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Tips To Network Successfully

I’m so excited to lead a new networking chapter in Fairfax, Nexco. It was founded by a great group of businessmen whom I consider friends, and I’m honored to have been chosen to be the voice of this particular chapter.

I’ve done a lot of networking over the years, and I hear people say all of the time how much they hate networking. I disagree. I think networking can be fun, and quite beneficial if done right.  Follow these steps to not only enjoy networking, but to do it successfully as well.

 

First off, remember that networking is not about you landing a job/client. It’s about gaining information from a business and giving enough information about yours in order for them to use that as a stepping stone. It’s a means to an end, not the end.

 

When you enter the room, first go to those you know. It will make the transition easier, especially if your nervous. Plus, those you know, know you best, and may already have met someone they think would be a good referral for you.  When you meet someone, don’t make it all about you. Networking is much like dating; it’s an opportunity to get to know them and in turn, for them to get to know you. This is where you gauge whether there is a connection between your businesses, or possibly between them and one that you know.

After a networking event, reach out to those you wish to continue a conversation with. Ask them for coffee within 2 weeks of meeting. This way, the conversation stays fresh, and any topics that were hot or would be considered leads will still be warm when you meet.

Before you meet, do research on the business you’re meeting with. You want to look invested and interested in what they have to say and to offer. By being educated, they may be more interested in connecting you to other professionals as well.

 

Now, for that pesky “I hate networking” feeling of yours. Make yourself a promise to go to x number of networking events (tomorrow’s event is a great start!) and to make X number of connections, and when you do, reward yourself with whatever small thing makes you happy. Part of what makes networking so overwhelming is, well, the actual events are overwhelming. But, as I say, the only way to eat a whole elephant is to take small bites, so relax! Think of this as an adventure, and a positive path to your success!

 

Join me tomorrow at Brion’s Grille in University Mall in Fairfax from 11:30-1pm for some great networking with local businesses!

So, What Do You Do?

How many times have you heard this question? It can essentially make or break an introduction, and depending on how you answer, can either peak a person’s interest, or have them look over you to find someone else to try connecting with.

 

Networking isn’t easy. It’s time consuming, and can be disheartening when your networking is just NOTworking (see what I did there, heheh). A lot of why you may be in a networking rut may have to do with how you begin your conversation.

 

When someone asks you “What do you do?” How do you normally answer? Do you say, “I’m a commercial real estate agent” or do you say “I assist and consult clients in finding the ideal location for their businesses” ?

 

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with saying you’re an XYor Z, but there are likely thousands just like you in your area which doesn’t quite differentiate you in the asker’s mind. People will likely also wonder to themselves “Do I need that service?” I know I don’t need a commercial real estate agent, but if I were to hear the description instead of the title, it would instantly get my brain storming to think of the right referral for them-and I would most likely follow through with it as well.

 

The flipside of this can be just as deadly-telling someone TOO much of what you do. There’s no need to detail every aspect of your business. For example, if you were to visit my Services page, you would find a long list of what my company offers. But, when I’m networking, and someone asks what my company offers, I tell them “We offer office management virtually, we offer bookkeeping, and we offer social media maintenance needs including blogs and newsletters.” Keeping it short, keeps the door open for a possible meeting. That would be the place to expand on your details. Not in the first 30 seconds of meeting someone.

 

One of the great parts of networking is the referral possibilities, but how can someone refer business your way if you say “Oh, anyone looking to buy a place for their business!” No, people don’t want to have to think -be specific, “I’m looking to connect with those in the medical field who want to branch out and open their own offices or those in health and wellness, wanting to dedicate a space for their clients.” This will help the person you’re talking to think of a possible referral or prospect for you.

 

Communicating effectively will save you time (and sometimes money) when networking. Make the time you spend connecting with other businesses more efficient and perfect your networking savvy!

Avoid These Common Tax Mistakes BEFORE Tax Time!

The deadline for taxes has long passed, and those who needed to file an extension surely have done so by now. Many of us have already received our returns, and were a little underwhelmed by what we got back (if anything at all).  Don’t get caught at the last minute next year-avoid these common tax mistakes to stay ahead of the curve!

 

Just because you’re a sole proprietor or are self-employed doesn’t mean  you don’t have to pay taxes on a quarterly basis. Of course, the first year, you get a free pass, however, there are certain exceptions based on how much you make. Get into practice of automatically setting aside a percentage of each payment or revenue, then take stock of your P&L statement each quarter. Pay the taxes each quarter to avoid a hefty payment at the end of the year.

 

Speaking of keeping track, it’s incredibly important to keep track of all of your business expenses, including your miles to properly deduct during tax time.  If you don’t already, consider using an accounting program like Quickbooks to let you record and manage expenses. If you don’t have the time, or the wherewithal to do it, hire a bookkeeper who will enter in and reconcile these transactions on a monthly basis.

 

When tracking your expenses, be sure to determine them accordingly in your Chart of Accounts. What this means is when you have expenses like supplies (printer ink, paper, etc), account for them accordingly. Office Expenses are generally equipment. Why is this important? Because you can write off a portion for each year the appliance is in use or write off the full amount (up to a certain maximum) for the year you purchased. For example, if you bought a new laptop this year, you can write off the full price in your 2014 return. While you’re at it, don’t forget to take the actual home office tax deduction; but do so wisely. There has to be a certain portion of a room, or a dedicated room for your business in order to qualify for writing off a percentage of your home expenses including rent or mortgage payments, utilities and insurance costs.

 

Speaking of deductions: it could be that part of the nature of your business requires you to give gifts to your clients, which is fine. But remember that you can only deduct $25 per recipient. If you give gifts readily, make certain you keep all of your receipts.

 

Discuss your legal structure with a tax advisor or a CPA to help you figure out if your structure is still legitimate. For example, you may have started out as a sole proprietor and are paying too much in self-employment taxes. Creating a C or S Corp, or a LLC could help lower your tax bill.

 

Lastly, and I’ve said this a million times. NEVER, EVER, EVER make business purchases with a personal account! Doing so can lead to a considerable amount of confusion, and lead to legal infractions. Do yourself a favor and open a business account the same day you start your business to get it right from day 1.

 

Are there any mistakes you’ve made in the past that you’ve learned from?

How To Find Your Dream Business

I had a lot of dreams when I was little. I thought I was going to be all kinds of things. As I grew, I started to define myself and let the stars glaze over my eyes, not really allowing myself to tap into what I really should become-opting to climb the ladder of fame instead. Not that that’s not a legitimate dream, mind you, but it’s not exactly a realistic one, you know.

 

It wasn’t until I experienced some serious downfalls and lost almost everything I had-both tangibly and personally-to strip away to the core of what was inside of me all along. Once I discovered who I really was, and who I’d always been, I decided to ditch the idea of following someone else’s path; expecting someone else to define me, and began sketching the outline to the definition of ‘me’. My company was born from that, and I’ve never looked back. Starting a business is scary and exciting. There’s more to it than just saying ‘I own a business’. Having a plan and truly listening to your inner voice will help you slowly build the bricks that make the foundation that your company will securely rest on.

 

Unsure of where to start? Here are steps to use as a guide to the rest of your life:

 

Make A List: The only thing standing between you and your dreams is YOU. Don’t discount all the things you are good at, and those things that fascinate you. Make a list of all the things you enjoy and step away from it. Come back to it in a day or two and see if you can connect the dots. For example, I’m slightly OCD-I strive on lists, categorizing; everything has its place. I’m also slightly ADD-if I’m not doing five things at once, I start to malfunction and lose my juice. Concentrating on one thing for long periods of time doesn’t bode well with me. Which is why having multiple clients whom I do completely different things for all day long works beautifully for me.

 

Check It Twice: When I wasn’t sure if there was a name for what I enjoyed, I Googled it. You know what I found? Well, not much. However, there were tons of people who did certain facets of what I could do, and I gleaned tons of information from their blogs and sites. Research your potential business ideas to find out if there is a market; what your potential competition offers, and whether it’s worth your time and money.

 

Narrow It Down: You’re going to find there’s a ton of information-maybe too much. Start narrowing down the things that really perk up your ears, and those that seem a bit daunting. Once you’ve narrowed it down, you should have a clearer picture of what your company will look like and become.

 

Ready, Set, GO!: This is the scariest part of all: opening your ‘doors’ for business! This is your dream, and it’s your job to keep your dream alive, and by dream I mean business, and by keeping it alive I mean staying in business! When you start to doubt yourself, brush it away immediately; you wanted this, and you are going to make it happen! Once you put that kind of energy out there, it finds itself back to you tenfold. Believe in yourself, and everything else will fall into place. As the great Henry Ford once said, “If you think you can, or you can’t, you’re right.” Now, go make your dreams happen!

Know Who Your Clients Are In the New Year-My Top Ten: Part Two

Thin Client

Thin Client (Photo credit: ryan2point0)

We started off my Top Ten with some of the most common challenges in client personalities. Here, you’ll find the conclusion of my Top Ten with some of the most challenging clients you’ll encounter and how to curtail them before they jeopardize your reputation.

6. Mr. “I Don’t Know, Maybe, What Do You Think?”: These clients have no idea what they want, which is why they flip flop on their decisions making your job more frustrating. In the end, you know they won’t be happy, but you have to find that happy medium.

Solution: Get EVERYTHING in writing once the project is decided upon. Make all the details clear to keep from any misunderstandings.

7.  Mr. “Emergency!”: Somehow, you’ve managed to stay in business with just one client, and this guy’s the one. This client believes you do nothing but work for him, and therefore must be afforded all of your time.

Solution: Make it clear what the timetables are for all the deadlines, and remind him gently (when things start going awry) that you do have other clients, and he is just as much of a priority as they are.

8.  Mrs. “I Don’t Know What I Want, But It Isn’t That”: This client may not know what she wants, but she knows what it’s not, and most likely it’s everything you propose.

Solution: Moving targets can be very difficult to please. This may just be the client you can’t take on for the sake of your sanity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

9.  Mrs. “I Hate That! I Don’t Know Why, But I Do!”: This client will latch on to any small feature and bring your project to a grinding halt.

Solution: Don’t ask them what colors they want, ask them what they want to accomplish. If they’re still nitpicking your project, you have the option to relinquish the agreement.

10.  Mr. “How Much Is This Going To Cost?”: This penny pinching client is more concerned with the budget than the project.

Solution: Agree on the cost of the project including any possible surprises. If they don’t think they can afford some wiggle room, then you have to consider passing up on them as a client.

*Have you encountered these types of clients and want to know how to make your website and your business more clear and succinct to avoid these types of scenarios? Contact me for a personalized consultation!

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