Why It’s Time To Start Paying Attention To Instagram

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Why It’s Time To Start Paying Attention To Instagram

When it comes to social media marketing, there are a lot of people who will tell you that there are only two names that you have to concern yourself with: Facebook and Twitter. While the power of these two services as marketing channels is undeniably important, to say that you should ONLY focus on these two platforms is making a grave mistake – particularly concerning where we’re headed.

Case in point: Instagram may not have as many unique users as Facebook or Twitter, but the impressive growth it has shown in a relatively short period of time proves that it is more than worth your effort.

The Importance of Instagram: By the Numbers

Over the last five years alone, Instagram has quickly proven its worth against its larger brethren. Though the social networking site only had 90 million users in its earliest days, that number has since risen to 300 million monthly active users as of 2016.

What’s more than that, Instagram’s user base is incredibly engaged. Not only are these users responsible for sharing over 30 billion (that’s "billion," with a "B") photos to date, but more than 70 million photos are being shared every day.

That statistic alone makes Instagram the third most engaged social networking site on planet Earth today. In terms of using social media for effective marketing, "engagement" is pretty much the name of the game.

Instagram is also hugely beneficial for companies that want to increase brand awareness on a global scale. Studies estimate that as of right now, a full 70% of all Instagram users are located OUTSIDE of the United States. To top it off, there will be about 111.6 million American Instagram users by 2019. This means that not only will it allow you to reach a wider audience than ever before, but it will also still allow you to reach those ever-important local markets, too.

Perhaps the most impressive statistic to concern yourself with, though, has more to do with exactly who Instagram allows you to reach. As of 2016, Instagram is used by more Americans between the ages of 12 and 24 years old than any other social network, including Facebook and Twitter. So not only can you reach a larger audience, but you’re also reaching a younger one – particularly important for creating a loyal army of customers now who will be ready and willing to follow you for years to come.

The Bigger Picture

Statistics like these underline a few different things, all of which are crucial in terms of social media marketing. For starters, always be wary of someone who tells you that you only have to focus your efforts in one direction. "Never put all your eggs in one basket" is a mantra that very much applies in terms of social networking, especially because most businesses use at least two social networks every day, often more.

However, the real takeaway from this is that you should always be looking for the next big thing in terms of how and where you’re communicating with your audience. Imagine the results you would see today if you were able to get in on the Facebook revolution from the ground floor. Well, a similar opportunity is currently presenting itself to businesses everywhere in the form of Instagram. Ignoring it now means leaving a lot of money on the table later on.

What’s in a Leaf?

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What’s in a Leaf?

If you enjoy watching the leaves float down during the fall season, you probably already know that just like snowflakes, each tree’s leaves are individual and unique. Unlike snowflakes, though, leaves can tell you from which tree they came, and fortunately, there are many resources available to you for identifying trees by their leaves.

Knowing more about your surroundings is important, and it can apply well in a work situation.

Discovery

An excellent resource for identifying trees will take you on a journey of discovery: from the color and shape of the leaf to how many points it has, all to learn more about the tree it came from. It might go on to identify the type of bark, the size of the tree, and more to help you determine which tree you are looking at.

There are many ways you can apply this strategy of discovery with your customers, especially if they are repeat customers. If you think about each customer as if they were an onion with many layers to uncover, you can view each contact with them as an opportunity to peel away one more layer.

Learning

Your customers are individuals with unique personalities, family issues, work challenges, and styles of doing business. You can work on strategies to uncover more information about your customers to help cement a relationship with them. Customers who like you and enjoy your relationship are more willing to continue to do business with you and become loyal repeat customers.

Depth

Depending on how you maintain your customer records, there are different methods of collecting and retaining information about your clients. In an article, "7 Ways to (Really) Know Your Customers" (http://www.businessnewsdaily.com/4890-customer-engagement-tips.html), it offers several suggestions for small businesses to get to know their customers better including gleaning social data from sites such as Facebook.

By getting to know your customers better, you can anticipate when they will be spending, what triggers a purchase, and how you can be proactive in contacting them for their triggers. As you learn more about your customer, you can apply your knowledge to help them better manage their relationship with you, potentially saving them money in the long run. For instance, if they are buying their products when needed, but you see a pattern, you can sell them a larger bulk amount on a periodic basis saving them money and securing the purchase for your account.

Knowledge

Knowing your customers will allow you to separate the A and B level of customers from the one-time business customers. As you develop your relationships with your clients, you can grow your business in depth. Then, using similar methods, seek out new business and begin the process again.

Inspiraiton from Acts of Courage

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Inspiraiton from Acts of Courage

As American actor and social icon John Wayne said, "Courage is being scared to death …and saddling up anyway." Observed acts of courage are nourishing to the spirit and inspiring to all of us. In business, this is just as true and important as it is anywhere else.

Three company leaders who went above and beyond the call with their courage, demonstrating the kind of direction that characterizes great leadership, are the CEOs of Bluebell Ice Cream, Canada’s Maple Leaf Foods, and Southwest Airlines.

After many were taken ill, and three people died from a listeria bacteria contamination of Blue Bell ice cream products, the company voluntarily recalled some eight million gallons of their ice cream products from retail shelves. Once the severity of the situation was known, CEO Paul Kruse recalled the products and initiated a program of employee training and plant sanitization that would take four months to complete. Four facilities in three states had to be sanitized and thoroughly inspected and tested for the presence of the bacteria before production could resume. There was the distinct possibility that the company would be unable to financially survive this hiatus while 1,400 employees were laid off, and an equal number being partially furloughed. Kruse secured capital from an outside investor and saved the company.

A similar circumstance faced Maple Leaf Foods’ CEO, Michael H. McCain, when numerous deaths were attributed to contaminated meat produced by his company. Meeting the obvious media interest, he stood resolutely in front of the cameras accepting responsibility for the problem. Not all leaders are cut out to handle this kind of pressure, or deliver a necessary and potentially disastrous response with this much courage. An old, Latin proverb tells us that fortune favors the bold, but abandons the timid. Maple Leaf Foods was saved because of McCain’s bold resolve and dedication, which rested on the foundation of his courage.

The CEO of Southwest Airlines, James Parker, displayed a similar courage in the face of a different kind of threat. Deep in the shadow of the recent horrific events of 9/11, the trend for businesses was to cut workforces and pull back on expansion projects in the recognition that far less prosperous times may lay immediately ahead. But, while these fears gripped industries nationwide, and particularly the airline industry, one airline CEO made the brave choice to buck this trend. Only three days after 9/11, Parker announced that Southwest would not be cutting employees, and in fact, would be keeping them all, as well as initiating a new profit sharing program with them.

These CEOs are cut from a different cloth than some, such as those from some of the large Wall Street banks prior to the 2008 crash, as well as Enron and WorldCom, to name a few. These companies were unable to find the ethical internal compass to reject risky operating plans in the name of artificially elevated profit taking. The scandals that ensued in each case demonstrate a lack of courage and a lack of commitment to ethical standards in business. True courage in leadership is as valuable as any given asset for an organization, no matter how large or small.

Ernest Hemmingway said that courage is grace under pressure. The three CEOs of Maple Leaf, Blue Bell, and Southwest certainly had an element of grace under pressure, but they had more than that. Echoing what John Wayne said, author Arthur Koestler wrote, "Courage is never to let your actions be influenced by your fears." These three men did not let either notions of greed, nor the fear of failure sidetrack what they knew they needed to do. They saddled up, anyway.

Resilience: Withstand the Hardship

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Resilience: Withstand the Hardship

One of the more important characteristics of a successful business is resilience. Without resilience, a business that suffers any setback is far more vulnerable to hardship or even complete collapse. In fact, failures frequently precede success in many people’s efforts in business or otherwise. Just look at some of these examples.

Walt Disney was fired once because he "lacked imagination and had no good ideas." A recording company executive told the Beatles that he just didn’t like their sound. Stories like this are accounts of people with the persistence to avoid defeatism in the face of difficulty. They had the needed resilience to keep going, to strive for future successes instead of wallowing in failure.

Another lesser known example is that of Thomas Carlisle, who took more than a year to compile his monumental history of the French Revolution. A housekeeper mistook it for trash and out it went. Carlisle dedicated himself to re-creating it, and with three more years of hard work, recalled it from memory and produced the replacement–a monumental history produced with an equally monumental reserve of resilience in the face of defeat.

One of the most familiar such stories in the business world is that of Austrian psychiatrist, Victor Frankl. Frankl survived Nazi Germany’s, Auschwitz to become a leading proponent of a humanistic therapy approach for motivating more productive decision making. In Frankl’s best-selling book, "Man’s Search for Meaning," he details the critical moment when he realized the objective of creating this revolutionizing form of therapy.

Frankl had fallen into self-pity over his concentration camp existence. He now saw his life as meaningless and trivial, but he suddenly realized that to survive, he would have to overcome this feeling. He would have to find some overarching purpose. He would have to have the resilience to form some positive objectives in the face of so much negativity. Frankl envisioned himself delivering a lecture after the war on the subject of the psychology surrounding a concentration camp. From this simple beginning sprang his entire school of thought, which he called, "Meaning Therapy," with a mission of recognizing and creating significance in the lives of others. With resilience, Frankl turned around not only his life, but the lives of countless others. Today, employee resilience training is common in the work place.

Frankl’s resilience was born of an ability to find meaning against all odds in a horribly negative situation. Finding meaning is just one of the characteristics of those with high resilience, though. Another, perhaps strangely, is an acceptance of reality – for only from a realistic acceptance of a challenging situation can an adequate response be generated to fix it.

The investment bank, Morgan Stanley, had its offices in the World Trade center before that awful day on September 11, 2001. As it happens, Morgan Stanley had a diligent concern for preparedness, which included preparing for possible disasters requiring building evacuation. When the first tower was hit, it took them exactly one minute to begin the evacuation of their offices in the second tower. Only because of their preparedness and training were almost all of the company’s 2,700 employees saved when the second plane struck its target fifteen minutes later.

Their realistic approach, accepting the reality of the existing threat of terrorism, brought about the preparedness plan that allowed Morgan Stanley to remain in business. This resilience in the face of potential disaster saved them when the danger became a reality.

Some people and some businesses break under pressure. Others succeed due to their resilience in overcoming adversity or planning for its resolution. Which one are you?

How to Create and Amplify Desire in Your Marketing Materials

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How to Create and Amplify Desire in Your Marketing Materials

If your marketing campaign is all about telling a story (and make no mistake, it most certainly is), the most important quality that story can have is a sense of desire. When you really stop to think about it, marketing is similar to almost every other medium in that regard. If your story took the form of a movie, desire would be the need for your audience to stay right where they were and not even think about getting up for popcorn. If you were writing a novel, desire would be the absolute need of the reader to turn the page and find out what happened next. In marketing, desire involves communicating to your target audience exactly why they need your product or service in their lives and why they can’t stand to live another day without it.

Creating Desire in Marketing

One of the single best ways to create a desire in your marketing materials is to use your target customer’s own natural sense of curiosity against them. Help them visualize the many ways that your product or service can fit into their existing lives through a combination of scenarios. Highlight what makes your company a very different (and better) animal than your competition. What you absolutely should NOT do, however, is give the game away too early. If a customer thinks that they have all of the information about every last thing a product does, they may feel compelled to easily write it off without giving it a second thought.

Don’t rely too heavily on trying to be clever or to "impress" your potential customer, per say. Not only is it difficult to master without wasting space, but it also isn’t necessarily something you even need to do once you’ve piqued their curiosity in the first place.

Simplify the Next Step

Much has been written about the idea of the call to action as a way to direct the reader farther along towards the sales funnel, but many people don’t realize that it can also be a great way to amplify desire in a customer.

Say you’ve designed a perfect, enticing ad campaign that both highlights benefits about your product and also leaves enough to the imagination where they can’t help but want to know more. A great way to kill that desire before you’ve had a chance to use it is to make the next step far too complicated for its own good. People don’t want to fill out a form to get an e-mail to download a PDF to possibly satisfy their curiosity and desire. Keep it simple: "Having this wonderful product or service in your life is only a phone call away." That one simple technique can put many potential customers over the top and turn them into sales.

These are just a few of the many reasons why the concept of desire is such an important one when it comes to marketing. If you can master the art of desire, you’re almost leveraging the power of your potential customer’s own brain against them. Once the seed of desire has been planted, it is one that will essentially grow and come to fruition on its own. Once a potential customer truly and deeply wants something, they will move heaven and earth to make it happen – which is absolutely something that you want to create in as many people as possible.

Is Your Message Being Diluted in Your Marketing Materials?

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Is Your Message Being Diluted in Your Marketing Materials?

When it comes to the marketing materials that you’re putting out into the world, there is nothing more important than the factor at the heart of it all: your message. Ultimately, the best-looking print mailer, poster, or other material in the world won’t mean a thing if you don’t have the clear, concise message in the center of it to back it up. If you’re worried about whether or not your design instincts are getting the better of you, and you are, in fact, diluting your message in your marketing materials, you can use these delightfully simple tips to find out.

Are You Overloading the Reader Visually?

Graphics, interesting font choices, and more can all be great tools to help get your message across to readers – but they should be complimentary, not supplementary. Every element that you use in your materials that is not contributing to your message is only taking away from it – never forget that. If your materials have swayed decidedly in the direction of "a lot of style, very little substance" in that you’re loading them up with tons of bright colors, flashy logos, images and more, there’s a great chance that you could actually be accomplishing the exact opposite of what you set out to. Start designing your materials with your message in mind and then lay everything else around it. Don’t design the best-looking print material you can and THEN try to cram your message in there somewhere.

Does it Take Longer than 30 Seconds to Discover Your Message?

In order to achieve a maximum level of effectiveness, your message needs to be as simple as possible. "This company is the one you can trust." "This product is the one that can solve your problems." "This service is the one you need to make your life easier." These are (admittedly simple) examples of marketing messages that can be identified and absorbed quickly and easily. If it takes longer than 30 seconds for your target audience to realize what you’re trying to say, you’ve probably already lost them. Trust us – you don’t have that kind of time.

Do You Have Enough White Space?

White space is undoubtedly the best friend that you have when it comes to the print marketing materials that you’re designing. People don’t want to read a wall of text to find out what you’re trying to say – they want to be spoken to directly and succinctly. If brevity is the soul of wit, white space is the brevity equivalent when it comes to your marketing message. If you design a particular material and have very little white space left over at the end of the process, the chances are high that you should probably take another look. There are undoubtedly elements, whether graphics or text or something else entirely – that you can drop without harming what you’re trying to say.

Anything that isn’t directly contributing to your marketing message is only serving to take attention away from it, which is absolutely something that you do not want under any circumstances. People shouldn’t have to work to figure out what you’re trying to say – it should be immediately clear. By keeping these few, core tips in mind regardless of the type of material you’re designing, you’ll place yourself in a better position to establish a direct line of communication with your target audience in the exact way that you intended.

Getting Out of Your Own Way

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Getting Out of Your Own Way

Brilliant author, philosopher, and speaker Alan Watts once published his autobiographical book, In My Own Way, the title of which is a play on words with alternate meanings. An extremely independent thinker, Watts clearly did things in his own inimitable way. The clever alternate meaning is probably more common for the rest of us, where we use excuses and other convenient reasons to get "in our own way" on the path toward success. As Watts pointed out, the difference lies between fulfilling yourself and obstructing yourself.

Starting a business is a bold step, not one for the timid. The list of excuses used to avoid the dangers of launching a business are many and varied, but they all resonate with the same timidity. Fear of failure is probably the most common thread among all of the excuses holding us back. It takes courage to take the plunge, and a prospective entrepreneur must be willing to take some chances or they will definitely getting in their own way.

Excuses, Excuses, Excuses

You are familiar with these. We have heard them all before: I don’t know enough about running a business. I don’t have the skills. I don’t have sufficient contacts with the right people to get started on the right foot. I can’t afford it right now. The economy won’t support a new business just yet. It’s just not the right time.

Each of these may be a valid concern, but the bottom line is that they are nothing more than excuses holding you back from exploring your dream. THEY are not what is holding you back. YOU are what is holding you back.

There are many ways to overcome the fear of failure. One of the most common is simply out of necessity. People lose their long-held jobs and have to pay the rent. Being "forced" into business has been the best thing ever to happen to a lot of people. But whether you are forced, following your dream, or simply fall into it by chance, the opportunities are there for you to succeed. Pat Flynn’s success is a good example.

Pat Flynn was laid off by an architectural firm in 2008. He set a goal of passing an architecture-related exam and created a website to gather information on the test and how to pass it. Many others were also interested in this objective and the site started generating thousands of hits daily. His internal light bulb went on and Flynn wrote an ebook study guide on how to pass that test, selling it for $19.99. Within a month, he had generated sales in excess of $7,000. He never looked back, and today is the brain trust behind SmartPassiveIncome.com, as well as numerous other revenue-generating websites. Pat Flynn got out of his own way.

Founder of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg is an extremely successful entrepreneur. He didn’t start the wave that has become social media, but his brainchild is today clearly the most popular vehicle in the genre. On his profound success, Zuckerberg said, “The biggest risk is not taking any risk… In a world that’s changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.”

You must get past that little voice in your head that says, "You can’t," and find the other one in there that says, "Yes, you can." That voice is in there. You just have to find it and listen, for a change. The boldness to take the plunge depends on it. As Henry Ford once said, "Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right."

Emotion in Print Marketing: What it Means and How to Do It Properly

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Emotion in Print Marketing: What it Means and How to Do It Properly

In some ways, the most important goal of any piece of print marketing isn’t merely to act as an educational tool for your target audience. While conveying the message of what your product or service does and why they need it is integral to the success of your campaign, it is only one small part of a much larger goal. One of the major keys to success in advertising involves evoking an emotional response from people, which is something that print marketing as a medium can do quite well – if you approach it from the right angle.

What Does "Emotion" In Print Marketing Actually Mean?

To boil it down to its essentials, invoking an emotional response from a person who views a print marketing material means that you’ve gotten them to think more than just "I understand what this product does" at the end of a piece. You don’t necessarily want to leave a person with the idea of "This particular product will help solve my problem" per say – you want to leave them with a sense of "Not only will this product help solve my problem, but it will also make me happier at the same time." You want them to long for the emotion every bit as much as they do for the product, which is where the real success of this technique rests.

Nostalgia is the Key to the Emotional Response

One of the single best ways to inject emotion into your print marketing is through good, old-fashioned nostalgia. Even if your message is framed in a way as simple of "Things used to be great, but now you have a problem. With X product or service, they can be great again," you’re going a long way towards tying your particular product or service to emotional past experiences that the customer has had. This lets them both acknowledge that they long for the days where things were much simpler and gets them to realize that with what you’re offering, they may just get there again.

In the AMC television show "Mad Men," set against the backdrop of the 1950s print advertising industry, Don Draper at one point early on creates an astounding pitch for the Carousel from Kodak. For those unfamiliar, the Carousel was a slide projector that made it easier than ever to enjoy all of the wonderful photographs that you’ve taken over the years on a much larger scale than ever before.

Don didn’t just zero in on this functionality, however – in an impassioned speech to the Kodak board, he talked about how the Carousel was much more than just a slide projector – it was a time machine. It was a doorway into the past, allowing someone to relieve those wonderful Christmas mornings when their kids were still small, or that family trip that they took to the Grand Canyon that they’re still thinking about – all in the type of stunning detail that customers wouldn’t be able to find anywhere else.

What made Don’s pitch so successful is that he tied the product to a noble emotional response – something that people are actively looking for in what they consume, be it their favorite movie or the products they buy and everything in between.

It is inside that emotional response where most of your success in print marketing will reside. If you can tie a positive (and hopefully intense) emotional response to your product or service through marketing, you’ll create a loyal army of customers who can’t wait to buy what you’re selling because what you have to offer is so much more powerful than any one product or service: you’re offering them their own emotions.

The Evolution of Sales: How the Landscape Has Changed

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The Evolution of Sales: How the Landscape Has Changed

Depending on whom you are selling to, and how, the nature of the sales process has changed since the birth and incredible growth of the Internet. However, with all of the changes in how we communicate with digital connectivity, some things have not changed much at all. Sales are still sales. It is the targeting of sales that has changed more than anything else.

A century’s worth of knowledge about how to go about selling something has not been made obsolete, but it has experienced some competition. The old guard, presenting the "correct" path for sales taught new recruits the art of manipulation. Jeffrey Gitomer, Zig Zigler, Brian Tracy, Tom Hopkins, and many other authors on the subject have outlined a strategy for increasing sales on the basis of this manipulation. They have shown us a successful, proven model for sales. So, what has changed?

Old School

The mantra for the old school approach was to establish and maintain a sort of control over potential customers by answering questions with questions. Establish some common ground and build a rapport. Spend all the time you can, build value, and only then reveal the price. Once a value has been established, even a higher price will seem more acceptable. It must be said that this approach has achieved much success. And, in fact, there remains a place for it, depending on the medium used for conversation.

What the Internet and digital communication have done, however, is to change the speed of interactions to the point that available time has collapsed. These days, spending a lot of time has become counter-productive if the medium is the Internet, for example. Studies show that most web surfers, even when looking for a specific product, will spend very little time searching before making a decision, one way or the other.

This makes building value more difficult, and when transactions occur online, there is no face-to-face interaction and no rapport building. Digital customers have very little time for elaborate presentations building product value. Typically, they already have a price in mind and are most interested in your price for the sake of comparison.

New School

Today, sales are being made with a rapidity that has never before been matched. For that to occur, some of the old ways have been relegated to other media, as the Internet has expanded to take over some of their space. Online sales are continuing to explode exponentially, so it is quite clear that new approaches are being validated.

To a certain extent, a person’s approach is tailored to his or her personality. Some people are built for face-to-face interaction. Some can do without it. All sales become a contract and there is a personal comfort zone that must be attained even in the quickest of transactions. Serious shoppers who demand a greater depth of information do exist on the Internet, but the Internet can easily adapt for these shoppers by offering the information to those who demand it, while streamlining the sales process for those who do not.

There is really nothing inherently wrong with the old school approach to sales. There will always be a time and place for it in certain contexts. What the Internet has introduced to the process is flexibility. While there is no flesh-and-blood person speaking to the buyer, there is a wealth of information available if the buyer really desires it. As a result, website building has become something of an art form, so the needs of customers can be addressed as those needs emerge rather than in a pre-determined sales presentation.

It seems old school and new school can live together, after all.

Applying Life Lessons to Small Business

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Applying Life Lessons to Small Business

Parents to teenagers and young adults know that there are some lessons that only living life can bring us. Life lessons learned through living life are valuable, and they are hard to teach to teenagers because teens think they have the answers to everything. However, experience can offer up gems of information about what is truly important in life and how to enjoy each moment as it comes.

What are some of the lessons that life teaches us?

1. Life isn’t fair, but it is still good.

How many times have you heard your child or teenager say to you, "but that isn’t fair!" The truth is that life isn’t fair. Life happens as it happens, and you need to learn to roll with the ups and downs and continue on your journey. If you can take each moment as it comes, then you can appreciate the good, survive the bad, and continue on your way.

2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.

Many of the big decisions in life can be broken down into small steps that are easy to accomplish. Each time you have a big project or decision in front of you, you can make it easier to understand by chopping it up into small tasks. Then, do each task one at a time until you complete the whole.

3. Don’t take yourself so seriously. No one else does.

Humor makes life more tolerable both in good and bad times. If you can learn to live life with humor, including your own foibles, you will relax more and stay healthier. Laughter is a stress-reducer and can help keep your craziest days sane.

4. Overprepare, then go with the flow.

Since nothing ever goes exactly as we plan, it is important to prepare for contingencies. If you are ready for the worst, then you will be able to move in various directions when reality hits. You can plan to the Nth degree, but once your event or project is in motion, you cannot stop it. Going with the flow and learning to be flexible will keep you on top of the situation (as much as that is possible).

Applying Life’s Lessons to Business

Running a small business is fraught with surprises, changes, and learning curves. Many of the lessons that apply to life, in general, can be applied to running a business. Small business owners are responsible for everything that occurs in the whole of their business, and it is nearly impossible to predict what each day as a small business owner will bring.

If you can enjoy each part of your business, sharing what you know with your customers and employees, and reaching out to your community to connect with people through your business, you will enjoy life’s journey. Business isn’t always fair, but if you put your heart into it, it will be good. Your customers and employees will see how you run your business, and they will respond. When in doubt, just take the first small step, and you will be able to accomplish whatever goals you set for your business. Don’t take your business so seriously. No one else does. Run your business with a good sense of humor and your customers and staff will join in laughing with you. Overprepare, and then let your business take you where it will. You will discover new dimensions to your niche that you may never have known before and you will have an exciting, fulfilling journey.

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