Ten Steps to Thrive in 2011

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Economists say the Great Recession -- the longest and deepest since World War II -- ended 18 months ago and that the U.S. economy is, in fact, growing again. But growth is relative. Even the rosiest economic forecasts for 2011 come in well under 3 percent growth. Unemployment is still high, and consumer spending is still sluggish.

That doesn't mean sit and wait for things to improve. Rather, retool for the economy that exists today, and will be lingering for many tomorrows. Here are 10 places to start.

1. Overhaul your business plan. Rethinking your business plan can help you spot new opportunities and point your company in the right direction. For step-by-step advice, check out the U.S. Small Business Administration's guide.

2. Double down on what works. Whatever paid off in 2010 is worth investing more time, money and resources next year. Ask yourself: What was your top-selling product or service, and how can you get your customers to buy more? What money-saving strategies went straight to the bottom line? What incentives or promotions got your customers' attention?

3. Experiment. The best time to try something new? When the old isn't working. It may feel safer to stay in your comfort zone, but sticking with the same old product, service or marketing strategy might actually be riskier.

4. Fire your D-grade customers. Make a list of your customers and give each of them a grade. Then dump everyone below a C--or a B, if you can afford it. Once you've separated the winners from the losers, put a plan in place to turn those laggards into A-listers. Going forward, use those criteria to size up new business.

5. Become an 'A' customer. When prices are low, as they are now, it's generally a good time to lock in long-term contracts with your regular vendors, contractors and suppliers. Indeed, you might be able to negotiate a lower price in return for the promise of your business. 

6. Expand your network. Facebook and LinkedIn have their uses, but they'll never replace face-to-face meetings, especially to win new business and get referrals.

7. Leverage your brand. "What do you bring to the table that no one else is serving up to clients and potential clients?"asks Debra Condren, a New York business psychologist. "You must first understand what sets you apart and then become completely fluent in communicating to your target audience what separates you from the herd."

8. Get some credit. The mortgage market is starting to thaw, and that's good news for small-business owners who can tap their home equity for working capital. If you have good credit and some equity in your house, now may be the time to refinance before interest rates rise.

9. Fire up your employees. Think about creating a bonus plan to motivate employees to hit your 2011 goals.

10. Team up. Working with "channel partners" -- companies that target the same market but with products or services different from yours--can be an ultra-efficient marketing strategy. 

 

This posting was originally written by Rosalind Resnick as featured in The Street.



Carmichael Lester, Margot. "Six Tips to Get Past Job Search Rejection." Monster.com

Carmichael Lester, Margot. "Six Tips to Get Past Job Search Rejection." Monster.com

Business coach Debra Condren, author of Ambition Is Not a Dirty Word, suggests asking friends and colleagues if they know of any job opportunities or industry networking events you should attend. “Don’t forget to ask the most important question of all: ‘Can you recommend one or two other people I should contact who might have leads?’” she says.

Continue reading "Carmichael Lester, Margot. "Six Tips to Get Past Job Search Rejection." Monster.com" »

How Not to Go AWOL (Absent Without Leisure)

Dear Debra: I get so stressed out planning to leave work for vacation and check in so constantly while I’m gone that by the time I finally unwind, vacation’s almost over, and then of course when I get back to the office I’m snowed under the pileup.  How can I make leaving and returning to the office after vacation less stressful?

Continue reading "How Not to Go AWOL (Absent Without Leisure)" »

Sample the Goods Before Buying and Land Your Dream Job

Dear Debra: I’ve been laid off from a job I hated with six months’ severance. I want to think carefully about what I want to do next. Advice?

Volunteering or interning is a great strategy if your goal is to avoid simply filling time or gaining irrelevant experience that does nothing to move you toward meaningful, challenging work.  Volunteer to sample a new company or industry. If you love the work, leverage it into a paid position. Here’s how.

Continue reading "Sample the Goods Before Buying and Land Your Dream Job" »

Brush Up on Your Note Taking Skills

Excerpt from article by Heather Huhman, Entry Level Careers Examiner at Examiner.com

Even students’ years in school often times don’t prepare them properly for taking notes in the workplace. While it may seem a trivial task, once you miss an important direction or assignment, you’ll realize just how crucial it is.

If you can, record in addition to writing. “Stand out from the intern herd by showing up with a small, digital audio recorder. Say, ‘Do you mind if I tape this while also taking notes? That way, I can be sure not to miss anything and can go back and listen again to anything I didn't absorb the first time. This will save you time training me and get me up to speed 10 times faster!’ Most bosses not only will say yes, but will be impressed that you thought of this and dazzled by your ambition and thoroughness and desire to get it right,” said Dr. Debra Condren, a business psychologist, author and founder of AmbitionIsNotADirtyWord.com.

Click here to read article in its entirety.

How to Navigate your Annual Review in This Bleak Economic Enviroment

Dear Debra: My annual review is next week.  Should I negotiate for a raise or just be glad to have a job?

Always negotiate.  What's the worst that happens?  You learn there's a freeze on raises or bonuses, so you negotiate for non-monetary perks: an updated, more prestigious title that adds more cache to your resume; an opportunity to take over as editor of your company's industry newsletter or head up a project you have stars in your eyes for; working one day a week from home to cut out two hours a week of commuting time and cost.

Continue reading "How to Navigate your Annual Review in This Bleak Economic Enviroment" »

The First 10 Things You Should Do When You Get Laid Off

  1. Take a deep breath. Put aside emotions. Think rationally about practical questions you need to ask in the here and now. Go into calm, problem-solving crisis mode. Take notes. Say: “I want to jot this down because I’m sort of in shock and want to be able to remember what we discuss.”

  2. Negotiate your severance package. If your employer offers two weeks, negotiate for two months based on stellar performance. Can you cash in unused vacation or sick days to be included on you final paycheck? Will your lay-off package provide outplacement services such as career coaching?

  3. Offer to be an independent contractor on an hourly or project-based rate; your soon-to-be-former employer may become your first consulting client.

Continue reading "The First 10 Things You Should Do When You Get Laid Off" »

How to Start Your Own Business While Working Full-Time For Someone Else

Dear Debra: I’m dying to start a small business. How can I find time to set myself up as an entrepreneur while working 9-5 for someone else?

Claim two hours a day for start-up activities. One is for creative, strategic, hard planning—activities that require your brain to be fully awake and fired up. The second hour is for the roll-up-your-sleeves, boring, rote grunt work that doesn’t call for mental alertness or focus—just time. Every one of us can find two otherwise wasted hours, no matter what our work and life situation.

Continue reading "How to Start Your Own Business While Working Full-Time For Someone Else" »

PROTECT YOUR PASSION IN 2009

It has been said that "the surest way to keep a man in prison is not to let him know he's there."  And the surest way to keep a woman from embracing her pure career ambition is to make her believe she's already done it. 

Don't believe it. 

Heading into 2009, we women still are not advancing in our careers the way we should.  We're not getting the fulfillment we desire or making the money we deserve.  And this time it's not men who are holding us back.  This time, sisters, we're doing it to ourselves, because ambition-for us-is still a dirty word. 

Do you unconsciously buy into our prevailing cultural paradigm, that double standard that says: ambitious men are go-getters, but ambitious women are bitchy, greedy, cold, arrogant females who attract enemies, repel lovers, make rotten mothers, live lonely lives and, in one way or another, miss out on fulfilling lives because of their ambition? 

Are you not advancing in your career as quickly as you'd like?  Are you not making the money you deserve and getting the fulfillment you desire?  Are you afraid of what you might have to sacrifice if you pursue your big goals? 

YOU'RE NOT ALONE.

Continue reading "PROTECT YOUR PASSION IN 2009" »

How To Protect Your Credit

Dear Debra: We agree on roles and responsibilities in our team meetings. Then two people, in cahoots go off, change the rules, put their names on our team’s work, and hog credit. Later, after they’ve already been recognized as project drivers by supervisors, they play dumb when we, their team members, try and call them on it. How can we stop sneaky, passive aggressive credit-stealing behavior without coming across as whiners?

Before any group project begins, get explicit written agreements that specify how responsibilities, financial rewards, and credit will be apportioned.

Continue reading "How To Protect Your Credit" »

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I am a business psychologist, researcher, author, executive coach, and career advisor. I lead workshops and lecture frequently on women’s need to embrace our ambition. I founded the Women’s Business Alliance, a motivational think tank for more than 2,500 women. For more details, see my about page.

I’d love to hear your story. Ambitious women owe it to ourselves—and the world—to make the contribution we were born to make. Let’s keep the dialogue flowing.

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