These podcasts are designed to help you find your direction in life with coaching programs that are proven to work. It’s not always easy to find your direction, which leaves you feeling stuck and frustrated. But I believe that everyone deserves to know where they want to be and how to get there.
In general, sustainability begins by thinking about what kind of future we are leaving for the next generation.
By Doris Valade, Business & Leadership Coach, The Malabar Group Inc.
Kermit the Frog said it best around 2008: “It’s not easy being green!” As a society, we’ve been talking about greenness and sustainability for more than 20 years and although we’ve made significant progress, we’re not there yet. Sustainability issues still make headlines, the topic continues to come up in boardrooms and offices and the number of consumers who expect brands to step up and do the right thing for the planet is growing.
Big business is getting greener and taking sustainability more seriously. But what about small business? A Forbes report revealed ,“If your brand isn’t helping your consumers improve their environmental and social footprint, then you’re in danger of disappointing 88% of them.”1 What’s more, “at least 12 peer-reviewed studies show that many job seekers are attracted to organizations with sustainable practices.”2 As small business owners, how can we make sure our environmental actions are green and our efforts at sustainability positively impact people, planet and profits?
The Three Pillars of Sustainability
In 2010, the Office of Sustainability at the University of Alberta, Canada, put together a concise definition: “Sustainability is the process of living within the limits of available physical, natural and social resources in ways that allow the living systems in which humans are embedded to thrive in perpetuity.”3 It is generally accepted that there are three key pillars to sustainability — environmental, social (human) and economic sustainability.
1. Your Small Businesses and its Environmental Impact
For small business, thinking about your environmental impact is probably the easiest pillar to understand and improve upon. A good first step is to look at what’s in your garbage. How can you reduce or reuse what’s in there? Avoid plastic when you can! Think about items you order on a regular basis. Are you using sustainable packaging? Is your equipment energy efficient? When buying new equipment, check energy-efficiency ratings. Simple things, such as LED lights and smart thermostats are green actions that can save money. It’s surprising how many businesses leave their lights on overnight and on weekends – if it’s not a security issue, why not turn them off? How are your products stored? If temperature control is required at your facility, can you reduce inventory to reduce energy costs? Are you using natural or eco-friendly cleaning and sanitation products? Buying used office furniture instead of new can be a great cost-saving green idea. Are you ready to go paperless? Did you know that storing data in the cloud is far greener (and more efficient!) than storing it on site? Why not ask your suppliers to confirm their own sustainability commitment.
Perhaps you can provide financial support for your employees to consider public transportation or car-pooling to work. Add bike racks outside. Simple steps are a great beginning and every step you and your team make, makes a difference.
2. Social (Human) Sustainability
How Can Small Business Contribute?
Social sustainability centers around improving social quality. This includes the well-being of individuals, communities and societies. The focus is on building thriving communities within larger thriving societies. Key elements include health, nutrition, education, safety, diversity, freedom and standard of living.
As an employer, perhaps you begin by encouraging team members to consider their work/life balance. What can the company offer to support that balance? Think about paid training, apprenticeships, staff memberships for physical fitness or nutrition programs. You may even want to support local programs and fundraising events within the community. Review your company’s HR practices, ensuring they are safe and ethical. Is diverse hiring ingrained in your process? Make sure your HR policies are up-to-date and in line with current laws, industry standards and government rules and regulations.
3. Economic Sustainability – Embrace Practices that Support Economic Growth
It is possible to support long-term economic growth for your small business and the industry, without negatively impacting social, environmental and cultural aspects of the community. Doing good has a positive and direct impact for its own sake, as well as on your company’s ability to do well. A Unilever study found that a third (33%) of consumers are now buying from brands based on their social and environmental impact.4 The Global Sustainability Study, a major 2021 study of more than 10,000 people across 17 countries showed that sustainability is becoming increasingly important in consumers’ purchasing decisions, especially as consumers see themselves, along with profits for the company, as the primary catalysts for change.5
Ready to Create a Sustainability Strategy?
An excellent first step is to gather your team and answer the question, “How do our company’s actions impact people, the planet and profits?The success of your sustainability programs will be based on continuous improvement and innovation, both of which can be found within your company.
Your employees are a great resource for ideas on how to reduce waste and reuse materials throughout your facility. They can help identify which training programs would best to support individual growth, growth of the team and the company. They will also know about local community social programs and events in which to involve the company.
What about Your Own Sustainability as Business Leader?
Businesses have been tested through the pandemic. Effective leaders have learned to be compassionate and more thoughtful in their relationships with their teams, their customers and their vendors. But what about owner self-care? Are you overloaded? Do you feel off balance or burned out? If you do, it will be difficult to support those around you. Taking care of yourself includes getting enough sleep, taking breaks from the tasks at hand and not being too self-critical. It’s crucial to have a strong support network — family, friends and mentors.
First Steps …
Consider developing a sustainability vision statement and an actionable set of sustainability goals for the short term (the next 12 months), the medium term (the next 2 to 5 years) and the long-term (10+ years). There are many resources available to guide you. Start small — every step will make a difference! Include key members of your team to represent all areas of your operation (production, shipping/receiving, accounting, customer service, sales, etc.). And don’t forget to celebrate each goal you complete together.
Tell Customers About Your Company’s Green and Sustainability Programs
Announce your plans and achievements on your website, as well as on LinkedIn and your other social platforms. A gentle word of caution at this point. Transparency is key. Greenwashing — when a company pretends and promotes itself as environmentally conscious, but its practices say otherwise — will be noticed and called out. If you are going to flag and incorporate your sustainability into marketing and advertising, make sure you walk the talk. As we all know, the trust of customers is priceless, difficult to acquire and easy to lose.
Sustainability is not a trend and in 2022, it’s still not easy being green. But both are urgent priorities. Every company, regardless of size, has an impact on the planet and each can play a part in the future of a healthier community and society. Done well, sustainability can lead to marvellous outcomes — loyal, satisfied customers, improved supplier relationships, engaged employees who are happy to be brand ambassadors and a more viable, competitive and profitable small business.
How do you feel your small business ranks in its sustainability efforts? Canada’s Greenest Employers is an editorial competition organized annually by the Canada’s Top 100 Employers project. If you feel your business has made huge strides in being green and embracing sustainability, the competition is accepting applications for the 2023 awards. They are open to companies of all sizes. Now in its 15th year, here are the winners for 2022.
Additional Reading and Resources to help you go greener and achieve sustainability:
3 spacademiccompaniondocumentsinglev3.pdf (ualberta.ca) (Sustainability Plan Report 2016-2020)
By Doris Valade, Business and Leadership Coach, The Malabar Group
The Boss has been Fired!!
Leadership is not about being in charge. Leadership is about taking care of those in your charge.
- Simon Sinek, Author and Inspirational Speaker
In 1982, when I first started my business, the business owner was the boss, in every sense of the word. The boss made all the decisions, often alone and behind closed doors. He or she was expected to be the position of authority, the “expert” on everything to do with the business. Being the boss could be a lonely place. Business norms at the time dictated that the boss did not socialize with employees; even joining employees for lunch was discouraged. At the time, I was young and I was learning. But I knew I wanted to do things differently. Since I was the boss, I made an important decision. I fired the boss!
Let me explain …
During high school and university, I played competitive sports. Our team was always at the bottom of the win/loss game season. Early on, I learned that we could only win if our team worked together. We were only as good as our weakest player. I was often captain or co-captain, with the responsibility to ‘lead’ the team, but I couldn’t win by myself. It was about the team. I learned to look at each player to identify their strengths and weaknesses and support them to improve. Our games improved. And so did my leadership skills. Each game was no longer just about winning, it was about all of us doing our best as a team. These were valuable leadership skills I would carry with me throughout my career.
Perhaps you’re still thinking that every company must have a boss. But what every company must have is strong leadership. In today’s business world, successful companies have fired the boss. Today, leaders encourage their teams to collaborate. At least the successful ones do! In 1982, most people didn’t ask, “Do I enjoy going to work?” They just went! Most bosses didn’t wonder, “Are my employees happy?” “Are they filled with purpose?” They just expected people to show up and work. Things have changed. Today’s employees, particularly the younger ones, believe that their purpose goes far beyond just doing their job. They want meaning in their work. More than 9 out of 10 employees … are willing to earn less money to do more meaningful work? Good leaders understand this and the company reaps the benefits.
Purpose and People Above Profits
As business changes, so must your role as a business leader. The impact of digital technology, new approaches to boosting productivity and more recently, the burdens of the pandemic, have been instrumental in pushing innovation and opportunities for businesses to do things differently. The emotional impact of the pandemic also highlighted the benefits of being compassionate leaders. In his 2021 book, The Heart of Business: Leadership Principles for the Next Era of Capitalism, Hubert Joly, former Chairman and CEO of Best Buy, describes today’s leader as putting purpose and people above profits. Business leaders are learning to recognize and appreciate the value of human skills (e.g., communication, empathy, compassion, self-awareness). I always admired the leadership of the late Colin Powell (U.S. Secretary of State from 2001 to 2005). I was asked to give a talk to members of our local Chamber of Commerce a few years ago and I quoted from the management book by Oren Harari, The Leadership Secrets of Colin Powell. Those secrets centre around clear and supportive communication that inspires the people around you. Powell said, “when you make people feel like their work is part of something larger than themselves, you’ll win their trust and respect.” (Forbes.com Oct 19, 2021, Colin Powell’s Best Communication Advice for Motivating Teams.”)
For leaders of small businesses, this challenge can be particularly difficult — our days are spent putting out ‘fires’, keeping customers happy and trying to balance inventory against orders. But inspiring our teams is still possible. Bringing a team together with the shared purpose of growing the company, being open and transparent, encourages them to provide solutions and own the results. A collaborative approach encourages a variety of unique insights which generate new ideas and new solutions. Your team is motivated to do more, to come together and support each other, which supports you and the company.
Where do you begin? What do you do? How do you do it?
In my company, we wanted to bring the team together to share ideas with a focus on continuously improving our day-to-day operations. We came up with two ideas to engage and empower everyone.
The Roundtable: Learning from your peers
The first was a roundtable that included at least one person from each area of the business – accounting, customer service, sales, purchasing, warehouse operations, production and shipping/receiving (we outsourced our marketing and HR programs). We created a worksheet in which each team member presented either an objective, or a hurdle, specific to their area of work. Open discussion followed to gather ideas on how best to support fulfilling the objective or overcoming the hurdle. Follow up discussion considered threats, available resources and possible next steps (which had to be clear, measurable and achievable). Many of our daily activities included each of our team members, so it made sense to get their input and perspective too. That way, we also avoided unnecessary mistakes. Meeting as a roundtable gave us a much better perspective of each other’s work. Equally important, we had the opportunity to help each other with solutions. It was terrific team building. We would put together a course of action and once the objective was met, or the hurdle resolved, the worksheet would include “key lessons learned” for discussion so that the improvements would become part of our daily operations.
The Contest: Healthy competition creates healthier teams
We also created a company-wide contest based on Sales Up/Expenses Down. Recognizing that everyone has an impact on either increasing company sales or reducing company expenses, all team members were included. The call-out was for new ideas — gift cards were presented for ideas that were implemented. Our sales and customer service team came up with new ideas to promote our products as well as new marketing approaches. Accounting and Purchasing teams sourced a more economical freight carrier, which reduced our delivery costs. Production came up with ideas on how we could save on packaging. Everyone wanted to get involved. They realized that they could all make a difference in the business and benefit from their input. Today, after successfully surviving a pandemic, I would include a contest centred around community support/team spirit. How can the company use the strengths of its team to reach out and support the local community?
It’s a new world. As the company’s leader, you are no longer expected to have all the answers, all the solutions or even the next steps and being the leader doesn’t have to be a lonely place. If the pandemic taught us anything, it hammered home the importance of collaboration and innovation. Businesses that survived and thrived will tell you it took teamwork. Your greatest strength will come from empowering your team around a shared purpose that allows everyone to take responsibility for their own (and everyone else’s) performance, learning and well-being. John Maxwell, whose books on leadership have sold millions of copies, said “leaders become great not because of their power, but because of their ability to empower others.” When your team is truly empowered, everything is possible. So, although the boss was fired, good leadership will always be required.
Are you tired of leading your company alone? Let’s talk … just email me to arrange for a phone call: firstname.lastname@example.org
Related Additional Reading
About Doris Valade
Doris has been involved in the meat and poultry industry for over 35 years. She has sat on the boards of Food & Beverage Ontario, the Canadian Meat Council and the Canadian Spice Association. Doris has been included on the list of Profit magazine’s Top 100 Female Entrepreneurs from 1999 – 2005 and again in 2016. Meat and Poultry Ontario recently awarded Doris the Lifetime Member Award for her outstanding contribution to the industry.
As a business and leadership coach, Doris mentors and supports small business owners and entrepreneurs through the challenges of running their business. You can request a free (no obligation) phone call and conversation with Doris by sending her an email request: email@example.com
Every business will reach the point when it’s time to sell. The sale may be to another family member, to employees, or to a party outside the company. As the business owner, the decision will be one of the biggest of your career, so make sure it’s not a quick decision. You need time to prepare your company and yourself if you’re going to get the best price.
I sold my company in 2017 after 35 years of hard work, long hours and many ups and downs. Over the years, I watched my father in his business. In 2004, at the age of 75, he was tired and ready to sell. But he had no exit strategy. He didn’t ask for help in selling. He simply put the word out in his industry that the company was for sale. Unfortunately, word of mouth was not enough. No buyer came forward and he ended up selling the assets below market value to a smaller local company. Looking back, he regretted waiting so long to sell and not preparing for the sale in advance. I learned from his regret.
What do you know about selling a business?
I first thought about selling my business in 2008. The economy was in turmoil and so was my company. We weren’t profitable and I was tired. I knew nothing about selling a business, so I attended a free one day “Grow and Exit” conference in Toronto, hosted by Generational Equity, a merger and acquisition (M&A) advisory firm with years of experience selling businesses across North America.¹ During the conference, I gained a beginner’s knowledge on business valuation and what the M&A sales process looks like, but I still had a lot to learn.
At the end of the conference, I met with one of the advisors to ask about selling my business. He asked, “Doris, is your company profitable?” When I replied ‘no,’ he told me (politely) that my business wasn’t ready to sell. “Go back to work and make it profitable,” he said. So, that’s what I did. TIP! The best time to sell your business is when it’s doing well.
Selling takes planning
After the conference, my initial priority was creating a detailed business plan. I asked key members of the team to help with the main components — a financial review, a marketing plan and a SWOT Analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats). We focused on reducing expenses and increasing sales. We identified areas for improvement. We noted places where efficiencies could be implemented in our day-to-day operations. We examined the top 20% of our expenses (as these expenses would be responsible for 80% of our costs) to find ways to reduce costs. We also hired a marketing specialist to develop a marketing plan to gain new customers in new sales regions.
Our financial review uncovered something crucially important — our profit margins were too low! We immediately made price corrections on key items. Not one customer complained when we increased our prices because our competition was still priced higher. We implemented some changes immediately. Others happened over the following year. But within three years we had turned the company around. We were profitable!
Running my company took a great deal of time and energy and I still had other interests that I wanted to pursue. I realized I could only do that if I sold the company.
When selling is a family affair
I had a family member working in the company – my daughter, Meghan. She had been a senior member of our team for 15 years, working in the warehouse and the office. She knew the business well. We had a conversation about whether she was interested in taking over the company. She wasn’t. Although she enjoyed working in the business, being the boss and managing a team is difficult. She’s not alone in those feelings. Recent research by Small Business Trends revealed that 89% of family members don’t want to take over the business.
If you do have family members involved in your business, I highly recommend that you consider outside resources to guide you in preparing for the sale. Mixing family and business can be challenging and the complexity of a transfer of shares can be overwhelming. Suggestions for guidance include Family Enterprise Canada (www.familyenterprise.ca) or the Canadian Association of Family Enterprise (www.cafecanada.ca). Learn as much as you can before you make any decisions.
When it’s time to sell, lean on the experts
As the business owner, you may not be the best person to present your company for sale. You may be too close to things, unable to see the bigger future picture. I received a variety of suggestions around selling my company, including reaching out directly to competitors to see if there was any interest. This is not a good idea. Competitors may be only interested in getting their hands on your financial reports (for comparison). Releasing financial information should NOT be where negotiations begin.
There are many M&A companies and business brokers that will work with you through the sale process, including valuation, reaching out to potential buyers, negotiations and finalizing the deal. I set up appointments with three M&A companies in the GTA and interviewed them to see what they could do for me. I also interviewed two legal companies to find a team with solid M&A expertise. It was a very helpful learning experience as I ended up with an expert team to guide me as I took my company to market. That extra time and effort resulted in three offers and a final sale that, in hindsight, I know I could not have achieved alone. It’s never too early to prepare yourself and your company for sale (even if you’re not quite ready to sell).
The last two years have been incredibly tough on businesses, particularly small ones. A recent BizBuySell Insight Report showed that “After nearly two years of managing through the pandemic’s fallout, many owners are deciding it’s time to sell. Retirement and general burnout remain the top two reasons for exiting, however pandemic fatigue specifically is moderately to extremely motivating 43% of owners to consider selling their business.” Sadly, a study by Small Business Trends, also updated in 2021, shows that 48% of business owners who want to sell have no exit strategy. Don’t put your life’s work in jeopardy. Plan ahead.
Advance preparation allows you to develop the expertise, knowledge and details required to build a stronger company today to ensure a successful sale tomorrow. Good luck!
¹Generational Equity has put these conferences on hold during Covid-19 and plans to resume them later in 2022, including in Toronto. Visit their website to learn more: www.generational.com
Would you like to learn more about my selling experience? Check out this podcast (#012 – July 7, 2020) with Jeffrey Feldberg of Deep Wealth.
About Doris Valade
Doris started her own business over 30 years ago, and successfully sold the company in 2017. She has sat on the boards of Food & Beverage Ontario, the Canadian Meat Council and the Canadian Spice Association. Doris has been included on the list of Profit magazine’s Top 100 Female Entrepreneurs from 1999 – 2005 and again in 2016.
Today, Doris keeps busy as a business and leadership coach, as she mentors and supports business owners and entrepreneurs through the challenges of running their business. You can request a free (no obligation) phone call and conversation with Doris by sending her an email request: firstname.lastname@example.org
Article by Doris Valade, The Malabar Group Inc.
“I don’t need a business plan!”
I had my own business for over 30 years, but 10 years passed before I did my first written business plan. It was the best thing I ever did for myself and the growth of my company. I kicked myself for not doing it sooner!
“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail” — an old adage, but one that still holds true. As a business owner, you probably have most of the business ideas and activities in your head. You know every aspect of the business as you look at the bank balance, vendor payments going out, sales coming in, etc. You may be thinking, “… but I don’t need a business plan.” Trust me, you do. It’s not enough to have these things in your head. A plan makes it easy to update things as your business evolves. It also makes things easier for those who will step in if something happens to you as the owner (their names should appear in the business plan too!) To use another oldy but goody from a John Lennon song (originally from comic strip artist, Allan Saunders) “life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.” In business as in other areas of your life, you need to be prepared for anything. Think pandemics!
Without a plan …
“Without a plan, even the most brilliant business can get lost. You need to have goals, create milestones and have a strategy in place to set yourself up for success.”
– Yogi Berra, baseball great and successful entrepreneur
As business is returning to a pandemic version of normal, now is a great time to do your business plan. As the leader in your company, you are responsible for planning for sales growth and innovation through new products and services. How can you plan for tomorrow, if you don’t have a solid understanding of the position your business is in today? Clarify your thinking by putting your thoughts on paper and organizing it all into a written plan. Once your plan is complete, not only will you be more confident in the future, you will have the confidence of your team and a comprehensive document to share with your bank to support required funding or to use when applying for grants.
The planning process helps to identify any possible mistakes or trouble areas that need your attention, including cash flow issues (running out of money!). You’ll learn whether your prices are too high or too low. Are your products the best fit for your market? Do they meet your market’s needs? Your business plan is the first step in developing a strategic growth plan to ensure your company’s ongoing success.
What should a business plan look like?
A written business plan puts on paper a detailed profile of the key components of your business, including the following:
- Company Overview – a brief description of your company and where is stands in the marketplace.
- SWOT Analysis – helps you identify and understand the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats that surround your business.
- Marketing and Sales Plan – understanding your target market and key product offerings is key. Review your pricing strategy. How will you distribute your products? What advertising and social media tools and platforms will you use to reach out to current customers? How will you attract new customers?
- Management Plan – describe the ownership, employee profiles and job positions and any external professional resources (accountant, mentor, advisor/consultant, etc.) By the way, a mentor is invaluable to a new business owner!
- Operating Plan – outline of the physical requirements of your business, including office building/space, warehouse, equipment, inventory, labour, etc.
- Financial Plan – this includes your cash flow statement, balance sheet, break-even analysis and projected income statement to show your growth plan for the first year if you are starting a new business, or a projection for the next three years for an established business. A three-year projection gives you the opportunity to consider possible new projects, products or services. You might consider putting more money into marketing or expanding your sales team.
You don’t have to go it alone
Business plans like businesses benefit from collaboration. Why not include key members of your team based on their areas of expertise that match the plan’s components? Collecting the information can be a team effort which encourages a variety of perspectives. Reach out to your advisory board (if you have one) or to your mentor.
If you are a start-up business, maybe all you need is a simple one-page plan that you can build on as the business grows. For an established business, a more comprehensive plan is recommended to ensure that you have considered all aspects of your operations.
The SWOT Analysis
The one component of your plan that is critical and will be most insightful is the SWOT analysis. You will identify strengths and weaknesses within your business and understand the external opportunities and threats that exist in your industry and business in general (trends, legislation, economy; and at the moment, this includes pandemic effects/protocols). If you decide not to do a business plan (I really hope you don’t take this route) then I strongly recommend you at least do the SWOT analysis.
So, what’s next?
Making the time and effort to complete your business plan provides you with the opportunity to look at your business as a whole; make changes where needed and set priorities. It is an investment in you, your future and the future of your business.
A helping hand …
You’re busy! Making time to do a business plan is probably last on your list of things to do. A template will be helpful as will guidance on how to write you plan, so I have included templates for two types of business plans and one for the SWOT analysis on my website (all free) – www.malabargroup.ca
If you are looking for further guidance or support in doing your business plan, or in growing your business, send me an email and we can talk! email@example.com
By Doris Valade, Business & Leadership Coach, April 2021
Fourteen months in and the pandemic continues to affect the way we do business. As a business owner, you faced many challenges through 2020 and this continues in 2021. At first, the big question was “will my business survive?” As vaccines slowly arrive, you’re probably shifting your focus to look at how to grow your business in the new normal. One of the most dramatic changes during the pandemic has been the end of in-person sales calls. Since in-person activities will likely be slow to resume and travel will remain restricted, who will promote your brand? Who will reach out to your customers? How will you maintain those important connections? One of the most valuable members of your sales team is one that some
of you may have overlooked or underestimated for years. It’s not a who, however; it’s a what! It’s your website. Today, a business website is more important than ever.
Historically, retail was a brick-and-mortar location with walk-in customers. The advent of social media encouraged a gradual transition to online shopping. During the pandemic, this growth has accelerated as social restrictions forced a rapid move to online shopping and curbside pick-up. In 2021, as we move toward a new normal, it will pay dividends to think of your website as your digital storefront. Consumers spent $861.12 billion online with U.S. merchants in 2020, up an incredible 44.0% year over year, according to Digital Commerce 360 estimates. That’s the highest annual U.S. ecommerce growth in at least two decades. It’s also nearly triple the 15.1% jump in 2019. New figures from Statistics Canada show online retail sales rose 110.7% year-over-year in January 2021 compared to January 2020 in accounting for 7.8% of total retail trade. So it’s time to ask yourself … is your best virtual salesperson ready for business?
When’s the Last Time You Showed Your Website Some Love?
Many business owners put up a website, then give it little thought and very few updates over the years. While social media should be part of your integrated marketing strategy, your website remains your calling card. Social media’s job is to drive customers to your website. When they land, your website provides the content they need to make buying decisions. Your website is a vital connection to your brand and its business. Just like with an in-person sales call appearance matters, and you don’t have long to make a good first impression. Ask your sales team and a few of your best customers to provide feedback on your website. Here are a few key things for you (and them) to consider:
Is your website’s SEO (Search Engine Optimization) working well?
How do you know if it’s working? In a web browser, type a few key words that describe your products or type of business and location (e.g., deli, butcher shop, meat products, Toronto). Does your business show up on the first page of the search? If not, you need to improve your
SEO. This will increase visibility of your website. If your customers do a google search, you want your business and its products or services to show up if not first, at least ahead of most of the competition. Here’s a great link to learn more about SEO: https://www.searchenginejournal.com/seo-101/
Is your website visually attractive?
Is it well branded? Does it look current or is it outdated? Think colours, fonts, images, content.
Is it easy to move around on your website?
Websites must be customer friendly. Pages should load quickly and when customers move from page to page there should be no error messages. Is your home (landing) page uncluttered and easy to read? Is the navigation menu intuitive? Does your opening page tell a story about your company — one that engages visitors and draws them in to learn more (see Content comments farther below)? Equally important, is your website compliant for customers with disabilities?
Is your website mobile friendly? In 2020, the number of unique mobile internet users stood at 4.28 billion, indicating that over 90 percent of the global internet population use a mobile device to go online. Make sure that your website renders cleanly across all devices — laptops, mobile phones, iPads, tablets.
Don’t neglect the “Contact Us” page!
This is an important page. Does it work smoothly? Is it friendly to use? How quickly do you respond when a customer reaches out to you? Superior customer service can be a key differentiator between you and your competition.
In real estate it’s location, location — on websites it’s all about content.
Make sure every piece of content on your website is high quality. Not only is this important for engaging customers, it’s also crucial to your website’s page ranking (SEO). There are loads of sites on the Internet to help you write good content. Read their tips or hire a professional copywriter.
Engage with customers in the ways they like to engage
Are you using SMS (short message service) marketing? SMS uses text messages to send promotional campaigns or transactional messages for marketing purposes. According to a statistics report from G2 Learning Hub₁, 42% of millennials check their text messages ten or more times per day on average. 50% of consumers say that they would opt into an SMS loyalty program if they were offered flash sales, deals or coupons. Learn more about SMS marketing: ₁
The pandemic has changed how consumers buy and how businesses sell. An engaging website opens the door to potential new customers and ensures lasting connections with current customers — this is true at any time, but will be particularly important going forward. Isn’t it time you showed your best virtual salesperson a little virtual love?
About Doris Valade
Doris has been involved in the meat and poultry industry for over 35 years. She has sat on the boards of Food & Beverage Ontario, the Canadian Meat Council, and the Canadian Spice Association. Doris has been included on the list of Profit magazine’s Top 100 Female Entrepreneurs from 1999 – 2005 and again in 2016. Meat and Poultry Ontario recently awarded Doris the Lifetime Member Award for her outstanding contribution to the industry. Doris mentors and supports small business owners and entrepreneurs through the challenges of running their business.
By Doris Valade
Do you feel as though your brain is in a bit of a fog at the moment? You’re not alone. As COVID-19 rages on, business leaders are trying to stay focused on managing their business. The uncertainty and anxiety can leave us unable to move forward. If you’ve never done any mind mapping, now might be the perfect time. From personal experience, l can tell you it will clear your mind and help determine next steps. You will gain clarity in your daily activities and a creativity boost. Mind mapping also allows for team input, because even as business leaders, we don’t have to go it alone, particularly during a pandemic.
After 35 very successful years in business, I recently sold my company. I used mind mapping to lay out next steps for my future — business and personal (including fitness goals). I had always used diagrams and doodles with notes when planning new projects or ideas, I didn’t know there was a formal process. Then I discovered mind mapping and its associated software. My diagrams and doodles became more effective and easier to share with others. Currently, I use mind mapping in my new venture as a business and leadership coach to help clients gain a clear visual of their business, lay out business plans, create marketing plans and even lay out company policies (e.g., how to on-board a new employee).
Mind mapping is more effective and a whole lot more fun than traditional note taking
Your brain is your mind’s physical home. It translates the contents of your mind, your thoughts, beliefs, feelings, memories and even your imagination. What happens when you hear the word ‘dog’? Do you see the word D-O-G? Most likely, you get a mental picture of a dog, in colour and the dog is moving about. We don’t just process thoughts as letters, words, sentences or lists. Our thoughts include images, colours and shapes. Did you know that combining two skills — processing words and colours — involves two different parts of the brain? This can improve your memory far more than note taking. So why take notes with pen and paper, in a traditional linear manner as thoughts present themselves? Mind mapping is easier, more effective and a whole lot more fun!
Mind maps encourage you to visualize and allow for the free flow of ideas
The concept of mind maps was developed in the 1960s by Tony Buzan, an English author and educational consultant. Commonly referred to as the ultimate thinking tool, it was actually inspired by techniques used by Leonardo da Vinci and Albert Einstein. Mind maps encourage you to visualize your thoughts, allowing for the free flow of ideas using pictures, colours and keywords (i.e., a word or concept of high significance). Not only does this improve memory and recall, it gives your thoughts greater clarity. You can use a mind map to increase business productivity, optimize project management and improve collaboration and communication with teams or clients and that’s just for starters.
How to make a mind map
The layout of a mind map (above) is similar to the physical layout of our brain, which has billions of neurons branching out, further extending into hundreds of dendrites, which connect with other neurons. There is no start or finish and no lineal order to a mind map. Each map is just one page. You can create one by hand or use a web-based software program (e.g., mindmapping.com or mindmeister.com).
To create one by hand:
- Start with a blank piece of paper and a few different coloured markers.
- At the center of the paper, write/draw your key topic. It could also be a question or problem.
- Draw lines out from the center topic and jot down keywords associated with the topic. There are no right or wrong ideas and the more words you have, the more creative you can be. TIP! Draw images to represent keywords — simple doodles or sketches are fine; you don’t need to be an artist.
- From each keyword, continue to extend your thoughts and associations using additional lines and keywords.
- Once your ideas are spread around the page, organize and connect them for further clarity.
TIP! Look for words that are frequently repeated as they may be key topics. Make sure keywords support your central topic.
- Now put your ideas into a sequence, as a plan of action, by adding numbers or placing them in clockwise order around the central topic.
- Share your mind map with your team — their input can be part of a brainstorming session.
What are the benefits of mind mapping?
According to a 2019 study, “State of Mind Mapping Software,” conducted by Chuck Frey (Marketing Strategist and Mind Mapping Expert), mind mapping helps executives to be 20 to 30% more productive in their work and increases their creativity by 30%. 18% of respondents said that mind mapping saved them more than 7 hours a week. Another 13.5% stated that it saved them 5 to 7 hours per week.
(Here is the link for a full review of the 2019 study: https://mindmappingsoftwareblog.com/2019-mind-mapping-software-trends-survey-report/ )
With all of the uncertainly surrounding us at the moment, mind mapping is a reliable tool to help manage information, increase productivity and provide clarity (business and personal) at a time when perhaps, we have never needed it more!
- The basics of mind mapping: https://simplemind.eu/how-to-mind-map/basics/
- How to mind map effectively: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xges9V4rLms
Mind Map Mastery, Tony Buzan, Watkins Media Ltd., 2018
About Doris Valade
Doris has been an owner and President of a successful food manufacturing company for 35 years, and recently sold the company. She understands the unique challenges associated with leading, growing and ultimately selling a company. She has sat on the boards of Food & Beverage Ontario, the Canadian Meat Council, and the Canadian Spice Association. Doris has been included on the list of Profit magazine’s Top 100 Female Entrepreneurs from 1999 – 2005 and again in 2016. Meat and Poultry Ontario recently awarded Doris the Lifetime Member Award for her outstanding contribution to the industry.
Doris is a business and leadership coach supporting business owners and entrepreneurs to challenge, define and lead. You can request a free (no obligation) 15-minute phone call and conversation with Doris by sending her an email request: firstname.lastname@example.org