Bite-Size Chunks of Wisdom

strategic thinking
Strategic thinking, the thinking process used by the most intentional and successful of Stage II enterprise entrepreneurs is getting a bad rap!  And,  who’s paying the price for it? You are! The small business owners!

Strategic thinking, the thinking process used by the most intentional and successful of Stage II enterprise entrepreneurs is getting a bad rap!  And,  who’s paying the price for it?

You are! The small business owner!

Apparently someone (insert air quotes here) is attempting to sell snake oil on how to think about thinking strategically. After a while, it gums up our business growth. 

 

strategic thinking

 

Myth #1: Strategic Thinking is Only for Big Business

Actually, strategic thinking is for any business looking to take a long-range view of their business and the environment in which it operates. It’s what’s required to make the most of any changes on the horizon.

Applied successfully, strategic thinking helps you better leverage your precious resources of time, talent, and money. With better use of resources comes accelerated forward movement.

Myth #2: Only Certain People are Qualified for Strategic Thinking

The numbers are in — and they aren’t pretty! Chief Executive Magazine reported that only 3 out of every 10 business leaders know how to think strategically.

Don’t let this statistic reinforce the myth. Actually, it points out that few people have been taught this critical business skill. If you’re willing to learn,  you can become a strategic thinker for your business.

Myth #3: I Don’t Have Time to Think Strategically

This is quite prevalent, especially for small businesses. I understand first-hand how difficult it is to pull our heads out of the day-to-day operations, especially once the flurry of our inbox is unleashed.

My dad taught me that if you don’t take the time to do something right the first time, how much time do you have to do it over. That’s a valuable lesson to learn.

High-level thinking encourages the proactive monitoring of your business so you’re not caught off guard by some unnoticed event or trend. Strategic thinking saves you time and money. In the end, it’s what takes the business to the next level. 

Myth #4: Strategic Thinking is a Waste of Time

This myth is particularly poignant for many business owners who escaped the bureaucracy of a corporation in search of their own business.

Having spent hour, upon grueling hour, tied up with multiple people who talked ad infinitum only to use the strategic plan as a doorstop, it’s natural to think it’s a waste of time.

Truthfully, strategic thinking is fast, easy, and very effective when done consistently and correctly. (Be sure to ask us how!)

Myth #5: I Think Strategically All Day

Is it strategic in nature? Does it take your goals into consideration? Is it based on data? Are actionable, corrective actions included in your thinking?

You may be thinking all day but you’re not thinking strategically. In fact, most entrepreneurs spend their day thinking tactically. In reality, you’re thinking about how everything will get done.

Strategic thinking, at the start of your week and/or day, means less thinking (i.e., worrying) about how to get it all done. Strategic thinking clears out the clutter lurking in your mind. It keeps you focused and on track with the activities most meaningful to achieving your dreams.

Do any of these myths sound familiar? If so, rethink your approach to the kind of thinking that ultimately impacts your business.

Strategic thinking is the quickest, most predictable, time-effective skill to achieving business success.

 

Wow! I did not see this coming... There's an “invisible gorilla” in my business? (It does, however, explain who’s been raiding the snack drawer late at night.) And it's having its way with my business growth!

Wow! I did not see this coming…

business growth invisible

There’s an “invisible gorilla” in my business? (It does, however, explain who’s been raiding the snack drawer late at night.)

And it’s having its way with my business growth!

An an entrepreneur, my business depends on attention. In fact, I pride myself in staying focused on strategies to grow my business. The notion of not being alert to a “stocky animal with broad chest and shoulders, large, human-like hands, and small eyes set into a hairless face” is horrifying.

Admitedly I’m less than perfect in pursuit of the attention objective. Like you, my attention is divided between client requests, meetings on zoom, acquiring talent,  moving projects forward, juggling cash flow…

Growing a business today isn’t easy — despite what we often read online. Moving a business forward strategically and systematically is not for the faint of heart.

The fact that an “invisible gorilla” roams aimlessly around the office is unconscionable!

.   .   .  

TLDR:

  • The business owner’s inability to pull themselves out of day-to-day operations overshadows key elements of business growth.
  • “Inattention blindness” ultimately slows or stalls business growth that prompts owner burnout, overwhelm, and despair.
  • Join an entrepreneur cohort, engage a strategic business coach, or learn to retrain your brain to break out of your concealed silo existence.

.   .   .   

Sight Unseen: It’s Monkey Business

But what about the gorilla? In the book, The Invisible Gorilla: And Other Ways Our Intuitions Deceive Us, professors Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons explore the inner workings of our minds. As a result, they uncover how we miss things right in front of us.

Their groundbreaking experiment, known as “The Monkey Business Illusion,” reveals a great deal about our focus, attention, and perceptions — key elements that elevate a business to the next level or keep it plateaued.

Watch “The Monkey Business Illusion” video.  And, experience for yourself how critical pieces of information can be, shall we say, “invisible”.

The Invisible Impact on Business Growth

As Simons points out in the video, “When you’re looking for a gorilla, you often miss other unexpected events.” So it is with business.

When we are so intensely focused on a particular aspect of the business, such as juggling cash flow or delivering value to clients, we often miss the most impactful aspects of business growth. Yet, they are right in front of us.

This is called “inattentional blindness.” “Inattentional blindness” refers to devoting one’s attention to a particular activity and unintentionally missing other critical information.

When Chabris and Simons speak of “inattentional blindness,” they might as well be speaking about our experience as an entrepreneur.

What does it mean to miss cricital pieces of information to grow your business? Here are a few “inattentional blindness” fallouts:

  • loss of relevance and market competitiveness
  • high client turnover
  • slimming profit margins
  • cash flow on life support
  • talent not growing with the organization
  • sluggish or stagnant growth
  • owner burnout and despair

Retrain Your Brain to See the Invisible

Whether your attention is focused on a single aspect of your business or diverted to a multitude of activities, objectivity allows us to identify the opportunities and obstacles we’re missing. For instance, to avoid missing critical information, here are a few solutions to consider:

  1. Join a Mastermind Group of like-minded business owners. Others often see what we are missing. As a result, the insight is priceless for discovering and implementing the right solution.
  2. Engage a strategic business coach. A trained strategic business coach is well-equipped to see the “invisible gorilla” in your business.
  3. Train your mind to think differently.  See the “gorilla” for yourself to recognize the opportunities and strategies to grow your business. In fact, consider reading Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know by Adam Grant. It’s eyeopening! 👀

Look around. As a result of this new information, are you seeing any “invisible gorillas” in the midst of your business?

business growth

When asked about business growth goals, many Stage II entrepreneurs respond in a variety of ways, like “do better than last year” or “double what we did last year”. This seemingly unplanned, off-the-cuff response doesn’t come from a casual attitude about business growth. It originates from a lack of foundation from which to set strategic goals. 

The truth for most small business entrepreneurs is that business growth is somewhat ad hoc. It’s kind of a mystery. It’s what happens to us when we’re frantically working “in” our business rather than “on” our business.

Business Growth: Not As Easy As it Seems

During the economic downturn of 2008, entrepreneurs quickly discovered the challenges of an economic retreat. Revenues dipped. Budgets were cut. Talent was reduced to keep organizations afloat.

My Dad, a product of The Great Depression, would say, “We need to tighten our belts.” And, tighten our belts we did!

Despite that, many of our colleagues were unable to keep their heads above water. The small business failure rate was 4%. An additional 12% of businesses shuttered in 2009. 

Businesses that sustained a growth rate of 20% or more stayed afloat during that stressful time. Despite the challenges, they weathered the storm.

I originally wrote about business growth rates in 2013. At that time, economists were identifying a global economic decline in 2019 (see 2. The economy will slow down…). Economists said it would likely spread to the United States in 2020. Yikes! We did not see COVID, and its accompanying financial upheaval, coming.

By April 2020, 22% of small businesses that existed only three (3) months earlier vanished despite PPP support. That’s 3.3 million businesses!  One year later, in April 2021, 36.8% of small business entrepreneurs anticipated the return to normal operations would take longer than six months. Their primary concern?  Talent acquisition.

Despite the uncertainty, small business entrepreneurs remained optimistic. In fact, 89% of small businesses queried by Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business program were confident their business would survive. That’s good news!

Business Growth: How Fast is Too Fast to Grow?

While obtaining my MDE (Management Development of Entrepreneurship) at UCLA Anderson School of Business, I had the good fortune of studying under Professors Yvonne Randle and Eric Flamholtz. They created a framework to prepare entrepreneurs for business growth.

Based on their work with a variety of organizations, Prof. Randle and Flamholtz identified five rates of growth for small business firms. (From Growing Pains…Transitioning from an Entrepreneurship to a Professionally Managed Firm by Eric Flamholtz & Yvonne Randle)

1. Less than 15% annually — growth.

Although many consider this rate rather unspectacular, a firm will double its size in five years while growing at a 15% rate. (Raise your hand if doubling the size of your business in five years is acceptable to you. 🖐)

2. 15 – 25% annually — rapid growth. (Note: My practice with coaching business clients growing at 15- 25% revealed some interesting experiences.

During their time of accelerated growth, they admittedly worked harder. They were exhausted at the end of the week. Resources like time, talent, and money were stretched. The quickened growth — and thinning margins — often required an infusion of capital. This seems to be more common with service-based businesses due to the required talent to deliver on value.

The notion of a capital investment, whether it’s through taking on debt via a credit card, loan, or credit line is a bit unnerving. Yet sometimes that’s the risk of entrepreneurship to provide the resources needed to break through to the next level.

Being strategic can help you leverage the risk to reduce your personal stress and get a good return on the risk.)

3. 25 – 50% annually — very rapid growth.

4. 50 – 100% annually — hypergrowth.

5. Greater than 100% annually — light-speed growth.

Your Goal for Business Growth

Rapid growth is very appealing to the always-optimistic entrepreneur. However, it’s good to note these growth rates can create problems for an entrepreneurial firm. Rapid growth, for instance, can make it difficult to keep up with the needed infrastructure.  A business can actually choke on its own growth.

Isn’t it nice to have some guidelines for intentionality in planning your business growth?

What’s your growth goal? Let us know how we can help you achieve clarity, focus, and strategy to achieve your growth goals.

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Stay tuned!  And, subscribe to our upcoming series, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There. Learn proven strategies for the growing pains you face as a Stage II Enterprise entrepreneur.

Entrepreneurs strategy for slow growth
The journey of the entrepreneur is one of twists, turns, stalls and restarts. The right strategy, at the right time, keeps your business growing.

You’re an entrepreneur. You made it through the core startup phase of your business growth. You’ve refined your buyer and honed your offerings. Your marketing funnel is consistently generating client leads. And, you’ve built a strong reputation in your industry. Well done! 

The good news? You no longer worry about survival. 

And yet…

You’re overwhelmed. Burned out. Exhausted. 

You work long, endless hours. Each day is utter chaos only to wake and do it again the next day. 

With no end in sight, you wonder how much longer you can work at this fevered pace. 

The worst part? Despite your continued effort of hard work and long hours, your business growth has slowed or stalled. Egads! 

Entrepreneur strategy for slow growth
Photo by Luke Chesser on Unsplash

You’ve hit a plateau — a ceiling — that seems impenetrable regardless of the successful implementation of effective strategies. 

What started out as an exciting journey for you as an entrepreneur has turned into a bit of a nightmare. You feel trapped. You’re falling out of love with your business but can’t quit!

You’ve invested too much.

You no longer own your business – your business owns you.

Welcome to the Stage II Enterprise! 

Stage II Enterprise: By The Numbers

Imagine that. There’s actually a name for the current state of your business existence

As a Stage II Enterprise, you’ve moved beyond startup. During the three to five-year period of business ownership, you’ve proven your business model and achieved some level of sustainability. (Insert sigh of relief here.) 

Annual revenue is between $350,000 – $1 Million. And, although you “enjoy” some fluid cash flow, revenue is stalled. Your response? Tighten down the hatches and work harder!

You manage a team of 5–15 hybrid employees and freelancers, which allows you to expand and contract as dictated by cash flow and opportunities. 

Sadly, your talent pool is a bit stagnant with unqualified hires stemming from the earlier, inexperienced days of business ownership. 

Employees haven’t grown with the organization and because pay may not be aligned with the labor market, you’re hesitant to ask them to step up their game.

Plus, as the former “lone ranger,” you are accustomed to “doing it all” yourself. You either don’t know how or are uncomfortable delegating to the staff. Staff is underutilized.

Your ability to survive missteps, misjudgments, and bad decisions is real. With little to no time focused on forwarding movement and strategies needed to grow the business, the ability to remain relevant is challenged.

And yet…

You know what it takes to run a business and have the aptitude and appetite to continue growing.

Stage II Enterprise: The Information Gap of the Entrepreneur

As a Stage II Enterprise, the marketplace does not serve you well — if at all. Few sources exist to provide you with the proven strategies that work.

A colossal information gap exists between startup, stage one business growth and development, YOU, and the corporate behemoths; information vital for solving the problems of your enterprise.

What you long for — and need — are effective strategies to accelerate the process of stopping the stall and getting to the next level.

Stage II Enterprise: Bridging the Information Gap

To turn a stall into success requires navigating complex challenges, especially in times like this. It’s a strategic balancing act to test the boundaries of what is possible, understand the limits of your business, and maximize its potential. 

Although your chosen strategy is business dependent, there are several problems to solve, such as: 

  • Inability to focus.
  • Sense of overload, overwhelm and overburden by the current business environment.  
  • Limited access to resources needed to succeed like money and talent. 
  • Poor deployment of resources such as staff, time, and money.
  • Cloudy thinking accompanied by poor decision-making. 
  • Lack of a clear direction, plan, or focused execution. 
  • Missing knowledge or skill.  Not knowing what you don’t know. 

Despite the challenges faced, you want to put your talents to use, grow your business, and make smart decisions. Good for you! 

The question remains — where do you start? Don’t worry. We’ve got your back!

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Connect with Community. Contribute to the Conversation. 

Visit our community platform to connect, commiserate, collaborate, and collude with like-minded Stage II Enterprise entrepreneurs on what it takes to rise above your growing pains.

resilience

If there’s any skill the small business entrepreneur has cut their teeth on during the past 18 months, it’s resilience. And not necessarily by choice, but rather by chance. One’s adaptability to the significant — and sudden — adversity and stress brought on by the pandemic has certainly tested our limits in ways we never dreamt possible.

How resilient are we? Well, funny you should ask!

When questioned, most people consider themselves resilient. In fact, 83 percent of Americans believe they have high levels of emotional and mental resilience. The reality? Only 57 percent scored as resilient. (In their defense, that’s a rather significant feat.)

The Seven C’s of Resilience

My good friend and colleague, Dr. Ruth Hansten, knows only too well what it takes to be “resilient fit.” As a result of her own personal journey, she beautifully outlines the seven C’s of resilience in her mini-video series, From the Chaos of the COVID Crucible to Grit with Grace.

Whether one is knee-deep in adversity or not, insight and perspective from her mini-series is well worth the time as she takes you on the journey from compassion to comic relief.

Here’s what you can look forward to learning…

resilience

Part one: Compassion and gratitude toward ourselves and others hone resilience.

Part two: Commitment to your purpose fortifies resilience.

Part three: Connection with others strengthens resilience.

Part four: Curiosity helps us take a step back, gain perspective, and take back our power. 

Part five: Using challengecourage and reframing opens ourselves to a more positive future.

Part six: Control explores power, influence, and letting go in order to become more resilient.

Part seven: Comic relief discusses the use of humor in coping in the midst of COVID, natural disasters, civil unrest, and inequality.

My Personal Community Experience

I recently had a personal opportunity to experience a relatively unknown, unspoken C of Resilience — community.

Following an unforeseen healthcare dilemma, I became deeply immersed in community — two, in fact. This was nothing I requested — or wanted — but, like Dr. Hansten, I met it head-on with grit and occasional grace. (Seriously. What were my options, right?)

Being thrust into a community, especially one that was not my choosing, became part of the process.

One “community” was sorely missing direction, communication, collaboration, and support. It was frustrating. What’s the goal? What’s the plan? What do I need to accomplish to move to the next level? These are only a few questions that, unfortunately in this “community” went repeatedly unanswered.

The other “community” presented quite a uniquely different — and life-changing — experience.

Comprised of caring, compassionate caregivers with well-honed systems, communication of plans, goals, and expectations was clear and concise. Opportunities for collaboration were encouraged, lending itself to accelerated progress toward mutually developed goals.

Most importantly, their continual optimism, insight, encouragement, and support toward commonly shared goals kept me buoyed beyond what I would have expected or anticipated.

Little did I realize the tremendous value of such a community. And it was a stark reminder of the importance of community and its indelible impact on business growth, especially during challenging times.

The Role of Community for Resilience

As small business entrepreneurs, we are often “members” of a community, whether we realize it or not. These, also, are often by chance — not by choice.

Whether it’s a Facebook group, a Twitter chat, or whatever is happening these days on Linkedin, it’s natural to get caught up – sucked in, if you will – with what feels like affiliate groups. It’s a shared experience. These so-called communities can have a deep influence on ideas, beliefs, and, ultimately, our business growth trajectory as we invest more of ourselves into them.

The real question then becomes does the community to which we have become so devoted provide the bounce-back ability needed to rise to the next level in our business. Do they shore us up — inspire us to fight on — or leave our aspirations to wither away on the cutting room floor?

Calculate Your Community for Resilience Fit

Here’s a quick tutorial for calculating the value of your communities:

  1. Make a list of the communities with whom you spend time.
  2. Ask if you feel better, the same, or worse after being with them.
  3. Place a plus (+) sign next to those leaving you inspired and uplifted — resilient, if you will, an equal (=) sign after those with whom you feel the same, and a minus (-) sign next to those communities that leave you feeling “meh.”
  4. Based on the pluses, equals, and minuses, ask, “What am I doing hanging out with the equals and minuses?”

We need a place to build relationships with like-minded business owners. A place to connect in a more profound way. A place where questions are answered, support is provided, and encouragement is kindled. 

A place to work smarter and grow faster.

We need communityAndimmersing yourself in community is good — if they inhabit the plus (+) category for your business.

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Testimonial

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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