Bite-Size Chunks of Wisdom

Jackie Nagel, Synnovatia

Recent Posts

business coach accountability

There’s been some discussion swirling around my business coach community on the subject of accountability. Admittedly, it’s a broad topic that means different things to different people. However, accountability — primarily, the act of holding oneself accountable — seems to be most prevalent.

What comes to mind when you think of accountability?

As I ponder what accountability means in my universe, I define it as doing what I said I would do long after the mood in which I said I would do so has passed. That’s key — the mood thing.

It says I am reliable to do my part — even if I no longer feel like it. People can place their trust in me. It screams when I commit to doing something, I’ll follow through no matter what.

Frankly, it’s hard for me not to keep my promises (i.e., remain accountable) to others, no matter how much anxiety it creates. Staying accountable to myself, however, can be a unicorn.

The Accountability Argument with Oneself

business coach accountability

I’m not alone in my quest to hold myself accountable. One of the primary reasons people seek out a business coach is to keep them responsible for their goals.

What is it about the promises we make to ourselves or the goals we set that make it so challenging to hold our own feet to the fire?

It’s pretty easy to talk ourselves out of following through on a promise we made to ourselves. This is because it’s such an intelligent conversation. From the witty negotiation to the strong arguments against following through, it’s a surprise we’re not all allowed to try cases in a court of law without any formal training.

It reminds me of the cartoon with the devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other while powerfully presenting the case for or against. Whoever wins the argument rules the universe.

Owning Accountability

One of my favorite definitions of accountable is by Business Dictionary

The obligation of an individual or organization to account for its activities, accept responsibility for them and disclose the results in a transparent manner. It also includes the responsibility for money or other entrusted property.

It’s this definition that sheds light on our struggle.

As business owners, we are only accountable to ourselves. Unless your business structure consists of a Board of Directors or shareholders, there is no one to “scold” you for your “bad behavior.” As a result, there are seldom consequences — beyond the crushing disappointment of missing deadlines or treasured goals.

Beyond engaging a business coach to hold our feet to the fire and honor the commitments we make to ourselves — and then — it’s sheer willpower that seems to be the glue that holds it all together. But, unfortunately, it will lose its power throughout the day — much like a muscle loses strength from continual use. I can already see the epic flaw and failure in this strategy!

Knowing how easy it is to let ourselves off the hook, it’s essential to consider a better structure. Although I’m naturally going to advocate for hiring a business coach, after all, that is my thing — it is best to create your system of accountability.

With your system in place, you rely upon yourself. And, as the saying goes, you’ll never leave you. It’s foolproof.

The Business Coach Approach to Accountability

To help you create your accountability structure, here are a few considerations:

1) Make sure you’re genuinely committed to what you say you want to achieve. Lots of us say we want something. But, in reality, it’s more of a want, a wish, or a should. There’s no real commitment behind it. Unless you can settle upon a goal you are committed to achieving; you’re only fooling and frustrating yourself.

2) Once you’ve identified a goal to which you are genuinely committed, carve out time — dedicated, uninterrupted time — during which you will do what it takes to achieve your goal. Outside of time for achievement, it’s a Santa Claus moment as you await some miracle on 35th street.

3) Surround yourself with the correct information and the right people. You’ve set your goal and carved out time. You can’t continue to poke around on FB (or whatever other social media platform you use to kill time). Your goal, and your commitment to its achievement, are much too significant. And, you know the definition of insanity — doing the same thing and expecting different results. Ugh! What are you willing to change?

4) Put a little skin in the game. That worked beautifully for me recently during a 28 day no alcohol February. In the past, where willpower failed me miserably, I put my money where my willpower wasn’t. To hold myself accountable for my goal, I committed to donating $100 to the re-election of a particular politician that I absolutely, positively did not want to be re-elected for every drink I took.

It worked!

Every time I wanted to pour myself a bit of merlot at the end of a particularly stressful day, I thought of the check I would have to write for this so-called treat. Heck no!

Bottom Line: It’s a DIY World

There’s freedom in knowing you have built the internal and external structure to honor your commitments. Think about it. Your accountability framework eliminates the need or desire to blame someone else — to scapegoat others — if, for whatever reason, they don’t hold you accountable to your commitment. (Even writing this is a bit crazy-making.)

Yes, you can use the structure of a coaching appointment for accountability, but, honestly, a coach is not your boss, spouse, mother, or judge. They don’t have the kind of power for enforcing consequences — even those to which you have agreed.

You and your system of accountability, on the other hand? It’s a winning combination.

small business growth

Communication. It can build up your small business or tear it apart—the right kind of communication fuels optimism, hope, excitement, confidence, and small business growth. The wrong type of communication, well, let’s say it doesn’t paint a pretty picture of the future. 

Late last week, I found myself in a critical conversation. I won’t get into the details but let’s say it was one of those chats that left me feeling deflated. If it weren’t for a tiny detail, I would have hung up the phone or walked out on the conversation. But, instead, I was in a passionate exchange with myself. Egads!

small business growth

Have you ever had one of those conversations? You tell yourself everything you did wrong, point out all your faults, and whine about what’s not possible. But, of course, you have!

The words we say to ourselves are more damaging than words we exchange with others. This is because self-talk changes the way we see ourselves. It influences our performance, shapes our perception, and impacts our future.

The Science Behind Self-Talk

As many would believe, self-talk isn’t just a bunch of mumbo jumbo. Instead, from a neuroscience perspective, it shapes our internal modeling.

Ethan Kross, a psychologist from the University of Michigan, recently released a study in which pronouns used by people when they spoke to themselves silently – inside their brain – were researched. His findings were astonishing.

“What we find,” Kross says, “is that a subtle linguistic shift — shifting from ‘I’ to your name — can have potent self-regulatory effects.”

During his study, Kross had “nonfamous” people (i.e., you and I) divided into two groups. One group used the pronoun “I” as they prepared for a presentation; the other group used their name as if speaking in the third person as they prepared to talk.

The results were terrific. Those who used “I” in their inner monologue were much more critical of themselves and their ability to perform well. However, those using their name were much more supportive and encouraged how well they would do with their presentation.

Words Matter in a Mental Monologue for Your Small Business Growth

We all know negative self-talk contributes to stress. But, it’s a high price to pay. It affects our sleep, impacts our eating, interferes in our relationships, and grinds our business motion to a standstill.

If we don’t feel valuable to ourselves, we won’t benefit our clients. You may never realize your full potential the personal oration begins to change.

Start by monitoring your inner monologue—tune in to what you say to yourself. Change the dial. Speak to yourself as you speak to others, and have others speak to you. Develop different – and better – phrases to replace the ones used. And, by all means, know when to “zip it” when the conversation with yourself turns negative. 

business growth strategiesNothing is worse than being in a funk! Entrepreneurs experiencing a “mood” know, only too well, the adverse effects the blues and the blahs have on business growth. Although you can tell yourself to snap out of it, nontraditional business growth strategies can turn your performance around.

There’s no denying the impact the brain has on business performance. A research study entitled Brain mechanisms for emotional influences on perception and attention: What is magic and what is not has this to say on the subject:

Converging data from neuroscience and psychology have accrued during the last decade to identify brain systems involved in emotion processing, selective attention, and their interaction, which together act to extract the emotional or motivational value of sensory events and respond appropriately. This system generates saliency signals that modulate perceptual, motor, as well as memory processes and thus, in turn, regulate behavior appropriately.

Translation? If you’re in a funk, regardless of the reason, your behavior — and your business performance — is soon to follow.

Business Growth Strategy: Gratitude

Our brains seek out negatives, thanks to our prehistoric relatives. Yikes! Uncovering the positive — especially when our brains perceive anything but — is when the real work starts.

In Shawn Achor’s book, The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychologyhe notes, “gratitude has proven to be a significant cause of positive outcomes.”

Daily Action: Write down three things for which you are grateful. 

Business Growth Strategy: Accomplishment

Indeed, the business growth strategy of accomplishment seems like common sense — until you realize how little time and effort we invest in taking inventory of our achievements.

My grandmother taught me the value of looking back and taking note of my accomplishments — especially when overwhelmed by the road ahead. It turns out she was right! Research conducted by the University of Chicago confirmed its importance.

Daily Action: Write down your accomplishments.

Business Growth Strategy: Opportunity

One of my incredibly bright clients helped me name this strategy during a discussion on tips for overcoming the drudgery associated with a lengthy, tedious, mind-numbing “to do” list.

Rather than catalog all that needs “doing,” how about flipping the tables by recording them as questions? Jot down “Can I complete my blog by 11:30 am?” rather than “Write my blog.”

Wording your “to do” in the form of a question inspires action and more successful outcomes.

Daily Action: “Question” your opportunities.

What do you think? Can these nontraditional business growth strategies lift you out of your funk? 

business growth plugins

Webster defines power as the ability to act or do. Given that, we all have it. Everyone can act. Despite that, not every business owner uses their power or uses it in the right way. Some entrepreneurs give their power away to others, and it’s not pretty. But, when tied to your power grid, business growth occurs easily and naturally. 

business growth plugins

Plugins to Electrify Your Business Growth

  1. Become toleration-free. When you’re tolerating (i.e., putting up with stuff), you’ve given your power to the very person, place, or thing you are tolerating. So, when you shift from a person who puts up with stuff to becoming toleration-free, you take back what was yours.
  2. Get your personal needs met. You’re familiar with physical needs such as food, water, and shelter, right? But, did you know that you have personal needs? Some of our everyday personal needs include the need for appreciation, recognition, and safety. And unfortunately, we are subconsciously driven to satisfy our unmet needs. This energy results in some not-so-attractive behavior and a sense of helplessness. By consciously getting our needs met, we can choose healthy behaviors that support us in achieving our business goals.
  3. Set strong boundaries. Boundaries are imaginary lines drawn to tell others the type of behaviors or interactions that are acceptable and unacceptable. It may be okay that someone offers constructive criticism. It’s not okay that they deliver that corrective communication in a degrading or demeaning way. You have a right to protect yourself from behavior that diminishes your spirit. You don’t need to suffer “pushoveritis” to be successful.
  4. Clarify your values. Values are who you are. These are the behaviors you’re naturally drawn to that bring you great joy and satisfaction. Think back to when you were six years old. What was it that you loved doing? Were you naturally inspired to create, explore, teach, or relate? Once you tap into your values, your ability to make intelligent, strategic decisions is enhanced.
  5. Develop a reserve for fear. The standard advice for facing fear is “feel the fear and do it anyway.” (By the way, that concept never quite worked for me.) Fear indicates a pending risk. One way to alleviate fear is to develop a reserve (i.e., more than you need) around what you fear. For instance, if your fear threatens financial stability, a monetary reserve to grow your small business may help eliminate fear. 
  6. Practice self-kindness. Self-kindness is the ability to take better care of oneself, a requirement for a powerful person. Self-kindness includes the frequent use of the word “no,” healthy eating, regular exercise, and hanging out with those who treat you as a brilliant person capable of accomplishing great things.
  7. Acknowledge your strengths and gifts. Buying into the perceptions of others as truth can drain your power. For instance, assertive, ambitious, energetic, hard-driving, and determined may be perceived as an asset for one gender group and liability for another. Some praise weaknesses as strengths; some perceive strengths as weaknesses. Decide for yourself what strengths you possess.
  8. Operate at 51%. Unless you’ve had a frontal lobotomy (i.e., removal of the brain’s frontal lobe) that renders you inept, you are responsible for all that is happening and not happening in your life. Erica Jong said, “Take your life in your own hands, and what happens? A terrible thing; there’s no one to blame.” Take control over your response to life.

Despite all written about personal power, it is often misinterpreted and confused with manipulation. That’s control, not power. When you have true power, you don’t need control.

Personal power transferred to your business creates new ideas, opportunities, and connections. 

Are you ready to plug in?

small business

The pandemic, politics, and inflation put many small business owners on edge. The uncertainty was evident in many coaching conversations over the two years.

Regardless of the economy, the small business owner is left to deal with uncertainties of some kind. So we have to make it work for our company to survive.

When uncertainty looms, it’s natural to want to retract – to shrink back from previous, well-thought-out plans – to play it safe “just in case.” It’s part of the flight or fight paradox with which we’ve lived since the days of the caveman (and cavewoman).

The problem with choosing the “flight” path is that it causes us to miss out on opportunities within our grasp – if we would only look up from issues that have yet to occur.

small business

I explained it to a client in this way.

Scaling back and playing it safe is undoubtedly an option when faced with uncertainty. It’s like holding a small bucket close to our chest. Much like a kid with a particular toy s/he grips, we develop a protective posture over what we currently define as “certainty.”

We hold tight. We look down. We guard our territory – all in hopes of retaining this tiny bit of control.

The problem with this position is that with head down and field of vision limited, we fail to see the opportunities within our sphere of influence. As a result, the same occurrences that would fortify certainty are hidden from view.

Rather than respond to uncertainty by going small – Go Big – and remove any option of going back.

You Can’t Come Home

That’s what my mother-in-law told her son (my husband) when he signed on with the Marines. Knowing the rigors of the Marine Corp during the Vietnam War, she was not in favor of his enlistment.

Despite her objection, he signed up.

When boot camp proved to be too arduous, he made one call. He called his mom. He begged and pleaded to come home.

There was no convincing his mom to let him return home when times got tough. Raised in south Chicago, she knew that commitment and discipline were qualities that served a young black man well during the 60s.

Much to his surprise, she refused his request to come home. He had decided to join the Marines against her council, and he would have to stay and make it work. So he was not allowed to come home.

Decades later, he says it’s the best thing that ever happened (besides marrying me).

He learned about the strength within, the discipline needed to succeed, and the honor of commitment. He uncovered a man much stronger.

Don’t Go Back in Your Small Business

Don’t go home in the same spirit of uncertainty, struggle, and doubt. Don’t play small – not now! Not ever!

Discover the strength, wisdom, and fortitude within yourself – and capitalize on the opportunities around you as you hold your head high and keep your eyes on the prize.

strategic thinking

A delicate balance exists between running your business on a day-to-day basis and strategizing for tomorrow. The good news is that small business entrepreneurs spend a generous amount of time thinking about their future. The bad news is that it’s done on the fly and on the run (or in-the-shower).

Is that the kind of quality strategic thinking that shapes the business strategy for business growth? Although there is an up-side to on-the-fly strategic thinking, there’s a greater down-side as your trade-off quality.

Several years ago, I enrolled in the MDE (Management Development for Entrepreneurs) program at UCLA Anderson School of Business. It was a course held on campus every Friday for six months. So naturally, we cringed at the idea of leaving our business “unattended” for 8 hours! Can you relate?

We were so caught up in the daily operation of our business. Yet, we also realized the need for dedicated time to think more deeply about our futures.

strategic thinkingImportance of Strategic Thinking On Business Strategy

Thinking about the future of your business in an organized manner is essential to growing your small business. Although it won’t allow you to predict the future, it empowers you to shape your future.

Dedicated time for strategic thinking challenges the status quo. It gets you out of the “business as usual” mindset and trains your brain to see things that are new and vital to the future of your business. And, when you’re better informed about your business, your decision-making produces a better business strategy and quality decisions.

Most of us recognize the importance of strategic thinking. The real question is — when! Given all we juggle in the course of a day, personally and professionally, it isn’t easy to imagine an uncommitted time.

Time to Think Strategically

As business owners, we need to make time to think strategically. We can’t just be operationally busy all the time. We need to escape the day-to-day business operations to achieve a strategic perspective.

How much time? That varies from entrepreneur to entrepreneur. Because of current commitments, it may be necessary to ease into it by blocking out 1% of your schedule for uninterrupted, quality strategic thinking. If you generally work 40 – 60 hours each week, this is only 40 – 60 minutes. Every two weeks, increase the percentage of your strategic thinking time until you can adjust your schedule to accommodate 10% of your time.

Now What?

If you’re not well-practiced in effectively using your artfully committed strategic thinking time, it may feel a bit odd at first. You might think it’s time to get caught up on that lengthy to-do list. But, trust me, it’s not!

During your strategic thinking time, explore the issues in your business. Look to see what’s happening around you, in your business, and your industry. What’s changing? How do you need to adapt to the changes? What opportunities exist? How can your business capitalize on them?

Depending on the time, you’ll find that your strategic thinking time takes on a strategy of its own. Tap into Unzip Your Success! 5 Types of Planning Every Small Business Needs for a more detailed outline of what to think about on a daily, weekly, monthly, or quarterly basis. 

Thinking about the future is not linear. However, as you take steps and regularly commit to a predetermined quality amount of time each week, you’ll notice the positive influence on the future of your business.

Strategic thinking helps you shape that future.

 

business ask

A recent business connection on Linkedin resulted in a fun and insightful conversation. My pen flew across the page to capture how she leveraged the information to get “unstuck” and in motion as we chatted. Enjoy and read the course of action she implemented to break through her resistance to ask.

A small business entrepreneur’s day is filled with opportunities to ask for – and get – what we want—asking leaves some small business owners fearful and hesitant — especially when unaccustomed to their requests being realized. As a result, some small business owners grab hold of the “ask” in a manner that triggers an inability to achieve their quest. 

On the other hand, victorious entrepreneurs seize the opportunity to “ask” and forward their objectives. Why do some entrepreneurs succeed while others fail at asking for and getting what they want? The triumphant entrepreneurs employ “the art of the ask.”

business ask

The Art of the Ask in Your Business

Most small business entrepreneurs are masters of their craft. They are highly skilled in their area of expertise. Their competence may be legal, financial, design, communication, project management, process improvement, technology – the list is endless. Seldom is “the art of the ask” taught at the advanced learning institutions attended.

Consequently, this means using trial and error (i.e., mostly error) to hone their “asking” skills. In contrast, people who ask for and get the “yes” regularly have become skilled at “the art of the ask.”

Does This Make My “Ask” Look Big? 

Asking for and getting what we have in mind isn’t the same. We ask for permission, a referral, the sale, to be paid, for help, approval, an introduction, special treatment. Getting to “yes” depends on the skill and the size of your “ask.” Here are a few pointers to get you closer:

1. Be reasonable. Consider the desired outcome of your ask. Is it directly proportional to your relationship with the supplier of the “yes”?

2. Keep it simple. Research indicates that one (1) reason gets the best results. So, avoid the need to pile on the reasons for someone to do what you want.

3. Draft your request before making it.

4. Be kind/honest/professional. No BS allowed.

5. Be specific and brief. Don’t him-haw around.

6. Provide an easy out. Make it easy for someone to say “no” without damaging your relationship.

7. Show your gratitude.

8. Be willing to give in return.

9. Make it WIIFM compliant. WIIFM stands for “what’s in it for me.” It’s the question that subconsciously goes through the mind of each provider of a “yes.” If your request is WIIFM compliant, your “yes” broker will quickly see that your “ask” imparts something for them as well.

The ability to ask for what you want to increase the likelihood you will obtain it is a crucial business skill. With a bit of practice, you’ll master “the art of the ask.”

Now, go ahead. Ask me anything!

A Brilliant Step by Step Ask

Here are the steps my new Linkedin connection took to overcome her resistance to asking for help:

1. Make a list of people she wanted to contact.

2. Noted her relationship with each. 

3. Identified one “ask” for each. 

4. She considered how to provide an “easy out” if she heard hesitancy.

5. Made the WIIFM (What’s in it for me) crystal clear.

Your turn. What’s your ask?

small business opportunity

Didn’t we all think the pandemic would be in our rearview mirror by now? I sure did! In fact, in my 20+ years in business, I’ve never quite seen anything like the current situation, meaning the pandemic and its impact on all aspects of life.

Given the past two years of never-ending virtual meetings, non-existent in-person team collaboration, and ever-changing regulations, COVID has undoubtedly upped our resilience game. 

Many small businesses have thrived despite the relentless challenges and changes. But, unfortunately, others haven’t enjoyed the same experience. So what do you guess contributes to the difference? Did they find a four-leaf clover, rub a genie’s bottle, unearth a rabbit’s foot, or are they just plain lucky?

Roman philosopher Seneca said, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” And, despite it the results, sometimes we have to create a little luck. 

So, if you’re looking for a four-leaf clover in your business to lift your spirits and relieve some of the COVID pressure, here are a few considerations for prompting opportunities in your small business:

  1. Launch a new program. Nothing infuses energy and opportunity into a business more than a new program or service. Can’t think of a new idea? Find a new way to repackage your expertise.
  2. Develop an inbound marketing model. Inbound marketing, coined by Hubspot, Dharmesh Shah, and Brain Halligan, is perfect for small business owners short on time but long on expertise (especially when in-person relationship development opportunities are limited.) 
  3. Have coffee with your clients, virtually, of course. You’ll learn volumes about how to create opportunities for your business by jawboning with your clients. Plus, it shows your clients you care all the time — not just when you need to make a sale.
  4. Guest blog on sites where your ideal client is known to frequent. Regular guest blogging is an excellent way for others to know you exist. Find curated and membership sites where your ideal client hangs out and become a contributing editor.
  5. Understand the buyer’s journey. Not everyone who visits your website or likes your Facebook page is ready to hand over their credit card. Many want to date for a while to get to know you better. Take them gently through the Nine Steps to Building Trust Online & Offline for Your Small Business. And, can’t we all agree? The buyer’s journey of 2022 is not the same as it was in 2020. 
  6. Adopt a giver’s mindset. I’m not talking about giving away all of your expertise for free. After all, you’re in business for profit. It’s an attitude of what you can do for this person rather than what they can do for you. That’s my favorite part of capitalism — being a giver rather than a taker. 
  7. Learn 21st-century consultative selling. Put away the double-knit plaid pants and loud, abrasive sales scripts. In the 21st century, selling is uncovering the needs of others and satisfying them. And boy, if there was ever a time that conditions for businesses have changed, it’s now. 
  8. Keep in touch with your network. Don’t just stop by your social media platforms when you have something to sell; stop by and say “hi.” Turn your favorite social platform into “Cheers” – where everyone knows your name.
  9. Fill your sales pipeline. Put enough effort into lead generation to satiate your sales pipeline. And, don’t stop just short of “full.”
  10. Apply the 80/20 rule. Spend 80% of your time focusing on sales, marketing, and networking activities each day. Try this for two weeks. You’ll amaze yourself with the number of opportunities you’ll enjoy.
  11. Revise your business model. How does the saying go, “It’s Not Your Dad’s Cadillac.” Not that you’re a 120-year old car; however, what worked well pre-2020 may no longer be relevant in the pandemic world. 
  12. Change your business strategy. In fact, why not run your current strategy through its paces by asking the 8 Questions to Scrutinize Your Business Strategy (Like a Boss)

I’ll admit — that even these considerations can be daunting and ineffective in giving your business the infusion for growth it needs. Why? Because “it depends.” Success in uncertain times is dependent on many factors — many of which may feel out of our control. 

No matter what, opportunity, like luck, isn’t what happens to you; it’s what you do that creates opportunities. So, what sort of opportunity are you making today?

Opportunity, like luck, isn’t what happens to you; it’s what you do that creates opportunities. So, what sort of opportunity are you making today?

entrepreneurial time squeeze

My dad, Johnny Nagel, a common sense, hard-working man with entrepreneurial wisdom beyond his sixth-grade education, had a sign posted on the door of his makeshift office. It read…

If you don’t have time to do things right the first time, how much time do you have to them over?

entrepreneurial time squeeze

As a diesel mechanic in a small, farming community, grain farmers relied on Dad to deliver their hay balers, combines, and tractors within a suitable timeframe. Due to North Dakota’s limited growing and harvesting season, the speed of return to the grain fields was critical.

With a demand to finish harvest before the cold, hard Dakota winters set it, Dad felt the pressure to deliver machinery, often before it was fully repaired and ready.

“Good enough” was not good enough for Dad’s approach to the service he committed to providing.

Although it was difficult for harried farmers to see the value of making proper repairs from the outset, Dad’s commitment to quality work ultimately prevented costly delays for his clients.

His attitude and approach to business were the first, and the most influential, lessons I learned as an entrepreneur. It inspired me to deliver quality work with the utmost integrity — not just occasionally — but time and time again.

The High Cost of Entrepreneurial Blunders & Missteps 

In a rush to get to market, we hurry through our business planning process. We tell yourselves we don’t have time! Yet, our perceived time crunch causes a failure to identify critical strategies. This blunder ultimately triggers a flurry of costly marketing mistakes and the need to take up the planning process once again.

How much time (and money) do we have to do things over?

We sprint through research overlooking vital statistics that would accurately position our offerings. We don’t have time — or so we tell ourselves! Following months of lackluster results, this fundamental mistake forces us to realign our products. Yikes!

How much time (and money) is it going to take to do things over?

Corners are cut on a critical project for a high-profile client. This ultimately doubles your project overhead and drastically reduces your profit. Why? We didn’t have time to do things right from the inception — or so we tell ourselves. Not only does this create grounds for the loss of future contracts but puts a permanent dent in our reputation.

How much time…oh, never mind. There’s no do-over when delivering less-than-expected results to a client.


Certainly, interpreting ‘doing things right the first time’ is left to the individual. Whether it’s our planning process, client promises, or work quality, when we find ourselves unreasonable rushing or struggling, remember the philosophy of my Dad, Johnny Nagel — “if you don’t have time to do things right the first time; how much time do you need to do things over?” 

This simple, yet profound approach to business saves us from costly mistakes and unnecessary stress.

strategic planning

Strategic planning is an essential element of business development. It provides the much needed clarification to pace business growth. Not only does it keep you on track and on task, but it also help avoid detours and prevents unnecessary and costly derailments. The payoffs are huge yet few entrepreneurs seem to carve out the time to create their strategic plan — until it’s too late.

The Planning State of Mind

The biggest roadblock to strategic planning shared by many entrepreneurs is the lack of time available to actually think through and create the plan. However, before carving out the necessary time, strategic planning starts with the right mindset.

Here are a few of the faux pas we experience in our work with entrepreneurs:

  1. Many entrepreneurs feel their strategic plan needs to be completed in one sitting. Yikes! That’s a lot of mental overwhelm. Strategic planning, done right, does takes time.  Plus, you want the opportunity to step away from the plan to thoughtfully consider the various elements of the strategic plan. The future success of your business depends on it. It can take 20-25 hours for busy small business owners to complete their strategic plan. And, that’s okay!
  2. Another mental hurdle some business owners face is the notion that business needs to be on pause during the strategic planning process. Nothing is further from the truth. It’s important to continue to grow your business during the process. Insights gained along the planning path have a positive impact on business even before your strategic plan is complete.

Earl Nightingale said, “Don’t let the fear of the time it will take to accomplish something stand in the way of your doing it. The time will pass anyway; we might just as well put that passing time to the best possible use.”

The Practical Six-Step Plan for Strategic Planning

Here are a few pointers to get you started on the right path:

  1. Find your most productive time. Don’t wait until you’re mentally drained and physically exhausted to work on your strategic plan. Find the time when you’re fresh, energized, and creative. The future of your business depends on it.
  2. Arrange 60-75 minute planning periods. Pierre Khawand, author of The Results Curve(TM): How to Manage Focused and Collaborate, discovered that the best results are achieved after 40 minutes of focused work following by 20 minutes of collaboration. This gives you the time to achieve results without creating a substantial dent in your workflow.
  3. Plan to plan weekly. Don’t let too much time pass between your strategic planning activities. You’ll feel like you’re starting from square one. Done weekly, however, ideas, concepts, and direction are still fresh in your mind.
  4. Plan away from your regular workspace. If you’re easily distracted or pulled by the needs of others, get away from your regular workspace. Your neighborhood coffee shop or library stops the interruptions blocking your strategic planning process.
  5. Break down the strategic planning process into bite-sized pieces. Don’t overwhelm yourself with the entire plan. In fact, when your plan is broken down into more manageable pieces, you’ll experience a sense of accomplishment at the end of each planning appointment. Consequently, you’ll move your plan forward more quickly.   John Bytheway wisely said, “Inch by inch, life’s a cinch. Yard by yard, life’s hard.” That’s certainly applicable to strategic planning.
  6. Commit to your plan. Entrepreneurs are notorious for minimizing the long-term wants of their business to attend to the short-term deeds. Think about it. Would you cancel an important meeting with a client? Of course not! Why, then, would you be so cavalier as to cancel any planning meetings with yourself? Be as committed to your planning process as you are to the needs of your clients.

Strategic planning isn’t easy. However, planning is a habit to hone to arrive at the destination you desire.

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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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