August 25, 2019

Back Up Your Business

Japan’s devastating earthquake and tsunami has left the world reeling. 

The disaster gave me a much needed wake up call, since I live in earthquake prone Southern California.  Prior to this weekend, my family had only a rudimentary disaster preparedness kit, and our emergency plan was hazy at best.  There was no excuse for this, given where we live (not to mention my profession.)  We are now better prepared.

In the event of a natural disaster, the personal safety of our loved ones is paramount.  But what about your business?  If your office or work space were obliterated, would you be able to salvage your vital documents and data?

You probably already back up your computer, but if you’re exclusively using an external hard drive, it would most likely be lost in a flood, fire, or other disaster.  That’s why I now recommend using an online backup service, such as Carbonite (www.carbonite.com) or Mozy (www.mozy.com).   I’ve been using Carbonite for a while, and it’s a great reassurance.  It automatically backs up any new files (though you can set your preferences.)  Carbonite is currently $54.95 per computer / per year, and worth every penny for the peace of mind.

How about your paper files, documents, and receipts?  To what degree would your business be impacted if they all went up in smoke?  Consider going (almost) paperless.  There are some powerful scanners on the market that can scan multiple pages, receipts, business cards and photos in seconds.  Check out Neat Receipts (www.neatco.com) and the ScanSnap (www.fujitsu.com).  If you do decide to digitize your business files, remember to back them up—preferably on the cloud. 

What else are you doing to protect your business from a disaster?  Has Japan’s recent tragedy spurred you to take action, either in your office or at home?

Do One Big Thing This Month

Excuse me, do you happen to know what happened to January?

I don’t know about you, but for me, last month passed at a frighteningly brisk clip.  Here we are, four days into February.

Have you written down your goals for 2011?  If you haven’t, it’s not too late to start.  Decide what you want to accomplish in terms of your business, social life, family life, fitness, education, plus any category I’ve missed–and work backwards.  That is, write your yearly goals (by category, if you have a bunch of them,) and then break them down into:

  • quarterly goals
  • monthly goals
  • weekly goals
  • daily goals  

That’s a whole lot of goal-writing, and a lot of to-do’s.  But if you really want to make things happen this year, this is the process.

I’m all about goal setting, obviously, but I’m also about setting reasonable deadlines.  With this in mind, I’d like to encourage you to choose One Big Thing to accomplish this month.  It doesn’t need to be huge, but it should be something that you’ve been putting off for awhile, or even better, a goal that will move your business or personal life forward in a significant way.

So what’s it going to be?  I’m going to put some new content on this site, something I meant to do before New Year’s.  Does that sound like a good goal? It’s ok, but this is even better: 

  • I’m going to detail my Productivity Coaching services on this site, and
  • I’m going to (finally) add my free, download-able offering for those who sign up for my newsletter / list.

Do you get the idea? The more specific the goal, the better your chances of actually doing it.  And finally, declare what you’re going to do, as I just did.  This will keep you accountable.

You better believe I’m going to get my One Big Thing done, since I just said I would.  And if I don’t, please call me out.

So, who’s in? Declare your One Big Thing for February, and make it happen!

Thinking on Paper

It’s 6:15 on a Thursday evening.  I’m parked on the soccer field in my battered folding chair.  This is my sixth kid-activity of the week, four more to go.  (A few overlap, mercifully.)  As a busy soccer/flag football/dance mom, I spend several hours per week parked on various fields.  Since I’m also running a business, I grasp whatever pockets of productive time I can, otherwise nothing gets done.  (Except the laundry—all those uniforms.  But laundry won’t grow my business.)

I always bring a notebook and pen to these practices.   (I could bring a laptop, but I’m not that parent.  And yes, I pay attention during games.  Strictly eyes on the field.)  I use this down time to strategize, to brainstorm, and to create.  Writing keeps me on track towards making good on my goals.  It can do the same for you.      

Let’s say you have an idea swirling in your head, keeping you up at night.  It may be something as grand as inventing the next it-product, or more modest in scale, like designing your logo.  So you’ve got this idea, great.  That’s a start. Ideas are the life force of our creativity, after all.  But, unless you actually act on your ideas, you may as well keep them swirling in that head of yours.

So how do you begin to bring some clarity to your vision? How do you wrangle those whispers of ambition, those fragmented goals, and shape them into an action plan? By thinking on paper.

Brainstorming. Brain dumping.  Mind mapping.  These are variations of the same process, basically pouring all of your thoughts on paper, no matter how jumbled.  Doing so will help you a) clarify what you want to accomplish, and b) create a road map to get you there.

 Imagine you want to go into business as a professional dog walker.  You’re excited—you love dogs, and you’re thrilled at the prospect of setting your own hours, and answering only to your four-legged clients.  This is, however, your first entrepreneurial venture.  Where to start?

Grab a piece of paper, and do an interrogative brain dump.  That is, write down every question you can think of that relates to starting a dog walking business.  Write quickly.  It’s ok to be messy.  You may come up with questions like these:

  • Do I need a business license?
  • Where do I get one?
  • Will I need insurance?  What kind?
  • How many professional dog walkers are in my geographic area?
  • What do they charge?
  • Do I need any training or certification?
  • How do I market my services?

And so on.

Once you’ve finished brain dumping, the next step is to group the questions into general categories, such as

  • Business start up requirements
  • Monthly overhead
  • Market research
  • Marketing

 And so on.  Once you have identified the categories, continue the process by brainstorming all the ways you might go about finding answers to your questions.  For example:

Business Start Up Requirements

Do I need a business license?

  1. Call City Hall’s Business Division
  2. Ask local friends who own businesses
  3.  Do an online search

Or,

Marketing

How will I market my business?

  1. Business cards
  2. Flyers at dog parks
  3.  Website
  4. Referrals
  5. Social Media   

Keep going, until you have several possible solutions to all of those questions you came up with.  You have just created an action plan.  This is how your idea–your dream–gets out of your head, and starts to become a reality.       

There’s something incredibly powerful about thinking on paper.  It’s how “I’m thinking about” turns into “I’m going to.”

Go ahead.  Grab a piece of paper and see where it takes you.