Bite-Size Chunks of Wisdom

April 2017

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In business, there are several influencers of your strategic thinking/planning time that have a direct impact on your growth. These are your mission, vision, and strategies. These three, often missing, components shift your business growth from being tactical and easily tossed about by change to that of being strategic and sustainable.

Whereas your mission is present tense, your vision is your future. And, for small businesses like yours and mine, business vision is personal.

Visioning isn’t an easy task. It takes uninterrupted time to think through what you really want versus what you think you should want.

Take Three Giant Steps Forward

As a kid growing up, I played “Captain May I” with the local hooligans (i.e., neighborhood kids). The objective of the game was to be the first one to reach the Captain.

“Captain, may I take three steps forward?” was a common request.

Much like accelerating your forward movement to your goal with three giant steps, having a concise, crystal-clear small business vision fast forwards your business success.

Step One: Craft Your Vision

Your vision is a continual source of emotional energy. On days you can’t pole vault over a chalk mark, your vision is your uplifting force.

On a scale of 1–10, how would you rate your current vision on its strength to inspire and direct your planning? If your score is anything less than 9–10, it may be time to give your vision some tender loving care.

Consider these components as your re-envision what’s most important to you and your business:

  1. Core values — not to be confused with moral values, core personal values represent the behaviors and activities to which you are naturally drawn. They represent your natural self.
  2. Problems you hope to solve in the next 10 years for yourself, your family, your industry, and your employees.
  3. What you want to achieve within the next 10 years. See #2.
  4. Your buyer and what you want for them.

Step Two: Crystallize Your Vision

Belief in the ability to achieve your desired vision is one of the biggest obstacle for most small business owners. We quickly jump into “how” when facing our vision. “How” is a planning question that immediately dampens belief in one’s vision.

Want a more applicable question that doesn’t immediately limit your vision to the boring, uninspired, and mundane? Me, too!

Brian P. Moran and Michael Lennington, authors of The 12 Week Year: Get More Done in 12 Weeks than Others Do in 12 Months, share a provacative model to shift from a vision that seems impossible to achieve to one that is certain to be obtained.

The process includes moving from “impossible” to “possible” to “probable” to “given”.

Start with the impossible and ask yourself “what if.” This elevates your vision to the “possible.”

About the possibilities, ask “how might I.” This moves your vision to that which is probable.

From what is probable, its a short distance to what is given.

Once your vision is given, a strong emotional and mental state is established that keeps you inspired on the days you wonder if Starbucks is hiring.

Step Three: Focus Your Vision

As Thomas Edison aptly pointed out, “A vision without execution is a hallucination.” It’s sage advice to bring your vision to the level of practical application.

Horizons to include:

  1. Long-term: i.e., your end game
  2. Mid-term: Generally this is a 3– 5 year time frame; however, select the vista that makes the most sense for your situation.
  3. Short-term: This is the point of practical application J.P. Morgan referenced when he said, “Go as far as you can see; when you get there, you’ll be able to see farther.” What is your reach? Is it one week? One month? Three months? Whatever your vista, make sure it’s in focus.

The Litmus Test

How can you tell your vision is spot on? Ask yourself:

  1. Is it a source of inspiration and aspiration on a daily, weekly, monthly, annual basis?
  2. If something were to devastate your business and impact your vision, would you rebuild?
business growth

Since its inception, business coaching continues to grow in popularity, sophistication of techniques, and outcomes obtained.

Any business coach worth their weight in salt (i.e., their fee) wants you and your business to benefit greatly from the coaching relationship. This brief guide helps maximize the value of your coaching engagement.

Make a List of What You Really Want

When your goals are clear, progress comes quickly.

Success is not about what you should achieve, but rather what you want to achieve based on your desires, needs, and values.

If your vision is cloudy, have a conversation with your business coach to ensure you’re clear and focused during your coaching engagement. You’ll be glad you did!

Get to Know Yourself Better

Working with a trained and knowledgeable strategic business coach is a healthy way to grow. Most clients hire a coach to accomplish several specific goals. Much of the time and focus is on these goals.

However, don’t be surprised if you find your vision and goals adjusting to who you really are and what’s most important to you. This discovery process is natural. There is no need to rush it, just know it may happen.

Accelerating your personal and professional growth is the hallmark of working with an experienced coach.

Be Willing

During your coaching engagement, there may be times your coach makes a request that, in the moment, seems like a BIG ask. Not too much but certainly more than you have previously asked of yourself. Other times, instead of asking for more, your coach may ask for something different from what conventional wisdom dictates.

Through years of working with thousands of entrepreneurs, we’ve discovered the quickest route to achieving your goals isn’t always by doing more — or doing what you’ve done in the past. Many goals are realized by taking a fundamentally different path.

Don’t worry. You and/or your business will never be placed at risk. Plus, the final choice for implementing any request rests with you.

Be open to experiment with fresh approaches such as:

  • Put yourself first
  • Tell yourself the truth as you see it
  • Stop working hard
  • Remove all sources of stress
  • Ask for what you need from others
  • Set goals that are different than originally intended
  • Expect more and different service from your vendors
  • Change your behavior
  • Simplify your life
  • Drop all current projects
  • Stop tolerating

Come to Your Strategic Coaching Appointments Prepared

Your time is valuable. Make it count by investing time to prepare.

Prior to any coaching appointment, create a written list of things to discuss. This ensures you obtain what you want.Items to include:

  • Achievements since your last appointment
  • What you’re currently working on and how it’s going
  • Insights and new awareness that excite you
  • Report on commitments made
  • Advice you want regarding a specific situation
  • New skills you want to develop
  • Strategies you wish to develop

Time spent reflecting on your achievements, insights, and challenges — and planning — provides the clarity you and your coach need to maximize your results.

Showing up for a coaching appointment unprepared is a waste of valuable resources!

Enjoy the Give and Take of the Meeting

There’s a lot of information to cover during a coaching appointment, especially in the beginning. After several meetings, you may take a little time to catch up on parts of your business experiencing change or growth.

Meetings aren’t exactly gabfests, and are meant to be enjoyable and uplifting. They don’t need to be intense or difficult to produce that which you know is possible. Feel free to set the tone of the meetings.

Get Healthy – Stay Healthy

Growth, whether it’s business or personal, requires energy – mentally, emotionally, intellectually and physically. Given this, take extraordinary care of yourself during this process of growth, innovation and synergy.

Only you know what that looks like, but we suggest some of these habits to keep yourself fit:

  • Say ‘no’
  • Read
  • Underpromise
  • Eliminate sugar, caffeine, nicotine, alcohol
  • Listen to great music
  • Exercise a minimum of 30 minutes daily
  • Eat more vegetables and fruit
  • Reduce fat intake
  • Meditate
  • Take vitamins
  • Write in your journal
  • Eat six (6) small meals daily
  • Schedule 10 minute breaks every 1 ½ – 2 hours throughout the day

Honor Your Commitments

At the completion of each appointment, you’ll co-develop a plan of action with your business coach. This isn’t the dreaded homework like high school. These are tasks, actions, results, or changes that support the achievement of your goals.

Honor yourself — and your commitments — to maximize your coaching results.

Coaching is exhilarating, fun, productive, informative, and scary all at the same time. And, there’s nothing more gratifying when you begin to see major progress towards goals that previousl eluded you. Now, that’s success!

Does work-life balance truly exist — or is it a mark most small business owners aim for which remains just out of reach?

The notion of work-life balance reared its head in the 80’s. It was the time our culture began its shift to bigger and better toys. Or, as my client, John Lanza, puts it — the accumulation of stuff.

The idea of gathering more stuff while keeping a balance between work and non-work (i.e., life) hours seems a bit at odds, don’t you think?

Since that time, there are have been several reiterations of work-life balance all of which continue to elude most small business owners.

It’s time for a reboot.

The Balancing Act

Many small business owners, especially those that belong to the sandwich generation, have long given up on the idea of ever achieving a balance in their lives. Yet, like any worth-while goal, now is not the time to give up or give in to live a life filled with exhaustion, burnout, and regrets.

Let’s begin again with a few simple premises:

  1. Define work/non-work life balance for yourself. Each of us is after something different when it comes to balancing our work with the rest of our lives. (At one time, I defined work-life balance by the shoes in my closet.) Whether you’re after more time with your loved ones, greater revenue, or more energy, you get to decide for yourself.
  2. Experiment with strategies of achievement. There are many roads that lead to the same destination. Do some free wheeling to find what works best for you. And, be open to applying another strategy when the current one looses its shine.
  3. Think outside the schedule. Advancements in neurobiology are opening opportunities for better ways to approach performance. Whether you work in 40/20 minute cycles of productivity/restor schedule creative days and “hate to but have to” days, find your personal performance groove.
  4. Let go of accommodating everyone and every whim. I recently read we have an unlimited ability to respond and a limited ability to act. How true! Responding to and acting upon are two divergent concepts. One can respond (unlimited capability) by not acting (limited capacity).
  5. Don’t be afraid to go against the grain. One of the great stresses in our modern day society is the compelling drive to stuff as much work as we can into hours of operation from 9 am – 5 pm. This is a hangover from the industrial age. With advancements in technology, you truly can operate your business during your most energized hours.

Over time, we’ve become highly skilled at optimizing websites, computers, and business models. Sadly, we still suck at optimizing our lives. But I believe in us and I believe we can do better.

I love a good secret — especially when it’s camouflaged in strategies, goals, and planning. And, when it all but guarantees achievement of business goals, count me in!

As it turns out, the secret to attaining our small business goals, isn’t so secret after all.

The Small Business Owners Not-So-Secret Weapon

The latest scientific research puts forth a compelling factor in the accomplishment of any endeavor. Whether it’s the rewarding implementation of new system or the fruitful achievement of a goal, research tells us that self-discipline is the key to unlocking success.

Self-discipline, defined as the ability to control our feelings and overcome weaknesses despite the temptation to abandon the best laid plans, is a learned behavior. Based on that, we can, in fact, learn to forge ahead and triumphantly cross the finish line to our goals rather than bail when things get tough (aka uncomfortable).

A Stanford University study reported that self-discipline is a learned behavior determined, in part, by our belief. This proves we truly are in control of our success.

By disrupting ineffective beliefs and bolstering beneficial ones, self-discipline grows until it becomes a habit — an unconscious, automated habit.

The Angst of Habit Formation…

On our way to strengthening the habit of self-discipline, let’s not forget the path we’ll likely travel.

Have you read Charles Duhigg’s book, The Power of Habit? The author talks about how habits are traced to our basal ganglia — the part of the brain responsible for emotions, patterns, and memories.

Decisions, on the other hand, are a function of our prefrontal cortex.

This tells us is that as we decide to break outdated, ineffective beliefs and habits, and form a new, agile, results-producing habit of self-discipline, our brains will resist.

The conscious decisions we make at the beginning of the new initiative will be resisted by previous programming from the basal ganglia. Egads!

As we exercise our new habit of self-discipline, it will feel wrong. We will want to abandon it and return to that which is comfortable.

To that I say…#resist.

I learned to drive using my Dad’s 1948 Dodge. It was a big green egg of a machine with a stick shift and a clutch that slipped. “Flooding” the carburetor was a common occurrence with an inexperienced, unschooled teenage driver. Although the nuts-and-bolts of how and why it occurred were a bit advanced for my teenage brain, I knew the fix.

The entrepreneur’s brain is similar. When overwhelmed, it spits, sputters, and “conks out.”

Keep Your Engine Running Smooth

Growing a business requires an avalanche of activities. No wonder the brain “floods.” And, when it does, thinking slows. Vision blurs. Procrastination creeps in and we avoid the very action needed to restart our engine! It’s as common as the clutch slipping on my Dad’s Dodge.

When it happens — and it will — use these simple tips to fire up your brain and turn on the entrepreneur’s engine.

  1. Sit quietly. Review your business goals to regain your focus on the “one thing.”
  2. Empty your brain. Dump your thoughts, actions, and activities on paper. Write don’t type. Research suggests handwriting (vs. typing) has important cognitive benefits.
  3. Journal daily. Julia Cameron, author of The Artists Way, wrote of the importance of “morning pages” to assist in prioritizing the day. Like draining seldom-used pipes of rusty water to get to the fresh, clear, nourishing water, morning pages act as a brain dump to clear your thinking.
  4. Contact your coach for answers. DIY “repairs” might work as a quick fix, but if done incorrectly, they can be costly! Know when to call in a pro.

Implement these ideas into your business and take your brain out for a joyride! (Just remember to release the brake.)

You know the one…

Someone pledges to accomplish a task, project, or goal by a certain time and they actually follow through on their commitment. It’s stunning!

From my vantage point as a strategic business coach, it appears accountability and commitment are as rare as a unicorn. Yet, this is the frustration of many small business owners that arise from the irritation of broken and abandoned promises.

It’s not that simple, Nike!

I’d like to believe Nike’s mantra is enough for commitment, accountability, and outcomes. Just Do It. Oh, if it were so…

We can’t indict others for this seemingly blatant disregard of honoring promises without looking at how we handle commitments. Whether it’s a promise made to a client, an agreement with a business partner, or a pledge to our business coach (Egads!), commitments are slippery.

Someone said,”Commitment is doing the thing you said you were going to do long after the mood you said it in has left you.” —Unknown.

Let’s Keep The Mood Going

A commitment to which one holds him or her self accountable is more than raising your hand to say, “I will.” Whether it’s with another — or oneself — a commitment conversation has several crucial steps including:

  1. Achieve clarification and agreement.
  2. Review specific results and due dates.
  3. Discuss capabilities and concerns, if any, of meeting deliverables on time.
  4. Identify resources and/or tools needed to accomplish the objective.
  5. Establish the measurement of success.
  6. Verify and clarify expectations, results, and timelines.

Although it requires time, presence of mind, and skill, have the conversation. It’s the one discussion that maintains the momentum to deliver on promises made.

Entrepreneur, Tamara Mellon, recently discussed her rise from the ashes following failure and filing for bankruptcy in 2016 on CBS. The former co-founder of the wildly successful shoe line, Jimmy Choo, spoke candidly about the cause of her defeat.

Mellon explained her vision was right, but the execution was wrong. She learned from her mistakes and started over…very successfully, I might add.

Mellon’s “right vision — wrong execution” plagues many entrepreneurs. Equally troublesome is a wrong vision or cloudy vision or no vision.

It’s challenging — at best — to craft a strategic plan based on the right vision. A plan based on a blurred or confused vision is unachievable (and scads of hard work).

What about your business vision?

Is it the right vision for you? Is it unambiguous? Do you believe in it enough to start over, if needed? If not, it’s worth a reboot. Consider 10 Questions Entrepreneurs Can Ask to Focus Their Vision.

Failure is seldom final or fatal with a vision to believe in…

Most entrepreneurs’ to-do lists traditionally consist of activities we either have to do, should do, or need to do. How boring and stressful is that?!

We need a better way!

To-do lists — not to be confused with an entrepreneurs strategic goals and plans — are fun, stimulating, and inspiring, like treating yourself to dessert after eating your vegetables.

After executing the goal-related actions, wouldn’t it be fun to consider a to-do list that contained only things you want to do like take a nap, run 5 miles, read 2 chapters in your favorite book, or look up funny meme’s on Pinterest?

How different would your day be?

Download the Daily Goal Planner here and add a bit more ingenuity and inspiration to your day.

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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