Bite-Size Chunks of Wisdom

April 2018

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fit entrepreneur

Optimizing performance for our business is a primary objective for any small business entrepreneur. All you have to do is google “better business performance” to uncover 61,400,000 pages of tips, tools, and techniques. From better accountant to employee engagement to business models, the options are endless . . . and a bit overwhelming, I might add.

Yet, it appears that there are few resources devoted to what the overwhelmed, exhausted, yet passionate small business entrepreneur needs to know to truly spark greater business performance.

The Great Game of Business

Honestly, sometimes I think small business ownership should be an Olympic sport. It requires a herculean amount of mental, physical, and emotional energy.

Ask any high-performance athlete and they will tell you that performance is 90% mental. The same can be said for extraordinary execution in any discipline. Yet, the majority of resources are often focused on the technical aspects, such as staffing, marketing, and finance.

Granted, those are vital elements of any business operation. Yet, little information — and even fewer resources are left to care for the most important asset of the business — the owner!

The Fit Entrepreneur: Five Transformational Tactics for Improved Performance

Fitness is a term commonly associated with workouts, gear, sports, health, nutrition, and advice. All of these components are vitally important to create the stamina required for the endurance sport of small business ownership.

In addition to attaining the physical fitness vital for small business performance, adding these crucial directives prevents you from hitting the wall of neglect and ineffectuality.

  1. Care for self, first. One would think we would have learned this valuable lesson by now! Following the lead of the airline industry — put your own mask on first.
  1. Don’t think too far ahead. Small business entrepreneurs are a creative, optimistic bunch. It’s the one glaring skill that sets us apart from our corporate counterparts. Yet, thinking too far in advance — with little correlation to planning strategically — generates countless ideas which often adds to our sense of overwhelm.
  1. Plan only the next step. It would be nice to complete a project in one sitting, like the parents of a toddler eating a complete meal at one sitting. This is virtually impossible given all that is required.

Business projects are composed of moving pieces and growing insights. When you’re needing to put your project on pause, plan for the next step — and only one step — before leaving the project.

Punctuating it with a sticky note makes it much easier to pick up where you left off.

  1. Find your best performance cycle. Moving from one project to another, one fire to another, throughout the day is a real grind on the body and the mind.

There’s tons of research to support working in 60–90-minute segments followed by 5–15-minute rest and rejuvenation intervals . . . if that works for you. Much depends upon the intensity with which you focus.

If you have a tendency to focus intensely (like I do), you may find working in 30 or 45-minute work cycles with a 30 minute “recess” to be your ideal cycle for achieving peak performance.

Discover what is best for your mental, physical, and emotional well-being.

  1. Sandwich physical activity between intense exertion intervals. Contrary to what we think, we have a finite amount of mental energy available. Concentrated work cycles put a strain the brain resulting in “decision fatigue.”

One of the unhealthiest things we can do is immediately move on from one brain draining project to the next. Adding a bit of a physical intermission disrupts the wearing progression.

Whether it’s a brisk walk around the block, a 20-minute yoga class, or folding that load of laundry that’s been in the dryer for three days, physical activity replenishes our brain energy and prepares us for our next mental undertaking.

As a business owner myself, finding my ideal performance cycle is a work in progress. And, as a small business coach, I can honestly say we need to do better. Rather than search Google for the latest ground-breaking business growth initiative, why not snag one of these tips and apply it immediately. The results will be — well, in a word — transformational.

It begins innocently enough. An idea is sparked. The fire of business ownership is lit. Before long, what was once a mere idea, takes root and begins to flourish. Clients are acquired. Initiatives are launched. Revenue grows.

For some small business owners, this is their important work. For countless others, however, the nitty gritty details of growing a small business buries meaningful work. Business begins to feel more like it owns you versus you owning it.

What do you do when the grind of growing a small business takes its toll? How does one maintain the purpose and the passion with which your business was launched? And, why is important to be involved in meaningful work?

It’s not always easy . . . and the crux of the conversation during a recent coaching appointment.

The Meaning of Work

Meaningful work is defined as work significance. An article highlighting several studies concluded that meaningful work consists of three elements — significance, broader purpose, and self-realization. They go on to say that we are “hardwired to seek meaning.”

Engaging in work that is meaningful is tied to our motivation. It heightens the degree of our commitment. Plus, it influences our sense of well-being.

Meaningful work is a form of self-expression.

For many of us, launching our own enterprise was a quest for authenticity in our work. Our ability to infuse our business with meaningful work is priceless.  It shines a light on the path to pursue and gives us direction. It creates value in growing our business.

What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up

My career path is a bit of an enigma.

During the era my career was unfolding, it was common to identify a path upon which to travel until retirement. Changing jobs was common. Changing careers was unheard of . . . except for me.

My spouse remained in the same career with a variety of jobs along his career continuum. I’ve experienced three major career changes in my lifetime (to date).

On the surface, it might seem as though my quest for meaningful work — from Registered Nurse to Small Business Coach/business owner, with a stop off in sales/business development, began with throwing a dart. Trust me, there were times I thought the same thing!

Yet, as I reflect upon the shared passion, purpose, and motivation, all three career choices reflect a common thread — “the golden thread.”

The Golden Thread

Did you know that gold can actually be threaded into a cloth or garment? Like a prize running through a vestment, it won’t tarnish or lose its value. Though it’s not in your face, it catches the eye of those around you. That’s certainly true of your golden thread.

Your golden thread is your meaningful work.

If you reflect back far enough, you’ll see your golden thread woven into early childhood memories — from the make-believe games you played (I played doctor) to your early career choices (I wanted to be a nun).

The golden thread is the one glowing filament that weaves together the stages of our lives. It’s a theme that plays continually in the background regardless of the seemingly disparate — and perhaps often — career changes.

And, when you tug on your golden thread throughout the course of your day, it’s a reminder of the meaningful work you are called to do. It fuels the purpose of your business. It sparks passion in your work. More importantly, it shapes the decisions you make.

Instead of robotically creating products and services in response to market needs, plucking away at your golden thread gives rise to products and services with deeper meaning, influence, and significance — for you and your clients.

It gives meaning to your work. And, isn’t that really what it’s all about . . .

What is your golden thread? How do you express it in your business?

There’s been an explosion of growth in coaching industry. This fiery evolution has brought an interesting leaning along with it. It’s nudged a shift from acquiring professional training on the art and science of coaching to a vast number of professionals hanging out their “the coach is in” placard. After all, as is often heard, everyone’s a coach. (Psssst. No, they’re not.)

I have to admit – in the 20 + years as a business coach, I’ve seldom seen bad press on the coaching industry. There must be a number of stories lurking someplace. Coaching shills exist.

You’re Busted!

In one report, it appears the FTC busted a ring of con artists acting like business coaches. You can read the nitty gritty here.

In another article, there are coaches coaching coaches on how to make money coaching others how to make six figures. Yikes!

As someone who has dedicated a career to upholding the highest standards of honesty and integrity – not just for the coaching industry but for business, in general – it saddens me to read the stories of those unfamiliar with the coaching industry.

It’s as frustrating for me as it is for you. It’s painful to see you invest your hard-earned dollars into business coaching delivered by someone who is merely guessing at what works.

Without any previous experience with a business coach, how can you separate the wheat from the chaff? Being aware of the initial hints of concern will safeguard significant resources

Caveat Emptor

It’s impossible to list all the scams and shams that you might come across that rise to the level of buyer beware. Instead, let me outline a few things to look for to ascertain the fitness of a business coach.

Do they have a website?
The notion of no web presence sounds laughable in this day and age. Yet, it happens. A business missing vital marketing pieces requires scrutiny.

Is contact information listed?
The concern for safety of those who work from a home office is valid. Nonetheless, resources that demonstrate legitimacy are easily accessible – like a P.O. Box.

How long have they been in business?
This is not to say that a business coach with one year under their belt isn’t skilled, but you want to look at their entire picture of experience to get a sense of what you’re getting into.

What is their area of specialty?

What type and size of business is a good fit for them?

What is their coaching philosophy?
For instance, do they follow a particular methodology that may, in fact, conflict with your style and strengths?

How are their listening skills?
This is huge! You want a coach who listens to what you say as well as hears what is not being communicated. The difference between a coach listening and hearing influences the level of transformation you’ll realize in your business. You can read more about what makes an effective coach here.

What technology is available that allows for just-in-time access?
Previously “walled off” by boundaries of engaging your coach during a brief meeting weekly, business needs have changed. Coaching must modernize and adapt to the changing needs of clients with availability and access.

Do they allow a complimentary consultation, coaching session, or get-to-know-you meeting?
It’s a rare sighting when a business coach stops short of the offer of a courtesy call. Don’t let them do all the talking, however. Come to the meeting prepared with a few questions to ask your potential coach.

Coaching is a bit of a mystery – even to this day. It’s a challenge to figure out how to measure results and ROI when soft returns such a reduced stress and less overwhelm are the catalysts to greater clarity and clearly defined outcomes. Working with a business coach without any formal training turns the experience into a nightmare.

Every business needs one. And, every business has one. The question is whether or not your business strategy was selected on purpose.

The majority of small business entrepreneurs make up the 78% of the enterprises in the U.S. Although some have staff or freelancers to help implement their initiatives, most are juggling all the intricacies of business.

They are masters of their craft – accountants, lawyers, publicists, coaches, consultants, designers, thought leaders, and authors, just to mention a few – turned business owner and entrepreneur. In the pursuit of greater freedom and flexibility, they set out on their quest to launch a business.

Consciously considering a business strategy was likely the last thing on their mind.

Yet, as you grow in your position as owner, there comes a point when you recognize the need to take the reins. To be more intentional about what you’re creating and your approach to business growth.

Hence, the desire to find the precise business strategy . . .

See Clearly – Act Concisely

According to Forbes, a business strategy is a set of guiding principles that, when communicated and adopted in the organization, generates a desired pattern of decision making.

Strategy provides a well-defined roadmap to guide important decisions like resource allocation and prioritization. It takes one beyond the daily existence of overwhelm and decision fatigue to where the ability to see – and execute – on vision and goals is uncomplicated and straightforward.

Done right, a business strategy helps calm chaos and lift cloudiness.

Under Consideration

Before throwing a dart to isolate your business strategy, there are a few preambles to consider.

1) What is the vision for your business? It’s challenging, at best, to grow a business based on the right vision. Growing a business in the absence of a vision is insufferable (and scads of hard work). First step? Fire up your vision.

2) How will you grow? It may not be your goal to build a Goliath-type organization like Google or Deloitte but a strategy for how you intend to grow your business is important.

3) What aspects of your business can you capitalize on and leverage to spark growth? Each of us brings a one-of-a-kind perspective to our business that is unduplicatable. Don’t underestimate the value of your strengths. Consider the role your distinctiveness may bring to your strategy.

4) What are the risks in your chosen industry? Small business, in general, comes with risk. Each industry, in turn, brings their set of risks to the table. Understanding what lies ahead shapes how you think about your business strategy.

5) What are the trends in your industry? Like in the old English nursery rhyme, Jack Be Nimble, small business enterprises are dexterous. With the ability to respond, an aptly chosen strategy can nicely leverage budding opportunities.

6) What are your competitors up to? Let’s be honest, we can’t compete with Amazon on a wide variety of factors. But, look closely. Is there a loophole – a gap left open – that the right strategy can fill? Food for thought . . .

Configured for Flow

Landing upon your ideal growth strategy becomes a much easier undertaking once you work through the various considerations.

And, with the core business essentials firmly intact, you’ll experience a renewed sense of focus, performance, and achievement essential to business success.

Won’t it be nice not to have to cross your fingers and hope for success! Whew!

There’s something a foot in the entrepreneurial space … And some small business owners are spilling the beans on how they really feel about their business.

What started out as fun has turned into a bit of a nightmare. They are overwhelmed, burnt out, and exhausted. Endless hours with stress as a constant companion affords little time for home-cooked meals with family, exercise, or thinking in any strategic capacity about the direction of their business.

They silently wonder how much longer they can work at this fevered pace. They’re beginning to feel trapped and can’t quit because of all they’ve invested. They no longer own their business — their business owns them — and they want a “Get out of jail free” card.

The complexity of business is accelerating — along with the escalation of isolation. Even Google seems to be turning a cold shoulder. Like a Magic 8 ball, it gave us the answers to all our questions. Now? Vast amounts of time are lost digging through pages of information. Instead of clarity, they deliver chaos.

What gives?

The Disappearing Communities

When my Dad opened his farm repair shop in a small, dusty town in North Dakota, he would visit his community banker at the local greasy spoon. Along with other owners of mom and pop establishments, they gathered over a cup of burnt coffee to discuss their situations and find answers to their most perplexing questions about growing their business.

When social media platforms emerged, communities sprung up in the form of LinkedIn groups. They became the go-to place to seek answers to our questions. That was until groups were over run with promotional content. It quickly became the place conversations went to die.

Of course, there is Facebook … but what’s happening there? It’s turned into more of a drive-by for lurkers and loiterers. No conversations happening here, people! Move along!

Where has that gotten us? For the small business entrepreneur suffering isolation, it’s doubled down on our seclusion and loneliness. How are we expected to grow a business in a vacuum?

The truth is, we can’t!

The Dyson Effect

Minus MBA’s and entrepreneurial degrees, let’s face it, we’re all just making this up as we go along. Granted we have the likes of Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, Neil Patel, Arianna Huffington, Tim Ferris, and that guy over at Virgin.

We devour their words of wisdom, combing over them like precious pearls to find the perfect treasure to fit our situation. We follow their lead — imitate their success — with little luck.

Why? We’re not them.

We don’t have gargantuan teams who can execute on our strategic initiative. We don’t have venture capitalists and angel investors with deep pockets that allow us to experiment unencumbered by such things as cash flow. We don’t always have access to the best and brightest talent in search of big paydays and plush benefits — although we’ve been known to uncover a super talent on occasion. Lucky us!

The Cure for the Sucking Sound of Isolation & Business Stagnation

What we lack in assets and resources, we more than make up in passion, drive, determination, and dedication. We are a relentless group of renegades, rebels, and misfits with a desire to carve out a lifestyle for ourselves and our family while delivering innovative products and services with a personal touch and attention to detail not found at the big behemoths like Amazon, Apple, and fill in the blank.

What we need — besides someone cutting us some slack — is a hook-up. Not in the dating/casual sex sense but rather in the form of valuable connections. We need to hook up with the guidance, wisdom, and counsel custom-made for the size of our business — when we need it most.

We need community.

We need a place to meet and build relationships with like-minded business owners, those who share the same interest and set of circumstances. To connect in a deeper way. A place where questions are answered, conversations are sparked, and relevant connections occur without the distraction and interruption presented by most social media platforms.

A place to work smarter and grow faster. That’s why we created Eureka! 

We have a lot to do — and doing it together — learning from each other, sharing stories, getting answers to questions even Google can’t provide — creates greater value for everyone invested in the community.

What would you like an entrepreneurial community to do for you and your business? Join us and find out.

What small business entrepreneur hasn’t dreamt of achieving great things through their business. It’s what ignites our passion in the early days of our start-up and fuels our determination during the whitewater of growth and development.

For some entrepreneurs, winning the game of business eludes them — or at a minimum, is puzzling and perplexing. Yet, with the right business strategy, you can breakthrough your metaphorical glass ceiling.

Take A giant Step Forward

If you were fortunate enough to grow up in a neighborhood of ragtag kids, like I did, you may remember the game of Mother May I. One child played the role of the leader or captain, aptly named “Mother,” while the other kids took on the role of the game participants.

Mother would stand against one wall — facing the cavalcade of kids (aka the angry mob) — while the little mobsters (aka kids) lined up along the other wall anxiously awaiting their turn. This was usually accompanied by the traditional pushing and shoving while vying for an advantageous position.

The objective of the game was to reach Mother in the fewest actions possible or, at a minimum, before your snotty-nosed friends. As the winner, you would then get to be the Mother for the next round — and boss your friends around.

In order to make a move, permission had to be sought — and approved. Hence, the name Mother May I.

Child after child would take their turn by asking “Mother, may I take three giant steps forward” or “Mother may I take two twirls forward.” In response, Mother could accept the request with a “yes, you may” or reject the request and offer an alternative — “no, you may not but you may take four hops backward.” (That’s just plain mean!)

It was the ultimate “cross-over” game of the time.

the Business Cross-Over Game

Business is somewhat like Mother May I. Our objective is to advance from one destination — our current lot in life — to another, aptly named “our future.”

One of the major differences, however, is that as entrepreneurs, we play both roles of Mother and children.

We lean against one wall of our business desperately wanting to take three giant steps forward, then four hops followed by 10 pirouettes to reach our ultimate business vision.

Yet, to many entrepreneurs, it feels as though there are three giant steps forward followed by four frog hops backward. So frustrating!

Try as you might, progress is much too slow for your liking and all the other “kids” are passing you by in the race to achieve their goals. Even more frustrating!

And, just like in Mother May I, there are two key business strategies for breaking away from the pack and crossing over to win at this great game of business — asking permission and strategic planning.

Permission to Succeed

During the game of Mother May I, if a child states their desire for forward movement without preceding the request with “Mother May I,” their request is categorically denied. (Hit forehead with hand for being such a numbskull.)

And, as if the epic rejection of your request wasn’t failure enough, a request without permission was swiftly accompanied by a penalty of returning to start. ARG! The “fun,” along with some valuable life lessons, never ends.

So it is in business. Desperately longing for success isn’t enough if you haven’t asked for and given yourself permission to succeed.

Strategically Planning for the Win

The object of a good Mother in the game of Mother May I is to bring everyone forward as equally as possible. As a dirty little juvenile playing for the win, this took some conniving.

You had to know your competition, study their motives, and anticipate their moves in order to take decisive actions. Additionally, strategic execution of your plan was mandatory. Overtaking Mother too quickly could cause you to suffer the punishment of backward movement and bring you to ruin.

Again, just like in business. Competition needs to be studied, SMART goals need to be established, and plans need to be executed thoughtfully and strategically to arrive at your ultimate destination.

Have you asked for and given yourself permission to take three giant steps forward?

Have you studied your competition in order to better understand their next moves?

Have you plotted your goals and settled upon the strategic moves you’ll take?

If not, now may be the best time to ask permission of success and proceed with the strategic moves of a five-year-old vying for the win in the game of Mother May I.

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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