Bonnie Wallsh Growing Your Business

Developing a Better Business/Life Balance

May 04, 2007

By Bonnie Wallsh, CMP, CMM

A lot of people have ideas, but there are few who decide to do something about them now. Not  tomorrow. Not next week. But today. The true entrepreneur is a doer, not a dreamer."           Nolan Bushnell, Founder of Atari Computer

You’ve successfully mastered the 3 stages of business growth and you are now looking towards developing a better business/life balance. Have you prepared a business succession plan? Have you arranged a disability policy in anticipation of unexpected medical problems? Have you started planning for your retirement? Do you have a long term care policy? Time moves rapidly and as we focus on our business we may lose sight of planning for our own future. Although Baby Boomers will always think of themselves as young and many can’t ever imagine retiring, it is important to include retirement, disability, and long term care as an integral part of our business plans.

"Learn to enjoy every minute of your life. Be happy now. Don't wait for something outside of yourself to make you happy in the future. Think how really precious is the time you have to spend, whether it's at work or with your family. Every minute should be enjoyed and savored."               Earl Nightingale, Radio Announce, Author, and Speaker

I have included a bibliography of books that might provide you with invaluable insights as you grow yourself and your business. Enjoy!

Recommended Bibliography

Attitude is Everything  10 Life-Changing Steps to Turning Attitude into Action
Keith Harrell, Cliff Street Books, 2000

Now, Discover Your Strengths
Marcus Buckingham & Donald Clifton, Free Press, 2001

Go, Put Your Strengths to Work
Marcus Buckingham, Free Press, 2007

Mavericks at Work
William C. Taylor & Polly LaBarre; William Morrow, 2006

Hospitality 2010
Marvin Cetron, Fred DeMico, Owen Davies; Pearson/Prentice Hall 2006

The Experience Economy
B. Joseph Pine II, James H. Gilmore; Harvard Business School Press, 1999

Knockout Presentations – How to Deliver your Message with Power, Punch, and Pizzazz
Diane DiResta, Chandler House Press, 1998

The Sales Bible
Jeffrey Gitomer, John Wiley& Sons, 2003

The Savage Number How Much Money Do You Need to Retire?
Terry Savage, John Wiley & Sons, 2005


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Analyze and Update Your Business Plan

May 01, 2007

By Bonnie Wallsh, CMP, CMM

"Everyone's got it in him, if he'll only make up his mind and stick at it. None of us is born with a stop-valve on his powers or with a set limit to his capacities. There's no limit possible to the expansion of each one of us."       Charles M. Schwab, Industrialist

As your business grows and develops, the danger arises that entrepreneurs shift their focus from their clients to continuing the formula which brought them success. They lose sight of the nuances in the marketplace and their business suffers. Although it is common knowledge that no one client should compose too great a portion of one’s business, it is easy to fall into the rut of focusing too much on just one or two clients while neglecting to diversify your client base and marketing your services. The danger comes when you lose a piece of business because of management changes or centralization despite performing exemplary service.

Many years ago, I attended a full day MPI Greater New York Chapter workshop on “Marketing your Services to Your Client/Organization” presented by Patrick Lynch. He talked about how every organization goes through 3 growth stages which he called Start-Up, Growth, and Re-Invention. His analysis is still applicable to entrepreneurs today. In the Start-Up phase, the organization will do whatever is necessary to make the business work. After finding the winning formula, during the Growth stage, the emphasis shifts to repeating the formula without making any changes. Management concentrates on what has worked rather than on the changing customer. The company hits the wall and change is mandatory if the company is to survive. Think about cultural diversity where the minority will become the new majority, generational differences, and the global economy in which we live. Change can result in a crisis or an opportunity. In the 3rd stage, Re-Invention, organizations begin to take risks, become innovative, and move quickly.

What stage is your business in? Are you taking time out to analyze and update your business and marketing plans or are you consumed by day-to-day details? Consider taking a business retreat with your key decision makers or attending an educational program with your peers to benefit from other perspectives. I took a week off from work in the fall, 2005 to pursue my CMM (Certified Meeting Management) designation in Whistler, British Columbia. We were a diverse group of 56 people from Canada and the United States who participated in a 4 day program designed to help us think strategically rather than tactically. There was a take-home exam based on the 8 sessions in the program. They were Thinking and Acting Strategically, Making the Most of Personal Differences, Strategic Financial Management, Strategic Risk Management, Strategic Negotiation, Strategic Marketing & Entrepreneurship, Creating Strategic Business Plans, and Technology Strategy. The culmination of the program was a business plan that was due about 10 weeks after the program ended. This was an invaluable opportunity to reassess my business and myself.

Celebrate Your Accomplishments!

April 30, 2007

By Bonnie Wallsh, CMP, CMM

“Growth depends on abandoning some lines and types of business in pursuit and acquisition of other more productive lines of business. Growth is not just financial. It includes broadening experiences, higher-level contacts, more sophisticated work, and an enhanced reputation.”
Million Dollar Consulting The Professional’s Guide to Growing a Practice
Alan Weiss, McGraw Hill

Congratulations! You’ve reached your one year anniversary as an entrepreneur. Celebrate your accomplishments and evaluate what factors contributed to your success. What unexpected challenges did you face? What changes would you like to make to take your business to the next step? Have you reached your projected goals in building your client base and meeting your financial target? Which clients are bringing in the most income? What opportunities are there to expand services to your best clients? Who is most demanding of your time? Which clients are toxic and would best be referred to your competitors? You must be profitable to continue in business. Increasing your revenue while cutting your overhead costs will improve your profit. When you start your business, you may be willing to take any piece of business that brings in money. As money comes in, you are in a better position to choose what clients you want to work with. Not all business is lucrative.

“Often the difference between a successful person and a failure is not the one that has better abilities or ideas, but the courage that one has to bet on one's ideas, to take a calculated risk - and to act."                                                                      
Psycho-Cybernetics, Dr. Maxwell Maltz

As I’ve grown my business, I learned how invaluable it is to have mentors and business coaches. Sometimes, we are so closely involved with our business that we need someone else to provide a clear perspective on what risks to take. I’ve worked with several coaches over the last years and each offered different perspectives. It is important that you seek someone who you trust implicitly. In addition, I’ve formed a business support group of five women entrepreneurs. We meet regularly as an advisory board for each other and three of us are collaborating as a joint venture on a conference that will be held in fall 2008. The group is invaluable in stepping back and analyzing the direction each of our business will take. We also evaluate the benefits of our association memberships, leadership opportunities, and educational programs to improve our skills.

My business has shifted to include more teaching and training compared to meeting management. I am learning that it is profitable to follow my passion.

"Life is full of insurmountable opportunities."

Mastering Basic Administrative and Management Issues

June 08, 2006

By Bonnie Wallsh

I strongly recommend that you contact an attorney who specializes in working with small businesses to help you establish your business. Certainly, there are books that tell you how you can set up your own business for just $75.00 but I think that there is too much risk in doing it yourself. You will also need an excellent accountant who will help you analyze financial aspects of your business. Ideally, the accountant and attorney should work in tandem in adhering to your business plan. Your personal and business goals will influence the recommendations that they offer you.

First, you must determine how you want to form your business. Decide whether you want to form a sole proprietorship or partnership. You need to get your Tax ID numbers from the Internal Revenue Service. You will need to obtain business licenses and do a search in your state capital before you finalize your business name.  Create independent contractor agreements to present to your clients. Become familiar with how to protect your intellectual property and the importance of trademarks and copyrights.

Once you have selected your attorney, you will want to develop your income statements, balance sheets, and analyze your cash flow. You will be expected to pay taxes which vary from state to state. If you require a loan to establish your business, prospective lenders will expect you to submit a business plan. You will need to obtain insurance including professional liability, office, and health insurance. If you have employees, you will require unemployment insurance and workers compensation. Create a risk management plan for your business preparing contingency plans in case of unexpected crises.

In order to set up your office, you will require equipment some of which you may already have or you can purchase used. You will need a desk, comfortable chair, proper lighting, bookcase, file cabinet, business telephone, answering machine, copier, scanner, printers, computer including hardware and software, postage, and office supplies. You will want to order trade publications and create your business library.

Since you will be spending many hours in your office, I recommend creating a comfortable environment. My home office has 3 windows overlooking my garden and I have motivational posters and keep photographs of my husband and children within easy viewing. I have a radio/CD/cassette player for my favorite music. My son presented me with a tranquility fountain for my desk and a screen saver of a fish tank for my computer. My 3 Siamese cats will sometimes curl up on chairs within the office and demand stroking.

As I wind down my week as a MIguru, I want to leave you with this quotation.

“Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than successful men with talent. Genius will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “Press On” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”

Lawrence E. Wikander, Curator, Calvin Coolidge Memorial Room, Forbes Library, Northampton, MA

How Do You Make Your Business More Profitable?

June 07, 2006

“Whenever you see a successful business, someone once made a courageous decision.” Peter Drucker, Management Consultant and Author

One of the great shocks in starting your own business is that you are responsible for everything. Whereas you might have had support staff to go to the post office or quick print, clean your office, or purchase supplies, you now have complete authority in managing your sales and marketing, servicing clients, and operating your business. These responsibilities can be daunting but you should consider outsourcing any services that you may need for which you don’t have the necessary skills.

When I started my business 28 years ago, it was assumed that you were not serious about your business if you worked from home. My partner, at the time, and I used an answering service and later rented a room in an office complex located on Liberty Street across from the World Trade Center in New York City. Fortunately, times have changed and it is acceptable to work from home. If you opt to work from home, you should set up dedicated space where you can work on your business. If you want to meet with clients, there are office suites where you can rent a conference room or use their services on an as needed basis. The rapid expansion of Starbucks, Caribou, Borders, and Barnes & Nobles enables you to meet clients and vendors outside your home in coffee shops with internet access.

Office work can be outsourced to secretarial services or to a comparative new profession called Virtual Assistants. Entrepreneurs owning these business services can come to your office or work with you from a remote location. Also, consider using student interns from high school or college. My students at Johnson & Wales University were required to work for 6 hours as part of the Event Management class requirements. If you opt to working with students, I recommend that you don’t just give them “idiot work” but provide learning opportunities with their tasks.

Graphics, marketing, public relations, and development of web-sites can be outsourced.

Consider partnering with your colleagues to work on projects that might be too large for either of you individually. I met Arlene Sheff, CMP, currently Senior Meeting Planner, The Boeing Corporation, who previously owned her own business during an MPI conference. We happened to meet on the concierge level of the Atlanta Marriott Marquis and we partnered on a joint project despite the fact that she was located in Southern California and I was based in New York City. In addition, we developed workshops on the “FUNdamentals of Meeting Planning” and “The Inside Scoop …For Suppliers who Need to Know by Planners who Want to Tell” and in the process became close friends. If you create a strategic alliance, it is crucial that you select someone who you trust implicitly and who shares your ethics and values. Prepare a written independent contractor’s agreement so that everything is outlined and there is no misunderstanding.

The time may come when you need assistance on a regular basis.. Your business plan should guide you in deciding whether you want to hire independent contractors or employees. You should select the best possible person for the position and calculate the cost differential of contractors vs. employees. Regardless of which direction you pursue, you must communicate your vision to your staff. Become the most positive and enthusiastic person you know. “To be a leader, you have to make people want to follow you, and nobody wants to follow someone who doesn’t know where he is going.”
Joe Namath, “Hall of Fame” Professional Football Player.

How Do You Establish Equitable Client Fees?

June 07, 2006

By Bonnie Wallsh

“The greater danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.”  Michelangelo Buonarroti, Renaissance Artist and Sculptor

Pricing our services as consultants is one of those most challenging dilemmas that we face. It is illegal for me to recommend specific fees that you should charge, however, I want to share guidelines for you to use as you establish your fee structure. Note that you can use a wide variety of charging for your services depending upon the needs of particular clients and the importance of the piece of business for you. My firm has entered into partnerships, charged a daily fee, project fee, and per head basis. I never accepted commissions for my fees. Rather, I apply any commissions received against my fee structure or towards the master account. Other meeting management consultants, particularly those who perform site selection services, opt for payment by commission.

In the book, “Independent Consulting”, David Kintler recommends that the prices you charge should depend on 3 factors – Your perceived ability to deliver results, the lifestyle you want, and what the market will bear. “These 3 factors determine what you’re going to earn from your consulting practice. How you set your prices is the foundation for your financial success. You level-set the expectations of your clients and potential clients. As you grow the number of assignments you are handling, your income benefits in proportion. If you begin working for peanuts and don’t put the value on your work that it deserves, you’ll have a hard time significantly increasing your prices in the future.”

The perception of your ability to deliver results is based on your industry reputation, reputation for work that you have performed, and testimonials and referrals. The lifestyle that you want is determined by the salary and income that you want to earn, your operating expenses, and gaps between assignments. The market is determined by the industry that you are working in, the perceived value of your services, competition, and geographical location.

Types of fees include hourly, daily, weekly, per head, project fees, percentage, commission, partnership, and retainer. There is no one right way but you must revert back to your business plan to guide you in fee setting. There are times that I turned down business when it was not financially feasible and on other occasions, I accepted work because there was additional business potential. Only you can decide what is best for you.

Business and Marketing Plans

June 06, 2006

By Bonnie Wallsh

“The indispensable first step to getting the things you want out of life is this: Decide what you want." Ben Stein, Professor and Writer

Anyone contemplating starting a business should create a business plan in writing. It provides you with a blueprint to develop your business and gives you a sense of direction. If you need to borrow funds, lenders will require a business plan before they will provide you with capital. Even if you don't need outside finances, it is advisable to outline a summary of your overall goals for the 1st year, 3 years, and 5 years. I worked part time with the Small Business Resource Center funded by the Small Business Administration (SBA) helping our clients to start and grow their businesses. One of the best books that I recommended to people was the Adams Streetwise book on Independent Consulting written by David Kintler with Bob Adams and published by Adams Media Corporation in 1998. You can purchase the book, new or used, on

Your business plan should include:

Summary What is your business strategy? What is the current stage of your business? Who are the key people in your organization? How much money will you need to get started? This summary is intended for the people who you approach for resources and provides an overview of your business plan. Concept What services will you be providing? Describe aspects of your business that are fundamental to your strategy. Will you be developing strategic alliances?

Current Situation This is particularly important if you are seeking funding from outside lenders. However, if you are self-financing, how much money will you be investing in your business? What financial resources are available to you until your business starts generating income?

Market Analysis You will need a clear and well thought out marketing plan. Understand the importance of branding and how to create your own brand. Think of the branding created by FEDEX. Federal Express changed its brand to FEDEX when customers starting using the word as a verb. Check out the FEDEX logo which was designed to represent their services. Have you noticed the arrow contained within their logo? Your brand will be used in your business cards, stationery, and web-site and should be consistent and recognizable by your prospective clients.

Competition What firms or internal departments are in direct competition with you? Think outside the box of anyone who provides the services that you are offering.

Competitive Analysis Prepare a SWOT analysis of your business - strengths, weakness, opportunities, and threats. This is for your purpose only and you should be brutally honest with yourself.

Positioning As part of your market strategy, think of who your target market is. Don't plan on providing all services to everyone. This is the time for specialization when you can focus your energies on what market segment you are most likely to reach. How will you promote your business? Think beyond advertising to include writing articles, speaking engagements, and membership in associations. It's likely that your positioning may change as you develop your business. My firm that started 28 years ago after I was laid off as a teacher, provides a full range of meeting management services and is now shifting to provide training and education. I will be conducting workshops on “Launching your own Business” at the Meetings Market Academy + Exhibition as well as presenting sessions at many industry conferences. In addition, I will be an instructor at Virginia Tech University in addition to Johnson & Wales University and University of North Carolina in Charlotte.

Personnel Who are the key people in your organization? Who will you be developing strategic alliances with? What services will you be outsourcing that you can offer to your clients?

Financial Statements You need to prepare income statements, balance sheets, and cash flow. Include your projections for 1 year, 3 years, and 5 years.

Launching Your Own Business

June 05, 2006

By Bonnie Wallsh

As time goes by, more and more planners are opting to start their own meetings management businesses. Some of these enterprises, of course, are more successful than others.

This week, I will be focusing on different aspects that are crucial factors in making your business a highly successful and rewarding venture. Today, Monday, we’ll focus on Getting Started: Challenges and Opportunities. Tomorrow, Tuesday, we’ll focus on creating your business plan and developing a marketing plan. On Wednesday, we’ll cover how to establish equitable client fees. On Thursday, we’ll discuss how to make your business more profitable. Friday, we’ll concentrate on mastering basic administrative and management issues including legal, financial, and insurance issues.

The following outline is a Q&A drill for the purposes of hanging out your own shingle. These questions will give you an idea of areas that you should consider when you make the leap.

1.                  Self analysis - What are my goals in life? Am I willing to work more than 8 hours a day, 7 days a week, when necessary, to get my business off the ground? Will I be able to continue “managing my business” while actually coordinating meetings? What are my strengths and weaknesses?

2.                  Personal skills and traits - Can I work alone without support staff, if necessary? Am I organized? Am I willing to work very hard? Do I have the desire to excel? Am I able to focus on achieving my objectives without being distracted?

3.                  Experience – Do I have sufficient knowledge and experience to properly execute the fundamentals of planning? Can I think strategically and partner with my clients in achieving their goals?

4.                  Finances – Do I have the financial resources to maintain my lifestyle until my business generates sufficient income? Will I need to borrow money for working capital?

5.                  Support system – Do I have a contingency plan in case of an emergency?

Next, consider 5 crucial questions that you should consider as you plan to launch your business.

1.                  What are your success criteria?

2.                  What is your mission statement?

3.                  What is your target market profile?

4.                  What is your unique selling proposition?

5.                  What is your prospect personal profile?

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