Bite-Size Chunks of Wisdom

There are many reasons – valid and invalid – for caution that many of us as small business owners experience. Granted, a measured amount of caution is useful. It triggers due diligence to better manage risk and make better decisions. An overabundance of caution, on the other hand, is liable to choke your business growth

Cautiousness in business is like bubble wrap. It’s cushioning material provides a protective layer. Although protective of harsh blows, it also creates delays, prompts missed opportunities, causes us to misjudge or misinterpret events, and changes our course of action that ultimately sabotages our business growth.

During my tenure as a business coach, I’ve seen many reasons for excessive cautiousness in small business owners, including:

  • failure taken out of context
  • lack of belief in oneself
  • unproven business model that is unstable and produces lackluster results
  • missing information
  • under-developed business skills
  • etc etc etc

Regardless of the cause, however, being overly cautiousness is NOT a recommended strategy for growth. In order to achieve your goals to grow your business at the rate and pace you desire – and need – for joy, fulfillment, freedom, and flexibility you seek, you have to “pop” your way through the layers of protective cautiousness.

That’s where business coaching comes in.

No longer a new and shiny object, business coaching is being recognized by more small business owners as a tool that ensures a clear mind and the necessary focus to stay on the course to upward trending growth. In essence, business coaching done right removes the protective layer of cautiousness that previously kept you stuck. It puts you on a path to accelerate your business growth.

1. Business coaching creates forward movement. With caution comes a blurred vision. Unable to see a clear way forward, valuable resources get squandered as you head in multiple directions – often simultaneously. You can’t veer off track with business coaching. Business coaching ensures your vision is crystal clear and smart strategies are implemented that are aligned with your vision to help you stay the course.

2. Business coaching prevents unrelenting cautiousness from becoming a habit. As with anything, the more we do it, the stronger it becomes. Cautiousness is one habit you don’t want to strengthen. Business coaching interrupts the vicious cycle of cautiousness (and that sense of powerlessness) by providing you with the tools, techniques, information, and skills you need to move confidently in the direction of your dreams.  

3. Business coaching opens up unidentified opportunities. It’s challenging to grow a business alone in this fast-paced, every-changing business environment. The isolation of trying to take your business to the next level is deafening – especially when it comes to innovation. Possibilities are easily overlooked. Business coaching keeps you up-to-date with industry and consumer trends and makes it easier to keep your finger on the pulse of what is happening in the world to direct your business growth. 

4. Business coaching sheds light on your numbers. If you don’t know it, you can’t grow it. Business metrics provide key performance information. Business coaching lends a hand in identifying the right stats to track. Business coaching also helps you understand key metrics that guide your business decisions and keep your business on the right track. You’ll be so impressed with yourself as you uncover the impact of data-driven decisions.

5. Business coaching helps identify the right kind and amount of resources. Selecting vendors to assist with growth initiatives can be a daunting process. One bad choice can be a costly decision for many small business owners. With business coaching, you become a smart consumer of services. You learn the questions to make sure a vendor can deliver on their promises and identify resources that are the best fit for your business. 

Ahhhh! Don’t you feel better already? Who doesn’t love the stress-relieving bubble popping of bubble wrap!? It’s irresistible. And, once you start, it’s nearly impossible to stop. Business coaching is just like bubble popping. It relieves stress, injects massive calm into your day, provides the tools needed to succeed, and keeps you moving in the direction of your dreams. 

Nothing is more frustrating than working ’round the clock and not generating an output equal to the input in your business. Granted, it’s common to invest on the front end of your business but, eventually, you want a return. You want to see the business grow.

Despite one’s best efforts to grow the business, some small business owners experience stunted or sluggish growth. Here are some of the most common reasons for slow to no growth.

1. No growth goal. Did you know research shows the only statistically significant predictor of business growth is not the industry, size of business, or length of time in business? It is the entrepreneur’s goal for growth. Who knew?!

That’s a significant statistics that begs the question – what’s your growth goal?

2. Missing business strategy. An absent business strategy generally results in a “fire, ready, aim” approach; one in which you start firing in hopes that — somehow — the business manages to accomplish its goal. Yikes! Your approach to how you’ll grow your business is as important as your goal for growth.

Plus, a well-defined business strategy helps identify opportunities that are ripe for you and your business.

3. Growing alone. Nothing grows in a vacuum. Little to no strategic interaction with like-minded entrepreneurs stifles growth in a variety of ways, including loss of creativity, blind spots, and diluted self-confidence. With limited interaction with others, small business growth begins to suffer in a multitude of ways, including loss of creativity, blind spots, and weakening self-confidence.

There’s tremendous value in making better decisions regarding business growth as a member of  communities for emerging and growing entrepreneurs

4. Ignore advice. Most business owners are protective of how they choose to run their business. However, when sought-out advice is ignored, it merely keeps you stuck.

The best advice you never want to ignore  — identify your business strategy.

5. Maintain what or how you’re doing it. This is what is referred to as insanity — doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. A course-correction in growth occurs when you alter what you’re doing or how you’re doing it.

One change that makes the difference between success and struggle is to stop doing and start achieving. 

6. Pinching pennies. Every entrepreneur understands “bootstrapping”. Nonetheless, don’t let excessive frugality cause you to hire cheap, inexperienced vendors or to cut corners. Both come with a larger price tag than you realize.

Nail down a profitable pricing strategy to avoid cutting corners that impede your growth.

7. Doing it all yourself. Although doing it all yourself commonly occurs in the start-up phase of your business, it’s not designed to be a long-term strategy. Eventually, it bottlenecks your ability to grow.

As you add contributing members to your team, be sure they are pluses (not minuses) in your business.

Are you ready for the good news? These are easy to correct…and we’re here to help.

There are a few things in business that are optional especially if you intend to keep the doors open and the lights on. Business growth is NOT one of them. Growing a business in any economy is not for the faint of heart. Growing a business — minus a strategy — is a major drain on your resources triggered by half-baked decisions.

To paraphrase author, Richard Rumelt, in his book Good Strategy Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why It Matters, setting strategy is not a game of establishing goals. Strategy is how your organization moves forward. Strategy is the craft of figuring out what is worth pursuing with the capability of accomplishing. It’s a cohesive approach to moving forward that requires you to say “no” more often than “yes” to what lies ahead.

Show Us Your Growth Strategy

When asked which strategy is ideal for your small business, the not so very satisfying answer is — that depends . .

Strategy is an area in which one-size-fits-all doesn’t work. In fact, when crafting a strategy that is the right fit for you and your small business, there are several aspects to consider.

Our friends at the Houston Small Business Chronicle suggest using the PESTLE analysis when identifying a clear business strategy. PESTLE stands for political, economic, sociological, technological, legal, and environment. Taking these considerations under advisement, combined with your mission and vision, helps identify the potential opportunities and threats that ultimately influence your selection of strategy.

Common Core Strategies: The Big Four

Although there are different types of business strategies available, you want to select the growth strategy most appropriate for your business. In the absence of a full analysis and customization of your business strategy, you may find it helpful to select one of the most commonly known strategies.

  1. Diversify – Does “don’t put all your eggs in one basket” ring a bell? If so, that sums up the diversify strategy. Developing new products in new markets can be a riskier strategy given the unproven marketplace. However, if innovation is a business value (think Apple, Inc.) it may be worth the risk as long as you understand what’s at stake. Strap on your tool belt for this strategy, though. New skills and knowledge required for success.
  2. Market Development – One of the more common growth strategies selected by many a mature entrepreneur is to expand existing products into new markets. It makes sense. Once you’ve proven your business offering in one market, your acquired knowledge and skill can potentially support growth in a new market. The new market may be industry-related or geographical. This type of transition doesn’t happen without proper planning, however. A keen understanding of the new markets — and its competitors — is important if you’re going to make head way.
  3. Product Development – Probably one of the most comfortable strategies for entrepreneurs is introducing new products into existing market.  This is commonly called the product development strategy and mirrors the market development strategy. It requires a keen eye and detailed-attention to pay attention to the ever-changing needs of your clients to figure out what innovation they are ready to adopt. Even if it appears to be an easier strategy to implement, it doesn’t come without challenges. New business skills and continual tweaking are needed until success is achieved.On Strategy does a nice job of poking the brain cells with their product development strategy teaser. Here are a few ways to extend your current offering:
    • Adapt (to other ideas and developments)
    • Modify (change color, motion, sound, odor, form, shape)
    • Magnify (more for a higher price, stronger, longer, extra value)
    • Reduce (smaller, trial version, shorter, lighter)
    • Substitute (other ingredients, processes, power)
    • Combine (other options, products, ideas, assortments)
  1. Market Penetration – What’s an entrepreneur to do when new products and/or new markets don’t exist? When surrendering is not an option, expanding your current products in your current market is the way to go. Be prepared to do battle, though, should you adopt this strategy. In order to snag a larger piece of the pie, you’ll be seizing some of your competitor’s market share. They may not take kindly to that.

As you can see, there’s a bit more than wishful thinking when it comes to business growth. However, setting aside some time to conduct a thorough analysis and custom-design your business strategy can certainly give you a leg up on growing your business.

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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 do 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 when it comes to 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.

strategic thinking for business

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 6 months. 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.

Importance 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’s difficult to imagine a period of time that is uncommitted.

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 2 weeks increase the percentage of your strategic thinking time until you are able to 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. In fact, you might think it’s the time to get caught up on that lengthy to-do list. 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 in 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. 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.

Taking the courageous step to engage a strategic business coach is a big deal for many entrepreneurs. For some, it means admitting they can’t grow their business alone—no matter how smart they are. It also means coming face-to-face with beliefs, behaviors, and habits that are getting in the way of success.

Having coached hundreds of small business owners in a variety of businesses at different phases of business growth, there is an expectation—by the business owner and the coach—of coaching progress and achievements to be attained. Coaching, after all, is an investment of time and money deserving of a substantial return on investment (ROI).

In fact, surveys show that the ROI on business coaching is very high. One study done on a Fortune 500 company revealed that executive coaching ROI was as high as 529%. Another study showed that for every dollar invested in coaching, the return was $7.90. That’s a whopping 690%! These statistics show just how strategic business coaching increases your business performance.

For some, business coaching speeds them quickly down the road while others slog along and make less progress than expected. What makes the difference between success and schlepping? Here are the distinguishing behaviors of our most successful clients:

1. Take responsibility for their business.

Doesn’t everyone, you ask? Not always. Many business owners are just plain exhausted and burned out. Wanting the coach to take the lead on business development is appealing to a sleep-deprived entrepreneur. However, those who achieve the most powerful coaching results take responsibility for their business and its direction. They set the tone, pace, and objective for each coaching call.

2. Make strategic planning and thinking a priority.

Rather than spending time putting out fires, meeting the demands of others, and dealing with constant interruptions, our fast achieving coaching clients arrange—in advance—for time to strategically think and plan. With greater clarity and focus, strategic implementation takes the lead in their day. It’s a fore-thought; not an afterthought on their ever-growing to-do list.

3. Do the homework.

Sounds like you’re back in school, doesn’t it? In a way, any business owner engaged in coaching is engaged in a learning process. Unlike those who wait until the night before the big test, the most accomplished businesses jump on their plan of action immediately. In fact, many allot time immediately following a coaching meeting to implement their commitment. After all, it’s a promise they made to themselves and they don’t want to disappoint.

4. Enter into the coaching engagement with optimism.

Yes, it does happen. Occasionally, an individual with a “failure to thrive” disposition gets involved with coaching. Although they want to believe coaching overcomes their dilemma, until they stop rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic, it can be a tough road.

On the other hand, those who start coaching with an optimism and excitement about the success that coaching brings make progress more quickly

5. Laser focused during a coaching appointment.

Although the majority of our contact with clients is by phone or Skype, I have ninja-like listening skills and can tell when clients are multitasking. They’re not quite as engaged in the conversation and miss out on the nuances of success that coaching brings to their business.

Those who garner the greatest value are present—mentally and physically. All distractions and disturbances are eliminated. They are completely immersed in the conversation. As such, they gain enormous value from each encounter.

6. Prepare for their appointment.

We provide an online prep form that triggers coaching 24–36 hours before each appointment. It’s the time when the owner puts all other activities on pause to think strategically.

The Strategy Call Prep Form encourages them to consider their achievements for the previous week, insights (which anchors learning and sustains change), and identify their most important need and objective for the conversation.

Preparation lays the groundwork for a profoundly forward-moving coaching conversation.

7. Possess realistic expectations.

The optimistic realists don’t expect a silver bullet, or their coach to pull a bunny out of the hat, to make their business grow. The have a keen understanding of reality. They know what it takes to succeed and persist with grace and tenacity while achievement meets them where they’re at.

8. Remain engaged with their coach between meetings.

Coaching is not a once a week event. Discerning entrepreneurs know the significance of engagement with their coach between meetings to keep them clear, focused, and moving forward. Synergy is sparked with communication via Evernote’s work chat on questions and situations that arise.

9. Willing to rethink various aspects of their business, belief systems, and behaviors.

Entrepreneurs fully engaged in coaching understand what they don’t want—one year of business experience repeated ten times. That’s a certain death nail in their success. Rather, they want their experience—and results—to be different with each passing year in business. They understand that business survival is adapting at a pace quicker than the market. As such, they willingly stop doing what’s not working and adopt new behaviors, beliefs, and ways of conducting business.

10. Willing to learn.

Like food, knowledge decays. Although there’s no easy way to determine the actual shelf life of knowledge, it’s safe to say that a large portion of what we know is obsolete within a few years.

Our achieving business owners stay abreast of changes in their industry, trends in business, and advancements in technology. And, they quickly adapt to the ever-evolving needs of their clients.

…The Rest of the Story 

In essence, does business coach actually move a business forward?  Yes, it does when both the business owner and the business coach bring their A-game to the table.

Experience business coaching for yourself. Your first call is on us!

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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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