Bite-Size Chunks of Wisdom

May 2018

Recent Posts

Back in the “day,” experts touted “Girard’s Law of 250” as instrumental in creating and nurturing your business network. It was based on a non-scientific theory that the average number of attendees at a funeral or a wedding was 250. From this concept, it was assumed that the average size of an individual’s professional network was 250 people. And, from the magnitude of the network, a successful, growing business could be launched.

This, of course, was pre-google. There was no easy way to verify its validity. Like the childhood game of “telephone,” it was passed down from generation to generation of sales professionals as the touchstone for business development — develop relationships with an average of 250 people and ensure your success. It was that simple. We followed it blindly, using it to guide our relationship marketing.

Joe Girard, the world’s greatest #1 retail salesman as attested by the Guinness Book of World Records, wasn’t alone in his business strategy of developing your business network.

Dr. Robin Dunbar, an anthropologist, and evolutionary psychologist notes the average size of an individual’s social circle to be 150 people. Pew research, on the other hand, logs the size of the average American network as 634 connections.

No matter the average size of one’s network, nurturing your network is key — especially when it comes to acquiring and retaining clients.

Relationships: The Key to Business Success

It’s a known fact that it is 5X costlier to acquire a new client than to maintain and retain a current or former client. Furthermore, a 2% increase in spending on client retention will reduce marketing costs by as much as 10%. In a boot-strapped small business, those are some impressive numbers!

For most small business owners, a more engaging association with our clients and potential clients is important. Connecting with our clients beyond the transaction is a valuable — and extremely gratifying — aspect of small business ownership.

With effort focused on satisfaction, experience, and retention — rather than on the sales transaction — bonds of trust begin to take shape. But don’t get too comfortable . . .

The Decline of Mindshare: The Learning/Forgetting Cycle

German scientist, Hermann Ebbinghaus, was the first to define the concept of the learning curve. He discovered that by consistently dispensing learning over some time, we could radically improve our ability to learn. Additionally, if not repeated at regular intervals, accessibility to the learned material would slowly decay to the point of feeling as though it had been forgotten. (Hmmm, my high school history class is coming to mind.)

What does this have to do with the business network? PLENTY!

Relationship development and marketing are all about mindshare. Without time and attention, the flourishing relationships you worked so hard to foster rapidly decay.

Consider this: when someone first interacts with you and your business, you occupy their “mindshare” — at least in the immediate time frame — as they “learn” about you. If an opportunity arises during that “learning” time frame — while you remain top of mind — they are most likely to think of you. However, over time and with little repeat interaction with your business, they soon “forget” you. (Nothing personal, right?)

© Mindmaven

However, according to Dr. Ebbinghaus, regular interaction intervals (aka learning) maintains a level of knowledge that is more easily accessible in times of need. Hence the conclusion is that regularly interacting with your primary network leads to more business and referrals.


Nurturing Networks

The nuts and bolts of leveraging the learning/spacing curve to nurture your network aren’t well established. However, insight into this phenomenon can elevate your relationship marketing game considerably.

Consider this as a starter plan for building and/or restoring trust in your network:

1) Identify 20–30 raving fans.
Ken Blanchard, the author of Raving Fans, defined a raving fan as “a customer who is so devoted to your products and services that they wouldn’t dream of taking their business elsewhere and will sing from the rooftops about just how good you are.”

2) Reach out to one fan every day.
Bam! That’s it. Five minutes each day reaching out to the most valuable members of your network — not to sell — but rather to say hi, discover what’s new in their world, get to know their needs today as well as tomorrow — to show you care and stay top of the mind for whatever else may come along.

Running a business is not for the faint of heart or the weary of spirit. In addition to the stamina required to run the race, there are skills that make growing your business a little bit easier.

Recently, HubSpot published a blog titled 9 Agonizing Business Skills You Need to Grit Your Teeth and Learn. It put my brain cells on full throttle to write about the real business skills to master to move your business to the next level.

Bite Into These Business Skills

According to a veteran chief executive, Terry H. Hill over at, “Over half of new businesses fail mainly because the entrepreneur is unable to translate their passion into practical business skills. Success demands more than hard work, resilience, and expertise in your field. In order to succeed, you need to understand and to become proficient in a set of fundamental business skills.”

It’s a good thing life-long learning is baked into the DNA of the entrepreneur! With homage to HubSpot, and as a business coach who has worked next to small business owners, allow me to present the vital business skills you want to learn … no teeth-gritting required.

  1. Strategic Thinking. As entrepreneurs, it’s not wise to be operationally busy every waking moment of the day.

Escaping your daily routine for a bout of thinking strategically changes your perspective. It permits you to see your business in a different light. It presents new insights that shape your decisions and give you a “leg up” in your business.

And, don’t worry! You’re not alone if this is a skill that could use some sharpening. Only 4-7% of leaders consider themselves competent in this area.

  1. Strategic Planning. The natural progression following a healthy dose of strategic thinking is strategic planning.

The insights gained while thinking strategically help identify goals and formulate plans that give shape to your vision. Rather than “shoot from the hip,” planning proficiency makes resource allocation a dream.

  1. Goal Setting. Closely aligned with your strategic thinking and planning is your ability to set the kind of clear, audacious goals that move your business forward. After all, isn’t that what it’s all about?

Although it sounds simple, setting, and achieving goals is not as easy as one would believe. Selecting the right goals, identifying the precise tactics to make those goals happen, and setting up your lead and lag measures challenge the most ardent performer.

Is it doable? Absolutely!

  1. Marketing. Yikes! Where do we begin to define and develop effective marketing skills, especially in this mad, mad, mad business environment. This is a great place to consider outsourcing to the experts given the vast amount of information and skill needed to market for results.

Outsourcing doesn’t leave you off the learning hook, however. It’s important to glean a basic understanding of marketing to make sure you hire the right vendors.

  1. Sales. Surprise! You’re already selling. You sell your kids on wearing a coat to school. You sell your spouse on taking you to dinner. The real question is how skilled are you at selling in your business?

Selling plays a vital role in your business success. It’s important to get it right. With just a bit of focused intention, your ability to match your selling style to your clients’ buying style will be second nature for you.

Gone are the days of the obnoxious used car sales approach. Thank goodness!

  1. Organization. Does this sound like you need a professional organizer? Perhaps you do but these are the kind of organizational skills that go beyond having things in neat little piles.

Acquiring the ability to master prioritization, productivity, and performance ensures you’re functioning – and focusing – on what matters most.

Ready for Class?

Thanks to advancements in technology, accessibility to acquiring essential business skills have never been easier. Although institutions of higher learning are catching up to teaching the entrepreneurial skillset, it still lacks relevance for today’s modern world. Just ask Elon Musk!

In the meantime, you can bone up on your skills through several – if not all – of these methods. After all, school is never out for the pro.

  1. Online courses. There’s no shortage of self-directed online courses to be had. Check out,, or the free online courses at Santa Clara University
  1. Local courses. If you like to learn in a face-to-face environment, you’re in luck. The business terrain is dotted with small business development centers that offer low cost or free courses on a variety of topics.
  1. Stand-up comedy course. Yes, you read that right. If you’re the kind entrepreneur that abhors a traditional learning environment, enrolling in a stand-up comedy course might be your ticket. (You can read about my improv experience.)
  1. Engage a business coach with a teaching style. Many skilled business coaches have a real heart – and skill – needed to guide an entrepreneur through the honing of their skills.

If you have a chance to read HubSpot’s blog, you may find a few more skills that aren’t covered here. Alas, I’d rather master strategic thinking than Excel documentation. (That’s what my virtual assistant is for.)

Like any small business owner, you accepted the challenge of business ownership. Bravo! You knew you were in for a wild ride, but little did you know how your decisions could drive or derail your goals.

There’s little room for error in a small business.

Unlike larger, better capitalized businesses, we start with bootstraps (for pulling ourselves up) and a prayer (for getting out of jams). We parlay our passion, experience, and crafty chops into a business that makes Mom proud.

Our desire to grow is strong. Our determination is unparalleled. Our enthusiasm is contagious. Our belief — although wavering at times — remains steadfast.

Then, what’s the problem?


Whether it’s a strategy for growth, content, social media, marketing, or sales — it’s completely MIA (missing in action). And, it leaves an indelible mark.

Understanding Business Strategy

Strategy is important for a variety of reasons. It helps us make decisions. It aligns our vision with our goals. It prevents us from making choices that pull us off course and take us down a rabbit hole in search of Alice in Wonderland. It helps us filter opportunities and risk.

It’s a good thing to have!

Minus a strategy, we become a wandering generality. We struggle. With a lack of congruency between our action and our intentions, building momentum and gaining traction makes it difficult to pop our head above the clouds.

All one needs to do is google “business strategy” to learn of senior executives around the world who claim to lack certainty in identifying a winning strategy. Is it any wonder we struggle? If global executives tussle with strategy, we don’t stand a chance!

Could it be strategy is missing because we don’t understand how to create a strategy that works? If that’s the case, you’re not alone.

Choose Your Weapon

Frankly, all the google-speak around innovation strategy, capabilities-driven strategy, merger and acquisition strategy, etc., etc. makes my head spin.

For the sake of small business, we just need a little nudge to get us moving in the right direction of finding the best strategy that makes business less of a daily burden.

Pour yourself a cup of coffee and pull up a chair as you consider your response to these questions:

  1. How will the business be built and managed?
  2. How will you capitalize on market opportunities?
  3. How will you solve critical problems?
  4. Will the strategy you’re considering result in growth and profitability?
  5. Is your strategy easy to understand?
  6. Does it align with your vision and mission?
  7. Does it serve the test of time?

There you have it. That wasn’t so bad, was it. Realizing the answers to these tightly-woven questions designs your decision-making tool — your samurai sword — to slay the enemies that thwart your progress.

Advanced Adventure into Strategy

In the event you’re feeling audacious and are ready for a deeper dive into strategy, feel free to download our handy dandy worksheet.

Be prepared! It does require time (10–12 hours) and brain cells.

If you want to dial in your business strategy as best as you can, here’s my suggested approach.

  1. Download the worksheet
  2. Set aside one hour per day for the next two weeks.
    Don’t tackle it all at once. It can be overwhelming and gets in the way of thinking as clearly as needed for this exercise.
  3. When your assigned appointment time arrives, resist the temptation to cancel on yourself. Set your timer and dig in. Tackle one piece of the puzzle at a time.

At the conclusion of the two weeks, you’ll have your business strategy dialed in. It will be much easier to keep your business on track and moving forward as you begin to employ your strategy.

In the words of the famous philosopher, John Mayer, “If you had started doing anything two weeks ago, by today you would have been two weeks better at it.”

Ready to begin?

During a recent conversation with a colleague, the question about the difference between a life coach and a business coach came up. It was an excellent question.

The growth in the coaching industry, much like any industry, creates specialization. What was once only business and/or life coaching, has spawned executive coaching, performance coaching, team coaching, and personal coaching, just to name a few.

Frankly, coaching specialties lend a bit more complication to the conversation. In many ways, it reminds me of the medical profession. Students pursuing a career in medicine, despite the learning institute of choice, undergo fundamental instruction prior to undertaking their specialty of plastics, obstetrics, cardiology, etc.

Coaching Know-How

The industry of coaching, as a whole, comes with a set of agreed upon core competencies laid out by the professional organization, International Coaching Federation (ICF). This is the gold standard for the coaching industry.

The ICF reviews the various coach-training programs and, based on the standards outlined by a global Board of Directors, provides accreditation for the program. This ensures exceptional training curriculums are available for coaches who seek professional training.

Given that, the core coaching competencies sought and acquired are the same whether a coach pursues a business or life coach training program. Isn’t that good news!

Life vs. Business Coaching

Knowing that a life and/or a business coach are skilled in the fundamental competencies goes a long way to building confidence in your choice as a consumer. This is, of course, based on the fact that the coach you’re considering has obtained coach training at an ICF-approved coaching academy. (You are vetting your coaches, right?)

Depending upon your desired outcome, both a business and a life coach can assist with issues and challenges around your personal life. I would assert, however, that a life coach is better equipped to coach you through the concerns or objectives you have that are related to your personal life.

Although coaches of various specialties share in their skill of the core coaching competencies, each discipline comes equipped with advanced knowledge, skill, and tools that allow them to perform at their best.

Does this mean you’ll need both a business and a life coach? That depends on your subject matter and desired results.

Although business coaching conversations may include cash flow, marketing, staffing, or strategies for business growth, business coaching is always a bit personal. As a matter of practice, you can’t take the owner out of the business nor can the business be extricated from the owner. They’re a package deal!

The Bottom Line

The key to deciding what type of coach is a good fit for you is greatly determined by the area of focus and outcome you desire. Although a coach may be able to effectively cross-over into other areas of study, the truth is — you, as the consumer, will always do yourself the biggest favor when engaging a coach specific to your needs.

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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