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The Introvert’s Guide to Networking

Today we have a guest post from Misty Mega, Head of Accounting Education and Programs at TSheets. Check out her tips on how introverts can better network below!

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Raise your hand if you’re an introvert. Yep, me too. As a fellow introvert (with some extroverted tendencies), I find that networking doesn’t always come easy. Do you find yourself being very shy in groups where you don’t know anyone? I definitely do, and sometimes I would rather not be in that situation than make the effort.

But I force myself to meet people, no matter what. My trick is to find another person who is alone, instead of walking up to a large group and trying to become part of the conversation. As hard as that can be, I’m always glad that I did, so I’m sharing not only how I enter a conversation, but how I embrace my “why” — why I invest in relationships.

Start With a Handshake

Daunting as it may be, we need to step out of our comfort zones and start shaking hands. In today’s search for time, we need to focus on why we invest in relationships.

There are many ways for introverts to shine and network — both in person and online. Introverts are known to go deeper into relationship building with fewer people, so they enjoy quality over quantity. And building out our networks is an outstanding way for us to save time.

Take Advantage of Online Social Networks

When you build a network of individuals you trust and respect, the network becomes a lifeline that can help you cut down on research and troubleshooting. If you are not in a Facebook group with other people in your profession, find one and join one now!

In each of the groups I’m a member of, I’m continuously amazed by the responses people get when they need help. When they ask a question, they are flooded with responses from people who can either help them figure out the solution or tag someone who can. Not having this resource puts you at a disadvantage.

We need to step out of our boxes and shoot for a handful of quality, incredible people who you can offer support to and who, in turn, can be supportive. Having this network adds tremendous value to our lives.

Ask the Right Questions

Asking questions isn’t just about getting the answers you need. It can also be about getting the answers that other people need. To build effective relationships, we need to discover what motivates people and what they are trying to accomplish.

Every individual who starts a business does it for a reason. Sometimes it’s financial freedom or freedom to be their own boss, or it’s to provide their family a better life. In the same way, you need to figure out what other people’s goals are, and then dive deeper.

For example, when we ran our own business, my husband and I had a good relationship with our accountant. We spent long hours chatting with him every other week when we picked up our checks for payroll. However, he never asked us the right questions, and we never knew the right information to communicate.

If he had asked us, “What’s keeping you up at night?” we would have said we were staying at the office until 3 a.m. entering our sales invoices and receipts into QuickBooks because our point of sale system wasn’t integrated.

We would have told him that we were doing payroll by hand, calculating all of the minutes and verifying hours every time. We would have said our inventory is done on paper and it would be nice to be able to scan things in. He could have then saved us hours of frustration by recommending products that would have saved us both time.

The lesson I took from this was that when you ask a client questions about their business, they are happy to answer. If you find areas in which you can influence a client’s business, you’ll create a customer for life.

Be a Positive Force

Lastly, I want to focus on the power of positivity. The moment you begin to speak, people can hear in your tone if you are happy to hear from them. If you sound unhappy to hear from them, they will feel like they are bothering you. If that person is a client, they will stop calling you. If they’re a peer in your profession, they will be less likely to reach out to you. If people don’t feel comfortable asking questions, they won’t. Meaning that you won’t learn enough about them to be connected, solve a potential problem, or make that sale.

However, if you foster a relationship of open communication with boundaries, you will develop a great network of like-minded professionals, your clients will be happy to call you, and your team will be empowered. The power of positivity will save you time and boost your business.

Step out of your comfort zone and build your network, invest time in your customer relationships, and have a positive and open communication policy.

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About the Author

Misty Megia, Head of Accounting Education and Programs at TSheets, has over 20 years’ experience in market strategy, project management, public speaking, corporate branding, and channel marketing. In 2015 she received CPA Practice Advisor’s Most Powerful Women in Accounting Award. Connect with Misty on LinkedIn.

 

#ShopSmall: Get Involved to Get Profitable and Make a Difference

If you own a small business, you are already providing jobs and offering great products and services to your community, but sometimes these efforts can go unnoticed. That’s where Small Business Saturday comes in. This year, on November 26, customers across the country will shop in their community and recognize the value that small businesses can bring to their local economy.

 

What is the Shop Small Movement?

First initiated in 2010, Small Business Saturday is an annual event sponsored by American Express, held on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. It is a response to shopping events such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday, when big retailers and corporations hold massive sales in stores and online. Small Business Saturday encourages individuals to patronize their local brick-and-mortar small businesses (with 500 or less employees), reminding everyone that when they invest in a local business, they invest in their community!

The Twitter hashtag  #SmallBusinessSaturday was used to build awareness for the event, as well as allow people to tag their favorite businesses. Last year, 95 million people went out to support local businesses in their neighborhoods!

 

Why are Small Businesses Important?

Although the United States is home to a multitude of big-box retailers and corporations, small businesses remain important and relevant. In fact, The Houston Chronicle reports that “according to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), small businesses represent 99.7 percent of all employer firms. Since 1995, small businesses have generated 64 percent of new jobs, and paid 44 percent of the total United States private payroll, according to the SBA.”

Small businesses offer employment opportunities to local residents, contribute to the local economy, and provide funds for schools and government offices.

 

How Can You Participate in Small Business Saturday?

American Express encourages all small business owners to participate in Small Business Saturday by making engagement in your community as easy as possible. There are free custom marketing and advertising materials available for your storefront, website and social media. Additionally, there are articles and videos with tips and advice on how to promote this event and your business, such as offering specials and deals and holding contests.

 

How Can Small Businesses Get Involved in their Communities?

In addition to participating in Small Business Saturday, there are many benefits when businesses get involved in their local communities. By participating, sponsoring, and donating to events, charities, or sports teams, business owners market their brand and increase their customer base.


Customers respond to businesses that care about communities; a study by Cone Communications and Echo Research found that 82 percent of individuals take corporate social responsibility (CSR) into account when purchasing products or services from a business. In addition, when employees are given the opportunity to help their neighborhood, it increases their satisfaction levels and promotes employee retention.

How can you get involved in your community? Build off the Small Business Saturday momentum and implement any of these ideas:

  • Sponsor a little league team
  • Donate supplies to a school
  • Host a charity event for a homeless shelter
  • Sponsor a garden renovation project
  • Plant trees at a local park

There are many advantages to both local small businesses and communities when the two work together. If you are in the local Atlanta area, click here to find out more information about Small Business Saturday event in your area. If you live in another part of the country, find your local host and consider participating in Small Business Saturday to promote your small business in your community.

Should your business join the Better Business Bureau (BBB)?

Whether you are starting a business or have been in business for years, you are no stranger to the amount of sites, platforms, organizations, and more that want you to join their listings for site rankings, customer reviews and business accreditations. When considering the many options, there is one you should really focus in on: the Better Business Bureau (BBB). In this post we will review the top 5 reasons why you should consider applying for BBB accreditation and how they can help your small business grow.

 

  1. Not everyone can join.

The BBB is not a social sign up site or built on a one-stop, register-and-done platform. You do not “join” their site. Instead, you apply to be accredited, and they verify the businesses they are listing. This enables your small business to uphold its credibility and showcase it to your customers. When customers see the BBB sign, sticker, or logo on a business, they see that your company is trusted and, therefore, can be trusted with a customer’s hard earned money.

 

  1. People trust the BBB.

The BBB is one of the most visited sites when it comes to people looking up businesses and information related to company practices.  The BBB has been around for more than 100 years, and they have built a trusted name in protecting the public from bad business practices. Having BBB accreditation adds value to your small business’s brand because it shows you are trusted by one of the nation’s largest organizations dedicated to…well, trust.

 

  1. It allows you to handle claims and complaints.

With word of mouth and many online methods for customers to share their feedback about your business, a few bad reviews tanking your business and its future is a gamble many people do not want to take. With the BBB they give your business a fair chance when it comes to addressing claims or complaints. The BBB verifies claims are by real customers and give not only the customer a voice, but  also the business owner a fair shot at addressing the claim. With the protection of BBB support your company can weather a few bad storms should rainy days head your way.

 

  1. It adds to your company’s visibility.

If nobody knows about you, you are not reaching any customers. The BBB offers businesses a blend of accreditation and visibility that no other site like it can promise. The BBB reports to get millions of visits a day to their site from customers looking to verify the legitimacy of businesses like yours. In addition, the BBB is known to be one of the top 350 websites in the United States (according to Alexa), adding visibility and even website search engine optimization to help your small business be seen.

 

  1. They want your business to do well.

The BBB does not exist to just place their stickers on storefront windows. They are in existence to help businesses grow and do well. With resources like webinars and training, the BBB is there to help you achieve your vision and goals.

 

When evaluating your options for listing sites, accreditations, and endorsements, the BBB should rise to the top of your list. They are there to not only protect the customer, but also to encourage your business to grow while adding legitimacy and standards to a market filled with many services that are below par. Consider the BBB and consider the benefits!

5 Examples of Incredibly Helpful Small Business Advisors

5 EXAMPLES OF INCREDIBLY HELPFUL SMALL BUSINESS ADVISORS

Ask nearly any successful business owner about whether they achieved their growth alone, and you’re likely to hear the same answer: they had some help and guidance along the way. As a small business owner, it doesn’t take long to realize that you can’t be an expert in every single facet of business: sales, HR, marketing, partnerships, finance, etc. Realizing this sooner than later can have a significant impact on your business. Seeking out the right advisors to fill your knowledge gaps can accelerate growth, reduce your stress, and help you solve problems you may be struggling with.

Strengthening the areas of your small business that you may not have experience with can be done through helpful consultation from an advisor. This can be done informally through friends and family or formally by paying a professional firm in a specific area. It’s a matter of finding the right people that can offer you expertise in your area of need, along with determining what is crucial to your business’ success. When thinking about who to collaborate with, consider these five types of advisors.

  1. Financial Advisor – Managing your company funds is not as simple as balancing your personal checkbook, but it is imperative to a successful business. In order to get the most out of your day-to-day cash flow while building for the future, it’s important to have a trusted financial advisor or accountant familiar with small businesses. Keeping thorough records, maintaining a regular budget, and planning accordingly for future opportunities or investments are all areas that a financial advisor will focus on in order to steer you towards success.
  2. Industry Expert – While you may know a lot about your specific industry, if you are the only one within your business you consider an “industry expert,” and you are not consistently engrossed in the latest topics, this could be a problem. Seeking out additional perspectives on important matters can be imperative for business development. Arming yourself with information from an industry expert, whether it’s a direct contact, knowledge from books or websites where they share information, or a peer group focused on your industry, you can gain additional insight you may not have originally considered. Knowledge equals power, so why not consult with those that have the most knowledge?
  3. Marketing/Branding Expert – Many small business owners achieve their early success from hard work and hustle, but to continue that growth, marketing and branding are crucial. Spreading the word about your company and clearly defining messaging that communicates what your company does is paramount for building a customer base. This is where a marketing/branding expert is especially helpful because there are many channels to consider, and nuances associated with each that could determine the difference between a positive or negative ROI on your business efforts.
  4. Another Entrepreneur – If you network with other entrepreneurs (if you don’t get started now!) you can get invaluable tips. In this case, it doesn’t matter if this person is in your industry or not. Another entrepreneur in a different industry can offer impartial insight and offer advice about struggles and opportunities that they have been through as a fellow small business owner. You never know what you can learn from listening to another business owner’s challenges and how they are overcoming them.
  5. Human Resources Professional – You might not think you’re ready for an HR expert yet, but as your business grows, it’s important to understand the ins and outs of human resources. When you are hiring, firing, handling payroll taxes and more, it’s imperative that you know the legalities for each area and the best ways to address specific circumstances. Just a few hours with an HR professional can give you the information you need to take care of these various areas in the best way possible, and most importantly, to avoid any legal situations that could negatively impact you and your business.

Running a business can sometimes feel lonely, but you should never feel like you need to stand alone. The key is to find the right people that can offer you exceptional advice to help bring your company to the next level.

Keep tabs on the IOU Financial blog for more advice for small business owners.