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Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Top 12 Business Myths

Dec. 2, 2014, by CathyHarrisSpeaks.com

1. You can’t start a business without a lot of money: Most businesses are started with private sources such as divorce settlements, child support payments, unemployment insurance, income taxes, 401K’s, etc. While the amount of money varies depending on the type of business (part-time, seasonal, moonlighting, etc.) you are trying to start, the average entrepreneur starting a one-person business can easily get underway on a shoe string budget of $100.

2. There is grant money out there to start or expand a business: We've all seen the headlines: “Millions in free government money for your business.” Late-night infomercials, reference guides and websites promote the availability of grant money to entrepreneurs for starting and expanding businesses. Does it sound too good to be true? Well, it is! Generally, cities, counties, school systems, and other non-profit entities are the groups who receive grants.

3. You can get grant money to start a non-profit corporation: There is a lot of misinformation when it comes to non-profits and grant money. If you decide to move forward with this venture go in with both eyes opened. Only certain groups are getting this grant money.

4. There is grant money for women who want to open up businesses: If you seriously think someone is going to give you money because of your “gender” then you are sadly mistaken. The Small Business Administration or banks will not give money to women or men unless they meet a certain criteria.

5. Business plans cost a lot of money: Actually you can write a business plan for free by using the Internet; reading books; and attending low-cost seminars and workshops for $40 to $60 through the SBA.govorSCORE.org.

6. You have to have a college degree to open up a business: Many people think people with college degrees are the only ones that can start businesses. If they had conducted their research, they would have known that even young people -- as young as 5 years old can become a business owner.

7. You have to clean up your credit before you open a business: It takes one year or longer to clean up your credit. For many it’s much longer than that. So you definitely do not want to wait that long to start a business.

8. If you build it they will come: The movie “Field of Dreams,” starring Kevin Costner, illustrates one of the biggest “business killing myths.” Many business owners believe that once they open the doors to their business, then customers will simply pour in. This typically doesn’t happen. If you do not market and sell your services or products, not only will they not come, but they won’t even notice.

9. Do what you love and the money will follow: I don’t care how passionate you are about a particular business, unless somebody’s going to want to buy what you’re selling, there’s no point in doing it.

10. You’ll miss the security of a job: Is owning your own business less secure than working for somebody else? Jobs don’t necessarily provide more security especially in these days and time and this weakened economy.

11. If it’s such a good idea, somebody would have thought of it already: Uncertainty is a big part of starting a business. Closely related misconceptions include the one that says you must keep your business idea secret for fear of “copycats.” That leads new entrepreneurs to be overly protective and cause them to miss opportunities.

12. Now that I have my own business, I won't have a boss: When you open a business your customers will become your boss. There will be deadlines you need to keep and meetings and conferences you will need to attend.

Cathy Harris is known as The Empowerment Guru and is the author of 21 non-fiction books which covers topics on family and community empowerment, health, youth and adult entrepreneurship, writing/publishing, workplace discrimination (sexism, sexual harassment, sex and race discrimination), whistleblowing, law enforcement, government, domestic and international traveling, politics, media, beauty/self-esteem, car buying and selling for women, aging/retirement - just to name a few. Her books and articles are full of content-rich material to help anyone get back into the driver's seat and are available at http://www.AngelsPress.com.

Cathy Harris, Speaker, Author, Trainer
Angels Press, CEO, President, Publisher
National Non-GMO Health Movement
P.O. Box 19282
Austin, TX 78760
(770) 873-2072
www.CathyHarrisSpeaks.com (Lectures, Seminars, Workshops)
www.AngelsPress.com (Empowerment and Publishing Company)
www.TheCathyHarrisStory.com (The Cathy Harris Story)

Top 12 Habits That Will Keep You From Successful Business Ownership

Dec. 2, 2014 by CathyHarrisSpeaks.com

1. Refusing to Conduct Research: Lack of research is the number one reason for business failure. Most businesses go out of business within 2 to 5 years. If you are not conducting research by going to the library every week, visiting book stores reading books and business magazines, using internet websites such as www.google.com or www.yahoo.com, then chances are you will never be in a position to become a successful business owner.

2. Refusing to Keep Your Books: Every business has a creative side, marketing side and business side of running a business. Poor management ranks in the top three reasons why businesses go out of business. If you can’t sit down every 30 days to see what’s coming in and out of your business, then you need to hire a bookkeeper or a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). You can learn how to do the books yourself by buying the quicken.com computer program and taking an accounting class.

3. Refusing to Read Non-Fiction Books: If you are not reading non-fiction books for at least 30 minutes to an hour everyday, then you will never have the knowledge you need to become a successful business owner. Some of the books recommended: “The New CEO: 185 Easy-To-Set Up Businesses for Youth and Adult Entrepreneurs" and "How To Take Control of Your Own Life: A Self-Help Guide to Starting Your Own Business" by Cathy Harris; Think and Grow Rich: A Black Choice by Dennis Kimbro; Think and Grow Rich by Napolean Hill, Powernomics by Dr. Claude Anderson, etc.

4. Refusing to Support Young Entrepreneurs: Most young people are not like adults because they don’t put self-imposed limitations on themselves and can easily open a business within 30 days and start making money. Since 1 out of every 2 marriages ends because of finances, someone in your household (you, your spouse or your youth) need to open a business.

5. Refusing to Surround Yourself with Good People: You should surround yourself with: 1) people who have integrity, 2) people who are humble (teachable), and 3) people who are respectful. Stay away from people who are toxic, destructive or negative.

6. Refusing to Brainstorm: If you are not brainstorming with legal, marketing, and financial advisors, mentors, consultants, and coaches, you will have a hard time moving your business to the next level. Remember you don’t have to do everything yourself. If you are the smartest person in your group, you need to get another group. Asking for help doesn’t mean you are weak, it simply means you want to remain strong -- so ask others for help in your business.

7. Refusing to Create a Lifestyle Change: You need to understand that becoming a business owner is a complete new lifestyle change. Therefore, you need to incorporate being a business owner while paying close attention to your health and finances. As part of your new lifestyle change, you need to make short and long range goals and read books and magazines on health and financial education, and watch health and financial networks instead of unproductive television shows. If you are watching television for hours everyday then forget about becoming a business owner.

8. Refusing to Raise Your Credit Score: Only you can clean up your credit so as you build and grow your business, you do need to order your credit reports yearly from the three credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, TransUnion) at www.annualcreditreport.com This means you are going to have 3 different credit scores. If your credit scores are between 300 – 500, then you are in bad financial shape. Your goal is to raise your credit score to over 760 or higher. It’s estimated that 79% of all credit reports have some type of errors, over 25% have major errors and over 30% have accounts opened that should have been closed.

9. Getting Involved in Multi-Level Marketing: If you still believe that Multi-Level Marketing, also called Network Marketing and Pyramid Schemes, will make you a successful business owner, then you are sadly mistaken. Remember if you are involved in Multi-Level Marketing (noni-juice, melaleuca, pre-paid legal, primerica, YTB travel, Quixstar, ACN, etc.) -- you DO NOT have your own business. You are working for that person at the top of the pyramid. Never get involved in a business simply because others are doing it. If it’s not your passion, then chances are you will not be happy.

10. Waiting on Grant Money: If you still believe you can get grant money to start or expand a business or non-profit organization simply because it is advertised on radio shows and websites, you will be waiting a long, long time. If you had conducted research, you would have found out the truth about grant money. There is NO GRANT MONEY to start or expand a business and it’s extremely hard to get grant money for a non-profit organization, especially if you are an African American. So we need to stop repeating this misinformation.

11. Refusing to Write a Business Plan: If you chose not to write a business plan, it’s a red flag that you are not serious about your business. A business plan is a road map and without it you will get lost in your business and go out of business. The key to working with investors is to present a good business plan. Unless you have a good “Executive Summary,” -- most investors, bankers, and financiers will not read the entire business plan.

12. Refusing to Put Up a Website: If you do not choose to put up a professional website, it will eat away at your creditability. Remember creating a blog, facebook, twitter or linkedin account does not take the place of a professional website with a domain name. If you have a professional website, then you will look more attractive to investors simply because you chose to take your business online.

This document is copyrighted and was written by Cathy Harris. Cathy Harris is an Empowerment and Motivational Speaker and is known as “The Ethical Black Business Coach” (http://theethicalblackbusinesscoach.blogspot.com). She is also the author of over 20 non-fiction books including the 3-part book series book "How To Take Control of Your Own Life” and can be reached through her company at Angels Press, P.O. Box 19282, Austin, TX, 78760, Phone: (770) 873-2072, Website: http://www.angelspress.com and Email: info@angelspress.com. She is available for business seminars and workshops at www.CathyHarrisSpeaks.com.

Friday, November 21, 2014

The 3 Decisions That Will Change Your Financial Life


There’s nothing worse than a rich person who’s chronically angry or unhappy. There’s really no excuse for it, yet I see this phenomenon every day. It results from an extremely unbalanced life, one with too much expectation and not enough appreciation for what’s there.
Without gratitude and appreciation for what you already have, you’ll never know true fulfillment. But how do you cultivate balance in life? What’s the point of achievement if your life has no balance?
For nearly four decades, I’ve had the privilege of coaching people from every walk of life, including some of the most powerful men and women on the planet. I’ve worked with presidents of the United States as well as owners of small businesses.   
Across the board, I’ve found that virtually every moment people make three key decisions that dictate the quality of their lives.
If you make these decisions unconsciously, you'll end up like majority of people who tend to be out of shape physically, exhausted emotionally and often financially stressed. But if you make these decisions consciously, you can literally change the course of your life today. 

Decision 1: Carefully choose what to focus on.

At every moment, millions of things compete for your attention. You can focus on things that are happening right here and now or on what you want to create in the future. Or you can focus on the past.
Where focus goes, energy flows. What you focus on and your pattern for doing so shapes your entire life. 
Which area do you tend to focus on more: what you have or what’s missing from your life?
I’m sure you think about both sides of this coin. But if you examine your habitual thoughts, what do you tend to spend most of your time dwelling on? 
Rather than focusing on what you don’t have and begrudging those who are better off than you financially, perhaps you should acknowledge that you have much to be grateful for and some of it has nothing to do with money. You can be grateful for your health, family, friends, opportunities and mind.
Developing a habit of appreciating what you have can create a new level of emotional well-being and wealth. But the real question is, do you take time to deeply feel grateful with your mind, body, heart and soul? That’s where the joy, happiness and fulfillment can be found. 
Consider a second pattern of focus that affects the quality of your life: Do you tend to focus more on what you can control or what you can’t?
If you focus on what you can’t control, you’ll have more stress in life. You can influence many aspects of your life but you usually can’t control them. 
When you adopt this pattern of focus, your brain has to make another decision:  

Decision 2: Figure out, What does this all mean?

Ultimately, how you feel about your life has nothing to do with the events in it or with your financial condition or what has (or hasn't) happened to you. The quality of your life is controlled by the meaning you give these things.
Most of the time you may be unaware of the effect of your unconscious mind in assigning meaning to life’s events. 
When something happens that disrupts your life (a car accident, a health issue, a job loss), do you tend to think that this is the end or the beginning?
If someone confronts you, is that person insulting you, coaching you or truly caring for you?
Does a devastating problem mean that God is punishing you or challenging you? Or is it possible that this problem is a gift from God? 
Your life takes on whatever meaning you give it. With each meaning comes a unique feeling or emotion and the quality of your life involves where you live emotionally. 
I always ask during my seminars, “How many of you know someone who is on antidepressants and still depressed?” Typically 85 percent to 90 percent of those assembled raise their hands.
How is this possible? The drugs should make people feel better. It's true that antidepressants do come with labels warning that suicidal thoughts are a possible side effect.
But no matter how much a person drugs himself, if he constantly focuses on what he can’t control in life and what’s missing, he won't find it hard to despair. If he adds to that a meaning like “life is not worth living,” that's an emotional cocktail that no antidepressant can consistently overcome. 
Yet if that same person can arrive at a new meaning, a reason to live or a belief that all this was meant to be, then he will be stronger than anything that ever happened to him.
When people shift their habitual focus and meanings, there’s no limit on what life can become. A change of focus and a shift in meaning can literally alter someone's biochemistry in minutes. 
So take control and always remember: Meaning equals emotion and emotion equals lifeChoose consciously and wisely. Find an empowering meaning in any event, and wealth in its deepest sense will be yours today. 
Once you create a meaning in your mind, it creates an emotion, and that emotion leads to a state for making your third decision:

Decision 3: What will you do?  

The actions you take are powerfully shaped by the emotional state you're in. If you're angry, you're going to behave quite differently than if you're feeling playful or outrageous. 
If you want to shape your actions, the fastest way is to change what you focus on and shift the meaning to be something more empowering.
Two people who are angry will behave differently. Some pull back. Others push through.
Some individuals express anger quietly. Others do so loudly or violently. Yet others suppress it only to look for a passive-aggressive opportunity to regain the upper hand or even exact revenge.  
Where do these patterns come from? People tend to model their behavior on those they respect, enjoy and love.
The people who frustrated or angered you? You often reject their approaches.
Yet far too often you may find yourself falling back into patterns you witnessed over and over again in your youth and were displeased by. 
It’s very useful for you to become aware of your patterns when you are frustrated, angry or sad or feel lonely. You can’t change your patterns if you’re not aware of them.
Now that you’re aware of the power of these three decisions, start looking for role models who are experiencing what you want out of life. I promise you that those who have passionate relationships have a totally different focus and arrive at totally different meanings for the challenges in relationships than people who are constantly bickering or fighting. 
It’s not rocket science. If you become aware of the differences in how people approach these three decisions, you’ll have a pathway to help you create a permanent positive change in any area of life. 
This piece was adapted from Tony Robbins' new book, Money Master the Game: 7 Simple Steps to Financial Freedom.  

Friday, September 12, 2014

Need a Bank Loan? The 3 Big Obstacles for Small-Business Owners

Elizabeth Davis from Sageworks

SEPTEMBER 12, 2014

In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, banks are struggling to return to the small-business market, according to Karen Mills, former administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration. In a Harvard Business School working paper, Mills attributed the hesitation of banks to return to small-business lending to several factors:

·         Small-business owners are less creditworthy today due to the recession
·         Banks are more risk averse due to stricter regulations in place and increased costs
·         Community banks, traditional sources of small-business loans, are being consolidated by big banks

1. Declining creditworthiness of business owners
Mills, senior fellow with the Harvard Business School and head of the SBA from 2009 to 2013, noted that Federal Reserve data show the income of a typical household headed by a self-employed person decreased by 19 percent from 2007 to 2010. In addition, collateral owned by small businesses (typically residential or commercial real estate) also lost value, she wrote. The net effect? Lower credit scores for small business owners.

2. Stricter regulations and rising costs for banks
Because loans to small businesses are traditionally riskier due to dependence on the state of the economy among other factors, banks are especially cautious, Mills said in her piece. Increasingly strict regulations placed on community banks and larger banks alike are only fueling the fire.

And while Federal Reserve Senior Loan Officer Surveys indicate some easing of loan terms for small businesses has occurred, it hasn’t occurred as much as terms were tightened during and after the financial crisis, she noted.

In response to this environment, banks have been raising their capital reserves and holding onto deposits, decreasing the likelihood of underwriting small business loans, according to Mills.

Another factor that’s not helping the lending environment for small business owners is that transactions costs to process these types of loans are comparable to larger commercial loans, but without the payoff. “Some banks, particularly larger banks, have significantly reduced or eliminated loans below a certain threshold… or simply will not lend to small businesses,” said Mills. She added, “This is problematic as over half of small businesses survey are seeking loans of under $100,000, leaving a critical gap in the small business loan market.”

3. Community bank consolidation
Generally, community banks have been key players in small business lending, Mills said, citing data that shows community banks approved 48 percent of small business loans, while larger institutions approved only 13 percent.

However, the number of community banks has decreased from 14,000 in 1985 to less than 7,000 today, reducing the number of options for small businesses, Mills said. She noted that the largest banks held over 80 percent of the nation’s assets in 2012.

The end result of these trends, Mills said, is that small business owners are having to spend countless hours applying for loans at multiple institutions. She suggested that technology may be able to help banks or competitors address some of the issues related to risk and transaction costs.

In the meantime, other experts recommend that small business owners seek lenders that have developed a relationship-based focus for their lending efforts and work to build up their credibility and creditworthiness. As the recovery from the recession is slower coming to a close, it is also a possibility that conditions will improve for small-business lending.

To find out more about relationship-based lending, check out this complimentary whitepaper on How to Balance Relationship-Based Lending & Risk Management.

This story originally appeared on Sageworks

Saturday, August 2, 2014

One of Steve Jobs' Last Public Statements Can Help You Discover Your Passion

AUGUST 1, 2014

Passion is everything. You cannot inspire unless you’re inspired yourself.

In 25 years of studying communication, I’ve never met an inspiring entrepreneur who isn’t freakishly enthusiastic about his or her idea. Steve Jobs, one of the most passionate entrepreneurs in business history, may have offered the best definition of passion in one of his last public presentations, in March 2011 (he died that October).

"It is in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough -- it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the results that make our heart sing,” he said.

When turned into a question, Jobs’ statement can have a profound impact on your happiness and success. Discovering your true passion is as easy as asking yourself:

“What makes my heart sing?”

Notice how the answer to the question -- what makes my heart sing -- is a lot different than the answer to the question, “What do I do?” Jobs made computers, but designing tools to help people unleash their creativity made his heart sing.

Your passion is not a passing interest or even a hobby, but something that is intensely meaningful and core to your identity. For me, golf is a hobby. I’m even “passionate” about it. But it’s not core to who I am. It is, however, for Rory McIlroy, who won the 2014 British Open.

When asked to describe his passion for golf, McIlroy said, “It’s what I think about when I get up in the morning. It’s what I think about when I go to bed.” For McIlroy, golf isn’t just a passing interest -- it makes his heart sing.

In December, I was invited to be a keynote speaker at the prestigious LeWeb conference in Paris. LeWeb gathers the world’s most passionate entrepreneurs for several days of sharing information that will transform the world. Backstage I met Ferran Adria, the visionary chef who created one of the world’s most famous restaurants, elBulli.

“What is the one quality that all successful entrepreneurs share?” I asked Adria.

“That’s impossible to answer,” he responded. "There are so many paths to success.”

Adria turned away for a moment and I figured our conversation had come to an end.

Then he turned to me and said, “I take it back. There is one thing that all successful entrepreneurs have in common, and that’s passion.”

“How do you know it when you find it?” I asked.

“Let’s put it this way. When you see a glass of wine, what do you think of?” “A drink,” I said.

“Exactly. You see a beverage. I see a vineyard. I see an ingredient. I see joy. I see celebration.”

I personally enjoy wine, but it’s one of many things I’m passionate about. For Adria, wine makes his heart sing in celebration.

Several years ago I interviewed Chris Gardner for one of my books. He’s the man portrayed by actor Will Smith in the movie, The Pursuit of Happyness (‘happyness’ is purposely misspelled in the title. You’ll have to read the book or watch the movie to find out why).

Gardner told me the story of being homeless, spending nights in the bathroom of a subway station along with his 2-year-old son. During the day, Gardner would put on his one suit, drop off his kid at day care and take unpaid classes to become a stockbroker.

You can guess how the story ends. Gardner rose to the top of his firm and became a multi-millionaire.

“How did you find the strength, the spirit, to keep going?” I asked Gardner.

“Carmine, here’s the secret to success: find something you love to do so much, you can’t wait for the sun to rise to do it all over again.”

Gardner had discovered a passion -- a role -- that made his heart sing. Have you?

If you haven’t found your passion yet, don’t just “keep looking.” Ask yourself a better question. Ask yourself the one question that will change everything: What makes my heart sing? 
Carmine Gallo
CARMINE GALLO, CONTRIBUTOR, Keynote Speaker, Bestselling Author, Communication Coach


Saturday, May 17, 2014

Shopping for Startup Capital Outside of Silicon Valley

BY  | May 16, 2014

Shopping for Startup Capital Outside of Silicon Valley
Image credit: Shutterstock









While it's still true that the bulk of venture capital dollars go to startups in San Francisco and Silicon Valley, over the past decade a number of other metropolitan areas have begun to make a dent in the tally of investments.  
The San Francisco-Oakland area and San Jose-Sunnyvale area landed the atop a list of the top 20 locations for venture capital investment, with both California regions responsible for generating 40 percent of all the venture capital deals in 2012, according to Atlantic editor Richard Florida.
Rounding out the top 10 were Boston, New York, Los Angeles, San Diego, Seattle, Austin, Chicago and Washington, D.C., accounting for 38 percent of all the venture capital dollars invested, just 2 percent behind San Francisco and the Silicon Valley's share.
Yet, in addition to traditional venture capital funding, entrepreneurs can also turn to seed investors to help them fund their companies. Health care, mobile and internet startups claimed nearly 80 percent of angel group dollars in 2013 according to the Halo Report 2013. Of particular interest is the fact that 15 of the top 20 most active seed funds are not based in the Bay Area but are in states in the Northeast (New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut) as well as Western cities like Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Seattle.
Here are six tips for entrepreneurs on the hunt to raise funds for their startups:
1. Start networking locally. Be sure to use LinkedIn as a power tool for networking. Who are the angel investors and or venture capitalists in the startup's home community. Determine how to be introduced to them. Which alumni groups operate in the area and are suitable for networking with?
Many college or alumni groups have started entrepreneurial groups that are helping startups through mentoring and perhaps offering seed funding such as my organization, UCLA VC Fund. It is crucial to find and build relationships in a network that will provide a personal referral to potential investors.
2. Research crowdfunding opportunities. Several online resources are now available such as AngelList, which has extensive listings and ratings of angel investors. For project funding also check out crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo
3. Check out other investor hot beds. Explore cities such as New York, Seattle, Los Angeles, Salt Lake City and Boulder, Colo. A good place to start the research is CB Insights' list of the "150 most active seed investors of 2013." But, be sure that it's possible to tap into those cities through a tie through the startup’s location, customers, founders or other early investors or advisors.
4. Focus on cities where people are interested in the industry. Have a biotech startup? Be sure to research venture capital firms in Boston or Los Angeles and scratch Washington, D.C., off the list. For a media-tech company, try Los Angeles or New York City. A little business sector research can go a long way.
5. Learn as much as possible about a targeted investment firm. Investment firms are ultimately a collection of individuals, so get to know the organization and also the partners themselves. What is their background? Which partner has the most relevant expertise for the startup's underlying business sector? What is the success rate for the firm's prior investments? Does the firm have similar or conflicting investments?
Remember a venture firm will most likely request a seat on the startup's board of directors as a condition of investment. This person will spend a lot of time with the startup. Be just as careful in selecting the firm and individual partner as when selecting friends or a mate.
6. Understand what kind of funding is needed. Have a financial plan so it's clear the amount of money needed from an investor. This will also help to set expectations about what can be achieved by the company and in what time frame. So entrepreneurs just starting out with a partner and a great idea are best off looking for angel funding. But those with a fleshed-out business plan and product could be on the road to raising the first venture capital Series A round.  
Michael Howse is an executive board member of the UCLA Venture Capital Fund. He is the former CEO of Bigfoot Networks, a venture-backed startup that was acquired by Qualcomm. He previously served as entrepreneur-in-residence at U.S. Venture Partners and was founder and CEO of PacketHop, a wireless systems company. As a marketing executive, Howse worked at Silicon Valley startups S3 and 3dfx Interacitive.

This One Thing Can Make or Break Your Consulting Business

May 17, 2014, Entrepreneur Express
This excerpt is part of Entrepreneur.com's Second-Quarter Startup Kit which explores the fundamentals of starting up in a wide range of industries.
In Start Your Own Consulting Business, the staff at Entrepreneur Press and writer Eileen Figure Sandlin explain how you can start a profitable consulting business, no matter whether your consulting business will focus on HR placement, computer troubleshooting, or anything else you can dream up. In this edited excerpt, the authors offer tips on providing customer service that will help you land new business again and again.
To succeed as a consultant, you must do everything you can to set yourself apart from the competition. You want to give your clients a reason to say, "I'm really glad I chose this consultant." One way to ensure this is to provide the best customer service on the planet.
One great way to do this is by communicating with your client often about whether his or her expectations are being met and if the project is progressing as desired. "At the end of the first month of a project, I always ask my clients whether they think value is being achieved," says California trainer and coach Susan Bock, who is a past president of the Association of Professional Consultants. "I'll give them a full refund and won't proceed any further if I determine it's not possible to deal with their unrealized expectations."
Fred Elbel, a web design and computer consultant in Lakewood, Colorado, takes a different approach to customer service: He actually gives information away free as a way to make a favorable impression. "I give a lot of free advice to customers--in fact, sometimes too much," he admits. "It could be information like how to back up a computer system. But what happens is that clients remember how I helped them, and they'll call me when they don't have the time or skill to tackle other problems."
To succeed as a consultant, you need to develop a win-win style of customer service. This means that both you and your client must view everything you do as something positive, a means of moving forward and/or a way to solve a problem. Your ultimate success depends on your ability to use your inner resources and strengths, as well as your ability to do whatever it takes to solve your clients' problems and challenges and to be positive and energized while you do it. When you do these things, both you and your client will come out winners.
While solving problems and addressing challenges are certainly a consultant's main functions, there's another important task consultants must undertake, says Melinda Patrician, a Virginia public relations consultant. "One thing I highly recommend," she says, "is to get to know what the power structure is in that organization and get to know the support staff as well as your contact person." Understanding the organization will help you make better decisions and give better advice. It also helps you to know who the go-to person is when you need input or a decision made relating to the project you're handling.
Successful consultants live by these 10 customer service credos:
1. Accept full responsibility for your actions. Concentrate on giving your very best, no matter how good, bad or indifferent your client may be.
2. Develop an attitude of optimism and positive expectations. Begin to expect the very best from yourself, and soon others around you will see what a powerful force you present. Remember, optimists are simply people who've learned how to discipline their attitudes to their advantage.
3. Motivate yourself to have a "never give up" style. Make your clients feel you're there for them no matter what. In other words, go above and beyond the call of duty to fulfill your end of the agreement.
4. Keep improving your communications skills. When there's a breakdown in communication, chaos results. Practice your listening skills. Sometimes clients may not be clear about what they want, so ask questions so you're sure you understand what's expected of you.
5. Believe in yourself. When you have a high level of self-esteem, the sky's the limit.
6. Be flexible. Any consultant who can maintain a high degree of flexibility will gain a good reputation and have no trouble attracting new clients.
7. Set goals. When you have a plan of action with certain goals in mind, your goals will be easier to achieve. Remember, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.
8. Organize yourself. This will impress your clients and help you become a more successful consultant.
9. Seek more than one solution to a problem. You also should always look for creative ways to solve those problems. Walt Disney, a true visionary if ever there was one, was a firm believer in the power of brainstorming; you should be, too!
10. Be happy! When you're happy, those around you will be happy, too.

Secrets of Consulting Success

Erin Blaskie, an author and internet marketing specialist, offers these suggestions for becoming a successful consultant:
Implement ideas fast. Don't hold back, and don't dilly-dally with details or try to be perfect. Get ideas out there, and tweak them as you go.
Use your strengths, and delegate the rest. Don't try to do everything yourself. Let's face it--to be successful, you need to learn that you aren't the best person to do everything in your business. Find the right people to help you out, and they'll pay for themselves.
Do only what you love. If you take on work you don't love, you run the risk of doing a poor job or taking light-years to complete a task. No one is meant or expected to do everything. Rather, we're meant to do the work we're passionate about because that makes us successful.
Work only with people who energize you. Find clients you're inspired by, who embrace your talents and who understand the way you work.
Limit your overhead. Stay in the green, and you'll become more successful. Think of how much less stress you'll have when money isn't an issue!
Be generous. Don't be afraid to give away information or help out your fellow businessperson for nothing in return. It feels great, and people will remember you.
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Atlanta, Georgia, United States
Speaker, Trainer, Author