In 2011, approximately 64.3 million Americans gave approximately 8 billion hours of volunteer service. The organization, Independent Sector estimated the value of volunteer time for is $22.14 per hour. This equals $171 billion worth of donated time. It¡¯s too bad that we can¡¯t claim this deduction on our taxes.
I donate a lot of time to various organizations. My numbers are much higher than the national averages. I tallied my hours for last year and they totaled more than 600! Granted, that was an exceptional year, yet I believe that a lot of people in our industry donate a considerable amount of time to professional and civic organizations.
What type of organizations do you donate your time? How many hours do you typically donate each year?
In February 2013 the Bureau of Labor Statistics posted some interesting data on volunteering. Here are some of the highlights:
By age, 35- to 44-year-olds were most likely to volunteer (31.6 percent). Volunteer rates were lowest among 20- to 24-year-olds (18.9 percent). For persons 45 years and over, the volunteer rate tapered off as age increased. Teens (16- to 19-year-olds) had a volunteer rate of 27.4 percent.
Married persons volunteered at a higher rate (31.9 percent) in 2012 than did those who had never married (20.7 percent) and those with other marital statuses (21.3 percent). The volunteer rate of parents with children under age 18 (33.5 percent) remained higher than the rate for persons without children (23.8 percent).
Individuals with higher levels of education engaged in volunteer activities at higher rates than did those with less education. Among persons age 25 and over, 42.2 percent of college graduates volunteered, compared with 17.3 percent of high school graduates and 8.8 percent of those with less than a high school diploma.
Among employed persons, 29.1 percent volunteered during the year ending in September 2012. By comparison, 23.8 percent of unemployed persons and 22.4 percent of those not in the labor force volunteered. Among the employed, part-time workers were more likely than full-time workers to have participated in volunteer activities?33.4 percent compared with 28.1 percent.
Volunteers spent a median of 50 hours on volunteer activities during the period from September 2011 to September 2012. Time spent on volunteer activities was similar for women and men. Median annual hours spent on volunteer activities ranged from a low of 32 hours for those 25 to 34 years old to a high of 90 hours for volunteers age 65 and over.
It¡¯s funny where you pull life lessons from, isn¡¯t it? For me, it¡¯s often on the yoga mat. Recently, I¡¯ve noticed a few parallels when practicing yoga that I believe can be applied to running a small business. You¡¯d be surprised at the connections:
1. You¡¯ll Never Be Perfect. Despite practicing yoga for 12 years, I am still fall. I still have trouble getting into some poses. I think in small business ownership, the idea is that if you run a business long enough, eventually you¡¯ll get it perfect. Not so. As long as your industry, technology, marketing techniques and competitors continue to evolve, you will need to grow and adapt. Stagnation equals failure and while you should continue to strive towards perfection, knowing you¡¯ll never attain it can be¡well, enlightening.
2. If It Isn't Working, Let It Go. In yoga, there¡¯s the temptation of stretching one¡¯s body beyond where it wants to go. There¡¯s always the price to pay for that. In business, you can¡¯t force a product or marketing technique if it¡¯s not working. It will cost you time and money. Instead, admit failure early, cut your ties and move on.
3. It¡¯s All About Balance. We hear a lot about work/life balance in the entrepreneur world. It¡¯s not BS. If you work 90 hours a week, your ability to make the right decisions on the fly will diminish. If you¡¯re permanently on vacation from your business, it won¡¯t succeed. In yoga, that ¡°sweet spot¡± happens when you can stand on one leg blissfully. It can happen, but you have to work toward it.
4. Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone Is a Good Thing. There are those yoginis who would rather stick to the downward dog poses they¡¯re comfortable with because they¡¯re easy. There are those business owners who would rather continue to operate like they have been for years. But by pushing yourself just a little, you¡¯ll be amazed at what you (or your business) can do that had been just out of your comfort zone.
5. Comparing Yourself to Others Can Throw You Off. I still struggle to not check out my yoga neighbors in a class to see how high they can hold their legs. It¡¯s not a competition. In small business, yes, you have competitors and you absolutely should be aware of what they¡¯re up to.? But constantly comparing your business to theirs won¡¯t really net you any benefits. Instead, focus on making your strengths stronger so that you have enough competitive advantage to shine.
6. Hot Yoga Isn¡¯t For Everyone. The very idea of practicing yoga in a 100+ degree room is enough to throw me in a tizzy. That¡¯s fine; it¡¯s not for me. Likewise, for you as a business owner, don¡¯t try to force yourself into products or industries that you don¡¯t naturally gravitate toward. Instead, focus on those that bring you pride and that your customers love. A niche market is better if it¡¯s one you adore working in.
7. You¡¯d Be Surprised What You Can Do When You Let Go. Whether it¡¯s a handstand or that next creative idea for your business, sometimes trying too hard to make it happen is exactly what you don¡¯t want to do. Take a step back from the situation. Stop thinking about it. You¡¯ll find the answers you were looking for when you let go.
8. You Can Only Do One Thing at a Time (Well). Self-proclaimed multitaskers, I¡¯m talking to you! You think that writing emails while strategizing about your business, while also talking to a client on the phone will help you save time, but you¡¯re actually not doing any of those tasks well. Take it from someone who has tried balancing on one foot while thinking about her company. Something has to give (and I have the bruise to prove it).
9. Be Happy Where You Are. This concept, called Santosha, doesn¡¯t suggest you never strive to grow your business. What it does suggest, however, is that you appreciate how far you¡¯ve come and be content with your efforts so far.
10. The Best Way to Grow is to Try Something New. Trying new yoga poses invites creativity. Likewise, trying new strategies, techniques or other ideas in your business can help you grow in ways you couldn¡¯t possibly imagine. Be open to what comes.
Small Business Saturday is now in its third year. The date is November 24, 2012. This annual event is sponsored by American Express and encourages shoppers to support the local, independent businesses that create jobs, boost the economy, and preserve neighborhoods around the country. It takes place the day following the famous Black Friday when most large commercial enterprises participate to kick off holiday buying.
According to surveys, almost half of small business owners nationwide are doing some type of promotion for this event. Many companies are offering discounts, while others are giving away prizes, hosting contests, doing free gift wrapping or giving away a free gift with a purchase.
There are a lot of creative ways to be part of this event. For instance, you could offer a free product with each gift certificate (and have it wrapped, or at least tied with a pretty ribbon and bow). Perhaps you could offer a free adjunct service (one that doesn't cost you much in time or money) with every gift certificate purchased. If you carry retail products, you could offer a discount on those items.
Remember, this is a one-day event. You want to drive a lot of people to your business?and since most of you don't have a typical storefront, I suggest you have a way for people to place orders through your website or by simply emailing you their request. If you don't have a shopping cart with your website, you can make arrangements to collect payment and get them their items afterwards. Be sure to label this promotion as a Small Business Saturday promotion and give a little bit of information about the event's intent.
The American Express site provides lots of ideas for promoting your business and rallying your community. The site has a list of tips as well as free, downloadable online banners, signage, and social media and email templates. And it's not too late!
Let me know what you've done in past years or plan to do this year.
Ten years ago people started talking about a paperless office. I was intrigued. I researched the topic, but I never encountered any office that was truly paperless. Instead I focused on paper paper management and included that information in the fourth edition of Business Mastery. A decade later, we are much closer to that becoming a reality, particularly due to the advent of cloud computing and e-faxing.
We store much of our information digitally, yet we still keep hard copies of some paperwork because it is easier to reference. I keep my important papers such as contracts, legal files, and tax returns in a fireproof filing cabinet. Other records such as old receipts are stored in boxes in a closet?although very soon those will be scanned to a digital format, and the paper shredded and recycled.
We have also reduced the amount of paper we generate. It¡¯s been more than a year since I last ordered paper! Many of our customers have switched from requiring hard copies of invoices to allowing us to send digital invoices. We¡¯ve condensed our print promotional materials and rely on our website to provide much of that information. Yet, sometimes handing someone a piece of paper is important¡.
I recently read a great blog by Sarah Cafiero from Massamio. It¡¯s titled, ¡±How to run a paperless massage therapy practice.¡± She provides creative ideas (along with helpful links) for eliminating paper clutter.
I don¡¯t think we can totally eliminate paper quite yet. Even with reducing our output, we still receive masses of junk mail and ad slicks, not to mention magazines and catalogs. We have separate trash and paper recycling bins at each desk. We also have 3 boxes for magazines and such. We shred all the regular bond paper and then every couple of months we take the bags of shredded paper, boxes of glossy paper and flattened cardboard boxes (that are too damaged to re-use) to the recycling center.
How have you reduced your paper clutter?
On September 12, 2012 Yelp announced a new product feature available to all businesses that participate on their site. Businesses can now sell gift certificates through their Yelp profile page.
Gift certificates are not discounted like Deals are. They¡¯re full-value cash equivalents. Of course, Yelp takes a 10% cut of all gift certificates sold on the site but the certificates are full price (or whatever special price you want to offer). For example, if someone purchases a $70 gift certificate, s/he pays the full $70 (and you receive $63). A tip for making this type of promotion more successful is to offer gift certificates in different denominations, so people have a choice of how much they want to spend.
Yelp is a very visible site, with about 26 million monthly users. The gift certificate feature can attract new clients and encourage current clients to purchase certificates for family and friends. You might already be selling gift certificates on your website, yet prospective clients (and others just looking to buy a certificate) might not know about you. Yelp provides an additional venue for exposure. You can set up a free business profile at Yelp. The gift certificate feature is also free.
Here is a screen shot capture of a massage therapy gift certificate offer.
According to the Yelp site, they tested the gift certificate concept to see what sort of response it would generate relative to Yelp Deals. Here¡¯s what they learned:
Has anyone used this feature? I would love to hear your experiences.
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