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Pulling the Thread Together

a common threadIf you’re like a lot of small business owners, you wear many hats – and sometimes, all the hats.

You might work with the front-end (with customers), the back-end (administrative), the public (marketing, networking), and the private (human resources, vendors) – all in the same day, maybe in the same hour.

Maybe you’re good at delegating or outsourcing, adept at balancing and managing your time. Whether the list is never done or you stay on top by picking just one, putting things together so they fit is a talent that often comes with experience.

Some have learned that by sectioning big projects into smaller pieces, all the while preparing for the thread, the improvement remains continual as business climates change.

As you divide your large projects into smaller pieces, think about how and when they will come together. Find a common thread among your pieces that will allow bringing each piece together, but also for easy modifications in the future.

The tie that binds will be stronger because of your preparation and planning.

Preparing for the Thread

woman's hands sewing a stitch

There may be a stitch or hemline holding different roles or departments of your business together. Sometimes, the stitch needs adjusting, depending on other variables.

With a dress, variables may include the season, the type of event, the personality of the person wearing it, or the shoes that will be worn with the dress.

With business projects, variables may include the season, the people working on project, the product the project is centered on, the customers targeted, the medium carrying the message.

The variables need to be considered when putting a business project together – or stitching a hem place.

It’s one of the reasons we believe Every Project Gets a Scope.

Photo on Flickr by Steven DePolo w/ cc

Driver’s Ed (Thoughtography)

Young Boy Steering


Our first experiences getting behind the wheel are pretty mechanical and methodical. As we learn, we improve. We begin to find a flow and think more clearly and creatively during the process.

The same is true with many things as adults and in business. A continual learning, improving, flowing, and thinking.

Photo on Flickr by Alex Proimos

Starting to Use WordPress (Video Lessons)

Many business owners are learning how to compose and publish on their own web site.

If you are using WordPress on your site, here are some simple tutorials on how to create and publish a post onto your site. In many cases, the tips here are probably similar to the tool you’re using (if not WordPress).

Another resource is the ConverStations Blog Posting Mantra (2014 update).

Adding a Post

Editing Posts and Pages

Using the Visual Editor (WYSIWYG)

The videos above are produced and made available by WPMUdev, a team of programmers, developers, and web support whom I rely upon heavily.

As a youth, Saturdays were filled with visual candy of cartoons in the morning and movie matinees in the afternoon. In 2014, we’ll be sharing Saturday videos from TED, subscriptions from YouTube, and other videos shared via feeds.

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L.I.F.T – A Small Business Boost (Saturday Clips)

Staying with the spirit of our L.I.F.T. theme, these clips help motivate and guide us towards Learning, Improving, Flowing, Thinking.

Born to Learn – It’s in our nature from the beginning

Improvement is Always the Result of Change

Finding Flow – Just move (Katie’s Take on Finding Flow)

SCAMPER – A creative thinking technique

Lift. Improve. Flow. Think. L.I.F.T. –  a small business boost.

As a youth, Saturdays were filled with visual candy of cartoons in the morning and movie matinees in the afternoon. In 2014, we’ll be sharing Saturday videos from TED, subscriptions from YouTube, and other videos shared via feeds.

Getting Customers in the Door with Social Media

Facebook DecalWritten by James White

With the advent of online shopping and the popularity that it now includes, finding a way to get customers inside your business’ doors has become more of a challenge. While social media has often been a tool for online shoppers to buy items on the Internet, as a business owner, you can also encourage potential customers to visit your location.

In order to get customers to go to your brick and mortar business, understanding how to find customers and effectively communicate with them will make you successful.

Target Customers
Whether you plan on using Twitter, Facebook, Vine or any other social media platform, it will do no good if you don’t know how to target the correct audience for what your business has to offer.

The needle in the haystack situation comes to mind when thinking about blindly sending out posts into the humongous social media world without having any sort of aim. While every business may seem on Facebook, that doesn’t mean it is the best place to find and encourage your customers. With Facebook alone having approximately 1.4 billion users, having a strategy for finding viable candidates to target is the only way to efficiently reach potential customers on a regular basis. Maybe instead of just posting to your handful of followers, consider using social media ads.

Know How to Use Coupons
The ability to provide customers with coupons on social media is great, but knowing how to effectively do so is vital for getting those customers inside your business.

The trick is to offer discounts and coupons through social media sites like Pinterest or Groupon, but only make them redeemable in the actual store. That way, the customers who want to get those savings will visit your business, rather than sitting on the computer at home to do their shopping.

In addition, customers who use those coupons in the store will be more likely to share a picture of the coupon online or post something about their experience in your store, driving more traffic your way.

Pictures and Videos
Another way to get customers to visit your business rather than doing all of their shopping online is by using photos and videos to your advantage on social media. Use your Pinterest account to post pictures of interesting events that happen in the store to show how much fun customers have. On Facebook or Instagram, add pictures of specific merchandise, and display how customers can easily try on clothes or try out electronics when they come into the store.

Videos can also be an effective tool to entice customers inside your doors. A quick, six-second video on Vine could show how to easily navigate your store or to show off how nice parts of your store are, such as the dressing room. Uploading a YouTube video of a review of a product at your store or of a customer testimonial will be a further encouragement to get people to go to your store.

Get creative with your approaches and ads to entice customers to come to your store. Of course, with all advertising and social media use common sense and ethical practices so you won’t get into any legal issues.

Show your customers how much fun it is to physically visit your store and they’ll come to shop in person. Remember, once they’re in the store, they’re more likely to buy more than what they came for.

Author: James White is a writer for SEO Company Go and blogs in his free time at InfoBros. His articles have been published by Bargainteers, Thought Catalog and Elite Daily.

Note: Occasionally, this site will publish a post by a guest author if the content, links, and purpose is to assist small businesses in building a better presence online or offline. If you are interested in participating with your own guest post, here are the ConverStations Guest Post Guidelines.

Remember When … in Friday Flutterings

Retro Small Business District“It’s a poor sort of memory that only looks backwards.” – Lewis Carroll

… Remember when you had to stick your whole arm out of the window to signal other cars about your desire to change lanes or stop (arm out and down, palm open).  - Nowadays, signals are used as people change lanes, but not well before they do (?) and if you had to stick your hand out to signal a stop, the truck behind you would be tailgating too close to see your arm.

… Remember when you’d get in trouble if you changed the television channels too quick? Double trouble if you smarted back by suggesting to Dad he should get up and change it himself. We had three channels for all our television watching.  - Now we have three devices and stream on-demand.

… Remember when chocolate anything was a great snack, but you had to eat your greens first?  - Now, the Ding Dongs are replaced by Avocados or Kale Chips. (And less indigestion)

… Remember when only the toddlers had sippy-cups?  - Now adults are always tugging on their own sippy cups, whether coffee, soda, or old-fashioned water.

… Remember when you were a kid and the adults would reminisce about the “good-old days”? The next generation will too. It’s human nature. And human nature doesn’t change much, though the tools often do.

Look ahead, and make something happen.  Poor is the memory that only looks backwards.

Previous Friday Flutterings:

Photo on Flickr by US National Archives

Items on Your To Do List? Pick One

A handful of straws to pick fromOverwhelm. There are plenty of small business owners and solopreneurs who work in a constant state of overwhelm.

The opposite of being overwhelmed is probably not being underwhelmed. And par is not simply whelmed – in fact, whelm is a synonym of overwhelm.

Finding good flow crushes overwhelm.

I see and hear about a lot of to-do lists. It seems these lists are a barometer of overwhelm.

  • So much to do!
  • My to-do list is never ending
  • I want to make a To-don’t list, and it’s on my list of things to get done.

My response is simple: Pick One.  Just one. Do that.

Focus on one thing. When that’s done, get your list and … Pick One. That’s the beginning of finding your flow.

You might find Calvin Coolidge’s wisdom practical, teaching us to create a to-do list of 10 items, set seven aside and attend to three items, one-at-a-time (Three Important Things – Own One Thing). By the end of the day, the other seven will have taken care of themselves.

You might find focus in my grandfather’s wisdom, teaching us that to improve continuously is to be “Never Done“.

You might find value in a tool, like the Eisenhower’s Matrix, to help you pick your one.  That’s fine – as long as you Pick One.

You might find freedom in one of Kim Yuhl’s Take 35 tips (delivered one-at-a-time).

Pick One. Find Flow. Crush Overwhelm.

Photo on Flickr by Luke w/ cc

Never Done

Continual Improvement Requires Your Continuous Efforts

Carpenter Tools Hanging on Wall

My grandfather was a carpenter by trade. When he wasn’t working on someone else’s house, he was working on his own.

Some projects seemed to take a long time because he would work on the others before his own. Yet he was always making small improvements or finishing tasks of the larger projects.

During one of his larger projects, I asked when he was going to be done with the house?  “Never done,” he said. He knew by my raised eyebrows there was at least a handful of follow-up questions in my head.

He explained that this house once saw a family with three young boys. As time changed, so did the use of the property:

  • As the boys grew and priorities changed, the backyard became a work area instead of a play area.
  • As the sons moved out, traffic patterns in the house changed.
  • As my grandparents became more involved in community work, more guests would visit.
  • As my grandfather aged, the improvements slowed.

Times changed and so did the needs of the house. By recognizing the external changes, he was able to make internal changes – and sometimes anticipate them.

In business, times are always changing. Whether the change comes from internal or external forces, change is going to come.

Continual improvement – small changes when deemed appropriate or necessary – help avoid stagnation. With a vigilant eye towards small improvements that make sense, and continuous efforts to improve the experience for your customers, your employees, and yourself – you can find comfort in the term, “Never Done.”

When it comes to dynamic pieces of your business – your website, social media, mobile developments, advertising budgets, networking opportunities – “Never Done” will come in handy.

Photo via morgueFile by Alvimann

Completing a Jigsaw Puzzle Like SmallBizTracks

640px-Jigsaw_puzzle_01_by_ScoutenCompleting a jigsaw puzzle can be a huge task. That’s why when someone brings one out on a snow day, they try to recruit others to join in a team effort.

We can look at puzzles as a big job (could take days) or divide it up like a SmallBizTracks series of  smaller projects (might take a few hours). Let’s try the latter.

SmallBizTracks Way – Completing a Jigsaw Puzzle

  • Preparation – Find a flat surface and turn all the pieces right side up: Preparation is always an important first step. It allows for discovery of the shapes and sizes while developing ideas on what it will take to complete the job.
  • Track 1Find the Border Pieces: The framework acts as a scaffolding to the rest of the tracks to build from. They are easy to track and find because of their unique shape and gives those involved a sense of structure.
  • Track 2Find a Big Focal Point: In puzzling, we might look for the roof of the barn or the lighthouse. In business, we might look for the project that is most important to the business owner or an important touchpoint for the customer.
  • Track 3Find Other Focal Points: In puzzling, these focal points are smaller sections (a bicycle, the boats, tree trunks). In business, these would often be administrative pieces, back-end tasks or items not seen by the customer.
  • Track 4Fill in the Holes: As you work on the above projects and compare to the picture on the box (or the scope document), minor piece will linger and find their place.
  • Closing - Back in the Box or Frame It: Once the project is done, measure it by putting it in front of your public and letting them use it – or put it back in its box and on the shelf.

Tackling larger projects with a series of smaller projects allows for the main thing (your customers and your business operation) to remain the main thing. Like a jigsaw puzzle, the pieces must fit for the picture to become complete.

Photo by Björn Larsson via Wikimedia w/ cc

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