How to Ace Business Travel like a Pro

How to Ace Business Travel like a Pro

Whether you’re a solopreneur, work for a major corporation, or fall somewhere in between, there is always a good possibility that you’ll travel for business purposes. Although a lot of business is conducted virtually and online in our modern society, face-to-face meetings are often invaluable for developing and maintaining solid business relationships.

Business travel slowed in the U.S. during 2015 due to a variety of economic uncertainties. However, the percentage of people traveling, at least for domestic business travel in the U.S., has picked up somewhat in 2016 so far.

The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), which is the world’s premier business travel and meetings organization headquartered in Washington, D.C. area with operations on six continents, has been keeping tabs on multiple statistics which impact the rates of business travel. Most notable is the lower cost of airfare due to the plunge in oil prices earlier this year. As a result, the GBTA anticipates the overall increase in travel spend for 2016 to be around 3.7% in the U.S. They have forecasted an even more significant increase in global business travel spend over 2015.

The time and current economic situation are conducive for business travel. Get ready to pack up your laptop and/or tablet, appropriate business attire, and smartphones and travel like a pro.

Here are suggestions to make business travel less stressful and more efficient

There’s little doubt that business travel can feel overwhelming, especially when you are a new or infrequent traveler. Planning ahead will help you feel more prepared and less stressed.

In her article for U.S. News, Sienna Kossman shares a variety of useful tips for efficient and stress-free business travel. Her post provides a helpful, basic resource that you may find helpful as well. Consider these tips as you start planning your own trip.

Here are a few of Kossman’s pro tips for business travel:

  1. If you’re planning to be on the go regularly or need to be able to leave at a moment’s notice, make sure to keep essentials packed at all times. This includes toiletries and charging cables, for example.
  2. Remember to pack leisure clothing items. You probably won’t be in meetings for your entire trip so make sure you have comfortable clothes and shoes for sightseeing, going out on the town, etc.
  3. Avoid checking bags. You’ll save time and money when you pack what you need in a carry-on.
  4. Sign up for frequent traveler programs. These types of services will save you a lot of time and hassle since they allow pre-approved travelers to bypass traditional security checks.
  5. Make sure you have all the documents you need for travel (i.e., driver’s license, tickets, passport, etc.) and that you’re able to quickly access them. This will help further reduce the time you spend waiting in line at the airport.

As I mentioned above, all business travel involves planning ahead as much as possible. It can make all the difference between having an experience that is enjoyable or downright regrettable. There are two primary aspects of business travel which especially require diligent planning: packing and securing accommodations.

Here are recommendations for packing properly and finding affordable accommodations like a pro:

What to pack for business travel

Decide what absolutely needs to be packed, what can be left behind, and what can be bought when you arrive at your destination. Packing for a business trip is much different than for a family vacation. For business travel, efficiency is key.

TripCase, an itinerary management travel app, shares an excellent business trip packing checklist on their blog titled, “Packing List For A Stress-Free Business Trip.” As the author of this post points out,

Preparedness and planning are you(r) best weapons. With a well thought out, but simple plan of attack, it’s easy to avoid a large number of the plights and pitfalls that many travelers fall victim to.

The author recommends coming up with a handful of categories as a way of organizing your business travel packing:

Your attire

  • What is the dress code?
  • Will you need a versatile wardrobe?
  • How long are you going to be there?
  • What is the weather going to be like at your destination?
  • Have an extra outfit for each function at the ready, just in case.

Work-related items

  • Printed handouts
  • Business cards
  • Pens and a notebook
  • Laptop, mouse, and charger (or tablet(s) and charger)

Electronics and entertainment

  • Chargers
  • Power adaptors
  • Books for fun reading
  • Phone accessories

Choosing a place to stay

In some cases, the company you work for chooses where you’ll stay when you’re traveling for them. However, when you’re an entrepreneur or small business owner, for example, you are most likely responsible for your own accommodations. Ideally, you want to find a safe, comfortable place to relax at the end of the day without spending a small fortune.

For short stays, you can go online and easily find discounted corporate rates for business travelers, either using travel sites or through specific hotels’ websites.

Kristina Portillo, the founder of the Business Travel Life website, shares useful tips for accessing corporate hotel rates as a small business owner on her blog post, “How to Get Corporate Hotel Rates.”

Portillo’s tips include the following:

  • Do not make your reservation using the 800 number
  • Request a corporate rate if you are doing business with a local company
  • Ask for an unofficial corporate rate
  • Do not approach a busy check-in desk
  • Ask for a non-refundable rate

Some business trips require you to stay for an extended period of time. Fortunately, there are many affordable and comfortable extended stay options to choose from. Whether you’re seeking a simple place to stay with a small kitchen and real “dishes,” or a furnished home or apartment – or something in between – there are many different types of accommodations available.

Here are a few ideas for extended stay business travelers:

Although planning for business travel requires a good amount of time and patience, it will be completely worthwhile when you successfully arrive at your destination. You’ll have time to focus on your business needs and be more productive with your work, rather than worrying about lost luggage, unsatisfactory accommodations or botched reservations.

What are other tips do you have for efficient and stress-free business travel? I would love to hear your ideas and suggestions – please feel free to leave a comment below.

When Loss Makes You Evaluate Your Business

When Loss Makes You Evaluate Your Business

My business hit a pretty big milestone on June 11, 2016. It celebrated it’s 5th anniversary. A lot of small businesses don’t make it five years, but I have.

 

I had big plans to do a giveaway with some items with my updated logo on it, do a reveal of new logo…but then June 16, 2016 happened. When a person experiences loss in their life, things tend to stop. The world stops. Nothing else matters except what is going on right at that moment. On June 16, 2016, my 93 year-old grandmother, who I was extremely close to, passed away unexpectedly.

 

This was a woman who had a huge influence in my life. Every time we talked, she always asked about my business and was excited about how it was growing and what was going on. She was always amazed at the technology and enjoyed getting to catch up with everyone when we showed her what was going on on Facebook. Her funeral was in Missouri, where she lived, so while I was there I had four days pretty much unplugged. Four days to look at what really mattered.

 

What I realized was…

 

The world hasn’t stopped turning and business hasn’t slowed down because I haven’t published a blog post in two weeks.

 

Business prospects haven’t slowed because I have been less active on my business social media accounts.

 

Relationships and personal interactions matter more than the number social media posts you have on your business account. However, your social media posts have to be relational and interactive, not a broadcast.

 

I cannot stress this enough —> Word of mouth is very powerful.

 

Hard work and the quality of your work will always win out. And if it doesn’t at first, it will in the end.

 

You are not guaranteed tomorrow, so go after the big fish today. Even if you don’t catch it, at least you can say you tried.

 

It’s okay to go off the grid for a few days – your business will be okay.

 

And most importantly…

 

Family always comes before your business.

 

Working in the business of helping businesses reach their customers via social media, I understand the importance of being there. Being on Facebook, on Twitter, on Instagram, in the moment, when things happens, 24/7/365. For my clients, I am 100% committed and always will be. For me, Mandy Edwards, as a wife, mom, friend, daughter, sister, sometimes I have to step back from that. And for these past couple weeks, that’s exactly what I’ve done. You may not have noticed on my business social accounts, but if you’ve seen me in person or know me, you’ve noticed.

 

Alas, we’ve come to the point where it’s time to check back in and get back to whatever this new normal is. Whenever you have a loss, you have to move on with the new normal. I know grandma wouldn’t want us all to mope around – she’d want us to not make a fuss and keep on going. So that’s what I’ll do. But with a refreshed perspective.

 

mandy and grandma 2 loss

Grandma and I in April 1981. I was 8 months old.

mandy and grandma loss

The last picture ever taken of me and grandma – July 2015.

What I've learned my first 5 years of being a business owner

What I’ve learned my first 5 years of being a business owner

Being a business owner is not for the faint of heart. Not everyone is cut out to do it. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 50% of all new businesses do not make it to the 5 year mark.

 

Why is the 5 year mark so important? June 11, 2016, ME Marketing Services celebrated her 5th birthday. We’ve made it five years and are still going very strong.

 

Five years of hard work. Five years of lessons learned. In fact, that’s what I want to do in this post – share with you what I have learned as a business owner in five years of owning a business. If you’re thinking of owning a business, hopefully this will help; if you already own one, maybe you can relate or share some of your wisdom as well.

 

Lesson A: Time management doesn’t exist.

 

There is no such thing as time management. All of these articles about how to better manage your time are total BS. There’s no one fix-all for this. Each person must work out what’s best for themselves. What works for me may not work for you. It’s more time prioritization than time management. Some days, my children’s activities come before work. Other days, it’s the other way around. You have to look at each day or week and figure out the best way to get what needs to get done, done. Hopefully without going mad.

 

Lesson B: Owning a business will require personal sacrifice.

 

This does require a collective “duh.” Yes, I’ve missed out on some of my daughters’ field trips. I’ve had to skimp on time with my husband. I’ve had my mom tell me to put the laptop up at her house. But owning a business requires you to sacrifice your personal time. Your business is your child – you have to treat it as such. When it needs attention, you give it attention. Now there are times you can put it off until the next day, but sometimes, even at 11:00pm, you will have to answer to it.

 

Lesson C: Monday-Friday, 8am-5pm does not exist.

 

As a business owner, you are always on-call. Even if you have people working for you, you are always one call or text or email away. This is especially true if you own a business like mine where social media just doesn’t turn off. You just have to learn how and when to unplug and then train yourself to know what can wait until tomorrow and what needs to be tended to now. I may stop work at 6pm but I’ll still get notifications on my iPhone. I see them. If anything needs immediate attention, I’ll handle it, if not, it can wait until the next day.

 

Lesson D: Those accounting classes you hated in college really do come in handy.

 

When you own your own business and until you get large enough to have to outsource various parts, you’ll be the bookkeeper/accountant, the marketing director, the HR manager, etc. I hated my college accounting classes. Numbers really weren’t my thing. Looking back, I’m glad I took them because at least I knew how to keep the books when I started my own business and run the reports I needed to run to do my taxes. Now, fortunately, I can turn that all over to my CPA.

 

Lesson E: For every bad day, there will be two good days.

 

Owning a business is the biggest thrill ride you will ever take. You’ll experience some of the biggest highs and some of the lowest lows. Your stress level will hit the roof. You’ll also be so giddy you’ll want to be like Oprah and give everyone a gift. What I have learned is that for every bad day I had, I could counter it with at least two or three good ones. Lose a client? Through God’s grace, it would be replaced with two or three new ones each time. How you handle the bad days and the stress will say a lot about you as a leader and about your character as well.

 

Lesson F: The personal relationships you make matter the most.

 

I’ve met A LOT of people over the past five years. The ones I was able to make on a personal level are the ones that have mattered the most and have been the most fruitful. Taking the time to get to know someone beyond a few Twitter interactions or some funny Facebook posts could turn out to be a profitable venture or a great friendship. I’ve made a lot of friends I still haven’t met in-person but hope to one day.

 

Lesson G: Word of mouth still matters and still works.

 

In five years of business, never once have I had to make a cold call or sales pitch for my business. I have been blessed through hard work, providing a great product/service and having a good work ethic to have businesses approach me to work with me. And about 90% has come through word-of-mouth. I am a STRONG believer in if you work hard, do what you say you are going to do, follow through, and provide a great experience for your customer/client, things will work themselves out. I am still amazed to this day at where this company is because of this.

 

Seven lessons is enough for now, so I’ll stop here. There are many lessons you learn day in and day out owning a business and to me, this is just the tip of the iceberg. I’ve learned so much from others and from doing. I’ve also made mistakes (we all do) and they have been a great teacher as well.

 

As a reader of this blog, thank you for being on this journey the past five years and I look forward to many, many more with you! I invite you to share what you’ve learned as a business owner below! Maybe it’s something we all can learn from as well!

 

Is it time to rebrand your business-

Is it time to rebrand your business?

This year marks year 5 for ME Marketing Services. That also means it’s time to freshen up my branding. And I don’t like change.

 

I love my branding. I love my logo. I love my colors. I don’t want to change, but I also know things need to be freshened up every few years.

 

I have a loving friend who continually pushes me to my comfort limit on this and beyond (in a good way) and she began nudging me a few months back about this. So with 2016 being year 5 I decided to bite the bullet. But you’ll have to wait until June to see the end result 🙂

 

Meanwhile, I’ve been to the Southern C Summit put on by the Southern Coterie and there was a session on re-evaluating your brand, which was perfect timing for me. The session was led by the ladies at Stitch Design Co. and fostered some great conversation and thought around re-branding a business.

 

When you get to the point to re-brand you have to have to first look around at the landscape around you – what has changed. Were you left behind? Are you still in the game? How has your brand evolved over time?

 

While doing this, if you’re like me, you’ll know the emotional and personal connection you have to your brand and how much you just love the elements of it. This business is my baby – I built it from scratch. I designed it all and am fiercely protective over every pixel of it. BUT we have to let go of that personal connect and be willing to be open to change if we want to continue to evolve and stay in the game.

 

That’s where my friend came in (thanks Mallie!).

 

As you look at completely re-branding or even just freshening up things, you need to take a long, hard look and ask yourself some tough questions –

  • Does your logo represent all that you stand for?
  • Is there equity in that logo or can you scrap it?
  • Are you reaching the right audience?
  • Are you showcasing all of your companies’ skills and such as compared to your competitors?
  • Has your brand reputation changed?
  • What is unique to your brand?

 

You can’t take those questions lightly. It may take you weeks, even months, to answer those, but you have to answer them.

 

Once you do answer them, there’s another set of questions you need to ask yourself (I know, it’s like an ever-spinning wheel of questions)…

  • What brand equity have I established and what is worth keeping?
  • What are my long-term plans?
  • How can I engage my customers in new ways?
  • How can I change things and keep it all relevant? <—– This is the money question!!

 

Now that you have everything answered, you’ll know whether or not it’s time to re-brand or freshen things up. As much as I love my logo, I’m ready to tweak it. You still have to wait until June to see it 😉

 

If you do not ever freshen things up, your brand will go stagnant and run the danger of becoming irrelevant. Look at some of the major brands in this world – how many times in the past 20 years has McDonald’s re-branded itself? Coca-Cola just freshened up it’s branding. Burger King has re-branded with it’s slogan multiple times as well. Wal-Mart has updated their logos a few times too. If the large companies of this world recognize it needs to be done, shouldn’t you?

 

Who’s ready to get started?

 

 

The 5 Best Resources for a New Entrepreneur

The 5 Best Resources for a New Entrepreneur

Are you thinking about becoming an entrepreneur or solopreneur? If so, then you are certainly not alone.

There are thousands – if not millions – of people who dream about pursuing their passions and becoming their own bosses. And indeed, thousands of people in the U.S. strike out on their own each year.

Taking those first steps towards becoming an entrepreneur and starting a new business may seem a little scary to you. This may be especially true if you’re choosing to leave a secure job with a decent paycheck and benefits.

For the most part, though, an entrepreneur who is ready to take that leap of faith is also more than ready to exchange his or her cubicle and commute for flexibility and fulfillment.

If this sounds like you, keep reading!

How to get started as an entrepreneur…even when you have no idea where to start

A person who wants to become an entrepreneur in today’s modern world has one key advantage: the internet. There are thousands of places where you can go online and find information about becoming an entrepreneur and starting a business.

I’ll get to some of those resources soon.

When you are first getting started as a new entrepreneur, though, you’re usually in a nebulous state where you have all sorts of various ideas running around in your head (or on many pieces of paper).

One of your first steps involves organizing all of those thoughts and narrowing them down. You also need encouragement and motivation to take the next step(s).

In her article for Entrepreneur, “So You Want to Be Your Own Boss…” Tamara Monosoff shares eight more excellent tips to “get you going, even if you don’t know where to start.”

Here are those eight tips:

  1. Take a stand for yourself.
  2. Identify the Right Business for You.
  3. Business Planning Improves Your Chances for Success.
  4. Know Your Target Audience Before You Spend a Penny.
  5. Understand Your Personal Finances and Choose the Right Kind of Money You Need for Your Business.
  6. Build a Support Network.
  7. Sell By Creating Value.
  8. Get the Word Out.

So you’ve gotten organized, you have a business plan in place…and you’re ready to be an entrepreneur?

Just like most other significant choices you make in your life, being an entrepreneur doesn’t end with making the decision to become one. Nor will you become an overnight success just because you have something that everyone needs.

It’s important to note that most entrepreneurs experience constant growth and learning. One reason is because it’s important that the entrepreneur keeps up with trends in his/her industry and target market.

Staying on top of the trends that matter most requires access to excellent and trustworthy resources. As I mentioned above, there are literally thousands of websites and articles that you can learn from. And each site offers value to a budding entrepreneur, at least to some extent, but there is no one-size-fits-all solution.

However, there are trustworthy sites which can provide a new entrepreneur with the basics, as well as more detailed information as he/she grows.

Here are five reliable online resources for a new (or even a not-so-new) entrepreneur:

  1. Entrepreneur

By its name alone, you know this site is going to be a good one to bookmark. This popular go-to resource for entrepreneurs provides current news and articles which are well-written and entertaining as well as informative. Entrepreneur also hosts educational live events and webinars which any business owner – whether just starting out or seasoned – may find useful to attend.

  1. Entrepreneurship.org

This is a fantastic site designed specifically for entrepreneurs. This free online resource is hosted by the Kauffman Foundation which is a private foundation which provides grants for education and entrepreneurship.

The site’s library shares abundant information about the following topics:

  • Accounting & Finance
  • Marketing & Sales
  • The Entrepreneur
  • Business Operations
  • Products & Services
  • Human Resources
  • Public Policy

 

  1. Noobpreneur.com

I wanted to include this site since it’s one of my personal favorites. Are you asking yourself, “What is a “noobpreneur”? The founder of Noobpreneur.com, Ivan Widjaya, defines it for us:

It is a term I’ve coined to describe myself as – Noobpreneur = Newbie Entrepreneur. I define a newbie entrepreneur as someone who is ALWAYS a newbie (first-timer) in his/her entrepreneurial journey. In other words, a noobpreneur is someone who is not afraid to learn new knowledge and try new things.

If you’re a noobpreneur, too, who is short on time, but who also wants to stay in-the-know, then this multi-authored blog site is perfect for you, too. The authors from this site share their knowledge through relevant and informative articles. The result is an invaluable resource for any entrepreneur, “newbie” or not.

  1. Shopify Business Encyclopedia

This site offers a wealth of free, easy-to-access information to help new entrepreneurs “learn everything there is to know about running a business.” You’ll find dozens of definitions and current articles covering various topics which include “how to start a business,” and “how to sell online.”

  1. Small Business Administration

The Small Business Administration (SBA) is a United States government agency which provides support to entrepreneurs and small businesses. Since its founding on July 30, 1953, the U.S. Small Business Administration has delivered millions of loans, loan guarantees, contracts, counseling sessions and other forms of assistance to small businesses.

Their site offers a wealth of information related to starting and managing a business, as well as an extensive “learning center.” The SBA Learning Center covers other important topics for entrepreneurs including marketing and financing.

 

Are any – or all – of these resources on your list? Do you have others you would add? Please feel free to let me know your thoughts and suggestions in the comments below.

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