Bite-Size Chunks of Wisdom

April 2014

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The daily grind — no matter how much we love our work — can take its toll on productivity and performance. It’s what creates the love/hate relationship small business owners have with their business. Seeing as how you are the “decider”, you have the unique position to choose the sorts of changes that are sure to ignite performance.

Let’s Get Happy…And Count the Profits

Here’s a prescription for happiness that’s sure to set fire to your business success:

1. Stay connected. Research shows the more connected you are, the happier and more productive you’ll be. Join a mastermind group. Participate in group coaching with your peers. Make real connections and interact with others during your day, whether it’s online or offline.

2. Be yourself. The more virtual our world becomes, the more we long for that which is genuine. Stay true to yourself, what you do, and who you serve to spark genuine happiness.

3. Nurture outside interests. What do you like to do for fun — outside of work? Nothing awakens happiness, and the promise of revitalization, like developing your leisure activities.

4. Balance family time. Remember those other people who live in your house? They love spending time with you; just as much as you love spending time with them. Isn’t family the real reason we work? Family keeps us grounded.

5. Physical health and wellness. Running a business is like running a marathon. You need to be healthy to finish the race. Keeping yourself in top notch shape lifts self-confidence, boosts energy, and contributes to an overall sense of well-being and happiness.

6. Style your environment. Given that you spend 8 – 10 hours (or more) at “the office”, make sure your office makes you happy. Add brightly colored flowers. Throw open the windows. Let in the sun and fresh air. Listen to music. Is there anything that makes you happier? Environments are so vital to performance, in fact, Olympic pools are designed with performance in mind. Why not design your environment for performance?

These are just a few of the things that spark happiness — and performance — at Synnovatia. We would love to hear what sparks happiness in your business…

Do you whistle while you work? What if whistling made you so happy that it actually improved your performance? What if “happy” helped you trigger an idea or solve a complex problem? What would you be willing to do to bring out the “happy” in you?

“Happiness”, and its impact on productivity, has been the subject of numerous studies. From Warwick Economics Research Institute to Martin Seligman, Director of the Penn Positive Psychology Center and leading expert in the field of positive psychology, to Shawn Achor, psychologist and author of The Happiness Advantage, what makes us happy — and what was previously believed — is being challenged.

How often do you say, “When I achieve this, then I’ll be happy.” Shawn Anchors suggests we have it backwards. His research points out that “optimism and happiness fuel performance and give us competitive advantage.” Happiness, then, is the fuel we need to succeed.

Studies show that happiness has a direct impact on the bottom line. Not only does the brain work better when it’s in a positive state rather than a negative, neutral, or a stressed state, but people who are happy demonstrate a 37% improvement in sales, 31% increase in productivity, and are 10 time more engaged at work.

Wow! Now those are metrics that make any small business owner happy!

We’d love to hear your thoughts. What impact does happiness have on your business?

What, you say? There’s a silver lining in a business slowdown? The thought of a slowdown in your small business is enough to drive any owner bonkers. It’s what we continually fight against. Yet, its a natural part of any business. How we choose to respond is what matters most.


Small business slowdowns occur for a variety of reasons. Whether your business is seasonal or cyclic, after a few years in business you begin to notice trends in upswings and slowdowns. For instance, we notice an uptick during the first month of the year as entrepreneurs reset the clock on the new year. One of our clients, in an industry unrelated to the educational system, experiences a business slowdown during times when school is not in session.

The Upside of a Slowdown: How Smart Business Owners Use Their Time

A business slowdown doesn’t have to trigger a business setback. Rather than worry, here are a few alternate options for making the most of a slowdown:

1. Relax. I know the thought of that makes your head want to explode, doesn’t it? It does mine! Let’s take a look at the facts surrounding your work ethic. You work hard. You probably don’t take many vacations, if any at all. And, weekends? What are they? Weekends look just like weekdays in the lives of most hard-working entrepreneurs. Plus, who can really relax and unwind during busy work times. Not me!

With less on your plate, a business slowdown is an excellent time to be a bit more gentle and forgiving with yourself. Leave the office early. Meet friends for lunch. Take a nap. Read a book. The options are endless.

2. Assess your business. The extra bandwidth in your day allows you to step back and objectively evaluate your business — and where its headed — without the influence of overwhelm. Take advantage of our free business assessment to gain critical insights into your business. Download it here.

3. Refresh your marketing. A downside to an uptick in business is that marketing efforts get pushed to the side. With business trends continually evolving, a slowdown is the perfect time to revisit your value proposition to ensure it speaks to the needs of today’s clients. Along with sprucing up your value proposition, when was the last time your website had a makeover? A slowdown is the ideal time to hit the reset button on your marketing efforts to make sure your business remains relevant.

4. Catch up and get ahead. You know that stack of files and papers sitting in the corner of your office gathering dust? A slowdown is the perfect time to reclaim your space. Plus, something magical occurs when you clean out your business. It signals “out with the old” and “in with the new”.

Once you’re caught up, it’s time to get ahead. Using the insight gleaned from the Core Business Assessment, look to the future and launch projects you wished you had time for when business was busting out of its seams.

5. Sharpen your skills. Business is in a continual state of flux. A business slowdown is an ideal time to tone your business skills. Learn how inbound marketing helps small business owners save time and money. Wade through changes in social media that impact your business. Gain an in-depth understanding of your financial documents for better insight into the financial health of your business.

Or, better yet, hone your strategic thinking and planning skills! (Sadly, only 3 out of 10 entrepreneurs know how to think strategically. Yet, it’s the one defining skill between business success and business struggle.)

6. Renew relationships. Not only has much been happening in your business, your clients (and former clients) likely have similar experiences. A business slowdown is a great time to touch base.

You don’t have to sell anything to say “hi” although you’ll likely find that rekindling relationships sparks additional business. It’s also an ideal way to garner “intel” into the changing needs of your clients to infuse your next product development. You not only stay on your clients “radar screen”, you keep your business products and services relevant to the needs of today’s consumers. It’s a win-win!

A business slowdown doesn’t have to lead to a business shutdown. With the right state-of-mind, a business slowdown can set you up to spring back better than ever!

What do you do during a business slowdown?

Carry on:

Everyone in business understands what it means to “miss the mark”. In fact, business is fraught with failure and disappointment. Even so, it doesn’t lessen the emotional, mental, physical, and/or financial impact of defeat. How does one make a solid and quick rebound following a mortifying upset?

Not all setbacks are created equal. Business hardships range from losing a substantial, profitable contract to missing a hard-fought targeted goal to financial devastation resulting in business closure. Regardless of the reason, failing to achieve your intended objective can result in an emotional or mental crack that can be hard to come back from.

Experts continually tell us that failing with regularity is the quickest path to success. Although that’s a bitter pill to swallow, some misfortunes land a bigger punch to the gut than others.

Everyone deals with failure in their unique way. From ignoring it as if it didn’t happen to drowning your misery in a tub of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, each entrepreneur discovers their personal comeback journey.

Despite the individual road one must travel to return stronger and better than before, here are a few points to consider on your pilgrimage:

1. Prepare for it in advance. No entrepreneur sets out with the goal of failing. Still, we know failure is a natural part of business. Be that as it may, the consequences of false steps can be lessened by analyzing risks before leaping, developing financial reserves that allow you to take calculated risks, and keeping your mental, emotional, and physical tank full.

2. Don’t take it personally. Ugh! This is easier said than done. In reality, a setback doesn’t mean that you, personally, are a failure. It does mean the initiative failed. Be careful not to internalize the situation. View the circumstances with objectivity.

3. Learn from it. The worst thing that can happen following a setback is to learn nothing from it only to repeat the same mistakes. Conducting a critical analysis gives you insight into the changes that will make you stronger than before.

4. Keep moving. There’s a lot we can learn from basketball about how to “get our groove back”. When the forward is struggling and missing his/her mark, seldom does the coach bench them. The coach understands the importance of working through the challenges to get back on top of their game. It’s the same with entrepreneurs.

5. Act your way into new beliefs. Not “fake it ’til you make it” — that approach seldom feels right to most entrepreneurs — but rather catch yourself doing the right things for your comeback. Many entrepreneurs find it helpful to keep a “comeback journal” in which they document the actions taken during the day that support a swift and strong return.

6. Ask for help. A big downfall for many entrepreneurs is failure to ask for help. Whether its pride, ego, or a fear of looking ignorant, getting sage advice from trusted advisors can avert many disasters.

None of us want to fail or experience the agony of defeat. Embracing failure as a natural part of business evolution keeps us one step ahead, lessens the aftermath, and provides a giant step forward to a strong comeback.

What has been most effective in helping you make a strong comeback after a defeat?

Talk to us:

It’s very difficult to grow your business when you’re already overwhelmed. When you’re really ready to hit “grow”, you’ll need to make some tough choices. And, it’s not about working more hours.

As a growth advisor and strategic business coach to small business owners, I’ve discovered one major glitch that prevents most from growing their business as desired. Those struggling to grow suffer from a lack of bandwidth. With days filled with information overload, distractions, interruptions, putting out fires, and tending to daily activities, seldom is there additional time to launch a growth initiative.

You can’t keep doing business the way it’s always been done and expect your outcomes to be dramatically different. In order to grow with any momentum, it has to be business NOT as usual.

Don’t Do This — Do This Instead

1. Cerebral snacking. Precious time is wasted  when one randomly clicks from one online article to another without purpose or intention. You’re led down a rabbit hole that creates little value to growing your business. Like the 8 ball in a vigorous game of pool, you’re bounced from one part of the web to another.

Instead of mental munching, focus your efforts on a specific topic. Don’t just read — learn! What do you want to improve in your business? Do you have a clear understanding of growth strategies, including the one being used to grow your business? How about your value proposition? Is it producing the outcomes you want?

Do This: Focus your learning efforts on topics of importance to your business growth. You’ll soon be able to move the dial on your growth rate.

2. Social media randomness. Ah, yes. How we love social media…or not. Randomly poking around on social media with no clear objective only serves to dilute one’s focus.

Although some see it as a nice stress reliever or break from work, a walk around the block or a few yoga stretches does more to clear your brain and relieve your stress. In fact, studies now prove that “taking 10 outside” — that is, 10 minutes in the fresh outdoor air — has a direct impact on performance. Hey, who can argue with facts, right?

Do This: Be calculated. Invest time on social media based on your goals and objectives to grow your business.

3. Overcommitment. My first business coach pointed out that I was “a yes waiting to happen”…and she was right!  My schedule was overflowing with commitments, personally and professionally, yet my business was not growing. Why? Those commitments weren’t tied to any of my business goals. I was busy — going nowhere.

It’s tough saying “no” to others. However, when you say “yes” to someone or something that has no direct correlation to your goals, you say “no” to yourself, your business, and your future.

Do This: Say “yes” to yourself and your goals more often.

4. Email grazing. Aaaahhhhhh! Email has turned from a dream tool to an absolute nightmare. Unfortunately, its been of our own doing. Habits during which your email program is kept open for the entirety of the day sucks opportunities from your business.

Have you ever tracked the amount of time spent each day on email? It’s shocking! The constant interruption of email drains precious time (and energy) from your business that could be redirected to your growth initiative.

Do This: Set up 2-3 times in a day during which you respond to email communication. Replace e-newsletter subscriptions with Feedly. Cease social media notifications non-vital email communication.

5. Unnecessary meetings. I recently read a comment from a business owner who, after one full year, stopped all “get-to-know-you coffees” due to lack of results. One could argue that a change in technique may have improved her results but who can’t relate to the time waste of unfruitful meetings.

Frankly, I’m a real fan of virtual meetings. The same objective can be accomplished in 30 minutes that robs 3-4 hours from your day.  That’s 3-4 hours that can be invested into moving my growth initiative forward!

Do This: Rethink intentions, desired outcomes, and tools used for meetings to maximize effectiveness.

What do you need to grow your business? Bandwidth!

When do you want it? Now!

Each one of these points contributes to the overwhelm most small business owners feel — and not in a good way. Combined, they easily steal 6-8 hours from your week. This is meaningful and significant time to redirect to your growth initiative that can make the difference between success and survival for your business.

More to grow your bandwidth:

You’re ready to grow your small business. Now what? You need a plan — a focused, disciplined plan — one you can readily execute to achieve your goal for growth.

To make sure your small business growth plan is well thought out and has the best possible chance of success, you want to be sure you consider these ingredients:

1. Goal for growth. To proclaim you want to grow is not enough. You need a target growth rate. It used to be that a 15% growth rate, which would double a company in 5 years, was note-worthy. However, given the current state of the economy, a 20 – 30% growth rate is a much better target to ensure your small business survives whatever comes it’s way.

2. Strategy for growth. There are numerous proven strategies for growth. You can read about the 4 most common strategies at You’ve Got Options! Strategies for Growing Your Small Business. Pick one!

3. Duration of the growth initiative. Given the fast pace of today’s business environment, its difficult to predict success, with any degree of certainty, of any growth initiative. It requires a level of experimentation to find the small business growth strategy that gains traction. Let “fail often, fail fast, and fail cheap” be your mantra. Better to use shorter term initiatives than a long drawn out plan that outlives its usefulness.

4. Metrics. You can’t manage what you don’t measure. It’s the only way you can know, for certain, what’s working or what’s not. Additionally, you want to include “proof points” — points along the continuum to achieving your goal for growth that help you know you’re on the right track.

5. Budget. Knowing the parameters within which you have to work is important in making sure the actions you select are doable. Nothing is more frustrating than planning a stellar growth initiative only to discover you can’t afford it.

6. Resources. Who and what is available to help you with your growth initiative? Growth initiatives infused with collaboration have a greater chance of success.

Depending on your growth strategy of choice, you may need to upgrade your marketing or buyer persona and tighten up your value proposition to ensure success.

I know few small business owners who are fond of the planning process. We’re an enthusiastic bunch and would rather dive into the deep end of the pool. However, taking time to blend key ingredients into your small business growth plan prevents your growth initiative from being a flop.

More on the subject:

The ability to grow at a sustainable rate of 20 – 30% annually is at the core of any successful small business. With a world that is moving faster and faster, previous ways of doing business no longer work. Does your business have what it takes to accelerate?

The good news is that small entrepreneurial businesses are best suited to take advantage of the many opportunities being created in today’s hyper-paced world. Here’s what it takes to build your business for speed: 

1. Strategic mindset
Is your business headed in the right direction? If you haven’t given much thought to the course your business is traveling, now is the time to reassess your direction. Get ready to embrace change and rethink where your business is headed.

2. Focused, extraordinary action
Even though you keep your computer up-to-date and clean, it’s speed slows over time. Too many programs running in the background decelerates it’s processing speed. The same issue exists in business. Too many initiatives running simultaneously creates overwhelm and lackluster results. Better to take big strategic, focused action and give your business a giant step forward.

3. Fast acting advisors
Many of us might think that in motorsports a racecar driver is the star of the show. In truth, great racing teams are made of an army of people, many with vital roles behind the scenes. In fact, many a race is won — or lost — by a fraction of a second based on the efforts of the pit crew.

Every winning small business owner surrounds him/herself with fast moving, fast acting team of advisors who are at the top of their game.

4. Resources to invest
There’s nothing more frustrating, or counterproductive, to acceleration than not having the resources (e.g., time, money, talent) to take advantage of an opportunity staring you in the eye. Fast-moving entrepreneurs understand the importance of being able to act within a moment’s notice by maintaining a reserve of resources at the ready.

5. Ease off the brake
With one foot on the gas, and the other on the brake, you’re likely to burn out your engine. This is what many small business entrepreneurs do regularly — burnout. Entrepreneurs designed for speed understand the role of self-care, work-life balance, healthy eating, regular exercise, and lifelong learning in their quest to be the best.

Just like a Chevrolet CMV is no match for a Lamborghini Aventador (zero to 60 mph in 27 seconds vs. 2.9 seconds) or a DOS system capable of the multitude of processes you hold in your hand, methods used to achieve success a decade ago are no longer effective. Your business must be built for the speed of today’s fast changing world.

To keep your business moving forward quickly, you need to keep your eye on the road ahead, ease into the curves, keep your foot off the brake, and accelerate on the straight away.

Nothing is worse than suffering the embarrassment associated with a blunder, especially when the blooper occurs with a critical account or client! Goofs and gaffes are a normal part of doing business (unless you’re a robot). Regardless, being able to minimize any unnecessary slip ups is best.

Adorable nineteen year old teen falling and making a horrible cooking mess on white floor.

Did you know that the term “egg on your face” originated in the days of ole…so, the tale goes. Folklore has it that incompetent actors were pelted with eggs during rowdy theatrical performances to force the actor offstage. “Getting the hook” would have been better.

Although embarrassing situations can’t also be avoided, here are 6 tips to keep as much of the egg off your face as possible:

1. Don’t do drama. When something potentially embarrassing occurs, don’t over exaggerate the impact. Stay calm and carry on.

2. Keep white lies to a minimum. They have a way of coming back to bite you when you least expect it.

3. Avoid email autopilot. As we become more comfortable with technology, complacency can set in. Fess up! Who hasn’t sent an email to an unintended recipient (especially one about them)!? Ugh. Be sure your email program has a sending delay to catch any of these mistakes and avoid egg on your face.

4. Don’t write in an email what you wouldn’t say to one’s face. See #3.

5. Use “mental filters” on social media. What is posted on social media can get you “fired” by a client. Check your settings to make sure you have the best security possible. Or, better yet, don’t post anything on social media that you would not be proud to share with your top client — or your mother.

6. Don’t overestimate results. You’ve seen the ads for making your business #1 on Google. Or, how about the ones that promise to make you $20,000/month in one month? You don’t have to go to that extreme to overpromise on results. Better to under promise and avoid the embarrassment when an important client brings results you promised to your attention.

7. Test technology before use. Nothing! I repeat, nothing is worse than needing to deliver a flawless presentation on a key account and have your technology go belly up. Talk about egg on your face! Test any and all technology prior to critical meetings and be sure to have a backup plan — just in case.

Ending up with egg on your face is disconcerting. But, with a little forethought, you can keep your embarrassment to a minimum with preparation, sincerity, and humility.

Care to share your most embarrassing moment and how you handled it?

Moving along:

Since 2008, the small business industry has been brimming with uncertainty. Although the economy shows some sparks and sputters of a return to “normal”, one thing every small business can agree on — there’s a “new normal” in town. Learning how to acclimate to the “new norm” is paramount to the future success and survival of your small business.

Without a doubt, new trends are emerging that redefine the “new normal” for small business. They influence what your small business will need to do to remain relevant. Status quo is no longer a viable option for small business owners.

Consumer Customization

Wasn’t it Burger King who adopted the “have it your way” commercial in 1976? That was some smart, futuristic marketing! Who knew that a 1976 slogan would so aptly describe today’s consumers.

One size no longer fits anyone. Consumers are looking for products or services that adapt to their unique needs. To meet your clients’ call for customization, rethink your product/service offerings and make them more flexible. Think Gumby!

Sales Transformation

The traditional sales model has been evolving for some time now. Consumers still want to buy; they don’t want to be sold. Advancements in technology, including robust websites, social media, and an inbound marketing approach, make it easier for consumers to make informed purchases.

Instead of relying on the “sales professional” to teach them the features and benefits of a product/service, today’s consumer are conducting extensive online research and making their buying choices. They self-sell.

As you transform your sales approach, think “pull” rather than “push” technology.

Continual Change

Heraclitus, the Greek philosopher, was the one who said, “The only thing that is constant is change.” Although he penned this phrase around 400 B.C., many small business owners adopted a “set it and forget it” philosophy of business growth and development.

The rapid innovations in technology has certainly leveled the playing field for small businesses…but don’t get too comfortable or attached. Staying stationary is not a viable business option.

“Nimble and quick” — a term previously reserved for St. Nick — is the hallmark as small business learns to embrace a culture of adaptability.

Smarter Marketing

Over the past few years, it has become more challenging for small business owners to gain traction — especially if functioning as a generalist. Although you want to hedge your bet and “be everything to everyone”, the small business marketing message is getting lost in the ocean of marketing messages.

Marketing personas and niche marketing help small business owners pop up in the crowd with targeted messaging that is music to the ears of your target audience.

In addition to targeted messaging, don’t forget responsive websites! Meet the client where they are — whether its in their office on their desktop or on the go with their smart phone. (P.S. 94% of smartphone owners are looking for local information on mobile devices.)

Data Decision-Making

Thank goodness! This is my personal favorite. Thanks to advancing technology (again), small business owners don’t have to rely solely on their “gut intuition” when it comes to decision making.

The widespread, and increasingly affordable, access to analytics allows small business to make smarter decisions with an eye toward a better return on their precious investments.

Whew! My head is spinning. How about yours? And, this is just the tip of the iceberg. With lots more changes in the wind, small businesses with adaptability, flexibility, and agility will lead the way.  There’s a “new norm” in town! There’s no going back.

Carry on:

Growing up in a farming community gave me a solid background in all things “common sense”. From the “battle of the winds” to the “best days for planting”, the Farmers Almanac was consulted with regularity. One thing every sensible farmer understood was, to grow healthy crops, you can’t overwork the soil. Small business entrepreneurs can learn a lot from this age-old practice.

Plenty of yellow cherry plums growing on a tree branch

Overworked soil, created by numerous conditions, produced poor crops and lackluster results. For instance, you never planted the same crops in the same fields for two consecutive growing seasons. Wise farmers would farrow fields to ensure nutrients weren’t stripped unnecessarily. For plots planted with regularity, the soil was tilled and amended in between growing seasons to ensure a healthy crop with a high yield during the next field planting.

Consider the yield you wish to produce in your business. How well do you tend to and amend the very things needed to harvest an abundant crop?

Consider your clients and potential clients — do you sprinkle just the right amount of soil conditioner at properly spaced intervals or do you exhaust their sustenance with frequent requests?

How about your employees? Do they have the necessary time between production cycles to renew and rejuvenate or are they continually engaged in their work after hours draining them of the proper fuel needed to perform?

Have you checked your systems lately? Is there room for more growth or are your systems root bound and stunted?

Finally, how are you doing? Do you allow periods for planting and seasons for harvesting including time for complete rest and rejuvenation to secure a high-yield return or do you continue to plow your fields day-in and day-out with no time for revitalization?

With advancements in technology, today’s farmer no longer needs to rely on the Farmers Almanac to forecast a high return on production.  However, there is still no substitute for “common sense” and the importance of not overworking your “soil”.

Stay alert to the requirements needed to yield a high return for your business. What would you add to the “small business owners almanac” to ensure a good crop?

Core Business Assessment


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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