Letting Go So You Can Grow: How Delegating Can Free You Up To Grow Your Business & Enjoy Your Life

Letting Go So You Can Grow: How Delegating Can Free You Up To Grow Your Business & Enjoy Your Life

If you were to ask some of the most successful business owners what the hardest and most helpful thing they’ve done for their business is, the answer is likely to be “Delegate.” Letting go of some of the strings that keep your business moving can be painful and scary, but if you don’t do it, you could end up tangled and tied to your business in ways that you don’t want to be.

Think about it: Why did you start your own business in the first place? You wanted freedom, right? Freedom, yes, but also control. Freedom to do things your way and control over your success, your finances, your future, and your time. But has that control turned into a burden? Has it actually significantly limited your freedom and time?

Ask yourself the following:

  • If you were to sell your business, would it be worth anything if you weren’t included as part of the transaction?
  • Do the number of things that only you can do outweigh the number of things your employees can do?
  • Could your business survive without you for 24 hours?

These questions may be scary, but if you want to create a business that truly gives you freedom, these are questions you’ve got to ask.

Are You Your Business’s Single Point of Failure?

In engineering, a system has a single point of failure if the entire system would stop working should a single part fail. Are you running a business with a single point of failure? If you aren’t delegating, you are. If you’re doing everything yourself in your business, you’re operating a machine whose single point of failure is you.

You have to learn to let go and delegate! In fact, you should delegate as much as possible. There are some things no one but the business owner can do, but much of it can be taught. If you’re hiring right, there’s a good chance that someone on your team can take over some of your tasks and even perform them faster and better than you do.

Wait, what? Not possible. No one could do a better job. No one could even do half as good a job as you. That’s what you’re thinking, right?

Well, here’s the truth: If you want things done a specific way, it doesn’t mean you have to continue to do everything yourself. It just means you have to be specific with those you’re delegating to about how you want things done.

Create SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) for those tasks only you know how to do. Take the time to document your way of doing things and create a system for getting the tasks done to your standards. It may take a little time up front, but the amount of time delegating those tasks will free up for you will more than make up for time lost.

How do You Know Who You Should Delegate Your Tasks To?

Toying with the idea of delegating, but unsure about who to delegate to? Think about the strengths of the different team members on your staff. Is there someone with great leadership skills that can easily grab and hold the attention of the rest of the staff? Maybe that’s the right person to start leading your daily meetings.

Is one of your employees known for his or her friendliness, positivity, attention to detail, and ability to put people at ease? Consider having that employee take over phone calls and scheduling. If you have tasks you’d like to delegate but can’t seem to match to your existing employees, think about the traits needed to really excel at those tasks and hire accordingly.

Give up a Little Control & Get a Lot More Freedom

Your business is your baby, but it shouldn’t be a burden. Learn to let go and give some control over to your employees! If you’ve hired right and you trust them, providing them with systems should allow you to really start enjoying the freedom of being a business owner. And isn’t that one of the main reasons why you started your business in the first place?

But it’s not just about the freedom that delegating allows. The less time you spend running around pulling strings, the more time you can invest in planning, expanding your vision, growing your business, and doing the things you love. So get to delegatin’!

How To Keep Your Brand Message Clear As A Bell

How To Keep Your Brand Message Clear As A Bell

A brand message breakdown can have far-reaching negative effects on your company’s image, and can ultimately affect your company’s fate. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Yelp, Google…there are more soap boxes for dissatisfied customers to shout from than ever before. And because these platforms don’t have borders, messages can go further, faster. All it takes is one negative experience to change the perceptions of many.

Most of us have come to terms with this reality and know that businesses can’t afford to have an “off” day or even an “off” moment. There is no “on” or “off” time for service businesses in the Internet age. But should this level of speed and transparency really change anything? We’d argue no.

If you think about it, there’s never been a time when it was okay for service businesses to be inconsistent in their messages or service experience The only real difference is that now, we, the business owners, can very clearly see the messages our customers are putting out there regarding their experiences with us. And these messages can go much further and be seen by a lot more people.

These messages are heard by other customers and potential customers, and become part of our brand message, whether we like it or not. For many of us, just the thought of this is scarier than running out of TP in a public restroom.

But many business owners are so consumed by their fear of negative online reviews and comments that they shut down – they miss the treasure altogether and forget to ask the questions that really matter. Questions like:

Are certain people or behaviors in my company sending out the wrong messages and hurting my business? Where is my message breaking down and why? Do my employees know what our brand message is and how they’re expected to communicate it?

You see, it’s not that business owners got breaks or “had it good” in the pre-Internet age. It’s not that you should fear (or hate) the platforms that now give your customers a far-reaching voice. And it’s not that you should focus your efforts on trying to weed out the Negative Nancys that might leave your business a bad review.

Instead, you should focus on where, how, and why your brand’s message is breaking down, so you can work on making that message clearer and more consistent. When you do that, you’ll find that some of that fear around online reviews dissipates.

And as you do that, remember: Your brand message isn’t just coming from your marketing department these days, but from every post on your social accounts and every single employee that is a part of the customer experience. So, if you’re cringing at the messages your customers are receiving and the messages your customers are sharing about their experiences with your brand, zoom out and take a hard look at what’s really wrong.

All it Takes is One Inconsistency to Destroy Brand Trust & Skew Brand Message

I recently went to a new coffee shop in town to grab a Green Tea latte and get some work done. I was pretty excited when I walked in to find the place empty, with the exception of one employee. In fact, I texted my coworker several confetti emojis to express my joy.

Post-text, I placed my order, took a look around, and chose the perfect little table with the perfect lighting. As jazz music played softly, I opened up my laptop and prepared for a record-breaking productivity streak. But shortly after I started typing, the barista picked up her cell phone, prematurely ending my epic productivity streak.

She talked with her friend about every car her brother had ever had, when she had last taken the bus to work, how her mom had been nagging her to get her flu shot…yada, yada, yada. It completely ruined the atmosphere and made it impossible to focus. My hopes were dashed.

But, as a relatively easygoing person, I decided to give the barista the benefit of the doubt. I figured she would hang up any minute and restore the focus-friendly atmosphere that we’ve all come to love and expect in a coffee shop. Instead, she committed the cardinal sin: she talked about the customer and the job as an inconvenience…in front of the customer (me).

“There’s nobody here…just one person. It’s so slow…”
“I told you, I’ll do that when I’m able. I have a customer and it’s a very small place.”
“I still have hours to go and I just want to leave…”

Ok, now I just felt awkward. My patience had worn thin, so I packed up my stuff and headed to the door. As I left she said, “Have a nice night.”


Now, I know everyone thinks millennials are the worst and have no idea what professionalism looks like, but I’m here to defend at least some of us. I’ve had several jobs in the service industry and I would never have considered having a personal conversation in front of a customer. In fact, I would have lost my job if I pulled out my phone while working. But this millennial…she didn’t seem to have a problem completely decimating the line between professional and personal.

What was the difference between me (a millennial) and this girl (also a millennial)? I’d argue that one of us knew the brand message we were expected to communicate and how we were expected to communicate it, and the other didn’t (or didn’t respect it enough to follow through).

Well, who cares? I had one bad experience at a coffee shop that I otherwise loved. No harm done, right? Eh. Actually, that one bad experience forever tainted my view of the shop. It altered my perception of the brand and made me question the kind of customer experience I would have on my next visit.

I lost trust and confidence in the brand and the experience the brand provided. In other words: even though I had positive experiences with the brand in the past, the honeymoon was over.

The point is: Making sure some of your employees “get it” isn’t good enough. It’s important that every single one of your employees is crystal clear on expectations and brand message, because just one bad apple can end the honeymoon for your customers and decrease their trust in your company. Just one bad experience can communicate a totally different brand message than the one you had in mind.

Let me give you another quick example…

I was on the road recently and stopped in at a Sheetz to grab a water and use the bathroom. If I hadn’t known better, I would have sworn that my 5-year-old twin nieces had just been left unattended in the women’s room for a solid half hour. The floor was covered in water and paper towels, and it looked like the trashcan was more of a suggestion than a requirement.

Now, as a girl who grew up with Wawa and not Sheetz, this one experience was responsible for shaping my expectations of the brand. And I was thinking, “Holly hell…Sheetz is gross.”

As I tiptoed to the sink avoiding what I could of this travesty, I saw it right at the heart of the disaster: A sign from the owner.

“We want you to be satisfied every time you visit Sheetz, so I personally promise the cleanliness of all Sheetz restrooms. If they’re not to your satisfaction, or if you feel there is room for improvement, please call me toll free at …”

Obviously, Mr. Sheetz had a clear vision for his brand message and standards. That message was even written out in his store’s bathrooms. But not everyone got the message or took it to heart.

Maybe there were checklists in place to ensure that the Sheetz bathroom never reached the disgusting level I witnessed, but if so, those checklists weren’t followed. It’s up to you, as the owner, to figure out what’s causing the breakdown so you can fix it.

3 Tips For Keeping Your Brand Message Crystal Clear & Consistent, Even When You Aren’t Around

Running a business is hard work (That’s an understatement). You may not be able to anticipate and prevent every brand message breakdown and customer service disaster. But there are some things you can do to help ensure that everyone in your company maintains professionalism and upholds your company values, culture, message, and customer service standards, even when you aren’t around.

  1. Hire Right. The first step is to hire right. This is easier said than done, but if you take the time to do things right and really evaluate whether or not a candidate will make a great employee and be a good fit for your company culture and values, you’ll have employees that you can trust to uphold your brand message and maintain your expectations for professionalism and customer service — whether you’re in the room or not. Here’s a great article on how Southwest Airlines approaches hiring to ensure a clear brand message and consistent culture.
  2. Clearly Communicate Your Brand Message Repeatedly. Does your team even know what brand message you’re trying to communicate? Do they know what qualities you value and what kind of company culture you’re trying to create and uphold? If this isn’t communicated clearly to your employees, how can they work with you to keep your brand message consistent and protect your company culture? Team meetings, SOPs, employee manuals, and company mission statements are just a few ways you can communicate this to your employees. Everyone should know what you stand for and why your company exists. With a clear vision and purpose in mind, it’s much easier to hit the mark.
  3. Set Expectations & Lead Well. As a business owner, it’s important that you set expectations for your employees. For example, when I worked in the service industry, my employers made it very clear that I was expected to stay off of my cell phone for the entire length of my shift. When I was at work, our clients were my world. And because I knew what was expected of me and what types of behaviors were and weren’t acceptable, it didn’t matter if my bosses were around. I communicated the brand message they wanted me to communicate: that we were a professional company that was 100% focused on our customers, not on what was happening in our Instagram feeds. But you don’t have to get out the employee manual or make a long list of rules to communicate these expectations – you can lead by example. If you maintain professionalism and handle yourself appropriately at work, your employees should hear the message loud and clear and follow suit. Still, it’s always wise to clearly state expectations, so there’s no room for misunderstandings.

Don’t Wait For a Bad Experience – Crystalize Your Message Now

We all get a pit in our stomach when we see a nasty review online or have to face an outraged or disappointed customer. And hey, you can’t always avoid these things. But if you’re proactive and you take a long look at your company and staff now, you can find ways to make sure your brand message doesn’t break down or get altered by employees that don’t know what message you’re trying to communicate or understand (or care) what’s expected.

Ask yourself what could be done differently to ensure that your customers are receiving your brand message clearly and consistently. If you see areas that could use some improvement, don’t be afraid to make those changes. Your business, your customers (both existing and potential), and your employees will thank you for it!

Know Thy Numbers

Know Thy Numbers

One of the most difficult things a business owner faces is the budgeting and accounting aspect of their business. Many of us rely on our CPAs to deliver the “news” annually, semi-annually, quarterly, or monthly, depending on how numbers-averse we are. But is this really the wisest way to do things?

The thought of getting into the numbers when it comes to marketing may overwhelm you quickly, but the truth is: you can’t create a good marketing plan without knowing a few key metrics. While tracking down these numbers might never be “fun” for you, if you can reframe the process and look at it as a treasure hunt, you can find gold. Here are the metrics all business owners should know.

Getting Down to Brass Tacks

Cost of a sale is one of the first things you’ll need to know. For the most part, you control the costs of a sale. Knowing your current cost is essential to determining return on investment (ROI). And once you know it, you’ll be able to make better-informed decisions from first touch (prospecting), through the process of conversion, and through the final sale or lack thereof (close).

You can go about figuring the cost of a sale out in one of two ways: calculate the average or calculate for individual products and services. Getting a feel for your overall business can easily be done with an average, but if you need to find out which product or service has the best profit margin, you might want to do some individual calculations. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide which one will give you the information you need.

Number of Prospects and Number of Leads in a given time frame are two easy (and important) numbers to figure out and track. (For general purposes, a prospect is usually defined as someone who fits a set of common characteristics shared by your best customers, while a “lead” is a prospect that has identified themselves as being specifically interested in your products or services.)

You should always keep track of these numbers so you can gauge the cost of your marketing and sales activity. Knowing how many prospects you began with and how many became qualified leads is also a must in order to calculate our next metric.

Conversion rate gets confused with close rate all the time, but it’s different. A conversion is what happens when a prospect steps up in some measurable way and says, “Yes, tell me more” to some kind of marketing message or initial call to action. It’s these people or companies that should be placed into your company sales process.

Close rate is simply how many leads became actual sales (revenue into your business) within a given time frame. You can find keen insights as you further segment your close rate by individual products, services, or salespeople, to get a very good understanding of who or what is performing well for you.

Revenue is a number that should never be confused with profit. Profits are considered after everything is accounted for and the bills are paid. Profit is the number that’s left, which can even be a negative number if it is costing you more to produce and sell your products or services than you are bringing in from your sales.

But revenue is the total amount of money that has been brought into your company, and this is the amount that you use to gauge your overall marketing efforts. Expenses should be calculated, of course, but they need to be expenses that are associated with the marketing process.

There you have it: The key metrics you need to know. Not as bad as you thought, was it? Good. With these numbers, you can create your own treasure map to success. So revisit them regularly and empower yourself to make better decisions!

Instant Gratification and Organic Rankings Do Not Mix

Instant Gratification and Organic Rankings Do Not Mix

You order fast-food, and within minutes, it’s ready for you to eat. The advances in the Internet and Internet service providers enable us to fly through web pages with a few simple clicks. Our computers, cell phones, and tablets allow us to multitask on a variety of programs and apps at once.

These are just a few examples of how modern day technology has spoiled us and gradually conditioned society to expect instant results.We live in a fast-paced world that only seems to be getting faster. With this comes the expectation that every action we take has an immediate and instant reaction.

  • When we click to view a website, we become impatient if it doesn’t load within five seconds.
  • We become irritated when our food doesn’t arrive as fast as we think it should.
  • We grumble when our computers update or take too long to open a document.

The conveniences afforded by modern day life have been focused around getting what we want, when we want it.  These advances in speed and convenience are all great, but when we get delayed in even the smallest of ways, we tend to get upset.

In the arena of business, however, patience is still a virtue. Shipments of materials and finished goods take time to be delivered. Business relationships and partnerships take time to develop and grow. Patience is especially needed when it comes to Google and organic search rankings for a business.

The word ‘organic’ implies natural growth. When a seed is planted in the ground, it could be weeks before a sprout can be seen. The same principle applies to Google search and rankings. It can take weeks before new pages on a website are indexed and recognized by Google. The reality is that: correctly building a presence online takes time and patience.

Of course, your patience can be further tested when you are paying for these services to waiting to see results. Many small business owners spend all of their time immersed in the daily operations of their business and require the help of a marketing agency for search and marketing efforts.

These business owners often expect to see immediate results from the efforts they are paying for because it’s what they are used to seeing in other aspects of life. And it makes sense, given that those who pay a marketing firm to represent them online cannot directly see all the work that gets put into those services.

But the truth is: there is no magic switch that can be flipped in Google to make your business automatically rank higher. Building the online presence of a website and business is a marathon and not a sprint. In fact, knee-jerk reactions to Google’s rankings do not usually play out well. So yes, make sure you have a high degree of trust in your marketing firm, but be patient. It’s a long, steady building process, but in a world where everything is getting faster, some things are just worth waiting for.

Advertising & Marketing Are Megaphones, What Are You Amplifying?

Advertising & Marketing Are Megaphones, What Are You Amplifying?

Since the day the first group of enterprising cavemen got together and created the first business (let’s assume for the sake of this article that it was a fire pit sweeping service, shall we?), there has been a need to get the word out to potential consumers, in order to increase sales and sustain the business.

I’ve often thought about these hypothetical primitive business owners, and how they might have tried to market themselves. Without the benefit of the internet, email, television, radio, postal service, or even newspapers, what methods would they have found successful to build their customer base?

Would they have stood on the nearest hillside overlooking the village and beat their chests, shouting their offers to the villagers below? Would they have wrapped the company mastodon with a banner fashioned from tree bark, and paraded it through the community? After all, selling to hundreds of potential customers all at once has always been a lot more efficient and cost-effective than going door-to-door.

Regardless of the era of history we examine, it would seem that wherever there is a person marketing a business, there is a megaphone of some sort in his hand. But even early marketers soon discovered that mass marketing could cause their business to grow explosively, but it could just as quickly cause it to fail.

Why? The answer is a simple one, but it may surprise you nonetheless.

Mass Marketing: The Impartial Megaphone

Most business owners think of marketing as an inherently positive activity. The logic goes that if you market your business, hire marketing experts, and engage in marketing and advertising activities, then you will get more work, people will happily pay you for your products and services, and your business will grow.

Maybe. But this is not an entirely complete way to think of marketing or advertising.

Marketing is an impartial, transparent amplifier of the best and the worst of any business. Market a business that has spent countless hours getting their standards of customer care as high as possible, and the results can be amazing. Take the same marketing budget and apply it to a business with deep internal management issues, and those issues become even louder, larger, and more apparent to the public.

Because of this transparency, it doesn’t really matter what you say in your marketing message, or even how you say it. Marketing isn’t a way of cosmetically hiding failing business models, or white washing lazy, unethical business practices using fancy language and tactics of misdirection.

When it comes right down to it, you can spend thousands of dollars saying you are a clean, professional, timely, and reasonably-priced service, but if your customers experience something different, then you’ve just wasted a lot of money and loudly announced to your potential customers that you would rather lie to them than serve them well.

Whatever the state of your business when you advertise it, THAT is what gets amplified.

What are you amplifying with your marketing? Is it good for business or bad?

You’ve heard the phrase, “Whatever you feed grows.” Marketing is an investment in your business. It’s like feeding and watering a garden. If you have weeds in your garden when you feed and water it, well guess what? Those weeds are going to grow, too, and may even rob the essential nutrients from the plants you really want to grow.

The broad tools of mass marketing are like garden sprinklers: you can’t feed and water just the best parts of your business. The whole garden gets watered, which means that marketing causes the good and the bad to grow.

You cannot hope customers will ignore the sloppy-looking techs at their door, and tell them to only focus on the good deal they are getting. You can’t market the beautiful masonry work you do, and expect customers to overlook the huge mess you leave behind. And you certainly can’t keep selling the fact that you are prompt and courteous if you fail to call ahead or show up for the job on time.

Just like feeding and watering a garden, marketing a business works indiscriminately. So make sure you are pulling your weeds out by the roots before you feed and water your business with marketing.

What Can Google Ads Do For You?

What Can Google Ads Do For You?

We get asked all the time if we manage Google Ads, and if so, what we think of it as an advertising platform. The answer is yes we do manage Google Ads, and what we think of it depends on your goals. In order to be successful with Google Ads, you must evaluate where it fits in with your overall online marketing strategy and end goal, and be realistic about what the platform can and can’t do for you.

#1 Drive Traffic, Increase Conversions & Brand Identity

Google Ads can be an incredibly useful tool to drive traffic to your website, increase conversions, and boost brand identity. Because Spark Marketer serves local service businesses, we concentrate first on driving traffic to your website. We have seen consistent traffic increases of around 25 to 30% and as high as 45% in a few cases. This is mainly due to a focused and more directed approach, rather than the shotgun approach that we often see. We look for opportunities for increased exposure where visibility might be low, and try to identify strategies to increase clicks to your website.

#2 Reach Out of the Way Locations

Clients often want more search visibility in specific locations or service areas where they don’t yet have a good organic presence or an office that can rank on the map. Because Google Ads has the ability to target specific areas down to zip codes, it is a good viable way to reach those locations. Data research from Google and various other sources suggests that location targeting can be incredibly useful, be it to a very select audience. This can also makes your advertising management more complex as you add more areas. That said, you can’t use ads to show your map listing in an area that is way out there. Google still follows proximity with maps, so you can only target out of the way locations with text ads.

#3 Promote Specials & Sales

Two of the biggest uses for Google Ads that often get overlooked are special promotions and sales ads. These type of ads not only get great exposure, but they also get the most clicks and best click-through rates. It is hard for some people to pass on a good deal if they see one, and Google Ads are a great way of getting that deal out to the public. Again, you do have to make sure it is a good enough deal for your customers, without losing your shirt! Either knowing the item is a loss leader or has enough built-in profit that you are not losing money in the long run accomplishes this. Ads with early bird specials and manufacturer’s promotions can be great during less busy times. As long as the deal is simple and a good value, the clicks will come. But remember, every click in Google Ads costs, even if the searcher doesn’t contact you.

There are things Google Ads can do for you and things it cannot. It is not a place for PR and long-form type exposure. It is direct, targeted, and takes a fine aim and a direct approach to reach your audience and meet your advertising goals. So when deciding whether or not to include it as part of your strategy, make sure you think things through and talk with someone who’s experienced with the Google Ads platform. We’d be happy to help!