Nail the Sale Without Being a Pushy Salesman

by Jessi Burg

Starting and growing a business is all about making sales. Without sales, you have no revenue, and without revenue, you have no business. But making sales often feels awkward, especially for first time entrepreneurs with no sales experience. 

So, how do successful entrepreneurs overcome the awkwardness, embrace the sale, and get paid? Keep reading for a few ideas on how to ask for a sale, all without being a pest.

Know your ideal client.

This one may sound obvious, but if you don’t know who your ideal clients are, you can’t market and sell to them properly. Spend some time thinking about the consumers of your product, and where they make purchases. That’s where you want to be marketing your product. You’ll have better luck making sales if you’re interacting with the people who will buy from you.

Understand what sets you apart from the competition.

You will want to understand exactly how your client will benefit from your product or service, as opposed to the competition’s. In some cases, this might be easy. 

When Rebecca Benedict’s business It’s in the Little Things HandyClean launched this year, they were the only combined handyperson and cleaning service in Aurora, CO. Benedict could market herself as a one-stop-shop for anyone needing help in multiple areas of their house. When potential clients scheduled an estimate for her services, she provided examples of how a combined service was better than house cleaning alone, such as repairing a running toilet they noticed while cleaning the bathroom. 

If there isn’t an obvious difference between you and your competitors, find out why your current clients hired you. Then you can share specific information with any potential clients about why people like working with you. 

Know your product or service and how it can help. 

Sales is all about listening to a client’s needs. When a potential client expresses that they’re looking for a solution to a problem, you want to be able to tell them exactly how you can solve it. You also want to be able to weed out clients that won’t be a good fit.

Say you run a catering business. Someone calls asking if you cater for weddings, so you check that it’s within your geographical range and that it matches the event size you work with. The next thing you want to ask is what they’re looking for in a catering company. 

Determine if your company fits those needs. If the client wants a service that you don’t offer, you can end the conversation there without investing more of your time into the sale. Asking questions helps establish trust, which leads to sales.

Embrace the awkward.

When you start a business, your success will be determined by your ability to pick up new skills, which isn’t always easy and can feel awkward. When sales are involved, there’s even more pressure to feel confident in your process. This is hard for business owners who are introverts or who don’t have previous sales experience. Be patient with yourself – you’re going to make mistakes, and it’s going to feel awkward. Trust the process!

Start with your friends and family.

They already love you and want you to succeed. Practice your pitch, or how you talk about your business in conversation. If any of them are thinking about getting work done in your field, talk through the project with them. Even if they’re not ready to hire anyone, you’ll be able to practice and adjust  in a low pressure setting.

Don’t fixate on your failures.

You’re going to get rejected sometimes. Running a business is a marathon of being told “no” over and over again. Sometimes you aren’t the right fit for a client, or maybe they chose the competition. 

In most businesses, at least 50% of your leads won’t result in an actual sale. For some industries, that ratio is even higher. A successful financial planner who focuses on financial education might only convert about 20% of her potential clients into paying clients, but those clients are lifelong clients. 

Any business is a learning experience, whether it’s your first business or your fifth. Honing your sales process allows you to focus on the clients you want.

If you need additional help crafting your pitch or finding a practice partner, check out our twice weekly virtual co-working sessions.  For a breakdown of exactly how to identify and market to your ideal clients, check out our Sales and Marketing course. All information is available below!

Want more from Outgrow Your Garage?

-If you’re looking for business support, stop by our co-working sessions! Twice a week, we virtually bring business owners together from a variety of industries to work on their businesses, share insights, and troubleshoot issues.

-Check out our full online business course catalog for all of your operational needs! Select a course based on what area of your business you need help in, and pay a one time fee for unlimited access to its content, activities, and resources.

How to Approach Firing A Client

by Kelly Sullivan

As a business professional, a good majority of your clients will be awesome. They are polite, flexible, pay you on time, and have minimal complaints – some may even become lifelong friends or business partners.

You might be able to recall landing your first ever client, and how exciting that felt. You also might remember your first bad client – we all know the type. The ones whose calls you don’t even want to answer. The ones who are impossible to please, believe in yelling at people over the phone, and cost you more grief and time than could possibly be covered in their invoice.

Now, everyone is going to have their fair share of clients that they don’t prefer working with. But at a certain point, spending too much time on a particularly bad apple is costing you money. While you spend extra unpaid hours bending over backwards to meet demands, you are also losing out on opportunities to serve your dream clients.

What are some valid reasons to fire a client, and how do you go about doing it politely? Today’s blog brings you tips for letting bad clients go, and tricks for sharpening your radar to catch these unfortunate customers before they land in your sales net.

Reasons for firing a client will vary widely from industry to industry, but more often than not you will reach a tipping point where the only obvious next step is to end the professional relationship. Here are some common scenarios in which you’ll have to “let a client go”.

The “Wants More For Less”

As a business owner, you have set your prices specifically so that you don’t lose money. You have a little flexibility to determine whether or not you want to add in additional services at no cost for good clients, but that is certainly a gesture of goodwill and not a requirement.

You may have potential customers who question your prices from the first time they interact with you. These types are usually the ones who are going to nitpick you on every single item on their invoice, continue to add work that they haven’t paid for, or haggle you on your prices. Do yourself a favor, and don’t ignore those initial red flags. Weed these clients out, and avoid working with them when you can.

The “Disrespectful and Demanding”

This one speaks for itself. Any reasonable person can let a negative comment slide here and there for the sake of their professionalism, but we all have our limits when it comes to flat out disrespect.

Respect takes many forms, and that includes respect for you, your work, your prices, and even your time. If you are reaching a breaking point, it’s time to let them go. No client is worth the massive stress headache or feeling undermined.

The “Never Pays on Time”

This type of client affects not only your emotional well-being, but the well-being of your company as well. Receiving late payments messes with your entire business, and can sometimes trickle down and affect your employees. 

If you are constantly having to remind disorganized, spacey clients to pay you for your hard work, ask yourself if it’s worth the hassle. It is not your job to stay on top of people and bother them incessantly to pay you on time. If they are negatively affecting your business, it might be time to cut them loose.

So, how do you politely let these clients go?

Be Clear and Concise

If you are letting a client go, make sure to make it abundantly clear that you will no longer be working with them. You don’t want confusion down the road that will lead to more awkward conversations or situations.

The end goal here is not to tell your client off – it’s to get rid of them with as little backlash as possible. Don’t give them a mouthful of lies, but leave the negativity and anger at home. Just be very clear that you are not going to take them back.

Finish Your Contract

If you are able, finish the contract with the client to avoid burning a bridge. Do your best not to leave them with a reason to demand their deposit by breaking the contract (if applicable) and put yourself in a good position to end things smoothly with no loose ends.

Of course, if the client is the worst you’ve ever seen and you can no longer handle their chaos and negativity, it’s okay to walk away.

Give a Referral

Make the firing a little easier by providing your client with a referral for an alternative product or service. Keep things friendly, and acknowledge that they may still need to have their needs met with a similar service.

More likely than not, they are going to be upset about you letting them go, and will be vocal about it wherever they can. Protect your brand by being professional and providing them with a follow-up plan instead of leaving them in the dust.

No client is ever worth your mental health, emotional well-being, time, or money. Know when to let go, and don’t feel guilty about doing so if it’s going to be the right choice for you and your business in the long run. That’s the beauty of entrepreneurship – it’s YOUR decision!

Want more from Outgrow Your Garage?

-If you’re looking for business support, stop by our co-working sessions! Twice a week, we virtually bring business owners together from a variety of industries to work on their businesses, share insights, and troubleshoot issues.

-Check out our full online business course catalog for all of your operational needs! Select a course based on what area of your business you need help in, and pay a one time fee for unlimited access to its content, activities, and resources.

Jessi’s Holiday Week Musings, Part 1

by Jessi Burg and Kelly Sullivan

Today’s blog post is the first in a new series at Outgrow Your Garage about the unique relationship that entrepreneurs have with holidays. 

Starting in September, we have a nationally recognized holiday in the United States roughly once a month until the end of the year. September brings Labor Day, October gives us Halloween, then Thanksgiving, and of course, that weird week between Christmas and New Years where a lot of businesses are quiet. 

One of the things about owning a business that I have recently come to terms with is the way in which holidays become a sort of refuge from your regular loud, chaotic workflow. While most use their holidays to relax and recharge, many of us entrepreneurs will use quiet holidays to catch up on emails, prep, or plan for the future. When clients are busy and your staff is off, you end up with extra time to get stuff done without any immediately pressing tasks.

As business owners, this inherently means that we navigate holiday times differently than most of the other people in our lives. I don’t always feel like I’m actually part of the workforce. It is my responsibility to make sure that everyone else gets paid, and my hours are much more erratic than the rest of my team. 

I personally find that my best work happens in the late morning to early afternoon. I take a break, and then do another few hours in the evening. Sometimes I work weekends or take half days off. If I travel (for work or for pleasure), I do it during the week. Having the freedom to control my schedule is part of what I love about entrepreneurship, so long as it’s compatible with the rest of the team.

Since our team is small, I handle a lot of the day to day operations, like overseeing the company and managing staff, while simultaneously doing the long term planning and strategization. I have to balance the “how can I be available for my staff” with “what are the basic needs that need to be met for me to be able to manage a growing business?”.

One of the ways I handle this juggling act as a manager is to set clear metrics and expectations for everyone. The Outgrow Your Garage team works on a project-based calendar, which means my staff is free to set their own hours as long as deadlines are met. We focus more on the quality and completion of projects, rather than obsess about the timeclock. 

As a business owner, Labor Day is just another day for me. I spent the holiday learning our new project management system (Airtable) and getting ready for our Quarter 4 planning session. Having a day with no meetings and no interruptions was a key part of my success, which is why I tend to do this type of work on the weekends. 

Even though my staff sets their own schedules and have more days off than a lot of other workers, I still feel the need to reinforce the holiday practice. Labor Day itself is a neat holiday – celebrating workers by taking a day off of work. Three day weekends are great for group gatherings, family visits, and travel. My personal favorite part of cultural holidays is how they’re a collective day off, so it’s easier to get together with friends and family. 

In theory, anyone can take Labor Day off at Outgrow Your Garage. In practice, I chose to work because it was a great time for planning and professional development. It made me stop and think about what a unique relationship I, as an entrepreneur, now have with holidays. As an employee, holidays were a bonus day off and something I didn’t think much about. Now, I appreciate the quiet time to reflect on my priorities for the coming months.

This OYG holiday blog series is dedicated to presenting the different ways for you to think about how to manage holidays in your own business. If it means you work, then enjoy the productivity and extra time. If you take it off to relax, enjoy that too. There is no right or wrong answer! Do what works best for the health of you and your business.

Want more from Outgrow Your Garage?

-If you’re looking for business support, stop by our co-working sessions! Twice a week, we virtually bring business owners together from a variety of industries to work on their businesses, share insights, and troubleshoot issues.

-Check out our full online business course catalog for all of your operational needs! Select a course based on what area of your business you need help in, and pay a one time fee for unlimited access to its content, activities, and resources.

How to Pay Yourself As a Business Owner

by Jessi Burg

We’ve all heard the jokes about how hard it is to be a small business owner. At your family barbeque, someone will say to you, “Why would I start a business? I like free time.” Or you’ll mention how you’re thinking about working for yourself, and someone will respond “Why would you start a business? So you can work more hours and get paid less?”  

Here at Outgrow Your Garage, we’re working to dismantle the myths that firstly, you can’t pay yourself as a business owner, and secondly, that working for yourself means a never-ending hustle. (Spoiler – creating a work-life balance at any stage of your business is next week’s blog). Today’s blog post focuses on a different ways of ensuring that you can pay yourself – regardless of the size of your business.

Let’s start with WHY you need to pay yourself. It’s easy to decide to reinvest all of your money back into the business because you want it to be successful, but if you don’t start paying yourself, it’s easy to continue not paying yourself. Even when we’re able to give ourselves a regular paycheck, we often underpay ourselves. 

Ultimately, underpaying yourself does both you and your business a disservice. It’s hard to hire when you aren’t paying the full cost of production, and it’s hard to expand when you feel like you’re always choosing between your personal expenses and your business expenses. It’s even harder to manage a work-life balance when your business doesn’t work well without your unpaid extra hours. 

Let’s talk about some of the ways you can build a paycheck into your business from the very start. Most of these methods rely on a single premise: that you treat yourself like an employee. This way, when you need to expand, you already know how those wages will impact your revenue. 

Hourly Pay

For every hour that you work, pay yourself a set hourly wage – ideally at least minimum wage, but your business may not be there yet. Even if you can only pay yourself $3 an hour, do it. Paying yourself an hourly wage sets you up for success because it gives you a clear idea for how many hours you’re working, and it means you’re already setting up a method for paying a potential future employee. 

This method works especially well if you have a retail establishment or a non service-based business. As your revenue becomes more stable, increase your wage until you reach the market rate for your industry. In this case, you want to pay yourself for ALL of the hours you work. Track your time, and pay yourself accordingly. This is the easiest way to ensure that you’re accounting for all of your labor. 

Per Job Percentage

This method works great if you run a service-based business. Take a certain amount of your profits and pay yourself for each job you do. You want it to be the same every time, and you can use whatever is left to reinvest in your business. 

By giving yourself a percentage of each job, you’re setting the expectation that every job earns a profit. If you plan on hiring sales people later, you already have a commission structure built in. If you want to hire an hourly employee, those wages can come out of the percentage you reinvest into the business. As your business grows, you may find that you want to lower the percentage you take from each job. Since there are more jobs, you can make the same amount of money with a smaller percentage.


Pay yourself a salary every one or two weeks. You can start small and work your way up – the important thing is practicing paying yourself regularly. As your business grows, you can increase your pay, hire additional staff, or invest in software or technologies to increase efficiency.

Remember, you can’t afford to hire someone until you’re paying yourself at least what you would pay someone else. This method is a great starting point if you’re planning to hire an administrative or overhead position as your first hire. It’s also a good method for anyone who operates on a subscription model, where you have reliable income each month. 

Billable hours

If you’re a service provider who charges clients by the hour, paying yourself by the hour is a great start. Ultimately, you want to be able to hire additional people to work on job sites. The easiest way to build that into your budget is to pay yourself whatever you would pay another person. As a bonus, when you train a new person into the position, you’ve already set up a method to pay both of you. 

For example, say you charge clients $50 per hour, and you pay yourself $25 per hour. When you bring another person on, you’ll still charge clients $50 per hour, but now it’s per person per hour. For every hour you work, the client is billed $50, and you make $25. Every hour your new hire works, the client is billed $50 and your new employee also makes $25. 

Overhead Hours

Another option is to pay yourself for your administrative time and your billable hours separately. This works great if you charge clients by the job, and you can use it in conjunction with paying yourself a percentage of your job revenue or an hourly rate for billable hours.

For example, maybe you pay yourself $15 per hour for office work, plus 30% of your project revenue. When you want to hire someone, you have already budgeted for both an entry level office worker and another person to work on projects. 

Regardless of how you pay yourself, make sure that you’re consistent. In some cases, entrepreneurs choose not to pay themselves because they’re starting the business with their savings. If this sounds like you, start paying yourself back as soon as you get any revenue at all – even if it’s a small amount, and even if your business isn’t profitable.

The earlier you start paying yourself, the easier it will be for you to hire effectively when the time comes. If you aren’t planning to hire, it’ll still teach you the habit of paying yourself first – which also means you’ll have a better handle on how much it costs to run your business and maintain a life outside of it. 

Want more from Outgrow Your Garage?

-If you’re looking for business support, stop by our co-working sessions! Twice a week, we virtually bring business owners together from a variety of industries to work on their businesses, share insights, and troubleshoot issues.

-Check out our full online business course catalog for all of your operational needs! Select a course based on what area of your business you need help in, and pay a one time fee for unlimited access to its content, activities, and resources.

Guest Blog With Alison Ver Halen: The Why and How of Owning Your Own Content

by Alison Ver Halen

Remember last year when Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp all shut down for the better part of a day? People who relied on one or all of those platforms to communicate with their clients and/or team members were unable to work. They essentially had to shut down their business for the day. It lasted so long that some people started to wonder if those platforms were gone for good.

What if they had been permanently deleted? Would your business have survived?

I hear a lot of people say that they don’t need a website because they use Facebook and other social media platforms for free, but there is a cost to using free platforms – it’s not your platform. It’s someone else’s business and they get to use it however they want. If that means burying your post so it never gets seen (or outright deleting your post, or even your account), there’s nothing you can do about it.

I also want to take a moment to talk about “Facebook jail,” which is when your account gets deleted or you get banned from doing certain things on Facebook for a stupid reason, or for no reason at all. There are countless examples of people getting banned from doing certain things on Facebook or having their account deleted without any explanation. 

A gal named Kate Middleton had her account deleted for having the misfortune of sharing the same name as the Kate Middleton who married the prince of England, which got her account flagged as a fake account.

This is not a tirade against social media, because it can be a great way to grow your audience, but you should never depend on it exclusively because you have no control over what Facebook (or Twitter, or LinkedIn, etc.) will do, or even if it will continue to exist.

The only online real estate you can really own is your own website, which is like owning your own home, whereas relying on social media is more like renting … minus any of the laws that prevent landlords from kicking out their tenants without providing notice or a reason for their eviction.

Having your own website also helps you establish your credibility. Everyone knows that all kinds of people say whatever they want on social media, but for some reason, having a website makes it seem more legit. You can publish the exact same post on Facebook and on your website and your website will appear more credible, assuming it’s a decently designed website and doesn’t look like something from the 1990s.

Branding is another thing you need to consider. If you own your own website, you can make sure the font, layout, and colors all represent your brand. This ensures that all the content you create on your website strengthens your brand. 

By contrast, when you rely on Facebook or another social media site to host your content, you’re strengthening Facebook’s brand. No matter what content you’re looking at on Facebook, you can’t get away from the fact that you’re looking at Facebook because the company is too invested in its own brand to ever let you forget it.

When you own your own website, you can make sure your logo, colors, font, and even your picture are all visible somewhere on the page, regardless of the content the visitor is currently viewing. That means they’ll associate your content with your brand instead of “something I saw on Facebook.”

So, the next time you go to rant about something on social media, take a moment to consider whether that long social media post might serve you better as a blog post on your website. You can always use social media to distribute your content once it’s up on your website, but you should remain wary of using social media as a publishing platform rather than a distribution platform.

Alison is the owner and president of AV Writing Services, where she educates her fellow small business owners and solopreneurs about the benefits of content marketing. Find more information about her and her business here:

Want more from Outgrow Your Garage?

-If you’re looking for business support, stop by our co-working sessions! Twice a week, we virtually bring business owners together from a variety of industries to work on their businesses, share insights, and troubleshoot issues.

-Check out our full online business course catalog for all of your operational needs! Select a course based on what area of your business you need help in, and pay a one time fee for unlimited access to its content, activities, and resources.

Tips for First Time Managers

by Kelly Sullivan

In light of this week (the third full week in August) being National Management Training Week, today’s blog is dedicated to sharing some must-know tips for new managers.

Lisa I. Perez, president of HBL Resources, Inc., founded National Management Training Week in 2020 with the intention of bringing awareness to how effective management training and leadership are a workplace necessity. She’s made it her mission to provide all the elements for successful career advancement or fundamental HR compliance strategies for every business environment.

From a business perspective, management training just makes sense. By growing and developing the talent you already have you save on hiring costs, which we all know can be huge. You also increase the loyalty, engagement and satisfaction of your team by providing them with the tools they need to grow and move up within your organization.

So, what are some of the things we think first time managers should know? Let’s dive in!

Excellent managers know how to communicate.   

Communication is a driving force behind nearly everything people do whether you realize it or not. Being able to communicate effectively is an imperative trait in a manager. Always set clear expectations for your employees, practice transparency, and establish guidelines for both giving and receiving feedback. 

As a manager, nurturing an inclusive and open company culture where everyone feels like they can voice their concerns, opinions and ideas should be at the top of your priorities. Lead by example, and encourage authenticity amongst your team. 

If something comes up in a meeting that you don’t know, don’t be afraid to admit it. Great leaders have a strong personal awareness for strengths as well as weaknesses, and communicate how they are working to improve challenges.

Show your employees that you appreciate their work.

People like working hard when they know it’s going towards a meaningful goal. As someone in a management position, it is your responsibility to make sure that our staff’s hard work is paid attention to.

An easy way to make a note of company progress is to email staff letting them know where the company has been, and where it’s going next. If certain employees played an important role in reaching recent company milestones or goals, give them a shoutout!

Even if there are no major successes recently, be sure to thank your employees for their time and effort – this will help your team stay encouraged even during down times. Find ways to say thank you that are meaningful to your team, and come from a genuine place.

Don’t expect to know all of the answers.

Becoming a new manager can definitely feel intimidating at times. You’re going to get a lot more questions than you probably did before, and it might feel like you have way more questions than answers.

Trying too hard to remember every single detail and answer can cloud your mind and add another layer of stress to your day-to-day routine. Remember that all of the questions you don’t currently know the answers to will become second nature. Your team will respect you just as much for finding an answer to their question as they will if you already knew it.

Manage relationship shifts.

If you’ve been promoted from within, the power shift with your team can be a little uncomfortable, especially if you’ve formed close relationships with certain coworkers and not others over the years.

It is vitally important to remember that you need to treat all members of your team as equals. Whether they’re your friend or not, there is always a possibility that someone feels that they should have been promoted instead.

True leadership means facing any discomfort or awkwardness head on, so as to find a real long term solution. Make it clear that you value your team, but that your work relationship has to change so that you can be fair to the team as a whole.

Learn to do more with less.

First-time managers are often expected to manage their new, heavier workload with more limitations than before, including budgeting and staffing issues. An important skill to embody is the ability to perform well, regardless of any constraints.

Many often struggle with a shift in identity as they transition from an individual employee who shows up, to a leader of the company, others and their work. This is challenging, but when an organization focuses on training leaders and not just bosses, they’re better able to provide the support that those new managers need.

Companies that promote from within, provide education and training to their employees, and nurture solid leadership skills throughout the organization are seeing much happier, healthier workplace environments. Happy National Management Training Week!

Want more from Outgrow Your Garage?

-Check out our Leadership and Management Recommended Reading List for books on developing your own leadership skills. Many of these are also available at your local library. 

-If you’re looking for business support, stop by our virtual co-working sessions! Twice a week, we bring business owners together from a variety of industries to work on their businesses, share insights, and troubleshoot issues.

-Check out our full online business course catalog for all of your operational needs! Select a course based on what area of your business you need help in, and pay a one time fee for unlimited access to its content, activities, and resources.

Annual Airing of the Grievances

by Jessi Burg

In every business, no matter what the industry or size, you’re guaranteed to have some amount of negative feedback. It might come from your staff, or from an online review. The issue might be a one-off problem, or it could be a consistent internal struggle. Sometimes you know it’s coming, and other times you’re completely blindsided. 

The worst way to receive negative feedback, though, is to not get any feedback at all. When you don’t know what’s going on in your business, it makes it hard to plan for the future. Even when your business is going well, there’s usually something that can be improved. If you’re thinking about growing your business, then it’s vital to understand your weak points. These are the areas most likely to cause stress as your business expands. 

As a business owner, one of the hardest things to do is to be objective about your business. We’ve poured our time and energy, our heart and soul (not to mention our savings!), into our businesses. And still, at the end of the day, it’s never perfect. There are always things we could have done better. But it’s one thing for us to be aware – it’s something else entirely when you hear it from a client or a staff person. 

However, one of the best things about owning your own business is that most of the time, you get to decide when and how to receive that feedback. If a client has an issue, you can wait a few minutes and take a deep breath before calling them back to find a solution. 

If your staff wants to check in when you’re in the middle of something, you can ask if it can wait til a little later (as long as you actually follow up later – if you don’t, they’re unlikely to come to you the next time). With careful planning, you can even set up a time where everyone in your business can tell you their least favorite part about working for you – while you take notes. 

At Outgrow Your Garage, we call this the annual “Airing of the Grievances”. It’s an important tradition where we talk about what’s working in the business and what isn’t. Afterward, we have a priority list of systemic and operational needs to help us scale across all departments. Everyone is invested in creating solutions when they help identify the problems. It’s also easy to see progress being made, because the list is public knowledge. 

The Airing of the Grievances is specifically designed to solve operational problems. It answers questions like “How can our communications process improve?” and “What additional supplies would make product development easier?”. It doesn’t solve interpersonal issues, which are much more varied and often don’t have tidy solutions. 

So how does it work? The general idea is that you gather everyone from your company in one room, and you list everything that needs to improve. Some of these things will be actionable items, some will be wishes for the future, and some will be things that aren’t feasible to fix at all. It doesn’t matter what the suggestions are, write everything down in a place everyone can see. Here at Outgrow Your Garage, we’ve used tools such as: 

  • Whiteboard software (like Trello) as a screen share during a remote meeting 
  • Google Docs for a remote meeting so that everyone can work together
  • A whiteboard on a wall in the “office” (which was actually my basement)

There are three rules:

  1. Every suggestion goes on the list.
  2. Don’t make it personal. 
  3. The highest ranking person in the room facilitates, takes notes, and contributes nothing. 

It’s important for every suggestion to go on the list for a few reasons. The most important is that you’re getting a complete picture of your company. It’s not “evaluation of which grievances are most pressing” – you want to know everything that’s happening. This also creates a space for a future wishlist – as you grow, where do your employees want to see the company expand? What would make them want to stay with you for many years? 

Don’t make it personal means that all grievances have to be about a systemic issue. For example, I’m known for keeping information in my head and forgetting to write it down where other people can find it. The company-wide issue is that there isn’t a clear place to go for information, so even if I do write something down, no one knows where to look. Once we created a system for tracking projects, then I was able to work on my own methods of actually using it. (This is a real example, and my Executive Assistant spends a lot of time reminding me that we have processes in place waiting to be utilized). 

The highest ranking person facilitates the meeting and doesn’t contribute, because it’s important to know what the staff actually thinks. If there’s a chance that their suggestion will be discarded or their boss will argue with them about it, they’re less likely to participate. By taking notes yourself, it also frees everyone else up to participate. It’s hard to come up with ideas while writing down other people’s thoughts, so this gives you something to focus on while your staff talks about the company. 

Airing of the Grievances can be a great tool for a lot of businesses, but in order for it to work, you need to have a culture that encourages open communication. Building that culture can be hard, especially since it requires that you lead by example and hire people who are willing to think thoughtfully and listen to others. Growing your company means expanding your leadership skills, which in turn lets you create the company culture that you desire. 

Want more from Outgrow Your Garage?

-Check out our Leadership and Management Recommended Reading List for books on developing your own leadership skills. Many of these are also available at your local library. 

-If you like podcasts, we’ve been loving Karen Bartlett’s “Now and Center“, as well as “Flow Working The Entrepreneur’s Podcast” by Megan Danae Anderson.

-If you’re looking for business support, stop by our co-working sessions! Twice a week, we virtually bring business owners together from a variety of industries to work on their businesses, share insights, and troubleshoot issues.

-Check out our full online business course catalog for all of your operational needs! Select a course based on what area of your business you need help in, and pay a one time fee for unlimited access to its content, activities, and resources.

Personal vs. Business Credit

by Jessi Burg

One of the biggest sources of confusion and frustration for many small businesses is finances, pricing, and planning for future growth. While we do have a course on financial basics and pricing, (and one on financial planning coming out in October), today’s focus is on business credit. 

You might be asking yourself, “Wait, business credit is a thing? How do I get it?” You might even know that you have business credit, but have no idea how to impact it.

What is Business Credit?

Business credit is used as a measure of how financially well-managed your business is. Instead of being linked to you as an individual, it’s linked to your business entity. Establishing business credit means that you can take out loans, seek capital, and get better rates on interest and credit cards. Without it, these tasks become much harder. 

In the initial stages of your business, your business credit is inextricably linked to your personal credit. The assumption is that if you have a good personal credit (usually above 650), you’ll manage your business finances well. If you have poor credit or no credit in your personal life, then business financial institutions are less likely to give your business loans or credit cards. 

Only businesses that are their own legal entity can establish business credit. This means that if you’re a Sole Proprietorship, any credit cards you open or loans that you take out will be in your name. When you create a separate business entity such as an LLC or an S Corporation, you are also creating the ability for the business to have its own finances. 

Why do I need business credit?

Business credit isn’t linked directly to your personal credit, though some credit institutions will also check your personal credit as part of their process. Having business credit allows you to manage your business finances separately from your personal finances. 

This is especially important if you jointly own your business with another person or entity. Maintaining separate finances for your life and your business also ensures that if your business goes bankrupt or gets sued, you don’t risk your personal assets as well.

The longer you’re in business, the more important it is to keep your business and personal finances separate. Having a separate bank account, credit card, and financial records for your business ensures that when you’re ready to take out a loan, sign a lease, or buy a vehicle, you can be evaluated on your business financial skills, not your personal finances. 

In addition, many banks will require at least 2 years of business financial records for loans, so building your credit and records early gives you more options in the future. 

How do I get business credit? 

The easiest way to begin establishing business credit is to open a business credit card and pay it off using your business bank account. Just like establishing personal credit, the best thing to do is to use it regularly and pay it off every month. 

There are lots of different types of cards out there, so one place to start is by thinking about what kind of rewards you want. Would your business benefit from cash back? Travel rewards? Gas points? Research cards that have the rewards you want. Another option is to look at cards that have sign on bonuses. Do they offer no interest for the first year? A cashback reward for spending a certain amount of money? 

One thing to keep in mind when you’re starting to look at business credit cards is to check whether they report your credit score back to your personal credit as well. This isn’t necessarily a good or a bad thing. However, if your business has times of the year where you’re spending a lot of money and your credit card balance may be high, that can impact your ability to get a personal loan. 

What if my personal credit is bad? Can I still establish business credit?

Yes, you can! As you grow your business, you’ll be able to create a new credit source for financial institutions to look at. In some cases, this can be a blank slate, where you can start over and learn from past mistakes. 

Many people use their business profits to pay off personal debt, which is one way to raise both your personal and business credit. If you’re taking this path, it may be worth choosing a business credit card that reports to your personal credit score. This way, the choices you make in your business can positively affect your personal credit score. 

If you have questions about how to establish and implement your business credit, talk to your local Small Business Development Center.

Want more from Outgrow Your Garage?

-If you’re looking for business support, stop by our co-working sessions! Twice a week, we virtually bring business owners together from a variety of industries to work on their businesses, share insights, and troubleshoot issues.

-Check out our full online business course catalog for all of your operational needs! Select a course based on what area of your business you need help in, and pay a one time fee for unlimited access to its content, activities, and resources.

Internships: Pros and Cons

Many companies utilize the use of interns, who offer a way to bring in new perspectives and can provide mentorship opportunities for existing employees. There are pros and cons to internship programs though, so let’s take a look at those in a little more depth.

So, what is an internship? An internship is a short-term work experience offered by companies and other organizations for people – usually students but not always – to get some entry-level exposure to a particular industry or field. Internships can also lead to full-time job offers.

Student Interns Expect To:

  • Gain real work experience and be an asset to the company
  • Have a mentor who provides guidance and constructive feedback
  • Gain experience and skills in a particular field
  • Grow their professional network
  • Be introduced to a company’s mission and goals, and fellow employees who they can go to in the future with questions

Summer internships are typically 40 hours a week over 10 to 12 weeks. Fall and spring internships vary, but are almost always part time.

In short, internships can help people figure out what they want to do with their career, and make it easier to land their first full-time job in that industry. As an intern, one gets the chance to work side by side with accomplished industry professionals and get a pretty good idea of what an entry-level role might entail. 

You can not only gain real work experience, but also meet and learn from the pros. You are given the opportunity to build your own network, anywhere from your fellow interns to seasoned leaders. Internships give you the chance to try a few things out before committing. They also offer the chance to not just build relevant skills and learn about the field, but to demonstrate those skills and industry acumen on the job. 

Do Interns Get Paid?

How much interns get paid varies widely by company. Interns typically don’t receive health or other benefits that full-time employees get. But, depending on the company, it might include perks ranging from offering a handful of social events or vacation days to covering relocation and even housing.

Why then, do unpaid internships exist? Unpaid internships are mostly learning rather than work experiences. Basically, for an unpaid internship to be lawful, you should be benefiting more than the company. According to the FLSA’s factsheet, it’s also generally OK for the public sector and nonprofits to have unpaid interns who “[volunteer] without expectation of compensation.”

Some industries are notorious for not paying their interns (or paying them poorly), while also requiring internships in order to get a foot in the door for full-time entry-level jobs. Of course, that means that people who can’t afford to take unpaid internships not only miss out on those valuable learning experiences, but also have more trouble breaking into the field as a whole.

A Quality Internship:

  • Consists of a part-time or full-time work schedule
  • Provides a clear job/project description for the work experience
  • Orients the student to the organization and its culture
  • Helps the student develop and achieve goals
  • Offers regular feedback to the student intern

Benefits of Hiring an Intern:

  • Ease workload of regular employees
  • Enable employees to focus on higher level tasks
  • Meet short-term staffing needs
  • Utilize a cost effective employment strategy
  • Complete finite projects
  • Develop a pipeline of future employees
  • Introduce new enthusiasm and fresh ideas into the organization
  • Provide practical learning opportunities to students
  • Take advantage of students’ tech and social media savvy

So, what’s the difference between an internship, a co-op, and a research opportunity? Internships are supervised, structured learning experiences in a professional setting that allow you to gain valuable work experience in a student’s chosen field of study, and require a minimum of 120 hours.

Co-ops are paid positions that require students to alternate semesters between full-time work during the academic term and full-time academic study for at least two semesters. Students are often, but not always, offered full-time employment with the organization upon graduation.  

Research opportunities are available both on and off campus. These experiences offer a unique way to better understand a student’s academic interests and consider how graduate school may play a role in future paths. Funding may be available for these experiences through organizations like the National Science Foundation (NSF).

There are a lot of opinions about internships these days, and many believe that unpaid internships are unfair and should be done away with. Some believe that having an unpaid internship breeds the same results as not doing an internship at all. 

If done properly and fairly, internships can be a beautiful thing! What are your thoughts on paid versus unpaid internships? Comment below with your opinions! 

Want more from Outgrow Your Garage?

-If you’re looking for business support, stop by our co-working sessions! Twice a week, we virtually bring business owners together from a variety of industries to work on their businesses, share insights, and troubleshoot issues.

-Check out our full online business course catalog for all of your operational needs! Select a course based on what area of your business you need help in, and pay a one time fee for unlimited access to its content, activities, and resources.

Email Aliases – Simplicity, Privacy & Organization

by Kelly Sullivan

If you can relate to the daunting, messy abyss that our email inboxes can become, then this week’s blog is for you. 

Whether you’re out for vacation and your unread emails pile up, or you’re so busy on a day to day basis that you just can’t read them all before they start to stack up, just know that it happens to the best of us. 

Consider using an email alias – an alternative address that still directs emails to your primary inbox. This allows you to use a different email address than your primary address, without having to set up an entirely new email account. 

When you set up your primary email address, that’s the address that you send and receive mail from. An email alias, however, allows you to create other email addresses within that account that will forward incoming messages to your primary email address.

These alternative aliases can be put to many good uses, like organizing your inbox or protecting your privacy. Any mail sent to these email variations will arrive at the same inbox as messages meant for your main address, while hiding your primary email address. 

You can also set up phone aliases for your business, which work in the same way that an email alias does. Google Voice is a free way to associate a personalized phone number to your business without paying for an entirely new line. There are phone companies that can provide you with this service as well. 

Here are some considerations when thinking about setting up aliases for your business.

Control Your Online Identity

Email aliases give you control of your identity online. Like me, some of you may have created your primary email address when you were in the third grade. For most of us, just isn’t going to cut it anymore. 

Unfortunately for most of us, this email can’t just be deleted because family members, important subscriptions, and other random but important emails still come through to this embarrassingly named address. Email aliases can be created, named, or even deactivated and deleted with just a click of your mouse. And they’re free. It’s as simple as that.

Protect Your Personal Space and Privacy

To my surprise, I’ve come across many business owners who still have their personal cell phone number on their business cards or website. As someone who appreciates my personal time outside of work hours, I never use any of my personal phone numbers for business purposes. 

To each their own – but for those of you who reel at the idea of clients contacting you at any given hour of any given day, consider a Google Voice phone number (free) or an app like Grasshopper (paid). These options act as a customized business phone number, so clients can only reach you during work hours and through a number that is directly attached to your business.

Google Voice gives you a phone number for calls, texts, and voicemails. You can use this number to make domestic and international calls from your web browser and mobile devices. If you’re in the US or Canada, you can choose your own number. 

Keep Your Email Organized

A great way to keep your emails organized with an email alias is to create a specific folder for them, and then automatically have all incoming messages to that alias added into that folder to keep them separate from your personal emails. This makes them easily identifiable from your other emails.

For example, let’s say you decide to attach a personalized business email to your primary email account. You choose your business email as, and create a correlating folder titled Info Emails. You can have all of the emails that get sent to your info@ alias automatically directed into the Info Emails folder, which helps you keep them separate from the emails you get from your mom about birthday dinner plans.

Easy Set-Up on Gmail, Yahoo, iCloud and Outlook

For example, setting up an email alias through your Google email looks something like this:

  • Open Gmail, and open the settings menu by selecting the gear icon in the top right of your inbox.
  • Select See All Settings.
  • Find the Accounts tab. Under the Send Mail As: section, select Add another email address.
  • Enter the email alias you wish to add.
  • Leave “Treat as an alias” checked and select Next Step.
  • Follow the instructions to verify your alias.

You can do this for as many aliases as you want. You can also delete an alias at any time. 

Creating an email alias is an easy and simple way to create a professional business presence without having to spend money. An alias is also a useful tactic for those who don’t want to disclose their personal emails online, need a temporary email address, or want a simple way to stay organized. 

Check that whatever email platform you already use supports aliases (it likely does), get your alias set up in a few simple steps, and see how much easier your life gets! You can thank us later.

Want more from Outgrow Your Garage?

-If you’re looking for business support, stop by our co-working sessions! Twice a week, we virtually bring business owners together from a variety of industries to work on their businesses, share insights, and troubleshoot issues.

-Check out our full online business course catalog for all of your operational needs! Select a course based on what area of your business you need help in, and pay a one time fee for unlimited access to its content, activities, and resources.