4 Ways Running Can Help You Run A Business

Are you a runner or is shopping your cardio?¬†ūüėČ

The author finishing a 5k

I started running later in life (i.e. post-school), and I’m so glad I did. Besides being excellent exercise, it’s fun to be a part of such a wonderful community. The running community embraces runners of all capabilities and provides support in the form of running partners, groups and tips from more experienced runners.

A Supportive Community 

A supportive community is one way that running translates to running a business. As an entrepreneur or small business owner, you’re probably working alone. Tapping into the entrepreneurial community can help you grow and manage your business. Whether you frequent a co-working space or join an online community, fellow small business owners can give you advice, help you brainstorm ideas and offer support from someone who understands what you’re experiencing.

Related: Is collaboration the new competition?

Long-Term Plan

Runners tend to have a long-term plan, incorporating when they’re competing in races, rest days and specific things they’re working on (i.e. a stronger kick, running technique). Small business owners need to plan as well, so they can run their business effectively and look for growth opportunities. Looking at your bigger picture helps when making decisions about what opportunities to pursue and which areas to focus on at specific times. Of course the best plans should always be adjustable.

Rest Days / Down Time

As noted above, part of a runner’s long-term plan is incorporating rest days. They’re vital to performing well, in running and business. Small business owners tend to wear a lot of hats, which can make it difficult to unplug. It’s important to your long-term outlook (and health) that you take time for yourself so you can be at your best when focusing on your business. Don’t burn yourself out and short circuit your business before you’re able to achieve your dreams. Running a business is a marathon, not a sprint.

Related: How to Take a Break from Technology Without Moving to the Woods

Aha Moments 

When I run, I listen to my tunes and try to empty my mind (or think of inspirational movie scenes if I need an extra boost to reach the top of the hill). I’m not thinking about customers, business issues or other important topics. That’s probably why I come up with some of my best ideas or feel confident making a decision I’ve been thinking about after a run. The combination of physical activity, clearing my mind and the euphoria of finishing my run seems to spark creativity and clarify my decision-making process. The next time you’re struggling with a business decision or client project, go for a run. It may spark an ‘aha moment!’

Running translates well to running a business on several fronts. Runners can draw inspiration and insight from their hobby while they tackle the tough task of running a business. Not a runner? It’s never too late to lace ’em up and hit the pavement or trails. Couch to 5k can help you get started, or find a running community to join. You’ll find the same support, camaraderie and inspiration as you find in your entrepreneurial or small business community.

Happy running (a business)!

Just a (small biz owner &) runner from Akron,
Jaime

Let’s chat (about small business life, running, your marketing needs or otherwise):

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4 Lessons Learned in 4 Years as an Entrepreneur

On Sunday, my company, Clearly Conveyed Communications, celebrated its 4th anniversary. Along with some gray hairs and a sense¬†of accomplishment, I’ve learned numerous lessons along the way.

CCC turns 4!

4¬†Lessons I’ve Learned in 4 Years as an Entrepreneur:

Starting and growing a business is a thrilling roller coaster ride. If you love roller coasters (like I do), you’re probably thinking that sounds great. Keep in mind though that you’re riding 24/7, and there are no stops — for bad days, client disasters or even life (which doesn’t stop while you’re trying to start a business). If you like consistency and scheduled days, then don’t start a business. The most even-keeled entrepreneur has experienced many “What the f%#k am I doing?” moments.

I’ve developed a new definition — and appreciation — of living lean. Most entrepreneurs and startups are not raking in venture capital money and operating on million dollar budgets. They’re trying to build something for the future and scrape by in the present. You have to scrimp, save, shop smartly¬†and still make hard choices. There’s nothing romantic about trying to figure out how you’ll pay your mortgage (or rent) next month, but you have to find a way until you can grow.

You’re not doing business until you get paid. Looking for new business, maintaining your professional network and taking care of clients is all part of owning a business, but it’s important to not focus too much on activity. You’re not doing business until you can bill and collect payment. Otherwise, you’re doing charity work, which is commendable, but it won’t pay your mortgage.

Your time is valuable; learn to spend it well. Every entrepreneur and startup owner needs more hours in a day, so you’ll learn to value your time quickly. You have to balance how much time something will take versus the (realistic) potential reward. Every opportunity or client won’t be a good fit. As painful as it can be to walk away, wasting time on a situation that you know won’t work is even worse.¬†Use your time wisely so that you’ll be able to spend quality time with friends and family, sleep and exercise — all necessities in the long run.

No matter what happens, remember this:

Starting and growing a business is an amazing accomplishment. You took a huge risk to create your own future and build something for yourself. It may be hard for people around you to understand what you’re doing, let alone why, but you have to keep your goal in mind. Always remember why you started your business and what you want out of it. That will help you¬†keep going during those “What the f%#k am I doing?” moments, although close friends, hobbies and happy hour will help too.

There are so many lessons I could have mentioned, because starting a business will teach you something new every day. Some days you won’t be in the mood to learn, but try to pick up as much as you can. The experience will come in handy in the future, wherever your¬†crazy, amazing roller coaster ride stops.

What lessons have you learned as an entrepreneur or small business owner?

Did starting a business create an unexpected opportunity for you?

Feeling the rush,
Jaime

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5 Smart Steps to Become a Better Small Business Owner

As an entrepreneur or small business owner, you¬†dream big. That’s probably one reason you pursued this career path in the first place. Dreaming big is great, but it can also be paralyzing. Where do you start?

How to become a SocialMedia Manager by Urs Steiner via CC BY 2.0

“Entrepreneurs are often defined by the size of our ambitions, but the best way to make a big impact is to start small steps.” ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†-Damon Brown, entrepreneur & author

Damon Brown, entrepreneur and author of Our Virtual Shadow, recently published a smart article for Inc. entitled 21 Simple Ways to be a Better Entrepreneur. In it, he shares easy steps you can take to make yourself more efficient and productive in 2016 and beyond.

Here are our favorites:

  • Schedule a blank day:¬†Yes, you’re busy, but that doesn’t do much for you or your business in the end. Scheduling a blank day (which isn’t a vacation day) can help you focus on the big picture and shift direction if needed. When’s the last time you’ve scheduled a blank day?

Please stop telling me you’re busy.

  • Skip the heavy lifting on Monday:¬†Mondays are a drag. No one really looks forward to them and you’re rarely satisfied with your production. If you work over the weekend, Mondays are even worse. So take Brown’s advice and only handle light lifting on Mondays, if you can.

Your Comfort Zone: Where the Magic Happens

  • Write more, type less:¬†How often do you physically write things down? Strategies, ideas, thoughts, musings… While we’re always fans of the written word, writing by hand can create stronger connections, motivate, inspire and help you relax.

Things I Carry: Pen and Paper

  • Walk more:¬†Innovative ideas rarely come to us while we’re sitting behind a desk. Physical activity can be a wonderful way to break out of a rut or see a situation more clearly. Struggling to put together a plan for a client? Trying to make a difficult decision for your business? Get up and go for a walk. You (and your brain) will be glad you did.

Need an Idea? Just Walk Away…

  • Read a book a week:¬†Entrepreneurs and small business owners need to be constantly learning, and books are the¬†perfect¬†way to accomplish this arduous task. They’re also a way to travel to other cultures, learn from other people’s mistakes¬†and get lost in another¬†world. Even if you’re not a writer, reading is a¬†habit that you should develop.

Eat, Pray, Love — In Business Too

Who are we kidding? We loved Brown’s entire list, especially the coffee and poker suggestions. What are your favorites?

We do struggle with a couple of them, especially In the first hour of your day, avoid email and social media. Perhaps this is a goal we can tackle in 2016. Which suggestion(s) do you struggle with the most?

Whether you agree with Damon Brown’s suggestions or not, we all want to be more productive and efficient. What additional tips can you offer to achieve these goals in 2o16?

We can help you be more productive and efficient by assisting¬†with your marketing, writing and social media needs. Let’s discuss how we can help you!

Pic credit: How to become a SocialMediaManager by Urs Steiner via CC BY 2.0

Taking small steps to dream big,
Jaime

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How the Gift-Giving Process Makes You a Better Marketer

I love to give gifts. Part of it is seeing the joy that the recipient expresses, but part of it is the process. Finding the perfect gift for someone isn’t easy and shares a lot in common with the marketing process.

Danbo Santa Claus_Takashi Hososhima_flickr

First, there’s the research into what the recipient likes and how he spends his time. What’s a day in his life like? Is he a workaholic? A teacher by day but writer by night? Doting Dad of two? You need to understand what makes the recipient tick in order to give a meaningful gift.

Sound familiar? Studying a potential gift recipient is a lot like creating a buyer persona or understanding your customer. Step into your prospects’ or customers’ shoes in order to understand what they truly need. What would make their job a little easier? How can you take some stress out of their life?

After doing your research, you need to keep your budget in mind. Sure, it would be great if you could buy everyone a dream vacation or a MacBook Pro, but that’s not always feasible. Don’t be disappointed with your lower budget; just change your level of thinking. Does your friend love to travel? Pick up a scarf with multiple uses or a great travel bag that will be perfect for her next trip.

The same way of thinking holds true in marketing. Budget is always something to keep in mind no matter what yours is. Figure out how to maximize your exposure and effectiveness with what you have to spend. Maybe you can’t afford a digital billboard in Times Square, but you can afford passing out flyers about your new pop-up shop to those in the area.

Another way to expand your budget is to partner with others. So your brother and sister-in-law need a new washer but it’s out of your budget? Get together with family and friends to organize your gift-giving efforts. Everyone can contribute to a ‘new washer fund’ via a crowdfunding source or a group gift card to the appliance store.

The same practice works well in marketing. Partnering with like-minded businesses can expand your reach and your budget. Attend networking functions to find other businesses that you can help and vice versa. The important aspect of any relationship is that both sides are committed and both gain something. If only one business benefits, it’s not a good fit and the relationship won’t last.

Finally, evaluate the feedback. No matter how much you do your due diligence, sometimes you miss the mark. A gift is not well received or the recipient has no use for it. Make note of why the gift failed to live up to expectations so you can improve for the next occasion.

In marketing, sometimes your efforts fail. You can conduct ample research and maximize your budget but your campaign or project may not produce the expected results. Your customers and prospects are people, which means they’re complex. No matter how well researched your buyer personas are, maybe you missed one key aspect.

It’s crucial to examine your feedback so you can improve whatever part of your marketing is lacking to see better results in the future. That’s not always easy but that’s the topic of another article (actually the next one).

Who knew the gift-giving process could make you a better marketer? Maybe that’s why I enjoy it so much. Or maybe it’s because I love to make people smile. Or because I love a good challenge. Regardless, put some thought into your gift giving and marketing this Holiday season and you’re bound to see the results.

p.s. Do you know an entrepreneur or small business owner who could use some marketing help? Give them a gift that will keep on giving long after it’s opened. We offer gift certificates toward any of our services. Let’s talk about your recipient’s business, product or idea, so we can customize a gift certificate for you.

Picture: Danbo Santa Claus by Takashi Hososhima via CC BY-SA 2.0

CCC’s Chief Elf,
Jaime

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50 (More) Things I’m Grateful For…

It’s been too long. I’ve had it in my mind to write this post since I published my first 50 Things I’m Grateful For… post last year. I kept finding cool things to blog about, and before I knew it, more than a year had passed. So here goes…

I’m grateful for (take 2)…

The sun sets on Lock 3

     

I love classic cars 

Wilson -- my idea generator

water view

Alright, so there’s my second list of 50 things I’m grateful for. (If you want to browse the first list, here you go.)

Now it’s your turn. I would love to hear about what you’re grateful for! No matter how tough life gets, we can all be grateful for something. Share your list (however big or small) in the comments below, hit me up on a social network or tag me in your blog post. ¬†Cheers!

Grateful & blessed,
Jaime

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Jumping Off A Cliff: My 1st Year As An Entrepreneur

A year ago today, I took a deep breath and jumped off a cliff. Figuratively speaking, anyway. I left my job in corporate America to start my own business.

A year ago today, I walked away from familiarity and security toward an unknown and exciting horizon. What a ride.

A year ago today, I walked away from familiarity and security toward an unknown and exciting horizon. What a ride.

I was terrified and excited, overwhelmed yet satisfied with my decision, completely burnt out but eagerly looking toward my future. In some ways, it’s been better than I expected. In other ways, I had no idea. Would I do it again 12 months later? In a heartbeat.

Venturing out on my own has taught -- and continues to teach -- me to focus on what's important.

Venturing out on my own has taught me — and continues to teach me — to focus on what’s important.

I’ve grown so much as a person and as a business owner even though there’s still so much to learn. I’ve experienced the highest of highs (tremendous opportunities) only to dip into the lowest of lows (major health insurance issues) days later. I love roller coasters, but this has been the craziest ride of my life.

While I continue to learn new things about myself, some things have become even more clear. I love to help people. Whether it’s donating platelets, helping a friend or writing copy for marketing collateral, it makes me smile. It pulls me out of bed in the morning (preferably not too early though) and gets me amped about the day.

My pride and joy, hopes and dreams. I'd love to work with you!

My pride and joy, hopes and dreams. I’d love to work with you!

That’s how it all started. Clearly Conveyed Communications. The name, the focus, the mission. Because my goal is to help others communicate. It sounds simple enough but is surprisingly difficult to do. We live in a 24/7¬†hyper-competitive¬†world, so it’s tough to stand out.

Whether it’s writing copy that sells, creating marketing that brings opportunities, managing social media that sizzles or cultivating your personal brand to help you stand out and move up, I love it.

I have so much respect for others who have made this jump — successful or not. I’ve learned so much about myself and experienced so many situations because I stepped outside of my comfort zone; I’ll never regret it. No matter what happens going forward, I made the right move.

trail running

I love the outdoors. All of it, even the mud.

I’ve rediscovered who I am. I’ve reconnected with nature. I run on the local metro park’s trails and walk errands and hike to see the beauty. I’m eating cleaner and healthier than I ever have. I cut cable and read even more (certified bookworm here) and finally stopped to smell the roses (or espresso beans, whatever your pleasure).

My point is: love what you’re doing. Enjoy your life and do everything in your power to do what you love and love what you do.

I’m not a motivational speaker (a little too sarcastic) and am certainly not stepping on a soapbox anytime soon. I’m here because I’ve failed and failed and failed again. But I kept pursuing my dreams and I still am today. I’m not there yet but I’m on a much better path than I was 365 days ago.

Oh, and I’d love to work with you. Really, I would. Because I love what I do.

Photos via my Instagram account

Have faith in yourself,
Jaime

p.s.¬†If you’re new to the¬†CCC website, come back soon and visit our¬†Facebook page¬†too. ¬†We’re going to be running a few contests to celebrate our first year of¬†existence.

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Are Your Company’s Policies Helping You Do Business?

That may seem like an obvious question, but when’s the last time you reviewed your company’s policies? Are they still relevant today or stuck in the past? Do they encourage customers to do business with you or push them to your competitors?

Recently, I ran into a situation of what I consider to be outdated policies. As previously noted, I came to the difficult decision to cut cable and also got rid of my landline. The latter may seem obvious today, but I had kept it to this point for my business. I still have Internet through this company, along with a greatly reduced monthly bill.

I made sure to cancel my cable and landline two weeks before my next scheduled payment was due, so I wouldn’t have to deal with credits. As this company charges in advance for its services (which I find a little outdated itself), I expected only my Internet fee to be withdrawn for the next month.

The penguin's even confused.

What?!

Talk about a (bad) surprise! I noticed that my account had not been updated online a week later, so I called. Despite my protests, two different people informed me that it was company policy not to make changes during a billing period. Huh?! Their reasoning? They don’t send out updated bills. I receive paperless statements, as I would think most people do today, so I’m not sure what the company’s “sending out.” Also, in this age of real-time information, I was shocked at how slow this company processes changes.

I’m paying a company in advance for services I no longer have with them, so they can credit my account later.

Does this make any sense to anyone? I’m serious; I would love your feedback. Am I expecting too much?

My changes won’t be processed until my next billing cycle even though the company was able to cut off my services in 10 minutes. Is this acceptable?

You’re probably asking why I don’t move my business. There are limited choices in my market, and the only other company is actually worse to deal with. I know, because I used to deal with them.

Note that I’m not a complainer nor do I expect companies to cater to me. A little customer service would be nice though.

No marching bands or circus animals!

Do your company policies make sense?

So back to you and your company… do your policies make sense? Are there reasons behind them? Do they help you do business? If not, it may be time for a review.

Please chime in… what do you think of my situation? Is it acceptable or an example of an outdated policy at work?

Have a great week,
Jaime

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