Five things you should do immediately to transform your small business.

I have owned my own successful public relations and marketing firm for nearly three decades. In the past two years, I have grown that business exponentially. How? I got serious about growth, accepted things I had long resisted changing, and implemented several basic business principles. The difference has been transformative. I am sharing some of my experiences and tips in this article.

Here are five things you implement fairly quickly that will have a dramatic impact on your business (plus a bonus tip at the end!):

1. Implement a CRM

2. Hire a bookkeeper

3. Delegate everything you hate to do

4. Connect two people once a week

5. Have someone review your website’s SEO

1. Get a CRM. CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management. In a nutshell it is a system for managing client interactions, identifying and tracking leads and deals, automating or implementing follow up as well as assigning and tracking tasks to employees for organizing projects.

Resisting finding one that fit my business was a big mistake. If you think your business isn’t big enough to have one, think again. Your contacts are your lifeblood. Guard them, work them, catalogue them, access them and build relationships with them. This is all so simple with a CRM. And using the system to track and follow up on leads and deals in your pipeline and track employee tasks, is magical!

However, there are literally hundreds of CRMs! It’s frightening when you begin to search for one that is right for you. Here’s my advice to help you with you with the process:

- First, determine how many people will be using it, they could be employees, but they could also be freelancers and even clients. Don’t be cheap; you will pay per user with most of them, but the more people who are part of the system, the better communication, follow up and follow through you will have.

- Next determine your most important requirements. Here’s a few to consider: Cleaning up a variety of contact lists you already have. Email automation. Billing. Calendar integration. Tracking deals in general or by person. Assigning and tracking your own tasks as well as those you assign to employees. And there is so much more a good CRM will do for you, so set aside a few hours and read the many articles on choosing one.

Once you identify your priorities, you can start to look and fine tune your options. There’s no doubt you will be confused by the choices so keep in mind that you can ask for an on-screen demo and a free trial for nearly all of them. Still overwhelmed? Try out some of the most popular ones, Salesforce, Freshsales, Apptivo, Zoho, Hubspot, and ask for a trial.

Keep in mind that they nearly all of them come with a monthly fee per person, some like Hubspot are free, but as you grow, the fees can be tacked on. So, make sure you are comparing apples to apples and have all your requirements figured out.

2. Hire a bookkeeper. I have worked with a large accounting firm for years as a friend of mine is the CEO, but they have not done my books or billing. I despise Quickbooks and spent hundreds of dollars trying to work with the online version only to finally give up and go back to the desktop version but with the same amount of frustration I had from the beginning. My accountant suggested a bookkeeper, I resisted, for years. I finally hired one and couldn’t be happier. I was hesitant to say the least, to let someone see my books but Cameron of Keeping Better Books, who I have known for years through the Rockland Business Women’s Network, seemed like the obvious choice. She was quickly able to identify issues, clean up my records and ensure that everything was coded correctly so now I can not only quickly and thoroughly see how much profit I make from each client, but I can also identify areas where I need to examine expenses. Her work has enabled me to spend less money with my large accounting firm as well. And most importantly, and here’s the real impact of this decision, while she is working on my books, I am freed up to do other things that make me money, rather than making me frustrated.

3. That brings me to #3 - Delegate everything you hate to do. If you are doing things that make you grumble, find someone else to do them! It will not only alleviate stress, it will give you more time to do things you enjoy. And when you are enjoying what you do, you will be happier and more focused on growing your business. Again, I resisted this decision partly because of budget and partly because it seemed quicker for me to do some of the work than showing someone else. That is short sighted! There are plenty of websites for finding people to work with you on a freelance basis like upWork, Freelancer, Thumbtack, and Guru, to name a few. Check them out to see what options exist for what you need. Of course part time workers and interns can be great sources of help. Another great way to identify people is to simply pick up the phone and ask your contacts who they use, ask for referrals. People are usually happy to share their good (and bad) experiences and help steer you in the right direction.

4. Connect others. Nothing endears you more to someone and ensures they will look out for you, than looking out for them. Once a week go through your contacts and see who you can connect. Do this with no regard to what you might get back, rather simply focus on who would make good connections for each other. By doing this, you will be reaching out to two people, and giving them each something. I guarantee that small gesture will be returned to you in one way or another. I have done this in the past and sometimes it results in an immediate return (“Hey, thanks for reaching out, I could actually use your services!”) but I’ve also had people respond weeks later with a thank you and an offer to connect me to someone. It is a very easy way to increase your visibility and do something good.

5. Hire someone to review your website’s SEO. When is the last time you updated your website? When is the last time, you did a Google search for yourself, your company or the search terms you think people will find you under? Google changes its algorithm often, competitors enter the market and get spiffy new websites, and stale websites end up on pages 2+ of Google searches. You should review your website and have someone else review it at least four times each year! There are so many opportunities for your website to work for you or hurt you. If you don’t know what they are (and let’s face it, most people don’t have time to think about this!) find someone who can assist you. Look at your own website for overall look and feel. Read the content and do your own Google searches and you will see why you need someone doing this for you.

Reminder, when you do your search, be sure it is in an ‘incognito’ window, otherwise you will see sites that Google thinks you want to see because you visit them often, my search results will be different than yours based on geography and previous searches. So, go “incognito” by going into Chrome and clicking Control, Shift and the letter N at the same time, then do your searches. What comes up? Where are you in the list? Are you listed once or several times on the first page? You should be controlling the narrative here and the results on that first page should reflect the story you want to tell; not what others are saying.

That’s it! Five simple things you can implement in the next month that will transform your business. Oh, perhaps one more I should add is get up at 5:00am. Some people are early risers and get in a good workout and then head to the office. If you’re not an early riser, push yourself. I can get in three hours of work from 6am – 9am and then be fully prepared for the day ahead. And while I’m not advocating becoming a workaholic, I am suggesting that those early hours, when you cannot be interrupted by phone calls or meetings, can often be your most productive, freeing up time in your afternoon for meetings or even heading home early!

Risa B. Hoag is President of GMG Public Relations, Inc., a public relations, marketing and advertising agency serving clients on both sides of the Hudson. She is President of the Rockland Business Women’s Network and co-founder of the Greater Nanuet Chamber of Commerce and the Chamber Alliance of Rockland. Reach her at or 845-624-3000 or 914-996-8100.

8 Tips to Help you Network with Confidence

Many people hate networking or get nervous before going to an event. You don't have to; here are some tips to get you through it with confidence.

1.     Make a list of 5 potential groups to join; consider nonprofit organizations as well as business groups.

  • Research the organizations online to see what they do, who is involved, past events, etc.

  • Don’t forget that networking doesn’t just happen at business groups, it can be very effective to join boards of nonprofits, so check out their websites to see who else is already a board member that you may want to meet. This requires a greater commitment but is often well worth it.

2.     Register for a meeting

  • If there is someone you know in the group, call and ask if they are attending.

  • Invite someone to go with you to ease any nervousness you may be feeling, but be sure to spread out once you arrive and sit with other people; you can then introduce each other to new people after the meeting that way.

3.     Make a plan

  • What’s your goal for the meeting? To walk away with at least one business card that has value, i.e., referral source; potential client; Introduce yourself to someone you have been wanting to meet; Perfecting your introduction; Get tips from the speaker, etc.

  • Practice your 30 – 60 second introduction ahead of time so that if you are asked to stand up and introduce yourself you will have more confidence; Remember to think about the problem you solve for your clients rather than what you ‘sell’ – people want help, they don’t want to be sold something.

4.     When you go

  • Show up 15 minutes early, introduce yourself to the registration team

  • You’ll also find a few others who show up early and they are often anxious to make connections as well

  • SMILE – it will immediately make you feel more confident and others are attracted to people who seem positive and approachable.

5.     Wear your own name badge

  • Have one made for your company at a local printer or online so you always have it on hand and your company is prominently featured and your name is spelled correctly

6.     Introduce yourself to others and then ask questions; listening first is a good practice

  • Ask what they do

  • Think of how you can help or connect them to someone else you know

  • Ask for their card before handing over yours; write on the back of the card where and when you met

  • Ask the team coordinating for specific people in attendance, e.g. for them to point out someone you want to meet and introduce you

  • Let people know what you might be looking for, i.e., how they can help you

7.     After the meeting

  • Enter information from each card you collected into a spreadsheet or sales software tool (CRM) including the date you met, what organization hosted the meeting, who else they are connected to, etc.

  • Follow up within 2-3 days with an email to say it was nice to meet them and provide any information you promised

  • Consider the organization; Was it a good fit for you? How else can you get involved? Who is on committees or the board that you want to meet? Should you join or just attend another meeting to get a better sense of the members?

8.     Remember that practice improves everything

  • Go to more meetings; go outside your comfort zone.

  • Reach out to people who seem new or lost; introduce them to others.

  • Be a connector!

I’ve been networking for over 30 years and there are still times when I get a little nervous attending something new by myself. When I do, I take a deep breath, smile and enter the room. I find that I always walk away with either a tip from the speaker or presentation that I can use or share with someone else or I meet someone that is a good source of business or that I can refer to someone else. It is always beneficial. 

Daily/Weekly/Monthly Networking Tips & My Magic Bullet!

Recently, a colleague asked me "What should I be doing on a daily/weekly or monthly basis to enhance my marketing efforts?" GREAT QUESTION! Of course the answer would take up pages and pages of advice, however, you have to start somewhere! So, here are a few tips to get you started. Comment below and share your own tips!

Daily/Weekly: 8:30 am

-         Monday: Reach out to one person already in your network to schedule coffee during the week. This should be someone you know fairly well and someone you feel would be comfortable discussing details about how to be better referral sources for each other. Ask them: what groups they belong to; what industry is their best source of referrals; and to talk about a successful 'case study' for a recent client. (Obviously be prepared to discuss the same for your company.)

-         Tuesday: Go through your LinkedIn contacts; reach out to 1 or 2 people to connect via coffee or lunch; this should be someone who you don’t know well (unlike the Monday contact) but want to get to know better; identify a common person that makes it a “warm call." Schedule lunch and ask questions about them. Find out how you can support them, don't ask for business unless it comes up organically.

-         Wednesday: Write a blog article for your website and LinkedIn. Think in terms of 5 tips for doing X; how you can you help others with this post? While you are at it, prepare titles for the next 3 weeks. 

-         Thursday: Link your LinkedIn blog post to Facebook to cross promote; link it through Twitter as well. How about Instagram? Can you send that article to a local newspaper for publication?

-         Friday: Look at the coming quarter to see what events or activities you can get involved in such as street fairs, nonprofit events and the like, and what you need to get ready; i.e., premium items? Business cards re-order? RSVP. Then invite someone to attend with you. Need to find local events? Access to find events to get involved in. Attend a new group each month to see if there is another place where you can make connections or contribute your talents. Remember that joining a committee or a board is where the magic happens. That's where people get to know you and your capabilities.


Choose a consistent date like first Friday of the month and put it on your calendar so you remember to take advantage of these opportunities.

-         Look at your website and see what can be updated; Google 'rewards' sites that are updated on a regular basis and penalizes sites with lower rankings that seem static.

-         Identify quarterly events coming up and see what you can get involved in; respond early so you don’t miss deadlines and get shut out.

-         Thank about your 3 best clients: what made them so successful? What did you do right? How can you put those techniques into new client relationships?

-         Send an email blast, use your blog posts as a basis for that email; use bullet points and drive people to your LinkedIn profile or website for more information.

-         Research your competition and see what they are doing. Check their websites; their LinkedIn profiles and their FB and Twitter feeds; what are they doing that you’re not? What can you learn? What can you do to be proactive so you are ahead of the curve?

-         Consider joining the board of an organization; this is where real connections start and grow and if I had to identify one 'magic bullet' for networking it would be this. I believe immersing yourself into an organization is one of the most powerful ways to meet people, demonstrate your talents, and gain new business. Not to mention you will be giving back in one way or another.