Bite-Size Chunks of Wisdom

August 2012

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What if your business was growing – and your growth was wrong. Think about it. Although entrepreneurs measure success by the growth of their business, not all business growth is created equal. It is possible to experience a type of business growth that could end up choking your business long-term. Babson College demonstrated that point quite well with a recent ad. The ad they produced claimed that, “Over 40% of companies that were at the top of the Fortune 500 in 2000 were no longer there in 2010.” Where did these top companies with their vast resources go wrong?

To make sure your business heads in the right direction, consider your responses to the following questions. And don’t conduct this inquiry alone! It’s much too easy to fudge the truth about what’s really going on in your business.  Consider a sit down with your trusted advisor over a cup of coffee (or a glass of wine, if needed) to evaluate the current state of your business growth.

  1. Are you in the right market?
  2. Are you providing the right product and/or service?
  3. Are you serving the right audience?
  4. Are you properly positioned in your marketplace?
  5. Are you fulfilling the right vision?
  6. Are you correctly priced?
  7. Are you relevant for today, as well as, tomorrow?
  8. Are you competitive?
  9. Are you clear about what your business really sells?
  10. Are you certain you know what your client really buys?

Consumer behaviors are continuing evolving. Subsequently, so must your business. You can’t win in the marketplace by standing still.  If you get too comfortable, growth is fleeting. And, as a small business entrepreneur, you don’t have the luxury of such an error in growing your business.

Stick with us. We’ll help you grow – in the right direction! Subscribe to the blog so you don’t miss out on any ideas that spell success for you.

No one ever said that running an entrepreneurial business was easy. Over the past few years, there’s been an enormous increase in complexity in business. With increased complexity comes increased uncertainty….and there’s no end in sight. Despite all the complexity and uncertainty, however, your business still has to accomplish. To whom do you turn to help you perform at your best?

If you’re running a large organization, you may turn to an executive team to brainstorm ideas, explore potential consequences, voice a concern, or sort through options. However, if you’re running a small entrepreneurial firm, to whom do you turn? Even Google CEO, Eric Schmidt, knew it was important to have a business coach.

In this 41 second video, Eric Schmidt addresses one of the major reasons entrepreneurs don’t feel the need for a coach – they’re smart and know everything there is to know about their business. Other entrepreneurs feel they “should” know everything about business and, therefore, engaging a business coach means they’re ignorant or uninformed (as if that was a dirty little secret).

Even with natural talent and proven success for singing, dancing, golfing, swimming, the most successful athletes and performers have coaches.  Michael Phelps, Tiger Woods, Michael Jackson, Ginger Rogers, Lance Armstrong, and Serena Williams, to mention a few, can’t all be wrong!  Although highly gifted and capable in their own right, their coach – an objective collaborator – supports them in propelling their spirit into action and creating unlimited new possibilities.

Coaching creates a powerful relationship for making important business decisions. When you’re growing your business, coaching accelerates the rate at which that development occurs. It provides a framework where the focus in on you, what you want, and what it’s going to take to make it happen.

In today’s spirited marketplace, everyone needs an “edge” –

If you’d like to experience how business coaching improves your performance, take advantage of our “Get Acquainted” 30-minute Strategic Business Coaching Consultation. Your first call is on us!

Related Blog Posts:

Uncover the Moments of Truth in Your Business With a Strategic Coach

Alice in Wonderland Uses Strategic Coaching to Slay Jabborwocky

Everyone’s NOT a Trained Coach

What to Discuss With Your Strategic Coach

The Anatomy of Strategic Business Coaching Call

 

….And It’s Killing Business Growth

Entrepreneurs are a unique group of people. Perpetually optimistic, entrepreneurs seldom share what’s really going on in their business. Although one has to be selective with what you share and with whom, many entrepreneurs keep secrets from themselves and their trusted advisors that slow business growth.

Let’s face it.  When business is chaotic and out of control or when cash flow has slowed to a trickle and the business is not as financially successful as you want others to believe, few entrepreneurs admit that things aren’t as rosy as they would like. Entrepreneurs continually wear the face of success when it’s merely a mask that covers up and clouds over real problems.

Not telling yourself, or your trusted advisers, the truth about where your business is at is one of the most damaging actions any entrepreneur can take. How can your trusted advisers provide the best advice possible if you’re withholding vital information?

What causes most entrepreneurs to hold back significant information? Entrepreneurs are a proud bunch. It energizes their success. The sense of honor and dignity associated with starting and growing one’s own business runs deep. Admitting when things aren’t so rosy is a real smack to the ego. It’s a bitter pill to swallow. In fact, many entrepreneurs would rather risk failure than take a hit to their self-esteem.

It takes humility and courage to first tell yourself the truth; then to tell your trusted advisers. That’s when your business sprouts and grows again. Is it time for some truth-telling in your business?  If so, get yourself a glass of water to swallow that bitter pill. It’s not as bad as you think.

Related Blog Posts:

Is Your Business Ready to Deliver?

Uncover the Moments of Truth in Your Business

Getting Past Your Fears & Growing a Successful Business

Grow Your Business From the Inside Out

Strategic Coach Sees the Invisible Gorilla in Your Business

Linkedin is full of lurkers hoping to generate leads and grow their business. They have an online presence (aka profile)  but rarely do they engage in a virtual conversation. It’s not enough to “like” a comment or merely “accept” a Linkedin invitation, you have to interact with others to get results. You have to strike up a conversation to build the relationship that creates the trust that leads to the inquiry that grows your business.  You have to engage, and here’s how:

1. Send a personalized invitation when asking others to join your LinkedIn network. For example: “I really enjoyed reading your profile, especially the part about skydiving. As someone who is afraid of flying commercially, I’d love to link up with you on Linkedin.” Isn’t that much more intriguing than “I’d like to add you to my professional network on Linkedin.” (Say ‘yes’.)

2. Personalize the ‘thank you’ once your invitation is accepted. For example: “Thanks so much for accepting my invitation. I look forward to following your adventures.”  There are so few people on Linkedin that do more than click ‘accept’ that you’ll really stand out in the crowd. And, if you’re feeling particularly brave, you can add “Tell me about yourself and your business.”

3. Comment on others posts in your newsfeed. It’s always fascinating to see what others are up to in their business. The newsfeed is a great place to get a bird’s eye view and stay on their radar screen. Plus, you’ll find it interesting to discover who your network knows!

4. Mix up your Linkedin postings. Whether on your status update or in group discussions, keep things interesting and others interested by posting links to your blog, ask captivating questions, share valued resources,  and solicit others opinions.  Don’t just talk at – learn to speak with – your online network.

5. Get in on the conversation.  Don’t be left out! Share your thoughts. Answer questions. Add value. In other words, don’t just hang out at the water cooler, contribute to the conversation and make some new friends.

6. Respond in kind.  If an in-the-know professional networker connects with you with a personalized message, respond back.  Didn’t your mom tell you that “actions speak louder than words”? No response to a personal message speaks volumes about how you conduct business. (Can you say ‘brand damage’?)

It reminds me of a comment made by my uncle years earlier. At the age of 65, he walked into the Social Security Administrative office to apply for benefits. Being quite gregarious, he said to the social security agent, “I know how to be social. I’m here to find out what you can tell me about security.”

And so it is with social media. You likely know all about the media.  It’s time for you to be more social. Don’t let the lack of engagement hurt your opportunity to develop relationships and generate leads online. You’ll be amazed at what a little personal interaction will do for your business.

Now, was that so hard?

Social media, as an extension of Web 2.0, became the most powerful source of news and information in 2012. It’s leveled the playing field for small brands to compete with big brands with bigger budgets. For small business entrepreneurs, it’s much easier to connect with their target audience with no/low cost marketing.  Even so, many entrepreneurs are disappointed with the lack of measurable business results from social media. Could it be entrepreneurs fail to bring their offline personality, online? Hmmmm…..

Although social media supports a variety of different business objectives, the main objective for most small business entrepreneurs is to build their professional network…much like their intended purpose when attending offline networking events.   Even so, some entrepreneurs believe there’s a stark difference between offline networking and online networking. In actuality, there are more similarities, including how you ‘show up’ and ‘engage’.

Here are some of the different networking personas I’ve observed both online and offline:

1. The Wallflower.  Do you know this entrepreneur? At an offline-networking event, they hover near the exit to avoid interaction. Whether it’s shyness or a lack confidence, they anxiously wait for someone to engage them in a conversation, hoping desperately they get asked about their business.

A similar personality is found online although they’re less visible. They have a presence on social media, view other’s profiles, listen in on discussions but rarely participate. Merely having a presence on social media isn’t enough to get results any more than hiding behind the plastic ficus at a networking event will get you clients.

2. The Prolific-Sharer. This person is the exact opposite of the Wallflower. At an offline-networking event, they move from person-to-person, discussion-to discussion, with the speed of a hummingbird. They generously share their business card and sales pitch with anyone and everyone within arm’s length…even if it means interrupting a conversation.

Online, The Prolific-Sharer continually shares links to their blog, incessantly posts self-focused information, interacts only for the purpose of self-promotion, and rarely pauses long-enough to connect. Like the Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland, they have “No time to say Hello, Goodbye”.  It only takes a few interactions with The Prolific-Sharer to learn to avoid them offline and online.

3. The  Professional-Engager. The Engager embodies the professional networker.  At offline networking events, they are engaging and interested in your business. They ask thought-provoking questions and actually listen to your answers. Eighty-percent of the interaction is focused on you, your business, and your interests.

The Professional Engager shows up the same way in the online environment. Even though the connection is virtual, the primary focus is on you. They want to do more than build a database. They are looking to build relationships.

Which networking persona are you? You may already be The Professional-Engager at offline networking events. But, which personality ‘shows up’ in the online networking environment? If you haven’t already done so, bring the same principles that you so aptly apply offline to your online networking to cement the connections between you and your online network.

And, please, don’t be The Wallflower with us. Subscribe to our blog and let us know your thoughts. We really are interested in what you have to say.

Occasionally, I forget why email was a good idea. Since the first email system evolved circa 1965, thanks to Massachusetts Institute of Technology, email has become a vital and overwhelming part of an entrepreneurs day. In fact, email surpassed the use of the telephone in 2007. Although email devours the hours in our day, interrupts projects, messes with productivity, scatters our focus, and is a constant source of irritation, like any good relationship, we can’t live with it and we can’t live without it.

Email, and it’s impact on productivity, has been the subject of numerous articles, books, and blogs. The experts tout the countless strategies for mastering email like prioritize messages, set up filters, use shortcuts, and reply immediately yet most people feel trapped by the constant email conundrum.

A study done at the University of London found that constant emailing reduces mental capability by an average of ten points on an IQ test.  It’s similar to missing a night’s sleep.  For those who “think” they can email while carrying on a phone conversation, scientist Harold Pashler showed that when people do two cognitive tasks at once, their cognitive capacity can drop from that of a Harvard MBA to that of an MBA to that of an eight-year-old. (I do believe I’ve spoken with them.) In the final analysis of how to be more productive with email, there is one common denominator that continually is overlooked – YOU!

I recently made this discovery.  I realized that I was the biggest roadblock to my own email productivity. I was the one who kept my email program open throughout day. I was the one who clicked send/receive more times than I could count during an hour. I was the one who toggled between my projects and my email program. I was the one who believed my clients wanted an instant response. I was the one with all the productive email strategies in place yet I had remained horribly unproductive with email.

Once I unearthed this dirty little secret, one simple adjustment in my email habits transformed my productivity – I added the following message to my email signature, “PS  I respond to email once a day.  If this is urgent, please call” – and I stick to it.

How often do you need to respond to email? Do your clients expect an immediate response? How did they develop that expectation?  Given the nature of your business and your clients current expectation, you may not feel as though you can respond to email once a day. Can you respond twice a day? 3X a day? Email productivity is about two things – shifting your mindset and managing your client expectations. Like a baby be weaned from a pacifier, you both may need time to adjust.

Are you planning to implement a new email response schedule? If so, we’d love hearing from you.

Related Blog Posts:

Death by a Thousand Emails

13 Tips to Make Time Work for You

Small Business Advice on Time Saving Technology

This Strategic Coach Says “No” and Means It*

Are You Stuck? What Keeps You Moving Forward

 

Have you had the experience of finding the ideal solution for growing your business only to discover the business didn’t deliver?

Several months ago, I read an intriguing article in Entrepreneur magazine about a company that provided a unique online service to small business entrepreneurs. It interested me enough to further research the company. They were impressive.  Not only did I want more information, I was ready to buy!

After completing the “contact us” form, I waited excitedly to hear how I might get started.  The date was May 18, 2012. On August 8, 2012, I finally got a response. Can you imagine my surprise? In a business culture where we stand in front of our microwave yelling, “Hurry up!” a 3-month response time is excessive.  How could a company featured in a highly acclaimed magazine be so ill prepared to take advantage of such an incredible PR opportunity?

They had all the makings of an established organization ready to deliver on their promises. They were ready to sell – just not ready to deliver. The good PR karma created by Entrepreneur magazine was exhausted by their inability to follow up on the many requests that undoubtedly came their way. Talk about major brand damage!

Whether you’re preparing to launch a new initiative through a PR, Facebook, Linkedin, direct mail, and/or email campaign, don’t let this happen to you. Make sure you’re ready for your small business to shine during your next initiative with these starter questions:

  • What is the intended outcome of your initiative?
  • What is the potential response?
  • How will your business manage an increase in inquiries via web, phone, and/or email?
  • What are the key selling points your team needs to know?
  • What information do you need to gather from those making inquiries?
  • Who else on your team needs to be aware of your initiative to make sure you’re prepared to deliver? (For instance, if your website experienced an increase in hits, could your server handle it or would your website shut down preventing new inquiries? Your web designer can make sure this doesn’t happen.)
  • What is your plan for following-up?

Now it’s your turn. Have you recently launched a key initiative for your small business? How did you prepare to ensure your business delivered?

Related Blog Posts:

Say “Heck Yeah” to Growing Your Business

Better Serve Your Clients to Generate Referrals

Uncover the Moments of Truth in Your Business

Five One Liners That Kill a Sale

Nine Steps to Building Trust Online & Offline

The Olympics found many entrepreneurs immersed in the pursuit of greatness. The incredible victories and agonizing defeats of the Olympic athletes kept us glued to the games in the wee hours of the morning and the late hours of the night. The personal stories of dedication and commitment of these extraordinary athletes captivated us.

The performance of the Olympic athletes serves as a reminder for entrepreneurs of what it takes to win at the great game of business.  Whether it’s competing for a gold medal, an increase in market share, or launching your very first business, entrepreneurs have a great deal in common with Olympic athletes.

Here’s what it takes to win at the Olympics AND business:

1. Work hard.

2. Stay focused.

3. Believe in yourself, your product, and your service.

4. Embrace the element of luck.

5. Build a cohesive support team to make your dreams come true.

6. Set inspirational goals.

7. Play to win.

8. Never give up.

9. Keep going no matter what your circumstances.

10. Dedicate yourself to perfecting your skills.

11. Take pride in what you represent.

12. Be courageous.

13. Display sportsmanship.

14.Being your best and winning feels great no matter what your age.

15. Play fair.

16. Be honest.

17. Hustling keeps you ready for the opportunities.

18. Identify and nurture talent early through training, coaching, and mentoring.

19. Training and preparing diligently gets you where you want to go.

20 Nothing is impossible.

Most entrepreneurs face much of what the Olympic athletes’ experience. And, like the Olympic athletes, with hard work, dedication, and commitment your dreams are within your reach.

What did you take away from the Olympics that is proving to be valuable for your business?

Growing up in North Dakota came with its share of pests. When it wasn’t 40 degrees Fahrenheit below zero with 10 feet of snow staring you in the face, it was 96 degrees with matching humidity. The nastiest part of the heat and humidity were the pesky bugs. Flies were the worst. Flies “gum up the works” my Dad would say.

My Dad was a diesel mechanic. He repaired farm machinery like tractors, hay bailers, and combines. Anyone with a farming connection knows the expensive price tag of farm equipment and the importance of keeping it in top mechanical condition to prevent needless and costly repairs. Gaskets, seals, and gears were generously greased to keep the machines operating smoothly…that was, until a fly stuff to the grease “gumming up the works”.

It’s allot like business. As an entrepreneur, you’ve invested a considerable amount of time, money, and energy into launching and growing your business. Things are humming along nicely – until a fly “gums up the works”.

I’ve experienced a variety of “flies” in my years as a strategic business coach for entrepreneurs. In an effort to keep a watchful eye (and a fly swatter handy), here are some of the most common species that slow business growth in no particular priority.

  1. Absent goals and plans (strategic, business, marketing, or otherwise) prompts a directionless enterprise. It doesn’t matter where you’re headed because any road will take you there…if we only knew where “there” was.
  2. Inadequate pricing strategy induces under earning and a very dissatisfied entrepreneur.
  3. Undeveloped brand allows the world to dictate your brand to you…even if you don’t agree with what the world choses for your brand.
  4. Vulnerable self-concept, self-confidence, and/or self-esteem undermine success. Don’t worry. You’re not alone. Studies indicates 85% of all professionals experience some degree of low self-esteem.
  5. Aversion to investing money in quality services needed to grow reminds us “we get what we pay for.”
  6. Working with substandard vendors, subcontractors, or employees prompts “weak link” performance.
  7. Failure to keep pace with the ever-changing business landscape results in irrelevance or being devoured by the competition.
  8. Missing weekly/daily structure interrupts accountability and forward movement.
  9. Missing business intelligence such as reporting, analytics, and performance metrics obstructs strategic decision-making.
  10. Missing business skills and/or knowledge of business functions like strategic thinking, marketing, sales, finances, etc thwarts smart business decisions and clouds the ability to identify opportunities.
  11. Undeveloped business concept slows progress in bringing the idea to fruition.
  12. Indistinguishable target audience or niche pulls you in opposing directions wasting valuable resources.
  13. Unsatisfactory operational systems allow critical pieces of business to fall through the proverbial cracks promoting poor customer service and a loss of referrals.
  14. Resistance to new behaviors and/or different perspectives keeps you stuck in neutral. With one foot on the gas and the other on the brake, it’s noisy but you’re not doing anywhere and you’re wearing out the gears.
  15. Well-worn habits or routines that no longer fit the size of the business – reduces performance. Think DOS 3.0 in a Mac or Windows 8 world.

Are you experiencing “flies” swarming around your business? Don’t wait until they land in the sticky stuff and “gum up the works”, subscribe to our blog (top of the right column). We’ll keep your engine running smooth!

business growth overwhelmAs an entrepreneur, you carry out multiple roles during the day to grow your business. In reality, performing an average of 3- 6 different roles each day is the norm for entrepreneurs. Each role carries with it countless decisions that vie for your attention throughout the day. Some decisions are significant and critical; others are minor and inconsequential.  In fact, the average person makes approximately 5000 decisions every day.  No wonder indecision looms!

Faced with so many decisions, it’s easy to be overwhelmed.  Do you tackle this project or that project? Is it more efficient to respond to emails first or return phone calls? Do you use the blue or the green for your Facebook tabs?  Should you blog or send a newsletter or both? Do you take lunch before or after you finish your conference call? Does this sound familiar?  Not only do you decide what to eat for breakfast, you’re sorting and prioritizing a massive number of decisions throughout the day.

Most business owners believe missed opportunities or expensive delays are the cost of indecision. While these influence business growth, the real cost of indecision is the depletion of your willpower – that mental muscle that helps you succeed. Willpower provides the strength to resist temptation, avoid distractions, and more clearly sort through the decisions that serve you in the long term.

Turns out, we have a finite amount of willpower. Who knew! Although we may have believed only large and/or critical decisions require energy, recent studies reveal that all decisions are created equal. Every decision, large or small, requires energy. Apparently, decision-making is an equal opportunity for energy drainer.

Every time you make a decision or faced with resisting the temptation or exerting self-discipline, a little bit of energy is withdrawn from your willpower muscle. When this occurs often enough, your ability to make smart decisions begins to wane. Towards the end of the day, even the wisest entrepreneur begins to waffle! Indecision sets in at the most critical, inopportune moment.

How can you make sure you have enough fuel in your tank to last through each day? Here are five ways to protect your willpower:

  1. Pick a priority at the start of each day – and don’t look back.
  2. Stay focused.
  3. Avoid distractions.
  4. Take time for recess.
  5. Automate decisions wherever possible.

Willpower. It’s the most important ingredient for growing your business.

Core Business Assessment

Testimonial

Brooke Billingsley

Vice President
Perception Strategies

Synnovatia is a strategic coaching firm that is detailed and knowledgeable about business. i have a small business that grew from $150K to $750K because of the goal setting and resources that Synnovatia provided. It saves me years of learning on my own.

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