What It Takes to Create an Award-Winning Business

14 Strategies We Attribute to Our Recent Business Excellence AwardOut of the blue, I received an email from the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce one day notifying me that we were nominated for a 2016 Business Excellence award.Say what?Once I got past my shock and disbelief that they must have the wrong Susan… it began to sink in that someone out there thought we were worthy enough of this nomination. Wow, what an honour!Part of the nomination process consisted of a 30-minute interview in front of a 3-judge panel. Imagine being forced to actually brag about yourself for a half an hour! Talk about squirming in my seat!Fast forward to last week where the awards ceremony took place. Much to my relief, our category was up first so I could relax the rest of the evening.To be honest, I wasn’t all that anxious – I knew the odds of winning was only 1 in 7 so I waited patiently for the winner’s name to be announced, not at all expecting it to be us.But it was! We were declared the winner!Say WHAT???Shock and disbelief once again came over me as I took a moment to grasp what just happened. Walking to the stage was quite the blur but I managed to do it without tripping up the stairs to get our award.In the aftermath of winning this wonderful recognition, I reflected some more about that judge’s interview and how they deemed us the winner from the other worthy nominees in our category.With that in mind, I wanted to share some of the attributes I feel helped us win this prestigious award. Without further ado, here’s what it took for me to create an award-winning business:1) Be Passionate About What You DoWe are not the first business I’ve created; there’s been plenty others ranging from creating craft pieces to faux finish painting. But no matter what I did, I was very passionate about it.Don’t waste your time trying to run a business just to make money. You’re going to tire of it very quickly and it will be harder to make sales.But when you’re passionate about what you do, others will immediately see that and will be drawn to you like a magnet.2) Love Working With the People You Serve and Offer Exceptional Customer Service One of the truest joys I receive is the knowing how much we are able to help a new business owner get their online presence up and running. Being a part of their joy at seeing their dream materialize into something tangible gives me just as much joy.If you avoid answering the phone or responding to emails because you dread having to talk to a client, then you need to adjust your marketing so you attract the right people to work with.If you don’t love who you’re working with, then it’s hard to establish a successful business that needs to cater to your clients by making customer service a #1 priority. And that means answering the phone, responding to emails in a prompt manner, and treating every person as if they were your only client. And when you’re attracting your perfect ideal client, then this should be easy to do.Make your business about them, not you. Just remember, if you had no clients, then you’d have no business.3) Know Your StuffBefore even thinking about starting a web development/digital marketing business, I ensured I got the education I needed first. I attended the Vancouver Film School in their Multi-Media program and then later earned a Bachelor of Business Administration degree with a concentration in Computer Information Systems (with an A+ GPA).Not to mention the countless online courses I’ve taken over the years to ensure my skills are kept up-to-date with this ever changing industry.Sadly, I see a lot of entrepreneurs wanting to start a business with not a lot of skills or experience under their belt and then they wonder why they’re struggling.Reading a book or taking one on-line course is probably not enough to reach award-winning status. But if you’re passionate about building a successful business, you’ll find a way to ensure you become as qualified as needed.4) Be CommittedIs working 15 hour days, 6-7 days a week committed enough? Yep, that’s what Daniel and I do every week. We have to in order to fulfil points 2 and 3 above.It takes a lot of time and effort to ensure your clients are taken care of properly. You also need a “do whatever it takes” level of commitment.You might not need to work such long hours as us and trust me, we’re continually working towards lessening that kind of volume but until then, we are willing to do whatever it takes to ensure our business is successful. Are you?5) Be ConsistentConsistency shows up in many forms when running a successful business. For me, it’s being consistent with my message, my brand, my Social Media presence, my newsletters, my team management, and the level of quality we bring to our clients.Do I miss sometimes? Absolutely. But being consistent in these areas are very important to me, and I do what needs to be done in order to show up the best I can for my team and our clients.Without consistency, it’s hard to create brand ambassadors (such as the ones who nominate you for an award), loyal team members, and a steady flow of clients.Whatever you have decided to commit to, be consistent at it and you’ll be amazed at how things start to flow your way.6) Surround Yourself With a Dedicated and Knowledgeable TeamI started off as a one-woman show. Because of my educational background, I was able to do the design, build and marketing of a website quite easily. I’m what you would call a “generalist”, someone who knows a lot of about a lot of things and is a specialist in a few areas.But my one-woman show was not going to create a successful business. Especially in this technologically-driven industry. It quickly became apparent my skillset was only going to get me so far.So my first hire was someone who could offset my biggest weakness. Warren was a student at UFV and applied for my part time programmer position. He was a perfect complement to our company and the moment he came on board, I was relieved of having to do all the site builds myself. I could then take that time and focus on building the business instead.It’s tough to try and do everything yourself when it comes to running a business. Sure, there are expenses involved in hiring but if you hire smart, keep an eye on your bottom line, and know when to let go of those that aren’t serving you best, your business will escalate far quicker than if you try to struggle with everything yourself.This topic is worthy of a whole article itself so I encourage you to read How to Take a Solo-Entrepreneurship to the Next Level for more.7) Have Honesty, Authenticity and Gratitude be a Part of Your Daily LifeIt’s sad I even need to list this as an attribute but I’ve been in business long enough to know not everyone adheres to these principles.To me, this is a no-brainer – I’m not certain I could live any other way?But judging from the stories I hear from new clients about how they were treated by their previous web developer, it sounds like many people need to be reminded of this.No business will thrive without honesty and integrity. And a little secret: gratitude will not only make your business thrive, but your whole life too. Give it a try and see what I mean.8) PersevereEvery business, including ours, has its ups and downs. The key to success is to not let those “downs” overcome your enthusiasm. Pick yourself back up, learn from whatever lesson there was to be learned, and keep moving forward.If we had quit when we only had $20 credit left on our credit cards at Christmas time just a handful of years ago, we wouldn’t be award winners now!9) Invest in Your BusinessBuilding the company has been one investment after another. It never ends really.There’s always something that needs to be worked on. Here’s a short list of my recommendations on where you need to invest in your business:a.Branding & Websiteb.Marketingc.Educationd.Building a Team10) Understand You’re Running a Business, Not a Hobby.I think this is an important distinction to make and one many entrepreneurs aren’t differentiating.I’ve always looked at our company as a business and that’s mostly due to my business mind and having a business degree.But for those that simply are passionate about something and have a dream to make money off of it, it’s hard to know exactly HOW to turn that dream into a business.They end up blindly doing what they think they should be doing, all by themselves, in order to save money (or not spend money they don’t have) and hope for the best.If this sounds familiar, I’m adding another business investment to consider as your top priority: A business coach or mentor. ASAP. Otherwise, you’ll probably end up just running a hobby.11) Set up a Systemized Business StructureI’ve worked with a lot of clients over the years. Some amaze me at how organized and systemized they are. And others, well, not so much.Having a systemized business structure in place is the only reason I haven’t gone insane with my daily workload.Here’s the tools we use to be more organized, efficient and less stressed.12) Get Comfortable With SalesSales. It’s a dirty word for many entrepreneurs and business owners alike. Me too. I hate to think of myself as a “sales person” but at the end of the day, if we’re not selling our wares, we don’t have a business.Now that’s not to say you need to become a pushy, in-your-face predator. Far from it.Remember attribute #1 about being passionate? That’s what you need. People will trust your passion and will respond to it. But be careful, sometimes passion can be too intense and will turn people away.Find your sweet spot as to what resonates with your ideal clients and keep working at it. But do embrace the fact you’re selling your wares and learn some strategies that fit with your personality and comfort level that will work.13) Give BackGiving back is an imperative attribute to have when building a successful business. We give back in several ways, here’s some ideas to consider that we do:-Offer discounted prices for non-profits-Volunteer your services to community groups-Send cash donations to worthy charities you believe in-Make purchases that support worthy causes-Donate door prizes and/or silent auction items for fund raising activities-And support your own clients whenever you can14) Be AccessibleWhen new clients approach me due to being disenchanted with their existing web developer or marketer, the most often complaint I hear is they can never get a hold of the person. Either they take forever to respond to an email or never answer their phone.I think I’m going to write a book on how NOT to run a successful business based on this alone. It boggles my mind when I consistently hear stories like this. How are these people keeping a business going with such poor service and accessibility?I have a policy to answer emails within a day of receipt. I often exceed that policy but sometimes the volume is too much and I get delayed in responding. Same thing with the phone. If we’re available to answer, we do so. If we’re not, we’ll call the person back right away.Being accessible provides peace of mind to our clients; they know we care enough about them to take care of their needs in a timely manner. ’nuff said.There you have it. My honest take on what created the company to be an award-winning business. Maybe I need to write a book about this because, honestly, I could have added more but, it’s coming into the 15th hour on this Sunday night of working so I’ll leave it at that.What about you? What would you add to the list? Please leave a comment below, I’d love to hear from you!

Why Google Places Works for Your Business Advertising

Deciding how to advertise your business on the Internet is not an easy decision, especially when you’re on a budget. There are so many different advertising platforms in existence that gain you traffic in exchange for the majority of your advertising budget. With so many options available and some very expensive, it’s difficult to know whom to trust. Enlighten yourself to a new technologically savvy way of marketing and promoting your business that your competition may be unaware of. Google Places is very beneficial to many businesses and this is why:Google Places is free. This means that if you decide to advertise your business using this service, your advertising budget remains untouched. Most online advertising costs money i.e. Pay-Per-Click (PPC), which can cleverly eat into your advertising budget if you’re not careful. Additionally, there is much to be learned before you likely see any success and many people do not realize this.Google Places is obviously owned by Google; think of the benefits to you since this is the case. Google is the most popular and frequently used search engine in the world as millions of people use their search engine daily. Additionally, Google is constantly changing and testing their algorithms to ensure they are giving people the exact information they are searching for.Now, imagine consistently being on the first page of Google’s search engine and how that could benefit you and your business. Increased visibility on Google equals potentially massive exposure. The exposure will surely send highly targeted traffic to your Google Places listing.A huge advantage to using Google Places is that it is very easy to get set up, and you’re visible almost immediately. If you know how to type and operate a mouse, then you’re all ready to set up a basic listing. Everything is labeled step-by-step. There are also strategies to utilize to ensure you are gaining the maximum amount of exposure possible with this service. Just make sure you read on these strategies so you are getting the most of this free service.The great thing to know about Google Places is that your competition will most likely not be savvy enough to claim their free listing here. If you know that it’s such a simple process to list your business there, then all you need to do now is to take action and verify your listing. Don’t let this simple process go without taking advantage of it. Either have your webmaster claim your Google Places listing or do it yourself correctly.

How Old Should Kids Start Piano Lessons? | Piano Lessons for Kids

A new school year is approaching, so you might be wondering whether piano lessons are a good idea for your child.

There’s not one definitive answer for the best age for kids to start kids piano lessons. A number of factors play into this decision. Here are some things to be thinking about as you assess if now is a good time for your child to start piano.

It’s never too late to start
First, it’s important to know that it’s never too late to begin to learn the piano. There is no age limit to this. Even if kids begin piano lessons a few years later than their peers or as teenagers, they won’t be behind. Anyone can learn to play the piano, even in adulthood.

There is no need to feel rushed to start piano right away or to feel guilty if you haven’t started piano lessons yet.

It is possible to start too soon
On the other hand, starting piano lessons too soon isn’t always the best idea. It is possible for kids to form negative feelings about learning the piano early on if they are forced to learn it before they are truly ready. In the future, it may be very difficult to reverse this, and you may find that your child resents anything related to the piano.

Also, starting the piano too soon can also feel frustrating to kids who aren’t quite developmentally ready to learn the piano.

Elementary years are often a good time to start
The best time for most kids to start piano lessons is somewhere between early and mid-elementary school years. It’s impossible to judge your child’s readiness and interest to learn piano until you know him or her best.

You’ll also want to visit with several piano teachers to get their perspectives on a good time to start. Although some piano teachers are skilled at teaching younger beginners, others prefer older beginners. Even if your child is ready, learning from a teacher who is inexperienced with young children may negatively impact their experience.

Look for these signs of piano readiness
Interest in playing the piano: Does your child have a natural affinity for playing the piano? Do you notice them taking interest when other people play the piano? Do they sit down and try to figure things out on the piano on their own? Kids who do these things are almost always ready to learn more formally.

Time commitment: Piano lessons for kids require a time commitment from the whole family. Not only do you have to carve out time for weekly lessons, you also have to plan for daily practice. Practicing the piano should become a part of your child’s daily routine and ideally, parents need to be involved in the daily practice. The level of parental involvement will vary depending on your child and their teacher’s preferences. But, parents need to help kids find the structured time to practice, and they may also need to sit down and help their child complete assignments too.

The ability to sit still and focus for short to medium periods of time: Learning to play the piano requires kids to sit and focus at the piano for increasing lengths of time, A teacher who is great at working with young children will incorporate many ways to learn away from the piano bench and keep your child moving between different music activities. Some more traditional piano teachers might expect a child to sit at the piano for 30 minutes. If your child Piano might not be the best fit for someone who dislikes sitting still and focusing on details.

Fine motor development: Playing the piano requires a lot of fine motor development. It’s one of the only activities where kids are expected to control each individual finger simultaneously. Kids who haven’t fully developed their fine motor skills often feel stuck when they’re learning to play the piano. Their mind knows what to do and their hands simply aren’t ready.

Kid Playing Piano

Let’s take a quick look at what it’s like to start piano at various stages and what challenges you may need to be prepared for.

Ages 0–4 (Preschool): Kids who haven’t started Kindergarten yet usually aren’t quite ready for kids piano lessons. There are many wonderful music programs geared towards this age group. Look for movement-based preschool music programs in your area and help your child cultivate a love for music.

Ages 5–6 (Kindergarten/First Grade): Kids in this age group can really go either way. Many teachers will say that it’s too early to start piano lessons. But, kids who are really excited to learn or who have observed an older sibling learning piano often do really well.

Possible challenges: If you do start piano at this age, you might notice that your child doesn’t progress quickly or gets stuck on certain concepts. As long as your child is still interested in piano, don’t be discouraged when this happens. Usually, a developmental milestone is about to click into place and progress will pick up quickly soon.

Ages 7–9 (Second-Fourth Grades): These are really great years for starting piano lessons. A lot of kids in this age range pick up piano skills quickly and make fast progress, which is a big confidence boost.

Possible challenges: One thing to be mindful of with that quick progress early on is that things will soon get harder. Make sure you instill good discipline early on so that as things get more difficult, your child has what it takes to stick with it.

Ages 10–13 (Fifth-Eighth Grades): Kids starting piano at this age usually fly through the early stages because there are usually no developmental hindrances to learning. If a child in this age group is really interested in learning piano, they can usually cover a lot of ground very quickly and they are cognitively ready to really understand how piano and music work.

Possible challenges: Kids at this age who are being forced to learn the piano usually make very little progress because the easy stage doesn’t last very long.

Ages 14–18 (High School): High school can be a great time to start piano because at this age, a student is really motivated and has the capability to learn a lot quickly. A lot of times, high schoolers have already taught themselves a little bit of piano and they usually have specific goals and interests at the piano.

Possible challenges: The biggest obstacle that high schoolers face is time management. Kids that started piano at a younger age are already in the habit of carving out practice time, but newer high school learners often find it hard to juggle their other responsibilities with practicing. High schoolers also often get discouraged in the beginning stages because they might expect to move faster or play more complicated music sooner.

If you think your child is ready to start Kids piano lessons in west vancouver or Piano lessons Vancouver, make sure you have a good instrument in your home, you’ve visited with a few piano teachers to find the best match and that you’re ready to take on the time commitment as a family.