Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Reinventing Yourself on Your Birthday

Last night my husband and I celebrated my birthday at Blue Wasabi at Hilton Village in Scottsdale and I was reminded of how many times I have reinvented myself over the last 30 years.

First I was Student Suzanne. I didn't know what to do with my life so I went back to school at age 24 after dabbling in the world of the entrepreneur. I started a business in school and became Wholesale Suzanne. I did that for four years in Hawaii and got a terminal case of island fever. Then I moved to Scottsdale, Arizona and became Retail Suzanne. I did that for ten years and got bored. Then I reinvented myself and became Financial Suzanne. For four years I lived in the corporate world and observed the rules of the 8-5 world. Yearning for my own business again, I became Business Coach Suzanne. And here I am today living my passion. There's no way I can get bored as Coach Suzanne, as there are so many places I can take this business, so I'll be here for quite some time.

If you are stuck in a job or business that bores you, don't put up with it. Life is meant to be lived! Wouldn't you rather live your passion than live a life on terms that don't suit you?

Grow Your Business and Prosper!
Suzanne Muusers
Business Coach for Entrepreneurs and Financial Advisors

Monday, January 28, 2008

Stages of a Start Up – What the Entrepreneur Can Expect

Many of my clients have wanted to know what they can expect when starting a business in regards to cashflow, marketing, how to get referrals, and how long it all takes. So here's an article I wrote for ezinearticles.com about the Stages of a Start Up - What the Entrepreneur Can Expect.

When you were starting out in business, no one told you it would take two to four years to become an "overnight success", did they?

That's because no one really knows how much time it takes to become financially successful in a new business venture. It tends to be different for everyone, based on your skills as an entrepreneur, your start up budget, and your willingness to take risks.

Throughout the years I have noticed a distinct "start up path" with my coaching clients. It can be a rough pathway, at times a jungle, but getting there is half the fun. In this article, we are going to investigate the stages of a start up entrepreneur. We'll take a look at what a hypothetical entrepreneur can expect and what to watch out for. We'll examine some "what ifs" and lay out an entrepreneurial path that you may or may not chose to follow.

Year One – Getting Your Name Out There

At this stage you're an infant business owner. You're learning who you are; what you're good at. You're the person with the "big idea" and you begin to recognize that you might be able to make money at it.

You may decide to keep your "day job" for the first year to provide income while you're building the business. Learning to be patient is essential during this phase because you're likely doing a lot and not getting much in return in the way of income. But that's ok. You may need to save 6 to 12 months of living expenses to augment your income when you leave the safety net of your day job.

So you begin to experiment with company names. You investigate legal entities for your business, depending on whether you'll have partners or go it alone. You print your first business card. It's not the best example of a cohesive brand, but it will do for now. You use your cell phone as your business phone number. Your home computer becomes your business computer.

You begin to develop your 30 second commercial. It's a bit shaky, but it gets the point across. You start the networking circuit to build awareness. You want to hit the ground running and you're a little disappointed that the revenue doesn't roll in as fast as you thought.

You land a few clients. You're elated, but it wears off quickly. You keep going. You're undercharging and working long hours, but you may not recognize it at this point. How can someone who works so much make so little? Oh well, you keep going.

Year Two – Growing the Garden

At this stage you've grown up a little to become a teenager business owner. You're getting better at what you do and the word is getting out. You're still working like mad, but it's all starting to make sense.

You recognize that you'll need a better Brand if you're going to attract better clients, so if you're smart you hire a professional designer and do a brand overhaul. You re-work your 30 second commercial and it starts to sound more like you. You come up with a great benefit driven tagline and excellent copy to market yourself. You redesign your website and re-create your marketing materials based on your newfound knowledge and you get out there again to sell yourself.

When it’s time to get a paycheck, you'll need to determine a reasonable salary for someone in a similar position. Don't get greedy though. Keep your lifestyle modest with an eye to the future. You are building a business empire but you'll need to reinvest your profits for quite some time.

You begin to realize that growing your business is a bit like being a gardener. You're building relationships that plant seeds which grow into vines. In time, flowers on the vines will bloom. Some vines may take longer to bloom than others and may need additional fertilizer and loving care. Eventually, though, many vines bloom with elaborate intricate flowers yielding strong business relationships that benefit your company for many years.

At the end of this stage you raise your fees which has a big impact on your profitability. You realize it's better to charge at the higher end of the market. You may lose a client or two, but you'll have more cash in the bank and more free time to enjoy your personal life.

Year Three – Becoming an Expert

Congratulations on becoming an adult business owner! Clients you worked with in year one and two are referring business to you. You realize how powerful referrals are and you work on developing a distinct referral strategy.

You've invested in additional education and certification in your field. This gives you credibility and allows you to be more selective in choosing your clients. You no longer have to take the clients that give you headaches and don’t pay their bills. People are coming to you with questions because they recognize that you have the expertise to provide the answers. Your close ratio has improved significantly because the referrals you receive are already pre-sold on your services. This means you don’t have to work as hard as you did in the past. You’ve got more time for yourself, more time to live your life.

By now you've built network of contacts and you've established yourself as an entrepreneur in the business community. The relationships you worked so hard to build are beginning to provide a return on investment. You've identified the networking groups that yield the best results, and you've let others fall by the wayside.

You're now making more revenue and you're excited about the possibilities you envisioned since day one. Suddenly there's more money for extras. The old worn out office desk has out lived out its usefulness and you begin to shop around for something more suitable. You decide to invest in new technology and systems that you'll need to be more efficient.

Year Four – Reaping the Rewards

You are now a mature business owner and a master-gardener. Your many vines have ripened with age and are producing hoards of beautiful blooms that reach geographical areas you never imagined. You need only to fertilize and water the vines occasionally to keep them healthy and happy.

By this time you have figured out how to take your company to the next level. You've created a virtual business and a team of experts to guide you: Employees or independent contractors, Attorneys, Accountants, Business Coaches, Mentors, Financial Advisors, Graphic Designers, Writers, and anyone else you may need to help build your wealth. You realize that you don't have to do everything yourself. There are others out there who specialize in what you need and they can easily be on your team. All you have to do ask them.

Business comes to you easily and frequently. You’ve developed a reputation as a specialist in a specific area by leveraging the power of niche marketing. Your referral partners know when to send you business. You receive new client inquires almost daily and you've learned to clone yourself and refer business to others on your team.

Your new business comes from referrals, the internet, and networking. You write about your specialty, you speak to groups with confidence, and you are well known in the community.


Your four-year "overnight success" was a long road to travel. You learned that you need the support of your spouse, friends, and family to get you through each start up phase. Going forward you may need the support of a coach or a mentor – someone to hold you accountable for your key success actions. This point is critical. It's focused action that gets results, not rhetoric or vision.

©Copyright 2007- Suzanne Muusers - All Rights Reserved

Reprint Rights: You may reprint this article as long the article is printed in its entirety including the about the author information, you leave all the links active, and you do not edit the article in any way, and include the copyright statement.

About the author
Suzanne Muusers is a Business Coach and Business Expert based in Scottsdale, Arizona and is the creator of The Two Page Mini Business Plan. She is a credentialed member of the International Coach Federation and works exclusively with entrepreneurs and financial advisors who want to leave behind their lives as business workers to become business owners earning six figures and above annually. Visit her site: http://www.prosperitycoaching.biz/

Friday, January 25, 2008

Branding YOU – Should You Put Your Photo on Your Business Card?

I was at a networking event this week having a pleasant conversation with a nice fellow about Branding and how to set yourself apart in the marketplace. We were discussing the benefits of using a professional designer to create a brand for your business.

Upon handing him my business card he said "I see that you have your photo on your business card. I've been told that it's not a good idea to do that. What do you think?"

I have my photo on my business card because I'm in a relationship building business and I want to be memorable. Think about all the business cards you collect when attending networking events. You get back the office and sort through the stack. Very few business cards stand out and you're challenged to remember who the person was days or weeks later. Having a photo on your business card helps people remember you. People do business with those they know, like and trust. If they can remember you, that's the first step.

That's not to say that any photo will do. It must be the right kind of photo. It should be taken by a professional. You must be wearing professional attire. And it helps to have a pleasant, friendly expression on your face. It also makes sense to use a photo that looks like you, not some glamour shot.

So what else should you include on your business card if you want to have the best darn card out there?

Business Name and Title - I know it seems obvious, but try to include enough information on your business card so that people know what you do for a living. I don't know how many times I've been handed a business card that didn't tell me what the person does. Either they haven't named their business correctly, or they don't have a title. So, be clear and don't forget your title.

Business Address – These days it seems that more and more businesses are not including a snail mail address on their business card. To me this imparts a sense of "we operate out of a bedroom in our house". List your business address and if you do operate from home, and are concerned about privacy, rent a street address from one of those mailboxes companies.

Phone Number – Of course it's obvious that you need a phone number on your business card. But it's no longer necessary to crowd your card with a fax number. With so much business being done via email, the fax has become somewhat obsolete. This will also help you to get less spam via fax.

Email Address – Ensure that you are presenting a professional image to your prospects by including a professional email address. Yourname@yourcompany.com is far better than lovetoride@yahoo.com.

Tagline – If you want to look "pulled together" in a branding sort of way, spend some time strategizing around what type of tagline to use on your business card. Try to think like your target client when brainstorming. A tagline that is about how great you are doesn't do much for your target client. Create a BENEFIT-DRIVEN tagline. And don't say your service is excellent. Everyone says that.

Website Domain Name – This is a no brainer. Any entrepreneur who doesn't have a website these days really isn't on the map as far as professionalism is concerned. To really take this a step further, tell them to go to your website to get something for free. A free report, articles, resources, and things that they could really use. For that matter, you can also direct them to your blog.

Listing of Services or Benefits – I actually prefer a listing of benefits on a business card. It really speaks to what you offer. Imagine a massage therapist's card "banish stress, relieve tension, pamper yourself".

So yes, I think you should put your photo on your business card because it makes you stand out from everyone else. You get extra points if you have your card designed by a professional who is not your cousin's friend from college. Invest in your business. It really pays off.

Grow Your Business and Prosper!
Suzanne Muusers
Business Coach for Entrepreneurs and Financial Advisors

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Make More Money Now! How to Increase Revenue if you're a Professional Charging by the Hour or Project

Do you charge by the project or hour and find yourself underestimating how much time you will put into the job? Does it seem like you’re always working? Does your bank balance suffer from low self-esteem? You're not alone.

Start up entrepreneurs and well-established businesses alike suffer from cashflow instability. It can be really tough to balance time and revenue, especially in the early years. It's likely that unless you learn to overcome this obstacle to profitability, you could be doomed to walking the thin line between overwhelm and poverty forever.

Few are born with an entrepreneurial gene that allows them to run a profitable business. Profitability means that you have plenty of dough to pay the bills, both business and personal, and enough left over to really enjoy yourself. So how can you learn to be profitable? We’ll discuss a few strategies that every entrepreneur can put into practice.

Real World Examples:

You're a Public Relations professional. You quote a price to write and distribute a Press Release about an Interior Designer’s Open House. You think “I’ve got plenty of relevant contacts in this niche industry. This should be easy and should take me no more than two hours.” It ends up taking you twice as long which reduces your fee substantially.

You’re an Architect. You estimate it will take you three hours to create a basic kitchen rendering for a new client and you quote her a reasonable fee. Both of you are happy until you begin the job and realize it’s more technical than you’d assumed. You want to do the job with your customary high integrity and work ethic and ten hours later you finish.

You’re a CPA just starting out in the business. You quote a client a fee to do his monthly accounting only to realize later that this client needs more hand holding than usual which forces your hourly down the drain. Between doing the work and meetings with the client, you decide you’ll never make any money.

Big AHA #1: The first step to profitability is to realize that you must be paid for ALL your time. Make sure you factor in time for client and vendor meetings. Time for research. Time for travel (yes, you need to be paid for this too – your time is not free.) You may need to double your fees to make any real money. If that’s what it takes, that’s what you need to do.

Big AHA #2: Slow down! Don’t rush to quote a fee. If your instinct is to quote a fee, stop and reassess, take a breath, and then tell the client you’ll get back to them. Putting a quote together takes time and if you rush into it, you’ll always lose. There’s nothing wrong with telling a prospect that you’ll get back to them. Things ALWAYS take longer than you think. Make sure you understand the requirements of the project. Delineate what the project includes and what it doesn't include. There are always follow up tasks, revisions, and busy work you didn’t plan on. If you’re concerned that you’ll lose jobs because your price is too high, then you may not be ready for this step. You may need to ease into raising your fees.

Big AHA #3: Increase your worth in your own eyes! Many entrepreneurs have a subconscious voice that doesn't believe they are worth higher fees. Take stock of your true worth as a professional. Do you have enough experience? Do you need to learn more? Do you provide a quality service? Are your fees on the low end? Is there a gap between where you are and where you should be? If you change nothing, nothing will change.

What now?
Truly examine who you are and where you are as an entrepreneur and independent professional. Then, give your bank balance a boost and take a risk to raise your fees. To take it a step further, think about how you could create passive revenue so that your income and time are not tied up in your business output. Create time to live your life on your own terms.

Grow Your Business and Prosper!
Suzanne Muusers
Business Coach for Entrepreneurs and Financial Advisors

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Memorable 30 Second Commercial - Wow them with the Benefits!

Entrepreneurs are in the business of selling themselves.


Learning how to do this authentically and in a way that's memorable is one of the keys to business success. There are tons of Financial Advisors, Bankers, Realtors, Insurance Brokers, Mortgage Brokers, and Business Coaches. How do you stand out in the crowd?

Start by creating a 30 second commercial that gives you some oomph! Aim to really wow them! Begin to think like your target client. Get into their head. What are the benefits you provide your clients?

Let's start with Ted's example: he's an independent Financial Advisor

Ted: I'm a CFP with ten years in the business. I work with people to create a long term investment strategy.

Make it memorable: I'm a Certified Financial Planner and I help middle to upper income families, especially engineers and college professors build wealth and stability so that they can sleep at night.

Notice how this time Ted explains his designation and calls attention to his target client. Why? People need to know your qualifications and your target client. You are much more likely to get referrals if you state who you really help. That way people you meet will remember you. They'll realize that their brother Bob is an engineer and could use a financial advisor. Or their sister Sally is a college professor and might be interested in Ted's service.

What Benefit is Ted providing? WEALTH!! STABILITY!! Wealth is a "want" and stability is a "need". Don't forget to speak to wants and needs.

So, in putting together your new 30 second commercial, what is it you truly offer? What is the pain you are helping your clients avoid?

Click here to work through an exercise I wrote about how to Write Your 30 Second Commercial

Grow Your Business and Prosper!
Suzanne Muusers
Business Coach for Entrepreneurs and Financial Advisors

Monday, January 14, 2008

The Power of Your Subconscious Mind – Dr. Joseph Murphy - Book Review

The New Year has arrived and it's time we entrepreneurs moved forward with a new tactic utilizing the subconscious mind!! If you have never heard of this book, it is an amazing read. So I urge entrepreneurs everywhere to run right out and buy it. A client recommended it to me quite some time ago and while it lay on my bookshelf for some time, the timing was perfect for me to finish reading it.

According to the book jacket, this book is a classic and I can see why. Written in 1963 by Dr. Joseph Murphy, the information is pre "The Secret", and pre "Ask and it is Given." Nonetheless, this book has reminded me that the mind is very powerful and often the key to our success.

Many of us are apt to let negative thoughts come into our minds and then we are surprised when things don't go the way we want them to. If we are able to replace the negative thoughts with positive statements or images, we have the power to change our lives in big and small ways. Murphy states "Never finish a negative statement. Reverse it immediately and wonders will happen in your life."

This reminds me of a client who was in the habit of making negative statements about herself and others. Her negativity got in the way of her success although she was initially not aware of it. I asked her to become more aware of her speech and to pinch herself each time she said something negative. I asked her to get in the habit of only making positive statements. Within two months she had completely changed her attitude and success followed her every move from that time forward.

Murphy asserts that there are two types of people: those who KNOW they are born to succeed and those who are full of fear and destined for failure. After reading this book it's your choice as to which group you belong to…

Murphy gives the analogy of a garden and the mind. "You are the gardener. You are planting seeds of thought in your subconscious mind all day long. Much of the time you are not even aware of doing so, because the seeds are based on your habitual thinking. As you sow in your subconscious mind, so shall you reap in your body and environment."

My intention with this post is not to give a detailed review of the book. Just go out and buy it. You'll be amazed at what you can train your mind to do.

Grow Your Business and Prosper!
Suzanne Muusers
Business Coach for Entrepreneurs and Financial Advisors