Are you a procrastinator? Go ahead, you can answer honestly…

That’s what I thought.

The truth is, procrastinating is an extremely common habit. The stress of something easily makes it seem like putting it off until later is a good idea, but we all know how that ends up. So let’s examine a few ways to get rid of that procrastinating bug. Not forever, mind you, we are realists, after all. But these tips should get you going in the right direction when you desperately need to focus.

1.) Really prioritize. Believe it or not, we all have a limited supply of willpower that gradually drains throughout the day. That’s why you see so many more fast food advertisements at the end of the day than the beginning; because that’s when they’ve been found to be the most effective at convincing people to call the number at the bottom of the screen. Focusing on tasks that need to be completed is no different. Therefore, it’s important to start with the toughest stuff first, while your willpower is at its maximum.

Plus, then you get to enjoy the wash of relief you often feel after your most stressful task is completed, making the weight on your shoulders feel just a tad bit lighter.

2.) Get rid of distractions. Distractions are everywhere (as a writer that works from home on a computer hooked up to the internet 24/7, I whole-heartedly understand), but that doesn’t mean you have to give into them. Instead of checking your email every 10 minutes, vow to check it once every 2 hours. Turn your phone on silent, keep the television off and for the love of God stay off the internet.

If you have to be on the internet or your phone has to be on, you can still screen what you’re looking at. Facebook is not essential, it can wait, just like that text from your friend wondering if she should wear the black or the red pumps tonight. Those issues aren’t important right now; you have work to do.

3.) Find what motivates you. It doesn’t have to be much. For example, when I am writing an article and feel myself draining, I’ll suddenly notice that I’m a bit thirsty. Instead of getting up and getting a glass of water, I’ll tell myself I can have one after I write one more paragraph. It’s a tiny thing, but it always works.

4.) Time yourself. Looking at your workload and thinking, “This will take hours!” will not help you reach your goals. Instead, set a timer for only 10 minutes, and vow to work feverishly straight through those 10 minutes. No excuses whatsoever. Anyone can handle 10 minutes of work, and you’ll often be surprised at how much you can get done.

5.) Break apart your work. Tackling one giant task all at once is sure to make anyone shy away, so instead think about what you could realistically do in the next 10, 30, or 60 minutes, then start there. Breaking larger tasks into smaller ones is a clever little way to tricking to the brain into thinking the workload just got a whole lot lighter. 

 
 
When you are running a business, it’s perfectly natural to want to do everything on your own. You’re looking to cut as many costs as possible, so doing your own books, taxes, advertising and anything else seems like a reasonable decision.

Let’s read that again, this time with the correct emphasis.

Doing your own books, taxes, advertising and anything else seems like a reasonable decision. See where I’m going here? The fact is, you can’t do everything yourself, nor should you. Here is a list of people you should consider hiring if you want your business to have the best chance of success.

1.) Professional Accountant. Taxes are nothing to joke about. One slip-up could cost thousands of dollars in fees and wasted time, not to mention legal issues and a damaged company reputation. Get your taxes done right by someone how knows what they’re doing. 

2.) Lawyer. And speaking of legal issues, a decent lawyer is essential. Your company may be held liable for a number of things, and in the unfortunate instance that a problem should arise, every contract or written agreement is going to be gone over with the most intense of scrutiny. It would be wise to do this while drafting up the contracts. You’ll want to make sure any potential issues are discussed long before you find yourself in hot water. And if you do find yourself in hot water, you’re going to want a good business lawyer on your side, especially one that already knows your business inside and out.

3.) Professional Web Designer. If you don’t have a website, you’re already behind, plain and simple. Did you know over 64% of adults under 25 years old don’t even own a phonebook? And why would they, they can find everything they need on the internet! You need a website, but a site that is messy and difficult to navigate won’t do you any good. A professional web designer will give your business the web presence it needs to be successful.

4.) Social Media Expert. The phrase, “adapt or die” hasn’t been around for nothing, and in this day and age social media is an essential part of business. Not only does it provide free marketing to a constantly growing and evolving audience (it costs nothing to have your own Facebook page or Twitter account), but it also gives your customers additional ways of interacting with you. Hiring someone who is proficient in the ways of social media helps give your business the identity and presence you want it to have. 

 
 
Every new experience comes with a learning curve. The first time you bake an apple pie, you realize you needed a touch more cinnamon and make a mental note for next time. The first time you drive a new car you realize the brakes are a bit more sensitive, and adjust yourself accordingly. Basically, the first time you have ever taken on a new venture you have learned a few things for yourself.

But running your own business is different. It takes an immense amount of time and effort to open your business, and one mistake may cost you everything; your reputation, future clients and even your entire life savings. So to keep you a few steps ahead of the game, here is a list of the three most common regrets for first time business owners.

1.) Being unprepared for growth. Every owner hopes their business will be an immediate success, but very few are prepared for when it happens. Being prepared means you have the proper personnel needed to handle the increase in work (shipping and manufacturing, for example), the skills and equipment to keep everything organized and the ability to have effective communication and collaboration among your employees. Remember, getting new customers isn’t too tricky; keeping them is.

2.) Failing to keep a database from the start. Many people put the record keeping tasks to the back burner when they open a new business. After all, they only have six consistent customers, so why not just worry about the customers you have and deal with more as they come? No problem, right? Not quite. This might have been a fine business strategy when you were 12 and running a lemonade stand, but not anymore. You need to have an organized and up-to-date database from day one, including your list of customers, their contact information and purchase receipts.  

3.) Hiring friends and family. This tends to be one of the most common business mistakes of all time, so we’re going to reiterate its importance: don’t hire someone because you like them, hire someone because they are the best possible person for that job. When you hire someone based on their likeable personality alone, you are setting yourself up for two major issues: the job won’t be done with the quality you’re expecting and bridges could be burned in the process. Nothing ruins a friendship like having to fire your friend, and you don’t want to put yourself (or a loved one) in that situation.  

 
 
Virtual collaboration? As in…collaborating as a team when no one is even in the same room? Yes, that is exactly what we are talking about here.

It may seem like something straight out of a sci-fi movie, but the fact is, the future is now. People are utilizing the internet more than ever, which means if you aren’t involved in the virtual world, you need to be…fast. Otherwise, your company just might be heading down the road to extinction.

However, I do understand the fear involved. The virtual world can be a scary place, and one that is requires different skills. So here are a few tips to ensure your group collaboration will be as successful online as it is in person: 

1.) Make sure everyone understands what is going on before the meeting begins. This means if someone doesn’t know how to even turn their computer on, you need to be on the phone with them explaining it or have someone else in their area walk them through what to do. Don’t assume that everyone knows how to just type in a web address and follow instructions. For many people out there, they don’t even know what the term “web address” means, so they certainly aren’t going to understand any of your basic instructions for installing a web cam or unzipping a downloaded file.

2.) Have rules established to make sure everyone gets to speak. Sometimes, when you are dealing in a virtual setting, there can be a bit of a delay. Meaning one person may start answering before another has even heard the entire question. In a situation like this, having the person with the most delay being the first to answer will ensure everyone has heard the question, and everyone will have a chance to speak.

3.) Rotate meeting times. Chances are, you are all in different time zones, so you’re 7:00 a.m. meeting time might be convenient for you, but not so much for the guy getting up to meet at 4:00 in the morning. If you can find a time that works best for everyone, great, but if not, you need to make sure one person isn’t consistently stuck with the crappy time to meet.

4.) Bring them to you. One way to do this is to begin each meeting asking the remote attendees what is going on in there neck of the woods. It may be sunny and gorgeous where you are, but it might be blizzarding where they are. Giving them a chance to explain what is going on there will help them feel more connected to everyone else in the meeting.

5.) Provide several different forms of communication. The meeting shouldn’t be the only way information is getting passed around. Someone should be in charge of sending all the bullet points of the meeting to each member through an email, for example. Having a variety of forms of communication will keep specific members from feeling left out if they aren’t yet comfortable with the virtual setup. 

 
 
No one wants to end up in court on account of something someone overlooked, especially when that something could turn out to be illegal. No one is perfect though, and even the most innocent of owners will make a mistake now and then, so here are some guidelines to make sure whatever mistakes are made, none of them will land you in hot water with the judge.

1.) Have a No-Tolerance policy for illegal behavior. That means performing random drug tests and following all rules and regulations. Are you handling food? Get licensed. Are your workers working more than 40 hours a week? Pay them overtime. The law is the law for a reason, and you need to follow it. 

2.) Have an employee handbook. However, certain rules can be a bit gray, so before you go off expecting your staff to be mind-readers, make sure they all have a copy of all the companies policies; what is or isn’t a violation, what happens should a violation take place, etc. It’s also important to have each employee sign a form acknowledging they’ve read and understood the handbook, ensuring everyone is on the same page

3.) Pay your taxes and cooperate with government officials. If someone from the IRS stops by your place of business, don’t immediately become defensive. After all, they could just be here to clear up a few things, meaning you haven’t done anything wrong and you won’t be getting in trouble for anything. Just in case though…

4.) Keep records. Tax returns, receipts, signed forms and other paperwork is given to you for a reason; as a written record of your transactions and policies. If you need to prove your innocence, the easiest way to do that is having the paperwork backing it up.

5.) Do background checks. You need to know who you’re hiring, plain and simple. If you run a daycare, you need to be able to promise parents that their children won’t be coming into contact with any registered sexual offenders. If you run a delivery company, you’ll need to make sure your drivers have a clean driving record, which means 16 DUI’s is definitely going to be a deal-breaker. In order to trust your staff implicitly, you need to know who they are.

6.) Investigate complaints. There is no quicker way to find yourself in hot water than to have a list of complaints that you do nothing about. If you receive a complaint, whether it’s from an employee or a customer, it is absolutely essential that you look into the issue. And if it is a serious issue, like allegations of sexual harassment, you need to inform the correct authorities.

 
 
Are you in love with your business partner?  Not just for their love of numbers, the company you have created together, or their customer service skills, but their cute little nose, their manly smell or the way they make your knees go weak with a passionate kiss?

Whoa, back up.  Passionate kiss?  Can entrepreneurs do that sort of thing?  

They can and they do!  Even though the U.S. Census Bureau does not provide exact data on the number of businesses own by couples, they do show that approximately 3 million businesses are owned equally by men and women, estimating that the vast majority of these are businesses owned by an “entrepreneurial couple”. It would wrong of us to assume that none of these couples are romantically involved. Out of 3 million…that sure is a lot of lovin’ in the office. 

In addition, the phenomenon occurs even more regularly when applied to small businesses with less than 10 employees.  Apparently when people live together, laugh together and decide to build a life together, the imagined life of working side by side through the long hours required of business ownership is a logical next step.  And it is.  They trust each other, they enjoy being together and they are often passionate about the same things.  These couples jump into the business with all of the passion that got them into bed the first time and it is a beautiful, passionate journey; most of the time.

To ensure it is a passionate and wonderful journey all of the time, here are 5 things to consider:

1.  Take a break.  Not from the business, but from each other.  Go for a walk, go on vacation and go out with friends…alone.  You simply have to have moments apart so you have something to talk about when you come back together.  No one wants to be the boring folks ignoring each other over dinner and no one wants to be the bickering couple either.  Spending time in separate locations keeps you both interesting and able to be just a little bit nicer when you are together.

2.  Take care of the couple first.  Someday the kids will be gone, the business will be gone and you will be left staring at the person you decided to build a life with.  Don’t wake up and wonder how you ended up in bed with a stranger.  Be romantic.  Be spontaneous.  Be a flirt.  Step away from everything but each other once in a while.  You deserve it.

3. Set clear goals.  There is nothing worse than working side by side hour after hour only to realize you were both going in different directions.  Knowing where you are going, when you want to get there and who is doing which tasks is essential.  Deciding your direction now, when everyone is calm, is a better plan than waiting till you hit a fork in the road; because that fork could very well be used to stab someone in the leg.

4.  Hire help.  Someone out there likes to clean toilets and I bet it is neither of you.  Someone also knows how to fix a computer, balance the books, and run social media.  Let them.  Make a list of everything that needs to be done- and what has to be done by you - then farm out the rest.  The trick is to use the time you are not doing menial tasks to earn money to pay for the people doing those tasks or to take care of the couple as talked about in point two.

5.  Don’t be the boss.  You can kiss your entrepreneurial partner, but you probably don’t want to kiss the boss.  The boss is a Big Ol’ Stinking Slob.  They think they are always right, use volume and intimidation instead of effective communication and would rather watch others work than participate in work.  If you are acting like the boss and your partner doesn’t like it you can be fired.  That firing usually means the kids and the house are divided and happily ever after is not going to be the end of your story.  Be kind.  Be helpful.  Be a partner.  Don’t be a stinker: don’t be a boss.

Bonus Point: You need other people.  And you have to let them into this crazy project you are doing together.  Enlist the help of a coach, an accountant, a lawyer and probably a therapist (better early on than when it is too late!).  Well-meaning friends and family do not know what you are going through, and truth be told, you probably don’t either.  There are people out there who do, and people who can help you lay out a game plan that will keep you sane, prosperous and most importantly, together.  Let them. 

Now go kiss your big ol bundle of entrepreneurial passion- and don’t stop till their knees go weak.  But, do it fast, you have work to do.
 
 
Let’s face it; everyone has a few personality traits that can be a bit of a…pain in the neck. But for the most part, they’re harmful. So you don’t like it when your green beans touch your pork-chop, or you tend to talk a little too long when you’re on the phone, it’s probably not going to be the downfall of your business or the unraveling of your family. The following personality traits, however, are going to cause some serious difficulties in your life, and it’s recommended that you do something to make some changes, stat.

1.) You focus on the negative. No one wants to be around a Debbie Downer, but have you ever tried working for one? Don’t defend yourself by saying, “Well there’s always room for improvement.” Sometimes a job well done is just a job well done, and it needs to be left at that. Could your employee have turned in that report a day sooner? Would you have done anything with it if it had been turned in a day sooner? No? Then let it go. No one will want to work for you if nothing they do is ever good enough. 

2.) You misplace your frustrations. Everyone has a bad day once in a while, but that doesn’t mean you are allowed to scream at your employees when you are really still upset about your alarm not going off this morning. Or maybe you yell at your husband during your late night phone call when in reality you just haven’t seen him in a month and you miss him. If you’re upset about something, address it. Don’t let your receptionist or your spouse take the brunt of your bad mood.

3.) You’re apathetic. An individual who is apathetic appears to not care. You may care a great deal about the goings on in your daily life, but you have to act like it for others to get it. An example would be if a costly mistake occurs and you say, “Oh well, let’s not do it again.” A caring person would want to determine why the mistake was made and what can be done to prevent it from happening again. Remember, if you don’t care about the work being done, why would anyone else?

4.) You nag. A nagging personality is one of the most draining personalities to be around, and why? Because you are never fully alone when you are with a nagger. Everything you do is under constant scrutiny. Are you going to turn that in on time? Are you doing that right? Will they like it? Are you following all the directions? Exhausting, isn’t it? So stop. When you ask someone to do something, let them do it. Their process for completing a task is fully their own; you don’t have a say. Assign a task and then wait until either the task is complete or the deadline arrives before you make your critiques.

5.) You don’t listen. Knowing how to really listen (and I mean really listen, not just sit there quietly waiting for the other person to finish so you can say whatever it is you want to say), is one of the most invaluable traits there is. The fact is, you are not always right and you do not know everything. If you need to make a conscious effort to stop talking, then do it.

The problem with most of these personality traits is that the people that have them don’t realize they have them. Take a second to really examine yourself, every day, to make sure you’re not falling into one of these traps. The most successful teams are happy teams, and you want a happy, successful team!

 
 
It seems like a cheesy topic, I know, but the fact is many people today still struggle with feeling confident with their actions. Your personal opinion of yourself holds an incredible amount of weight. After all, if perception is reality, low self-confidence is equivalent to shooting yourself in the foot. 

So instead of continuously rooting against yourself, apply a few of these tips and see what it would be like to feel unstoppable

1.) Dress the part. Of course no one should judge a book by its cover, and clothes certainly do not make the man, but there is a definite shift that happens when you see yourself for the first time in a striking suit or gorgeous dress. The feeling of “Wow, I look really good” creates a sense of surprise in the mind, allowing room to think to yourself, “I wonder what else I’ve been holding back.” 

Plus, your reactions to how people treat you are a huge part of your identity. Changing your clothes changes these reactions. If you want to command respect, you first have to dress like you deserve it. 

2.) Work out. Contrary to your probable initial snap judgement, this has nothing to do with looks (although it certainly doesn’t hurt). Pushing yourself physically is the easiest way to retrain your brain to combat negative self-talk. You’ve run 3 miles and think you can’t take another step? Take another step. There, you’ve already proven that you can do more than you think

Furthermore, naturally puts you in a better mood. Did you know the feeling of finishing a difficult workout is often listed as better than the feeling provided by anti-depressants? It’s true. So get off the couch and go for a walk, that little boost in your mood will do wonders for your self-confidence.

3.) Do something for youSince we just discussed a few benefits of exercise, I’ll list one more; it’s good for you. Doing things for you, like engaging in regular exercise, eating healthy or taking a bubble bath once in a while show that you value yourself enough to take care of yourself. 

4.) Take risks. One definition of low self-confidence is always believing you’ll fail at everything you attempt, which can obviously make it pretty difficult to step out on a limb once in a while. However, this is exactly why it is critical to take risks; because you aren’t going to fail every time. Is there a position at your company you’ve been eyeing but are afraid you’d never get? Apply anyway! Who knows, you might just get the job, and it’s little moments like this that prove that no, in fact, you won’t always fail. 

5.) Understand reality. Low self-confidence has a way of warping reality. If you aren’t getting along with one person, you may exaggerate it to feel that no one likes you. In addition, the idea that people are laughing at you or that someone else is able to do the job better than you are both examples of a warped reality.  

Instead of letting yourself get carried away, stop, breathe and think. Are people really laughing at you? No! The reality is that they've got their own problems to deal with. There is no point in terrifying yourself over something that, realistically, won’t even happen! 
 
 
Fact: you need teamwork. In order for any organization (a place of business, your family, a charity, etc.) to run successfully, its members need to understand the concept of effective teamwork.

And therein appears the essential word: effective. It’s one thing to say you are running a team, but it’s quite another to run that team effectively. Here are a few ways to make sure your team is truly living up to its potential.

1.) Have clearly defined goals. In order to get the most out of your team, you need to have a clearly defined goal that you are working toward as a group. In addition, it’s important to be specific. “Increase efficiency” sounds good, but it’s a horrible goal because it could mean anything. “Increase the amount work orders processed between 3:00 and 5:00 pm” on the other hand, lets everyone know exactly what they are working toward and what will be considered a success. If they found a way to increase the amount of work orders processed between 10:00 and 11:00 in the morning, for example, it would be increasing efficiency, but not in the specific way you might want it to be increased. 

2.) Break up the work. Delegating one specific task to one person and another specific task to another person lessons the burden of the problem. It takes a huge, intimidating obstacle and turns it into many small, manageable obstacles. Plus, it gives each person a part of the solution that they can be accountable for.

3.) Hold frequent meetings to review progress. If a specific person is unaware of the progress being made by other members of the group, they can start to feel like they are doing all the work, even though they are still in charge of a single component. Having meetings to discuss progress gives team members a chance to see the progress of the issue as a whole. 

Furthermore, frequent meetings allows the team to see what is working and what is not, and provides a chance for people to offer valuable input. 

4.) Do the little things. Like any job, working on one thing for a long period of time can be grueling, so try to lighten the mood occasionally. Think you aren’t there to bring your employees donuts and juice when they should be happy they simply have a job? Fair enough, but this isn’t an article about how to spoil your employees, it’s an article about how to get the most out of your team. Little things go a long way, so suck it up and bring in some muffins once in a while. 

5.) Celebrate successes publicly. Did your team accomplish the goal? Let everyone know! Announce it in the company newsletter and list the team members that made it possible. Have a company celebratory pot luck and let participating team members wear matching T-shirts to stand out. When the team gets to take credit for the solution, it makes them more eager to solve other problems, and when team members are publicly praised for their work, it makes other members of the company eager to participate in solving the next company issue. 

 
 
Starting a business is tough, and keeping a business going can be tougher still. Not only are you in charge of everything, but you are also responsible for everything, which can feel like quite a burden. Don’t worry though; it’s all going to be all right. All you have to do is make yourself into the best businessperson you can, preparing yourself for dealing with the trials and tribulations that come with being your own boss. Here are three Essentials:

1.) Have a clear set of goals and values. Knowing what you want is essential of any business plan, but understand what you are willing to do to get there is an entirely different story. The area of business ethics seems to be quite an unspoken “guideline” to many companies, but the truth is it’s a component of doing business that’s extremely paramount.

Take my friend, for example, who runs an ice cream truck. All of her ice cream product comes from Wilcoxson’s Ice Cream, a locally owned and managed business. If she were to buy her product from Costco or Walmart, she could absolutely get it for a lower price (thereby increasing her profit ratio), but the quality just wouldn’t be the same. It’s worth it to her to serve only the best ice cream available, which has kept her customers coming back year after year.

Before you go into business, make sure you know where your values lie. That way, when a decision comes up that needs an immediate answer; you won’t have to waste valuable time deciding between the right option and the option that doesn’t mold with your business values.

2.) Communicate often and clearly. Any group of people, whether it’s a business, a family or just a close-knit group of friends cannot function properly without effective communication. That means make sure your clients and employees have a clear understanding of everything that is going on and everything that is required of them. Give customers frequent updates (when their product is set to arrive, how that architectural drawing they hired you to do is coming along), and give employees clear-cut instructions.

And don’t forget the most important part of effective communication: listening. It’s vital that you are listening to your customer’s wants and needs and your employee’s concerns and ideas. A successful business is an evolving business, and the best way to make sure you’re an evolving business is to have an open line of communication.

3.) Nip problems in the bud. It’s incredibly important to catch problems as they arise. Have there been some issues with your product arriving on time? Sit down and figure out if a different shipping schedule needs to be put into place. Is there an employee with a bad attitude? Bring them into your office and take care of it. Maybe they are going through a difficult time at home, or maybe there has just been a misunderstanding that needs to be straightened out. Either way, it’s important to make sure small problems don’t turn into larger, more significant (and more damaging) problems. 

What tips do you have for running a successful business