Understanding USPs for Your Business

When you know how to identify and communicate unique selling propositions (USPs), you’re on your way to growth

Your unique traits are what make your business stand out from competitors. These traits are also known as your unique selling propositions (USPs) for your products and services, and they need to be communicated to consumers convincingly and engagingly. USPs aren’t just words in your mission statement—they need to be characteristics that drive and differentiate your brand.

Without nailing down USPs, your marketing efforts may feel ineffective and trajectory stagnant. With all the competition that the digital age has brought, it’s more important than ever to keep the message fresh to stand out online.

Clearly defined and well-communicated USPs are at the heart of a successful business plan—keeping people interested in what your products and services provide.

Defining your USPs

Start by asking yourself what makes your business different. Of course, you’ll have a lot of similarities with competitors, but your USPs should be totally unique to you. Ask: What makes you special for your ideal audience? What motivates the behavior of your audience? What do they really care about? Why would they care about your product or service? Your offerings should solve a specific problem for your customer base, so start there.

Research what your closest competitors are listing as their USPs. What’s working for them? How focused are they on the customer experience? How do your products differ from theirs? What services do you provide that they don’t? One pro tip for creating USPs is to focus your ideas around one specific area of the market, instead of trying to compete with every brand that’s slightly related to your industry. In some industries where products are virtually the same, a USP may be the level of service your business provides in conjunction with that product. In others, the essential product or service offered is truly unique.

Also, start researching the USPs of brands that aren’t necessarily competitors, but are successful in communicating and delivering on their distinguishing characteristics.

Another way to get ideas is to talk to your customers directly. Ask for feedback about what they really liked about working with you and what they believe makes you stand out from other brands—or doesn’t. Schedule interviews and phone calls to better understand the customer experience. This also gives you an opportunity to add testimonials to your website that highlight your USPs.

Make sure that whatever USPs you come up with are true based on your track record, and that they are realistic about what you can and do deliver.

How to communicate your USPs

Once you have well-defined USPs, it’s time to start communicating them effectively. Think about how you can integrate them into your company’s mission and vision, and create an “About” page description that includes your USPs. You can even list them out as bullet points and further explain each one.

Make sure you can communicate your unique traits in a succinct, clear manner. Keep it simple and easily digestible. Create a sort of elevator pitch that you can easily send to customers. You can even clearly and directly state that these values and deliverables are your USPs. Headings on a website may read “How we’re different” or “What sets us apart,” for example.

It’s also useful to view your USPs as promises you’re making to your customers. On your social media accounts, website, email communications, videos, and advertisements, make sure that you’re making your promises clear about what clients can expect when working with you—and why they should.

Finally, your team should be aligned on your USPs so that the entire business has these priorities at the forefront of all that they do. Just like your mission and vision drive the team toward goals, USPs should influence the way your company interacts with customers and delivers.

The Entrepreneurial Operating System® (EOS) is a toolset to foster growth in your business and align your team around a specific set of goals that support your company’s vision. This system is made specifically for small business owners and provides a holistic approach to strengthen your enterprise.

At Provident CPA & Business Advisors, we use EOS to help our clients formulate a realistic plan to create a durable growth trajectory. With the right tools and principles, you’ll be able to better connect with and grow your client base. Get in touch with the Provident team today to get started.

The Fine Art of Constructive Criticism in the Workplace

When you’re expanding your business, there will be lots of growing pains along the way. Diplomacy is a key factor in a successful team-management strategy.

It’s never fun delivering criticism to your employees. But there are many times when it’s a necessary part of running a business. Entrepreneurs and business owners must harness the art of constructive criticism to manage a successful team. This means you’re not being aggressive, condescending, or controlling when offering guidance and feedback to employees.

These strategies will help you approach the team with diplomacy and a level head while getting the right points across.

Be straightforward

All too often, managers beat around the bush with passive-aggressive communication tactics. It’s much more useful to everyone involved when you can communicate a constructive criticism in a detailed, straightforward fashion. This way, the employee doesn’t leave the conversation confused about what they’re supposed to change or what you think of their performance. It also means you should talk about the specific ways the behavior can be reversed, making your expectations for the next steps clear.

Try asking questions to make sure they fully understand the review, especially if the issue is something that they weren’t aware of before you talked.

Be conversational

Being straightforward and honest doesn’t mean you have to be belittling or even stern. Show employees that you’re going to hold them accountable while approaching the conversation with a positive attitude. Depending on the issue at hand, try being more conversational instead of setting up a very serious discussion (unless the problem is, of course, very serious).

Relay positives first

It’s always a good idea to start a feedback conversation with the positives. This lets the employee know that you appreciate their work and that they are bringing a lot of value to the workplace and company. Then, get into the things that could have been done better.

Even if the meeting is solely to address the criticism, it’s still a good idea to start out positive. Otherwise, the employee may feel attacked and less motivated to improve.

Give feedback in private

Never embarrass employees when providing constructive criticism. Avoid giving any negative feedback in front of other team members, unless the comment is meant for the team as a whole. Your point will be missed when you embarrass someone, leaving them feeling resentful, angry, and ashamed.

Constructive criticism means you’re delivering your message in a positive way that will actually help the team member improve and do things differently next time. Meet privately, so you both feel more comfortable sharing how you really feel.

Focus on the facts and the issue at hand

Make your constructive criticism applicable to the individual, without it being about the individual personally. Why is this task or behavior important for this employee’s specific job duties or even career goals? What role does this person play at the company that you can relate to the criticism? Stick to the facts about the problem.

Focus on the issue at hand, and not the employee’s personality traits or habits. Make it about the business and the person’s professional performance, instead of calling out someone’s personal shortcomings.

Avoid punishments

We’re all adults. Unless something majorly inappropriate has happened, avoid punishing employees when they make a mistake. Often, constructive criticism will address a problem that the worker doesn’t even know exists, so it’s unlikely to be a recurring problem. Unless an employee has overstepped again and again or clearly had questionable motives, treat your team members like capable adults.

Be willing to keep the discussion going

Some employees won’t take criticism well. It’s just part of having a team of diverse individuals with different professional priorities. If you sense that a conversation is going down a negative or hostile path, or you can tell that the person is becoming upset or uncomfortable, table the discussion—for now. Check back in when the dust has settled to assess questions or concerns or finish the conversation you started.

Don’t continue to push employees until they become angry or frustrated with the conversation. Doing so will make the criticism much less effective.

When you need help aligning your team with your vision or creating a successful business model, get in contact with our team at Provident CPA & Business Advisors. We use the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) model to help you work through the six key components of any business: vision, people, data, issues, processes, and traction. We also help with growth and profit-improvement strategies designed to enable long-term business success.

Financial Strategies Every Mid-Career Doctor Should Consider

As your career hits its stride, taking these 8 steps is key to keeping your financial goals on track

If you’re a doctor who’s starting your career or approaching retirement, the amount of financial advice that’s aimed at you is overwhelming. But the mid-career physician – mainly in their 40s to early 50s – is largely ignored by the reams of financial articles on the Internet.

The average mid-career medical professional has been an attending for about a decade and plans to work for at least a decade more. But despite their high income, their delayed entry into the workforce probably gave them a late start at saving and investing. They are also likely paying down enormous student loan debt while covering typical mid-life household expenses and trying to save enough for retirement.

Mid-career is the perfect time for doctors to organize their finances, prioritize their goals, and solidify the financial strategies they want to follow. Here are eight tips for creating a financial roadmap that keeps these physicians on the path toward a comfortable retirement:

  1. Fix your financial mistakes. Let’s face it: it’s pretty certain that you’ve made at least one major financial mistake by the middle of your career. Maybe you took bad advice from a shady financial advisor more interested in their commissions than what’s best for you. Maybe you underestimated your need for disability or life insurance, or you’re choosing to invest in taxable accounts before maximizing tax-advantaged retirement accounts.

    Whatever you did wrong, now’s the time to make it right. If financial planning isn’t your strength, that may mean finding an advisor you can trust to sniff out and correct the mistakes in your portfolio.

  2. Make a push to pay off your mortgage. It’s wise to head into retirement with your mortgage paid off – and the sooner you can achieve that, the better. When you look at it on paper, who wouldn’t choose squirreling cash into investment accounts with high returns instead of paying interest on what you borrowed from a bank?

    But even those with incomes high enough to pay off their mortgages long before they retire have a hard time resisting spending their extra cash instead of investing it in their future. By mid-career, you’ve probably been in your house a few years and can anticipate your future earnings, so it’s easy to set a goal for paying off your house. Once your mortgage is gone, you can boost your retirement savings, allocate cash toward college, and even have more to spend on luxury items like vacations.

  3. Keep your expenses in check. If you’re not putting at least 20 percent of your gross income toward retirement by mid-career, it’s wise to make some changes. A detailed budget brings clarity to where your money is being spent so you can make progress toward your financial goals.

    Take a hard look at where you’re spending money and make sure it aligns with your priorities. For instance, if seeing the world matters most to you, splurge on amazing vacations, not all the latest gadgets.

    It always stings a little to reign in your lifestyle. But many doctors are surprised to realize how easily careful budgeting can reduce or eliminate personal expenses they don’t really care about, freeing up significant chunks of cash to pay down medical school debt, purchase a building for their practice, buy into a practice, or save for college and retirement.

    And here’s one more word to the wise: pay off your credit card debt every month to avoid high-interest charges. If you’re finding that you can’t, stop charging.

  4. Squirrel away cash for college. While you’ve hopefully been putting some money toward this goal since your kids were born, now’s the time to step up your game. The College Board’s 2018 Trends in Higher Education reports that the all-in cost of a single year at an in-state four-year public college average $20,770 – and private schools average a whopping $46,950. Doctors planning to send two kids to a private college will need $750,000 pre-tax to foot that bill – and that’s not including graduate school.

    Most practicing doctors boast earned income and assets that prevent their children from qualifying for need-based financial aid. The best vehicle for saving for college is generally a 529 Plan, which offers tax and financial benefits. But you’ll need to do some financial planning to determine how you will split the cost between 529 savings and cash flow from your current earnings.

    Keep this in mind as well: saving for college is a sort of like a test run of your ability to save for retirement. If you find yourself woefully unprepared when your children graduate high school, it’s a major wake-up call that drastic changes are needed before you retire.

  5. Evaluate where you are. If you’ve done a great job with your finances by mid-career, the world is your oyster: you can consider early retirement, working less, taking a job you’ll enjoy that pays less or eliminating exhausting on-call shifts. But if you haven’t, it’s important to find ways to get your savings on track: perhaps moving to an area with a lower cost of living and income tax burden, asking a stay-at-home spouse to work, or exploring passive income sources such as real estate investments.

    By mid-career, many doctors are starting to feel burned out. Try to make changes that can help you enjoy your practice. After all, working longer is the best way to rectify poor financial decisions in the past – giving you many more years to save, more time for your investments to compound, and fewer years to save for.

  6. Solidify your retirement plan. It may be hard to believe that retirement planning can be tough for doctors – after all, the medical profession is one of the most lucrative careers you can choose. But despite their high income, many doctors fail to max out their retirement plans and save enough for the future.

    Mid-career is the point where you should have a realistic retirement goal and solidify your plan for making it happen. That includes understanding the pros and cons of your retirement savings choices, having a clear picture of how much you need to sock away each month, and putting a solid strategy in place for building the funds you need to enjoy your golden years.

  7. Update your estate plan. The Tax Cuts & Jobs Act of 2017 brought some good news to high-income doctors, increasing the federal estate tax exemption to $11.2 million per person and $22.4 million for married couples. That makes federal estate tax planning a breeze for all but the richest doctors, although those who live in states that impose their own estate tax, death tax, or inheritance taxes still need to take extra care as they put together their wills and trusts.

    A well-crafted estate plan saves time, avoids probate, reduces or eliminates estate taxes, and eases any financial burdens for surviving family members. But the 2018 Report on U.S. Physicians’ Financial Preparedness found that nearly 40 percent of doctors are very or somewhat concerned that they don’t have the right estate plan in place.

    By this point, you should at least create the minimum pieces – a will and end-of-life and medical directives – and make sure they stay up-to-date with changes in your life. If you have minor children, you should also name a guardian to care for them and a custodian to look after their money and property. That way, events unfold exactly as you want them and the assets you worked so hard to accumulate remain with your family instead of Uncle Sam.

  8. Make sure you’re with the right advisors. There are many reasons doctors may find themselves in a tough financial situation, but getting bad financial advice or paying too much for good advice is an easy problem to fix. If you’re happy with your current situation, there may be no reason to make a change. But as your portfolio grows and the accompanying fees grow with it, it’s important to make sure you’re getting the right help at a fair price.

    Only 12 percent of doctors planning to retire consider themselves “ahead of schedule” in their retirement financial plans, according to the Physicians’ Financial Preparedness report. Working with an exceptional certified public accountant/advisor will develop a tax plan that lets you enjoy the lifestyle you’ve earned while helping put you in the best position for retirement.

Mid-career is the perfect time for doctors to check in to ensure that they’re making steady progress toward their financial goals. Fix mistakes, create a plan to pay off your mortgage, save for college, and make sure your expenses, retirement plan, and estate plans are in order. By re-evaluating your financial picture while you’re still enjoying a high income, you can make any adjustments you need to ensure financial success now and throughout your golden years.

Provident CPA & Business Advisors serves successful professionals, entrepreneurs, and investors who want to get more out of their business and work less, so they can make a positive impact on their lives and communities. Typically, our clients reduce their taxes by 20 percent or more and create tax-free wealth for life. Contact us for expert advice on tax planning, and to find out how we can help your business exceed your expectations.