The only constant thing in our lives is change. However, few people like — much less love — changing. There are many famous quotes about change, all conveying the same general message: that change is inevitable and scary, but good. Any time we make a change in life, whether we initiated that change or it was forced upon us, we have a choice to make: to embrace it, or fight it. But what about the process that’s involved in making that choice? The change process can be extremely difficult so here are some ideas to help you through it.

Change is not only common in our lives, it is an overriding theme in nature. Witness the seasons, tides, sun setting and rising, life cycle of plants, etc. Heck, our own aging process is proof positive of constant change.

But change is not easy to manage. For starters, the hyper pace of life these days doesn’t leave much time for us to process change anymore. However, the biggest factors that make us resist change are self-imposed. We spend a lot of time “thinking” about upcoming or imminent changes, but not actively planning or managing them. We also suffer from complacency as we get caught up in our “same old” routines and structures. We sometimes do this because of the fear of the unknown. Yet other times, we resist change because of a lack of trust or low confidence as to whether we will be able to effectively manage the change.

I have had several major transitions so far in my life. One was my career transition of leaving the practice of law to become an entrepreneur. I’ve also moved 4 times in the last 15 years. And I am about to embark on yet another major change as my husband and I relocate clear across the country from New York to California, which will include the expansion of my business and furthering of his education and career. Thinking back to all of the major transitions I have gone through, for each one, I had mixed feelings, which can be characterized as bittersweet. On one hand, I was excited about what was on the horizon and eager to explore the new adventure, but on the other hand, I was fearful and anxious about walking away from what I was leaving.

Invariably, with every change or transition, huge opportunities, successes and unexpected blessings awaited me as soon as I embraced the change. The process that I experienced while deciding to embrace the change is a psychological one and is the typical path that people take when embarking on a change of any kind. You’ve probably heard of the stages of grief that are experienced when we suffer the loss of a loved one. And while that is an extreme example of change, it does serve as a powerful lesson for dealing with change of all kinds.

First, you experience shock, accompanied by denial. This is when you feel like a victim, experience change as something happening to you and out of your control. Second, you experience fear; most people internalize this emotion. Generally, this stage is when a person will be withdrawn and quiet as they go through the fear of the unknown in their mind. In the next stage, people often externalize their emotions and express anger and frustration, accompanied by strong resistance and bargaining. The last stage is acceptance. Ah… this is when you accept the change and are at peace with it. This is also when good change managers move into action mode.

Take a step back and scrutinize your relationship to change. Here are some tips to help guide you.

Plan for the Change
Preparing and planning for change in a proactive manner is the most critical step to change management. Focus on what you are doing in an honest manner. Each person’s specific change management issues are unique. Take into consideration your strengths and weaknesses, personality style, and preferences.

Stay Positive
Change often starts with a new beginning, but it also includes an ending – with letting go of old attitudes and behaviors. Transition is a difficult process for anyone, but some people deal with it better than others. Focus on what you could gain, instead of what you could lose. Think of the transition as running towards something (the new change) as opposed to running away from something (the thing you are leaving behind or changing from). Rewards may await you on the other side.

Let Go
Make room for change in your work and life. Don’t hold on so tightly to what is safe that you strangle your openness and willingness to change. Stop holding onto the illusion that just because something is familiar, it is good. Indeed, change could lead to something better!

Are you one step ahead of change, or at least keeping up with it? Remember, change is inevitable. You may as well invite it in for a visit and make friends with it!

Recently, I attended the annual conference of the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO), held in Baltimore, MD. I had the absolute pleasure of seeing and hearing the closing keynote speaker, Dan Thurmon. I first encountered Dan at the National Speakers Association (NSA) annual conference in Anaheim in July 2011, during which he was inducted into the NSA Hall of Fame. Dan is a performance artist and professional speaker who juggles, throws knives, and rides a unicycle on stage, all of which is very entertaining and exciting. Yet, his message is equally powerful. In fact, I was even more impressed with his ability to weave high-level content into his performance elements, which is not an easy accomplishment to pull off.

Dan’s keynote content was drawn from his latest book, Off Balance on Purpose. Two important meanings are intend ed. First, that we are most effective, productive and happy when embracing the “off balance” reality of life. And secondly, that we should intentionally choose to take action and initiate meaningful changes. While I have not read his book yet, I did love his message and the way he presented it to a group of productivity experts.

To be “productive” literally means to produce. Therefore, many of us tend to translate being productive to mean that we need to keep doing and going and producing, and all at the same time. However, this can cause a ton of stress in our lives and make the quality of what we are producing decrease. I am just as guilty of that as others. So it takes a brave person to realize that you can have it all, but just not at the same time!

As Dan was juggling, he explained to us that you must release one item in order to catch the ot her item. He is never actually holding more than one item that he is juggling at once! This was so powerful. It sometimes takes a visual exercise like this to snap us into realization.

In our own lives, we tend to want to do it all and right now. Yet, we then sacrifice the quality of our work, relationships, and life overall if we take on too much. We wind up doing a bunch of things at less than 100%, and then berate ourselves for not being able to keep up.

It takes a brave person to stop and say, “I can have it all… just not at the same time!” There is a time and a season for everything. Maybe this year is the year you work on your career transition. Maybe this month is the one to focus on cultivating a new hobby. Maybe this summer is the one when you (finally!) get organized. But if you try to get organized, embark on a career transition, and cultivate a new hobby all at the same time, while still juggling all of the other responsibilities in your life, you may fail miserably at all of them, or not enjoy any of them.

I admit that I am a go-getter! I like to stay busy, thrive on change, and am a life-long learner with an adventurous spirit. But I have had to make choices. I realize I cannot do everything, and certainly not at once. My Mom used to tease me that I should have been a cat, as it will take nine lives to do everything I want to do in this one life time. And that may be true. But I have much more awareness now that I can’t have it all at the same time, and I will drop a lot of balls I am juggling if I try to.

So I like Dan Thurmon’s message and plan to adopt it as my own. Juggle one thing at a time, continuing to release and catch, as you go. It is okay to be “off balance on purpose” in order to live a more fulfilling and, ironically, balanced life in the long run. Care to join me?

 

 

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Copyright 2012. Lisa Montanaro is a Productivity Consultant, Success Coach, Business Strategist, Speaker and Author who helps people live successful and passionate lives, and operate productive and profitable businesses.  Lisa publishes the monthly “DECIDE® to be Organized” e-zine for success-minded individuals, and “Next Level Business Success” e-zine for entrepreneurs. Subscribe today at www.LMOrganizingSolutions.com. Lisa is the author of  The Ultimate Life Organizer: An Interactive Guide to a Simpler, Less Stressful & More Organized Life” published by Peter Pauper Press. Through her work, Lisa helps people deal with the issues that block personal and professional change and growth. To explore how Lisa can h elp take your business to the next level, contact Lisa at (845) 988-0183 or by e-mail at .

This is just a quick and friendly reminder that I will be “standing by” via Skype tomorrow ready to answer any productivity, life, business or career question you may have as part of Christine Marmoy’s Coaching Marathon. It will be just you and I for a few minutes addressing whatever challenge or issue you decide to ask about.

So if you want an ultra-laser coaching call, ring me up between 2-3 pm Eastern Time and we will “chat” for free!

But first, you must register!

Oh, and as a thank you for participating in the Coaching Marathon, I am gifting to you my 60-minute audio program, DECIDE to be Organized: An Empowering Process for Change. Just click through to my offer page and you can download the MP3 and start listening any time you want.

Hope to get a chance to “chat” with you tomorrow!

Warmly,

Lisa

“What you do makes a difference, and you have to
decide what kind of difference you want to make.”

~ Jane Goodall

Many people believe that they have one true vocational calling. That may be true. But for some of us, we have multiple areas of expertise and talents and a thirst to share them all with the world. It is this sense of adventure and drive for reinvention that ultimately led me to create
LM Organizing Solutions, LLC (LMOS).

My first calling was as a performer. I spent my childhood singing, acting and dancing, and wanted to go professional. But as I matured, I started to fall in love with the law, and switched gears as a young adult, pursuing a pre-law course of study. I never gave up performing but, rather, turned it into a wonderful hobby that continues to this day.

Another great passion of mine was to work with the deaf. My cousins are deaf–a lovely married couple that was a generation older than me. When I visited and saw them signing with each other, and with their two hearing children, I was enthralled and vowed to learn this beautiful, expressive language. Thus, when I graduated from college and was admitted to law school, I deferred admission for one year to teach at the New York School for the Deaf in White Plains, NY.

I was hooked! I loved teaching deaf students, and developed proficiency for American Sign Language. A year later, I decided to continue teaching and attend law school in the evening.

Upon my graduation from law school, I practiced employment, labor, education and disability law for 9 ½ years. Although I had a profound respect for the law, I did not appreciate the way it was practiced in our society. It became too negative in the hands of those that wanted to use it to fight. I started to become restless and knew that there were other ways I could share my talents and expertise with people and organizations to improve the world. I did a lot of soul searching and arrived at the conclusion that I needed to leave the traditional practice of law and become an entrepreneur in order to truly make a difference.

During that time of career transition, I realized that I had been organizing people’s lives on an “amateur” level my whole life, and that my organizing and coaching skills transcended my work as a lawyer, teacher, mediator, writer, speaker, and performer.

In 2002, I launched LMOS, which serves as the umbrella for my areas of expertise, and provides a platform to offer a variety of services to clients.  Through LMOS, I am able to offer organizing, business and life coaching, and motivational speaking to individuals and organizations.  These three main focus areas allow me to combine my lifelong passion for creating order with my skills gained as a lawyer, educator, and performer.  LMOS gives me the ability to enact positive, proactive change.  My clients rely on me for leadership, guidance, support, encouragement, and coaching.

I now consider myself a multi-passionate entrepreneur. I took a leap of faith and created a business that allows me to meld together many different, but related, “callings” at the same time, while helping people live better lives and run better companies and organizations. The result has been both successful and rewarding.

Warm regards,

 

Copyright 2009 © Lisa Montanaro of LM Organizing Solutions, LLC.

Want to Use This Article in Your E-zine or Website?

You can, as long as you use this complete statement:

Copyright 2009. Lisa Montanaro is a Productivity Consultant, Success Coach, Business Strategist, Speaker and Author who helps people live successful and passionate lives, and operate productive and profitable businesses. Lisa publishes the monthly “DECIDE® to be Organized” e-zine for success-minded individuals, and “Next Level Business Success” e-zine for entrepreneurs. Subscribe today at www.LMOrganizingSolutions.com. Lisa is the author of The Ultimate Life Organizer: An Interactive Guide to a Simpler, Less Stressful & More Organized Life, published by Peter Pauper Press. Lisa also publishes the DECIDE® to be Organized blog at www.DecideToBeOrganized.com. Through her work, Lisa helps people deal with the issues that block personal and professional change and growth. To explore how Lisa can help take your business to the next level, contact Lisa at (845) 988-0183 or by e-mail at .

Is the Threat of a Lawsuit a Real Fear?

As a small business owner, you may be one of the 48% concerned about frivolous or unfair lawsuits.  According to the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform, actual lawsuits and the fear of lawsuits cost U.S. small businesses $98 million in 2005.  That figure may seem large because it includes money spent on damage awards, settlements, legal costs, liability insurance premiums, and costs incurred by insurance companies on behalf of policyholders.  Is the fear of lawsuits a real fear?  Unfortunately, yes.  Anybody can sue anybody over anything at any time.  In reality, 46% of small business owners have been threatened with a lawsuit, 34% have been sued in the past 10 years, and 62% have made business decisions to avoid lawsuits.  Indeed, small businesses bear 69% of the total cost of the tort system to all U.S. businesses.

What is the Best Course of Action?

What’s a small business owner to do?  For starters, realize that the best defense is a great offense.  While most small business owners fear the law, it is much wiser to use the law as a protective shield.  There are many business and legal components that contribute to creating the strongest shield possible – business entities (the type of structure that governs your business), insurance, and intellectual property (copyright, trademark, patent, and trade secrets) to name a few.

As a former full-time practicing attorney and now a small business owner, I have been on both sides of the fence when it comes to the legal issues a business owner may face.  It is imperative that organizers understand the basics of the legal side of running an organizing business, and how to use the law as a shield to protect yourself and your business.

Creating a Shield Through Business Structure

The first item an organizing business owner should consider is the structure of the business.  There are 4 basic types of business entities: sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, and limited liability company.  A common misconception of small business owners is that the business entity itself always creates a legal shield.  In some instances (a corporation, or limited liability company, for example), this is generally true.  However, if you are a sole proprietor (and, if so, you are not alone, as 78% of all small businesses in the U.S. are sole proprietorships), then you essentially have no shield.  As a sole proprietor, you are personally liable for all business debts and other obligations.  Fortunately, the law is not the only means to create a shield to protect your business.  If the business entity itself does not provide a shield, then you can create one by acquiring appropriate and adequate insurance coverage.  Thus, a sole proprietorship that is adequately protected by insurance may have an effective shield.

In the case of partnerships, another misconception is that the partnership is a distinct legal entity that provides a shield.  A partnership is essentially a sole proprietorship run by two or more individuals.  Thus, the structure itself provides no shield.  Again, insurance can be used to fill in the gap, and/or a different business entity can be chosen.  For example, did you know that you can create a corporation and the same two people that would have created a partnership will now be shareholders?  What about a limited liability company with more than one member?  There are many ways for two or more individuals to own a business together.  Carefully consider which makes the most sense, not only from an operations and decision-making standpoint, but to garner the most legal protection for the owners involved.

Even with corporations and limited liability companies, there are limits to the force of the shield.  Simply creating a business entity is not enough.  The business must be operated as a distinct legal entity, including refraining from co-mingling of personal and business funds, keeping personal guarantees on behalf of the company to a minimum, maintaining corporate/business records, and paying business-related taxes.  If the business entity is a sham or the owner does not follow the rules in terms of keeping the business shield up, the legal doctrine of “piercing the corporate veil” may be applied by a court if the business is sued.  Piercing the corporate veil allows a litigant to pierce the business structure and reach the owner personally.  Granted, piercing the corporate veil is only applied in very limited situations, but it should be used as a reminder to keep that shield up at all times when it comes to operating your organizing business as a distinct legal entity.

Creating a Shield Through a Written Client Agreement

As an organizer, when you agree to perform services for a client, and the client agrees to pay you for such services, you and your client have entered into a legal contract.  The terms of the contract, however, are difficult to recall and prove unless in writing.  A written contract is pivotal as it puts clients on notice of business policies and terms, sets a professional tone, promotes consistency of policies, and is legally enforceable in court (the decision whether to sue a client to enforce a contract is, of course, a business decision, as well as a legal one, and should be carefully considered).  The contract, thus, helps to prevent misunderstandings and clearly defines the expectations of the parties.

Some organizers choose not to use contracts for fear that a written agreement may be too formal or legal in nature and, thus, may scare a client away.  Again, this is a business decision that should be given consideration, and you should determine if this is a real or imagined fear by communicating with your clients to test the waters.  You can also use a “letter agreement,” which may be less intimidating for residential clients.  In the corporate organizing arena, a written contract is generally expected.  Another disadvantage of using a written contract is the cost of creating and advising if you use an attorney.  While there are standardized contract forms available online and in books, be careful not to accept such standardized forms carte blanche.  I often see small business owners fail to adapt contracts appropriately, which causes embarrassing typos, inappropriate clauses, and general confusion.  Not only does this look unprofessional, but in extreme cases it can also result in unenforceability of the contract in court.  Therefore, it is a good idea to have a business lawyer review the agreement to make sure it adequately protects you, contains the relevant terms, and fulfills the goals you want to accomplish.  It is an expense worth paying for to secure adequate protection in the long term.

A word of caution: stay away from “legalese.”  Use plain English so that the agreement is easy to understand and helps, rather than hinders, the understanding between you and your clients.  If you do use a client agreement, here is a list of sample clauses you should consider including:

  • Definition of the parties (define your status as an independent contractor if the contract is for corporate organizing);
  • Services to be performed;
  • Code of ethics;
  • Confidentiality;
  • Pricing and payment policies (pricing structure, retainer guidelines, travel time or expense, shopping charges, cancellation policy, when payment is due, fee for bounced check, credit card acceptance, payment of expenses, etc.);
  • Provision of materials, equipment, and office space;
  • Assurance of insurance coverage;
  • State law governance;
  • Permission to take and use photos;
  • Term of agreement/termination of relationship.

Now, go forth with shields raised!

The information provided in this article is not intended to be legal advice, but merely conveys general information related to legal issues commonly encountered.  For a comprehensive overview of legal issues involved in running an organizing business, refer to the CD “Navigating the Legal Landmines of an Organizing Business”  from the 2008 NAPO Conference in Reno, NV. 

Contact Lisa Montanaro by visiting www.LMOrganizingSolutions.com, by email at , or by phone at
(845) 988-0183.

This article originally appeared in NAPO News, Volume 23, Number 4, September 2008
Copyright © 2008 Lisa Montanaro of LM Organizing Solutions, LLC.

Want to Use This Article in Your E-zine or Website?

You can, as long as you use this complete statement:

Copyright 2008. Lisa Montanaro is a Productivity Consultant, Success Coach, Business Strategist, Speaker and Author who helps people live successful and passionate lives, and operate productive and profitable businesses. Lisa publishes the monthly “DECIDE® to be Organized” e-zine for success-minded individuals, and “Next Level Business Success” e-zine for entrepreneurs. Subscribe today at www.LMOrganizingSolutions.com. Lisa is the author of The Ultimate Life Organizer: An Interactive Guide to a Simpler, Less Stressful & More Organized Life, published by Peter Pauper Press. Lisa also publishes the DECIDE® to be Organized blog at www.DecideToBeOrganized.com. Through her work, Lisa helps people deal with the issues that block personal and professional change and growth. To explore how Lisa can help take your business to the next level, contact Lisa at (845) 988-0183 or by e-mail at .

“Alone, we can do so little; together, we can do so much.”
~ Helen Keller

Meet Your Board of Advisors

Imagine a group of people that are available to bounce business ideas off of, to help you make pivotal business decisions, and to serve as a sounding board.  Major corporations have a Board of Directors.  Non-profits have a Board of Trustees.  Why can’t the solopreneur or small business owner too?  You can!  How?  By developing a Board of Advisors for your business.  You’ve heard of Mastermind groups, through which like-minded peers share ideas and support each other’s business endeavors?  A Board of Advisors is similar, but usually consists of individuals from outside your industry, even clients.

Striking the Right Balance

I am a Certified Professional Organizer, Business & Life Coach and Motivational Speaker.  I’ve been in business for seven years, am structured as a Limited Liability Company, and consider myself a solopreneur, in that I have no employees working for me.  My Board of Advisors consists of an individual with a marketing background, an individual with a publishing background, two other successful professional organizers with a very different business model and focus than mine, two long-time clients, and my very supportive, objective husband.  A good number to strive for is 5-8 members.  Be careful not to include anyone on your Board of Advisors that pushes your buttons, saps your energy, or is competitive.  In addition, try not to surround yourself only with “yes” men and women who nod approvingly at everything you do, and never challenge you or hold you accountable.  You want members that challenge you to stretch your entrepreneurial muscles.

Do not confuse your Board of Advisors with your official team of advisors.  Your team of advisors is usually made up of people that you retain to assist you with certain aspects of your business operations, such as a lawyer, accountant, graphic designer, webmaster, etc.  These are paid professionals that you hire to provide services to your company, as opposed to an individual that is voluntarily providing assistance to you and your business.  Yet another category of people that may provide assistance to your business are what I call power partners.  These are vendors that you refer your clients to, or that you partner with on a project basis.  Again, these partners are extremely valuable to a small business, but do not serve as a Board of Advisors.

What Does a Board of Advisors Do?

What can your Board of Advisors help you with?  Everything and anything.  A Board of Advisors can push you when you need a nudge, lift you up when you lose focus or faith, and help to keep you on track.  Mine assisted me with the re-branding of my company last year, including the design of a new logo, business card, brochure, and website.  Yes, I used a graphic designer and web designer to actually create the promotional materials, but it was my Board of Advisors that helped me to capture the overall vision and message I wanted to achieve.  A Board of Advisors can act as a sounding board for the future launch of programs.  When I was developing my signature approach to organizing, DECIDE®, my Board of Advisors provided invaluable feedback.

You can also use your Board for market research.  These days, we have a plethora of resources available online, including social media sites, such as Twitter and Facebook, survey tools such as Survey Monkey, as well as forums provided by professional associations (for example, as a member of the National Association of Professional Organizers, I have access to the NAPO Chat, which is an invaluable resource).  All of these are fantastic resources, and serve a relevant purpose to a small business.  But, there is something magical about a consistent group of people that can go deep with you, gets to know your business intimately, and is vested in some way in your success.

What Are The Rules That Govern a Board of Advisors?

When I recommend to a small business client that he or she create a Board of Advisors, invariably the client will ask me what the rules are that govern this type of relationship.  It is entirely up to you and your Board of Advisors.  Communication is key, so think about how you will communicate with your Board members.  Do you hold in-person Board meetings, or communicate virtually? Should you develop a special online membership forum or website to communicate?  I communicate with members of my Board of Advisors in numerous ways — by email, telephone and in person, as some are local.  I have never convened a full Board meeting, although that may be in my future plans.

What are the benefits to your Board members?  Some just want to be a part of a growing, successful business.  Others may want tangible benefits, such as the ability to take your workshops for free, or buy products at a discount.  Ask what they want in return.  Find a way to acknowledge or reward the members of your Board of Advisors to let them know they are an asset to your business.

On the flip side, if you are asked to serve on a Board of Advisors, take the request seriously.  I recently had to turn down an invitation because I knew I could not actively participate at that time.  I appreciated the offer and confidence in my feedback, but passed it onto someone else that was a better match.

Take your time putting together a great complementary Board of Advisors and experience the positive affect it will have on your business.  Now, go forth and create your village!

Copyright © 2008 Lisa Montanaro of LM Organizing Solutions, LLC.

Want to Use This Article in Your E-zine or Website?

You can, as long as you use this complete statement:

Copyright 2008. Lisa Montanaro is a Productivity Consultant, Success Coach, Business Strategist, Speaker and Author who helps people live successful and passionate lives, and operate productive and profitable businesses. Lisa publishes the monthly “DECIDE® to be Organized” e-zine for success-minded individuals, and “Next Level Business Success” e-zine for entrepreneurs. Subscribe today at www.LMOrganizingSolutions.com. Lisa is the author of The Ultimate Life Organizer: An Interactive Guide to a Simpler, Less Stressful & More Organized Life, published by Peter Pauper Press. Lisa also publishes the DECIDE® to be Organized blog at www.DecideToBeOrganized.com. Through her work, Lisa helps people deal with the issues that block personal and professional change and growth. To explore how Lisa can help take your business to the next level, contact Lisa at (845) 988-0183 or by e-mail at .

“Success seems to be largely a matter of hanging on
after others have let go.”
~ William Feather

When the economy is slow, many business owners tend to pull back. Some even throw in the towel. But what if you change your mindset, and look at this recession as an opportunity to “reinvest” in your business? If you have funds set aside for slow periods, good for you. If not, then all you have on your side now is time. If business really is slow, chances are you aren’t working as much. This may be the perfect time to do some of the business-building activities that you never have the time to do when you are too busy working in the business. This may also be a golden opportunity for professional development, reflection, and brainstorming.

If time is on your side, here are some ways to reinvest in your business during the downturn in the economy. They will stimulate and rejuvenate your business. When the economy picks up again, and you get hit with a ton of new business, you will be in a better place than before.
  1. Incorporate Your Business – If you have toyed with the idea of incorporating or becoming an LLC, now is a great time to do so. You will be able to research which business entity makes the most sense, work with a business coach or attorney, and file the necessary paperwork. Come boom time, you will have all of your ducks in order.

  2. Hire an Overqualified Employee or Try Out an Independent Contractor – If you have been grappling with the idea of hiring an employee or independent contractor for a while, now is an ideal time. Due to the many layoffs, there is a large pool of qualified professionals just waiting for a career opportunity to come their way. Take the time to interview properly and try someone out before you get so busy again that it becomes a distant and fleeting thought.

  3. Familiarize Yourself with Tax Deductions – You just filed your taxes, but still never took the time to really learn which tax deductions can be taken. Even if you have an accountant, a basic understanding of what deductions you can take will help you track expenses better throughout the year. Take the time to learn how to maximize business deductions and keep more money in your pocket when business starts booming again.

  4. Get Testimonials From Clients – We all know how powerful testimonials can be, but when many business owners get busy, they forget to ask. Do it now, while you have the time. Then put those testimonials to good use on your website and in business marketing materials.

  5. Get Out and Network – When business owners are crazy busy with work, they often do not make the time to network and feed the funnel. This is a great time to attend live networking events with chambers of commerce, business networking groups, and the like. Be visible, so when the money starts flowing again, your business will be top of mind.

  6. Develop a New Product, Program, or Service – If you have been itching to add on a new product, program, or service, develop and test it now. When business picks up again, your new offering will be in place and ready to go.

  7. Sharpen Your Skills – We all know how important professional development is to success, but many entrepreneurs short change their professional development when business is booming. If time is abundant, attend a conference, or take a teleclass or webinar. There is a plethora of offerings available in every price range nowadays. This may be the time to get certified in your area of expertise, take continuing education courses, or just explore some educational options that would be beneficial to you and your business.

  8. Audit Your Business – Do you have adequate insurance in place? Is your client contract in need of some revamping? Are there any policies or procedures that need tweaking? This is a great time to examine your business to see if there are any areas that need improving and get to work on them.

  9. Update Your Marketing Materials – Have you been eager to create a new logo, redesign your website, or get new professional photographs taken? The time for this could not be better. Due to the recession, there are deals to be had. Approach professionals that can assist you with these projects. You may be pleasantly surprised at the rates you can secure.

  10. Keep Advertising – The first thing most business owners do when the economy takes a nosedive is to stop advertising. Don’t jump on the bandwagon. Why? Because if all the other business owners are pulling ads, you will be the last one standing. If a prospect is looking for what you have to offer, they will find you. There will be less competition and clutter for a prospect to sift through. If you have refrained from advertising in the past due to the expense, check again. You may very well be able to afford it now.

Copyright © 2009 Lisa Montanaro of LM Organizing Solutions, LLC.

Want to Use This Article in Your E-zine or Website?

You can, as long as you use this complete statement:

Copyright 2009. Lisa Montanaro is a Productivity Consultant, Success Coach, Business Strategist, Speaker and Author who helps people live successful and passionate lives, and operate productive and profitable businesses. Lisa publishes the monthly “DECIDE® to be Organized” e-zine for success-minded individuals, and “Next Level Business Success” e-zine for entrepreneurs. Subscribe today at www.LMOrganizingSolutions.com. Lisa is the author of The Ultimate Life Organizer: An Interactive Guide to a Simpler, Less Stressful & More Organized Life, published by Peter Pauper Press. Lisa also publishes the DECIDE® to be Organized blog at www.DecideToBeOrganized.com. Through her work, Lisa helps people deal with the issues that block personal and professional change and growth. To explore how Lisa can help take your business to the next level, contact Lisa at (845) 988-0183 or by e-mail at .

Deciding Whether to Go Legal

As a former full-time practicing attorney and now a small business owner, I have been on both sides of the fence when it comes to the legal issues a business owner may face. This provides me with the distinct advantage of knowing when to call in an attorney for assistance, as opposed to using another professional, such as an accountant, financial planner, insurance agent, or business coach — or perhaps handling the matter myself. In addition, my background helps me to select an attorney that is the best fit for the business matter at hand. Many entrepreneurs have had limited experience deciding whether a matter needs legal attention and, if so, what type of attorney to retain, how to find the best match, and how to maximize the attorney-client relationship. As an entrepreneur, it is imperative that you understand when to “go legal,” and if you do, how to find and work with an attorney that is the best fit for your issue.

If you are confused about whether your matter needs legal attention or whether you can handle it yourself, try researching the matter on the American Bar Association’s Self-Help online center at www.abanet.org. Go to Public Resources, then Legal Help, and then Self-Help. The section is organized by state and is a user-friendly resource for determining whether a matter is complex and needs a legal expert, or whether it is something you can handle yourself.

In addition, a good business coach, especially one with a legal background, is a great sounding board to assist you in determining whether an issue is truly legal in nature, and if so, which type of attorney to retain. You would be surprised how many issues appear legal in nature, but turn out to be business decisions instead. So don’t be hasty when deciding whether to go legal!

Not All Attorneys Are Created Equal

So, assuming you have decided to “go legal” and retain an attorney, which one are you going to call? If you broke your arm, would you make an appointment with an allergist? If you had an ear infection, would you seek the advice of a surgeon? Of course not! Yet, everyday, many entrepreneurs contact and use attorneys to handle matters for their businesses that are completely outside the realm of what that attorney specializes in. Yes, attorneys specialize.

First, there is the main issue of whether your matter is civil or criminal in nature. Generally (and, thankfully!), the average legal matter an entrepreneur will face is a civil matter. Thus, you will be dealing with a civil attorney (hopefully in more ways than one). However, civil law is a huge umbrella. Typical small business matters may include incorporation, intellectual property (trademark, copyright, and patent), contract drafting and enforcement, employment or labor law issues, etc. Thus, look for an attorney that specializes in the area you need help with. Don’t be tempted to use your cousin, who is a residential real estate attorney, to assist you with a complex trademark issue. While this may be tempting in terms of saving money, it may (and often does) cost you more money in the long run if the matter is not handled properly. So match the attorney to the problem, and you are on the right track.

If you are unsure what type of legal issue you are even facing, speak up! Talk to a friend or business colleague that is an attorney, and ask his or her advice on the type of issue you are dealing with. You can also call the local bar association, or do some basic internet research to find out the area of law you are dealing with There are several sites that provide basic legal information for non-attorneys, such as www.nolo.com, www.findlaw.com,  and www.legalzoom.com. This background research will arm you with enough terminology and basic knowledge to make the best match with an attorney whose legal practice covers the area of your business issue.

Finding an Attorney

So, now that you know the area of law, how do you find a good lawyer that practices in that area? The same way you find any other professional to assist you with your business. Referrals from friends, family and colleagues are a fantastic way to find a reputable attorney. You can also ask your local chamber of commerce, local law school, and local and state bar associations. Still can’t find an attorney that is a great match? Try Martindale-Hubbell’s Lawyer Locator online at www.martindale.com.

Money Matters

If you’ve never worked with an attorney before, here are some basics of the legal profession with regard to money matters. Most attorneys charge by the hour, so ask what the hourly rate is, and an estimate of how many hours the matter may take. If the matter is small, or a typical one that the attorney handles often, there may be a flat fee for the entire transaction instead of an hourly rate. Be prepared to pay a fee for the initial consultation, which is standard, but not a hard and fast rule. In some cases, the attorney may require a retainer, which is money that you provide upfront that the attorney works off of as the matter progresses.

One thing to consider is that law firms are typically broken down into partners and associates. Partners are essentially co-owners of the firm, while associates are employees, albeit high level professional ones. Who demands the highest rates? Usually, the partners. Thus, ask yourself if you truly need a partner, or can an experienced associate handle the matter. Do you need the best litigator in the firm? Often times, the best litigator may be an associate that is still active in the courtroom, as opposed to a partner that may be more of a rainmaker bringing in business for the firm.

In some cases, for very small matters or legal research, even a law clerk or paralegal may do. Ask who is the best match, and don’t assume it is always the person whose last name is on the door.

Maximizing the Attorney-Client Relationship

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of accurate, concrete, and timely record keeping and documentation when preparing to work with an attorney, and during the relationship. An attorney will need to go on a fact-finding mission in order to best represent you and your business. Help your attorney do his or her job better by coming to the table with all of your ducks in a row. Be prompt in providing requested information, as often legal timelines are at play. Honesty is also vital when working with an attorney. The best attorney-client relationships are built on mutual trust and, thus, withholding information can make or break your case. An attorney needs all of the facts in order to make tough decisions with you about the best course of action for your business matter.

Copyright © 2009 Lisa Montanaro of LM Organizing Solutions, LLC.

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You can, as long as you use this complete statement:

Copyright 2009. Lisa Montanaro is a Productivity Consultant, Success Coach, Business Strategist, Speaker and Author who helps people live successful and passionate lives, and operate productive and profitable businesses. Lisa publishes the monthly “DECIDE® to be Organized” e-zine for success-minded individuals, and “Next Level Business Success” e-zine for entrepreneurs. Subscribe today at www.LMOrganizingSolutions.com. Lisa is the author of The Ultimate Life Organizer: An Interactive Guide to a Simpler, Less Stressful & More Organized Life, published by Peter Pauper Press. Lisa also publishes the DECIDE® to be Organized blog at www.DecideToBeOrganized.com. Through her work, Lisa helps people deal with the issues that block personal and professional change and growth. To explore how Lisa can help take your business to the next level, contact Lisa at (845) 988-0183 or by e-mail at .

Can Your Business Run Without You?

What would happen to your business if you became ill for an extended period of time?  Could someone else man the shop for you easily?  Would you be more relaxed on vacation (or at the very least, take a vacation!) if you knew that the business could be better taken care of while you are away?  Have you ever thought about hiring an employee or assistant, but are overwhelmed with the thought of training someone in all of your business systems and processes?  Are you holding onto too many tasks that you know you could be delegating, but don’t have the infrastructure in place to effectively delegate without taking up too much of your precious time as the business owner?  If you answered yes to any of the above questions, you are in need of a business blueprint!  It’s time to create an Operations Manual.

What is an Operations Manual and Why Do I Need One For My Business?

Before you started your business and in the early stages, you probably did a lot of planning.  Most likely, you were told to draft a business plan, and you may have even done so.  Unfortunately, most small business owners rarely look at their business plan after creating it, thereby rendering it meaningless on a daily basis.  A business plan is a static document, as opposed to a living and breathing one that serves as a guide to your business systems and processes.  Developing systems and taking the extra step to document them is vital to a business running smoothly and automatically.  Unfortunately, most businesses are lacking in this area.  Business owners get caught up in the daily activities of running the business, and do not take the time to document or blueprint the systems in place.  In the E-Myth Revisited, author Michael Gerber sets forth the idea that all businesses need to be “franchised” in the sense that they can run automatically, deliver a consistent experience to customers, and can be maintained, at least to some extent, without the owner’s hands-on involvement.  While you may not literally be franchising your business, Gerber’s concept broadly translates into developing an Operations Manual for your business.

What Are the Advantages of an Operations Manual?

An Operations Manual makes it easier to delegate and run your business.  However, even if you have no employees, independent contractors, or assistants of any kind, the importance of an Operations Manual should not be overlooked.  It provides structure and clarity by helping you examine the big picture and how each part fits into the whole.  It is also a handy tool for reminding yourself of your business systems when things get busy and you are overwhelmed.  The manual serves as a central location for vital business information, making it easier for you to find what you need in one fell swoop.  In a nutshell, an Operations Manual helps promote a consistent experience for your clients, and helps you avoid reinventing the wheel.

What Format Should an Operations Manual Be Stored In?

An Operations Manual can be hand written if that is your absolute preference, but I would not recommend it.  As this document is so vitally important to your business, you should maintain it in electronic format.  It is easier to revise, send as an attachment when necessary, and be backed up to avoid loss of data.  Some clients prefer to create their Operations Manual using a 3-ring binder approach.  While this may be tempting, if that binder is destroyed or lost, there goes all of your hard work in creating an Operations Manual.  Do yourself a favor and store the manual on a computer (and back it up!) or online at a secure site.

What Should an Operations Manual Include?

An Operations Manual is the manual of all manuals.  It can be as comprehensive as you want and need it to be.  It should serve as a blueprint of your business for you, your employees, assistants (virtual or on-site), and anyone else that is on a need-to-know basis.  The Operations Manual essentially covers everything that goes on behind-the-scenes of your business.  Here are some examples of what an Operations Manual may include, but as you develop one for your business, you will undoubtedly think of many more items to include.

    • Passwords to all of your online and offline business accounts
      (be sure to give some thought to maintaining proper security measures);

List of frequently used business supplies with purchasing/ordering information;

List of business documents;

Prospects intake process;

Client intake process;

Sample email templates;

List of all team members and their contact information;

Procedures for hiring new team members and training them;

Preparing for client sessions, proposal pitches, speaking engagements, professional association meetings, etc.

Client follow-up process.

Take the time to draft an Operations Manual.  It will be time well spent, and you will reap the benefits of it long after you finish the blueprint.

Copyright © 2009 Lisa Montanaro of LM Organizing Solutions, LLC.

Want to Use This Article in Your E-zine or Website?

You can, as long as you use this complete statement:

Copyright 2009. Lisa Montanaro is a Productivity Consultant, Success Coach, Business Strategist, Speaker and Author who helps people live successful and passionate lives, and operate productive and profitable businesses. Lisa publishes the monthly “DECIDE® to be Organized” e-zine for success-minded individuals, and “Next Level Business Success” e-zine for entrepreneurs. Subscribe today at www.LMOrganizingSolutions.com. Lisa is the author of The Ultimate Life Organizer: An Interactive Guide to a Simpler, Less Stressful & More Organized Life, published by Peter Pauper Press. Lisa also publishes the DECIDE® to be Organized blog at www.DecideToBeOrganized.com. Through her work, Lisa helps people deal with the issues that block personal and professional change and growth. To explore how Lisa can help take your business to the next level, contact Lisa at (845) 988-0183 or by e-mail at .

By now, you have probably heard the term “Coopetition.” Coopetition is a contraction of the words cooperation and competition, meaning essentially cooperative competition. In the business world, coopetition means collaborating or partnering with your competitors in an innovative way so that both parties benefit. The most successful entrepreneurs realize early on that the old military adage, “To know your enemy, you must become your enemy … Keep your friends close and your enemies even closer” applies just as well to the business world. Of course, we all know that your competitors are not truly your enemies (at least I hope they aren’t!), but the idea of keeping them close is the point. A creative collaboration with your biggest competitor in the same industry may be the best opportunity for boosting your business.

Many of you are already familiar with the idea of collaborating with your competitors through membership in an industry specific professional association. For example, I am a member of the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO), the premiere association for my industry. I attend the annual conference every year as a participant or presenter, belong to a local organizers’ neighborhood (an informal chapter), frequently engage in discussion on the organizers’ email list, and serve as a mentor and business coach to new organizers and organizers-to-be. I have partnered with other organizers in various ways, as well as share referrals back and forth. This coopetition with other organizers has enriched my business in ways that are immeasurable. I’ve benefited greatly from these relationships and from keeping an open mind in my approach to dealing with my competitors.

It is smart business to capitalize on the positive aspects of a competitive situation. However, for coopetition to work effectively, both parties need to clearly define their roles, making sure not to overstep boundaries. The goal is to find a way to partner with your competitor (read: colleague!) so that both parties can substantially benefit from the collaboration. Look around at your competition, and identify competitors that share the same zest for business and success that you do. You want to make sure that you align yourself with a competitor that you respect and admire, and that exudes the same sense of professionalism and level of expertise.

What are some ways that you can engage in coopetition that will boost your business? Here are some examples of strategic alliances between competitors that are innovative, creative, and effective:

    • Develop a joint venture project together. Some of the best business ideas are born out of competitors joining together. For example, in my industry, organizers are collaborating together to offer certification prep courses, train new organizers, design organizing products, etc.

Share a booth at an expo, tradeshow or business showcase.

      Not only will this help each party keep costs down, but as we all know, two minds are often better than one. You may come up with great new ideas to market your industry and businesses, offer more products, and gain more attention from participants and the media.

Co-present with a competitor.

      Co-presenting is a wonderful tool when done well. I have had the opportunity to present with colleagues to offer workshops that I may not have been able to do on my own. The participants benefit from hearing two different presenters, which helps keep the workshop fresh and interesting. Each presenter only has to do half the work, which makes your job easier overall.

Advertise with a competitor.

      Advertising is expensive. Sharing that expense with a colleague or competitor to promote types of service, your industry, or an event you are doing together is a great way to maximize advertising costs.

Refer leads to each other.

      This is probably the most common form of coopetition. But don’t lose sight of how powerful it is! What you give out almost always comes back. If you cannot service a prospective client, find a colleague or competitor that can. The potential client will view you as a true professional and resource-provider, and the competitor will be grateful and will usually reciprocate in the future.

Co-author an article or book together.

      Writing does not come easy to many people. Consider sharing writing responsibility by co-authoring an article or book with a competitor. This may be the most effective way to get published in your industry. For example, if you teamed up with 9 competitors in your industry and all wrote one chapter, voila, a 10-chapter book is born!

Offer a teleclass or webinar together.

    You’ve probably seen this many times where two business experts team up to offer a teleclass or webinar together. Many times they are in complementary industries, such as an interior designer (or life coach, or wardrobe consultant, etc.) and professional organizer, or a financial planner and accountant. Again, two minds are better than one, work is shared among the presenters, and the participants get to hear from two experts. It’s a win-win situation for all involved.

Think broadly, keep an open mind, and seek out collaborative opportunities to boost your business with coopetition. Used wisely, it is a fantastic tool to add to your business.

Copyright © 2009 Lisa Montanaro of LM Organizing Solutions, LLC.

Want to Use This Article in Your E-zine or Website?

You can, as long as you use this complete statement:

Copyright 2009. Lisa Montanaro is a Productivity Consultant, Success Coach, Business Strategist, Speaker and Author who helps people live successful and passionate lives, and operate productive and profitable businesses. Lisa publishes the monthly “DECIDE® to be Organized” e-zine for success-minded individuals, and “Next Level Business Success” e-zine for entrepreneurs. Subscribe today at www.LMOrganizingSolutions.com. Lisa is the author of The Ultimate Life Organizer: An Interactive Guide to a Simpler, Less Stressful & More Organized Life, published by Peter Pauper Press. Lisa also publishes the DECIDE® to be Organized blog at www.DecideToBeOrganized.com. Through her work, Lisa helps people deal with the issues that block personal and professional change and growth. To explore how Lisa can help take your business to the next level, contact Lisa at (845) 988-0183 or by e-mail at .