13 Lessons Verne Harnish Taught Me

Written by Cheryl Beth Kuchler, CEO Think Tank

It’s been almost a decade since I first heard Verne Harnish speak at a two-day “Mastering the Rockefeller Habits” workshop in Washington D.C. about “Scaling Up” a small business. It was, to put it bluntly, engrossing, overwhelming and life-changing.

Listening to Verne Harnish is like drinking from a fire hose. More illustratively, as one of my fellow Lehigh alums would say, listening to him is like drinking from the beer bong of business learning.

There’s so much to absorb, it’s nearly impossible to keep up. And if you’re not quick enough, you could drown. Six or seven hours into his workshop, as my head was going under water for the umpteenth time, I decided I needed a life vest.

So I started to capture the “highlights” from my learning to help me remember as well as focus. Two days later, I had thirteen points that summarized my key insights, my takeaways, which in turn would guide my behaviors in the years to come – in my own consulting business – which I was working to grow as well as with my clients who were working to grow their businesses.

As pertinent today as they were ten years ago, I offer them to you to consider for your own 2018 planning.  My favorite? #3 – If you have a problem or an opportunity ask yourself, “Who’s already doing this and how are they doing it?” Verne taught me that most business problems have been solved by someone else. We spend way too much time re-inventing the wheel. You just have to figure out who that resource is, and reach out. (See Lesson #2 for your next step.)

And click here to read my complete list of Verne’s 13 Lessons. Which one will you be focusing on for the coming year?

7 Ways to Use LinkedIn to Grow Your Small Business

written by Kristin Drake, LinkedIn Careers Team.
Grow your small business with LinkedIn by using these seven proven tactics.

There are nearly 30 million small businesses in the United States, but only half of them will make it past five years. To ensure your small business is in the successful half, we encourage you to capitalize on the various ways LinkedIn can evolve your business.

With LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional network, you can generate leads, produce sales, and hire top professionals to fuel your growth. Here are seven ways to grow your business using LinkedIn:

Create a LinkedIn Company Page

We’ve found that LinkedIn members are 50% more likely to buy once they’ve engaged with your business on LinkedIn. But they can’t connect with you if you don’t have a LinkedIn Company Page. According to Forbes, only 57% of companies have pages. The remaining 43% are missing out on a free opportunity to generate leads, talent, and, ultimately, revenue.

If you don’t already have one, create a LinkedIn Company Page. Personal profiles don’t have the same marketing, advertising, and recruiting features as Company Pages, making them less effective at promoting your business. As you create your page, think about the kind of impression you want to create among potential customers and employees. This will help you select the right photos and messages to use on your page.

For a step-by-step guide on how to create an above and beyond Company Page, view our LinkedIn Company Page Best Practices. 

Promote Your Company Page

Once you have a Company Page, announce it to your clients, employees, and personal network. This will help you gain your first followers, who in turn will help to promote your Company Page on the content you post to it.

Promoting your page on other platforms or via email is also a great way to grow your audience. Here are some simple ways to get the word out:

  • Announce the launch of the Company Page on your personal LinkedIn profile
  • Encourage employees to follow the Company Page by making it a part of your onboarding process—Social Media Today reports that content shared by employees receives eight times the engagement as brand shared content
  • Link to your Company Page in the footer of your marketing emails or newsletters
  • Embed a Company Follow button onto your website so visitors can easily follow your LinkedIn Company Page

Share Content Regularly

The more you post, the more people you can potentially reach and convert. Best-in-class LinkedIn Company Pages are consistently updated to ensure that visitors have plenty of new content to consume and share.

To get started, try posting at least once per week. It’s not uncommon for companies to post three or more times per day. Post whenever you have something worth saying. Posting consistently shows Company Page visitors that your company is active on LinkedIn. Use LinkedIn’s Company Page analytics to see your top performing updates, your best times to post, and which members of your audience are the most engaged. With this information, it’s easy to make data-driven decisions to optimize your Company Page content.

In addition to posting often, here are a few more stats to help you boost engagement:

  • Posts with links receive up to 45% more engagement
  • Images see an incredible 98% increase in engagement
  • Posts that have relevant “best-of” lists get almost 40% more amplification

When a post gets good engagement, consider promoting it to a wider audience with LinkedIn Sponsored Content. Take the Sponsored Content Tour and discover how Sponsored Content amplifies your best content.

Showcase Thought Leadership

Seventy nine percent of buyers say thought leadership is critical for determining which companies they want to learn more about. To get started with thought leadership content, try to provide a unique perspective on your industry, product, or organization. Sharing your opinion on the future of your industry or creating a definitive guide on your product are just two ways to demonstrate your expertise and position your company as a credible partner.

For more ideas and advice on expanding your brand’s authority, download our Sophisticated Marketer’s Guide to Thought Leadership to learn more.

Target Sales Prospects

LinkedIn has over 500 million users to date. That may seem like a lot to sort through, but LinkedIn also provides you with tools to identify and target your ideal audience.

LinkedIn members are more likely than other social media users to keep their profiles up-to-date, making it easier for you to find the right people. Use LinkedIn profile data to search for LinkedIn members based on geographic location, education, experience, and even connections. Once you’ve found prospects using the search feature, visit their profiles. Their endorsements or recent profile views might surface additional qualified prospects, too.

For more ways to reach your ideal audience, learn how to advertise on LinkedIn.

Build an All-Star Team

LinkedIn has helped 75% of job switchers make informed career decisions, making LinkedIn a top recruiting network. What are candidates looking for when making those decisions? Our research shows that 66% of candidates want to see company culture over everything else. To take advantage of this preference, consider enhancing your Company Page with a LinkedIn Career Page.

Career Pages allow you to target audiences with a personalized look into your company, culture, and jobs. They give you dedicated Life and Jobs Tabs on your Company Page that attract and engage relevant professionals.

In addition to creating Career Pages, encourage employees to share job postings and “day in the life” content as well. This gives visitors a genuine idea of what it’s like to work for you and adds to your authenticity. If you have a few employees who lead the pack in sharing content, consider linking them to your Company Page’s Life Tab. Their shared articles and recent updates will automatically populate, providing visitors with up-to-date information. Watch our video below on how to use the Life Tab to attract the right talent for your company.

 

Hire Freelancers

You’ve probably had an employee who took on a task outside of their domain. You might have even done it yourself a few times. While the effort is commendable, learning on the fly can also be detrimental.

Fortunately, finding the right talent for the task at hand isn’t as tricky as it once was, even if you can’t afford the salary of a full time employee.

LinkedIn ProFinder enables you to post your projects, receive free proposals, and hire trustworthy professionals all in one place. ProFinder will even pair you with local professionals to ensure you have the best freelance experience possible. With 172 professional services available on ProFinder, it’s easy to find the perfect professional for any task.

LinkedIn vets all  the professionals on the platform to ensure they are qualified and leverages your network to find freelancers your connections have used, so you’re never in the dark about who you’re hiring.

By using freelancers, you’ll get access to outside perspectives & broad experience of professionals of all kinds, from creating websites and designing logos to managing your books or crafting your marketing strategy. Plus, with none of the management overhead of a full-time employee, you can focus solely on the job at hand.

 

Investing in the Future: How an Incubator Helps Start-up Businesses?

Over the holidays, my mom asked me the same question that you may have gotten, “What exactly is it that you do?” I often get the question from some in the business community, “What is a business incubator?” And while I can glibly reply that the Emerging Enterprise Center provides Support, Access to Resources and Advice, so that start-up businesses can focus on Growing their business, Developing business skills, and Graduating with a sustainable and scalable business model, I’m not sure that I’ve really enlightened anyone about what an incubator is and what we do.

First of all, why would a start-up business need an incubator program? Starting up your own business can be exciting, frustrating, overwhelming and all-consuming, all at once. Not every entrepreneur is the same. All have different levels of experience. What they share is their passion for their grand idea. Most also share initially the fear about when they are going to get the next sale! This is part of the validation of their business. Does it solve a problem, and is someone willing to pay you for it? Each time you make a sale, you worry about the next one. As a result, many entrepreneurs find themselves in a vicious cycle. They are so busy marketing, networking, making sales calls….. then going back to “create or produce” the product or service that they are selling…. then handling the invoicing, paperwork, accounting etc. Being by yourself, in a home office or garage, or even in a rented space in some office building, it is easy to dive deeper into a hole, feeling alone, overworked and beginning to get burned out. At the Emerging Enterprise Center, you are not only surrounded by other entrepreneurs facing similar challenges or have survived those challenges, but you have our support in helping you navigate through these issues.

One of the things we talk about first is the sales process…… understanding the target customer, the pipeline and the time line from contact to contract. We talk about documenting the process so it can be replicated, consistently. This is hugely important when you begin hiring others to sell and represent your business. Your Brand is dependent on the consistency of the message and the experience. Once you have confidence that there is value in what you are selling and that there is a demand, you can shift from “where will the next sale come from” to “when!” That confidence moves you into a more operational mode of planning “how” you are going to achieve your goals!

In some shape or form, that is what we are doing throughout the entire two to three years of the incubation program. We help the entrepreneur develop a thought process that goes something like this…. What do I want to be when I grow up? (Long-term Vision and Goals) and What will it take to achieve that? (Operational, Tactical, Practical steps). With that context in mind, our quarterly meetings follow the same format: Which of your commitments did you accomplish or not? What did you learn from that? What are you committing to accomplish in the next quarter? What resources do you need to be successful? How can we help?

This isn’t a cookie-cutter approach because each business’ needs and issues are different. There are some businesses that are fortunate to have customers knocking down their door from day 1, but struggle with the capacity to deliver on the promise. Others underestimate the time it makes to close a sale, and the impact that has on cash flow. And others struggle with understanding when to hire someone to free themselves up to do something that is more important to the business. Sales is only one part of running a business. Add to that, pricing human resources, production, financial and funding issues, and much more. You can only ignore them for so long, but sooner or later you need to address all of them. It takes time, and you can see that skill levels grow day by day. But Ican tell you , when you see the light bulb go on, and it all comes together, you  can almost see the entrepreneur’s confidence in themselves and in their business bursting through.

So what is an incubator? It is a program that combines a nurturing environment, with a supporting entrepreneurial eco-system, and assistance in developing the requisite skills that helps start-up businesses enhance their chance of success. Come check out the Emerging Enterprise Center at www.EECincubator.com.