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How to Successfully Manage Uncertainty in Your Business

Ask any business owner, they’ll tell you that uncertainty in business is one thing that will never truly go away. Uncertainty is the one constant that was there, is there and will be there in the future.

There will also be something that will “upset the apple cart” and we as entrepreneurs must be ready to manage through it.

However, there are many factors that are out of our control and yes we have to manage those too!

Entrepreneurs can never know what the next thing is that creates questions and uncertainty in our businesses. Factors like the economy, politics, world events and technology have certainly created uncertainty in business a lot lately.

What Keeps You Up at Night?

That’s a favorite question that people ask entrepreneurs. You hear it asked by reporters, investors and anyone trying to get at the answer to the question – “what are your most pressing business problems’.

Entrepreneurs politely answer the question but we know that none of us wants to be kept up at night worrying about a problem, much less one that we have little chance of controlling. Those things like the economy, politics and changes in the world are for the most part not in our control and thus create uncertainty for us.

How Do We Manage Uncertainty in an Uncertain Business World?

Whether we want to admit it or not, uncertainty in business will never go away. The best thing to do is to admit it and move on.

It’s hard to figure out in an uncertain world when to play it safe and when to get aggressive. For years due to the economy, technology and the geopolitical environment these things have made it harder for businesses to make decisions.

So why is it that some entrepreneurs manage uncertainty better than others?

Since we can’t control things like the economy or politics, we have to focus on what we can do in our own business.

Control What You Can

There are plenty of things that you can control in uncertain times. Two things to control are you and your management team. Maintain focus on the things you and your team can control and don’t waste time, money and energy on the things you can’t.

Focus on controlling your business; your finances and your operations. Know where you stand financially, fix what may be broken in your operation and make improvements to build an even stronger business in that can weather uncertain times.

Stay Current on Issues Affecting Your Business

I’ve mentioned things like the economy, politics and technology that can largely be out of our control, but not all of it. It’s important to stay up to date on issues that can directly affect your business.

Do your best to stay on top of the issues that affect your market and your industry. Whether it’s joining an industry association, doing research or just staying current in business news, it’s important to know what could impact your company.

Know What You Don’t Know

It’s hard to know everything there is to know about running a business. Entrepreneurs need the help of experts from time to time to help them deal with challenges and uncertainty.

Be honest with yourself about what you don’t know and get help when you need it. It’s okay that you are not the smartest person in the room. Experts can help clear up ambiguity or answer questions about issues your business faces. They can help you remove doubt and set you on a path to effectively manage the uncertainty.

Maintain Good Networks and Relationships

Having good networks will help you with knowing what you don’t know. Connecting with professionals like bankers, accountants, lawyers and other experts helps get answers to questions, lessen the uncertainty you’re feeling or can at least put your mind at ease.

Maintaining good relationships with your network as well as your customers, partners and employees is another way to successfully manage uncertainty. When things in your business are uncertain it’s good to have people you can rely on to keep your business steady and moving ahead.

Manage the Fear

Uncertainty and doubt are springboards for fear. It’s easy to let one emotion begin to control your other emotions. Fear can lead us to do things we ordinarily wouldn’t do. Don’t let the fear lead to making bad or irrational choices.

In addition, don’t let the uncertainty cause you to overreact and make kneejerk decisions. When uncertainty in your business rears its head, take time to analyze what is really going on and decide what impact it has on your business. It’s true you may not have all the answers but reacting for the sake of doing something about it isn’t always the right choice either.

Stay Calm

Uncertainty can create a feeling of overwhelm and downright frustration when you don’t know what to do about a given situation. Employees pick up on those cues and can begin to worry about what is wrong with the business. That worry can lead to an unfocused staff and things can start to slip through the cracks.

Be sure to remain calm in uncertain situations and communicate to your staff so they understand the issues you face. Your staff can be a source for ideas and solutions in uncertain times. They can also help you stay focused on the things that matter most in your business and help you stay on track running the operation.

Stay Positive

Managing uncertainty means that sometimes things aren’t going to go your way and can set your business back. It’s important to stay positive when your company faces an obstacle. It may be the first real setback you face but it probably won’t be the last.

Once again, your staff will take cues from you when your company hits a roadblock. They’ll react to your reaction and will follow your lead if you don’t manage it well. Stay positive and use the opportunity to make your business better. Instead of dwelling on a setback, just learn from it and move on.

Uncertainty is Here to Stay

There’s no way around it. Entrepreneurs have dealt with this for hundreds of years and will continue for hundreds more.

Successfully managing uncertainty means staying on top of what’s going on inside your business and in your industry, controlling what you can, knowing when you need help and managing your relationships and your own actions.

Entrepreneurs look to outside investors to raise money to finance growth. If a business has real problems money isn’t necessarily the answer.

To listen to the episode hit the play button above.

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Show Notes

Entrepreneurs look to outside investors to raise money to finance growth. There is a lot to consider when deciding if this is the right path for you and your business.  If a business has real problems money isn’t necessarily the answer.  In this episode we discuss what investors look for before considering whether your business is right for them. We use some case studies to illustrate how things can go wrong when a business has real problems.  We’ll discuss what you need to be ready for when taking money from investors.

Key Points

*Investors create new demands on a company and the entrepreneur especially around planning, results and reporting.

*Our case study entrepreneurs weren’t strong in the areas of finance and operations and began to struggle.

*Using the show Shark Tank to illustrate, Lisa describes some of the key weaknesses the entrepreneurs had that she gleaned from her research.

*Lisa talks about how these weaknesses contrast with elements investors look for in business owners.

*She describes key areas that investors consider when reviewing a business including the market, company valuation and the management team.

*Using examples from the case studies, we look at areas where business problems were not being addressed whether through lack of experience or simply being ignored by the entrepreneur.

*Investors such as venture capital and other professional investors create a heightened sense of urgency due to an increased focus on returns and growth.

*Entrepreneurs should expect a greater focus on the market, business management and money management once outside money is invested.

*Lisa discusses some of the dangers a company suddenly flush with money can face and some of the mistakes one case study entrepreneur made.

*She gives us a list of 5 top factors entrepreneurs need to think about and be ready for before they consider taking investor money.

Resources and Links

Book mentioned in this episode:

Think and Grow Rich,  by Napoleon Hill find it here  

Note: Links in this post may be affiliate links.  Lisa Roberts is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

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Lisa Roberts is a business operations consultant who advises growth company entrepreneurs in successfully managing growth and the challenges they face along the way. She has over 25 years of experience in operations, finance and administration and spent several years in executive roles at a high growth company. She recognizes that there is a fine line between success and failure in a growing business and that entrepreneurs need to focus on managing finances, creating a sound operation and employ good business practices to stay on track.   You can find out more about her here

To learn more about getting in touch with Lisa to discuss a problem you may be having in your growing business, find out more about a Quick Care session here .

Ever been faced with a problem in your business?

Sure we all have!

Some problems are straight forward others more perplexing.   Ever think about what can be “at play” when problem solving in your own business?

Let’s face it, sometimes we’re just too busy to be faced with yet another new problem because we as business owners just need to get past it. We need to relieve the tension, frustration and just make the thing go away. But we know that can be a little dangerous because coming up with the quick fix may not be the right fix.

Did we know what the core root of the problem really was before we decided to implement that quick fix?

What gets in the way of good problem solving?

There are a lot of things that can get in the way of good problem solving and many of them have to do with people and mindset.

You know the old saying that goes a little bit like if all you have is a hammer you see everything as a nail. There is bias, mindset and even feelings that can go into trying to solve a problem.

In your business you have people; people that may have preconceived notions about the situation you’re facing. You may even have them too!

Let’s take the company that has a lot of politics and hidden agendas that swirl around.

Do you think that is a good environment for problem solving? Me neither.

Culture plays a role

Your business culture can play a big role in your success or failure at solving problems. That political/hidden agenda company, they’ll have a hard time getting to the true root cause of problems. Protecting their turf or attempting to place blame elsewhere will certainly cloud the picture when you’re trying to get to the root cause of a problem.

How about the company that doesn’t foster good communication? They too will struggle to solve problems. If you and your management team don’t ask questions and encourage honest feedback, how will you begin to understand what’s gone wrong?

Teamwork can affect problem solving

It’s easy for a company that grows to begin to struggle with teamwork. As you become a larger company, you’ll have departments with department managers and the silos can begin to form. No matter how you break down your company into departments, they will still need to work together as a team. Coordination across departments becomes much more important as you grow!

That coordination becomes even more difficult as each individual department has its own goals and priorities that may compete with other departments. When faced with a problem that involves multiple departments, a lack of teamwork and cross-departmental cooperation will make solving the problem much more of a challenge.

Bias plays a role

Think about the hammer and nail quote.   There was a bias because of the tool the person had. The same can be said for bias based on your background, your specialty and even your past experiences.

I’ll tell you a quick story that might illustrate this better. It happened to me a few years back.

A business colleague who was a builder bought a double lot property that she wanted to split into two lots.   The problem was the existing house was built in such a way that it was too close to the property line of the other lot where a new house would be built.

The architect and the builder looked at the problem through a pure construction lens and decided that they need to pay to have the house raised and resituated on the lot. The amount to perform that task was tens of thousands of dollars. They thought they had no other choice.

I had walked by that house several times while walking my dog. The builder asked my opinion. I came at it from my perspective, a practical person with a business background. I asked a simple question, what is the room that stood on the property line? It was a sunken living room that she noted wasn’t necessarily “in style” any longer. So I asked why don’t you just chop it off and add a room in the back.

It was a simple question but one that from their point of view they never considered. In the end, that’s what they ended up doing because it made more sense from a cost standpoint and an aesthetics standpoint.

The moral of the story is that sometimes bias and viewpoint can get in the way. Seeking out differing views from different angles can find a solution to a problem that might otherwise be missed.

8 Ways to foster better problem solving in your business

Here are a few things to keep in mind when trying to solve problems in your own business.

  1. Foster honest communication in your business to get input.
  2. Be aware of “hidden agendas” and be sure that you squash those with open minded communication and culture
  3. Be cognizant of biases – seek differing opinions both inside and outside your company.
  4. Ask questions – challenging, thoughtful questions can open minds as well as mindsets.
  5. Resist the quick fix – don’t let the tension of the problem make you fix the wrong problem 
  6. Foster and reward collaboration – both among team members and across departments.
  7. Create a safe, open culture – encourage feedback and participation and eliminate fear and judgement.
  8. Don’t forget the big picture – having too narrow a focus in problem solving can lead to fixing one problem, but breaking something else in your business operation.

 

Business owners need to resist the urge to “just make problems go away”. Create a company and culture that gets the root of your business problems to make sure that you are truly fixing the right problem.

Years ago, a company I worked for saw tremendous sales growth in a pretty short period of time. It was an exciting time for all of us. But it got a pretty crazy too!

When your company starts to see exploding sales, you really have to be ready in order to deliver. Your company will experience times during rapid growth that you’ll have setbacks and make mistakes.

Being ready to deliver also meant for us that we needed to be ready to correct problems quickly to manage growth and also try to maintain our momentum. We needed to make sure we were looking for those signs that our business was becoming overwhelmed by our own success.

Here are 20 signs that sales growth may be about to overwhelm your business. Have you seen any of these in your own company?

20 Signs Sales Growth is Overwhelming Your Business

  1. Your staff is rushing to complete and fill orders.
  2. At the end to the production process, products have problems and must be reworked to get them right.
  3. A product that is complete doesn’t work properly and must be scrapped or redone.
  4. You receive orders from customers but your back-office has questions about them because they have incomplete or incorrect information.
  5. You experience inventory shortages and cannot complete orders on time.
  6. Your company has deliveries to customers that are incorrect or incomplete.
  7. Your beginning to miss promised delivery dates and not meeting customer promises.
  8. You have a sudden drop in the quality of the product or service you sell.
  9. You have a spike in customer calls and/or complaints.
  10. The number of returns from customers is on the rise.
  11. The number of customer callbacks (calls after service is completed) is increasing.
  12. Sales from existing customers are decreasing without a corresponding decrease in the customer’s own business.
  13. Your staff is showing signs of fatigue, stress and frustration.
  14. Your company’s absentee rate is rising with no apparent reason.
  15. Costs for production are increasing due to production errors and reworks.
  16. Your cycle time for fulfilling of orders is increasing due to errors in processing.
  17. Overtime for employees is becoming the norm rather than the exception.
  18. Costs for inventory are increasing due to fees for expediting purchases.
  19. You are starting to miss sales opportunities because you cannot meet customer’s demand and timeframe.
  20. Long- time customers are threatening to find alternate suppliers.

If you want to hear more on this topic, listen to the Healthy Business Healthy Profits podcast about managing sales and maintaining your brand promise here.

Want to get tips and information on managing and leading a growing business? Then sign up to get my newsletter here.

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You’ve heard that business records and personal records should be kept separate, but do you know why it’s so important? Listen to this episode to help you stay out of hot water.

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Show Notes

I’m sure many of you have heard the piece of advice recommending that you should keep your business records separate from your personal records.  But do you know why it’s so important?

Today we are going to talk about an important subject that is part of the Practices element of the 5 P’s.  Practices are what Lisa describes as business activities that are the most effective course of action for running a healthy successful business.

This particular topic is true for small and large businesses. However, it is usually found to be a problem more often in smaller businesses.  This best business practice of keeping separate business and personal records is the topic of our show today.

Key Points

*There are 5 key reasons that it is important to keep business records separate from personal records – they are Legal, Liability, Tax, Professionalism and Sanity

*Legal designation – Sole Proprietor, LLC and Corporation – have a certain meaning and one of those defines the liability and obligation aspect of running a particular type of entity.

*The protections that are afforded a company under certain designations can be challenged if certain obligations are not met and expose entrepreneurs to personal liability.

*From a Tax standpoint, comingling business and personal transactions can be a red flag for taxing authorities especially in an audit.

*Evidence of comingling can also raise a red flag and create the risk that your personal returns could also be put under an audit. This can be costly.

*Lisa also talks about how maintaining clean business records and providing customers with the traditional business records (such as invoices and receipts) not only lends to the professional look and feel but also answers some tax requirements as well.

*Lisa explains how keeping your business and personal separate helps busy entrepreneurs create that demarcation point between the two. She explains how comingling the business and personal creates unnecessary work and takes additional valuable time.

*Some tips are offered about what things you need to do to make sure that the business and personal records are maintained separately. Lisa also discusses what she means by transaction point and how that can help you keep the various records clean.

*Lisa also talks about those types of assets that sometimes can be used for both personal and business and how you need to make sure that you are clearly documenting and tracking each.

*We also discuss the idea of adopting good habits and processes to manage your recordkeeping and keep records clean and organized.

*Lisa discusses who can help the entrepreneur fix issues in this area and who can help create processes and system to help manage and maintain your records over time.

Resources and Links

Entrepreneur’s Checklist: Keeping Business and Personal Records Separate – this link will take you first to a sign-up form, once you confirm your subscription, you’ll get a link to the checklist.

 

Note: Links in this post may be affiliate links.  Lisa Roberts is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

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Get all the updates and information Lisa shares from Business Rx and the Healthy Business Healthy Profits show! You’ll get information, tips and strategies on growing a healthy successful business. Don’t worry, I won’t bombard you with emails.  At most, you’ll get something from me every few weeks. You can sign up  Here

Lisa Roberts is a business operations consultant who advises growth company entrepreneurs in successfully managing growth and the challenges they face along the way. She has over 25 years of experience in operations, finance and administration and spent several years in executive roles at a high growth company. She recognizes that there is a fine line between success and failure in a growing business and that entrepreneurs need to focus on managing finances, creating a sound operation and employ good business practices to stay on track.   You can find out more about her here

In this episode, we explore how your growth can begin to impact your staffing needs and the signs to look for that indicate you may need to add more specialists to your growing business.

To listen to the episode hit the play button.

To download the episode, right click on this link  and choose Save Target As.  Go to the folder where you want to save the recording on your device and click Save or Enter.

Make it easier to get upcoming episodes by subscribing to the show on iTunes . Subscribing to the show will automatically download the episodes on your preferred listening device so you can listen to them when and where you want.

And hey, if you like what you hear, please leave the show a great rating and review while you are there on iTunes.

Show Notes

Businesses that move from start-up to growth often start to see gaps in staffing expertise.  When the business was smaller generalists and jack of all trade types of people were able to get the work done and propel the business forward. But as the business grows; the need for more specialized work and workers grows.

Today, we are going to look at the People side of your growing business.  Specifically, we are going to tackle the problem of identifying when you need to bring in more experienced staff and the signs that you may need to start employing more specialists in your business.

Key Points

*Growing businesses will start to see negative effects in the work and workload that must be addressed with more specialization and experience.

*Staffing generalist positions may have gotten your business to this point, but more specialists are needed to get you to the next level.

*Other problems can surface in the quality of the work and we’ll discuss the concept of good is no longer good enough.

*Problems can also occur that work is missed, requirements are not met or work is left undone due to the lack of expertise and experience in certain positions and roles in the company.

*Management level employees will also need to start specializing in a certain area as the company grows and becomes larger and more complex.

*Too many diverse responsibilities that take away from a person’s true skills and value as well as incomplete projects or lack of follow through are all symptoms that the entrepreneur should watch out for.

*Areas of the business where specialization is often needed are discussed as well as business areas that can help strengthen the business.

*Your brand and what you want your company to be known for is also a key factor for staffing decisions and key areas of specialization.

*We discuss how to handle those long term employees who are not automatic fits in the new evolved company based on their lack of skills, specialization or experience.

*Entrepreneur can take steps to make the transition smoother for his company and we talk about those in the episode.

Resources and Links

Note: Links in this post may be affiliate links.  Lisa Roberts is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

Employee Assessment Flowchart- access that here

Good to Great, by Jim Collins

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Get all the updates and information Lisa shares from Business Rx and the Healthy Business Healthy Profits show! You’ll get information, tips and strategies on growing a healthy successful business. Don’t worry, I won’t bombard you with emails.  At most, you’ll get something from me every few weeks. You can sign up  Here

Lisa Roberts is a business operations consultant who advises growth company entrepreneurs in successfully managing growth and the challenges they face along the way. She has over 25 years of experience in operations, finance and administration and spent several years in executive roles at a high growth company. She recognizes that there is a fine line between success and failure in a growing business and that entrepreneurs need to focus on managing finances, creating a sound operation and employ good business practices to stay on track.   You can find out more about her here

One pain point for business owners is keeping and maintaining good business records.  Too often businesses fall behind in their recordkeeping, which will, more than likely, get them into even deeper problems.

To listen to the episode hit the play button.

To download the episode, right click on this link  and choose Save Target As.  Go to the folder where you want to save the recording on your device and click Save or Enter.

Make it easier to get upcoming episodes by subscribing to the show on iTunes . Subscribing to the show will automatically download the episodes on your preferred listening device so you can listen to them when and where you want. And hey, if you like what you hear, please leave the show a great rating and review while you are there on iTunes.

Show Notes

One pain point for business owners is keeping and maintaining good business records.  Too often businesses fall behind in their recordkeeping, which will, more than likely, get them into even deeper problems. Not keeping timely records will almost always cause additional problems for a business both financially and legally. In this episode we will look at the symptoms of bad recordkeeping, what problems it can cause and what you need to do about it.

Key Points

*Recordkeeping for your business includes both financial and legal records. Not maintaining good records in your business creates many risks that can cause several problems for you and your business.

*Bad recordkeeping can cause problems with your business relationships with customers, vendors and employees due to errors, oversight and lost or missing records.

*Your records need to be maintained and safeguarded to avoid problems with security and privacy as well.

*Bad recordkeeping can result in costly error-ridden catch-up exercises, late payments with taxing authorities and other costly financial problems.

*Requirements of tax authorities and other governmental regulations place importance on having good accurate records for compliance.  Bad recordkeeping places your company at a big disadvantage if there is ever an audit or review by a regulatory authority.

*Clear responsibility for records and records management need to be defined in a company.

*Systems and procedures need to ensure that there is an audit trail in place for your financial records.

*Your business needs to research what requirements you have for recordkeeping based on your type of business and the industry in which you operate.

*Tips on making sure transactions are captured and recorded and up to date are also shared in the episode.

*Due to the importance of the accounting and financial role in recordkeeping, we highlight the differences between a bookkeeper and an accountant in the episode.

*For Human Resource records and legal records need to be managed as well as we highlight some of the important types of records and how to get some guidance about those records.

*We provide you with some tips on where you can get help if you need advice in this area.

Resources and Links to Learn More

Here are some links to sites that can give you guidance on the types of records and how they should be maintained and for how long. The information here is for the United States only.

Disclaimer:  These sites may change the information in these links or move the location of the information contained in the links.  It is highly recommended that you consult with your legal and accounting advisors as well.

Internal Revenue Service Small Business Record keeping information

Internal Revenue Service Tax Topics Recordkeeping

Department of Labor – OSHA recordkeeping information

U.S. Department of Labor Fact Sheet #21: Recordkeeping Requirements under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)

Lisa Roberts is a business operations specialist who advises growth company entrepreneurs in successfully managing growth and the challenges they face along the way. She has over 25 years of experience in operations, finance and administration and spent several years in executive roles at a high growth company. She recognizes that there is a fine line between success and failure in a growing business and that entrepreneurs need to focus on managing finances, creating a sound operation and employ good business practices to stay on track.   You can find out more about her here .

Sign Up to Get Updates

Get all the updates and information Lisa shares from Business Rx and the Healthy Business Healthy Profits show! You’ll get information, tips and strategies on growing a healthy successful business. Don’t worry, I won’t bombard you with emails.  At most, you’ll get something from me every few weeks. You can sign up  Here

Running a growing business can be rewarding but when you run into problems it can be a challenge to identify and solve the right problem.

You can listen to this episode by hitting the play button.

To download this episode, right click on this link and choose Save Target As. Go to the folder where you want to save the recording on your device and click Save or Enter.

Make it easier to get upcoming episodes by subscribing to the show on iTunes. Subscribing to the show will automatically download the episodes on your preferred device so you can listen to them where and when you want. And hey if you like what you hear, please leave the show a great rating and review while you are there on iTunes.

Show Notes

Running a growing business can be rewarding but when you run into problems it can be a challenge to identify and solve the right problem. In this show we are going to show you how problems can be misidentified leading to costly efforts that try to solve the wrong problem. We’ll also discuss some tips on how to identify the real problem and steps to resolve them.

Key Points

Entrepreneurs can get so caught up running a rapidly growing business that when they are confronted with problems, they can struggle with determining and solving the right problem.

Too often busy entrepreneurs try to squash problems quickly but not taking the time to analyze the real problem can be costly.

Some of the dangers of solving the wrong problem are time, money, frustration, creating a new problem, as well as a problem that still remains. If you are growing as a company these unresolved problems will only get bigger.

Lisa goes through a real life example of how a problem was misidentified and how she approached getting to the root of the problem.

We list some things business owners should do to help get to the right problem.

Certain techniques are used as ways that can help identify, diagnose and get to the root cause so that entrepreneurs can take the steps needed to begin to solve them and those are summarized.

Getting help to objectively diagnose and get to the real problem take certain skills and experience and we go over some of those.

Links and Resources from this episode:

“The Toyota Way of Problem Solving” by Kyle Holland. http://www.kaizen-news.com/eight-steps-practical-problem-solving/
“To Get to the Root of a Hard Problem, Just Ask “Why” Five Times” http://www.fastcodesign.com/1669738/to-get-to-the-root-of-a-hard-problem-just-ask-why-five-times
“20 Cognitive Biases That Affect Your Decisions” by Jennifer M Wood. http://mentalfloss.com/article/68705/20-cognitive-biases-affect-your-decisions

 

Have a Problem in Your Business?   Schedule a session with Lisa to help you get to the bottom of it by following this link to get a Quick Care session.

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Get all the updates and information Lisa shares from Business Rx and the Healthy Business Healthy Profits Show!  You’ll get information, tips and strategies on growing a healthy successful business. Don’t worry I won’t bombard you with emails.  At most you’ll get something from me every few weeks.  So sign up using this link !