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With the end of a year often comes an evaluation of successes and failures, as well as goal setting and predictions for the following year. For a small business owner, this time of introspection can significantly boost motivation. It’s a way to refocus, to remember all the reasons you do what you do.

We recently spoke with some intelligent, innovative small business owners and asked them two specific questions to see what the end of the year means for them. We think you’ll find what they had to say interesting, relatable, and most importantly, helpful.

As a Small Business Owner, What is the One Biggest Lesson You Learned in 2015?

No matter your age or experience level, there’s always something new to be learned. This is especially true in today’s constantly evolving, fast-paced society. With changes in technology and consumer behavior, it benefits every small business owner to remain adaptable.

There is value in learning from ourselves as well as from others. From ourselves, we evaluate our own failures and correct our actions accordingly. From others, we observe mistakes and learn what to avoid in our own businesses.

It’s been asked, “Do you have one year of experience repeated 10 times or do you have 10 years of experience?” If we never learn from past experiences, we repeatedly make the same poor choices.

These five entrepreneurs certainly don’t plan on repeating 2015’s mistakes. Here’s what they learned.

  • Honesty really is the best policy. Hilary Beck of InPlay Showroom told us, “Eventually the truth always seems to come out and only hurts the business…”
  • Immediate gratification runs rampant. We agree with Scott Donnelly of PDM, LLP, in that people are becoming increasingly impatient. In 2015, he learned that “technology has created an environment of immediate gratification and it is spilling over into business.”
  • Support is invaluable. New consultant Linda Tieman learned first-hand the importance of a helping hand. She was surprised at “how much people are willing to help me get started with my consulting business.”
  • Being prepared ensures success. Ginny Kenyon of Kenyon HomeCare Consulting learned last year to “not start two major initiatives in the same year unless you have sufficient staff and money to do them.”
  • Business growth increases with focus. Among other things, entrepreneur Erik Kieser found that a “clean, clear brand focus” is vital to success.

Based on the learnings mentioned by the above professionals, can you determine the lessons learned last year in your own business?

What are Your Small Business Predictions for 2016?

Once you understand the lessons learned in 2015, you’re more equipped to make some predictions for what lies ahead. Setting goals is an important part of making these predictions, as your goals should always align with the direction in which your business is headed.

If you’re not sure what the future holds for you as a small business owner—or for small business in general—take into consideration these predictions made by our entrepreneurial friends. It’s always encouraging to get a peek inside the minds of those who’ve stood where you stand.

As the saying goes, “Who better than those in the trenches to provide insight into what is on the horizon?” Here are the predictions our friends gave for 2016.

  • Small businesses will need to be proactive and efficient, working smart in order to stay ahead of the competition. (Hilary)
  • Small business will grow as consumers trend toward a sense of community and focus on local businesses. (Scott)
  • There will be more competition as Baby Boomers reach retirement age and start their own businesses. (Linda)
  • Businesses with passive streams of income will need ongoing focus and support. (Ginny)
  • Growth will be seen in client base and income. (Erik)

We hope you’ve found this information helpful and inspiring. 2016 promises to be an exciting year, one full of prosperity. Success is yours for the taking, if you’ll only reach out your hands. What do you predict for your business in the new year?

Want some help looking into the crystal ball to see what 2016 holds for you? You’re free strategic coaching conversation about your business goals is only a click away.

School is never out for the pro. This year was no different with small business owners demonstrating their commitment to life-long learning by downloading key pieces of business development.

Here are the most loved downloads for the small businesses of 2015:

1. Core Business Assessment – The Core Business Assessment provides smart business insight into business growth strategies.

2. The Stages of Business Growth & Development – Do you know which stage of growth and development your business is in? This chart defines your business stage so you can take the appropriate actions now.

3. Business Growth Strategy Worksheet – Business growth strategies are the decidable difference between your business and your competition. Download your free business growth strategy worksheet.

4. Bite-Size Chunks of Wisdom – Synnovatia’s small business coaching blog gives entrepreneurs the tools, tips, and techniques they need to grow their business. (When you subscribe, you make sure you never miss another free download.)

5. Strategic Planning Workbook – The economy may be uncertain but the future of your business doesn’t need to be in doubt. A strategic plan provides the framework for decision-making that translates into easy daily action steps to keep you focused and on fire.

6. The Daily Goal Planner – Those who achieve greatness in their small business learn to manage their goals rather than their time.

7. Creating Your Buyer Persona Worksheet – Ahhh, nothing is more thrilling than to attract more clients to your small business with a buyer persona.

8. End of Year Business Assessment – Business growth doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It takes a keen eye, critical thinking, and unrelenting planning based on an objective assessment.

9. Are You Heading in the Right Direction? Unlock Your Future with SMART Goals – Your small business resources may be limited but your success won’t be when you learn to set SMART goals with this free goal setting workbook.

10. Features–Benefit Worksheet – Once your Buyer Persona is defined, learn how to “benefit-speak” to turn more qualified leads into satisfied clients for your small business.

Did you find your favorite? How did it enhance your business growth?

Do you remember the old MasterCard commercials? They compared the cost of different aspects of an activity to something that is priceless. It went something like this…

Someone’s careening off the edge of a cliff. The caption reads—Mountain biking in California? $90. The next picture shows a family on a sailboat that collides with the caption and begins to tip over—Sailing in Florida? $120. The final picture shows a guy getting bucked from a horse with the accompanying caption—Weekend at a dude ranch? $250.

And, finally—Adding a little adventure to your life? Priceless.

Coming up through the business world when I did, business behavior was much more formal. There was an expectation—albeit unspoken—of how one was to dress, behave, and act. Granted, the culture of business set the stage for professionalism but, it also caused many people to hide their true self.

Many business owners experienced the need to be someone they truly weren’t. It was as if they were a cardboard cutout of themselves—devoid of authenticity—to meet the unexpressed assumptions of others.

It happened to me, too.

Take a licking and keep on ticking

Early on in my coaching career, I was coaching a small business owner through a challenge. Wanting to be the most effective coach possible, I reached out to other coaches for insight.

In doing so, I got my hands slapped. What I was asking apparently had nothing to do with coaching. I was told I was advising or consulting…not coaching.

Yikes! I got “schooled.”

You see, the pure coaching model is about asking thoughtful, thought-provoking questions to help a client discover the answers within themselves. It’s a very effective model—when the client has a context from which to draw.

The small business owners, with whom I work, are masters of their craft. They are highly proficient—even gifted—in their particular field. Their domain knowledge or context of business concepts, however, sometimes fall short. It’s not that they aren’t capable. They have not yet had the entrepreneurial experience or training. Therefore, without context, the traditional coaching model leaves small business owners frustrated and disappointed with strategic business coaching.

Back to the experience that left its mark…

As a result of that “licking”, I found myself holding back—suppressing some of my talents, gifts, and passion. Certainly, my genuineness took a beating. As a result, business growth was, shall we say, lackluster for a few years. Additionally, my own business was much more stressful than it needed to be…until I decided I was willing to risk failure and be myself.

I had a similar conversation with a client recently.

Sensing the need to be someone else, he drug his feet when it came to asking for referrals. He agonized over the script. What would he say? How would he say it? The stress of it was so enormous that he completely shut down his business growth activities. The way in which the “business world” taught to acquire referrals was not in alignment with who he is. He wasn’t a sales guy; he is a relationship guy.

Curiously, I inquired how he would ask if he did it in his way. His response was brilliant. So authentic. So real. So him! Willing to risk failure by not following conventional wisdom, he launched enthusiastically into his relationship strategy. As his stress declined, his referrals grew.

He, too, was hiding his gifts, talents, and genuine love of people—to conform with the conventional wisdom and expectation of the business world.

Come out, come out, wherever you are!

The truth—for both my client and myself—is this: if it feels risky to be yourself because no one else is doing it your way, do it anyway.

You are “one-of-a-kind”. And, your business growth is dependent upon your ability to be who you truly are. Authenticity creates greater value for your client than merely providing a service or executing a task.

As you begin to express your legitimate self, you are able to tap into values, talents, and skills to use as tools to help you achieve more naturally—with less stress—and with considerable value to those around you.

In the words of MasterCard, finding the perfect business domain? $30. Printing your first set of business cards? $50. Treating your first client to lunch? $45.

Realizing business growth with authenticity and integrity? Priceless!

In March of 2000, my husband reluctantly drug me to a Lexus dealership to purchase one of the most advanced cars (at that time) on the market. Needless to say, I was less than impressed by the nonnegotiable (overly) priced vehicle. None the less, it possessed one of the first navigation systems.

Finally! I could ditch the small encyclopedia called the “Thomas Guide” that required a PhD in map reading in order to get to your destination a mere 20 miles away. How cool was that!

Fast forward sixteen years…

An automobiles navigation system is practically obsolete. Although a standard feature in most cars, smart phones and apps are now doing the lion’s share of the navigation. Why? Because it’s better, faster, and more reliable, in most situations.

Technology: A game changer for small business

Without a doubt, technology continues to change the landscape of our business.

  1. Technology improves productivity. When the right technology is used for such functions as sales, marketing, and operations, your business enjoys greater performance. Technology reduces paperwork, eliminates redundancy, and frees you up to attend to the core services on which your business growth depends. Don’t spend your time pushing paper; spend your time pushing profits.
  2. Technology enhances relevance. Have you seen a business without a website or online payment ability? We all have—which is hard to believe in this day and age. Although you may not think it negatively impacts your brand, guess again. Savvy consumers question the pertinence of a business who has not unleashed the power of technology in their business.
  3. Technology simplifies the consumers buying process. Buyers rule! And, what they want more than anything, is to reach their desired outcome in as few steps as possible. Technology affords them the opportunity to achieve their outcome.
  4. Technology gives back your time. Ask any small business owner to identify their most critical resource and you’ll likely hear one word—time. It’s the one precious commodity we wish we had more of. And, now we can. For instance, rather than being consumed by traffic, technology is used for “face-to-face” meetings across town or time zones.
  5. Technology expands brand awareness and reach. Gone are the days for small business growth to be limited by geography. Through the use of technology, today’s business growth is only limited by one’s imagination.

Even so, it can all be a little overwhelming—especially for a small business owner.

Start small—Finish big

You don’t have to be Google, Apple, or Amazon to take advantage of technological advancements for business growth.

Start small by replacing redundancy with automation. Connect people and processes where possible. Eliminate (or dramatically reduce) costly paper transactions. Use software as it was intended—as a solution. And, most importantly…just start.

The business world has changed. Have you?

Are your small business tools and technology contributing to your productivity, performance, and profitability? If not, let’s chat about how to use the right technology to support your business goals for growth.

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I’ll always remember my first marathon. Although I had trained and prepared extensively, I was really quite anxious. With 25,000 runners surrounding me, my confidence – and my juices – started to flow. The starting bell rang and the quick pace instantly swept me along. Big mistake! I was moving too fast. I needed to find my pace – and run my race – if I was going to finish strong.

Nerves cause many runners to leave the starting gate too quickly. As a result, they overextend energy early and don’t have any oomph left when they reach mile 20. Commonly referred to as “the wall”, mile 20 is the point in the marathon when the energy within the runner’s muscles is depleted. This forces a runner to slow their pace considerable, sometimes to a walk.

To avoid “hitting the wall”, runners use a very simple, but effective, tool called pacing. Marathon pacing, running a consistent, pre-determined speed throughout the entirety of a marathon, ensures the runner has plenty of spunk to finish.

Growing a small business is allot like running a marathon. If you “go out” too quickly, you can hit a wall when you run out of energy, hope, time, resources, or guts.

What’s the best pace of growth for your small business? That depends. Just like the many factors that determine the best marathon pace for you, there are many elements to consider when deciding on the best pace of growth for your business.

There is one small point to consider, however. Although most entrepreneurs would consider a 15% annual growth rate paltry and mediocre (sort of like my marathon pace), a business can double in size in approximately five years. Impressive, isn’t it.

Just like it’s important to run your own race, it’s equally important to find your own pace to grow your business.

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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