A few months ago, I had the pleasure of being interviewed by the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals (NAPO) for it’s podcast series. My topic was Let Go to Grow: Focusing on Your Strengths. Below is a description of the podcast interview, as well as a play button for you to listen in. Hope it helps you in your business!

NAPO Podcast: Let Go to Grow – Focusing on Your Strengths

If the legal aspect of starting or growing your business has you intimidated, lost or overwhelmed, we have got the expert for you. From legal documents to the ins and outs of everyday business, today’s expert has us covered. With a background as an attorney, mediator and trainer of entrepreneurs, Lisa Montanaro is a sought after business expert. She is the owner of Lisa Montanaro Global Enterprises, the umbrella organization under which she offers productivity consulting, success coaching, business strategizing and speaking to individuals and organizations. Lisa is an inaugural certified professional organizer and a member of the Golden Circle of the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals.

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • Transitioning from another career into professional organizing
  • Pros and cons of subcontracting under established organizers when you are just starting out
  • Great PR starts with believing in what you do, then letting media and other influencers know about it
  • How to grow a speaking and productivity coaching business
  • Tips on getting your name out there when you move to a new area
  • How raising your profile begets more opportunities to raise your profile
  • Understanding different kinds of legal business entities and which one is right for you
  • How to protect both yourself and your client in a business relationship “Let go to grow”
  • Why delegating and outsourcing tasks is a path to exponential growth in your business.

NAPO Podcast

So excited to share this video of the highlights from the Brazilian Professional Organizers Conference where I was the international keynote speaker in June 2016. What an impressive event! It’s such a great example of how professional organizing is exploding as an industry worldwide.

Lisa_and_Monica-NAPO-3I just got back from co-presenting a pre-conference session at the 2013 National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) Conference in New Orleans. My fabulous co-presenter was Monica Ricci. We had a blast presenting the workshop, “Speak Up! Crafting and Delivering Killer Presentations.” There were about 36 attendees, and the workshop was 4 hours long. And the workshop was a real hit, thankfully, but that’s not the main point here. What is the main point is the story behind the workshop and how it came about.

Monica served as Moderator of the popular Ask the Organizer Panel at the NAPO Conference for years. 10 years to be exact. In 2010, I had the distinct honor of serving as a panelist under Monica’s moderation. I was smitten. Okay, that may sound strange, but when I meet someone who is a great presenter, a smarty pants, has a killer sense of humor, and a great sense of style, I take notice. So, we became buddies. Little did we know what the future would hold.

The following year in 2011, I was selected to be the Moderator of the first-ever Golden Circle Ask the Organizer Panel, which was made up of organizers that were Golden Circle members, but would be presented in front of all conference attendees. Monica stayed in her role as Moderator of the traditional Ask the Organizer Panel. And so we worked side by side, taking photos together, sharing ideas and notes about our respective panels, and enjoying our roles.

Lisa_and_MonicaIn 2012, we both served as Moderators again, but this time both panels would have pre-submitted questions, which was never the case in the past for Monica’s panels. So we worked even more closely together as my Golden Circle Panel functioned by having pre-submitted questions only. Apparently, you CAN teach an old dog new tricks when the “old dog” (you know what I mean… not talking age here folks!) is a pro. Monica knocked the panel out of the park even with pre-submitted questions and was able to go out with a bang as that was her last year serving as moderator. I had one more year left to my 3-year term as Moderator.

My good friend and colleague, Andrea Bowser, was hanging out with Monica and I in 2012 and commented to me afterwards how it was too bad we would no longer both be serving as Moderators. She suggested how cool it would be if Monica and I teamed up to co-present something together at the conference in the future. Lightning struck! I contacted Monica and the rest, as they say, is history.

We submitted a pre-conference session on speaking, which seemed only natural as we are both professional speakers and have served in that role at the NAPO Conference for years. We prepared for months via Skype and phone, and really enjoyed the process. We created all content together, organized the presentation, and timed it out. We then split up the sub-topics, each taking ones to present, so that we weren’t talking over each other too much (we are both talkers so were concerned about it getting too chatty!). We wanted it to be interactive, so added in exercises, stories, and role playing.

Monica shared that she had never co-presented before. This was news to me!! I felt honored that she trusted me enough to team up together, and was hoping it would go really well.

And it did. It was an absolute blast for us to present, and our attendees, thankfully loved it. We are humbled by the rave reviews, and are thrilled that the attendees are all pumped up to get out there and speak more, and speak better.

Lisa_and_Monica-NAPO-2The moral of this story is that you have to go for it! Set your sights on something and make it happen. I could have dismissed Andrea’s comment and not approached Monica. Monica could have said no, especially given that she had never co-presented with someone before. NAPO could have rejected the proposal to present. But the stars aligned. In some ways, it goes even farther back than that. Monica could have held a grudge that she had to share her Moderator role with an interloper (that would be me!) when I was selected to take over the Golden Circle Panel. But she didn’t. She embraced the change, welcomed me to the inner sanctum, and became my ally. That decision and attitude led to the two of us becoming partners in crime… a dynamic duo. And I for one am not only grateful for it, but look forward to what the future holds. Look out world, here we come…

I was recently invited by my colleague and fabulous blogger, Janet Barclay, to comment on a post about naming your business, and thought many could benefit from my response. So I am sharing it here. If you want to read Janet’s original post that it relates to, and other great comments, click here.

As you know, I rebranded last year (by choice). I kept the name of my professional organizing division which I founded in 2002 as LM Organizing Solutions, but now have a new parent company name, Lisa Montanaro Global Enterprises. I chose that name for several reasons: 1) I am going global, playing in a bigger sandbox, and wanted to share that intention through the name, 2) I am running a personal brand, and 3) I mostly use my real name online and that is what I noticed people would search for. To be honest, I use the business name less and less now, and focus more on my “brands” and “slogans” to market myself, always connecting them to my real name. My corporate name does not show up in many places. This was a very strategic decision.

business buildingAs a business coach and legal consultant for organizers and other entrepreneurs, I have seen the ugly side of business naming. Many clients have had to rename their businesses due to trademark disputes. I have filed trademarks for my clients, negotiated consent agreements for them to use the same name as another business owner, and advised them to rebrand altogether when the trademark issue was not on their side or too expensive to pursue.

But this can often be avoided up front, as you suggested. I use a 4-part test with my clients when choosing a business name:

  1. Domain Name Search – Check to make sure you can get the domain name that you want to represent your proposed business name.
  2. USPTO search – You can conduct a free search on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office site at USPTO.gov or use a paid service to research trademarks nationwide.
  3. State Corporations Database Search – You can do a quick search on the Secretary of State web page to see whether your name is available. If the name is available, you may want to reserve the name through the Secretary of State, but you are not required to do so before forming your business entity.
  4. NAPO Member Directory Search – If you are a professional organizer, you should check to see if the proposed name is already being used by a NAPO member. Remember, it is not NAPO’s responsibility to police names as a professional association. It is the business owners!

Just Say No!

Knowing Your Limits When Taking on Volunteer Leadership Roles

As an entrepreneur or any other type of business professional, you are probably often asked to take on volunteer leadership positions, such as a Board member, a committee chair, etc. These roles can be incredibly satisfying from a personal and professional standpoint. However, it is often difficult to know when to say “no” when faced with too many opportunities and too little time with regard to volunteer leadership roles.

Recently, I was asked to take on two separate leadership positions for two different organizations that I am a member of. While both offers were extremely tempting, I knew right away that there was no way that I could say yes to both positions, and do both with finesse. Every time we say yes to something, we say no to something else. Therefore, I made a difficult phone call to the incoming President of one of those organizations to explain that although the offer was tempting and I appreciate his faith in me, I needed to turn down the offer in order to accept the leadership position for the other organization.

This made me think about how in all aspects of life, we sometimes have to ‘just say no’ to some offers in order to do the best job that we can with the things we say yes to. I realized a long time ago that we can’t do it all. Well, not if we want to do the things we commit to well. In order to give 100% to every volunteer leadership position that you take on, you need to carefully consider what that role involves and whether you are able to bring your all to the table. If you can’t, the better answer (albeit often the harder one to give) is “No.”

The following guidelines have helped me to make the tough decisions as to what to say yes to and what to say no to with regard to taking on volunteer leadership positions for business or civic organizations. I hope they assist you, as you decide what falls within your ‘absolute yes’ list and what you will ‘just say no’ to.

Is it a Cause That You Believe in? – Sometimes you take on a volunteer position not so much for the position itself, or even for the tasks you will be doing, but because the organization’s work or agenda furthers a cause that you so deeply believe in or value. For example, many people serve as board members of organizations that specialize in cancer research, homeless shelters, Habitat for Humanity, etc. The list goes on depending on the causes that you believe in.

Does it Improve Your Business or Further Your Industry? – When I first joined my local and county chambers of commerce, I was the first and only professional organizer to be a member. Not only did this bring an amazing amount of exposure to my business and what I did, it also helped further the professional organizing industry as a whole.

Will it Enhance Your Reputation? – Think about whether it will enhance your reputation in terms of aligning yourself with this group. Also, what if you take on the position and do not do a good job? Think about whether you can give 100% and shine in the position. If you can’t, then it may have a negative effect on your personal and professional reputation.

Been There, Done That – Will it be a repeat performance? For example, the offer I just turned down would have been my second term in the same exact position. I’ve watched this organization grow and expand, and feel it is in a good place right now, and that my time has already been well served. It is time to move onto leadership positions within other organizations and take on new and exciting projects to bring in fresh ideas and energy. The organization I am saying yes to is one I have been involved with for several years, but I have never held a leadership position within it, so this is a new experience and one I look forward to.

Can You Afford the Financial Commitment? – Most organizations expect their board members and other leadership volunteers to give freely of their time and expertise. But some organizations take that a step further and also expect their members to give a certain amount of financial commitment. One example is Rotary International, where the members give financial support and choose worthy causes within the community to be the recipients of those funds. Be sure to ask what level of financial commitment is expected, and ask yourself whether you can realistically meet it before saying yes.

When in Doubt, Follow Your Gut – Regardless of the above criteria, you will probably know if you should ‘just say no’ based on your gut reaction to the request to serve. If you are asked to serve in a volunteer capacity or leadership role for an organization, and you cringe at the idea, with no trace of excitement, follow your intuition and say no! Yes, a certain level of fear or anxiety may be normal when asked to serve as a volunteer in a leadership capacity for an organization. You may be nervous about being in the spotlight, meeting new people, how to juggle this new role with all of your other responsibilities, etc. But, often times, people say yes purely out of obligation when the ‘real’ answer is quite obviously staring them in the face based on their gut reaction. If your gut screams no, follow it!

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 .

Question:

Many people are confused about using images in ezines, products or on their website that are captured from the web. I purchase most of my images from IStock, or other resources, but what are the clear cut rules?

I know Constant Contact offers free images as well as Microsoft clipart. And when writing about a product or resource (basically promoting them), is it safe to use a picture of the product or company logo? I’ve done this before.

You can get yourself into trouble by using images, can’t you? Even if you don’t see a “copyright” on them? I would assume that you can ask for permission and cite the image source. Could you could give advice to all those building their business about this? Thank you.

Answer:

Great question! I have a colleague that just got into trouble with this exact scenario for using an image without permission for her ezine that was copyrighted by a photographer.

Copyright protection begins the moment an original work is created and lasts for the creator’s life plus 70 years. Copyright protection extends to literature, music, plays, choreography, pictures, graphics, sculptures, architecture, movies, audiovisuals and recordings. So you are correct that images and photos are included and given copyright protection.

Copyright infringement is using someone else’s creative work without authorization or compensation, if compensation is appropriate. So, what we are dealing with here is a potential copyright infringement of someone else’s photo or image. (It may also be a trademark infringement if the image or logo is trademarked.)

The owner of the copyrighted material controls whether others can reproduce the work, prepare derivative work, distribute copies or display it. Using it without permission, even if you credit the creator, is not acceptable. Neither is copying others’ original work that does not carry a copyright symbol.

However, there are exceptions. One is “public domain.” But, don’t misinterpret the term “public domain.” Just because it is on the internet, does not mean it is public domain! Once a copyright expires, it enters the public domain. Public domain comprises all works that are no longer protected or never were, including works created prior to 1923, and works created between 1923 and 1963 on which copyright registrations were not renewed. Works created since 1989 are presumptively protected, and all government material, such as statutes and laws.

There is also a Fair Use Exception to copyright infringement that allows the limited use of copyrighted material without acquiring permission from the rights holder. It is permitted for literary criticism, comment, news, reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. The courts use a four-factor balancing test to determine if fair use exception applies: 1) Purpose and character of use, 2) nature of use, 3) amount and substantiality of work used, and 4) effect on market value of work. Some people believe there is a 5th factor too that depends on the type of infringer (non-profit or for-profit) and its intentions and track record (a repeat offender or an unknowing and unintentional infringer).

The easiest way to avoid copyright infringement is to only use images from sources that specifically grant permission, some of which you listed, such as IStock. There is also a non-profit organization called Creative Commons that grants copyright permissions through a tiered approach ranging from selective protection to unlimited grant of permission. You can learn more at www.creativecommons.org. Be sure to look for a Creative Commons License on a website to see if the owner has specified which rights he or she is retaining, and which rights he or she is willing to release.

Another way to avoid copyright infringement is to ask to use the work. Sending a simple email request to use an image takes just a few minutes, and can save you a lot of turmoil (and potential legal fees!) in the long run. Approach people online on sites like Flickr. Let them know you’d like to use one of their images, which one, for what purpose, and offer to give them credit. Also, check Stock Exchange and Wiki Commons. Read through the restrictions and rights. Artists will usually list whether a photo may be used, for what purpose, and what type of credit must be given.

Despite all of the above, if you are using an official image of a product to promote it, the assumption is usually that the owner of that product is happy to have you assist in their marketing efforts. It has become common practice to use an image of a product when reviewing it, sharing it with your readers, and promoting it for people to purchase. Most companies that put a photo of their products on the internet are thrilled if you take that image and tell the world about that product. It is like having a global sales team! Indeed, if you are an affiliate of a product, there is an implied agreement for you to be able to use the images of that product in order to fully promote it as an affiliate. I often review products on my blog, and the companies that I do so for are only too happy to provide me with images.

The bottom line: When in doubt, use images that specifically grant permission. If you are unsure, do not use the image! Seek permission first or find a different image that is clearly permissible to use.

 

Copyright © 2011 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 2011. Lisa Montanaro, “The Solutions Expert,” is Principal of LM Organizing Solutions, LLC, a professional services firm created in 2002 that offers professional organizing, business and life coaching, and motivational speaking to individuals and organizations. Lisa publishes the monthly “DECIDE® to be Organized” e-zine for the general public, and “Next Level Business Success” e-zine for professional organizers and entrepreneurs. Subscribe today at www.LMOrganizingSolutions.com.  Lisa also publishes the DECIDE® to be Organized blog at www.DecideToBeOrganized.com. Through LMOS, Lisa helps people deal with the issues that block personal and professional change and growth. To explore how LMOS can improve your home or work environment, or help take your business to the next level, contact Lisa at (845) 988-0183 or by e-mail at .

If you are an entrepreneur that provides a service, chances are you use a client agreement (if you do not, please reconsider!). And if the service you provide is of a confidential nature, such as professional organizing, your agreement most likely contains a confidentiality clause (if it doesn’t, consider adding one!).

But what confidential information are you actually protecting? And how far does that protection extend? If you are unsure, then the confidentiality clause is essentially meaningless. If you don’t fully understand its weight and coverage, how will your client? Will a court or government body be able to ascertain the full meaning and scope of the confidentiality clause when asked to issue an interpretation of the confidentiality clause’s coverage? How will it play out if the party that drafted the clause can’t provide relevant information as to its scope and intention?

As a former practicing attorney that has seen her share of confidentiality clauses, I can assure you that the importance of crafting a meaningful, powerful, but accurate and realistic confidentiality clause is vitally important to your business.

Why include a confidentiality clause in your client agreement?
Let’s first look at why you would want to include a confidentiality clause in the first place. A confidentiality clause provides a safe environment for your client and promotes trust. Your client wants to know that he or she (or “it” if you are working with an organization) can fully trust you with confidential, personal, financial or proprietary information. A confidentiality clause demonstrates to the client that you are a true professional, willing to keep certain information to yourself and not disclose such information to others except under certain circumstances (more on the exceptions later). This allows the client to be fully present and disclose information freely which may result in a better, more open relationship, which in turn may lead to an increased ability to service the client.

What can you keep confidential?
There are some typical types of information that most confidentiality clauses cover. Many include confidentiality of financial information and trade secrets, promises not to release information to third parties without permission from client, no written or electronic information retained past the termination of relationship without the permission of client, no use of client information in marketing materials without permission of client, etc. In other words, it depends. You could guarantee that all information that you obtain during the scope of your work with the client be kept confidential. You could guarantee that any information that the client deems confidential will be kept from disclosure. But if you were to make that type of blanket guarantee, you would essentially be lying to your client. Why? Because it is up to the courts to determine the scope of the confidentiality clause if challenged.

Why would a confidentiality clause ever be challenged?
Let’s look at some scenarios. Let’s say you promise to keep all financial information confidential. Then you get served with a subpoena by a court or the Internal Revenue Service advising that you must appear in court or cooperate in an investigation. Let’s take it a step further and assume that if you fail to cooperate, you can be held in contempt of court, fined, or worse, jailed. Now do you plan to stand by your blanket statement that ALL information of a confidential nature will be kept confidential? Doubtful.

There are other scenarios that may result in you being called upon to disclose information. Child protective services investigations, elderly protective services investigations, drug enforcement investigations, spousal abuse investigations, tax and financial investigations, firearms investigations, etc. The list goes on. Are these scenarios common? Not typically. But that doesn’t mean they may not arise. If they do, you need to be prepared for the fact that the confidentiality clause will most likely not be a match for the court or government agency’s stronger need for the information you possess.

Do entrepreneurs have immunity against disclosure of confidential information?
Some entrepreneurs say they will try to keep confidentiality by arguing that they have a certain type of immunity under the law. If you are a lawyer, doctor, priest, therapist, or other professional that is covered by such an immunity, then by all means, go ahead and assert it. But the average entrepreneur, and professional organizers specifically, do not have a recognized immunity under the law. Therefore, a court would most definitely overrule any immunity you try to assert and order you to disclose any and all information in order to fully cooperate.

How do you assure confidentiality in a way that is meaningful but allows for the fact that you may be called upon to answer to a higher authority?
Be careful not to draft an overly broad confidentiality statement or you will give your client a false sense of security. You can only guarantee confidentiality up to the point when disclosure is required by law or subpoena. So why not just say that? Put clear language in your actual confidentiality clause that explains when disclosure is warranted. That way, the client is aware that you have every intention of protecting confidentiality, but that if you are issued a lawful subpoena and required to disclose, you will obey the law and cooperate. (By the way, when I refer to a “higher authority” in this context, I don’t mean God, although you may feel a moral obligation to disclose is just as strong, if not stronger, than a legal one. If so, then you can envision yet another means for disclosure and breach of the confidentiality clause if you will disclose for moral reasons and not just legal ones.)

Where does that leave you and your client if you disclose based on a proper investigation and lawful subpoena?
Disclosure would probably not endear you to the client. However, that would be the lesser of two evils given that the alternative may be financial ruin or jail time. Can your client sue you for breach of contract for violation of the confidentiality clause? Sure. Anybody can sue anybody over anything at any time. But you would have a pretty airtight defense to get the case dismissed given that your disclosure was court ordered. Plus, you may just sleep better at night if your disclosure helps remedy an unlawful situation, prevent a crime, or save a person.

The information provided in this article is not intended to be legal advice, but merely conveys general information related to legal issues commonly encountered.

 

Copyright © 2010 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 .

As summer is “off-peak” for many businesses, it couldn’t be a better time to engage in some business building activities. If business is slow, don’t fret! Use this time wisely to gear up for the fall rush. Change your mindset and look at the slow summer time 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. 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 this summer, here are some ways to reinvest in your business. They will stimulate and rejuvenate your business. Come fall, you will be ready to prosper and succeed with a new and improved business.

  1. 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.
  2. 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. Summer 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Keep Advertising – The first thing most business owners do when cash flow 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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 fall, you will have all of your ducks in order.
  8. 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. Approach professionals that can assist you with these projects. You may be pleasantly surprised at the rates you can secure.
  9. Hire an 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. Take the time to interview properly and try someone out before you get so busy again that it becomes a distant and fleeting thought.
  10. Familiarize Yourself with Tax Deductions – Perhaps you 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.

Copyright © 2011 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 2011. Lisa Montanaro, “The Solutions Expert,” is Principal of LM Organizing Solutions, LLC, a professional services firm created in 2002 that offers professional organizing, business and life coaching, and motivational speaking to individuals and organizations. Lisa publishes the monthly “DECIDE® to be Organized” e-zine for the general public, and “Next Level Business Success” e-zine for professional organizers and entrepreneurs. Subscribe today at www.LMOrganizingSolutions.com.  Lisa also publishes the DECIDE® to be Organized blog at www.DecideToBeOrganized.com. Through LMOS, Lisa helps people deal with the issues that block personal and professional change and growth. To explore how LMOS can improve your home or work environment, or help take your business to the next level, contact Lisa at (845) 988-0183 or by e-mail at .

I’m hearing a lot these days about business reinvention. And it certainly seems like a great idea. But I think that a complete business overhaul is not only unjustified much of the time, but can be a risky move.

So instead, I’d like to propose the idea of a business “remodel”, which is more along the lines of a home remodel. When you remodel your home, you generally keep the existing structure and foundation. The changes are distinct for sure, but do not involve knocking down your entire home. Rather, the remodel may involve adding an addition, repainting a room, finishing a basement, etc.

Likewise, you can remodel your business in distinct and powerful ways that cause a huge shift in your delivery of services, income stream, target market, or visibility as an expert. But a business remodel needs to be justified, strategic, and executed in such a way that the remodel doesn’t cause too much turmoil in your business. When you remodel a home, for example, it needs to be done in a way that causes the least disruption to your living environment. Yes, you are willing to suffer some inconvenience in the short run knowing you will wind up with a beautiful newly remodeled home. But you wouldn’t plan a remodel that forces you to live in absolute chaos unless you can move out during the construction and find another place to live. Easier said than done!

With your business, you can’t necessarily find a new business “home” while conducting a business remodel because you still need cash flow. Sure, there are exceptions for those business owners that saved a ton of money to fund a remodel, but even in that case, it would mean dropping out of the business for a temporary period, which is not going to leave you top of mind with your target market.

So what is the best way to approach a business remodel and what might it include? Here are some tips and guidance.

  • Take Stock – Approach your business remodel in a strategic manner by taking stock of where you are in your business at present, and where you’d like the business to be in the future. Assess what you love about your business, what is working, and what brings you and your clients success and results. Also, pay serious attention to what is no longer working, what you have outgrown, and what your clients don’t seem to need or want anymore. Only when you have done this business assessment will you be in the right frame of mind to determine what shape your business remodel will take.
  • Blueprint the Remodel – Just like you would with a home remodel, you need to draft a blueprint for your business remodel. Add what the remodel will include, how long you expect it take, what players need to be involved, how much money you need to finance the remodel, etc. Consider getting assistance from a trusted advisor during this stage. Approach the blueprint like you would a business plan so that it can serve as the framework for the remodel during the weeks/months/years of the remodel.
  • Add On – One way to remodel your business that is safe and smart is to actually add onto it. This can be in the form of an additional income stream like a new service offering, product, or program. It can also be achieved by partnering with another business owner to engage in a joint venture together. It can take the form of offering or joining an affiliate program. The list is as long as your imagination, and what is the best fit for your business.
  • Take Away – A business remodel can also include taking something away from your business that you know is not working, is draining your energy or your bank account, is not a big seller, or you just plain don’t love offering anymore. In business, we often keep saying yes and piling up things. But a smart business remodel can be about saying no and streamlining or micro-focusing on what truly works, and brings you and your clients great results.
  • Thing Big, but Start Small – Once you get the idea of a business remodel in your head, it is hard not to get excited and maybe a little carried away. It is great to be excited and have passion around your business remodel. In fact, go ahead and think big! But then come back down to reality, and start small. Take the remodel one step at a time. Don’t bite off more than you can chew or your remodel will crash and burn.
  • Mind Your Existing Business – Another common problem with a business remodel is that while you are in the process of remodeling, you neglect your overall business. Make sure that you are still “minding the store” while remodeling. It is easy to get caught up in the remodel, as it is very exciting and usually evidence of where your future lies. But unless you have unlimited funds and a celebrity status, your clients most likely still want to buy from the business you have now. If you absolutely want to be free of the business you have now, then realize that you are not just remodeling, you are reinventing your business! And that is a horse of a different color. If that is what is truly happening, then you will be following a different path. You may need to close shop altogether, sell your business, completely revamp or rebrand it, or get employees or independent contractors to run it for you.
  • Roll Out Your Remodel– At some point, your remodel will either be complete, or at least far enough along, that you want to officially roll it out and shout it from the rooftops. But consider that you may want to go public with your remodel even sooner than that. Getting people involved in your remodel can be a great strategic decision. In fact, you can engage your clients in the remodel by asking them to assist in some way. For example, let’s say the remodel is to add a service offering. You can survey your clients (and warm prospects) well in advance to see what service offering is missing from your business that they desperately want and need. There are many other ways to get others involved in your remodel, but make sure you do so wisely so you don’t scare your clients into mistakenly thinking that you may be jumping ship or abandoning them.
  • Enjoy the Remodel Results – If you approach your remodel wisely and execute it strategically, you will be able to enjoy the results — and so will your clients!

Copyright © 2011 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, “The Solutions Expert,” is Principal of LM Organizing Solutions, LLC, a professional services firm created in 2002 that offers professional organizing, business and life coaching, and motivational speaking to individuals and organizations. Lisa publishes the monthly “DECIDE® to be Organized” e-zine for the general public, and “Next Level Business Success” e-zine for professional organizers and entrepreneurs. Subscribe today at www.LMOrganizingSolutions.com.  Lisa also publishes the DECIDE® to be Organized blog at www.DecideToBeOrganized.com. Through LMOS, Lisa helps people deal with the issues that block personal and professional change and growth. To explore how LMOS can improve your home or work environment, or help take your business to the next level, contact Lisa at (845) 988-0183 or by e-mail at .

Large companies in Corporate America usually conduct business retreats, known also as Corporate Retreats. Business retreats are often held towards the end of the year, and serve to assess performance for the past year, and set milestones for the coming year. The retreat creates a document that is used as a business blueprint, serving as a benchmark to measure against. Some companies will make this document public, such as in an Annual Report. Others will keep it as an internal document that acts as a powerful tool for business success.

However, what if your business is small, or you are self-employed? Does this mean you miss out on this transformative business activity just because you are not a “big gun”? No way! Large companies in Corporate America haven’t cornered the market on business retreats. If you are self employed or a small business, you can conduct your own business retreat. Here are some tips to guide you in the process so your business retreat is a success.

  • Choose topics to focus on. Most business retreats are comprehensive, covering marketing, financials, employees and contractors, clients, business growth, etc. Choose what topics your retreat will focus on, and how in depth your retreat will go into each topic. Having an overall plan or checklist of what the retreat will cover will help you plan and implement it with success
  • Gather all of the necessary data. Usually, a business retreat will involve a certain level of assessment, and “looking back”. Therefore, it is important to have all of the business data needed at your fingertips. This includes return on investment statistics for marketing and advertising, financials, client lists, etc. Knowing the numbers and stats of your business will prove vital as you assess and measure performance and create new milestones and benchmarks going forward.
  • Get all of the players involved. If your business has any key players, make sure they are available in person, by phone, or bv email for your business retreat. This includes marketing reps, assistants, bookkeepers, accountants, etc. Making sure that all players are on speed dial or stand by will avoid a frustrating business retreat where you need information and can’t get it at that time.
  • Record and blueprint. Make sure to record performance measurements, trends, and any other stats that are necessary for business assessment and future planning. You can do this on a simple word processing document or spreadsheet, or even audio record the retreat to listen later or get it transcribed.
  • Choose realistic and success-driven goals. As you create the blueprint to use in your business for the future, make sure that your goals are realistic and success-driven. This means creating milestones and benchmarks that can be achieved and are not too pie-in-the-sky, while also stretching your business to reach higher and further. Think where you want the business to be at next year’s business retreat and what it will take to get it there. That will help you create the best plan of action.
  • Accountability is key. Create a system for accountability so that all of the work put in for the business retreat does not go to waste. Make sure to consider implementation. Who will implement the blueprint from the business retreat? How will it be implemented? Make sure to designate implementation time into the business calendar. Consider getting assistance from a business coach, joining a mastermind group, or partnering with a colleague to ensure that accountability is built into the business retreat blueprint.

With a little planning, an open mind, and a willingness to put in some hard work at assessing your business, a business retreat can be a huge success. So go ahead and act like the big guns – get that business retreat on the calendar and make it happen!

Copyright © 2011 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, “The Solutions Expert,” is Principal of LM Organizing Solutions, LLC, a professional services firm created in 2002 that offers professional organizing, business and life coaching, and motivational speaking to individuals and organizations. Lisa publishes the monthly “DECIDE® to be Organized” e-zine for the general public, and “Next Level Business Success” e-zine for professional organizers and entrepreneurs. Subscribe today at www.LMOrganizingSolutions.com.  Lisa also publishes the DECIDE® to be Organized blog at www.DecideToBeOrganized.com. Through LMOS, Lisa helps people deal with the issues that block personal and professional change and growth. To explore how LMOS can improve your home or work environment, or help take your business to the next level, contact Lisa at (845) 988-0183 or by e-mail at .