“Most folks are about as happy as they make their minds up to be.” – Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln was right. Your happiness and mine depend largely on how willing you and I are to be happy. And our willingness includes the time that we are willing to dedicate to stepping away from our business, having fun, and simply enjoying life.
However, if you are like most business owners, you probably don’t plan for and schedule out enough time to have fun. And if you do get a chance to have fun, it happens in the margins, every once and a while, or not even at all. You may end up neglecting your hobbies, your family, your friends, your pets, and – most of all – yourself.
Most owners I meet are striving for some kind of balance in their lives. But you have most likely realized that if you do not make time for fun, if you don’t intentionally plan for time off, the balance in your life will not happen on its own.
A Recipe For Burnout
Heed this advice: Having NO FUN is a guaranteed recipe for disaster and burnout!
You need to make fun happen – it is not an optional part of our lives. We as business coaches want you to make it happen. Planning time for fun means that you are planning time into your life to gain balance, to experience joy, and to avoid burnout. To do these things, you need to get away from the business and do some things you enjoy that re-energize you.
Think about the people, things, and activities in your life. Ask yourself:
What and who recharge your battery, creativity, and productivity?
Do you enjoy certain friends or colleagues?
Does your family share a love for certain activities?
Do you get joy from playing with your pets?
What hobbies have you neglected for a while?
Make Time For Fun
Now take a look at your calendar. Make time for regular breaks from your business so you can enjoy these people, things, and activities. In fact, start this weekend! Get away from your business this weekend and enjoy your family. Have some FUN! Beyond mere pleasure, this is important business coaching and executive coaching advice! The best business owners understand the value of fun in their lives and in the lives of their employees.
A few years ago, I had the privilege of speaking to the Katy Young Professionals, a group of younger business leaders in the Katy Area Chamber of Commerce, Katy, Texas. I always enjoy speaking to young professionals groups! Our topic was “Failing Forward.”
One of the most common fears people experience is the fear of failure. Our mindset about failures can be a major game-changer in our business and our life.
Over 10 years ago I was inspired by the book of the same title, Failing Forward, by John C. Maxwell. In it John says:
“The difference between average people and achieving people is their perception of and response to failure.”
I agree. People who don’t care about success and failure are not going to be high achievers. Neither are people who care “too much” because they will be paralyzed by the fear, thus unable to accomplish great achievements. How we view and respond to failure will determine our level of achievement.
This insight is vitally important because throughout our lives we WILL experience set backs. If we truly live, we will experience some failures along the way. So don’t let the fear of failure keep you from living. Helen Keller once said:
“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.”
If we truly live we will experience failure. But here are 3 realizations that will enable you to fail forward.
Failing Doesn’t Mean You Are a Failure
First, realize that failure has no meaning until I ascribe meaning to it.
Author J. I. Packer states, “A moment of conscious triumph makes one feel that after this nothing will really matter; a moment of realized disaster makes one feel that this is the end of everything. But neither feeling is realistic, for neither event is really what it is felt to be.”
Some people ascribe way too much personal meaning to failure. They think that experiencing a failure means they are a failure. That is absolutely not true. The failure in and of itself means nothing. It only has meaning when we ascribe meaning to it. We can ascribe a negative meaning to it or a positive meaning to it. Consider what meaning these individuals ascribed to failure:
John Killinger: “Failure is the greatest opportunity I have to know who I really am.”
Dave Anderson: “Failure is the hallmark of success. It can be the starting point of a new adventure such as when a baby learns to walk; it has to fall down a lot to learn the new skill.”
Dr. Joyce Brothers: “The person interested in success has to learn to view failure as a healthy, inevitable part of the process of getting to the top.”
Bridging the Gap Between Failing and Succeeding
Second, realize that the distance between failure and success is called PERSEVERANCE.
There are many inspiring stories of men and women who persevered in trying situations when many others would have quit. But because of their perseverance these people experienced great success due to their perseverance. One of my favorite stories is about R. H. Macy, the founder of Macy’s Department Store.
Macy started working at the age of 15 on a whaling ship traveling around the world. After four years on the ship he worked several odd jobs and then took a position as an apprentice in a printing shop. However he had much greater ambition than that so six months later he struck out on his own opening a small thread and needle store in Boston. Though he worked hard, the business failed within a year.
The next year Macy opened a dry goods store. Again he worked hard but again he failed. The following year he decided to go into business with his brother-in-law, but that didn’t go well so he soon moved on.
After that R. H. Macy and his brother Charles decided to head west and try their hand at mining during the California gold rush. They failed to strike it rich but they discovered that there was an opportunity to make money selling goods to the miners. It finally seemed like things were beginning to work in Macy’s favor – until the gold ran out and the miners left the area. So that came to a disappointing end and Macy headed back east.
His next venture was another dry goods store in Massachusetts. Though by this time he had learned quite a bit about business and advertising, this business failed too. He quickly tried again with a different strategy, a “low price” strategy. But after three years of struggle Macy had to sell out and declare bankruptcy.
At that point Macy decided to get out of retail and become a stockbroker and then a real estate broker. But that didn’t go well either. He had tried five different professions by the time he was 35 years old including six failed attempts in retail. Nothing had really worked for him. Then he decided to try retail one more time in a different location, Manhattan. Because of his great perseverance, Macy finally had real success. We must realize that success is typically found at the end of a long road called perseverance!
Failure Can Be One of Your Greatest Friends
It is only through failures that we learn some of the most important lessons of life. While it is never fun, failure can serve us well if we allow it to. J M. Barrie once said, “We are all failures – at least, all the best of us are.” Failure can make us much better people if we learn to fail forward.
Yesterday I led a Strategic Retreat for business owners where we talked through this topic. These retreats take place every 90 days. It’s a full day away from your business to work “on” the business instead of “in” the business.
Every quarter we assess where our businesses are and where we are as strategic business owners. We set goals and we hold each other accountable to our goals and vision. We create a written plan of action for the next 90 days, and then we come back in 90 days and do it again. Each quarter we also work on some strategic system in our business. Yesterday this group had great accomplishments to share and they engaged our process with passion.
Everyone assessed where their business was in the small business lifecycle. Good business management is essential as small businesses move through the cycle. Here are the 5 stages that small businesses go through.
The key in this initial stage is to produce sales. Sales are essential for cash flow. Typically the sales effort in “Infancy” is much weaker than it should be. The goal in “Infancy” is to create a sales organization – stabilize the product, create a sales process, then diligently stick to it. Typically everything (especially sales) revolves around the owner. The biggest problem in “Infancy” is cash flow. Businesses die in “Infancy” due to a lack of cash flow. That’s why sales is the most important priority.
This is when the idea is working and cash is flowing. The danger here is too many distractions. Everything looks like an opportunity, especially with marketing activity and expenditures. It’s easy to drift away from your core competencies and waste a lot of time and money. However, cash flow is good but it all depends on the owner. There are no real policies, procedures, or systems. The owner is the system and he/she is working themselves to death. Businesses die in childhood due to a lack of focus and a lack of systems. Typically the owner just burns out. A shift is needed from doer-ship to leadership, from management by intuition (i.e. management by the seat of the pants) to professional, systematized management. When the founder decides to reorganize and to systematize, the company moves into the next stage.
This is where the company goes through the process of being re-born. The company begins to find life apart from the founder/owner. Systems are defined and implemented. The danger in this stage is for entrepreneurial leadership within the company to feel inhibited and start to leave. This happens when the systems are too burdensome (e.g. too much paperwork, too much reporting, etc.) However, it is critical for the business to find the right balance between structure and creativity. Once achieved, the business becomes sellable.
But there are 3 challenges that make this transition difficult:
Delegation of Authority – the owner must create and submit to systems; this enables others to assume more responsibility.
Change of Leadership – the owner brings someone in (or up) to be a manager; the emphasis must switch to systems, policies, and administration; however, long-time employees may resist this! The founder/owner must not violate the policies and procedures so as to not undermine the new manager.
Change Management – the emphasis is now on internal improvement and quality in every area; however, people do not generally like change, they do not like anyone “messing” with how they do things! As you might imagine, these 3 challenges lead to conflict.
This is that season when the business is systematized and turnkey. It can run predictably and consistently without the owner. The problems here are usually around management training and the ongoing potential to lose entrepreneurial leaders within the organization. Some of the characteristics of this stage are:
Vision and values are embraced – they “walk the talk”
Goal alignment – everyone is focused on satisfying the customer and building the brand
Conscious focus and priorities – there is clarity and focus; everyone knows what to do and what not to do
Functional systems and organizational structures
Growth in both sales and profits
This is where a company reinvents itself in some way. Maybe there is a new product line, a new market niche, or an entirely new core focus. Organizations will not stay in their prime forever. They must renew and reinvent themselves for the future before complacency or decline sets in.
What stage of the life-cycle is your business or organization in today? We help businesses in every stage of life. Our mission is to empower business leaders to achieve exceptional performance in their businesses and live balanced, meaningful lives. If you need some help determining where your business is and what the next steps should be for you, contact us for a FREE 30-minute consultation. We’re here to help you.
Too many small business owners are by default small leaders, and this costs them dearly! However, it doesn’t have to be this way. Too many of us excel in “doer-ship” instead of “leadership,” and unfortunately, it shows in our businesses and our lives.
Too many owners of small businesses are micro-managers who like to touch and control everything. They trust no one but themselves. They believe “no one does it as well as me.” As a result, they seldom delegate, if they delegate at all. They mistake such busyness for business leadership.
Instead of thinking and leading like “owners,” many (if not most) of us think and behave like employees.
We don’t really see our primary role as building the company but instead, we see ourselves as primarily “working” for the company. Too often we have more of a job than a business. And as Michael Gerber says, “it’s the worst job in the world because you’re working for a lunatic!”
The Most Important Work of Leadership is Reflection and Thinking
Instead of reflecting and planning, too many small business owners excel at sweating and doing. Bottom line: You must grow as a leader! And the most important work of leadership is reflecting and thinking. That’s right – it’s reflecting and thinking!
Almost anyone can work for your company but no one else can (or should) think for your company! The most critical thing a leader does is think.
What do I think about? Glad you asked! Here is a list of things you should be thinking about as a business owner and leader:
think about where you are currently;
think about where you’ve come from;
think about where you need to go;
think about the opportunities that are before you;
think about the people you have around you;
think about the people you still need around you;
think about the obstacles that have held you back in the past;
think about what you need to change to overcome those obstacles;
Of course, you then need to delegate and execute. But you will never delegate and execute effectively if you do not think. Thinking is the most important work of leadership.
My job is to help you think, delegate, and execute so that you can achieve the results you want. If you need help, contact me today and we can set up a strategy session to help you make a plan to start becoming a strong leader for your business!
Every small business needs a current and actionable marketing plan! However, it is easy to feel overwhelmed by the task of writing one. Most software programs designed to help you are often too comprehensive; to the point that many business owners give up, or never even start.
Marketing plan software can be very helpful, but I want to offer you a quick, simple way to create an actionable plan that will get you results! After all, results are what we’re after!
The Marketing Mindset
You must begin with your mindset. Every business owner must develop the mindset that you are in the marketing business! That’s right. You may find yourself in the construction industry, the retail industry, the professional services industry, in the technology industry, whatever – but you are in the marketing business!
I rarely meet a business owner who started his/her business with this mindset. We typically start our businesses because of our experience, expertise, or interest in a certain industry. However, smart owners quickly learn that marketing is one of the most strategic and critical functions they must master! The best business owners learn that becoming a marketing expert is just as important as being an expert in their industry.
Begin telling yourself daily that you are in the marketing business! For me, I work in the coaching industry, but I am in the marketing business. You must begin cultivating this mindset!
The Marketing Plan
Now that you are developing the right mindset, you will want to create a marketing plan. As I have already mentioned, much more can be said about marketing plans. But what I want to offer you here are the 5 most critical components of a marketing plan. If you’ll create a simple marketing plan with these 5 components, you’ll have something you can actually use and take actions on.
1. Your Marketing Message
Begin by asking yourself “Who is my ideal customer?” You may serve many different types of customers but get clear about who your ideal customer is. Then make a decision to only market to your ideal customer!
Think about it, why spend your precious time and money marketing to anyone else besides the customers you want? Focus on your ideal prospect and ideal customer. With that person in mind, begin thinking about the message they need to hear. Typically, the first question in everybody’s mind is “Can I trust you?” I recommend that you quickly answer that question in your marketing message.
My friend and colleague Howard Partridge suggests that your marketing message have 5 points. It should say something about your Reputation, your Experience, your Training, your System, and your Guarantee. I like this outline! I recommend that you take a little time and write 2 or 3 sentences about your reputation. What have your satisfied customers said about you? How do they describe you in testimonials and reviews?
Next, I recommend that you write 2 or 3 sentences about your experience. How many years have you and/or your team been in this industry? What types of work have you done in this industry?
Then write 2 or 3 sentences about your training, education, and/or professional associations. Follow this by briefly describing your system – the process you use to deliver quality products and service. Finally, state your guarantee. This should be a statement that reduces the risk when the prospect chooses to do business with you. You will end up with 5 short paragraphs which you can use as your core content for your website, your brochures, and your oral presentations.
2. Your Marketing Mediums
Again, with your ideal customer in mind, think about the best channels for communicating this message to them. There are over 100 different ways to market your business, but not all of them are right for you! You might consider traditional forms of marketing and advertising like print ads, direct mail, signs, radio, etc. You may consider digital marketing tactics, social media marketing options, referral marketing techniques, press releases, networking and relationship marketing tactics, or thought-leadership marketing. Each of these categories offers numerous channels and mediums for marketing your business. What you will want to do is pick the 5-10 most effective mediums for your business! This will be the focus of your planning and execution.
As you consider the various options you have for marketing mediums, you will also want to think about your budget. You will discover that certain mediums just do not fit your budget. Don’t worry! You do not have to spend lots of money on marketing, but you should budget to spend some! I encourage all business owners to create a budget each quarter or each year, and then operate by that budget. Part of the budget will be an allocation for marketing expenses. By setting a budget you are more likely to discipline yourself to spend more wisely and efficiently.
4. Your Marketing Calendar
Once you know your best mediums/channels and you know your budget, you should then lay out your marketing activity on a timeline or calendar. Plan what you are going to do each week and each month. Many businesses live with a “feast or famine” cycle. When business is slow, the owner gets busy marketing. This leads to new business. When things get busy with new business, the owner stops marketing as much. Of course, this eventually leads to slow times. You can avoid this up and down cycle by having a calendar to help you keep a steady stream of new business coming in the door.
5. Your Marketing Dashboard
It’s very important with marketing that you track and measure everything! The way to do this is to create a “Dashboard” that identifies your activity and tracks the results of everything you do. Start first by tracking the source of every new lead that comes your way. Evaluate the quality of each lead and evaluate each medium from month to month. You can create your dashboard using a simple spreadsheet. Here is a visual example of what a direct sales professional might create:
# of Leads
# of Calls Made
# of Appointments
# of Closed Sales
Here is another example of what a service provider (e.g. plumber, contractor, etc.) might create:
# of Incoming Calls/Inquiries
# of Quotes/ Proposals
# of Jobs Won
Ave. Value of Closed Sales
You can make your dashboard as elaborate or detailed as you like. The important thing is to be tracking and measuring everything so that you know what activity and dollars are getting you results. Once you know which activities or tactics get the results, you can then plan accordingly and you will have the potential to grow your business as much as you desire.