Some Parts to a Winning Business Plan

Starting a business is an exciting venture. To make it an absolute success, getting all the details right from the very beginning is absolutely crucial. This is where a business plan becomes relevant.

A business plan is a formal statement that comprises the goals of a business, reasons why they are attainable and the ways in which these can be accomplished. In short, a business plan is a road-map to success.

It is important to understand that while a business plan may not make success inevitable for a business, it can definitely help you identify viable ways to avoid failure. It helps you get a clear understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of your business and devise ways to capitalize on the strength and minimize the risks.

Parts of a Business Plan

Regardless of whether you are starting a business or planning to grow your existing one, a business plan is an absolutely crucial element. Let’s take a look at what to include while craft a winning business plan.

Executive Summary

An executive summary briefly outlines the goals and objectives of the business. It summarizes a description of the business, the products and/or services provided, growth potential, funding requirements, a proper plan on how you will repay loans, if any, etc.

Sometimes, you might require to show the business plan you formulate to investors and financiers. Therefore, you should ensure that you get to the to-the-point in the summary.

Description of the Business

This is where you introduce readers to the business. Describe the products and services that your business plans to provide and where and how you plan on providing these to your potential customers. By now, you would need to have a clear idea about which industry corresponds to your business and who your target customers are going to be.



Also include, an industry analysis and how your business fits in. It should also comprise an outlook for the future. Include how further developments in your industry may affect your business and add facts supporting your inferences.

Analysis of Market Opportunities and Competition

A thorough market research is crucial for your business. This research should analyze the buying habits of customers, purchasing cycle, their willingness to accept new products and services etc. In short, you would need to determine whether there is a viable market for the products and/or services your business will offer.

Also, it is important to have an idea about your competitors and what works for them. These findings will help you determine how to differentiate your product or service from the existing ones. The strategies you devise for this purpose should be included in your business plan.

Marketing and Sales

This section should comprise a layout of your marketing plan. One of the primary purposes of this section is to find ways to spread awareness of the products and services among your target customers. Marketing involves advertising and promoting your products while maintaining proper public relations.

Your plan should include the techniques that you will implement to generate leads, increase conversion and retain customers. These should be actionable and based on facts.

Business Operations and Management

This section is dedicated to how you plan on running the business. This may include requirements related to staffing, logistics and development of the business. Also, the tasks assigned to every division, responsibilities of the management team etc. are included. Some other aspects that you need to consider are infrastructure, working equipment, WiFi requirements and so on.

You should keep in mind that the operations will change as the company grows. Therefore, your business plan should have provisions for these changes.

Finances

The success or failure of a business boils down to its profits and this section will help in planning how to keep it steady. The major aspects include:

•    An income statement comprising the sources of the business’s cash generation
•    The cash flow statement determining how you plan on meeting financial obligations

Additionally, the business plan should be inclusive of proper funding options for expansion and growth.

Contingency Plan

Even with a full-fledged plan, there can still be certain areas that can go wrong. Your business plan should include strategies that you will implement in case things don’t go as anticipated. This could include a shift in marketing strategies in case the desired results are not obtained within a specific time, change in product focus etc.

While this is a basic structure of a business plan, you can include variations depending on the type of business. The benefits of a business plan are endless. A well-drafted plan is crucial in driving your business towards success

Best Strategies for Better Managing Client Relationships

So much time and effort is put into acquiring clients, yet very few businesses spend the same energy nurturing existing relationships. This is unfortunate, since a current customer is much more profitable than a new one.

Relationships: The Heart of Business

We, as a business community, often try to make success too complicated. We focus on all of these little fragmented components while ignoring the one thing that matters.

“The key to business success is winning and keeping customers,” entrepreneur Steve Tobak definitively says. “And the key to winning and keeping customers is, and has always been, relationships. The world’s greatest business experts — Peter Drucker, Mark McCormack, Regis McKenna and others — have all said the same thing in one way or another.”

Sadly, entrepreneurs and business owners like to spend all of their time and energy on things like social media, productivity hacks, advertising techniques, etc. These can all be helpful little elements, but their value begins to pale when you look at them within the context of the bigger picture.

“No matter what you do for a living or aspire to become, none of those fads du jour will have a material impact on how things turn out for you or your business,” says Tobak. “But building real relationships with real people in the real world will.”

Client Relationship Management Strategies

Saying relationships are the heart of business success and actually prioritizing relationships are two totally different things. The latter takes a lot of hard work over a lengthy period of time, but there’s no better time to start than now. Here are seven client relationship management strategies to consider.

1. Respect the Client’s Time

Time is the most precious and finite resource you and your clients have. If you want to build healthier relationships, you have to respect their time. Here are a couple of ideas to help you do that:

  • Don’t just tell a client to drop by if they want to meet with you. You’ll inevitably be in the middle of something and have to make them wait. Open yourself up to clients and allow them to schedule appointments with you. There are free tools that can automate this process.
  • Small talk is definitely part of building relationships, but recognize when it’s time to talk shop. Don’t waste a client’s time. Get straight to business and you’ll be seen as respectful and self-aware.

This might seem like a really small thing, but it sets the tone for the rest of the relationship. When you extend respect, you’re telling your client that they matter to you — it doesn’t get much better than that.

2. Get Face to Face

“When things go wrong and the client knows, call. Email does not always translate circumstances or feelings well as there is no voice inflection and a client usually places more value on a phone call,” entrepreneur Marshall Zierkel suggests.

While Zierkel is right — a phone call is better than an email — there’s something that’s even better than a phone call: meeting in person. If at all possible, you should get face to face with clients — when things go right, wrong, or are otherwise indifferent. The more you’re able to be face to face with a client, the stronger your bond will grow.

3. Over Promise and Under Deliver

It’s a cliché saying, but it can’t be stressed enough: over promise and under deliver. If you make this a habit, you’ll rarely put yourself in a situation where you’ll let a client down. Instead, you’ll dramatically increase your chances of looking good — even when you barely exceed your own expectations.

4. Don’t Burn Bridges With Pettiness

How many times do you let small, petty things cost you a relationship with a client? Entrepreneur Craig Valine is one of the first to admit how dumb he used to be in this area. As he explains, there was a time where “I wouldn’t return phone calls; I wouldn’t follow-up with a referral from a client; I’d miss an appointment and not call to apologize; I wouldn’t pay my vendors on time; I’d squabble over a few dollars; or I’d act apathetic from a good deed from another.”

How many times have you let something small and petty cost you a relationship with a client? If you’re honest, burning a bridge rarely turns out to be a positive thing when you look back on a situation. Try to understand this and be willing to lose the battle in order to win the war.

5. Set Mutual Goals

Do you ever feel like you and your client are on totally different pages? Well, it’s probably because you are. You have your objectives and your client has his. The solution to this common issue is to set mutual goals from the very beginning.

As soon as you start a new project with a client, sit down together — face to face, if possible — and come up with mutual goals. This puts you both on the same page and gives you something to point to later on when challenges arise.

6. Build Credibility Over Time

It takes time to build credibility, so stop trying to make it happen overnight. So what if a client doesn’t fully trust you the first or second time you meet? You haven’t done anything to make him trust you!

Remember that trust takes years to build and can be destroyed in a matter of minutes. Be consistent and methodical in how you deal with your clients. Focus on slowly building credibility with each and every thing you do and say. With this sort of conscious precision, you’ll eventually wake up and realize that you have healthy client relationships that are defined by trust.

7. Be Transparent and Human

Stop trying to be such a polished version of yourself in front of customers. In an effort to clean yourself up, you’re actually cheapening your image and transforming yourself into someone you aren’t. They don’t want some ideal image of you. They want the real deal.

Mistakes are going to happen and it’s much better to be open about them. This proves that you’re human and, while they may be frustrated at the moment, it ultimately puts them at ease.

Free Up Cash and Grow Your Business

Nearly every business that exists shares a common goal: to make more money and find financial success. You have to constantly focus on cash flow management, profitability and increase the value of your business if you want to prosper. This is why it’s vital to monitor your infrastructure and tweak it regularly. If you’re ready to grow your business, take a look at these three easy-to-implement ways you can speed up cash flow.

Try These Tips to Speed up Cash Flow

Create Incentives for Early Payments and Penalties for Late Payments

Invoicing is often a long and somewhat painful process that may require a lot of back and forth. If it’s challenging to keep your accounts paid up and you loathe having to check in when your clients are late, you might find now is the time to implement a program to reward those who pay on time and penalize those who pay late.

A good plan of attack is to apply discounts to any account paid on time or add some interest to accounts that are overdue. This will encourage payments to come your way early and immediately make a positive effect on your cash flow. This will also save a lot of time eliminating the need to check multiple times to see if the payment has been received.

Utilize Invoice Factoring

Invoice factoring companies let you turn current, unpaid invoices, into cash without adding new debt. Free up your cash to help you meet payroll, add new products and services to your offerings and extend the geographical reach of your business.

Factoring companies allow you to transform your business cash flow and will give you the access to the funds you need without worrying about invoices staying open as long as 120 days. Instead of sitting and waiting for payment, you can proceed with new work, pay employees, or buy needed supplies. Check the online Factoring Directory to help you find the best factoring that aligns with your business needs.

Improve Your Marketing

Any steps you take to make your business better will lead to better cash flow, and marketing is a key piece of this puzzle.

The reason why is because improved marketing slashes your cost-per-lead and boosts the lifetime value of your customers, reaching out to untapped markets. Plus, effective marketing is a way to make a positive first business impression.

In order to improve your marketing, you need to first figure out your areas of struggle and approach them head on. It might be time to implement content marketing if you’re having trouble building the trust of your customers. Utilize content marketing to educate your leads and improve your conversions, boosting your company’s image as a result.

If you want to upsell but aren’t sure what products you should offer, create a survey or use a third-party to help you determine what your next offering should be. Product quality is important for businesses of every size, so don’t lose focus on maintaining the quality of the current and potential goods you offer.

No business likes to deal with lack of funding. It is important to find ways to free up cash to improve your cash flow management systems. Insufficient or unsteady cash flow can prevent your business from providing the best service to your customers. Use these ways to transform your business cash flow, prepare for future growth, and position yourself to make your company better than ever.

Dirty Word in Your Business

As a business owner, are you focused on how much money everyone is spending in your business? Or do you focus instead on how much profit you‘re going to make? Unfortunately too many small business owners focus too much time and effort on how much money is being spent and not nearly enough time figuring out how to make more money (i.e. Profit). It‘s more of a poverty vs. abundance mindset. Why not be a little different and focus on abundance vs. poverty as a small business owner?

There is a dirty word that surfaces for small business owners from time-to-time, which typically causes them to feel ill and break into cold sweats. BUDGETS. Nobody really wants one or frankly ever asks for one. It has a punitive, I‘ve just got called down to the Principal‘s office, feel to it. Budgets are constraining and inhibiting to growth and sustainability. A more energizing and productive path to take is developing a Profit Plan. This way you‘ll be able to focus on achieving profits vs. not spending yourself out of business.

Focus on Your Profit Plan, Not Your Budget

I used to be a pretty decent golfer with a low single digit handicap. There are lots of great analogies between golf and business. One of the main ones we focus on as business coaches is that both business and golf can get unnecessarily complicated. Anyone who has taken a few golf lessons can tell you that. You can get so focused on the proper mechanics of your swing that you forget how to hit the ball. And it stops being fun and starts feeling like work! I learned early on that the best thing to do with my golf swing was to keep things simple. Boil it down to one or two swing thoughts as I was addressing the ball and then forget everything else.

It helps to have the same kind of focus in business so things don‘t get overly complicated and it stops being fun. For small business owners, developing and executing a successful Profit Plan is essential to set the stage for making money on purpose. Start simple by asking yourself:

  1. What do I want my company’s sales to be for the coming year?
  2. How much do I want in profit/net income/the bottom line?

Those two numbers should be the key focus (i.e. swing thought) for you and your team. That way, everyone is focused on how you are going to make those sales and profit goals a reality. No confusion, no complexity.

Too many folks are directed to focus on a budget instead of a Profit Plan and what happens is they often lose sight of sales and profit goals and focus solely on the spending and expenses. Remember that the “score card“ in business is not how little you spend, but how much profit you‘re able to make. So be sure to focus on profit and not simply spending.

Learn More About The Treachery Of Goals

Goals are good. We should all have someplace we are heading. In small business, sharing our goals is critical to their success. We need everyone around us to know and understand what we are trying to achieve. We also need to be careful what goal we telegraph to others.

Once again, the US Federal Government gives us a great example of how treacherous goals can be. For the past eight years, the Republicans have shared their goal of repealing and replacing the ACA. Somewhere in there is probably the goal of improving the cost of and access to health care in the United States. And that’s probably a good goal. Even the Democrats will say that there are things that need to be fixed with the current system.

However, based on what is being done and said, it appears the real goal is to undo one of President Obama’s programs. Those are different goals. When the language and focus is on dismantling a current program, there is no energy around fixing the problem. They are struggling to realize the goal of improving the cost of and access to health care. You know why? Because that’s not the goal they are really working toward. All of the energy and conversation is around repeal and replace, not solve. So, that’s what people are working on — the wrong goal.



People follow where you lead them. And if they find the place you are going either doesn’t resonate with their values, or is not possible to achieve, they tune out. Their effort is less than enthusiastic.

I am not here to agree or disagree with their desire to repeal and replace. I am positing that when this is truly the goal, what’s best for the organization, or in this case, the citizens, will not necessarily be realized.

What is the true goal? Is it a better health care system? Or undoing a program? From everything the leaders are talking about and acting upon, I believe it is undoing.

This happens all the time in business. A leader will say the goal is one thing but their focus will be on something else. For example, the sales manager can say the goal is to increase revenue. However, if that same sales manager insists the sales staff behave in a specific way to reach that goal, she has effectively changed the goal. Now the actual goal is doing things her way. If the actual goal is to increase revenue, that should be the focus. How the sales staff achieves that goal is up to them.

The Importance of Clear Goals

It’s important that we make sure we are really focusing on the core goal. That’s the only way others can follow us and help us achieve that goal. The first step is to ask yourself what outcome you want. What does success look like? In business, the answer should be something that equates to the business being successful; a better bottom line.

Once you know the outcome you are hoping to achieve, every decision should point there. The leader doesn’t have to be the person with all the answers. His responsibility is to convene conversation and exploration. When the leader pulls a team together and they work to identify the best way to accomplish the core goal, decisions are made with the best interest of the company in mind.

Goals are bigger than egos. They are bigger than individuals. They are bigger than acclaim. Goals are also treacherous. They can easily be displaced by artificial, personal goals that only get in the way of the success of the business. Keeping an eye on what really matters, and where you really want to go, can keep your goals in check. And this will help you grow your business — which is the ultimate goal.

Some Factors That Will Drive Your Approach to Business Intelligence

Findings from a recent study by Gartner showed that the number of organizations embracing business intelligence (BI) platforms continues to grow, but more focus is being placed on business-led, agile analytics and self-service features rather than IT-led system-of-record reporting.

Overall, Gartner predicts that the global BI and analytics market will reach $18.3 in value this year, an increase of 7.3 percent over last year, and the market will grow to $22.8 billion by the end of 2020.

“Purchasing decisions continue to be influenced heavily by business executives and users who want more agility and the option for small personal and departmental deployments to prove success,” said Rita Sallam, research vice president at Gartner. “Enterprise-friendly buying models have become more critical to successful deployments.”

Modern Drivers of Business Intelligence

Many factors are driving the evolving business intelligence market. These are three worth highlighting:

Behavioral Analytics

Companies are beginning to understand the value in dissecting the behavior impulses that drive consumers to and around your website. This includes how much time they spend on individual pages, the percentage of people that leave after seeing just one page, the number of specific pages they visited, what caused them to convert, and so on.

“A trail of digital breadcrumbs to see where people have come from and where they go as it pertains to your brand is the future of business intelligence,” says Dan Schoenbaum, CEO of Cooladata, a behavioral analytics and business intelligence platform.

Businesses now more than ever are craving the tools to analyze diverse, often broad and complex, combinations of data sources. “We are able to integrate datasets from Facebook, social media, email campaigns, web traffic, mobile applications, online ad exposure, and third party applications such as Hubspot, Optimizely, Salesforce and many more — into a single, complete picture for companies. This allows them to truly see the success of behavioral analytics because they are capable of analyzing an entire customer journey, not just clicks on a website,” says Schoenbaum.

Cloud Deployments

Previous generations of business intelligence tools assisted with the cognitive awareness of clicks and page loads on the web and mobile arenas, but required a sprawling architecture that included brick-and-mortar data warehouses and separate visualization tools. This created a complicated workflow and failed to provide a full and efficient analysis of business analytics.

In fact, data warehouses still have a complicated integration process, requiring knowledge of SQL and a development team. Not to mention the separate products to build out the warehouse are a huge expense, Mixpanel for funnel analysis, Amazon Redshift data system, and Tableau for dashboarding and BI.

However, “Cloud deployments of BI and analytics platforms have the potential to reduce cost of ownership and speed time to deployment,” according to Rita Sallam, research vice president at Gartner. As digital marketing and sales become more integrated and advanced, the need for a transparent, central view of data will only continue to increase.

From a geographical standpoint, a BI 2016 industry market research shows the market for business intelligence spreading across regions from North America, Europe, Middle East, Latin America to Asia. This demonstrates that in the next few years, there’s no doubt that BI solutions will be in high demand, including the flexible and economic benefits that businesses can enjoy from cloud-based solutions.

Smart Data

For years, big data has allowed enterprises access to massive volumes of data. But as we are learning, big data is bulky, and our ability to analyze it for quick, precise decisions declines the more data we gather. An emerging solution to this is “Smart Data,” which has the potential to solve these problems and help firms adapt faster to developments, especially in industries like e-commerce.

“Businesses are starting to understand the value of the data, but they still aren’t fully leveraging it,” says Schoenbaum. “It is exciting to unlock that potential for companies all over the world. Companies need to go from collecting data to applying smart, real-time analysis. It’s what I like to call ‘Smart Data.’ Old data is less useful, but analyzing trends as they happen will provide the best value and help companies be more successful.”

Businesses that leverage innovations in the Smart Data field will ensure a competitive leg-up and their customers will gain trust as they see the brand evolving to predictive, behavioral-driven decisions based on the analysis of previous interaction.

Some Password Policy Best Practices to Keep Your Company Secure

The Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report for 2016 tells us 63 percent of small business hackers take advantage of weak passwords. What’s more, almost all (93 percent) took mere minutes to compromise systems. It all spells big trouble for America’s small business unless you focus on beefing up your passwords and adopting a policy. Follow these 20 password policy best practices to keep your company secure.

Password Policy Best Practices

Understand What Password Policy Is

First you need to walk before you run. Understanding what a password policy is the first step in being able to build a strong one. These are a set of rules covering how you design the combinations of words, numbers and/or symbols that grant access to an otherwise restricted online area. Passwords can protect your website, software programs and small business networks. They keep them safe from unauthorized entry from ex-employees, curious intruders and of course hackers.

Adopt the 8 + 4 Rule

This rule helps you to build passwords that are strong as steel. Use eight characters with one upper and one lower case, a special character like as asterisk and a number. The more random the better.

Keep Symbols/Numbers Separate

Here’s another hint for an effective password policy to foil hackers. Make sure the numbers and symbols are spread out through the password. Bunching them up makes the password easier to hack.

Don’t Make it Personal

Everyone involved in a small business needs to understand there’s a big difference between security and convenience when it comes to passwords. It needs to be clear using personal information like your first name and birth date  is a recipe for disaster. If a hacker ever gets his hands on company HR data, this information  will be the first set of combinations he tries.

Use Different Passwords for Different Accounts

Even if there are several computers in the same department, it’s a bad a idea to cut a corner by using the same password for each. Use a different one for every device.

Avoid Dictionary Words

It might sound safe to go to the dictionary for a password, but hackers actually have programs that search through tens of thousands of these words.  Dictionary attack programs have been around for years.

Keep the Character Limit Down

The average person can only remember 10 characters or less. Long passwords run the risk of being written down so they can be remembered.

Adopt Passphrases

Abbreviations are usually immune to dictionary attacks. So TSWCOT for The Sun will Come Out Tomorrow is a good choice for a secure password. Remember to add symbols and numbers.

Don’t Change Them Too Often

A good strong password will last for a year or more. Don’t encourage employees to change them any more frequently than that. Otherwise you can wind up with a password1, password 2 situation. Hackers look for these patterns.

Don’t Write Anything Down

Granted, committing all of all your passwords to memory might get tricky. However, everyone under your small business roof needs to understand not to write anything down. A discarded Post-It can be all a would be hacker needs.

Discourage Sharing

No one should share passwords over any electronic media. If you cant find a way of sharing a password without using cyberspace, make sure everyone knows to change it right away afterwards.

Add Other Barriers

When you’re putting together a password policy, make sure to look at the bigger picture. Well designed passwords put a good lock on the online front door of your company. More robust authentication like a fingerprint scanner make your small business safe like Fort Knox.

Encourage Weirdness

In the passwords and not your employees, that is. Still, they should understand the best passwords avoid pop culture and sports terms and anything that’s common. Random groupings of the 8+4 rule works but so do unique phrases.

Adopt Stronger Policies for Sensitive Accounts

Administrators need to have more robust rules for setting passwords. The more data they have in their electronic baskets, the stronger the policy needs to be.

Enforce the Policy

It’s important your password policy has disciplinary teeth. Be clear about what  happens for infractions all the way up to dismissal.

Set a Lockout

We’ve all legitimately forgotten a password and need a few tries to get back in. However you should set a number that will lock the user out after a few unsuccessful attempts.  Four failed logins works.

Stay Away from Acronyms

Don’t use these as a shortcut to identifying your department or who you are. It might be temping for an accountant to use CPA. However, that opens a cybersecurity door wide enough for a hacker to walk right through.

Never Use Remember Password

Search engines and email programs mean well when they ask you this, but in the end it’s just another risk your small business doesn’t need to take.

Never Tell Anyone Your Password

A good policy will stress that no one should ever tell anyone else their password. The systems administrator needs to play gatekeeper here. If someone wants to know a password, they need to go to them.

Keep the Process Private

Finally, stress to everyone involved they need to hide the process from prying eyes. No one should be watching when you type in your password.

Give Better Presentations

You have an upcoming presentation and you want it to be amazing. Because, while you’ve always done a good job, you’re looking to level up.

But as you start to research how you can make your next talk the best yet, you’re overwhelmed by the amount of advice out there.

Good news: I’ve waded through it all to share the research that tells you how to engage your listeners, convince them of your message, and improve your use of slides.

These five tips are proven to work:

1. Tell a Story

There’s a reason storytelling is the buzzword du jour: It works!

When you tell a story, something magic happens to your audience members. Activity lights up in their brains as if they were experiencing the story for themselves.

Need more proof? In a study led by Wharton professor Deborah Small, researchers found that people were much more likely to contribute after hearing the story of a single victim they could picture and connect to, rather than one full of high-level statistics. So, if you want your presentation to inspire action, storytelling is the most powerful tool you can use in your presentation.

The Talk to Watch

Researcher Uri Hasson explains the neuroscience of storytelling.

2. Use Visual Aids

According to Albert Mehrabian, Professor of Psychology at UCLA, 55% of the information we take in is visual, whereas only 38% is vocal. Translation: Your audience wants to see something!

Don’t limit yourself to PowerPoint slides—a visual aid can be anything you show your audience to support your message. For example, Shark Tank contestants don’t show their product on a slideshow, they’ll bring it with them and do a live demo. Slides are great, but for an important presentation where you need to make an impact, think about what other visual aids you could use to get your audience engaged.

The Talk to Watch

Engineer Raffaello D’Andrea shows his audience drones in action to bring to life his passion for engineering, mathematics, and technology.

3. Use Images Instead of Text

If you’re using slides in your presentation, don’t fall into the trap of writing out your speaking notes and then projecting them onto a screen. Even bullet points are a turn off to an audience because they need to switch their concentrationbetween what you’re saying and what you’ve written.

Case in point: Cognitive psychologist, Chris Atherton, tested students’ recall of a presentation. One group received the presentation with slides that were text heavy, the other with slides that had very few words. The students who saw the slides with fewer words could recall more than twice as much than those who’d seen it with the text heavy-slides.

Science shows that slides covered in text hinder—rather than help—your audience’s ability to take in what you’re saying. So, next time you present, ditch the bullet points and look for simple images to support your message.

The Talk to Watch

Brené Brown is a master of storytelling, but she also uses simple visual aids to reinforce her message.

4. Make Your Presentation Interactive

Interacting with your audience when you present makes them sit up and take notice of what you’re saying. The simplest way is to ask them a question. Even a rhetorical question will make a distracted colleague look up from their iPhone and reengage in your material.

Bonus: There are lots of tools and apps available that you can use to run polls and filter audience questions.

The Talk to Watch

Amy Cuddy opens her talk by asking the audience to do an “audit of their body” and think about their posture. Watch as audience members noticeably shift in their seats!

5. Use Some Humor

If someone makes you laugh you’re more likely to be attracted to them. True, you don’t want your audience to fall in love with you, but winning them over makes them more likely to listen.

Not everyone feels comfortable using humor when they’re presenting, but even a light-hearted comment at the beginning can help break the ice and make you and your audience feel more relaxed. (Just remember these three rules for using humor at work.)

The Talk to Watch

Pulling a presentation together takes time and effort. And so, you want that hard work to pay off in the form of people remembering and caring about what you said.

Next time you’re pulling one together, don’t just do what you’ve always done. See if you can incorporate one (or more!) of these tips and make your own that much more effective.

Make a Recruiter Fight for You

At Johnson & Johnson, our team reviews 1,000,000 resumes a year and at this point, I’ve lost count of how many times a recruiter has stopped by my office to tell me about the “perfect candidate.” It’s often just after a phone call: There was a spark, positive energy, and they walked away feeling inspired. More importantly, they couldn’t wait to tell their hiring manager (in this case, me) about the person.

Sounds like a good position to be in, doesn’t it? Having someone on the inside who’ll fight for you?

Now, some applicants go wrong by thinking this means that a recruiter will take over their job search and do all of the heavy lifting for them. That’s not the case!

What I’m saying is that hiring processes are competitive, time intensive, and emotional for everyone involved—including the recruiter. They could easily be working with 100 different candidates across various positions, while simultaneously managing demanding leaders who want the jobs filled—fast. And so, when they meet an applicant who impresses the heck out of them, and who makes their job easier, they’ll advocate for that person.

I asked our recruiters here at Johnson & Johnson for some advice on how to build that all-important relationship. Here are their top four tips:

1. Be Prepared

You and the recruiter need to be on the same page in terms of your skills and past experiences (relevant and less relevant), any gaps in your employment history, and your short and long-term career ambitions. They need a clear picture of you as a candidate in order to refer you for the right role.

So, proactively send them an updated resume if there have been any changes since the last time you spoke (here’s how to pull one together in just 30 minutes). Then, have your work portfolio and references prepared and ready to go as soon as they ask for them. Respecting their time—and lack thereof—will help you stand out.

2. Be Honest

Misrepresenting yourself in any way is a big no-no. Honesty builds trust, whereas dishonesty—even exaggerating or just failing to mention something—can make them afraid to refer you.

Just think how badly it will reflect on you (and the recruiter!) if you hold something back or tell a ‘white lie’ that late comes to light. And be under no illusion, these things always do.

So, if you feel you’re slightly underqualified, impress them with your transferable skills and the honest way in which you present them.

3. Be Passionate

Recruiters are looking for qualified candidates who are serious about switching to the company they represent. I recently shared my thoughts on how important it is to have professional purpose (if you missed it, here’s more on why it’s so critical), but to put it briefly: It’s a bigger reason why a certain role would be meaningful to you.

If you’re discussing an opportunity with a company whose values align with your own, this is the time to highlight how much you care.

Even if you haven’t found your professional purpose yet, there should (hopefully!) be a reason you’ve set your sights on this company or role. Maybe you’ve always admired their approach to diversity in the workplace, the impact they have on local communities (or the world), or their willingness to embrace new technology. Whatever your reason, demonstrate that affinity, so the recruiter knows why you’re committed to securing a role at their company.

4. Be Gracious

As the process progresses, it may be that the role isn’t quite right for you.

If you feel iffy, don’t be afraid to ask about other opportunities. The recruiter will respect you for being prepared to admit that you’re not the best person for the job. If you can, recommend contacts of your own that might be better suited. Recruiters remember candidates who are helpful.

Now, it could be that it’s a no on the company’s end. If you’re rejected, remember, a “no” now doesn’t mean a “no” for all future opportunities. Too often, I see candidates so upset about a rejection that they burn bridges. Why sabotage your future chances? Be gracious about the short-term rejection and play the long game.

For example, I heard about the job I’m currently in because I built a relationship with an executive recruiter over a two-year period. We met for lunch every quarter and I emailed him occasionally to keep him updated about my career. It worked both ways, too. Sometimes he’d call me and ask for a referral for a search he was working on at the time. Even if I didn’t know anyone, I always got back to him. And in the end, it paid off (for us both!).

Prove You’re as Smart as Your Resume Says You Are

Do you know what an Allen wrench is?

The engineer my friend hired a few years ago didn’t—despite his degree.

His employment status changed after that. You see, it’s one thing to be able to list a college, graduate program, or certificate on your resume. Competence is an entirely different matter, however.

What does this mean for you? How do you prove that you’re as smart as your resume implies? I’m glad you asked.

Keep Learning

There’s simply no replacement for learning. Certainly there are traditional routes you can follow to further your education like attending grad school or enrolling in an intensive course.

But it’s silly to assume those paths are the sum total of a good education. Growth is a constant and lifelong process, and information is more accessible than at any time in our history. You can take free online classes, listen to podcasts, watch videos, read voraciously, listen to audiobooks—the list goes on, and the variety of topics which you have access to is endless.

And certainly, since you have access to endless topics so long as you have an internet connection or a library card, you don’t really have any excuses.

Continuing to learn and push yourself is the best thing you can do if you want to be marketable. And, it’s not only good for your career and your brain (obviously), it’s also great for your self-esteem.

Put in Effort

You may be hearing your mom’s voice right about now, or maybe the voice of a teacher or mentor from your past. You know what? They’re right, and I can’t over-emphasize this.

Anyone can sign up for a class. Anyone can show up and sit through the class. It takes effort to actually draw as much knowledge as you can from that class, to apply that knowledge outside of the classroom (whether virtual or brick and mortar), and to build on that knowledge.

Effort separates the mediocre from the exceptional, and the amount of effort you put into expanding your knowledge is entirely, completely up to you.

The same goes for collecting credentials. I know some folks with long strings of acronyms after their names who are truly exceptional, and others who are not so exceptional.

Earning certifications or licenses can look good on paper initially and can certainly be a worthwhile investment. But anyone with five minutes of work experience knows a credential is only as good as the person behind it.

Demonstrate Mastery

Speaking of proving something, when you invest in your education, consider how you can go beyond just telling a potential employer or your current manager that you’ve completed a degree or earned a license, for example, and instead demonstrate your knowledge and skills.

After all, you’ve poured the time, energy, and money into bettering yourself. For heaven’s sake, don’t make anyone guess at whether or not you’re qualified. Show them that you are.

Because at the end of the day, it’s not what’s on paper that matters most. Yes, the paper gets you in the door, but that’s all a resume is—a foot in the door. It’s what you can do that matters most.

Employers don’t create jobs as favors to hand out to nice people with sleek applications. They create roles because they need something done that ultimately impacts their bottom line. It doesn’t matter how many accolades you have if you can’t do the work.

Finally, when you’ve completed a degree, program, or course, don’t think of it as reaching the finish line. I often tell new college graduates, “This is just the beginning. Your degree is a launchpad for much, much more.” Where you go in your career and how you move forward depends in no small part on how you handle yourself.

Keep learning. Keep challenging yourself. Keep building relationships across industries, gaining knowledge across industries, and looking for new opportunities.

You can’t stagnate if you’re always learning. And you won’t be stuck trying to figure out what you want to do and where you want to go in your career if you’re regularly exposing yourself to new things.