Platinum Level Coaching is an

  • Intensive
  • Private
  • Long-term program

…designed to deliver a high level of accountability, coaching, consulting, mentoring and support so you can get the answers you need to make powerful decisions and take action towards your goals and vision of success for your business.

As an entrepreneur, you may often find yourself feeling alone or isolated – unsure of who to turn to for advice on your confidential business questions and plans, feeling out-of-sync with friends and family members who have a J-O-B, and nervous about sharing too much with a colleague or competitor. You crave someone that can guide and support you, actually give you answers when you’re well has run dry, and co-create a business that is truly customized to you and your needs!

Platinum Level Coaching is what you need to support, inspire, and challenge you to create the business you dream about.

Clients that go Platinum choose that level because they find that the value that coaching brings to their business on a prolonged basis is well worth the investment, and they want a full access pass to me including email support, materials review, consistent coaching calls, accountability, joint ventures, tickets to live events, entry to my group coaching and mastermind programs, etc. (see below for specific details of each level). This is the closest you can get to having me as your business partner!

What can we work on during Platinum Level Coaching?

We can work on almost anything that you need assistance with in your business!

As a ten-year successful entrepreneur who has coached hundreds of business owners, I have the breadth and depth of knowledge and experience to assist you in many areas.

And with my Platinum Level Coaching clients, I pull back the curtain and let them peek inside by sharing my journey, lessons learned, tricks/tips/tools, and being open and honest about what has worked (and not worked!) for my own business and the many clients I have been privileged to work with.


How does Platinum Level Coaching work?

See the details here.

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 .

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 .

Recently, I was coaching a business client, and we were having a conversation about business success. I asked her to share with me her definition of business success. After a pregnant pause, she admitted that she didn’t really know her definition of business success. Therein lies her problem — and maybe yours as well. No matter what stage your business is in, it is important to define success for yourself.

Not knowing your definition of business success is like driving at night without your headlights on! You and your business may reach your destination, but it makes it a whole lot harder to navigate, find your way, and get there with the least amount of bumps and bruises. You also may arrive in an entirely different place than the one you wanted to reach. Therefore, think of knowing your definition of success as having your high beams on at all times. It helps guide you in the right direction, and assures that you will get there safely, quickly, and in the most direct way possible.

The new year is a perfect time to reflect on your definition for success for your business. As you take the time to reflect and ponder what new experiences you want to create for your business this year, ask yourself some key questions:

  • How do you define success?
  • What is it that is propelling you forward in your business?
  • What drives you?
  • What rewards have you set up for yourself along the way as you meet business milestones?
  • What is the mission of your business?

Far too often, business owners get caught up in someone else’s definition of success. The problem with that is you can waste an awful lot of time being confused, feeling overwhelmed and hesitant about your next step or path. You also may lose faith in building a business that serves you and your unique goals.

All of the above questions are vital and should be given considerable thought. But the most important one by far is, What is the mission of your business? By mission, I don’t mean the Mission Statement that you post on your website for clients and all of the world to see. I mean the internal one that is the driving force behind your business.

For example, my mission is to marry my passions with my profits. In my opinion (and experience), the greatest businesses are created out of passion and knowledge packaged together in a way that others see it as a value. Therefore, I’ve made a conscious choice to step into a bigger purpose to help people around the country and world through my organizing, coaching, speaking and writing. Success to me means taking my business to the next level to reach a wider audience, establish a strong online presence, and to do it without any full time employees.

You can make your business be whatever you want it to be. But first, you have to know what it is you want, how you define success, and what steps you need to take to achieve that success. I challenge you to create a definition of success that truly works for you. And when you do, be sure to share it with someone that will hold you to it, and serve as a powerful accountability partner. You can if you’d like. I’d love to see what you come up with.

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 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 .

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.

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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 .

“To do two things at once – is to do neither.”
~ Roman philosopher Publilius Syrus, 100 A.D.

When we need to accomplish many tasks, we do 2-3 things at once, sometimes more. We do this in order to be more productive. Multi-tasking has basically become the American way. In fact, employers often include “multi-tasking” as one of the desirable traits they look for in job descriptions. But is multi-tasking really leading to increased productivity?

According to some experts, the answer is no. Multi-tasking is generally less efficient than focusing on one thing at a time. Studies show it impairs productivity. It is impossible to do 2 tasks at the same time without compromising each. Supposedly, it takes your brain 4 times longer to process than if you focused on each task separately.

David Meyer, Ph.D., a psychology professor at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor has spent the past few decades studying multi-tasking. His research shows that not only is multi-tasking inefficient, but also can cause problems at work, at school, and even, in some cases, be dangerous. Meyer explains, “It takes time to warm up to a new task, especially if both require the same skills.” Apparently, the transition time between switching back and forth from one task to another is where multi-tasking starts to result in decreased productivity.

In addition, studies show that some tasks that are frequently grouped together conflict with one another causing a decrease in productivity. Have you ever been writing an e-mail and chatting on the phone, and realize that you are saying what you are typing, or typing what you are saying? Supposedly, it’s impossible to do both of these tasks well because each requires language skills and short-term memory. What about reading your email and talking to someone at the same time? If you’re trying to actually read your email, as opposed to maybe just skimming the names in your inbox, conversation with someone becomes difficult because you’re tackling two language activities at once: reading and listening.

Meyer has also studied the effect of multi-tasking on students (stay with one homework assignment at a time, kids), and on cell phone use while driving (read: don’t do it unless you are prepared to seriously impede your ability to drive). To see some of Meyer’s work on multi-tasking, visit his page at the University of Michigan.

Some people feel that multi-tasking helps them to stay fresh and alert, not get bored, and ward off fatigue. Some even claim that they can’t help it, as their brain gets easily distracted and goes from one thought and task to the next. However, most experts agree that the average person does not know how to multi-task well and, therefore, should refrain from doing it at all. Jim Loehr of the Human Performance Institute has spent a great deal of time studying multi-tasking and writes, “Multi-tasking is the enemy of extraordinariness. Human beings, sorry to say, can focus fully on only one thing at a time. When people multi-task, they are not fully engaged in anything, and partially disengaged in everything. The potential for profoundly positive impact is compromised. Multi-tasking would be okay–is okay–at certain times, but very few people seem to know when that time is.” For more information on Jim Loehr’s research on multi-tasking, visit the Human Performance Institute.

Some people claim to truly thrive on multi-tasking. But are they really increasing their productivity in a quantifiable manner, or just giving themselves (and perhaps others) the perception that they are getting more done? If you are really getting things done in a more productive manner by using multi-tasking, fine, and good for you. You have somehow managed to prove the experts wrong. But, if you have too many balls in the air, you may need to re-think your strategy — unless you learn how to juggle.

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 .

What is a Meta Decision?

A meta decision is an umbrella-type decision that impacts all of the smaller decisions that come thereafter.  It is made with the intention of impacting or replacing a number of future decisions.  Thus, meta decisions are crucial to organizing because they save the mental anguish and time involved with making hundreds of individual decisions one by one.

How Can You Use Meta Decisions to Get Organized?

You can use meta decisions with clothing (“I will not keep anything that I have not worn in the last 2 years”), magazines and newspapers (“If I have not read it in the last 3 months, it gets donated or thrown in the recycling bin!”), e-mail (“I will check email for 1 hour in the morning, 1 hour after lunch, and 1 hour in the evening only.”), requests for social events (“I will commit to 3 social events this month only.”), etc.

Let’s take paper for example. You can make a meta decision to purge any business paperwork that is over 7 years old.  Then, all you need to do as you are sorting is look at the dates.  Anything that is older than 7 years automatically gets purged.  This takes the guesswork out of reviewing and making a decision regarding each and every document.

Essentially, using meta decisions is a clever way to establish rules and set boundaries.  Try it!  I guarantee it will free up some of your mental clutter, allowing you to purge more of your physical clutter.

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 2010. 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 .

Ah, New Year’s Resolutions. They come but once per year, and cause quite a stir. Indeed, people talk about their New Year’s Resolutions quite freely. A small portion of people even write them down. But how many truly achieve them? The number is probably dismally small. Why? Because most people do a great job of talking about their resolutions, but don’t do such a great job of taking action on them. They often set themselves up for failure by biting off more than they can chew!

Take, for example, the most popular New Year’s Resolution: to lose weight (get in shape, exercise more, achieve greater levels of fitness, shrink a few sizes…any version will do!). What most people do is come out swinging. They join a gym and try to exercise 5 days a week, when they were formerly a couch potato and led a sedentary lifestyle (not only is this setting you up for failure, but it can be dangerous too!). They deprive themselves of every food they love, instead of eating a little bit of everything in moderation or learning their trigger foods and slowly replacing them with better choices. In other words, they try to do too much in too little time. They experience set backs, or fail altogether, which then leads to a defeatist attitude and they say “See, I knew I couldn’t do it.” They then give up.

Does this pattern sound familiar? If so, try a different approach this year. Try taking it slowly, one step at a time, and actually taking action throughout the year. How? Here are some tips:

Start Small & Grow Your Goal Little by Little
Instead of looking at your goal or resolution as a major project, think of just the first step. For example, instead of thinking that you have to get your entire life organized, try keeping your appointments for the first week, clearing out your email inbox the second week, saying no to some tasks and events you can’t handle the third week, etc. Get the picture? Take it step by step so each smaller goal feels, and is, more manageable.

Reinforce Goal Setting in Various Ways
Use different learning styles (visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and tactile) to reinforce goal setting. Perhaps you can journal about your New Year’s Resolutions (one of my favorite activities!). Maybe you prefer to set up a vision board to see your goals. Or you can listen to podcasts and audio programs that reinforce your resolutions. It doesn’t matter which you choose, only that you choose a way to reinforce goal setting that works for you!

Ignore the Naysayers
Often, you are making actual progress towards achieving your resolutions or goals, but someone tries to sabotage you. Try not to let this derail your efforts! You need to stay the course, despite what they say. The famous life coach Martha Beck talks about surrounding yourself with people who can be your “believing eyes.” I love this idea! Adopt it and use it as your own. Stay away from the Negative Nellies right now, and surround yourself with people who believe in your goal and will help you achieve it.

Be Accountable
Some of the world’s most successful behavior modification programs are successful partly due to the strong accountability factor built into the program. Find an accountability partner, join a mastermind group, or hire a coach. You need motivation and someone to share your trials and successes with. Having accountability systems in place can be a powerful aid in accomplishing the goals you set.

Celebrate Success
Make sure to reward yourself along the way for achieving success, no matter how small. Set up milestones, and as you achieve them, figure out ways to motivate yourself to keep going. The more successful you feel at each step, the more apt you are to keep moving on the path towards achieving your full goals.

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 2010. 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 .