SYSTEM – Save YourSelf Time Energy & Money

How many yellow sticky notes can you juggle before they mysteriously start crawling away?  In desperation, you start doing things the same way each time and voila you’ve developed a system! Let’s take it to the next level; actively search for routines you can systematize.

Save YourSelf.  It’s your business so the benefits of more saved time, energy, and money will flow to you.

Time.  By doing things the same way each time, you have the tools, forms, and answers closer to-hand saving you time.  You’ll spend less time tweaking the tools, finding the forms, and searching for solutions. Systems can be trained into employees, so you’ll be able to delegate confidently, leaving you to spend that time elsewhere.

Energy.  Let’s face it; it’s exhausting making dozens of decisions and creating new ideas every day.  Systematizing may improve those numbers to a more energizing level.

Money.  Also you’ll save money. When you’ve created systems, you can spend less money paying for customization, special skills, and training.  Starbucks delivers high quality, high value, high priced products, yet delivers it with minimum wage employees.  Using systems, you’ll be able to measure and fine tune your results.  Only through repetition can you hone your skills to see where faster, cheaper, better results can be achieved.

Here’s an example.   When I meet new people, I use a simple follow up system.

1)   I send them a hand written note card so they’ll remember me.  I have blank cards, stamps, and an assistant to help make this fast, easy, and meaningful.

2)   My intern enters them immediately into my contact management system.  So if I need to follow up by phone or email, they’re in my iphone quickly.

3)   I add details about their interests next time we meet. Thus, I can learn what they’re interested in, so I can make suggestions or referrals and remember what’s important to them.,

4)   I send them emails of my upcoming events, seminars, and socials; but only if I think they’d be interested.

5)   About the 4th or 5th time I ‘chat’ with someone, I have an idea if any of my services or products would make sense to them so I can make a helpful offer rather than an intrusive sales pitch.

6)   Once a week, I look for my ‘network’ of connected people using Internet social networking services LinkedIn and Facebook.  I get notices of their profiles being updated (new job, new project, new interest).  I compliment, congratulate, commiserate or contribute in a meaningful way depending on what’s happening in their lives.

7)   I use referral groups like PRE (professional Referral Exchange, LEADS and WIN (Women in Networking) to meet, connect with, and find referrals for others.

This system steadily increases the ‘connectedness’ I have with ever larger number of people. It becomes easier to spend my time and energy thinking of ways to really help people since my system handles the mechanical part of deciding when and how to connect and keeps the tools near to hand.

If you are looking for better systems to connect to more entrepreneurs in a meaningful way to build your business, ask me about the new Greater Reading Chamber’s LEADS program or a group in your area. Drop me an email or give me a call.

Now stop reading about Saving yourself Time Energy and Money and start doing! Let’s create YOUR personal profit strategies for growing profit. Call small business profitability coach Merra Lee Moffitt, CFP®. She can be reached at, 888-920-2030 or by email at merralee@captureprofits.com.

Follow Up Fatal Flaws: Why Self-Employed Fail at this Most Basic Sales Skill

Okay, I admit it.  I don’t always follow up promptly every time.  And when I don’t, it ruins my whole week; I feel like a complete fool. I resolve to get better, put in a place a fail-proof, simpler follow up system and get on with my life.  So here are my pitiful, real life reasons for not following up and what I am doing about them.

“I lost your card.” Maybe men don’t have this problem, but I sometime have no pockets, my purse is not nearby, or my day timer has a loose sleeve and the cards fall out.  Maybe it’s just that I have too many places to put the business cards I receive.

So I bought a business card holder.  In fact, I bought 2, one for my purse for casual meetings and one for my carry-all, a bag that holds a laptop, notebooks, or folders, for business meetings.   If I receive a card, it goes into the business card holder, right after I write what the person was interested in and what networking event I met them at.  The card doesn’t come out until it’s ready to be put it into my sales management system.

“I forgot to call you.” We are all busy especially if we’re successful.  Yellow sticky notes no longer count as a reminder system.  And your memory is what you forget with. Let’s stop feeling bad about this and put in a system.

I started using Google Tasks <http://mail.google.com/mail/help/tasks/>.   It is always on, sits next to my calendar, and takes only seconds to add an entry. My iPhone can get to it and so can my assistant.  So I can enter tasks from anywhere as well as delegate simple tasks like sending information (if that’s what I promised you) or having her call to set an appointment for me, which I tell people if I promised to set up a meeting.

When I schedule my meetings, there’s typically a little time between them, so I can review my task list and make a quick call if that’s what I promised.

“It’s been too many days and now I’m too embarrassed to call.” My life is about paperwork, calling people back, and meeting with them face-to-face.  Sometimes with too many meetings stacked back-to-back, my task list gets too long to get everything done quickly enough to suit me.

First of all, get over it.  Many people don’t call you back for a week, and you forgive them, so forgive yourself.  Just be honest and apologize genuinely.

Now fix your system. Set a personal commitment that your follow up calls/emails/mailings will occur within 48 hours.  Then put it on your dashboard and measure yourself.  It’s amazing how focusing on and measuring a result will produce dramatic improvement.  Even if you don’t reach 100%, your success rate at prompt follow up will skyrocket.

Do I feel like a failure for exposing myself this way? No.  I work with self employed people everyday; they share their own foibles.  I’m not alone and neither are you. My clients and I work on easy, simple, no cost ways to measure and improve profits.  Follow up is free and profitable, so every self employed person should build their skill.

What have you done lately to improve your follow up?

Now stop reading about follow up and start doing! Let’s create YOUR personal profit strategies for growing profit. Call small business profitability coach Merra Lee Moffitt, CFP®. She can be reached at, 888-920-2030 or by email at merralee@captureprofits.com.

Service Pricing Strategy: 3 Steps to Finding your Average Billable Hours Target

Your Target Billable Rate for Service Pricing

Your Target Billable Rate for Service Pricing

So how many working hours in a year can you really expect to sell, even if you could sell them all? If you are a sole practitioner not yet ready to hire help, your billable hours and your billable rate determines whether your family will thrive, survive, or dive. Let’s determine how you set your billable rate using target family income. In other blogs, we’ll use other methods such as value pricing

Working full time at a regular job is 52 weeks a year at 40 hours a week, so 2,080 maximum working hours in a year. Some of us actually remember working at a straight job, the kind that used to have a salary.  So here’s a methodology for determining your target rate per billable hour.

1) Subtract days we need to take for vacation days, education days, sick days, or other large blocks of time that reduce our available billable hours.

2 weeks vacation (at a minimum) – subtract 80 billable hours
2 weeks of holidays (in your own business you may end up doing paperwork those days) – subtract 80 billable hours
2 weeks education (realistic, even if you just do some educational research on the web) – subtract 80 billable hours
2 weeks sick time (again, realistic if you have kids, a spouse, parents or actually get sick yourself) – subtract 80 billable hours

So now we are at 44 weeks at 40 hours or 1,840 billable hours in a year.  That is, if we could actually charge clients for every hour of the week, which is unrealistic.

2) Calculate overhead time spent building, managing, and administrating your business.

Typically, these are items performed every week, and reduce your available billing hours on a regular and persistent basis. How many hours do we need for overhead time? What’s a realistic amount of time each week for:

Invoicing clients
Marketing and sales to get clients
Collecting money from clients
Answering customer service questions
Re-work for service (which you may not be able to bill)
Keeping records (for the IRS, for later customer questions, for analysis)
Researching new methods to help clients
Copying, faxing, emailing, filing

Even if you are good at sales, efficient at paperwork, and fast at implementing new ideas, you are probably looking at 10 hours a week of overhead time (more than one day a week).

So within that 40 hour week, you now have 30 average billable hours. That is, if you have no down time between client projects. A reasonable estimate for down time is another 15%. This is time within a project that can’t be billed because the client is not ready for your next step, or between projects when you are looking for billable hours or not yet started. This 15% applies if you are in a field with good reasonable demand that doesn’t get persistently rescheduled (such as when you are waiting for equipment to be delivered or other client delays). Some of that down-time can be absorbed by your overhead projects. That is why you can’t always set aside specific times of the week for your overhead (or end up spending nights and weekends). So we will use 10% for our down time estimate, or 4 additional hours a week. That leaves 26 average billable hours available in a full working week. Over 44 weeks, that is 1,196 average billable hours in a year. This should be your target for an average work week; one with no holidays, sick days, or vacation days.

3) How much you want to make determines your billable rate.

If you want to bring $100,000 a year into your family before paying personal taxes, and you have 30% benefits expense (we’ll discuss in another post), you’ll need to charge $109 as your billable rate for an hour. If your clients won’t pay that billable rate, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and find another way or your family won’t eat! (This is where people call me and we find a way to solve this problem.)

If you think my estimates are too high, tell me, what would you give up first? I appreciate your comments.

Now stop reading about finding your billable rate and start doing! Let’s create your personal profit strategies for growing profit. Call small business profitability coach Merra Lee Moffitt, CFP®.  She can be reached at, 888-920-2030 or by email at merralee@captureprofits.com.

“Seek new clients, seize better income, capture more profit”

Follow Up is Free and Profitable

It’s a recession. We’re cutting our advertising budget even though we know we shouldn’t. We’re racking our brains to see what else we can do to drive sales without spending too much. Well here’s a free sales and advertising tip. Follow up!

The National Sales Executive Association conducted a survey on how many sales you can get depending on how many times you contact your prospects. These statistics emphasize how important it is to follow up with sales persistence.

• 48% of sales people never follow up with a prospect
• 25% of sales people make a second contact and stop
• 12% of sales people only make three contacts and stop
• Only 10% of sales people make more than three contacts

But,

• 2% of sales are made on the first contact
• 3% of sales are made on the second contact
• 5% of sales are made on the third contact
• 10% of sales are made on the fourth contact
• 80% of sales are made on the fifth to twelfth contact

These statistics astound me and I spend a lot of calls and emails following up.  I confess that sometimes even I fail to follow up more than three times. So why do we not follow up enough?

• Too busy, didn’t get to call
• The person’s name did not make it to a “touch today” list
• The time allocated to make follow up calls got allocated elsewhere
• Don’t have a single “touch today” list, it’s in several places
• Don’t have a series of things to propose that seems appropriate
• Don’t know what to say, when you’re just “checking back”
• No follow up samples appropriate to this situation
• Want to build the relationship, but not sure how
• Haven’t tracked how many times already called, it’s too soon
• Haven’t set a follow up action, don’t know what to propose next

Your own personal list of follow up failure is probably some of these and more. With 90% of the sales made after the third contact, it’s clear that this is the result of a relationship being built. Relationships take time and repeated contacts.

But consider this. Calling is free! You already have a phone, a long distance plan, and extra cell phone minutes. So there is nothing else to pay. Email is free since you already have an email mechanism. A card is less than a dollar even with today’s postage. For a great set of follow up samples and follow up letters see: Free Sales Follow Up Letters.  So this kind of prospecting and following up is a real low-cost sales idea. That’s a great plus in this economy.

Persistence will make the difference in sales. Follow up calls are necessary and effective. If you’ve been at it more than a couple of years, you’d agree that it takes pigheaded discipline and determination to grow a business. This is a sentiment attributed to Chet Holmes, author of “The Ultimate Sales Machine” and perhaps anyone else committed to success.

So, I challenge you to make a list of people you haven’t followed up with and make some calls. Call me and tell me how it’s going. I’d love comments on more follow up samples from your experience.

Now stop reading about follow up samples and start doing! Let’s create your personal profit strategies for growing profit. Call small business profitability coach Merra Lee Moffitt, CFP®. She can be reached at, 888-920-2030 or by email at merralee@captureprofits.com.

“Seek new clients, seize better income, capture more profit”