Give me a break…

If you neglect to recharge a battery, it dies. And if you run full speed ahead without stopping for water, you lose momentum to finish the race. ~ Oprah Winfrey

Brokennessphoto © 2005 col_adamson | more info (via: Wylio)

Anyone who has ever led a group, owned a business, or worked on a job has felt overwhelmed and in need of a break at some point. Human beings that we are, we cannot work 24/7 and be efficient during all of that time. The resulting stress manifests itself in the form of illness, lack of sleep, missed opportunities with friends and family, and just general unhappiness. We must break, or be broken.

Yes,  you must set goals and work on fulfilling them. No business can be successful without constantly driving towards a mission. But when you sit down an plan out your year be kind to yourself and allow for breaks, remembering not only to give yourself that ‘yearly’ vacation but also planning time into each month and each week. Maybe even on a daily basis if you can allow yourself that respite. For those of us workaholic types whose to-do lists never stop growing this can be almost as much of a challenge as completing those to-do list tasks. And sometimes it feels like the internal beating we gives ourselves for allowing non-productive time to weasel its way into our work day just isn’t worth it.

Give back to yourself. Wait until tomorrow to send that e-mail. Don’t compose that blog post. Call your customers another day. Work will never disappear, but your life will some day expire.


The space-time continuum

“Time and space are modes by which we think and not conditions in which we live” ~ Albert Einstein

In Search Of Lost Timephoto © 2007 Alexander Boden | more info (via: Wylio)

Time – or the lack thereof – is a constant challenge for those who run a small business. As the owner, operator, marketing, admin, Finance, HR and technology departments all rolled into one you find yourself choosing from an endless list of tasks that only seems to get longer as you tick them off one by one. It’s enough to make you question why you ever started a business in the first place!

One of the biggest struggles I see small business owners dealing with when it comes to how to spend their time is that they are always torn between running the operations and marketing their services. How do you find a balance between looking for new work and getting your current work done? If you stop looking for new work, then by the time the current work is completed you no longer have anything to do. But if you spend all your time looking for new work then you are not spending that time completing tasks that pay your bills. The vicious cycle goes on and on.

And anymore it’s not just a matter of advertising in a handful of papers, local magazines and websites. Now is the additional, daunting complexity added with the deluge of social media tools that have hit the market. Think back to the ’90s when the internet started gaining popularity but only some businesses actually adopted a website. Now you can’t survive as a business without a website. It’s the same with social media tools – some companies are getting by without using them but that won’t last long.

So business owners are really starting feel a need to tap into these tools – whether they know how to use them or not. So a Facebook page is set up, a twitter account registered, and a few days/weeks/months later it’s forgotten and collecting digital dust.

Which leads to the question: do you pay money to someone else to manage those accounts for you? If you’re like most small business owners you don’t have the monetary resources to do this.

Where is the happy medium?

There is, unfortunately, no simple answer. But you can take a few steps to ensure you are making the most of the tools available to you (for free) without completely overwhelming yourself with addition items on your to-do list.

1. Define your social media approach. What do you hope to accomplish by adopting social media tools and integrating them into your business? Really think about the outcome you are hoping to achieve and how you might go about doing so.

2. Chose your tools carefully. Not every social media tool is going to fit your business model and you don’t have to sign up for everything just because it’s free. Make a list of possible tools, come up with a plan for how you will use each one, then decide if it’s worth using or not.

3. Plan your time wisely. Decide how much time you are willing to commit to the maintenance and upkeep of your social media presence. Then plot it out on a calendar and stick to it.

4. Measure, measure, measure. You have to understand whether your social media presence is having an impact on your business. If you don’t take initial measurements and monitor them over time you won’t know whether you are being successful or not. ]

5. Be willing to learn new things and outsource what you can’t learn. There are some things that are relatively simple to learn along the way. You may have to do some reading and some experimentation, but consider it continuing education. Other things are either not part of your skill set or things you just don’t want to learn (JAVA and HTML coding for example). Know the difference and be willing to look for help on the things you decide you can’t or won’t take on.

These steps should help keep you from piling an unmanageable list of items onto your already burgeoning to-do list while allowing you to take advantage of the exciting tools available to you.

– Christy

Building Brand “You”

Reputationphoto © 2010 F Delventhal | more info (via: Wylio)

Your personal “brand” becomes the window that your online network will view you through. Challenged with the limitation of knowing you mostly through a series of posts, tweets and chats, your every bit and byte makes up the persona that you eventually become known as. So it’s crucial to make sure that this online version of you is painting the portrait that benefits you and your business needs.

Many new users to tools of social media struggle with the decision of what exactly that means for them. Will they share only business-related information? Is it better to lay it all out there for everyone to see? Is it possible to balance the two?

Whatever you decide, keep the following things in mind when you share information online.

Don’t try to de-personalize. It can be very easy to separate the business from the personal. We do it all the time in real life. We chose not to share family stories with co-workers or dive into the details of a work experience with our family members. And often times there is a very good reason for this – especially when it’s not something relevant. However, your audience will probably enjoy seeing small glimpses into your personal life on occasion. It reminds them that you have more in common than the same interest in technology or knitting, and thus helps establish a deeper relationship than you might have had just sharing links and tidbits related to your ‘obvious’ commonalities.

Do give yourself a voice. One of the challenges of electronic communication is that it is very easy to get hidden behind a stream of link-shares and retweets. You are a human being with a personality – not some spam-bot churning out automated rubbish. Whether you have a southern accent, complete with the occasional y’all, or a Brit with a tendency to use the letter ‘s’ instead of ‘z’, allow that bit of personality to shine through in what you write. Your readers will appreciate the honesty you share with them and they will probably find those small touches to be more endearing than annoying.

Don’t be foolish. Above all, keep in mind that what you share contributes to the overall “brand” that people will see and judge you by so make sure you keep that in mind whenever you type up anything to be viewed by others. This can include tweets, blog posts, discussion comments, or even silly things you share on your Facebook page. Read and re-read anything you plan to share.  Think before you click the share or submit button. Ask yourself “does this reflect how I want others to see me?”  You might be able to change your mind and delete something later, but it may be after someone else has already passed it along – forever engraving it in infamy.

Do Be proud of who you are and what you do. Whether you own your own business, work for a large company, or write a blog out of your basement while the kids nap, you have worked hard to get to this point and it should show. Allow your expertise to shine through and share your knowledge with others. This is what will set you apart from others with a similar calling to yours. Don’t self-deprecate, second guess, or put yourself down. That’s a quick way to lose your audience.

All of this can be applied to your online networks as much as your real life. Consider your audience to be one in the same and you should have no trouble establishing and maintaining your brand.

– Christy

To blog? Or not to blog?

Does my business need a blog?

A Wild Questionphoto © 2010 [F]oxymoron | more info (via: Wylio)

I get this question a lot – and not just from clients but also other folks looking for insight. It used to be you could get away with just a website for your business. But now there’s an ever-expanding list of online tools you have to decide whether are right for you or not. And a blog tops that list.

And blogs take work. A lot of work. Unlike a static website that you might occasionally update, you have a time commitment associated with a blog that is more than you might realize. You have to spend time initially setting it up: deciding on a blogging platform, selecting a theme, customizing your template, adding widgets, links, about me text, etc. Then comes the real work… Coming up with topics, crafting posts, monitoring comments, and driving traffic. And those are just the basics.

Absolutely none of this is meant to discourage, but rather ensure you start out with the right expectation of the amount of work you will be facing. And as every small business owner knows, time is a very valuable commodity.

So you need to ask yourself some questions:

  • What kind of area of expertise could I demonstrate my knowledge of? Whether you are a chef, florist, hair stylist, real estate agent or race car driver you have a base of knowledge that you can show you have a complete handle on. This could mean the difference between a new customer coming to you or going to your competition.
  • Will a blog provide an edge for you over your competition? Most of the time the answer is ‘yes’. But some businesses are so geographically-limited that a blog won’t provide much additional value because the audience is located all over the world. A mom-owned business creating organic lunches for school children may find very little value in a blog that’s getting most of it’s traffic from places far away.
  • Can I reasonably come up with topics to blog on regularly? If you aren’t going to keep up with your site and contribute to it on a consistent basis, you will be wasting your time. Clients don’t always see an abandoned blog as a sign of a busy business owner – they may see it as a place you have abandoned and maybe even a sign of a business gone sour.  (The same goes for your Facebook and Twitter accounts, by the way.)
  • Does the time commitment necessary to maintain my blog come back to me in the form of value found in new clients? If you spend 10 hours a month keeping up your blog, and you gain one new client per month, is that extra business worth the 10 hours? Initially you may see this increase in business taking off very slowly. It may take a while to establish your blog and generate the kind of traffic necessary to convert prospects into clients. Over time those conversions will occur at a quicker pace, assuming you continue to build your blog presence at the same rate.
  • And finally, is it something I will enjoy? A lot of blogs start of as a work of passion (this one is a great example) with no plans to generate business or leads from them. That passion carries through in your posts and interactions with those leaving comments. Conversely, people can tell if you are just going through the motions and generating posts because you have to. Keeping in mind that blogs are work, if the work is not fun and rewarding to you then you won’t stick with it.

Ultimately you are the only one who can decide if your business can benefit from a blog. Take these points into consideration before embarking on a new project and you’ll be in good shape to ensure it lasts.

– Christy

If you want to be followed…

“To follow by faith alone is to follow blindly.” ~ Benjamin Franklin

Follow my leadphoto © 2008 Saxon | more info (via: Wylio)

Let me just say that I love Twitter. I really do. It’s a tool that has allowed me to connect with people I would never get the opportunity to meet in real life. I get so much information out of the people I follow on Twitter that sometimes it can be overwhelming. But in a good way – like the first time you visit Disney World.

That being said, it does have its drawbacks and pitfalls – especially for new users. I’ve got a few tips for those Twitter users that haven’t quite figured out the whole follow/follow back reciprocal relationship.

First of all, there is no requirement for reciprocity. Let me just get that out of the way. You don’t make any agreements by following someone, or their following you. So if someone doesn’t follow you back either deal with it or unfollow them and move on.

Now on to my criteria for those who want to be followed.

  • You must have a profile picture. I will not follow anyone whose picture is the default twitter bird or egg. Call me crazy. And just because you put a picture of a hot chick in there doesn’t mean I’ll automatically follow you. Besides the fact that I, myself, am a chick it really just insults me.
  • You must have tweeted something. And I do pay attention to the number of follows in relation to the number of tweets.  If you have 10,000 followers and 2 tweets, I’m not following you. Usually I look for at least 100 tweets before I’ll follow you – I want to make sure you are sharing something of interest to me. Which brings me to…
  • If your tweets are not of a topic of interest to me, I will not follow you.
  • I will especially not follow you if your tweets contain anything about increasing the number of twitter followers or how you increased your follower count to fifty-bazillion in just one week.
  • If your tweets are protected, I’m not going to send a follow request.
  • If all you do is tweet links, I will not follow you. I like to have some level of interaction with the people I follow. Call me crazy, but it is a social tool.
  • Same thing with quotes. If I want a quote I’ll go look them up in a book or a quote website. I don’t need my feed being filled up with a arbitrary quotes.
  • I can tell if you are a real person with real tweets or a spam-bot churning out generic crap.  Despite your ability to auto-generate random tweets that sounds sort of like a real sentence if you’re not reading very closely, I’m not stupid.
  • I prefer to see a website link. It can be to your business, blog, or even facebook page or LinkedIn profile.
  • If you have a typo in your profile summary, chances are I’m not going to follow you.
  • As well, if your profile summary includes the phrase “I follow back” then I’m not going to follow you.

On a related note, some very easy ways to get unfollowed:

  • Sending copious amounts of direct messages. We’re not that close that your comments to me can’t be posted as a reply.
  • Fill up my feed with random junk. I understand that some people use services to schedule their tweets and that’s fine.

And with that rant completed, please carry on with your business. Thanks for listening.

– Christy

Internet Marketing Forecast done HIPPO…

Hippo View Mirrorphoto © 2007 Rick Wagner | more info (via: Wylio)

What’s happening in 2011 for Social Media and Internet Marketing? I’m glad you asked, because Brandon Uttley and Corey Creed gave us the lowdown at the 2011 Internet Marketing Forecast meetup at HIPPO Internet Marketing Consulting & Training last night.

First let me say that I am in love with which is an online network of local groups. Meetup makes it easy for anyone to organize or find a local group that is gathering around a topic or interest.  You just search on a topic of interest and your location and presto: meetups in your area are displayed for you to peruse. Find one you are interested in joining and all you have to do is RSVP and show up!

So this was HIPPO’s first meetup and they did a great job. The facility was the perfect setting for something like this, and the ballroom that we met in held all 70 participants comfortably, with nothing but standing room leftover. That is an amazing turnout for a meetup, and it really shows you the power of the topic of Social Media and Internet Marketing.

After roughly 30 minutes of networking and munching on tasty snacks, we took our seats and listened as Corey Creed, President of HIPPO, gave an overview of the company and then introduced Brandon Uttley, who is the founder of Web Business Freedom. Both of these guys are veritable fountains of information, and you could spend days browsing both of their websites, tweets and blogs and learn more than your brain  could ever retain in one sitting.

Brandon cracked us up with his Steve Jobs impression and then quickly moved into his recap of what happened in 2010. Note: This is my interpretation of his comments, although some of the quotes are verbatim.

  1. The Social Media honeymoon ended. Now it’s more “Married with Children”
  2. A love affair between Social Media and Search occurred – one which continues today.
  3. Return on Investment (ROI) was in demand. People wanted to know what they are getting for all of this work.
  4. We really loved Facebook.
  5. We also went nuts for Geolocation services like FourSquare, Places and Yelp.
  6. Group buying became huge. And when you think about it, group buying + social media makes a lot of sense (or is it cents?)
  7. We waved buh-bye to Google Wave.  Sorry Google – it was a nice try.
  8. iPad. ’nuff said…
  9. Static Discussions decreased. Less activity was taking place on blogs and discussion boards. Those discussions moved real-time and at a rate way bigger than it ever was before.
  10. A Pugh Study came out showing that users of social media are actually very social in real life (and not the introverted losers we were made out to be. Yay us!)

So that recap was very cool and helped put a lot of his predictions for 2011 into perspective.

2011 Predictions:

  1. Smart phones are going to change the game even more. By the end of 2011 half of all cell phones will be smart phones (as opposed to dumb phones which just place and receive calls, in case you were wondering.)
  2. Facebook will still be King of the Hill. Ad sales is continuing to increase at a rapid rate.  Brandon likes to say that they are doing business “at the speed of like” (copyright pending)
  3. Twitter, while not the King, is continuing to increase in usage. There are more than 200 million twitter users, 65 million tweets daily and over 800,000 search queries executed every day. People really like that real-time search.
  4. Then Brandon whipped out his balls. A baseball and a basketball, that is. (seriously folks, this is a family-friendly program.) He compared Facebook to…not the basketball…the baseball. The basketball represents mobile and Brandon believes that mobile is the future. The mobile web will be bigger than the desktop by 2015. (There was a statistic about how many people sleep with their cell phones that I kind of tuned out because, well that’s just silly and I can’t believe anyone would be that obsessive about it. And now I wait for the lightening to strike me.)
  5. Quick Response codes (known as QR codes) will become more prevalent. This is technology that enables you to scan a barcode with your phone and get more information about something.
  6. Use of group buying sites (think Groupon and Living Social) will continue to increase.
  7. Online contests, which drive a lot of interaction will be seen a whole lot more.
  8. Social games will also continue to be big.
  9. There will be more instances of Games + Geolocation services. Think SCVNGR.
  10. Expect to see more curation tools, such as Paper.Li, Nutshell mail, and Pegboard.

Some of the items on his list were obvious to me, some were surprises and some I had never even heard of or given much thought to. Lots of opportunity to dig in and learn there.

Corey added on his predictions for the year. It was great to see a few contrasting opinions amongst his predictions.

  1. Social Media Marketing is not all that. The ‘Honeymoon’ is over and people are feeling like some of it was overhyped.  And this year expect to see the Internet Marketing people and the Social Media people doing some clashing.
  2. Laptops are going to blow away desktops. Tablets even more so.  Since most of the users of the internet are consuming content rather than creating it, they don’t really need a big screen to do so. The big takeaway here: make sure your web content is consumable on small screens.
  3. Online video is going to blow up in 2011. Social media will continue to move towards video, so if you are smart you will get out there before your competition does.  The barrier to entry is higher for video than other tools, such as twitter and facebook, which puts you ahead of your competition.  You can start lower-level with something like a webcam and that’s fine as a beginning. The next step would be to get some decent lights and a dedicated location (something HIPPO is in the process of doing to the tune of about $1000.) Or you can go bigger scale with production crews and a bigger price tag.
  4. Social Media will not eat the search engines for lunch. When people want an opinion they will go to social media sites, but when they are looking to find something specific they will hit up the good old search tools. And the thing is that search makes money, where social media can make money (but doesn’t always.)
  5. Facebook and Twitter are here to stay (at least for now) – especially Facebook. Twitter users are experiencing a decline in clickthroughs, but the thing to keep in mind is that your follower list translates into a social graph that can be applied to other tools. Think about how many times you might use your Twitter login to sign up for new tools – all of that information can be pulled over and you can search out your connections on the new tools.

After all of this was some Q&A. Some of the topics included Website and Blogging use, geolocation services, the roles of social media vs. internet marketing vs. traditional marketing, spam, augmented reality, and group texts.  They did a nice job of taking questions from within the room as well as from the twittersphere. We wrapped up on time and then a few persistent networkers hung around to continue to schmooze and chat each other up.

HIPPO has a few more meetups scheduled over the next couple of months, so for those local to Charlotte I definitely recommend attending one of them. And if you aren’t local, I’m sure you can find something close to you by searching meetup.

All in all a great night, some good information, a few personal takeaways for me, and a few new connections made.

– Christy

Failure to plan…

“Failure to plan is planning to fail…”

Head in Handsphoto © 2009 Alex Proimos | more info (via: Wylio)

Several conversations lately with clients have led me to keep repeating the importance of proper planning when it comes to setting a social media marketing strategy. So many small businesses jump on a tool (be it Twitter, Facebook, FourSquare, you name it) and just start posting content without any thought being given to the purpose of the tool or the logic behind using it. As a business what you have to understand is that your online presence impacts the perception of your bricks and mortar business. And if you are not properly managing those perceptions then you are taking a risk that you will lose business based on them.

Before jumping on the next social media tool bandwagon, really give some thought to why you think that tool is a good idea for you. As a local florist, what value do you see in creating a twitter account?  Does your law practice really need to add your location to Yelp? Really dig into what value might be there before you decide to make the leap.

There is something to be said for grabbing your business name or personal name before someone else snatches it up and you’re later left as JohnDobsonLawFirm123. But if you do decide to open the account and you aren’t using it actively then manage your privacy settings so a potential client doesn’t come across it, see how abandoned and empty it is, and move onto someone else.

When you do decide that a social media tool is a good fit for your business, make sure you are consistently monitoring that profile. Small business owners in particular find themselves extremely short on time, and before they know it six months has passed since they last looked at their Facebook page, must less updated it. In the absence of regular monitoring a lot of spam could be posted to your page without you knowing it.  At the very least, check your page regularly, delete any spam and make sure a comment is not sitting there unanswered – or worse, answered by your competition.

Additionally, when you decide to take up a new tool be sure to create a plan for how you will use it. So many businesses create a profile and then just post sales information and announcements. They lack engagement, which is a crucial part of the social media equation. Don’t just use your tools to push content to your fans and followers – engage them in conversation, post interesting information, insights and links. Make yourself a valuable source of information so they will keep coming back to check in with you. And the next time they need a service they will come to you.

Be choosy with your tools, plan for how you will use them, and be active and present once you do adopt them.

– Christy

Pack your bags, baby, and get ready to move!

Maisenbacher House Moving 3photo © 2008 Katherine Johnson | more info (via: Wylio)

For those of you following along with me – all two of you (Hi Mom!) – you saw my recent posts about the decision to start from scratch with a new blog and the decision that led me back here to good old WordPress.  The condensed version being that I do eventually want to self-host my blog and wordpress lends itself more easily to that than most other blogs.

Earlier this week I participating in #blogchat where we discussed moving a blog from one platform to another, and it quickly became very obvious that this is a topic a lot of folks struggle with. And for good reason – you spend a lot of time building, loving and tending to your blog and you don’t want to just uproot and move somewhere new and leave behind the fruits of all that labor.

In the end my decision was easy.  I’ve spent a lot of time creating content but never really focused on driving traffic or gathering comments – I still don’t. So it wasn’t hard for me to abandon the others and move on to something new.  Plus I find it somewhat cathartic to make a fresh start and leave the past behind. I know I’m in the minority on that one, which is understandable. But from reading the posts during the blogchat I know I’m not completely alone.

There was some great blogchat discussion and I highly recommend that if you’re considering a move that you peruse the transcripts of the chat for some good information.  The short answer is that there’s a lot of ways to deal with it and a lot of it depends on what’s motivating your move and what you hope to accomplish by doing so. Don’t just move because you like the templates or widgets on another platform – really consider why you want to move and make sure your eventual decision is based on the requirements you lay out.

In the end, if your content is important to you at least back it up before you close up shop. Consider it the digital equivalent of packing your belongings in boxes and sticking them in storage until you’ll need them later.  If you are self-hosted this should be pretty simple, but if not consider the following resources:

Disaster Planning: Backups for Bloggers (Particularly like #3 about subscribing to your blog’s RSS Feeds)

Our Mommyhood has a very simple post about backing up Blogger content

Check out Blogbooker for instructions on how to export your blog as XML.

And worst case, just consider it a fresh start!

– Christy

Wine, and Chocolate, and Friends! Oh, my!

In December I had the pleasure of trying out a newly-opened establishment in Charlotte called Petit Philippe, which had just celebrated their grand opening a few weeks prior. Owned and operated by husband and wife Mark Meissner and Casey Hickey, it’s the cutest little wine and chocolate shop and tasting room. And while they were still working out the kinks we got a great sampling of this fantastic new venue.

Here’s the beautiful awning outside, which is lit up so nicely on Selwyn Avenue.

The Door Sign. Who wouldn’t see that and want to come in?

Rows and rows of wine bottles…

And even more wine! I’ll take one of each, please!

I love the unexpected modern touches with an antique flair.

Today’s Tastings: Samplings of Bordeaux in America!

Here’s the lineup…

Group shot before we get too wound up! (Me, Chanee, Amy, Nola, Ruth and Tracey)

Up first – the Venge “Silencieux” Cabernet. Good marks from the group. Amazing aroma!

Beaucanon Cabernet Franc “L Cuvee” which I think stood for “Oh So Lovely” – or at least that’s what I thought of it!

Lambert Bridge Merlot. Very nice flavor and not a dry merlot by any means.

No, we’re not having any fun at all!

And finally a sweeter Cabernet, the L’Ecole No 41.  Nice finish and such a cute label!

And who could forget the chocolate tastings! You almost didn’t even need the chocolates in between sips of wine, but who could resist!

Those tasty little treats were nothing compared to the works of art contained within the chocolate case. Exhibit A: Mojito.

Exibit B: Pumpkin Caramel Cheesecake. So pretty!

Exhibit C: Chai Spice – gorgeous details!

Tracey liked this one!

And my personal favorite – the Sea Salt Caramel Chocolate. Oh my!  So heavenly they almost look like they are floating above the plate!

After all that wine and chocolate whet our appetites we went next door to the Mellow Mushroom for some tasty pizza. But that’s another story for another day.  All in all it was a fun night with great friends at an amazing new spot in Charlotte.  I highly recommend Petit Phillipe for your next night out in the Queen City!

~ Christy

Note: I went to snag the URL off of their website to add the link at the top of the post and noticed they’ve added some of my photos on their site.  (Which they had asked if they could use them, which of course I said Yes – what an honor!) It’s very cool to see them up there and I’m so glad to get to help out a new local business. Good luck guys and you’ll see me again VERY soon!

Brand me, baby!

Small business owners take note: you are your brand!

When you make the decision to become a small business owner, you make a huge commitment. Once the sigh of relief has passed your lips that you finally ‘bit the bullet’ you now have the arduous task of coming up with your brand.  This includes your business name, logo, tagline, and the beginnings of a marketing strategy.

You might not think it but every time you speak, type, or even just drive down the street your actions are being associated with your brand.  This is important to keep in mind as a new business owner creating your brand. So when you sit down to come up with that logo, catchphrase or company name remember that you will eat, breathe and live what you come up with for the entire time that business is alive.

So why not make it about you? So many people think they need to separate their brand from their personal identity. Maybe this is an attempt to separate work from home, but as any small business owner will tell you: there is no separation. Your company is on your mind 24×7, so why not put your heart and soul into defining your business and how it will be represented?

As you start the brainstorming process, consider the following:

1. What is important to me, personally? And don’t just say “money” because if that’s the only reason you’re doing it then you need to make alternate plans. A lot of businesses don’t make money the first year and some are lucky to turn a very small profit by their second year. So think long and hard about what it is that you find most important in life.  Are you community-conscious and love to give back? Is your goal to tread lightly and make the smallest footprint? Do you get your high from helping others achieve their goals?  Make that integral to your brand.

2. What are you inspired by? What are your desires? Your passions? Do you love technology? Are you inspired by beautiful artwork? Is nature where you get most of your creative energy? Just because you are a bakery and you love anything retro, doesn’t mean you can’t integrate the two.

3. What do I hope to help others with? What is your business objective? As a stylist you might hope to help others project their inner beauty in an outward manner. Keep that in mind as you put pen to paper.

4. Don’t stop with just one idea. You might think you’ve hit the jackpot with your idea but before you rush out and purchase those business cards do some research. Make sure you are truly happy with the decisions you’ve come to.  Much like a tattoo you will be stuck with this for a very long time.  Don’t rush into it just because you feel like you’ve come to a conclusion that you are happy with.

In the end you want to be sure what you come up with is something that not only reflects your business but you as a person. In this digital age it’s very easy for those who interact with you to see whether you really walk the walk. If you force yourself into something you can’t keep up, it won’t be long before you are either called out by others or just become to exhausted to keep it up any longer.