As big businesses report increased sales from Black Friday, small businesses like me are trying to figure out how to maximize opportunities to network at holiday parties. My small business was recently bumped from a panel because a bigger and more glamorous business also accepted the organization's invitation. However, I would like to think that one of the advantages in being a small business is the ability to flexibly adjust with the setbacks. On top of that, the holidays are here with stress... but may be an opportunity for the resourceful.
Small Business "Smize" Between the Role of Consumers and Corporations
Business Editor Rana Foroohar describes the "split-personality" syndrome that our American economy is facing. Either we fall into the consumer category: spend more this holiday season -- and experience short-term joy. Or we fall into the corporations category: hunker down, pause on hiring, and downgrade revenue forecasts. In a nutshell, small businesses are like the middle-child in the family that must find the right balance in spending to expand, while saving to float during leaner times. "Smizing" (Tyra Banks term for "smiling with your eyes") only takes you so far.
A small business can spend on hosting a holiday party to entertain prospective clients. Surely it's an opportunity worth the risk. Or skip the party -- and send a warm 'Holiday Wishes' card with, perhaps, a free one hour consult offer within the note. Now that I have combed through Arianna Huffington's suggestions in "Tis The Season To be Stressed." I will definitely opt for the latter.
A few weeks ago, I attended the leadership seminar hosted by GIST and MIT Enterprise Forum Startup Clinic, GIST is the Global Innovation Through Science & Technology ,and selected three women from the Middle East and North Africa technology ecosystem: Hind Hobeika, Nasma Bouchelkia, and Perihan Abou-Zeid. These entrepreneurs presented their new ideas and sought American entrepreneurs' advice in Silicon Valley, Boston, New York... and Washington, D.C. (The last one serves more as a launchpad to network with the World Bank and policy communities to get leadership tips.) One entrepreneur used Youtube to showcase her product as a way to save cost and create the buzz needed to market and sell.
The GIST entrepreneurs still shared some of their new business challenges, like carefully using social media to brand their product or service but protect their uniqueness. And as PITAPOLICY, I could certainly relate:
1) My business operates within a city where many organizational cultures believe it is okay to bump a small business off a panel because something bigger and more glamorous comes along to participate.
2) Deadlines move up to beat the holiday rush.
3) I still have a client who has not paid for services rendered.
4) Prospecting for clients beyond the "smizing."
I cannot change the first two challenges. I must let them go. However, I can tackle the last two and stop my complaining.
Worry Is a Misuse of Imagination
"Worry is a Misuse of Imagination," according to Executive Coach and Corporate Educator, Jim Bagnola. Bagnola highlighted how earning the "PhB," or status of the "Professional Human Being," means excelling through the discomfort zone of operating a new business. This is the opportunity to be creative.
Time to implement Bagnola's suggestion to address the top four challenges that pushed me to tackle the impending holiday stress in my four week plan.
Week 1: Review all your invoices for the fiscal year. Send out all "Past-Due" notices one last time. Your accountant will thank you in March 2013. Your mind will also thank you in averting unnecessary stress.
Week 2: Take this time to complete that webinar for your professional excellence. In fact, if your business offers professional coaching or skills workshops, this is actually the best time to host a PERSONALIZED session because clients will more likely remember your services in January as they make resolutions to get better, do better, or improve their routines. That is why I partnered with a fitness studio for a monthly workshop to teach business tips followed by forty-five minutes of yoga.
Week 3: Give clients space. Most of your client pool will be traveling and sorting through non-work related stress. Tweet their business link as a free marketing push for them. Remembering their business interests while they are stressed will not go unnoticed. There is no point in introducing a new idea or service to them. Rather, tackle that brainstorming task. But first, catch up on your sleep. Then, GO on that one hour run/walk WITHOUT your phone in the pocket. A creative approach or new idea is more likely to pop up without business operations preoccupying your mind and DEFINITELY with sleep. You are three times more likely to find a short-cut to certain problems with the magical eight hours of sleep than with the magical eight-ball.
Week 4: Week four should kick off the new year. Ping all prospective clients with a hello and reminder that in these lean times, your small business can address their concerns without all the phone tag. Remind them the value of your complimentary offer.
No matter who forgets to embrace the holiday spirit, or introduces a new work stress into your operations, remember that you are in control of your brand. As long as you are treating your clients right, you deserve to treat yourself right. Because that IS your business.