Many people think of values as guidelines for living life or conducting business. Your values are what you believe are important in life. They serve as a filter for the decisions you make and the things you do. You can use values to set goals, make decisions, and live a more fulfilling life. When it comes to business, your values can guide you in choosing the right clients, suppliers, and partners. They can also help you build a positive company culture. Let’s take a closer look at why values are so important.
Why Values Are Important
Your values are important because they are a part of who you are. They shape your thoughts, emotions, and actions. You use them to make decisions about what is right and wrong, what is acceptable and unacceptable. When you live according to your values, you feel good about yourself and the things you do. You have a sense of purpose and direction. Values can also give you a sense of belonging and community. When you share your values with others, you develop relationships with like-minded people.
In business, your values can guide you in making decisions about the products or services you offer, the pricing of your products or services, how you treat your employees and customers, and other aspects of running a business. When you live by your values in business, you attract clients who share your values. This creates loyalty and repeat business. Your values also help you build lasting relationships with suppliers, vendors, and other partners.
How to Develop Your Values
If you’re not sure what your personal or professional values are, there are a few exercises you can do to develop them.
One exercise is to think about times when you’ve felt really good about yourself or what you’ve done. What were the circumstances? What did you do or say? What did others do or say? This will give you some clues about what might be important to you.
Another exercise is to imagine yourself 10 years from now looking back on your life or career. What would make you proud? What would make you happy? This will help you identify the areas of your life that are most important to you.
You can also take an inventory of the people who are important to you—family members, friends, co-workers—and think about the qualities they have that make them valuable to you. Do they have similar qualities? This can give you some insight into what qualities might be important to you as well.
List of Values
If you're still stuck, choose 10 words that resonate with you from the list below, then cut it down to 5, then cut it down to 3. This might be difficult - but go with your gut!
Do you want to start a business? Great! Entrepreneurship is an amazing journey, and it is one of my great passions. Download the free Business Plan Basics worksheet to work alongside the information in this blog, and get ready to bring your vision into reality!
I am a third generation entrepreneur and I’ve owned 4 successful small businesses of my own. Small business offers rewarding hard work, a connection to what you love, and (if it is done right) financial abundance. The first step in moving from employee to entrepreneur is to assess if this is the right move for your unique personality and lifestyle. (Click here to schedule a free 60 min assessment with me!)
After you've decided that entrepreneurship is right for you, here is an outline of action steps for starting your small business, plus you'll find a ton of free tools and resources here.
Define your mission
Gain absolute clarity on what you want to offer, who you want to serve, how you are going to serve them, and what you are going to charge for those services. I’ve created a worksheet (click here) to help you if you’re still fuzzy on some of these details.
Crunch your numbers
This should be done in-depth as part of your business plan, but my experience is that a large percentage of people start (and run) their businesses without ever having a business plan. This isn't advised - even if your business is doing "pretty good" - it could be better if you took charge by developing a business plan.
However, even if you're not going to develop a full business plan, you must at least crunch some basic numbers to see if your business idea is feasible. I’ve seen a plethora of businesses fail just because there was a lack of awareness on this subject. First, find out what your overhead is by adding up all your expenses (including what you plan to pay yourself). Then, figure out how much of your product or services you’d need to sell to cover that expense. For example, say you want to open a popcorn store. If your overhead is $6,000/mo and you are selling popcorn for $15/bag, you’d have to sell 400 bags of popcorn a month just to cover your expenses (not to make a profit). You can dig deeper into cost analysis (including your personal budget and how that relates to a beginning entrepreneur) in my Employee to Entrepreneur course. Download a free budget template here.
Get Feedback/Do Market Research
This can begin in really simple ways. Talk to your friends about your idea for a product or service, and research the industry and other businesses that are offering a similar service. While you don't want to give your idea away, you can ask questions of the public community (Facebook Groups, Reddit, etc) to understand your market better. The Small Business Development Center is a great resource for vetting your idea............. If you still feel good about your idea after doing this preliminary research, you can begin to dig deeper. I've written a blog on how to do that here.
Decide on your business name
Your business name should be something that resonates with you and will be easy to brand. Many people just use their name, some people use a cute play on words, and others choose a word that has deep meaning for them. I suggest tossing around ideas with friends, and doing some internet research and make sure no one else is currently using this name, or a name that is too similar.
I know several different business that had to change their name years into owning and operating their business because another business had that name before their start date. Do your homework!
First, type your desired name into your favorite search engine and seeing if any other businesses come up. If that passes, go to the second stage, and check the US Trademark Office by typing in your desired business name. Finally, check with your Secretary of State to see if there are any businesses registered in your state with the name you want to use. For Oregon, you can find that information here. For other states, a quick Google search will find you the website you need.
Secure your URL
URL stands for Universal Resource Locator, but really it just means your website address. You can see if the URL you want is available by going to www.godaddy.com. Remember that your URL should be something short and easy for people to remember and type into a search engine. Double check that your name doesn’t accidentally say something that you don’t want it to. For example, the company “Who Represents” unintentionally becomes www.whorepresents.com. For more URL fails, click here.
Decide if you want a logo or image to represent your business
You don’t have to have a logo, but it can help people recognize your business and it can evoke a powerful feeling in your prospective clients. It’s also helpful to use in marketing and branding. You can make this yourself, have a friend help, hire a professional branding company, or use an online service. If you are going to design the logo yourself, make sure that you don’t use images from the internet unless you purchase them with rights to use them. If you're looking to create your own logo, I recommend using Canva. If you are going to select an online service, I suggest Tailor Brands or Fiverr. If you're looking to reinvest your money in your local community, use Google to find a company in your home community that matches your needs. In Bend, Oregon where I live, I highly recommend Chad DeWilde and Adele Ditman. I also help clients out with logo development from time to time, but it is not my expertise.
Decide on a business structure
Next, you need to establish your business as Sole Proprietorship, Partnership, Corporation, Limited Liability Company or S-Corporation. You can read more about these business types here. The easiest and cheapest to start is the Sole proprietorship. Barbara Weltman, a tax and business attorney and author of such books as J.K. Lasser’s Small Business Taxes says. “As long as you are the only owner, you automatically become a sole proprietorship by conducting business.” However, you still might have state and city laws to comply with.
Register your business in your City
Establish your business in the city where you live and work. You can Google to find out how. Usually, there is a small free $50-$100. For Bend, Oregon, you can register your business here.
Register your business with your State
Establish your business at the State level. You can Google to find the specific website in your state, for Oregon, you can click here. Usually, there is a slightly larger fee ($100-$200).
Register your business with the IRS
Depending on how you establish your business, check with the IRS about any paperwork you need to file. If you will have employees, you will need to do further work with the IRS (like getting an EIN #). If you are just opening a Sole Proprietorship (recommended for any small or home-based business), you can just use your social security number and to your personal and business taxes together.
*Note - there are businesses that will handle your business registrations for you. If you'd like to pay for this service, check out Legal Zoom or Zen Business. However, I have found these registrations very easy, and my guess is that you'll be able to do this on your own without any problems. Trust yourself. If you're already a client of mine, I can walk you through this process via screen share during a Zoom session.
Purchase Business Insurance
Even Sole Proprietors need general liability insurance because they are personally liable for all debts and obligations of the business. Different types of businesses need different types of insurance, so talking to an insurance professional is advised. When I first started my business, I just added my business insurance onto my GEICO plan with my auto insurance. It’s really simpler than you think.
Get a Business Email
There is a plethora of ways to do this. Some people choose to just get a free Google email like email@example.com. You can also usually get and @yourbusinessname email hosted with your website. GoDaddy, recommended above, does that for a very reasonable rate.
Open a Business Bank Account(s)
Choose a Bank or Credit Union to establish your business at. I’d suggest calling around or researching online to find our what requirement various banks have and the services they offer. After you’ve made a selection, make sure to ask them what paperwork you’ll need to bring into open your account. Most banks will need a copy of your business license, or something similar.
Secure a Location for your business
If you are going to start a home based business, then you need to set up a space where you can work, purchases a file cabinet where you can keep all your documents and create a system where you can stay organized with your business tasks. I’ve met many business owners who skipped this step and ended up missing out on opportunities because of it. For example, keeping (and documenting) all your recipes for business purchases will help you write off those expenses at tax time. If you are going to rent an office or a retail location, there is an entire other list of steps (not included here, but visit my blog for more information).
Establish a Business Phone Number
If you are going to have a business-only phone, now is the time to sign up for new service. Most business owners I know these days just use their cell phone. In this case, make sure to change the outgoing message on your phone to reflect your business, and make it sound professional. Google Voice is an incredible free service that allows you to get a 2nd number and import it to your cell phone. This is a good idea so that you can keep your business calls and personal calls separate.
Build a Website
Any business in this day and age MUST have a website. You can hire someone to build your website, or you can build your own using one of the many applications available online. I personally like Weebly (www.weebly.com). I find it easy to use, and I love being able to update it whenever I want to without having to go through a third party or a website designer. You can direct your website to any url(s) you buy (above). Make sure that you fill in the back SEO part of each page on your website. For clients coaching with me or taking my employee to entrepreneur course, we can build your website together using Zoom during our session time.
List your Business with Search Engines
List your Business on Referring Sites
This helps drive more traffic to your site. Make sure that you have a solid bio rich with key words and that all your information (address, phone, etc) is accurate and matches on each of the referring sites.
Create your Social Media Profiles
Create Printed Materials
At the very least, you will need business cards. Depending on your business you might also want to create posters or brochures. Vista Print is an inexpensive easy way to get started.
This is where you are going to go out and sale yourself. Many entrepreneurs find this to be the most difficult task. In order to sell yourself, you have to believe in yourself. You have to be confident, clear and comfortable with your products, or services and what you charge for them. People can feel your energy, and it is important that you are aligned (thoughts, emotions, and actions). If this is an area where you struggle, you can work through your blocks in my employee to entrepreneur course.
Once you are aligned, you can confidently and gracefully communicate with people who need your services. Tell your family and friends about what you are doing. Offer free courses or workshops relating to your business, identify people and businesses that could use your services and go talk with them. Drop of brochures and put up flyers. Go out and shine!
Business is an expansive and exciting subject, and this blog has just begun to discuss the tip of the figurative iceberg. For a more in-depth exploration, read more of my blogs or join my employee to entrepreneur course.
For more information, schedule a free consultation.
Your mission statement is a brief description of your company's purpose and goals. It should be clear, concise, and relevant to your business. While it may seem like a daunting task to write a mission statement, it doesn't have to be. By following a few simple tips, you can create an effective mission statement that will guide your business for years to come.
1. Keep it short and sweet. A good mission statement should be no more than one to three sentences. Any longer, and you run the risk of losing your reader's attention.
2. Focus on what you do best. Your mission statement should highlight what makes your business unique. What do you offer that no one else does? Why should customers choose you over your competitors? Answering these questions will help you zero in on your mission statement's purpose.
3. Keep it relevant. As your business grows and changes, so too should your mission statement. Periodically revisit your statement to make sure it still accurately reflects your company's goals and values. If not, make updates as needed.
Authentic Marketing & Why It Matters
Have you ever heard marketing like this:
"Call within the next 20 minutes, because we can't do this all day."
"This products is so great, it sales itself!"
"What is it gonna take to get you to buy today?"
"Our prices have never been lower!"
Cringe..... ugh, don't these just make the pit of your stomach hurt? It doesn't have to be this way. There is a way of communicating with your customer that is authentic and heart-centered.
Many entrepreneurs that I know often struggle between doing marketing that feels good (but doesn't work) and doing marketing that works (but doesn't feel good).
Let's begin by exploring just want marketing is. Merriam Webster Dictionary says that marketing is: "the process or technique of promoting selling, and distributing a product of service". Okay, that doesn't sound bad in and of itself. Wikipedia says that marketing is: "the process of exploring, creating, and delivering value to meet the needs of a target market." Hmmm. That actually sounds like a good thing.
If you're an entrepreneur, you want to be of service. You're in the game to meet a need. If that is true, you must be able to tell your clients about how you can do that. Imagine for a moment, a scenario where there was an incredible product or service that could truly help people, but because the company had no comfort around marketing, people continued to suffer. That would be tragic indeed.
You have something to offer. You've put blood, sweat and tears into bringing your product or service to the marketplace. If you want to honor all of the effort that brought you to this point in your journey, you must market yourself. It is your duty. So really, marketing is about meeting a client's need and honoring yourself & your creation (your product or service). Those are two authentically beautiful things that I can totally get behind.
Marketing is about communication, and communication is one of my all-time favorite topics. The root of the word "communication" in Latin is communicare, which means to share, or to make common (Weekly, 1967). Communication is defined as the process of understanding and sharing meaning (Pearson & Nelson, 2000). I love the way that feels... "the process of understanding and sharing meaning". Mmmm, that feels good. Let's explore that deeper and discover how that relates to marketing.
Process refers to a dynamic activity, this means that in marketing is about both you and the prospective client. Many of us perceive marketing as chasing someone down and pressuring them, or forcing them, into purchasing our product or service. When we look at it more as a give and take, a relationship, a dynamic activity - than it begins to take on a different look and feel.
Understanding is to perceive and relate. In marketing, this means that we are holding prospective clients as able, we are trusting them to know their needs and make their own decisions. It means that we are sharing ourselves, our gifts, talents and our expertise. It means that we are genuinely curious, and that we don't have an agenda for the other person.
Sharing is the cornerstone of good marketing. I love vocabulary.com's definition of sharing: to use it or enjoy it with others. If you have a product or service and you approach a possible client from a heart of wanting to enjoy it with them, that is an expansive place to start.
Meaning is what we share through communication. In marketing, it is helping the client understand why what you have to offer is important, useful, and provides purpose.
It is possible for you to develop a positive, rich and beautiful relationship with marketing. Marketing doesn't have to be icky or cringeworthy. It can be an act of self-care, an act of service, it can be playful, and it can connect you with your tribe. Marketing is just another skill and one you can master whenever you choose to.
For more on this topic, check out the work of Tad Hargrave, founder of Marketing for Hippies, Ethical Marketing for Uncertain Times (I love the work this man is doing!) and Mark Silver, founder of Heart of Business, Inc.
I am a third-generation entrepreneur. Both my parents were small business owners, and so were both sets of my grandparents. My childhood was deeply engrained with the entrepreneur experience (you can read my entrepreneurial journey here). I opened my first business in 2002, and I've owned and operated 4 small businesses since that time. I have also served as the Executive Director of a Business Association and worked with hundreds of small business owners, helping them navigate their challenges and celebrate their wins.
During my lifetime of working with small businesses, I have noticed a gap in services. This gap has grown larger in the last decade as marketing has dramatically changed. This gap is a lack of marketing & support services for small businesses. Larger companies and firms offer these services, but they usually aren't a good fit for the small, growing businesses. That's why I've decided to offer business services specifically for small businesses, mom and pop shops, and solopreneurs. I am able to provide flexibility, affordable pricing, and the ability to shape my services and prices to the exact fit and needs of a particular business.
Most small business owners feel like they are barely keeping their heads above water. There is never enough time to do everything that needs to be done. Just when you think you're going to reach a stage where you can sit back and breathe a bit, an employee quits, a pipe breaks, the computer crashes, or your largest order of the year gets delayed. It's always something. As a small business owner, you often think, "Now, if I could just clone myself, or grow another set of arms, then maybe...."
This is where I come in, I'm your extra set of arms. Need to develop your social media, no problem. Looking to start a newsletter? I've got your back. Finally decided to put together a business plan and 5-year budget forecast? Let's do this thing. Desperate to have that poster created that you kept meaning to make, and now you need to email to the printer by the end of the day? I know how that is. I've been there, and I can help.
Here are the biggest gaps in support services that I've identified:
Here are the reasons these gaps exist:
Here is how I fill in these gaps:
I believe that small business matters in big ways. I hope that you will allow me to help you and your business be the best that it can be. Contact me today, and let's talk about where you are, where you want to go, and how I can assist you in getting there.
Before you start your own business, it's important to do your homework and conduct market research. By definition, market research is "the process of assessing the viability of a new product or service through the gathering and analyzing of data about potential customers." In other words, market research is all about understanding your target audience and what they want or need.
There are a number of different ways to go about conducting market research. Here are a few methods you may want to consider:
1. Customer surveys
2. Competitor analysis
3. Focus groups
4. Social media listening
5. Google AdWords Keyword Planner
Market research is an essential part of starting your own business because it allows you to determine whether or not there is a demand for your product or service. If you're thinking about starting your own business, be sure to do your market research first!
Customer Surveys: Customer surveys are one of the most commonly used methods of market research. Why? Because they allow you to directly ask your target audience questions about their needs, wants, and pain points. There are a few different ways to go about conducting customer surveys, but one of the most popular methods is using an online survey tool like SurveyMonkey or Typeform.
Competitor Analysis: Another common method of conducting market research is competitor analysis. This involves taking a close look at what your competitors are doing—everything from their branding and marketing initiatives to their pricing models—and figuring out how you can improve upon it. When conducting competitor analysis, it's important to keep in mind that you should never copy your competitors exactly; rather, use their strategies as inspiration for how you can set yourself apart from the rest.
Focus Groups: Focus groups are small groups of people who are brought together in person or online to discuss a particular topic or issue. When it comes to market research, focus groups can be extremely helpful in getting feedback about things like advertising campaigns, product concepts, or even packaging design. Focus groups give you the opportunity to get real-time feedback from potential customers so that you can make changes on the fly based on what they say.
Social Media Listening: Social media listening is all about paying attention to what people are saying about your brand on social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Not only does social media listening give you insights into how people feel about your brand, but it can also alert you to any negative sentiment so that you can address it quickly and efficiently. In addition, social media listening can also help you keep tabs on what people are saying about your competitors—giving you a leg up in the market research department!
Google AdWords Keyword Planner: Last but not least is the Google AdWords Keyword Planner—a free tool that allows users to see how often certain keywords are being searched for on Google. This information can be extremely valuable when trying to determine which keywords to target in your marketing efforts. In addition to showing you how often keywords are being searched for, the Google AdWords Keyword Planner also provides insights into which keywords are most relevant to your business.
There's no doubt about it—market research is essential if you want to start your own business. By definition, market research is "the process of assessing the viability of a new product or service through the gathering and analyzing of data about potential customers." In other words, market research is all about understanding your target audience and what they want or need. And there are a number of different ways to go about conducting market research, including customer surveys, competitor analysis, focus groups, social media listening, and more! So if you're thinking about starting your own business, be sure to do your market research first!
Mindy Amita Aisling