How to Grow Your Business and Personal Network 101

Growing and building a scalable business can seem like a daunting task for a business owner. While there are tons of suggestions on the best strategy, there’s one strategy that remains greatly praised by industry experts, solopreneurs and business owners alike– networking. Networking provides business owners with the opportunity to mingle directly with like-minded business owners. This can lead to business partnerships, generate sales leads, and job opportunities.

Here are 5 tips on how to grow your business and personal network

BE SOCIAL

As in have a strong social media presence. In recent years, digital media has proven to be one of the best modes of business promotion. One of the benefits of having a social media presence is it provides business owners with immediate access to their targeted demographics.   Having a strong and consistent social media presence is a great way to build your network and in turn, grow your business.

ATTEND NETWORKING EVENTS

When it comes to growing your personal network and business, there is no better strategy than attending networking events. Networking events are a great place to meet and engage with like-minded people. Whether it’s a local event or a national conference, attending a networking event allows you to build long lasting and sustainable relationships that can be beneficial for your business growth.

GET A MENTOR

Having a person to seek advice from is another business growing asset. Mentors often offer advice on business strategy as well as share personal stories of their experiences to help mitigate any potential missteps. Plus, having a mentor can introduce you to another network of people, which only increases your personal network.

SEEK OUT WAYS TO IMPROVE

In other words, don’t rest on your laurels. Things are always changing and its important to stay ahead of the curve of innovation. It’s important to keep learning. Whether its taking a course, learning a new language, or even seeking help from people who are much farther ahead, investing in improving your skills can help inform your strategic decisions.

VOLUNTEER/INTERN

While not a popular choice among business owners, volunteering can actually be beneficial for growing your company. Not only does it provide you with an opportunity to expand your network, it’s also a way to sharpen and improve your skills. It’s all about improving your skills and growing your network, and volunteering your skills and services is a great strategy to achieve both.

5 Questions Entrepreneurs Must Ask Before Starting a Business

So you have a unique idea and have finally worked up the courage to launch out and start your own business. You’ve chosen a name, written out a business plan, and finalized your social media strategy. While these are all important steps to take prior to starting a business, we’ve comprised a list of 5 other things to consider before starting a business.

1. What’s your mission and vision statement?

In other words, what is your ‘why’? What is the reason you’ve decided to start this business? If your only answer is to make money, then it might be best to go back to the drawing board. Running a small business can be difficult. However, having a mission and vision statement gives you something to fall back on when things get difficult. It can also help others identify with your brand or product.

2. What problem are you solving?

Be sure to define how your business stands out from your competitors. What problem does your business uniquely solve? How does it differ from your competitors? Defining what problem you’re solving will help you better market your business, as well as make it easier for the right people to find you.

3. Who else is doing this?

It has been said that there is no new idea under the sun. Be sure to map out a list of competitors who might be offering a similar product. Follow them on social media and be sure to keep yourself updated on any changes they make to their product. Doing this will ensure you remain ahead of the curve, and could even inform your own strategy on how to scale your business.

4. What resources do you have/will you need to be successful?

In other words, how much money do you currently have and how much money do you need to start? Will you be taking out a bank loan or are you self-funding? Will you be quitting your current job or are you going to make your business a side hustle?  Mapping out what resources you need before starting your business will provide a clear idea of what you need to be successful before launching out. Clearly define your expectations.

5. Who can you align yourself with?

In business, it is often said that it’s not about what you know but who you know. Whether you’re starting with a small team or you’re a solopreneur, it is beneficial to seek out those in your network who can help you with your business. Maybe you need to seek out a mentor for when you need advice, or someone well versed in a skill that you struggle with, or you need someone to test out your product, or maybe you just need people to speak about your product. Seeking out help early on can help mitigate potential missteps later on.

What is a Virtual Office and Do I Need One for My Side Hustle?

An answer to a question that didn’t even exist at the turn of the century.

 

The nature of work is changing. What used to depend on people being present in a dedicated office space has transformed into a working style that is based around virtual offices, freedom, flexibility, and a reliable Wi-Fi signal.

The last fifteen years has gifted the world with exciting progressions in technology – the smartphone, social media, instant messaging platforms, the cloud, cyber security, and the tablet – which have not only made our lives more connected than ever, they’ve impacted the way we work.

With technology connecting us from anywhere – and the ever-present pursuit of obtaining that coveted work-life balance – new generations are rethinking the traditional office space and are tossing out terms like remote, telecommute, and virtual to describe the growing trend of working or operating a business from home or a virtual office space.

Many companies, including Buffer and MeetEdgar, have not only embraced the culture of working remotely, they operate under this model exclusively.

The CEO of Upwork (formerly named oDesk) believes that by 2020, one third of people working throughout North America will be doing so online – and the trend is not limited to tech start-ups. Stats shared by uSamp indicate that even government workers increasingly work remotely, with 70% of federal employees reporting occasional office hours.

Now, when it comes to elevating your side hustle – taking the baby of a business you’ve created into a new territory – you may think that investing in an office space is the logical next step. But what if we abandon that instinct?

 

Virtual Offices Are the New Black

One of the many benefits enjoyed by remote workers is that they get to work from anywhere; their living room, local coffee shops, the cottage, or from an entirely different country. But if you’re someone who wants to grow your side hustle, and your professional authority, you’ll likely want a little more than that, at least sometimes, to ground and add legitimacy to your budding business.

Enter, the virtual office.

If you haven’t heard much about the concept of virtual offices, that’s okay. They’re not exactly ubiquitous and, while the concept has been around for more than a few years now, there are many businesses that are still hesitant to adopt the model.

Virtual offices are not makeshift spaces where people set up their laptops, grab a coffee, and plug in their headphones for the day; they are professional productivity zones that provide a lot more to small and large business owners than just a Wi-Fi connection and a comfortable chair.

The virtual office notion is gaining momentum, and here’s why.

 

Save Money with A Virtual Office

When people commit to a virtual office, they’re aligning themselves with all the benefits of a traditional office ­– boardrooms, private offices, receptionists or assistants, refreshments, scanners and printers, a business mailing address, video conferencing – but without all the overhead costs and pressure for employees to show up to an office every day.

Virtual offices typically require a modest membership fee – that is significantly less money than any leased or owned office space – and saves you additional costs on commuting, salaries or wages paid out to customer service or administrative workers, office supplies such as paper and toner, and utilities such as hydro, water, and high-speed Internet.

 

Meet Other Like-Minded Entrepreneurs

When formal business, such as meetings or interviews, need to be conducted, virtual offices provide a professional environment where you can invite clients and stakeholders. It also acts as a hub for receiving business correspondence, such as mail and packages. Most places will even take the time to open and digitize your mail to let you view it from anywhere, even if you’re traveling.

Best of all, a virtual office is a place where many people gather, from those who operate in the gig economy, those under contract, and those who work for themselves. Members connect with other budding entrepreneurs who can help one another build their side hustles into profitable businesses. These connections are valuable to any growing operation, and they come easily by just choosing a virtual office as their domain.

Nowadays, turning your side hustle into a fully operational business is as easy as signing up for a membership to any local virtual office hub. Many Canadian cities, including Ottawa, have centers located in central or downtown hot-spots, or – like Collab Space – in more accessible neighbourhoods, offering additional perks like free parking, shorter commutes, and ease of navigation for clients.

Virtual offices give entrepreneurs the freedom to work from wherever, but they’re also given a reliable place to set up shop if they want to meet with colleagues or boost their productivity.

If you think that a virtual office might work for you and your small business, visit Collab Space any Friday at 1 pm for a tour and rundown of what we can offer.

 

The Not-So-Obvious Cost Savings of a Coworking Office Space

When you’ve launched a new business, every dollar makes a difference.

 

This money-conscious mentality has helped some of the greatest businesses in the world take off and earn billions.

Following that logic, you may be tempted to save money by basing your office out of your home in an attempt to pinch every penny, however there’s a ton of great advice that suggests that working from home in isolation is not a good idea.

Of course you know that a coworking space is going to be less expensive than renting your own private office space- that’s just common sense. You might not realize how much you are actually saving – and gaining – by choosing a flexible professional space that grows with your business.

Here are some of the ways you’re saving big with any coworking membership:

√ ELECTRICITY

Ontario business owners already identify the cost of electricity as a major threat to their survival, and Ottawa in particular has seen increases in the cost of Hydro One year over year. When you’re in a coworking space, electricity is included.

√ INTERNET

Canadians pay some of the highest telecom prices worldwide, and signing up for a business-grade internet account to support your professional needs can run anywhere from $75-$150 .

√ FURNITURE & DECOR

Aesthetics are an important part of how your business is received by potential clients – not just the design of your marketing materials, but also the physical space where you’ll meet, pitch and close your contracts. Coworking spaces invest thousands of dollars into designing a look and vibe with everything from lighting, furniture, wall treatments and more.

Need a conference room? Coworking spaces are equipped to accommodate meetings – and events – of all sizes. Throw in free parking, and you’ve just saved a few hundred dollars a month already.

√ SECURITY SYSTEM

You can avoid the high cost of security equipment and the inconvenience of long contracts and financing periods with coworking spaces, because the cost of alarm systems and security cameras are already included with the space.  If you get a membership with a private office, you can lock the door and secure your items in that way as well.

OPPORTUNITY COSTS

If you ask any successful business owner, they’ll tell you that networking is absolutely priceless. When you’ve set up shop at a coworking space, you’re instantly surrounded by like-minded and driven entrepreneurs and business owners. You can network with this community on a daily basis – something that doesn’t happen when you’re in a home office. There’s also the greater awareness that will benefit your business, because you’re in a high traffic area. Coworking spaces also love to show off the work their members are doing online.

 

All these elements add up to hundreds and thousands of dollars saved that can be better put to use on your business. Questions about how coworking at Collab Space can directly benefit your business? Drop us a line.

Achieving Inbox Zero in 3 Steps

It’s not just a buzzword. “Inbox Zero” is a way of life well worth adopting if you’re a business owner or entrepreneur.

 

By nature, email can feel like it gives you a level of control over your interactions with clients and customers, but if you’re finding yourself staring down the barrel of days-old accumulated messages, let’s face it: You don’t control your email, your email is controlling you.

Ouch right? Never fear, Inbox Zero is here. Get ready to keep your inbox empty – or almost empty – at all times. How’s it done?

 

Answer Immediately, then Delete or Archive

This isn’t just about minimalism for the sake of minimalism. This is about efficiency. Dealing with an email as soon as it comes in saves you time, because you won’t have to double back. An email not worth your time? Delete it! Think of all the wasted opportunities that can be avoided when you aren’t procrastinating and letting your client communications get slowly pushed down to page 2, or eventually page 10 of your inbox by spam, pointless correspondence or emails you haven’t made time to respond to right away. Hoarding emails is a habit of disorganization.

Some of you may be thinking, HEY! Wait! I can’t run my business if I’m answering emails every second of the day! Nobody is advocating for you to start living in a climate of interruption. On the contrary, our next tip is to…

 

Stop Checking Email All Day

Pick a specific time (or times) to check email, and don’t deviate from your schedule. For decades, psychologists and neurologists have been espousing that technology like email can be as addictive as slot machines, and it’s been proven that you get a little hit of dopamine every time you check your phone. Considering that 55% of the world’s email is opened on mobile, you’re actually getting a little bit high by constantly refreshing your inbox.

Set specific times during the day when you’ll check (and immediately answer) your emails. This will help keep you productive as well, because you will be able to keep your focus on your tasks at hand, and when appropriate, face your inbox with intent.

Oh and by the way…

 

Ditch Folders Forever

Ever since email came on the scene there have been built in tools to manage the mighty Inbox. Unfortunately, a lot of the tools designed for digital mail mimicked what hardcopy mail used to require – sorting, filing, and storing for future reference. For example, once considered a necessity, features like folders are no longer relevant for single user email accounts, thanks to robust search tools built into every email platform on earth.

Save time – don’t sort. Since you’re already slicing and dicing your emails as soon as they come in, unless you’re sharing an email account in your business with others there simply isn’t a need to waste your valuable time sorting your online correspondence when you can execute immediate searches on your entire archive.

You may find it hard to stick to these three steps in the beginning, especially if you have been building up years of bad email habits. The reward for sticking through? An inbox that is either empty, or only full of relevant emails at all times, and a business acumen that makes you highly communicative with your clients.

Have you got any other tips for keeping your inbox clear? Let us know at CollabSpace!