections to help others! Make sure you introduce people who you know or even just met. This helps increase the effectiveness of the event and increases the chance that they will do the same for you. It also helps to include at least one fact about the people you are introducing. For example where they work or what their hobby is. This demonstrates your listening skills and lets others know you are paying attention.
  4. Invitations – Invite others to attend events with you! Let clients, coworkers, friends, and who ever else would be interested know where you will be. This allows you more opportunity to (re)connect with people you already know and be introduced to people you don’t know.
  5. Follow-up – After the event, be sure to follow-up with the people you met. Send them an e-mail, write them a note, connect with them on LinkedIn or Facebook, whatever your style is, use it. Don’t let your time go to waste, stay connected!

And although it should go without saying, avoid drinking too much at networking events. When you’re uncomfortable or anxious, it’s easy to over indulge, but this is when it should be avoided. You would hate to make a bad first impression.

If you are looking for local places to network in Southern Maine, check out the Maine Networking Calendar on the Office Solutions ME website!

Feel free to contact us for networking details and coordination, and we look forward to seeing you at local events!

Thank You!

1stCelebrating 1 Year!!

It’s official! As of June first, Office Solutions ME has officially been in business for 1 full year!

This first year in business has really been a year of exploration, discovering business needs, networking and meeting fellow entrepreneurs, and developing partnerships in our community. We have truly enjoyed developing and building our business and look forward to the many years to come!

We have had the opportunity to learn so much about our clients and their businesses as we have assisted them in a vast array of support services. We have helped over fifteen different companies, with services ranging from data input, to small event planning, to Facebook training sessions. No two projects have been the same, and we have appreciated every opportunity to assist our clients!

We have recently had the pleasure of joining the Greater Freeport Chamber of Commerce and the Yarmouth Chamber of Commerce. We regularly attend networking events held by such groups as Maine Successful Thinkers, Freedom Networking of Maine, and the Maine Women’s Business Center. We have also shown our support for such organizations as the Maine Women’s Fund – Women Standing Together, Pecha Kucha Night, the CLIMB Good Friday Breakfast, and the Maine Women’s Network, through sponsorship opportunities.

So… Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!

Thanks to everyone that has contributed to the success of Office Solutions ME!

Thanks to our clients! Thanks to our supporters! Thanks to our coaches and mentors! Thank you for helping to make our first year in business a fantastic one!

Want to learn more about Office Solutions ME and what we’ve been up to this year? We’d love to talk to you, feel free to contact us!

Kathrine Farris
Owner & Virtual Professional
Office Solutions ME

Entrepreneurs Getting Started, Getting Organized!

What better time to talk about Entrepreneurs, with EWeek right around the corner! EWeek Maine, February 20th through 27th, encourages and supports entrepreneurs with panel discussions, workshops and networking events, designed to foster entrepreneurial education and lifelong learning. Go to http://www.eweekmaine.com/  for a complete listing of events.

Not many of us have one-dimensional lives. Most of us have expectations and requirement coming from many directions; bosses, employees, spouse, children, parents, teachers, students, neighbors, etc… In order to ensure all of these responsibilities are fulfilled and expectations are met, we have to be organized. This holds true, and is even multiplied, if you are the business owner.

Business owners now need to consider not just how to complete an order and the process of making the widget, but also the marketing, security, finances, regulations, taxes, etc… that go into running a company. While these tasks may grow with regards to the company size, they exist on some level at any size. So what is an Entrepreneurs or Solopreneurs (single person company) to do? How can you effectively wear all of these hats?

Here are some options/suggestions;

  1. Take the time to learn all of the functions of running a successful business. Just bite the bullet, take classes, attend seminars, and make time to learn the material.
  2. Find a mentor or business counselor that can help you find resources and give you tips. It’s important to find someone that will be honest with you, someone who continues to expand their knowledge and share that with you.
  3. Hire a consultant or business coach that has experience in running a business or in a particular aspect that you are struggling with. Again, It’s important to find someone that will be honest with you, someone you can trust to help keep you on track.
  4. Get a partner or hire an employee to help share the work load. When choosing to work with others, you add the human resource function to your plate, so be sure that is something you are prepared for.

Here are some websites that I have found helpful as tools and resources for getting started, getting organized, and learning how about the many aspects of running a business;

National Resources

Local (Maine) Resources

If you are not already a member of the Maine Entrepreneurs Group or the Maine Successful Thinkers Group on LinkedIn, I would highly suggest it. There are some great resource discussions.

Feel free to comment on additional resources that you have found helpful!

If you are looking for local places to network, check out our newly created Maine Networking Calendar.

 
 

Don’t Waste Time on Social Media

Social Media Time Management

We’ve all been hearing about social media for a while now, and most of us agree that we should be using it in some way. After all, it’s FREE Marketing and Public Relations, right?
Well, almost… if time is money, then it certainly has a cost.

What are some of the ways to reduce the amount of time spent on social media?

  1. Spend less time.
  2. Become more efficient.
  3. Outsource.

Spend less time.
Yes, this sounds obvious and very simplified, but it’s true. For those that are already well versed and actively using social media, it may be a simple matter of limiting the amount of time spent per day/week. A great way to achieve this is to set a timer, or only allow yourself to access social media sites on certain days of the week.

Become more efficient.
Work smarter, not harder. This is my favorite answer.
There are many platforms available that allow you to integrate multiple social media sites. Platforms such as TweetDeck or HootSuite, allow you to view and update multiple social media sites at the same time. An RSS Feed on your Facebook page would allow Blog and Twitter updates to be viewed without any extra work by you. This and many other tools would obviously save you time.

Here are some great websites to help you learn more about using and improving social media efficiency;

Mashable
The Social Media Guide
Business Week
Wikipedia

Outsource.
This is not the answer for everyone, but if you’re not well versed in current media trends and technology (or you just don’t want to be), you can hire someone who is. This does require trust and communication by both parties, and when done correctly it has some great benefits.

Feel free to share some ways that you are currently saving time with Social Media? Or if you are having trouble with Social Media, feel free to post a question.

And for those still not convinced to use Social Media, may I recommend a video from David Meerman Scott at the 2009 Business Marketing Association National Conference.

8 considerations for a professional website impression

Does your Website give the best 1st Impression?

Your website can be crucial to the image of your business! In many cases, this is can be your first impression or a crucial follow-up. If done correctly, a website tells people what you do, shows people how you do it, builds confidence and credibility in you and your business, and encourages potential clients to contact you.

Tips to help you build/design a professional (virtual) first impression;

  1. Be crystal clear – make sure potential customers do not have to go far to find out what you do and what your business is about. Put your description on your home page, and make sure it’s clear and concise.
  2. Claim attention early – make your home page attractive to your audience, but not distracting. Use colors, images, fonts, and text that compliment each other. Remember, many visitors may not even scroll to the end of the page, never mind visit any additional pages.
  3. Look the part – you don’t have to be a web designer or HTML expert to make your website look good. There are many tools available to assist in basic creative designing. However, if you want something elaborate then it may be worth your money to outsource the task.
  4. Use testimonials – word of mouth works wonders. When asked, many customers will be glad to provide you with a short statement of satisfaction and praise. In turn, you mention them on your website with a link back to their site. This is a great way to help build credibility.
  5. Be easy to contact – offer a way to contact you on every page. Don’t make visitors have to search for your contact information.
  6. Be easy to navigate – don’t use more pages than you need, but don’t try to cram everything on one page.
  7. Don’t drive people away – be sure any external links open in a new window, so that visitors do not leave your website.
  8. Be honest – don’t go overboard, but do include Terms of Use and Privacy Statement. Let people know that you care about their privacy and what to expect when using your website or contacting you.

And if you don’t have a website at all, consider these factors…

  1. Some people will not do business with companies that do not have a website.
  2. A website is a great way for you to advertise your business and allow potential customers to ‘browse’.
  3. Cost should not be a deterrent. There are many web hosting sites that offer free and low cost basic accounts.

If you have questions or suggestions about establishing a website, I would love to hear them!