Shannon D. Smith

  • Prepare Your Business for Tough Times

    What do you do when the going gets rough? In recent years, we’ve all experienced issues in our business related to global events or economic downturns. What’s happening “over there” can have a huge impact on your small business right here.

    When times get tough, some businesses perish while others not only survive but thrive. You can get through it with flying colors too. The key is to prepare well.

    There are several things that can happen anywhere in the world and have a direct effect on your business.

    Economic Downturns. Economic difficulties can squeeze the market, your customers, or you, forcing everyone to reevaluate how they spend money. Even an economic crash on the other side of the world can be felt locally. You’ll then have to figure out how to meet your customers’ changing needs while your budget is also strained.

    Global Pandemic. In the last few years, we’ve all felt the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. People stayed home more, causing difficulties for small businesses, some of whom closed their doors. Labor shortages and supply chain problems have also trickled down to small local businesses.

    Climate Change. Weird weather patterns caused by climate change are already causing disruptions around the world. Even close to home, heatwaves, droughts, and extreme temperature have caused supply chain problems and economic hardship.

    Cyberattacks. Cyberattacks are increasing at an alarming rate. No business no matter how small is totally safe. A major cyberattack could bring down a city’s power grid, which would cause many problems for businesses and individuals alike.

    War. A conflict even in a far-flung part of the world can have a major impact on supply chains and the globalized economy.

    Personal Problems. Tough times don’t come only from global pandemics and military conflicts. Health, financial, or personal issues in your life, or the lives of members of your market, could have a massive impact on your business.

    Why You Need to Plan for Tough Times NOW

    Many small business owners make the mistake of thinking that they’re safe for now. They know that these problems are on the horizon but figure they’ll cross that bridge when they come to it. After all, resources are already stretched now when times are good.

    But once tough times strike, it’s already too late. This is why you need to start planning and developing strategies now that you can implement before the effects of a disaster are felt. Lay this groundwork and then it will be smooth sailing even when other businesses are struggling.

    Stay Positive

    What makes the difference between businesses that perish during tough times, and ones that survive? It’s having the right attitude.

    The right attitude to weather tough times is to stay positive. You have to meet the challenges with confidence and a success-oriented mind. Things might get tough and you may need to make some drastic changes, so you need to be optimistic about coming out thriving on the other side.

    A positive attitude also gives you motivation. You’ll need this to keep pushing forward when things get hard. It’s easy to give up when the challenges seem insurmountable.

    One more reason you need a positive mindset is that it will help you cope effectively with stress. It’s very easy to get overwhelmed when things are rapidly changing. You should have some effective stress reduction strategies that work, which you can employ when the going gets rough.

    Boost Your Brand

    If your business has a memorable brand, this will help you sail through tough times. During a financial squeeze, customers have less to spend on products and services they need. They will stop buying from most, but continue buying from brands that uniquely meet their needs and share their values.

    You should work on your branding now when times are good and you have the resources. What do you want to be known for? How do your customers see your brand? What unique strengths and core values do they respond to? And how do you stand out from the competition?

    Answer the above questions and formulate this into a brand strategy. Use data from the market to create a strong brand. Reinforce these brand values during tough times and your audience will keep buying from you even when they’re in a pinch.

    Over-Deliver

    Another thing that will help you succeed during tough times is to offer great value. If you consistently offer unbelievable value, there’s no reason for your customers to go anywhere else, even if a competitor offers similar goods and services for a lower price.

    The best way to offer great value is to over-deliver. Gain an understanding of what your customers expect and go above and beyond. When you do this, you create a “wow” experience. The customer feels surprise and delight, and this will keep them buying from you.

    How do you create this “wow” experience? There are several ways. One is to offer outstanding service like free follow-up support or free shipping. Another is to give your audience unexpected freebies or access to paid products. Whatever you offer, make it a surprise with no strings attached and do it on a regular basis.

    Provide the Right Help

    You can provide even better service and value to your customers if you can help them out in this time of need. For example, some companies offered daily news updates on Covid-19 during the global pandemic. Is there any way you can offer support related to the problems they’re facing, or help them save money or time?

    Another way you can help during tough times is by providing diversion. When people are stressed out about things happening in the world, they need something fun and light to get their minds off it.

    You can offer this kind of help by keeping in good communication with your audience and making sure you understand their needs. Find out what they’re going through and look for ways you can help.

    Upgrade Your Content Game

    When times are tough, resources get pinched. This means you don’t have as much budget for going out and grabbing new customers. You may have to scale back your advertising and outbound marketing. However, you can mitigate this by increasing your inbound marketing.

    The best inbound marketing strategy for the digital age is content marketing. With plenty of content published on a regular basis, you’ll keep attracting new customers to your business without needing the resources of outbound. This is a more effective and lower cost alternative.

    How well do you know your customers? Spend some time gathering feedback so you know the issues and problems they face. Then, you can use your expertise to create content that helps them solve these issues. Create an editorial calendar and publish your content. Even when budgets tighten, you’ll have this material out there bringing in new leads.

    Whether tough times have affected your business yet or not, it’s a certainty that they’re on their way. Be proactive and prepare, and you’ll find it easy to keep your customers with you and come out thriving on the other side.

  • 5 Valuable Tips to Shift Any Mindset

    The way you think has a huge impact on how you see yourself, how you feel, and how you approach the tasks you need to do each day. It takes time to transform your mindset for success, but here are 5 things you can start doing today that will make a difference.

    Practice Meditation

    Get into a daily meditation practice. Meditation helps you to foster peace of mind and clarity. It reduces stress and allows you to focus. In addition to the benefits in your mindset, you’ll also find yourself more self-aware and emotionally balanced.

    There are many ways to meditate but most follow the same pattern. Sit somewhere relaxing and set a timer. Breathe deeply and clear your mind of thoughts, focusing on your breath. If you get distracted, shift your attention back to your breathing. Enjoy the sense of calm until the timer goes off.

    Start a Gratitude Journal

    Gratitude helps your shift your mindset by giving you a positive outlook. If someone asked you right now what you’re grateful for, would it be easy to answer? Focus on what you have rather than what you lack, and you’ll be operating from a satisfied and generous place.

    Writing a gratitude journal helps you keep these good things in the forefront of your mind so you can stay positive. At some point in the day, write down some things you’re grateful for, no matter how big or small.

    Celebrate Wins

    Celebrate all your wins, no matter how small they might be. This allows you to observe your progress and embrace positivity. You’ll see yourself getting closer to success.

    Break down all of your goals into smaller sub-goals and action steps. Try to make progress daily, if possible. That way, you can celebrate a win every day.

    Surround Yourself with Positive People

    It’s hard to be positive when you’re surrounded by negative people. Make it a point to share space with friends and family who inspire and support you.

    This doesn’t mean that you have to ditch old friends or that people have to be all ‘rainbows and unicorns’ when they’re around you.

    But prioritize collaborative, warm, and authentic relationships that nurture growth and foster the development of a success mindset.

    Make Time for the Things You Love

    Setting aside some time each day to do the things you love can have a dramatic effect on everything else you do. You’ll feel happy and fulfilled as you go about your work. You’ll also have something wonderful to look forward to as you’re dealing with the regular hassles and stresses of life. Choose a time that works for you, limit distractions and obligations, and enjoy.

    Get Started Now

    These small changes will not only shift your mindset so you’re happier and more fulfilled, but they’ll also boost success. So, what are you waiting for?

  • Use Storytelling to Connect with Your Audience and Build Your Personal Brand

    We follow brands for many different reasons. We share their values, we like their products, we find their content helpful, etc. One huge reason is that we resonate with the story behind the brand.

    As part of your personal branding, you need to craft and tell a good story. If you look at the companies you love, you’ll discover that each one has a powerful story behind it that resonates with you and your values.

    Why Storytelling Works

    Stories are powerful because:

    • They put a human face on your business
    • People naturally love and are engaged by stories
    • A good story offers one more way to communicate your values
    • Stories engender trust because they explain “why”
    • People relate to stories, especially when they see themselves in them

    Your Founding Story

    An essential story that you absolutely must tell is how your brand came to be. Most of these stories have a similar plot arc:

    ·       You suffered from some seemingly insurmountable problem (which is the same problem or one problem that your audience faces)

    ·       You went through all sorts of frustrations, just as your audience is now

    ·       You came upon a simple idea and decided to give it a try

    ·       The idea worked and got results, and now you’re here to teach others how to do it

    Of course, this isn’t the only good founding story. But the above story is powerful because it says: “I overcame your problem, and I can help you overcome it too.”

    Other Ideas for Personal Branding Stories

    At the very least, you should develop a story that tells about the founding of your brand, but there are many other ways you can use storytelling as well:

    • When you talk about your life and especially your business, what do people find most interesting about your journey? This is a story that needs to be told.
    • Explain how you came up with an idea for a certain product. Pick your best product or the one you most want to see increase in sales.
    • Think of specific challenges you faced along the way or major milestones you met and turn each into a piece of content you can share.
    • Tell the story of a customer or client that you helped. Even better, have them tell the story. You can use this as a piece of social proof.

    There are stories everywhere waiting to be told. It’s just a matter of finding them.

    Where to Share Your Stories

    You can use storytelling in blog posts, YouTube videos, the “About” page of your website, social media, and anywhere else you publish content. You don’t have to be a master storyteller. Just get out there and explain to people why you do what you do, and it’ll have the desired effect.

    If you want to know about more ways to develop a powerful personal brand, then schedule a free consultation. During this 30minute call, we’ll discuss your challenges and my framework that can help you amplify your personal brand and attract the clients or opportunities you really want!

  • Ladies, Stop Playing Small!

    As women, it’s easy to read a magazine and feel empowered when Oprah tells us, “This is your moment. Own it.” On the next page Beyoncé purrs, “the most alluring thing a woman can have is confidence.”

    The women of Hollywood are always cheering us on. Taylor Swift says, “Happiness and confidence are two of the prettiest things you can wear.”

    But how do you feel sitting outside your manager’s office before you ask for a raise? Alone in the doctor’s office, you learn you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes.

    What then? Can we “shake it off” and stroll into the world like boss babes? Empowering words wither when life strikes a blow. How can we empower ourselves in the real world?

    Empowerment Defined

    According to Merriam-Webster, empowerment is “the act or action of empowering someone or somethingthe granting of the power, right, or authority to perform various acts or duties.” The United Nations says women’s empowerment should give “women access to full participation in all sectors and at all levels of economic activity… (to build) strong economies.”

    For many women, empowerment is about feeling comfortable and confident enough to state their desire without fear of reprisal. It’s less a state of mind and more a growth process.

    How Do I Become Empowered?

    Declaring yourself empowered works about as well as Michael Scott “declaring bankruptcy” in The Office. Empowerment is elusive until you create an environment where your confidence can flourish.

    Step One: Self-reflection

    Whether you’re navigating office politics or a health issue, empowerment starts by facing your fears. Confidence is smothered in the presence of its enemy, fear. So ask yourself what scares you about asking for a raise, then shed light on that fear.

    Write it down, share it with a friend, play the “worst case scenario” game. Many times, once fear is brought into the light, it loses its ability to steal your power.

    Step Two: Take Action

    Once fear is taken down a notch, it’s time to take action. Remove the obstacles in your path, even if one of the obstacles is yourself.

    • Create habits that breed success
      Need to lose weight? Make early morning workouts easier by laying out your clothes and preparing your water bottle the night before. Find an accountability partner who is not afraid to call you out when you slack off. If you know you have a proclivity for candy bars from the office vending machine, then think ahead and stock healthy trail mix and fruit at your desk each week.
    • Address your deficiencies
      Are you tongue-tied in high-pressure office situations or do you frequently find yourself on the losing end of propositions in life and business? Consider taking a course on negotiation. Coursera.org offers the free course, “Introduction to Negotiation: A Strategic Playbook for Becoming a Principled and Persuasive Negotiator” to help build your skills in forming arguments and untangling conflict.
    • Polish your public speaking skills
      Whether you’re an entry-level peon or a CEO, public speaking skills are integral to confidently engaging with an audience—whether it’s two people or 2,000. Toastmasters International is a non-profit organization that connects community members interested in practicing public speaking skills. Visit the website to find a group near you.

    Step Three: Embrace the Process

    Just as a ship takes time to change course, navigating your life toward empowerment will not happen overnight. Take baby steps and choose one area where you’d like to take control and chart new territory. Small victories can propel progress in other areas, and soon you’ll be well on your way to an empowered life.

  • Give Yourself Permission To Be You

    How often do you allow yourself to be 100% completely your true and authentic self? Many people like to believe that they’re always comfortable being themselves and presenting their real selves to the rest of the world, but this isn’t always the case.

    If you want to seriously embrace your life and everything the world has to offer you, learning how to give yourself permission to be you and be real is an essential skill.

    Why do some people not give themselves permission to be real or be themselves?

    There are tons of reasons why someone may not feel comfortable giving themselves permission to be real or be themselves around others. For example:

    1. They may feel insecure about some aspect of themselves.

    Whether it’s a hangup they experience about their body, their personality, their hobbies, or any other facet of themselves, if a person has a specific insecurity, it can hinder them from being real or acting like themselves – especially around others.

    1. They may be uncertain of who their “real self” even is.

    Some people have trouble giving themselves permission to be real and be themselves because they don’t really know themselves. While it seems strange that a person may not understand who they are, it happens often!

    People may believe they like certain things or hold certain beliefs, but when they explore past the surface of those thoughts, they may realize they only like or believe those things because of the other people in their lives influencing them. Once separated from those outside influences, they may struggle to understand who they really are.

    1. They may be afraid of how others will feel or react when presented with their real self.

    Showing your real self to others can be frightening because you don’t always know how the other people might react. Rather than risking embarrassment or alienation from a group of people because of who you truly are, you may decide to not be yourself or be real about who you are.

    If you struggle to give yourself permission to be real and be yourself, what can you do to make it feel easier?

    It takes practice, patience, and time to embrace who you really are so you can be yourself and be real with others. To make the process feel a little easier, consider the following strategies:

    1. If you have a people pleasing habit, drop it.

    People pleasers are folks who will do anything and everything they can to stay in the good graces of others. Often, when you’re working so hard to please others and make them happy, you’re denying yourself the ability to be honest, open, and comfortable because you’re fighting against who you really are to be more pleasing to someone else.

    Rather than going to extremes to make someone happy, tone down your immediate urge to go over the top and stick to what really feels right for you to do.

    1. Identify your personal strengths and embrace them.

    Everyone has a set of personal strengths. These are qualities and talents you possess that make you stand out among others. To make it easier to be you and be real, identify your strengths and allow yourself to play to them.

    When you have chances to use your talents or skills, do it. If certain qualities about yourself shine in some situations, use them to your advantage. Focusing on your personal strengths is a great way to acclimate being real and being yourself around others.

    1. Remember that most people aren’t analyzing you as harshly as you believe they are.

    Many people believe they are constantly being watched, judged, or analyzed by others. This is definitely not the case! Most people are consumed with their own thoughts and business. They may notice you, but it is highly unlikely that other people are examining you as closely as you might believe they are. Use this as a reminder to help yourself relax, especially in social situations where there are more people around and use that knowledge to let your true self shine through.

    1. Consider who you’re spending most of your time with: Are they good for you?

    Take a moment to consider who you’re spending most of your time around. Are these people actually a good influence on your life?

    If you’re trying to spend more time with people who make you feel uncomfortable, as if you can’t really be yourself and be real with them, you may need to reconsider your friend group.

    Sometimes the problem lies with the people you’re trying to spend your time with rather than yourself. If the people you want to socialize with are making you feel like you can’t fully be yourself around them, reconsider your relationship with these people and upgrade your circle of influence.