Business Owners Toolbox Blog Discussions and articles to help the small business owner solve the challenges they face as they grow their business.

January 30, 2013

Presentations for the Non-Presenter

I invited Elaine Love to do this guest  post for my blog.

41% of 5000 people in a 2011 management association survey listed their #1 fear as public speaking.  In the same survey, 19% listed their #1 fear as death.  Even though more people fear public speaking than death, I guarantee, the experience will not be fatal.

You have been asked to deliver the opening remarks for your professional association’s annual meeting.  It was easy when you were sitting around a table with the five people in your management team.  Standing on stage speaking to three hundred people is totally different.  You know your subject, but you have never thought of yourself as a public speaker.


Facts First

How long have you been asked to speak?  Once you know the time parameters, you can organize your thoughts.  If you have ten minutes, break it down into an opening, body and conclusion.

Opening:  On a ten minute presentation, one minute for an opening is ideal.

Body:  The body of the presentation is seven minutes.

Conclusion:  Wrap up your remarks in two minutes.

Granted, this is a simplification.  I can hear your brains saying, “Easy for you to do.”  You will amaze yourself how well you will do.  1 + 7 + 2 = 10 minutes and you are off the stage.



Open with something interesting.  Your audience decides in the first seven seconds if they like you and in the first thirty seconds if they want to hear what you have to say.  Make your first seconds count.

Boring speakers open with the unpleasant pleasantries of “It’s nice to be here” “Thank you for coming” “Glad to see you.”  Don’t waste your precious opening seconds.  Boring openings send the audience scurrying to check their smartphone for messages.

Open with a shocking statistic, a quotation, something humorous or a quick story.  The opening is designed to create attention and interest. When you open with something interesting, you create the impression that the meeting will not be a waste of their time.

Just as a beautiful woman catches the eye, captivates the attention and inspires the interest to want to know more, so does your opening.


The main part of your message includes the information you want to convey.  The easiest way to think about the body is by answering the question, “What do you want them to think, feel or do?”

If seven minutes feels like a long time, consider that the average cell phone call is three minutes and 15 seconds.  Conference phone calls run slightly longer.  Mentally think of yourself as making one video conference phone call.

The easiest way to organize the main portion of your message is to state your central point and back it with statistics, a story or by highlighting a benefit to them.

Tie your message in to the purpose of the meeting.  Make a point and support it.  The more they know the value they receive by following your idea, the more buy-in you will receive.

Seven minutes gives you enough time to thoroughly cover one point.  The temptation is to hint at several topics and not really cover any of them.  If you attempt to cover too many topics in a short period of time the audience becomes confused or overwhelmed.  As you know so well, the confused or overwhelmed mind does nothing.


Summarize your main points and leave them with your “walk away message.”  In a sales presentation you give a call to action.  Here your call to action is what you want them to think, feel or do after you speak.

Bring your remarks full circle by summarizing your main point, your call to action and tying in your opening.

Just like that beautiful woman leaves you wanting more, you are leaving your audience wanting to hear more from you.

In a Nutshell

Have confidence in yourself.  You are probably the only person who knows that you are nervous.  Public speaking will not be fatal.

Give an interesting opening, one well supported point, and a conclusion with a “walk away message.”

Elaine Love writes for, Small Business Examiner and  Her expertise is in small business, marketing, mindset for business and speaking coaching.  Her credentials include Masters Degrees in Communication, 35 years of entrepreneurial awards including “International Innovator of the Year,” World Class Speaking Coach, and author of 3 books.  Contact Elaine on Google+ at +Elaine. 

A Presentations Skills Quiz, Effective Openings and Panic to Power presentation guides are an email away.  Send Elaine your contact information and one speaking challenge you are facing.  You will receive the guide and

August 20, 2012

How to Avoid a Get-Rich-Quick Mentality

Q. That desire to get rich quick is the bane of small business growth. I want my business to grow gradually and steadily. Asked on by Mbanude Izuchukwu.

A. This is an excellent question, because so many entrepreneurs fail to take your attitude.

I think the best way to do this is to surround yourself with a small group of  savvy business owners to act as an informal group of advisers. Here’s how to do this:

My business is leading such groups here in California. My groups–with no more than ten members–meet each month. You explain to them your business, your plans and goals, and your strategies, and they help in several ways:

— You present your plans to them. Doing this forces you to create plans that make sense, and that aren’t too ambitious.

— By having to explain your goals and strategies to them, they can keep you from making expensive mistakes. Sometimes you are being too bold, as you are concerned about. But sometimes you are being too timid, and you need to think bigger. And they will tell you either way.

— You help them with their problems in turn, and you learn just as much doing that.

— They serve as role models for you. You learn a lot by seeing how they solve their problems.

— If you think your problems are unique with you, they are much harder to overcome. But when you see that many others have dealt with the same problems, they don’t seem as overwhelming.

How do you find or build such a group? I would start with local business organizations, and look for those who have growing businesses, who seem savvy, who are willing to learn from others, and who aren’t competitors. The more diverse kinds of businesses you have, the better. The people must be trustworthy to keep confidential whatever is discussed in the meetings.

A group like this is a very powerful tool for growth, and for avoiding bad mistakes.

July 24, 2012

Where to Get Help to Grow Your Business

Q. Who is the best choice to help you grow your business?

I used a business coach to help get my business off the ground. Now I want to grow my business. Who do you think is the best–my business coach, a CPA, a financial advisor, or a business attorney? Or someone else entirely? Asked by Jacquelyn Bell, CPA on “Small Business Owners Group” on LinkedIn.

A. My Answer

Rule #1. As your business grows, don’t be the Lone Ranger! Get some form of outside advice and support. Every exec of a larger company relies on this. Only small biz owners hold on to the mistaken idea that they can go it alone.

You offer several good suggestions, and here’s another: business owner round tables. My company leads ongoing peer advisory groups for owners of growing companies, and I know there are similar groups all over the country.

How the groups work. I’ll use my groups as a model so you can find or build a similar group: Ten owners meet once a month for half a day, under my guidance; members set goals, hold each other accountable, give feedback, and do problem solving.

Benefits. A group of savvy owners holds your feet to the fire the way no consultant can. “No way would I show up for the meeting without doing what I had committed to the group.” The breadth of experience is so great within a group of ten, it’s hard to find an issue that somebody hasn’t dealt with. You find great role models: “If she can do it, surely I can.” You discover that your worst problems are not unique; others have dealt with the same. You learn from others’ problems: “I was advising him, and I realized my finger should be pointing right at myself.”

Guidelines for a business owner round table:
Have a leader. All-volunteer mastermind groups are very tough to keep on track.
— Have people at similar levels of sophistication. I have groups for solopreneurs, and other groups for those with a management structure.
Diversity of business types is a major strength. I’ve led groups where they were all in the same industry, and they all thought the same–nobody to challenge them.
— It’s not a networking group. You don’t want your best customer in the room when you’re describing your toughest challenges. Of course, no competitors.
— Members must agree to be there, on time, till the end. Missing meetings hurts the rest of the group.
— Written agreement of confidentiality.
People need to pay–even if they miss a meeting. Otherwise they don’t respect the commitment.
The leader has to be strong enough to ride herd, yet not dominate the group. The members need to be the resource for each other.
— My groups have ranged between 5 and 10 members. More people and you don’t get heard.
These groups can be long-lasting. I have a number of 5 to 10 year members.

Such a group does not replace specialized professional advisers. You still have your CPA, CFO, attorney, marketing whiz, etc.

But a group of peers helps you with the subtle ways you need to change your management style so that you can keep up with your company’s growth.

Look here for more on how our groups are run.

“Round tables” don’t have to be round! Our groups meet in a board room with a long table, comfortable chairs, and a large coffee pot. And plenty of white boards to take notes on while members discuss their issues.

October 8, 2009

Getting Past Procrastination

Inspired by a short article in BNET, “Why We’re Wired for Procrastination

Do you ever procrastinate? Stop kicking yourself! The linked BNET article says it’s not a moral failing; it’s just the way the brain is wired. Here are the first three “brain quirks” and the resulting “procrastination effects.” (There’s more detail in this Psychology Today article.)

  • Quirk 1: The brain is built to firstly minimize danger, before maximizing rewards.
    Procrastination Effect:
    We avoid tasks that threaten the self, and we discount future rewards in favor of immediate gratification.
  • Quirk 2: Too much uncertainty feels dangerous. It feels like possible pain so we avoid it.
    Procrastination Effect:
    Uncertainty — not knowing what to do next — is scary. Delaying a task becomes a way of coping with or avoiding that fear.
  • Quirk 3: Our conscious processing capacity is small, which makes us terrible at a lot of things, including predicting what might make us happy.
    Procrastination Effect
    : It’s difficult for us to set realistic goals — or stick to them.

Well, okay, procrastination is not a moral failing, but we still have to run a business, and get things done.

My clients are small business owners, and I see this behavior everyday in them (yes, and in myself). This springs up whenever they need to get out of their comfort zone and dive into the new, e.g.:

— Making marketing calls
— Expanding into a new niche
— Hiring a top level manager
— Investing in growth
— Preparing their business to sell
— And the #1 Procrastination Generator: Writing a book! Hey, many of us get frozen up trying to write a blog post!

So how do you counter procrastination? I was excited to note that the way I work with owners helps limit their procrastination due to these “brain quirks.” Here’s how: I put together groups of 10 owners. Each ongoing group meets half a day a month. The purpose is to tackle the challenges to growth you face, using the group as your problem-solving panel and sounding board. But these growth challenges are the very ones that generate the most procrastination, because you are forced outside your comfort zones. Thus a big part of what we do is have members set commitments, then report back to the group the following month.

Being held accountable by a group of peers you respect is a powerful force. As one woman said, “There’s no way I’ll go to the group and not have my commitments done! I’ll stay up till 2:00 am the night before if I have to.”

The 9th Circle in “Procrastination Hell” is reserved for people who write books. And business owners who write books are in the center of that circle. Running your business is a full-time job, and writing a book is a full-time job. The business pays you now; the book might pay you something way off in the future. The business gives you instant feedback on how you’re doing. The book? Will anyone ever read the dang thing? Writing a book–even a business how-to book–is complete self-exposure.

Thus writing a book scares the bejebbers out of people. (I’m saying this as a guy who’s published four books, and many workbooks.) I tell people a book takes two years to complete: 10% of the time writing; 90% agonizing over it.

An example: A consultant I’m working with has been writing a book about his field for the last couple of years. The early parts went really well, but the  closer he got to the end, the slower it got. He’s down to writing the lead ins for each chapter, and progress was zero. Every time he set aside time, something would come up. Paid client work! Can’t miss that. The wife needed his help. The dog had a problem. Etc.

We talk by phone 10 minutes a week, setting goals, then reporting how it went. Every time there was no progress, we problem-solved how to do better the next time.

Finally one week, he made a bit of progress. Elation! Congrats!

Then the next week, he reported that he had completed all the rest of the chapter summaries. “Once I got started, and generated some momentum, I just kept rolling,” he said.


1. Having a coach really helps. When I write my books, I hire a coach to keep me on track.

2. When you are stuck, find a way to get unstuck that will allow you to make a bit of progress.

3. Once the logjam is loosened, and you build some momentum, keep going. Stay on a roll as long as you can.

4. Strike while the iron is hot! When you feel a bit of inspiration, go for it RIGHT THEN. If you wait even 1/2 hour, it’s gone.

In my e-book “Recapture Your Time,” I have a section on getting creative things done while you’re running a business. Overcoming resistance. Carving out time for development. Finding your best creativity work style.

And I’m also doing an e-book on “Cash Flow From Your Creativity.” When will it be done? Depends on how well I practice what I’m preaching here. If you’re interested, bug me, then I’ll be more likely to get it done sooner.


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