Cathy Sexton, productivity strategist and coach owner of The Productivity Experts, offering organizing, productivity skill training, helping clients accomplish more with less effort and less stress, saving time, money and energy.
Business owners face a lot of challenges in running a business. Many of those challenges are external, but some come from within – in the form of personality traitsthat hold you back. Unfortunately, personality factors that can hold you back are often overlooked when business owners are trying to determine what needs to change in their businesses.
I think everyone could agree that the strengths, weaknesses, and personality traits of a business owner have an impact on their business. They directly affect …
communication and response to feedback
how you handle conflict
willingness to adapt when changes are needed
money and resource management
In addition, certain personality traits can influence how you view the world around you – in terms of growth mindset vs limiting beliefs.
Stubbornness is one of those personality traits that can be a problem for both you and your business. Or is it?
It depends on the definition you use.
Many business owners might say they’re stubborn and mean they consider themselves determined to succeed at all costs. But there’s a difference between being determined to do whatever it takes to succeed and being stubborn. Sometimes, being stubborn can actually sabotage your chance of success.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Stubbornness
There can be a good side and bad side to every personality trait. Stubbornness is no different.
The “good side” of stubbornness can give you desirable qualities of determination and perseverance in the face of even overwhelming obstacles. You don’t see giving up as an option, but it’s not just a blind determination not to admit failure that drives you. With this “good” definition of stubbornness, you …
Face challenges as the learning opportunity they are
Seek out solutions and are willing to do whatever it takes to make it work and keep moving forward
Are confident in your beliefs but open to feedback and constructive criticism, because you believe there’s always room for improvement
Are willing to make adjustments based on both internal and external feedback
If you look closely, you’ll notice all those characteristics represent a growth mindset. Despite your stubborn determination to persevere at all costs and not let challenges bring you down, you are open to making changes when needed. You think in terms of potential and problem solving, rather than being prideful.
The “bad side” of stubbornness involves …
pridefully sticking with something and unwillingness to make changes (because that would mean you were wrong and you’re never wrong) – even when evidence shows changes should be made
refusal to see another point of view and even bullying others
denial of facts
difficulty taking constructive criticism
inability to honestly evaluate and compensate for weaknesses
belief that admitting weaknesses is something only “losers” do
These traits feed into a limiting, or fixed, mindset. Perseverance is great, but when you stubbornly stick with a certain position or way of doing things, despite evidence that that something needs to change, that’s a problem for business owners. That “ugly side of perseverance” can make you too stubborn to succeed.
In a recent blog, I told the story of a business owner who struggled with stubborn determination that crossed the line into the “ugly side” of perseverance. He kept making the same bad choices over and over when his business started swirling the drain. He chose to ignore his weaknesses – both within himself and as a business owner – that negatively affected his ability to run a successful business and fulfill his dream. He brushed off the feedback he was getting and the conflict his decisions were causing in his marriage. And his inability to face the reality of how his misplaced stubborn determination was destroying his dream, his life, and his health could be a “what NOT to do” case study for business owners everywhere.
His story is the perfect example of the ugly side of stubbornness and determination to push forward despite clear signs that something needs to change. He paid the price. In the end, he lost everything.
So, how do you know when perseverance and determination to succeed crosses the line to become a liability?
I think the answer to that is pretty clear. If you are stuck and struggling in your business, despite doing other things right, it is certainly something you should (or could) consider.
Take the Leap from Self-Sabotaging to Healthy Stubbornness
Take the leap to finding out where you stand in terms of whether your stubbornness is helping or hurting you. Be open and willing to take an honest personal assessment. Also, don’t fear the results, because knowledge is empowering! After all, you can’t possibly change something without the knowledge that something exists and needs to change.
It can be difficult to look closely and honestly at yourself to identify traits that are not the most flattering or may be holding you back. But if the negative side of stubbornness is something you think you might struggle with (or if you’ve been told you possess this personality trait), you need to consider whether your stubbornness is healthy perseverance or keeping you from success?
It can also be hard to let go of something, even if it isn’t working for you. Let go of it you must, though – if you want to get to something better. You can’t reach out for the right thing if you’re holding on to the wrong thing! If you’re clinging to habits, beliefs, or behaviors that aren’t serving you (or your business), you will most likely stay stuck right where you are, struggle to ever realize your dream, or – worse – lose everything.
As a business owner, learning to use your personality traits to your benefit is a good thing, but you have to be willing to take a good, hard look at the not-so-pleasant aspects of who you are and how you do things to get there. Once you do, you can dump the head trash of traits and beliefs that are keeping you from the success you’re capable of. And that’s a good thing – a VERY good thing!
Do you feel like you’re putting in tons of time and effort but not seeing results in terms of increased revenue, profit, or growth for your business? Setting SMART goals could be the game changer you’re looking for.
If you have big dreams for your business, but don’t feel hard work alone is getting you where you want or need to be, SMART goals can give your dreams definition and direction. In my blog Do You Know Where You’re Going?, I touched on how important it is to know what you want for your business – to know where you want to go. Without that insight, you may feel like you’re wandering aimlessly.
If you’re wandering aimlessly, you may also start to wonder what the purpose to all of it is. Why are you working as hard as you are if you’re just spinning your wheels day after day? What’s the point if all that effort and energy results in you not being able to pay yourself well for your time? That’s often where the dream starts to die and many small business owners burn out or consider throwing in the towel.
When I work with business owners who find themselves frustrated and ready to throw in the towel, I always go back to the basics and ask them the following questions:
Why did you start your business?
What were your dreams for your business when you started?
What is your dream for your business now?
What goals have you set to get you there?
When I get to the question about goals, I often either get a blank look or they tell me they’ve set goals in the past, but haven’t been successful in achieving them. That leads to an honest discussion about the importance of setting achievable goals for a business, as well as what they really want for their future. And that’s a great start for turning things around!
When you think about the future of your business, it should always include goals.
Dictionary.com defines a goal as “the result or achievement toward which effort is directed.” I’ve also seen goals defined as “the destination of a journey.” Result or destination, one thing is clear from my years as a productivity and profit coach. Vague goals (and dreams) are hard to reach. You need clarity, an action plan, and effort to get there.
SMART goals will…
help you clarify what you want and why you want it.
define and give direction
help you see the bigger picture and the purpose to it all.
provide an action plan, which serves as a roadmap and increases your likelihood of success.
motivate, because they are relevant, meaningful, and have milestones to celebrate along the way
encourage better decision making, because your purpose and direction are clear – choices either fit or don’t fit with the goal.
help you prioritize the tasks and activities that will move your business forward, so you can stop feeling like you’re just spinning your wheels and getting nowhere.
How do they do all that? There are elements to SMART goals that cause you to dig deeper to really define your goal. And that can be the difference between achievement and missing the target.
What are SMART goals?
Though there are variations on the theme, SMART Goals are commonly defined as goals that are Specific, Measurable (or Meaningful), Achievable, Relevant (or Realistic), and Time-Bound.
They are a “deeper dig” when it comes to goal setting, and rely on a clearly stated vision, steps to take along the way, and a set finish line.
SMART = Specific
One element that makes SMART goals effective is that they are very specific. You could say “I want to grow my business” or “I need to make more money this year” and call that a goal, which it might be. However, just making those statements won’t make it happen. To start, those statements are pretty vague.
With SMART goals, you create a clear vision statement which expresses the exact result you are striving for. For example, instead of stating, “I want to grow my business this year,” you would frame it as, “I want to add 3 major clients at the x level and increase my online sales by 15% by December 15.”
Once you clearly define the goal, you can work backwards to create the strategies and steps to get you there.
SMART = Measurable and Meaningful
Two of the M representations typically used when talking about SMART Goals are Measurable and Meaningful.
In terms of Measurable, I always suggest you build in another powerful M – Milestones. When you set SMART goals, it’s good to have benchmarks – for two reasons. First, milestones mark your path, and reaching those smaller goals signals you’re on the right path. The markers measure your progress.
Second, milestones are incredibly Motivating. They give you an opportunity to celebrate smaller wins along the way to the bigger goal. I have always been an advocate for breaking bigger tasks into more manageable pieces and I am all about celebrating wins – big and small! More immediate gratification definitely helps when it comes to motivation.
In terms of Meaningful, it’s so important to make sure business (and personal) goal-setting is based in what you value most. Meaningful goals, like Milestones, are extremely Motivating. It’s your answer to “why am I doing this?” when challenges pop up along the way. When you base your goals on your values and are working toward something that matters to you, you’re far more likely to see the value in following through.
SMART = Achievable
The thinking behind the Achievable part of SMART goals is that you should aim high but not so high that it’s out of reach. Stretch yourself, but don’t set yourself up for failure. If your ultimate goal isn’t reachable right now – for various reasons like inability to take a class to learn the skills you need or lack of available resources – and you ignore that reality, you’re far more likely to get frustrated and bail on the whole thing. I encourage you to really consider the goal you’re setting, make sure it’s achievable, and give yourself the best possible chance for success.
SMART = Relevant and Realistic
The Realistic part of SMART goals goes right along with Achievable. It’s great to dream big, but dreams will stay dreams if we can’t bring them into reality. If the goal you want to set doesn’t seem realistic (for whatever reason), choose a goal that is. If you set a more reachable, realistic target now, you may find you’re in a better position for the bigger dream once you’ve reached the smaller goal first.
Realistic also relates to your personality, your values, and who you are as a business owner. Would you be able to stay focused on a goal that extends out 3-5 years or would a 1-year goal make more sense? Are there sacrifices you would have to make, but are unwilling to make, to reach your goal? Use what you know and understand about yourself, your personality, and your values to set goals that are realistic for you.
The Relevant component of SMART goals goes along with Meaningful. Relevance matters when it comes to staying Motivated to keep moving toward the goal. When a goal is relevant, it organically generates a clear list of benefits. And that list of benefits is what will give you the reason to keep going if the going gets rough.
SMART = Time-Bound
The Time-bound part of SMART goals simply means you create the light at the end of the tunnel. It is the “when” you will reach the destination or result. If you don’t set it, your goal could still feel vague and you could once again find yourself aimlessly wandering and spinning your wheels. Milestones are also time-bound, for the same reason.
What are SMARTER Goals?
SMARTER goals are SMART goals that go just a little further, in an important way. Somewhere along the way the E and R were added. I’ve seen different ideas on what they should stand for, but the best I’ve seen are Evaluated and Reviewed.
If you think about it, it makes sense. Business environments (and life) are dynamic and responsive to variables – both anticipated and unknown. If you build evaluation and review into your benchmarks and time frames, you’ll be able to make adjustments, if necessary.
In the end, nobody can promise SMART goals, or even SMARTER goals, are a magical secret for success. With goal setting and SMART goals, like anything else, the tool works well when you use it effectively and consistently. I have lots of tips and strategies for helping you do just that.
Setting SMART goals and formulating an action plan gives you a roadmap for the purposeful activities that will move your business forward. SMART goals can help you clarify and plan those purposeful actions. The more specific you can be with the goal, as well as the action steps you’ll take to get there, the better.
Remember, a goal is the destination of a journey. So, lay the path, take the steps, and you CAN reach the finish line – even if you’ve struggled to reach it in the past.
Are you ready to set some SMARTER goals for your business? I can help with that! Contact me
What impact would a growth vs fixed mindset have on your life and business?
If you’re doing everything you can with respect to your business but are still struggling to achieve your goals and dreams, take a look at your mindset. Where do you stand when it comes to a growth vs fixed mindset? Have you ever considered the possibility that your mindset could be what’s holding you back?
In my last blog, Does Visualizing Success Actually Fuel Success?, I shared some of the research behind visualization and the impact it can have on performance and achieving goals. As I wrote in that blog, visualization is not just some crazy, new-age theory. There’s science and research to back up the value of visualizing success.
In fact, everything I read supported the idea that our minds play an important role in how our lives go. So, when I decided to write this blog on growth vs fixed mindset, I went looking for even more proof of how powerful our minds are.
In my search, I came across a TEDx talk by Dr. Alia Crum, an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Stanford University. It’s fascinating stuff!
In her talk, Dr. Crum speaks of several studies where our perception of a situation was proven to affect measurable responses in our body systems. In other words, what we believe and what we think can actually cause changes in our body’s response.
In one study, Dr. Crum conducted an experiment where study subjects were given a milkshake. They were told the shake was guilt-free – containing no added sugar, no fat, and only 140 calories. After the test subjects consumed that “healthy” shake, the researchers measured their Ghrelin levels – a hormone that signals hunger satisfaction in the body. Ghrelin levels dropped only slightly.
The subjects then came in two weeks later and were given another milkshake. This time, participants were told the shake contained a whopping 30g of fat, 56g of sugar and 620 calories. After consuming the second milkshake, the Ghrelin levels of participants dropped about 3x more than before, which is the response experts would expect from a higher calorie “treat.”
The catch, however, according to Dr. Crum, was that participants were only told that the second shake was the higher calorie treat. It was actually the same shake they had been given the first time. The thing that was different was their brain’s perception of what was given. The participants saw the second shake as being more satisfying, they believed they were drinking the higher-calorie shake, and their Ghrelin levels dropped to reflect that perception.
Dr. Crum’s work highlights the phenomenal power of our minds – even over the systems in our bodies. That’s powerful stuff!
So, here’s a question for you. If our brains have the power to actually promote muscle memory and affect outcomes in goal-setting, as I discussed in my last blog, and if our minds can trick our bodies into responding to just our perception of something, is it possible that same science applies to the limiting beliefs of a fixed mindset hindering success or that adopting a growth mindset can fuel success?
Why wouldn’t we use that to our advantage when it comes to developing a mindset that promotes success?
Growth vs Fixed Mindset
I’ve talked about growth vs fixed mindset at speaking engagements and with my clients for years. And in my blog, Are You Sabotaging Your Own Success?, I wrote about how an unconscious mindset of limiting beliefs can cause us to get in our own way – often without even realizing we’re doing it!
But, as I’ve worked with clients to shift their thinking when a fixed mindset was holding them back, I realized that many don’t fully understand the concept of growth vs fixed mindset.
So, here’s the basic description as defined by Carol Dweck, the Stanford University psychologist who identified and developed the concept of the two core mindsets.
The belief that intelligence is static.
This leads to a desire to appear smart and a tendency to…
Give up easily
See effort as fruitless or worse
Ignore useful, negative feedback
Feel threatened by the success of others
Dweck also points out that those with a fixed mindset often achieve less than their full potential.
The fixed mindset asks, “Are you sure you can do it? What if it’s not perfect?” This may cause you to shrink away from a new challenge because you’re afraid of failing or looking bad.
The belief that intelligence can be developed.
This leads to a desire to learn and a tendency to…
Persist in the face of setbacks
See effort as a path to mastery
Learn from criticism
Find lessons and inspiration in the success of others
For the growth mindset, Dweck asserts that adopting it will result in ever-higher levels of achievement. The growth mindset says, “I may not know exactly how to do this, but I am capable of learning what I need to learn and will figure it out. It may not be perfect, and I might even fail, but I will give it my best effort and learn something either way.”
Do you see yourself in either of those descriptions?
Maybe you see a little of yourself in both. Some believe that you’re either one or the other, but that isn’t necessarily true. It’s possible you see a little of both in yourself, depending on a given situation.
For example, you might see effort as a path to mastery and believe you are capable of learning new things, but become defensive when faced with criticism. This, unfortunately, causes you to shrink away from constructive criticism that could help you improve.
Or you might embrace and see your challenges as an opportunity to grow, but still secretly envy others who seem to have it easier than you do. This can create a negative outlook and cause you to feel defeated. And the perception that others have it easier probably isn’t even true! We don’t always see the truth of what’s going on with others. We see what they let us see.
You get the point. I would just encourage you to give some thought to where you stand in terms of growth vs fixed mindset. Try to be as honest as possible. It’s through understanding and awareness that we gain the power to change.
Shifting to a Growth Mindset
Once you understand where you’re at, the power of a growth mindset is within your grasp.
How you interpret setbacks, challenges and criticism is a choice. Your choice. You can choose to welcome them with the goal of allowing them to make you better. Or you can choose to curl back into your comfort zone, not take risks, and try to save face with possible critics – including yourself.
But where does that leave you in the end? Most likely with regrets and stuck in a place that is less than what you hoped for – especially in business.
According to Dweck, confidence comes from doing – even if the doing initially produces a less than desired result.
Dweck’s research has shown that every time we push out of our comfort zone to learn something new and difficult, the neurons in our brains can form new and stronger connections. We learn to be more confident problem solvers. And over time, we can actually get smarter. There’s science backing up the power of mindset too!
So, what’s the first step to shifting to a growth mindset?
The first step is to acknowledge that you have a fixed mindset (or in what areas you have a fixed mindset) and learn to recognize it when that little voice inside starts telling you that you can’t do something.
Most successful people experience a certain level of doubt or fail somewhere along the way to success. The difference is that they don’t let that doubt, or those setbacks, stop them in their tracks. They persist and push right on through those limiting beliefs.
You can do that too! The power to control your thoughts is within you. You can control your thoughts rather than having your thoughts control you.
When you catch yourself listening to those limiting beliefs, consciously turn it around. Reframe those thoughts to reflect a growth mindset and see what happens.
Learn or try something new, even if your first thought is that you’re afraid you’ll fail.
Embrace challenges as the opportunities and learning experiences they are.
Make a decision to graciously accept and give some thought to criticism/feedback and see it as a way to improve, rather than validation that you’re not good enough.
Celebrate your successes and the successes of others.
These shifts in mindset may take some time, practice, and conscious effort. After all, chances are you may have been stuck in fixed-mindset behavior patterns for a long time. But it’s well worth the effort. It can really change the game for you and your business.
So, with what you know now, let me ask my first question again…
What impact could having a growth vs fixed mindset have on your life and business?
Wouldn’t you like to harness that proven power of your mind and find out?
Does visualizing success increase the chances of success? The answer to that question is a source of debate for some. There are those who feel the idea is more of a new age, ‘woowoo’ theory, but there are also many who believe in its merits. Professional athletes would be a great example of the believers.
The idea is that you clearly and intentionally focus on the goals you want to achieve and what you want in your life or business. You use mental (or physical) imagery that keeps your goals top of mind and “trains” your brain for achieving that goal. It also involves reframing your thinking to seeing it is possible, believing it is possible and imagining your success in detailed, sensory terms.
Wherever you stand on the spectrum between thinking it’s all foolishness or believing in the benefits of visualizing success in life and business, it’s worth exploring… and considering.
Does Visualizing Success Work?
Much has been written about the subject of visualizing success over the years. The resources I found point to actual benefits rather than a waste of time.
Visualizing success in the form of goals or optimum performance has been used by phenomenally successful athletes and entrepreneurs alike. It would be hard to argue that it didn’t work out well for them. And studies have been done, which give a scientific basis to the practice.
In a Psychology Today piece titled Seeing is Believing: The Power of Visualization, AJ Adams, a Master of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP), refers to a study which looked at the brain patterns of weightlifters. The study found that “mental practices are almost as effective as true physical practice.” The study also found “that doing both is more effective than either alone.” Our brains can “train” for actual performance during visualization.
Adams went on to write that mental imagery impacts the cognitive processes of motor control, perception, planning, attention, and memory. And Adams claims these mental practices also help to enhance motivation, increase confidence and self-efficacy, improve motor performance, prime your brain for success, and increase states of flow.
Similarly, Marla Tabaka, in her article Visualize Your Way to Success (Really!), writes that “as we routinely and intentionally visualize a desired outcome, and step into the belief that it is possible, our brains increase the motivation to make it happen. We become more and more determined to do whatever it takes to achieve our goals.”
And Tabaka’s statement was supported by the findings of a survey on visualizing success, which Eilene Zimmerman outlined in a 2016 piece for Forbes. If you’re a business owner, the results of the survey were compelling!
The survey was completed by TD Bank and involved more than 1,100 people and 500 small business owners who used visualization of their business goals – through pictures and idea boards. Here is a breakdown of the findings, according to Zimmerman.
People who imagine their financial and business goals are more confident they will achieve them than people who don’t.
Those who create a vision board (or a less formally organized collection of images and photos) that relate to their goals are almost twice as confident they’ll achieve them than those who don’t visualize their goals in some way.
Almost two-thirds of small business owners believe that visualizing goals helps them map and develop their business plans.
One in five small business owners used a vision board or other visual representation when starting their business; 76% of those business owners said that today their business is where they envisioned it would be when they started it.
Eighty-two percent of small business owners that used a vision board from the get-go reported that they have accomplished more than half the goals they included on that board.
To me, that’s not only compelling, it’s encouraging. After all, the idea that there’s something so simple we can do to improve our chances of success just gives us one more tool we can use as business owners.
The ’How-To’ of Visualizing Success
So, how do you implement visualizing success for your life and business?
I don’t claim to be an expert in this area, though I have long been a believer in the practice and use it in my own life.
And, of course, there’s always the vision board – a visual reminder where you place pictures and other representations of the goals you want to achieve on an actual board and keep it prominently displayed where you will see it every day. Jack Canfield has a blog to walk you through creating an empowering vision board too.
Even if you’re still feeling a bit skeptical, I encourage you to give visualizing success and the goals you want to achieve a chance. It only takes a commitment of minutes a day and might help you stay focused on your goals. It may also open your mind to opportunities to achieve those goals you might have missed if you weren’t keeping your eyes on the prize.
I’d love to hear your stories if you’ve ever used visualization to reach your goals and dreams or if you’re planning to use it now! Leave a comment below and let me know how visualization works for you.
You can also contact me if you’re ready to take those goals and turn them into the plan to get you there!
Efficiency and productivity go hand in hand, but how do you get the best of both?
Back in 2012, I posted a blog with some great efficiency and productivity tips taken from an IQTell.com article. IQTell was a productivity app and a great resource for busy business owners everywhere. Unfortunately, IQTell shut down in July 2017, but the wisdom in that article was timeless.
I’ve included much of the information from that article here (the basics of the 11 tips come from that article), but I’ve taken the liberty of updating the information and adding my professional insights on each tip too.
11 Office Efficiency Tips
During the week, offices everywhere are buzzing with activity. Whether it’s reading or sending emails, answering calls, attending meetings, researching, or working on projects, there are always things that need to get done – and many business owners feel there never seems to be enough time.
With all this activity (and sometimes chaos), something is bound to fall between the cracks. Balls can be dropped. Usually when something goes wrong, someone gets the blame, but often efficiency and productivity can be traced to how organized the office is and what systems and processes are in place to keep everybody focused on the RIGHT things that increase productivity AND profits.
Here are 11 tips that will help you lay the groundwork for maximum efficiency and keep your office functional, even if your days are busy and chaotic.
#1 – Manage to-do lists with efficiency and purpose
To increase efficiency, every task or project you have on your proverbial plate should be on a to-do list. I encourage clients to either make their to-do list for the coming week on Friday before leaving for the weekend or on Sunday evening, so they can get off to a great start on Monday morning.
You’ll want to start with a broad overview of tasks to be completed, then fill in each day with tasks and activities according to priority and deadlines. It’s so important to assign a priority or deadline to each task. Why? When you leave a task hanging, you sentence it to “task purgatory,” which makes it easy to keep kicking it down the road. And it’s often those hanging tasks that fall through the cracks.
To add even more efficiency to your to-do list, break your lists into sections like tasks, correspondence, errands and appointments, and notes. That way, you can clearly see what needs to be done and the type of task it is. It also separates out errands and appointments, which can help you map out a route that will increase efficiency when you’re out and about too!
#2 – Create a trusted workflow for tasks
Efficiency for certain tasks requires having a process for making decisions and taking action immediately. This is especially true for tasks that involve some type of communication. When you open an email or document, receive a phone call, or finish a meeting, make sure there is a predefined workflow for dealing with those things and managing any tasks that arise. Add those tasks to your to-do list right away or delegate them to the appropriate person and add a note to your list for follow-up.
If you have a system for workflow, where decisions are made and action is taken rather than delayed, you won’t find yourself facing those delayed decisions a second time down the road. Follow your workflow like your life depends on it, because your efficiency and productivity certainly do!
#3 – Do follow-ups and reviews
Creating a system to check the status of any task and project increases efficiency in your office environment and keeps everything humming along. If you want to maintain a high level of control and prevent tasks from getting lost in the shuffle, do your reviews on a weekly basis. And be sure to add those follow-ups and reviews to your weekly to-dos.
#4 – Organize smooth delegation processes
If you have employees or colleagues that can help you on a task, delegate it. Recurring tasks should most likely be delegated because it’s been done before, which makes it easier for someone else to complete – if you have taken the time to document how recurring tasks should be handled.
Develop processes and use tools that enable you to transfer tasks effectively and communicate instructions clearly without scheduling unnecessary meetings. Efficiency comes, in part, from everyone knowing what the expectations are and from not having to recreate the wheel every time a task is assigned.
#5 – Store reference materials online for easy access
Make project reference material available online! It will speed up office communication and prevent unnecessary confusion about the whereabouts of certain docs.
All project materials should be known to the team members and easily accessible online. All team members should be able to add information to this central repository. Information should be clearly categorized and connected to the relevant project and tasks.
Google Driveis a good way to make it easier for collaboration within teams. Project documents can be edited or added to by team members. Dropboxworks well if you simply need to share documents and keep everything in a common file. Basecamp is also a good tool for keeping projects on track. The added bonus with Basecamp is that you can create project-specific to-do lists for team members within the site, you can upload documents and images, and team members can communicate through messaging.
#6 – Handle files and tasks only once
This goes along with # 2 and the idea of keeping the workflow flowing. Being decisive and taking immediate action will increase efficiency and productivity in your day. How many times have you thought “I’ll deal with this later” when you opened an email, listened to a voicemail, or picked up a file you weren’t sure how to deal with? I encourage you to drop that habit ASAP, since it’s a proven efficiency and productivity killer.
Efficiency and productivity go way up when you make a decision immediately and move on. (I have a handy chart that can help you with this. You can download it here.)
This is especially true with emails, which have become a major time suck/productivity killer for workers everywhere. You can’t imagine how much time is wasted on reading and re-reading emails! According to a study by Carleton University, it can be as much as 11.7 hours per week at work and 5.3 hours per week at home. So, it’s good to find ways to streamline your time and bring efficiency to handling emails!
#7 – Schedule breaks!
Breaks are really important for keeping office efficiency and productivity at its peak. Taking mental breaks from your tasks can improve your focus and help you get into the zone much faster. Breaks are especially important when doing repetitive tasks. Repetitive actions and thoughts are regarded by our brains as unimportant to the point the brain becomes ineffective in processing them. So, give yourself a break now and then and hit the ‘refresh’ button.
#8 – Increase efficiency through clear objectives and goals
Do you have a shared calendar in the office that allows you to take a look at the progress of shared projects?
For the most part, people tend to be very visual creatures. Seeing how far/close you are (as a team) to completing a common goal enables the team to make adjustments as needed, so everyone will be working smarter rather than harder. By sharing updates and deadlines on the same board, you’ll increase efficiency and productivity and keep everyone on the same page. It also allows everyone to clearly see if parts of the project are falling behind, so other team members can jump in and help.
#9 – Limit the number of meetings
There are many who believe meetings are poison. I don’t think meetings are poison, but they can certainly have a negative effect on efficiency and productivity if they’re overused or not geared toward prompting productive, profitable action.
The problem with meetings is that they can give the illusion of productivity, but they are a complete waste of time if you don’t translate what came from the meeting into action afterward. You’re also pulling people away from other work to attend the meeting, so make sure the meeting is necessary and focused. Make that time really count. Make sure each meeting has a clear objective, set time frame, and that you end each meeting with action items delegated and assigned. Clearly document, assign, and circulate the meeting notes and actions. Then go back to Tip #3 to make sure they get done!
Also, you’ll want to manage the meeting in such a way that people don’t digress to other topics. Stay on point and stay focused! If other topics come up, decide if they are something that should be visited later and set a time to address them if they are – either individually or at the next meeting.
#10 – Use Common methodology and terminology
When everyone talks in the same language and works with the same methodology, you’ll increase efficiency and make it easier to get things done. Create a culture in your office based on a productivity method and get everybody on the same page. Equip yourself and your teams with practical knowledge that will boost efficiency and help everyone get tasks done faster.
#11 Give your team the efficiency tools they need to succeed
A productivity method without a tool is like a fishing pole without the lure. When everyone works and collaborates on the same platform, it’s easier to manage and achieve the office tasks, projects, and objectives. Everything is clearly listed, delegated and communicated amongst the team. Again, tools like Basecamp, Dropbox or Google Drive are great tools for efficiency and productivity for teams.
As you can see, IQTell had some great, common-sense tips for office efficiency! It’s sad that they folded. But the torch has been passed and there are new apps and resourcesout there for business owners and entrepreneurs today. Maybe one of them will be the key to helping you increase office efficiency, productivity, and profits.
I can also help you streamline your time for maximum efficiency and productivity. Sometimes working with a business coach who can see the bigger picture and suggest some easy changes is all you need!
Contact me anytime for a complimentary initial consultation to discuss your specific needs!
Business failure is never the goal of any start-up. But businesses do fail. One reason businesses fail is because business owners often ignore common symptoms of trouble and don’t reach out for help. Common symptoms of trouble include:
Cash flow issues – feast-or-famine cycles
Lack of owner’s pay
Inability to deliver goods or services at a level that creates positive customer experiences
Stress and overwhelm experienced by the owner
Working harder and longer with nothing to show for it
Great sales/revenue with no profit to show for it
I see these issues often. They’re the reason my phone rings. But these symptoms are the result of deeper problems. If you’re experiencing any of the above, your business isn’t as healthy as it could be! And if you’re just hoping, waiting for a miracle, and trying to stay optimistic about the state of your business and business finances, you may be headed for trouble.
Don’t get me wrong, optimism is a good thing. But false optimism (also known as denial) isn’t. The only way to fix the symptoms listed above is to face the underlying causes.
It’s worth taking the time to do. There is a point at which a business can’t be saved. If the situation gets to that point, your dream, that dream, could be over.
A Cautionary Tale of Business Failure
Recently, a friend contacted me about her son-in-law. He’s a smart, hard-working, 34-year-old business owner, husband and father of two. He started his business eight years ago. Now his dream and his once-promising business are crumbling around him.
His story is a cautionary tale. It’s a good example of how smarts, a great idea, and hard work don’t necessarily guarantee business survival. In fact, business survival isn’t even a consideration for him at this point. Right now, he’s just trying to figure out how to close the business and move on to something that will support his family and get them back on track.
Getting back on track isn’t going to be easy, however. He hasn’t been able to pull owner’s pay to cover his family’s personal expenses for over six months, and they’re at risk of losing their home to foreclosure. He’s losing the space he uses for his business, due to inability to pay the rent. He’s in default on a business loan for over 200k. Their credit is shot and he’s facing personal and business bankruptcy. And unfortunately, he’s unable to sell any business assets to bring some money in – for various reasons. The current situation is in full-on crisis mode and I’m sorry to say that even I can’t save this one.
So, how did he get here? Eight years ago, he started a promising business with a great idea the market needed, lots of deposits for orders, tons of ambition, and a strong work ethic. How did it all come crashing down?
In going over the details with my friend, a few things became clear. First, he’s a great man who loves his family, is a hard worker, and never intended to fail. He just never had a plan. He also made a lot of common mistakes. And though you might be shaking your head and judging that this could never happen to you, you’d be surprised at how many businesses faildue to those common pitfalls and the business owner’s failure to plan.
Key Factors to Business Failure
We could talk about a lot of things when it comes to business failure. Lack of adequate capital, inaccurate pricing of goods or services, lack of support, owner weaknesses that aren’t addressed, lack of systems and processes, and ‘casual glance accounting’ for money management are typically the underlying issues discussed as reasons businesses fail. And, YES, they’re all important factors that lead to problems! But what do they all circle around? They all circle around the business owner and how they structure and run their business.
In a 2014 article, Gallup cited research which found the success of a new business has a lot to do with the person starting that business. And in a 2014 Entrepreneur.com article, Gallup researcher Sangeeta Bharadwaj Badal outlined nine blind spots that sabotage businesses – all related to a business owner’s unique traits and weaknesses. It makes sense if you think about it. All those common symptoms of a problem I mentioned above can pop up because of an owner’s personality traits, decisions, actions, and experience – or lack of experience.
For example, if you have a business owner who doesn’t like planning or details and prefers to just jump in and ‘fly by the seat of their pants,’ those common issues are more likely to occur and become a BIG problem that jeopardizes business survival!
In the case of my friend’s son-in-law, he was definitely a dive in and ‘fly by the seat of his pants’ type of entrepreneur. He struggled with prioritizing and staying focused on tasks and projects that paid, which meant he often missed the promised deadline and disappointed customers. It also meant projects took longer to complete, so it limited the amount of revenue he could produce each month substantially.
He wasn’t the type who liked the administrative/detail side of the business and resisted the systems and processes that would’ve made his life a whole lot easier – and his business more efficient. And, though he manufactured a product that required extra hands to complete, he was a one-man operation trying to do everything himself.
He also didn’t have a system to manage the revenue coming in. This caused a great deal of stress – both at home and at work – as he experienced extreme cycles of feast-or-famine. He never knew for sure what was going out or coming in and used the ‘casual glance’ method of accounting. If he needed to pay himself or someone else, he would take a glance at the account and see if there was money there, then write a check if there was. He didn’t, however, take into consideration what else might need to come out of the account, which often left him with shortages.
Money and cash flow problems also popped up because he thought he was charging enough for the product he was producing, but he didn’t really know how much it cost him to produce and deliver that product. He was overly optimistic about how much time each project took. And he didn’t use the right calculations to factor in all the overhead. This meant he was actually breaking even or losing money on many of the items he sold. But he had no idea.
Add in an emergency surgery in 2016, which left him unable to do his job for six months, and his already shaky business started to cave in. He quickly got behind on orders and loan payments, which sent him spiraling down the rabbit hole.
He had no capital or cushion to get him and his family through. And he was a one-man show who kept it all in his head and wore all the hats. When he was out recovering from surgery, the business basically came to a screeching halt. Nobody was there to keep it all afloat. By the time he was able to get up and running again, he was so deep in the hole there was no coming back.
Minimizing the Risk of Business Failure
I know the details of this story may not fit with your specific situation. So, why did I share it?
I wanted to share his story because, even though the details of your business may be very different, the principles of creating an environment that sets the stage for business success are the same – no matter what type of business you have. And it really highlights how much the business owner’s decisions, actions, and weaknesses influence outcome.
As a business owner, only you can give your business the best chance of success. It’s so important to dig into (and be honest about) who you are as a business owner. Then you can put a plan together for your business.
For the best possible shot at minimizing the risk of business failure, your plan should include those elements mentioned above. Here’s a quick run down…
Adequate capital and/or lines of credit
You should have a cushion for that year you’re starting your business and reserves for unexpected life emergencies – like surgeries or health issues – that sideline you. Lines of credit can also ensure you have the money you need for inventory, supplies, and necessary purchases, so you can complete the jobs you take on. But it’s even better if you have a system for managing your revenue that gives you a supply of cash on hand to cover those things too.
Focusing on the RIGHT things
There’s a big difference between being busy and being profitably productive. You could easily spend an entire day – or even weeks – working in your business with nothing to show for it at the end. Identify and prioritize the activities in your business that actually bring in revenue. If you’re spending too much time on tasks that don’t, your time isn’t being used efficiently and you’re setting yourself up for those feast-or-famine cycles.
Accurately pricing goods and services with profit in mind
There are specific calculations involved in determining what the price needs to be for you to make a profit! It’s easy to overlook costs that should be included and get that number wrong, which can leave you actually losing money on every transaction! It’s also easy to be overly optimistic about how much time goes into each project. So, take the time to think through EVERYTHING that needs to be included in that calculation.
This could be a business coach, a partner who has the strengths and skills that ‘fill in the gaps’ of your weaknesses and can step in if you have an emergency of some kind, a virtual assistant who will deal with the dreaded details, employees who assist in production, a bookkeeper, or marketing person. You get the idea. Figure out what specific people will ‘round out’ your skill set and keep things running smoothly… and bring them on board!
Identifying your strengths and weaknesses
We all have strengths and weaknesses, but awareness is key. Figure out what yours are and embrace them – the good and the bad! If you don’t, how can you make your business as strong as it can be? Business survival depends on maximizing the strengths and having a plan to compensate for the weaknesses. This goes back to putting the right support in place too. If you don’t consider yourself an organized/detail person, all those administrative tasks can overwhelm you. Usually, that means owners avoid doing them, which isn’t good!
Get a system and a plan for money management
If you use the ‘casual glance’ system of accounting, stop it now! It’s ineffective, it creates cycles of feast and famine, and it sucks the profit right out of your business. There are much better waysto manage that precious resource that represents your hours of hard work!
Put systems and processes in place early and everywhere you can
No one can keep everything straight in their head, especially when you have a business that involves a lot of projects and/or steps to complete projects. Things will inevitably fall through the cracks! And if you don’t have systems and processes in place for running your business, you make it impossible for anyone else to step in and help effectively.
Having all these things in place would’ve created a very different story for my friend’s son-in-law. The road to learning from his business failure will be long for him. And it may be years before they fully recover. Yes, we can (and should) learn from failures. But I’m sure he wishes he was writing the story of his success rather than the postmortem of lessons learned.
I am a firm believer that business success is possible if you take the time to arm yourself with the knowledge you need to succeed. We, as business owners, need to understand our strengths and weaknesses, as well as the elements needed to increase our chances of surviving and thriving. Even if you don’t start out with knowledge and a great plan, you can still pull everything together when you realize those symptoms of a problem are present. Just don’t let false optimism keep you from addressing the issues! The sooner you seek answers, the better the chance business failure won’t be your future. You’ll sleep better too!
Do you struggle with motivation and feel unproductive during the cold, dreary days of winter?
It’s been very cold and dreary here in the Midwest recently. I guess it’s safe to say winter is officially here. Staying focused, productive, and keeping energy levels up can be tough. But there are lots of things you can do to IGNITE your productivity, boost your mood, and keep your business moving forward – even during the after-holiday lull and cold, dreary winter months.
That urge to hibernate and decrease in motivation can be turned into a real plus if you see spending more time indoors as a good opportunity to get your inner space – both physical and mental – organized. You’re stuck inside anyway, might as well make the most of it and get something accomplished! Think of it as a time of preparation that will set the stage and free up time when the weather warms up and you’d rather be outside in the spring.
Here are some tips to turn those winter blahs into energizing ta-das.
Are the stacks of paper on your desk an avalanche waiting to happen? You may tell yourself those stacks are your filing method. But in reality, every paper threatening to cascade to the floor represents a delayed decision. So, dig in and sort, file, or get rid of excess papers.
Not sure what to keep and what can go? Click here for a handy guide and ask yourself these six simple questions…
Do I love it or does it give me energy?
Do I use it regularly?
Is it recent enough to be useful?
Do I need it for legal or tax reasons?
How easy would it be to obtain again?
Last (but most important) question – WHAT IS THE WORST THING THAT WILL HAPPEN IF I DON’T HAVE THIS? If you can live with that answer, then you can probably discard, toss, donate, destroy or shred.
But remember, scanning and keeping digital copies on your computer is also an option, especially for those things where it’s hard to decide whether they should stay or go. Storing them digitally makes them easy find and even print out if you need them. (Just make sure they are stored or backed up in a way that protects them from computer crashes.)
Want to get organized on an even deeper level?You can also sort, file or get rid of digital files. Go through document files on your computer and organize them into folders or delete if you don’t need them anymore.
Have some time while you’re sitting watching tv or because business is a little slow this time of year? Take some time to clean out that email inbox. And while you’re at it, create categories and filters to keep your inbox more manageable moving forward.
Now is also a good time to unsubscribe from businesses that are contributing to the inbox clutter. If you like the company but want to continue with fewer emails, check to see if they offer the ability to set preferences for either content or frequency of contact. There are companies I love and frequently shop, but they tend to send me multiple emails a day with promotional ads and sale content, which really clutters up my inbox. But most of them allow me to choose weekly – or even monthly – over daily emails. By adjusting my preferences, I still get notifications about sales, but have fewer emails to deal with.
Have a company or organization you like and are afraid you’ll forget about – or won’t be able to find – if you stop getting their emails? Create a document where you can keep the URLs of sites you may want to revisit in the future. You can even include a description of who they are and what they do/sell, so you won’t forget.
Evaluate and Set Goals for 2018
Sometimes all it takes to boost the mood and get energized is making positive plans for the future. If you take the time to review 2017 now, you can see where you shined and where you faltered in reaching the goals you set last year. It’s not about raking any mistakes you might have made over the coals, it’s about learning from what worked and what didn’t, which is always a good thing!
Taking some time now, when you’d rather be in than out due to the cold, will make you feel accomplished and get things in order, which saves you time and money with the added benefit of boosting your mood during these cold dreary months of winter. So, turn those winter blahs into winter ta-das. I promise you’ll be glad you did!
Need help or have any questions for me regarding getting organized or setting goals? Contact me! And here’s that handy Record Retention Chart again, in case you missed it in the post.
Ready to get organized, but not sure what to keep and what you can safely get rid of?
This handy Record Retention Chart will tell you what you need to keep, how long you should keep it, and what you can safely get rid of.