Vicki James, PMP, CBAP

The Project Pro

Category Archives: Small Business

Secrets to More Subscribers, Readers, and Referrals from Your Email Marketing Campaign

“Social media is the word-of-mouth on steroids.” Dana Pethia

Yesterday I attended a Small Business Event hosted by Constant Contact and the Thurston Chamber. I had signed up specifically to hear Dana Pethia and to learn more about Constant Contact as an email service for Professional Project Services and a couple of professional organizations that I support. What I came away with was also a wealth of best practices in email and social media marketing to share with my consultant and small business friends.

Having an email list allows you to send information to those that have indicated an interest. Email is a way to establish a relationship with the customer and let them know your services, accomplishments, and ways you can help them. It keeps you visible so that they remember you and your services. Email has an added benefit of being easy to forward making it easier for subscribers to refer you to their friends. An email service makes establishing, maintaining, and distributing to your email subscribers easy and efficient.

Get subscribers

  • Ask! 57% of customers will fill out a card for email alerts
  • Offer information in exchange for subscription (an article, presentation, coupon)
  • Use a QR code to point smart phone users to an email sign-up form
  • Provide a “text to join” option
  • Include a link to sign up in your business email signature
  • Add an email sign-up link to your social media account profiles
  • Establish email segments to allow customers to sign up for specific topics that interest them
  • Do not ask for more than five bits of information on the sign-up form
  • Establish and share a privacy policy indicating you will not share or sell email addresses
  • Let people know what they will get and how often
  • Provide a previous sample to show potential customer what they will receive

Get Readers

  • The From line should show that the email is from you or your business, not an email service
  • The Subject line should provide incentive to open email. Not summarize all that is in the newsletter
  • Use links to point to online content. Do not fill the email body up with too much information
  • Use formatting, pictures, and white spaces (how about a relevant cartoon or video) to make your email visually appealing and easy to read

Get Referrals

  • Share your email online archive across all of your social media sites so to make it easy for your connections broadcast
  • Include a share bar (tool for the reader to share your information) in your emails to make it easy for readers to forward
  • Ask subscribers to share your content
  • Offer discounts or incentives for customers that provide referrals

This is timely information as I start thinking about my next monthly newsletter. I now have some improvements and changes to make. In the meantime, please join my email list to get my monthly newsletter, discounts, and goodies. Thank you!

See the event flyer for more information on sponsors and speakers of this great event.

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Disclaimer: The workshop was hosted by Constant Contact. There are other services available that provide similar functionality including MailChimp, AWeber, Your Mailing List Provider, and more. This is not intended to be a specific endorsement of Constant Contact.

Big Meeting, Big Challenge

Too often, we are  in big meetings without the single most important tool that can guarantee meeting success. A successful meeting is one that meets the purpose and goals intended. I am talking about the kind of meeting where you end up with lots of post it notes on the wall, brainstorm lists everywhere, a large parking lot, and yet no one can say we met the purpose or that anything meaningful happened. The results are often more meetings of the full group, or subgroups to, sort through what actually happened. There is a solution to avoid this scenario. That is a meeting facilitator.

We have all done it. Facilitated a meeting that where we needed participate. The problem is that we are not neutral in this case. It is too easy to lose focus when because of information or personalities. It also doesn’t work when those you chose to include in the meeting now feels as if their participation was not valued because  the meeting was led and not facilitated. On the other hand, maybe you refrained from participating as much as you need to keep your “facilitator” hat on. A facilitator will bring a neutral, objective voice to your meeting and help make sure that all participants have an equal voice and leave the meeting with a sense that their participation was valuable.

Your meeting will be more effective when the purpose and goals are clear in advance. Maybe you do not know yet, but we can help with that too. We plan the event, organize the venue and other needs, and work with meeting participants in advance to help set the stage a productive meeting. You hired the facilitator for meeting preparation. It is her primary focus and not something to fit in between other work. A well-prepared, marketed, and equipped meeting will show importance to meeting participants and give them the signal that preparation and timely attendance is required. We have a vast array of tools in our toolkit that to move the meeting in the direction needed to meet your goals.

Consider hiring a facilitator for your next meeting. The time saved in meeting your goals quickly will pay for the cost of the facilitator.

Professional Project Services Facilitation Services

  • Project Kickoff
  • Lessons Learned
  • Requirements Elicitation
  • Stakeholder Education
  • Team Building
  • Strategic Planning Session
  • Root cause analysis and corrective action planning

Rates:

  • $500 – 1/2 day
  • $800 – Full Day
  • $750 – Per Day for more than 1 day
  • Travel costs including overnight stay if more than 70 miles from Olympia, WA
  • Includes time for preparation and follow up

Contact me at vicki@project-pro.us or 360.951.1873 for more information.

Image: sixninepixels / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Big Knowledge Required for Small Business

My brother, Vance, is a typical small business owner. Ask Vance what he does he will respond he “styles hair.” Fair enough. He does do that and has for over 20 years. His expertise is hair. He also does marketing, scheduling, client relations, bookkeeping, and taxes. No small business owner only does that thing that his business is. He must understand and be able to do all the administrative stuff to succeed. There is more to know than ever before as the Internet creates a world of greater sophistication. Access to quality information in these areas is limited. The limitation is not in the information, but in the small business owner’s ability to find, sort, and apply what is useful and beneficial. The good news is that there are many small business owners whose expertise is marketing or scheduling or client relations or bookkeeping and taxes, and so on. Business to business education is one way to help fill the gaps.

Professional Project Services is offering a business-to-business education opportunity in the Olympia area. Lunch to Learn is a series of workshops by small business for small business. We will offer a new workshop each month with practical information to make the administrative functions of your business easier to manage and more productive. Attendees will walk away from each session with a tool, concept, or action to support their business.

April is Social Media month. Mathias Eichler of Einmaleins will be providing information on how to use social media to grow your small business. Participants will walk away with basic information on the major social media networks, including their strengths and weaknesses. For Vance, he may want to concentrate on Facebook as a way to share pictures of the latest styles, tools, and techniques he has available. A freelance writer may be better off with LinkedIn, which has been described as “your resume on steroids” to share accomplishments. Mathias will help unravel the myths, benefits, and drawback of various social media platforms so that the small business owner can step further into the world of social media with greater certainty.

Phil Christensen, CPA will be presenting small business accounting and tax information in May. This is a topic that I have held very dear after having experiences with two different clients from a previous business that owed the federal government significant amounts of money simply because they didn’t understand how Federal withholding worked. Phil will offer the basic information that small business owners need so that they compliant with local, state, or federal findings and fines. Having a hired accountant is great. Having a basic understanding yourself is even better.

Please visit the registration website at http://pps-lunch2learn.eventbrite.com/ if you are in the Olympia area and are interested in more information. Sign-up for the “backstage” pass to get a discount code goof for 25% off. Not in Olympia? Check with your local chamber of commerce, economic development agencies, or local community education providers for similar opportunities in your area.

Achieve Success with Focus

Lately, the word “focus” has come up repeatedly as essential to identifying and achieving business success. I know I struggle in this area in starting Professional Project Services. There are so many fun and exciting things to do, who can pick where to start?

Last Saturday I made the right decision on where to spend my energy. I saw the date for an event creeping up on my calendar and had a hard time getting excited. I hoped that it turned out to be an inspiring morning and happily, I was not let down. The National Speakers Association Northwest event was a four-hour seminar lead by Mark LeBlanc on Growing Your Business When You are the Business. I walked away with two simple strategies involving “focus” that will help me become more profitable with my business in less time.

The first strategy is to focus on the single “profit center” that will most help you meet your financial targets for the month.

  1. Each morning ask “what am I doing today to get to book my optimistic monthly revenue target”
  2. Each evening ask “what did I do today to get to book my optimistic monthly revenue target”

These do not have to be big things. In fact, Mark says he rarely spends more than an hour a day working on his three baby steps each day. Just do three things that will support generating new revenue in that area.

The other strategy is the idea to reach out to connect with one contact in support of your primary business each day. Mark recommends that this be a phone call and I can see how much more meaningful that phone call will be compared to an email or social network tools. I have written in earlier posts about how powerful a connection can prove to be without any insight and or idea of what benefits they can bring. You help make sure that your connections remain your connections by reaching out to – remind them that you are out there with the services you offer and gain insights into where you could be of help in their lives.

I have many ideas when it comes to what I want to do in my business and often feel like a pinball in deciding what to work on each day. My 3-5 year vision is that I am on the speaking circuit and writing books to help project professionals and leaders realize the greatest success in the projects they take on. My project experience tells me that greater success comes from focusing on the activities that will bring the biggest benefit to my business. What brings me the biggest value five years from now is not what is of value to build my business and reputation as I work toward that long-term vision. Instead, I need to ask myself, “What is most valuable to me today?” Hearing Mark’s strategies is what has convinced me I need to adjust my short-term focus. Each day I will do three things, plus make one contact, that help me book technical training events for project managers and business analysts. My other business strategies will benefit from this focus and help me to achieve my vision.

Have you experienced this? You buy a new car, a make and model you had not paid any particular attention to in the past. All of a sudden, you see your new car everywhere. That is what has happened to me since I had this Mark inspired epiphany on my business. Yesterday I ran across an article on Harvard Business Review that talks about how Steve Jobs turned Apple around by making them streamline their product line and focus on what their consumers needed most. Then today again, I get my highly anticipated CBSNews email and find an article on Three Key Mistakes to Avoid in Setting Goals. Can you guess what number 2 on the list was? That is right, too many goals. We need focus.

You can help. I am looking for opportunities to go on the road to speak. I would love to come to your local PMI or IIBA event to a present any of my one-hour presentations. I am working on solidifying the curriculum on a program specifically designed for Business Analysts. I will offer this BA training in your local area as part of my travel plan. I may ask for a little help in marketing the program in your area as well.

Just one more tiny favor to ask. Please check out Mark’s website and found out how he can help you or your organization.

Thank you!

Referenced Links:

Image: Danilo Rizzuti / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Empathy and Integrity: A Vision and a Promise

Actions Speak Louder than WordsI recently read The 2 Most Important Words in Business (forbes.com) and liked the idea that two words describing my philosophy will help shape my business and help others understand me. When it came to thinking of my words, I fell flat. My initial thought was “better” and “value.” While it is true that I want to provide better value to my clients (small local business, government and corporate clients, and students of project management or business analysis alike), it is not the definitive description of me. It was a personal struggle that made me take a second look. What I found is that the values I appreciate most in others are what drives me in my everyday interactions when these values are lacking.

Empathy

Empathy is not just the ability to imagine yourself in the other’s situation, but also the ability to think ahead to possible situations. This means that before I provide you information, I am going to ask myself “how would I take this information?”, “knowing what I do about the person, how are they likely to receive it?” This does not mean that all information I pass on will be welcomed. It is important that I be able to share any observation or recommendation so that I can provide you benefit as your consultant or coach. Being empathetic means that I will think through options, provide additional information as to why, and support the other person in whatever action they must take.

Integrity

“Say what you mean, and do as you say.”

The other day I was heads down in my computer when I glanced at the calendar on my phone and realized I was 10-minutes late to meet with a potential business connection. WOW! How I missed the reminders for that I will never know, but I did. I called her immediately, apologized, and told her I could be at our meeting spot in 10 minutes. She had already given up and left but thanked me profusely for the call. I felt horrible about missing our appointment time and still do. This is so rare for me. I have since added more reminders tools on my laptop and phone in hopes that it never happens again. I share this story to let you know that those rare times where I make an mistake I am quick to own up to it, apologize, and try to make things right.

I am always truthful and candid. Bad news makes for better decisions then sugarcoated news. Sugarcoating is for cereal! I deliver bad news empathically and truthfully. It may mean additional research into options to present, or simply lending an ear to the receiver to help work through the problem.

You can always count on me to keep my commitments. I will let you know as soon as possible if I find there is a chance I will not be able keep a deadline or appointment. The thought of wasting somebody’s time is comparable to wasting his money and is not acceptable. The best way to avoid wasting others’ time is to be early or on time. The second best way is to provide ample time to the other so they may adjust their plans.

Professional Project Services Vision Statement

PPS delivers information with empathy and integrity to those who seek to understand better ways to achieve their goals.

Be a Master, Not a Jack – Business to Business Consulting

You have probably heard the expression “a jack of all trades, a master of none.” It is not a compliment, so hopefully nobody has said this about you. Generally, this comment is about those people who try to do everything, even things they may necessarily be skilled at. I recall when my dad and a “buddy” decided to take down a tree in our back yard and it landed in the middle of Ruddell Road. Luckily, no cars or people were hit.

As small business owners, we want to be a jack of all trades to save money. But does it work that way? Two factors to consider are the value of our own time and the risk that something could go wrong. Think about it. Do you change the oil in your car yourself? Do you clean your own teeth?

How much is your time worth? We never seem to have enough time or money. Do you know how much money your time is worth? If you are deferring billable time for that other task, then your charge rate applies. For every hour you are working on administrative tasks, such as your company books, you are losing that money. Admittedly, we probably are not doing the books in place of work that we can bill to a client. We are spending our “off time” doing these administrative things. At what cost? Do you have enough time for your family, friends, and yourself? My housekeeping is seriously neglected as a result of my “off work” work. Don’t expect an invite to my home office for a meeting.

There are many factors to considering when putting a price tag on your time. Hours spent doing client work, time available and spent with family and friends, the amount of sleep you need to function well. What I found helpful is to a put a dollar value on every hour of my work. Only you can decide the dollar amount. I recommend putting that thought aside until I can finish my case here.

Here is how it works. My time is worth $50 an hour to me . That means I am willing to pay myself $50 for every hour I save. I now have a task for developing a flyer for an upcoming Lunch to Learn series for local business. I can probably pull something together that I am happy with within three hours, add another hour for editing after proof and the cost to me for the design is $200. A quick search on the internet tells me that I can expect to pay at least $500 to have one designed. At first glimpse, it appears designing my own brochure is the best way to go.

This is where risks of something going wrong has to play into the decision. Several things could go wrong

  • I use a horrible combinations of colors that make it so no one wants to read the brochure
  • I find that I actually spent 10 hours designing away ($500 value) and still not satisfied with the way it looks (more money)
  • I discover that the way I formatted it means I cannot fold it as I intended and still have the pages in the right order

The point in doing a brochure is to market a service. All of this time will be a complete waste if the result is not people reading the brochure and deciding to take part in the event. That is a lot to lose. Hiring a design professional will cut these risks and give a better quality product in the end. I know this first hand from a past job. I designed a brochure to promote a service my then employer offered. I spent a lot of time on it and was pretty happy with the result. When I shared this with management, they liked the idea and the content, but insisted on sending to their graphics design firm. The result was amazing. Instead of feeling that someone had taken over my project, I felt extremely proud to have contributed to a fantastic marketing tool. In truth, the money spent on professional design was time well spent and gave the company a better image.

Here is another quick example for you. I knew I needed a logo when I first went into business myself in 2010. I didn’t know any graphics artists and I assumed I wouldn’t be able to afford one even if I did. I set off to design my logo. I found an online tool to help develop a logo. Developing the logo through the site was free, but downloading a printable copy cost $25. I spent about 5 hours playing with various looks and colors and ended up downloading two versions, total cost $50. I ended up not pursing my business until a year and a half later. I cringe when I now look at that logo. I know many more people today than I did then due to extensive networking. I contact Kraken Design and said, “I need a logo”. One quick meeting, two weeks, and about $500 later (prices may vary), I now have a new logo. Can you tell the $50 logo from the $500 logo?

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Preston Porter of Kraken Design is a master of graphics design. I clearly am not. If I want to look like a master in consulting then I need to rely on people like Preston and their expertise so that I can be credible in my community by looking good as well as save valuable time. I can put this new-found time growing my business in other ways, such as writing this article.

When you need help in the administrative functions of managing your business you will bring much more value to your company by hiring a master to help you. Network to meet wonderful web designers, graphic designers, accountants, legal help, organizational development help, human resource experts, and others who have become a master in their trade and want to do great work for you. You might even score some new clients or leads in the process.

Hint – the orange round logo is the $500 one.

Image: imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Press Release: Small Business Consulting in Olympia

Pic of Vicki JamesProfessional Project Services
Olympia, WA 98502
http://www.project-pro.us
360.951.1873
vicki@project-pro.us

 PRESS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Vicki James
Office: 360.951.1873

Professional Project Services announces small business consulting in Olympia and surrounding areas.

Professional Project Services is pleased to announce that help is now available to small businesses in the South Sound. Whether your requirements are wide-ranging or more specific, Vicki James, Principle, is well-prepared to meet your consulting needs.

Diagnosing the Pain

Is work keeping you up at night? Do you need a hand in figuring out what is causing you the biggest headache? Are you looking at making a change with your business? Perhaps a new location, technology upgrades, new point of sale system, alternative marketing methods, or other growth is in store in 2012. Vicki can help you find the cause of your pain, explore options to treat the source, and evaluate each option so that you understand the impacts to decide the choice that bring you the greatest business value.

Examples:

  • Discover software tools to support working from remote locations such as home
  • Explore a variety of options for developing and maintaining a business website based on your needs (e.g., local web designer, web-based content management)
  • Show you how to use social media tools and accounts to effectively promote and market your business
  • Create a clear vision and mission for your business through development of a Strategic Plan

 

Implementing Change

Vicki will design and lead activities to carry out change effectively. This includes thoughtful planning and communication with you, your employees, and your customers to create an atmosphere of cooperation, collaboration, and excitement for what is to come. Vicki has a wide range of tools available to make any transition smooth, painless, and effective for your organization.

Along with 12 years’ successful experience providing consulting services to support changing business needs, Vicki also holds certification in both business analysis (CBAP) and project management (PMP). Her prior six-year experience as a financial analyst means she understands the bottom line. Vicki has the skills you need to help you achieve your short-term and long-term business dreams.

Visit the Professional Project Services Small Business Pain Reliever page for more information. Here you can preview a sample Options Analysis Report and sign up for your complimentary, no obligation consultation (http://project-pro.us/smallbusiness). Vicki is always happy to refer you to others in her large professional network if she sees that there are better options for your situation.

Professional Project Services is located 60 miles south of Seattle in Olympia, Washington. Vicki can meet with you personally from Marysville to Portland, and offsite services are available anywhere.

Three Hidden Benefits to Networking

I once suggested that a company I was working with to consider joining the local chamber. The response was that the chamber members were not their target audience for sales. It is such a shame because of the opportunities they missed out on. Don’t let this happen to you.

Reduce cost of operating

As time went on I saw more and more needs for this organization crop up that they might have been able to receive cheaper if they had providers in their professional network. Printing, video production, marketing, computer network support, and catering are all examples of the small local businesses that can give real benefit to a company of any size.

Information and access on local services

Oh my, all the things I have learned from networking with local business folk. I didn’t know we had a local video production company in town let alone that the cost of a 30 second web video was comparable or less than design and printing of a business brochure. I now know that there is local business that provides office space, conference rooms, and all the needed amenities to small business owners at a reasonable price. I can’t wait to see what I discover next.

The hidden referral

So maybe the local caterer is not going to need professional custom software development. They may know someone who now, or in the future, who does. My favorite story came to me from Dave Sisk of the Thurston County Chamber of Commerce. This is the story of a small business man who received a referral from a contact to help out a local franchise store with security cameras in the parking lot. The chain was so happy with what he was able to do that they offered him a significant maintenance contract for all the stores. It’s not always who you know, but who you know knows that can lead to the next big gig.

Opportunities

There are many opportunities for local networking. Local chamber of commerce is a good place to start. Also look for more informal and cost-effective events as well. Keep your eye on local business publications to learn more about these.

In Thurston County, Washington:

It Starts With You! Exploring Team Communication Breakdown

There is a phenomenon at the poker table that helps to understand one aspect of breakdown in team communications. Often the action (or play) will get held up because someone does not check, bet, or raise. They simply sit there. Everyone at the table assumes this person is thinking about their options. Only this person is wondering who is holding up the action. The general rule is, if you don’t know who is holding up the action – it is you.

Here are some thoughts to consider next time your team is experiences problems due to poor communication.

Great team communication starts with you!

Sender - Focus first on what you know or are doing that might impact anybody else

  • Have you communicated this?
  • Have you communicated the potential impact on other because of the action or change?
  • Have you communicated in a way that will be received?
  • Have you confirmed that everyone received and understood the information?

Receiver - In getting information from others

  • Do you pay careful attention in meetings?
  • Do you refer to meeting notes?
  • Do you ask for clarification?
  • Are you up to date with your email?
  • Are your emails organized so that you can get back to past information?
  • Have you done a search on your email to get earlier information sent?
  • Are you paying attention to what is available on the team collaboration site?
  • Have you stated a preference to the team or team members on how to alert you of new information?

Team member - Working toward a team goal

  • Are your actions in line with the stated current team goals?
    • If not, have you validated that your activity is a valid priority and adjusted the overall work plan with the team?
  • Is anybody waiting on something from you?
  • Is there something you are doing that will help or impact another team member?
  • Have you stated your concerns or thoughts of the current activities towards to team goals to with the team and/or team leader?
  • Have you asked others to give information they have that might have to help you better understand the difference in opinion?
  • Do you given respect to team or team leaders decisions and priorities

Share this post with your team members to encourage introspection for better team communications.

Related Posts:

Vicki is typing…

Image depicting virtual chat

Image by: nokhoog_buchachon / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I have been working with a team where most of our communications are virtual. It is rare that we get together in person with other gigs, commuter issues, and lack of space at the central office prohibiting full team face to face except on rare occasions. Most recently, we have been relying on Google Talk for group chats to conduct our morning Scrum. My observation is this; we are much more polite to each other in the IM setting.

I have been amazed at how rude meeting participants are in every office environment I have worked in. Speaking over the top of each other is the norm rather than the exception. I do not have this in me. I am nearly incapable of talking over the top of someone. Instead I will give “a look” when I have been trying to talk or simply raise my hand to indicate I need a turn. I have had success with a round-robin format for meetings I facilitate. However, often I am a meeting participant rather than facilitator and other times I want to encourage open discussion. I realize I should invest in a “talking stick.” I resist having to go to such lengths to ask for common courtesy.

This does not seem to be an issue in group IM chats. I noticed early on that people seemed to type their say one message at a time. I observed team members while in the office one day and watched someone start to type, realize someone has already started, stop, and wait to see what that person has to say. In rare cases is there a flurry of messages over the top of each other. Why is this? Are we that much more in tune visually that “Vicki is typing…” is stronger than me verbally “but, but…” while jumping up and down in my seat? Is it because it takes more effort to type a response that we are waiting to see if necessary before taking the energy? I hope some of my neuroscience friends have some answers to these questions.

In the meantime, chat anybody? You can find me through Google Talk at Vicki@project-pro.us.

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