frustrated business owner

How to Conquer the 7 Most Common Frustrations Business Owners Have

How to Conquer the 7 Most Common Frustrations Business Owners Have

Owning and running a business can be tough. The frustrations business owners have can be overwhelming.  Every business owner goes through times of elation, times of flow and times of frustration. Businesses have cycles, just like the seasons. Fortunately, you don’t have to struggle through the crop-killing heat of the summer or the bone-chilling freeze of winter.  As a business owner, there are steps you can take to help you move through the tough times with a bit more ease. Let’s be honest, it still takes effort, but effort in addition to direction and action will get you and your business over any frustration hump and moving on the right path again soon.

What attracts people to start a business in the first place.

Some people fall into owning a business.  We all know the story of the plumber dude, who was so excellent at what he did and how he related to his customers – that his base grew so big, so quickly that he had to get help…and so, he started a company to do it. We also know the story of the brilliant tech dudette, who created some killer app that made life so much easier – quickly she needed help marketing it, selling it, and updating it –  and her company was born.

Others of us are drawn into the idea of being a business owner.  We want the freedom to set our own direction and create our own destiny. We want to own our schedule – work from the beach – work a couple hours a day. We want more financial wealth and stability.  We want to have a better lifestyle with more time and money to travel, to support our passions, and to spend with our family. We want to make our mark and serve many.

Regardless of why you started your business, what you’re experiencing as a business owner is most likely very different than your idea of what it would be at the beginning. A few business owner rock the role and have all the time, money and freedom they want. Most business owners fall into a rut of being stuck with their business and they never get to enjoy the fruits of being a business owner. We want to change that!

Enjoying your business and your life by creating the systems, structure and support of a sustainable and intelligent growth plan is the key to limiting those frustrating times, while spending more time in flow.  But how do you to that? Especially when it feels like you have no time (or energy) anyway? You have to learn to conquer your frustrations and get committed to your solutions.

 

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The Top 7 Frustrations Business Owners Have

These are the big ones – the ones that keep you up at night.  There are more frustrations out there, but most of them roll up into these biggies.  Any of these sound familiar?

  1. The Business Owns You –  You thought it would be the other way around, but nope.  You eat, sleep, think, dream, and everything else your business.  There is no time for working out, spending with family, pursuing passions, nevermind going on a much needed multi-week vacation. You don’t own your time or your mind.
  2. Profits Aren’t Where They Need To Be – You’re feeling constantly pinched. There seems to always be a bit (or a lot) of deficit.  There’s no extra capital to invest in people, technology or systems. And there is certainly not enough to pay you want you want or deserve. When there is profit it seems like a windfall, but then it’s dry until the next windfall. Financial prosperity is still a dream. You need working capital, but you don’t know the best way to get it – or if you even can.
  3. People Mayhem – No one is on the same page. Everyone has an oar in the water, but they are all rowing in different directions. The HR person is a bully, but they’ve been with the company since the beginning and you don’t have time to find a replacement. You’re salespeople sometimes makes sales and sometimes doesn’t. You have to play ref and make sure everyone is doing their job…and do your job.
  4. Your Systems Are In Shambles…Wait, What Systems? – Every person in your company has their own way of keeping track of email, scheduling, customer contact, product development. Your customers have a tough time interfacing with you and easily getting the support they need. Your prospects have to struggle or be super lucky to find you. Target, implementation and release dates are always moving and important deadlines are being missed. Contracts are incomplete, outdated or missing. Collections are at an all time high. Important things are constantly falling through the cracks and it’s up to you to make sure and follow up on everything.
  5. You’re Business Is Stuck and Can’t Get Off High Center –  The wheels are spinning but you can’t seem to get traction and more forward out of your current business state. You want to grow but can’t seem to get traction. You’ve tried making changes, implementing new technology and systems to help optimize the business –  but nothing sticks. You’ve brought people into help, and it helps for a little, but then it’s back to the status quo. You feel like you’ve tried everything (good news – you’ve haven’t – you can fix this!) and sometimes feel like it’s easier to just stay stuck than to try and move forward.
  6. You’re Bored – It feels like you are living in Groundhog Day. In fact, your starting to look like Bill Murray.  You can’t muster the passion or the drive to look at your business from a fresh perspective and evolve. You’ve checked out – the problem is that it seems like everyone else is checked out as well. It’s easier just let your business tread water it – even though you know that without growth and evolution, you will run your business into the ground.  You’ve put people in play to help out – but they are not the right people and so the business keeps forcing your attention back to it when the s**t hits the fan. Which is happening more and more often. You may even want out of the biz, but it is no way ready to sell – nevermind sell for top dollar.
  7. Burn Out – Is your health or relationship teetering on the edge of crisis? Are you so stressed all that time that you are miserable to be around?  Does it take everything you’ve got to meekly manage getting through your day? Have you turned into a giant jerk – either with your team or your spouse/family? Is your anger and frustration level so high that you seem like you are ready to explode at every turn – or have you gone beyond that and are now at the point of the f*ck-its? Would you avoid yourself if you could? You are totally overwhelmed and feel like you need a total break (before your totally break) –  a long one – where you can recoup and regroup.

How Can You Conquer Head-Spinning Frustrations?

If you are experiencing these frustrations, know that you are not alone.  Every business owner comes up against them from time to time. The first step is to recognize that you are churning in frustration  – then you can conquer that frustration. The goal is that you come up against these frustration less and less frequently and that you handle them with more ease and finesse.

 

Business owners who are successful at spending most of their time in a productive and effective  flow are committed to working on these 10 Keys for Business Owner Savvy. These business owners are experiencing freedom (time and money), profit and financial soundness, leverage through powerful teams, and consistent, dependable, and predictable growth.  Which means you can to. However, you must first get educated and committed to conquering the frustration that gets and keeps you spinning.

 

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Proven Strategies for Conquering the Most Common Frustrations Business Owners Have

#1 Get Your Head Back In The Game – Your psychology is the most important factor in you being a successful business owner. It doesn’t matter if you’ve made it before or been successful before (or if you haven’t) – you’re success now is 100% dependent on your current headspace. How do you get a mental tune-up?  First tap into your mission. Revisit the beginning – why did you start your business? Who were you trying to help and how were you trying to help them? Tap into your current mission – what is your business really about? What higher purpose does it serve?

Are you a dry cleaner? Great, you’re in the business of making people look and feel better.  You save people a ton of time and effort so they can spend more time with the people they love, doing the things that they love.  Are you an optometrist? Perfect, you help people see life and feel comfortable doing it. You give them sight and a sense of individuality, style, and confidence with their eyewear. Are you coffee shop owner?  Awesome, you bring people their morning java and help them kick off their day in great way. You provide space for connection, conversation and work. You help people feel really good.

Whatever you do – tap into your mission and then tap into YOUR PURPOSE. Why are you choosing to be a business owner in this business?  What does it bring back to you? Do you love serving your customer base? What does it bring to your family? How does it help you grow and contribute?  Your PURPOSE will help you drive your level of commitment and focus to take action – even when you don’t feel like it, or it’s too hard, or you don’t have enough time, or it costs money.  Make your PURPOSE huge so it can pull you forward like a giant magnet and can also push you from behind when you are feeling challenged. With a huge purpose, anything is possible – it will give you the eyes-on-the-prize, do-whatever-takes attitude necessary to get out of frustration stuck and into flow.

#2 Define Your Vision, Set Your Direction – A business is dying if it’s not growing and evolving.  That’s the bottom-line. And you must know where you are headed before you can ever get there. This is a 3 part process – What – Why – How.  Firstly, build out your vision with your core leadership team (or your entire team if your company is small.) What do you want you business to look like 7 years from now?  3 years from now? 18 months from now? Set you sight clear in terms of product/service offerings, revenue, profit, number of customers, experience of the customer, culture, team, location, and recurring revenue for each time frames. Bring your team into the vision process to gain buy-in at all levels – collaboration is king when it comes to setting big long-term goals. You want your team’s perspective and input, especially for the next part – formulate a compelling why for hitting all of your targets. Once you have a clearly defined vision and why, create your 6 and 12 month goals (and 30-60-90 day action plans) to flush out the HOW you are going to meet your long-term goals.

Bringing the team into this process will help keep everyone on track in terms of goals, daily actions and priorities. And most importantly – everyone oars will be in the water AND rowing in the same direction.

#3 Update Your Culture For Growth – Every business has a culture – even if you, as the owner, have not consciously created it. Culture is really a feeling.  It’s the feeling your customers have when they work with you. It’s the feeling your vendors get. It’s the feeling your people get.  Culture is a core fundamental in your business, but so many business owner just let it evolve on its own. If you are going to grow this asset called your business, you must cultivate the culture you desire – one that is in alignment with your mission and vision.  

There was a restaurant chain in the northeast that is still hanging on but has taken a tumble a number of times.  Their product saves them. We’re are going to refer to this chain as “Happy’s.” Happy’s offers affordable, diner-type food which tastes decent enough, but Happy’s go-to is its ice cream.  Happy’s has delicious ice cream, sundaes, and milkshakes. Before boutique ice cream shops were popping up, Happy’s was a huge draw for families and people who wanted really yummy ice cream. The problem for Happy’s is this: for the most part their servers are not happy….at all. When you are walking into Happy’s, your chances of dealing with a rude, overworked, slow, and seemingly unmotivated server is super high.  Happy’s even has a catchy reputation – “not so happy, Happy’s”. The problem for Happy’s is the cost of keeping all of their brick and mortar restaurants open, thriving, and profitable – in the face of more and more ice-cream boutiques that offer fast, friendly and delicious product and service.

As you are getting ready to revamp your interface with the business and strive towards your mission – you have to think about the culture that you want to create that will support your growth and your ultimate mission and vision for the business. Some of your current people will not like it (a lot of people have a low very tolerance for change,) but you must do it anyway.  It’s the first step in finding the right people to grow your business to the point of where you ultimately want it.

#4 Start Measuring and Fall In Love With Knowing Your Numbers – You can’t grow and evolve what you don’t measure. Chances are really high that you will not love your numbers off the bat, but luckily that’s not the goal. The goal is to create KPIs that will inform your daily decision making and help drive direction faster and more effectively. KPIs (or Key Performance Indicators) are a set of numbers or measurements that each of your people, teams, managers and you will see consistently.  Each department in your business will have their own set of measurables and your leadership team will be responsible for monitoring those measurables and taking corresponding action on them. Sales KPIs will track things like – calls made, pipeline, forecast, conversion rates, etc. Accounting KPIs will tract things like receivables, past due, revenues, profit, earning, COGS, invoices, etc. It’s important to automate the data collection process as much as possible so you can have accurate and up-to-date measurements.  When you are looking to your workflow software, make sure someone on your team has the know-how to create and run the reports every team leads need. As the business owner, you should see a high-level set of KPIs that encapsulates every aspect of the business. If you need more detailed information – you can check with your department head.

Once business owners get in the flow of using KPIs, their interaction with the business will change. It’s powerful to know that at any minute you know where your business stands against its targets, know what’s working well, and what needs tweaking. It’s great feedback for your people and teams. Numbers don’t lie and they will be able to see how they are doing against expectations, empowering them to seek help and get on track. Schedule weekly tune ups to check in with entire teams for status against expectations of KPIs and daily stand ups for teams who must collaborate and be on top of their performance (i.e. software/product development teams.)

#5 Take Action & Get Traction (Accountability, Prioritization, Communication, Collaboration) – Goals are nothing without action to get traction. Accountability, Prioritization, Communication and Collaboration are your new best friends. Bringing your team into the visioning process will help kick things off on the right foot, but too often that’s all business owners do – then they hope that the team will turn things around. Not a chance. We are humans and humans are creatures of habit. Regardless of best intentions, without conscious and constant effort we will revert back to the old way of doing things. It can take 6 months for new habits to take hold. One of the best ways to make sure you crush your 18 month vision is to set up YOUR plan of action of how to get there. Monitoring KPIs is one step. Optimizing processes in one step. Getting the right people in the right place is one step. Creating a culture that supports your growth trajectory and key elements of it like accountability, prioritization, communication and collaboration is a step.  

Bottom-line, YOUR commitment to see your vision into fruition for the long haul and YOUR consistent action are what is going to get your team on board with helping to see this through. And you absolutely want their support and effort. Too many business owners bring a consultant or system in to their company and expect it to take hold overnight and evolve their business – even though no one is transforming how they interface with the business – that doesn’t work. Lots of employees just wait for the latest band-aid solution to blow over  – then they can go back to the way they have always done things. You have to decide – NOT this time. NOW is the time for real transformation of the business to take place. That change starts with you.

You have to show up consistently with an expectation of:

  • Accountability – Did you do what you said you were going to do? Are you monitoring your KPIs and proactively seeking solutions?
  • Prioritization – Do you know what is most important to spend your time on?  Are you spending most of your time doing that? Are you managing your other time well and effectively?
  • Communication – Are you asking for help as you need it – long before crisis time?  Are you able to be coached honestly and openly? Do you dialog well with your team, your customers and others?
  • Collaboration – Are you helpful?  Are you supportive to others on the team?  Are you willing to chip in where needed? Are you operating in line with the company’s mission, vision and values?

These four attributes will serve your company, your customers, you people and you tremendously well – do whatever it takes to make them habit and the daily norm.

#6 Get the Right People In The Right Place – Your people are everything. Your people are your business.  They interface with your customers. They interface with your vendors.  They reinforce the culture or vibe of your business. Having and cultivating your people is one of your most important jobs.  When you start a growth initiative, it’s important to honestly evaluate who you have in which roles and how effective they are. It will be obvious that some people are A-level players and right where they need to be, some people are good, but not in the right place – and unfortunately some people are just not good – or won’t be good in the new culture. This is where business owners often need support, especially if people need to move on and have been with the company for a long time. For those who you deicide are going to step up and be on the team with you, they will need some time to adjust, but pretty quickly they have to take action towards that adjustment or it’s time for them to move on.

I worked with a company that was going through a solid, growth initiative. One of the key players in the business was a major problem.  She was super effective at what she did, but had an unbearable attitude towards other employees. She was bossy and downright rude. She declared that she didn’t support growth because that meant she would be busier and she could never find anyone good enough to help her (wonder why.) The leadership said that her refusal to step up and help the company grow was a problem – I had to point out that she was the problem.  They were really torn about letting her go. She’d been with the company for years and they were afraid that if they let her go, she would sabotage things. If you have an employee that you (or any other team members) are afraid of – it’s 100% time for them to move on! Get help of an employment expert or lawyer if you need to, cover your bases and fire away.

#7 Productive and Effective Processes Rule – The goal is to design processes that create reliable, predictable, duplicatable and effective results consistently – without micromanagement. Putting the right systems, structures and support in place to run your business can be a daunting task, for sure.  It will truly take research and set-up time. It will take effort. It will take money. And it will take lag-time. But if you are strategic in your approach and break the entire project down into bite-sized chunks, you will get there.

Effective processes are paramount in you being able to spend more time away from the day-to-day headaches of owning a business. Effective processes take a business out of the “wing it” zone and begin to put it on the map.  Someday, you will want to truly step away from your business. Having proven, documented systems in play will greatly increase the value of your business – which means more money for you!

The other fundamental reason to create effective processes is to provide splatter control.  In life and in all businesses, there will be times when the sh*t hits the fan. As much as you would like to prevent that from ever happening, you can’t.  What you can do is minimize and contain the damage – this is what we mean by splatter control. When you have clearly defined processes, it’s easier to “catch” things sooner and get back on track faster because processes are already laid out. Your people know the outcome and purpose of each of the processes and how to work the processes. This helps your people be more effective and feel like they are making a difference.

#8 Spend More Time Working On The Business Than Working In The Business – Most business owners are dog tired and the thought of spending more time working on the business is like, “Yea, right!” Here’s why you must carve out that time – you will be more effective at leading your company and driving the direction of your business, the less you do in the business.  That’s why creating systems, culture and cultivating people is so key. That is going to give you time to focus on the most important leadership aspects of your business. That’s what’s going to drive growth. That is going to make your business more valuable.

You are the owner of the business – it’s your #1 job to be the leader. You have to lead and take care of your people.  Create the systems, processes, structure, support, culture, and teams – so that your people can absolutely take care of your customers.  If you are not spending time doing the job of the leader – well, that’s like a pirate ship out of the open waters going in circles because there is no captain. It’s a huge mental shift for most business owners – to go from the deck-swabber, sail-hoister, boatswain, cook and surgeon (salesperson, marketer, accounts receivable, receptionist, quote generator, scheduler, technical lead and toilet un-clogger) – to leader.  But the leader is crucial – you set the direction of the company, you define and cultivate the culture, you help optimize processes, you monitor KPIs help ensure the company has the traction it needs, you find quality people and help up-level your staff so they are proud and feel like they make a difference and are part of something awesome. No one else can do to that. There are plenty of other awesome salespeople, marketers, tech leads, receptionists, customer service folks, etc. out there. Go find them and let them shine! Let them do those jobs, better than you ever could, so you can have the leverage to rock your business.

#9 Clearly Defined Exit Strategy – All good things must come to an end – make sure your end is one of your choosing, where you get rewarded well. You may be at a point in your business where you have no intention to sell for 10-15 years – that’s great. You may really like the idea of selling sooner – that’s great too.  You may be at a critical make-it-or-break-it point in your business. Regardless of when you “quit” your business, the time will come when you want or need to move on. So, why do you need to start thinking about that now? Because it takes TIME to get your business cued up to get top dollar – more time than most people think it will. The sooner you can put your put the processes, people and culture into play to support your growth plan the better – because all of that will drive your revenues up, while removing you from every little day-to-day aspect of the the business.

Stronger, more predictable revenues and earnings over time – that are support by effective systems and awesome people – make your asset (business) tremendously valuable. Creating a business where someone or a company can come in and assume leadership as effortlessly as possible (and without a lot of disruption) is the ultimate goal.  Start taking action today and get to that choice point – of being able to sell all or part of your business for top dollar – sooner rather than later. You have no idea what life has in store for you. Get cranking so you can be opportunistic and leverage this awesome asset that you have created!

#10 Get Support! – You can make yourself crazy by trying to do this on your own. Every olympic athlete has had not just one coach but a team of coaches. Here’s why: They help you see the forest for the trees – they give you the 30,000 ft. view when you can’t get out of the weeds.  They help you stay on track – even when distractions pile on or when you feel like throwing in the towel. They are honest with you you and hold you accountable – they call it tight and you can’t bullsh*t them.

Hey, if treading water is your game – stick with the status quo.  But, if you are really looking to get traction and grow your business you have to get and stay committed. There is a lot to do and no one expects you to totally competent – nevermind an expert – at all of it.  From optimizing your sales process and sales syntax, to developing predictable marketing channels, to implementing key systems and automation processes, to managing people, to engaging with prospects and customers to stay relevant, to making sure you are complaint and your contracts are solid, to getting your books in order and up to date…there is more than enough work to go around. Get help. Get support.  Hire a business coach. Join a mastermind or mentor group. Up your peer group to include business owners who are working strategically and performing well.

 

Isn’t It Time To Live The Life You Truly Want?

Working from the beach. Taking Fridays off as ski days. Vacationing with your family for two-weeks at a time. Paying off your house and stocking up your retirement funds. Creating opportunities for you and your team to give back to your community. Feeling energized and jazzed about your business and your life. Can you live the business owners dream? Absolutely! Set yourself up to win by doing the work to strategically grow now.

Ready to start living the business owners dream? Let’s get this thing started. Apply today!

Yes, it takes time, money and effort – but with clear targets, an engaged mindset, total commitment and a plan –  you can get there. Remember, it all starts with mindset – so follow these steps and get cracking (even if it’s a bit little each day.) Before long, you’ll start to get a clear picture of what the payoff is going to look like. And if you start to fumble along the way – reach out and get help early – you’ll reach your goals loads faster and it will be so much easier!

 

5 Steps To Building a Business That Doesn’t Need You

5 Steps To Building A Business That Doesn’t Need You

Many of us want to go to sleep at night only to wake up to see our bank accounts bloated with cash. We want to make money on autopilot. We want a business that doesn’t need us to be able thrive and be profitable consistently. However, there’s more to building your business well than simply having a business plan.

Regardless of how your business started, the fact that you are still in business means that you have been doing something right. Like most business owners, you’ve probably been lucky to some extent. To grow your business to the point where you can step out of it takes more than luck. Here’s what you need to know when building a business that doesn’t need you.

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Step One: Scalability

The first and one of the most important factors when you want to build this type of business is scalability. By scalable, we mean you have the systems, structure, and support (people and tools) in place that will allow your business to continue to grow without your daily involvement and/or oversight. Most business owners have grown their business to a comfortable level and congratulations are due. However, growing your business to the level where it doesn’t need you takes even more strategic planning, proven implementation processes, lag time (otherwise known as patience), and persistence. But once you have the systems, structures and support in place, you are on your way to building a passive stream of income that will last for a long time. You’ve also created a valuable asset for yourself, which you will be able to sell all or part of to get some of your(“BST” – blood, sweat and tears) equity back.

As the business owner, you are ultimately responsible for the success (or failure) of your business. It’s your ship. Thinking that you’re most effective when you are below deck pulling an oar, swabbing the mess deck, or hoisting the sails is a huge mistake.  If you want to build a business that doesn’t need you, the most important and effective place you can be is in the Captain’s Quarters (or better yet – on your island resort) monitoring the ships KPIs and setting the direction or course of your business. The sooner you can get in the Captain’s Quarters and the more time you can spend their the better.

Step Two: Fall In Love With Your Customers and Learn What They Need

By falling in love with your customers and taking the time to really understand their needs, wants, desires, and wounds you can become an invaluable resource and/or part of their lives. When you can make your customers lives easier, simpler, or more manageable, you’ve started the process of becoming a part of their busy, hectic life solution. Making sure your company is doing what it does really well – with serving the customer at the highest level as the number one outcome – will help you drive decisions that will have the biggest impact on growth…repeat business, upsells, and referrals.

Think of the at-home movie industry. Netflix took the “chore” of driving to Blockbuster on the way home from work completely off the table.  Netflix provided instant in-home access to lots of movies and tv shows and the other movies were delivered to your mailbox – with a pre-paid return envelope to send the movie back.  Netflix understood that their ideal customers loved watching movies and tv shows, but didn’t like the hassle of taking time to drive to the video store. RedBox also got in on the action and has stayed in to some extent because –  while you still have to go pick up your movie – you can do it while you are at the grocery store, getting gas or at McDonald’s. Their online interface lets you reserve movies and their in-store interface makes video selection a simpler process. Amazon Prime also allows for at-home viewing and if your movie or tv show isn’t included in Prime, you are able to purchase or rent it online instead. Blockbuster and other video stores got completely shut out because they were out of touch with their customers and they weren’t concerned enough with their customer’s problems (busy life, no time) to evolve. Bottom line: be very concerned with your customer’s current and future needs/wants/desires and wounds and always be thinking about how to make their lives (and in some cases their customers lives) easier and simpler.

Step Three: Have a Clearly Defined Yet Completely Adaptable Growth Plan

Creating a business that runs itself requires strategic planning and adaptability – and you have to have a plan for staying on top of both. Below are some tips for optimizing your growth plan:

  1. Creating a limited offering of products and services makes your systems, structures and support easier to document and execute –  irrespective of who is managing the production line or heading the teams. Focus. Do what you do really well – do not try to be something to everyone.
  2. Defining your offer funnel will help you and your team understand all the different ways your customers can enter into a buying relationship with you and where you ultimately want them to be in your customer portfolio. Mapping this out will help you define your strategies for finding, engaging and nurturing prospects, as well as marketing and selling to your current customer base.
  3. Future planning your long-term vision for the company’s growth and bringing key players (in a large company) or all players into the conversation and strategy for long-term vision and goal planning. Building a culture of “all oars in the water and rowing in the same direction” greatly increases both individual and team performance and takes a lot of the pressure off of just you to make things happen.
  4. Conducting quarterly strategy meetings to create/revisit your 6/12/18 month goals in regards to ever-changing customer needs/wants/desires/wounds as well as anticipating technical advancements, trends and possible industry/technology disruptions. Having a system to help you and your leadership team stay on top of industry and technology trends and possible disruptions will keep you ahead of the curve in terms of helping your customers before they even know they need help.
  5. Fostering a culture of accountability and transparency is crucial to implementing a successful growth plan that you do not have be hovering over. Creating KPIs and automated systems for capturing and reporting on those KPIs helps create the transparency of how the business/team/department/individual is doing and allows for dashboards – which you, as the business owner, can monitor and then direct any questions you may have to your leaders.

Step Four:  Really Taking Care of Your People and Empowering Them to Achieve More

Your people are everything! It doesn’t matter how big or small your business is, your people are going to carry the business and the imperative role of taking care of your customers. People have a natural desire to do well, contribute and feel like they are appreciated and doing a good job.  Following these tenants will help ensure that your people thrive:

  • Empowering Your People – Your customers are going to depend on your people to help them solve the problems that you said you could solve. Empower your people at every level of your business to make as many timely decisions as possible in order to help customers either move forward in sales process easily or solve any problems they are having quickly and effectively. Keeping decision-making out of the hands of your people is a fatal mistake – it delays the process of taking care of your customers and it disempowers your people. Creating well thought out parameters and possible solutions for customer sales migration and solving solutions is the key to empowering your people to help your customers.
  • Coaching Your People – Your leadership has to be helping your people be successful at every turn.  Communicating clearly defined job roles, responsibilities, and expectations has to be top priority.  People can’t win the game if they don’t know how to. Providing simple and effective feedback is another key in successfully leading people. Your KPIs will let you know if your people/teams are on track or not. Your leadership should be checking in with their teams and people weekly to have a quick conversation about what’s working, what’s not working, where they need help. Having a structure of consistent, proactive communication combined with transparency and accountability will provide a culture of success that will help your leadership team consistently challenge and coach your people.
  • Training Your People – Training is a vital part of taking care of your team…but not all training feels helpful.  Your people are busy and want to do a good job for you – their time is precious and needs to be respected and considered when you plan your training schedule.  Your job is to support your leadership in helping all of your people be successful. That training has to be timely, relevant, brief, and effective. Sitting in endless meeting, listening to training that may or may not be relevant is a waste of your people’s time and a waste of your resources.  Training should focus primarily on upleveling skills, adopting of new systems for better effectiveness, mandatory industry/regulatory training (i.e. HIPAA or SAFETY), and/or mindset and culture. Planning your training around key times (end of month, end of quarter, end of year) is critical, as is asking your teams what they think they need in terms of training and upleveling.  
  • Supporting Your People – Supporting them in their work and in their lives makes a huge difference in your people’s quality of life – therefore improving their quality of work.  Making sure your compensation plan is fair(preferably more than fair) and competitive and having generous key benefits can help you find and keep really stellar team members. When people feel like they are appreciated and taken care of, they are able to focus more on their work and are compelled to work harder. Look at what your offering, see if you can offer more and create an implementation plan to take better care of your people.

Step Five: Hone Your Leadership and Your Mindset

As you grow your business to the point that doesn’t need you (in terms of time), how the business needs you shifts. Directing the course of your business will always be your responsibility – until you sell all or the majority of it. You need to be strategic in your leadership so your team buys into your mission, your vision and readily does the whatever it takes to keep you on course. Dedicating your time to the most important matters is paramount.  How do you know what to focus on?

  • Putting The Right People In The Right Place – If you used to be the salesperson – you’ve got to create and document your sales process and sales syntax and find the right person/people to take on sales.  You’ll need plenty of time to train them up – so get moving. If you were head of development and QA – you’re going to have to determine your long-term development plans, find team members who can take on your responsibilities or shift their responsibilities, create development protocols (AGILE) and tracking, outsource or hire new resources and train them, etc.  If you were a member of the electrical crew – you’ve got to standardize and document your protocols, hire and train someone to replace you in the field. All this being said – you probably like the parts of your business you are doing. That’s great. We’re not saying don’t ever do them – we are saying don’t ever NEED to do them. There is a big difference. Get them off your plate and once you’ve got everything else set up for you to be able to walk away from the daily operation of your business, decide what you want to be a part of and how much time you want to spend there.
  • Cultivating a Successful Culture – Part of setting the direction of your company is cultivating the feeling of your company – the feeling your customers get from working with you and the feeling your people feel from working for you.  Of course, determining the company’s mission and vision is part of that, but it’s not all of it. Go a step further and, in collaboration with your team, figure out the values of your business. Values are qualities and characteristics and they define how you and your team show up every day for your customers and each other. If you think that culture is just some fancy new wave thing, you’re wrong.  Every business always has a culture – it’s just that some business owners don’t choose to create culture and so the culture gets created on it’s own….which is not necessarily a good thing. There are two bakeries in our town that have withstood the 20 plus years that I’ve lived here. The first is owned by an Austrian man and his Polish wife. The food is delicious and consistent and european. The decor is very old European and you will often find it full of local people who moved over from Europe. The second is an artisan bakery with delicious and consistent food. It’s very artisan and rustic – lots of wood – local artist showings on the wall – no kitch.  It’s got a bit of a hipster vibe and is also packed. Different crowd, but great. They are not in a hurry to get you your coffee, because good food and drink takes time and patience – but they are super nice, chatty and friendly. Both of these are examples of an aligned, solid culture. These businesses exude their culture and hire people who can blend with and add to their culture…and…you know the experience you are going to have before you step foot in the door. Conversely, the is a french bakery in my mom’s town that offers mediocre pastries and food. It’s thought of as snooty and not very good. They stay open because of their cake business (weddings, birthdays, etc.)  Their business is a necessity, but if another baker came in and offered a cake business and a better culture – which bakery do you think would win out? Culture drives experience. Experience drives repeat and referral business. Pay attention to your culture.
  • Paying Attention to Your KPIs and Ensuring Systems, Structures, and Support are Being Upleveled for Continuous Growth. Once you decide that you want to create a business that doesn’t need you – you are putting your business on a growth trajectory.  It has to grow to be able to succeed without you. In order to grow in a smart and scalable way, you have to have measurement standards across your business, because you cannot improve what you don’t measure. While your leadership team should be responsible for staying on top of key metrics and proactively problem solving them, you absolutely should be seeing some high-level reporting on key metrics daily as you begin to step out and then weekly (at a minimum.)  Know what you are looking at. Know what you are looking for. Know who you need to reach out to if the numbers are starting to look off. Demand proactively from your leadership team and demand it from yourself. Once you and your team get in the habit of monitoring KPIs and responding proactively, you will feel much more confident in stepping away from your business.
  • Master Your Mindset. Being a business owner is like raising a child.  It’s understandable that you will be very attached and somewhat fearful of letting go of key parts of your business.  No ONE will ever be able to do everything you’ve been doing at the same level – BUT – there are plenty of people out there who can do any part of the job you have been doing at a much higher level. Keeping in mind that you are not looking for one person to replace you, but a team of superstars to replace all the jobs you are doing will help ease your mind.  You’re not looking for Superman, you are looking for the Avengers. Transferring power in your company is a complex process. Often business owners really benefit from a coach, mentor, and/or a mentor/mastermind group. These groups/people can help you focus on the end game and help you move through the macro and micro views of your business and what has to happen next in order to move forward successfully.  Be patient with yourself. Be patient with your people. And keep moving forward!

Finally – You are Ready To Create A Funding Strategy To Exit Your Business Or To Shop for a Successor

When the structure of the business has taken shape, and everything is running smoothly in a growth trajectory, it’s time to hire your successor. When hiring a successor, check out their technical skills, experience, and leadership qualities – as well as – culture fit. Have a transition plan, don’t rush yourself out of your business, follow due diligence, and never hire because of loyalty. Hire slowly as this is a really important hire. Spending the time necessary to train your replacement is critical because you want to avoid micromanaging the business after hiring a successor. It’s important to allow your replacement a free hand, but stay in constant contact until they are truly ready to fly.

Take our FREE Comprehensive Readiness Assessment to See If Your Business Is Ready To Sell For Top Dollar

You”ll be more effective the less you do

5 Ways to be More Productive While Doing Less

I was 33 and CEO of a venture-backed startup.  I thought I had it all figured out.   10 years of consulting experience, I knew what to do and how to do it and I was incredibly productive.  In fact, I was ON FIRE.  Then came the reality.  The reality of so much work to do with people I had just recruited and no process, no culture, and very little experience dealing with the complexities of a new technology in a new market.

So, I did what anyone else would do.  I wrote lists.  A LOT OF LISTS.  I assigned tasks, created systems for assigning tasks, followed up, and made sure we hit our deadlines.  Only one problem:

I thought I controlled it all and I was dead wrong.

In one moment of mentoring our chairman and board member, a crotchety older executive from Texas Instruments just looked at me and shook his head.  He said

You know, you’ll be more effective the less you do.

I thought, what?  NO WAY.    Well, he was right.  And now later in my career, his words ring true almost every week.

As such, I’ve developed a number of processes and methods based on trial and error from many different sources and philosophies.   Covey’s 7 Habits, Rockefeller Habits, Tony Robbins, Getting Things Done, Tim Ferris and many others.  They all work, but you MUST implement them in a concise and consistent way.

Here’s What I have Learned

(1) Make a weekly MAP

This is straight out of Tony Robbins philosophy.  A MAP is a “Massive Action Plan”.   List out, on a single sheet of paper three things.  WHAT you want, WHY you want it and your MASSIVE ACTION PLAN to get there.   I do this weekly as a habit now.   Even Covey recommended a similar weekly approach as far back as the early 90s so we know this works and works well.   For me, getting the most effective things on a list that will have THE MOST IMPACT on what you are doing NOW is the best use of your time today, not in a month, not next week.  Today.

(2) Prioritize your List

This sounds obvious, but without this discipline, I almost always default to the fun things on the list or the things that will give me more pleasure than pain.  I still use Covey’s Urgent/Important matrix to do this.  It’s simple and easy to use.  The idea is really simple, don’t do the stuff that’s not important.

(3) Scratch Off the Bottom 20%

In life the Pareto principle rules.  As a general principle, I find that 80% of my results come from 20% of my efforts and 80% of my pain from 20% of the same sources.  The goal is to simply exit the 20% causing you the most pain and amplify the 20% creating the most results.    It’s a really simple idea.   I got this idea originally from the Four Hour Work-Week by Tim Ferris, who makes an excellent case for redefining your relationship with work.   Elimination of work-for-work sake sounds easy, but if your mindset is one that YOU need to be doing the “thing”, it’s very hard to overcome.

This is also really simple.  Scratch off the bottom 20% completely.  If it’s unimportant, don’t do it.   Simple as that.

(4) Delegate or Automate the Middle 60%

Of the middle tasks, delegate or automate.  If you don’t have someone to delegate to, get one.   I use Virtual Assistants all the time to tidy up lists, follow up on sales, do billings, write letters, organize my contacts, etc.    Many of these tasks are able to be automated as well, so many weeks, I’ll spend some of my top 20% time simply automating more of the middle 60%.  A good example of this was keeping my contacts up to date.  I now use full contact, which automates much of the social mining, and email scraping required to keep my list up to date.   The time before was at least 2 hours per week of my VA, now, 0 hours per week.

For delegation, it is essential that you use some form of delegation tool and/or follow up scheme.  I use Teamwork.com for all our projects, which helps us stay up to date, assign tasks, track follow-ups and keep deadlines visible.   So that’s actually where I manage my delegations.  May use and like others, like Trello or even SharePoint.  It doesn’t matter, so long as you are consistent.

Some examples are below:

(5) Spend ALL your time on the remaining 20%

The remaining 20% is where your awesome is.  For me, this is about innovating, training new team members, building automation, nurturing key customer relationships and taking care of your health and your family is here.   The model is quite simple, actually.  Do less, and be more productive.

 

Obviously, you can tailor these tools and techniques to your taste and need.   But remembering the wise words “You’ll be more productive the less you do” will help you stay focused and on target.

Monday Mornings – Do you dread or ATTACK them?

We all want to be able to attack our work week, but when Monday morning rolls around how do you show up?

For most people, the tendency is to start thinking about their week when the week starts – that’s a sure fire way to start the week off feeling dread. If you are catching yourself saying things like – “I have so much to do this week.  I don’t even know where to start.” or “I can’t even think about working on my business this week because I’m already behind the gun.” – it’s time to retool your Monday morning strategy.

One of the best tricks to be able to attack your Monday is to go in with a plan already in place.  

As a business owner, the bulk of your time should be spent on optimizing your business – not working in your business.  If you don’t schedule time to work on your business all the little fires and “urgent” issue are going to consume you and your time. Feeling like you are not taking care of growing the business of top of spending most of your time putting out fires can feel like total dread. Follow these five tips to be able to attack your Monday mornings.

5 Tips to Attack Your Monday Morning

Tip 1 – Plan PLAN.  Before close of business on Friday, schedule a planning session for the next week.

Tip 2 – Plan SMART. When planning for the following week, make sure you check in with your 6 months growth goals and schedule specific, actionable and measurable tasks for the following week.

Tip 3 – BLOCK your time. Actually go into your calendar and schedule time to work on your business growth goals for the following week.  Those scheduled blocks become the foundation of you making progress on growing your business.

Tip 4 – CLOSE your week with Gratitude and Lessons Learned. At the end of your Friday planning session, write down all the things you learned from the past week. Write down what worked, what didn’t work, how you would do things differently next time. Shoot and email to key players who really stepped up the past week and acknowledge them for their efforts and contributions. And finally write in your gratitude journal about the top 5-10 things you are grateful for.

Tip 5 – Start your Mondays POWERFULLY. First thing Monday morning, schedule brief meetings with your key teams to highlight the BIG outcomes/goals for the week. Use that meeting to make sure everyone is prepared and pumped up to go after those goals. (DO THIS instead of getting sucked into the Monday morning email quicksand – it’s far more productive and getting your team fired up with help to get you fired up.)

Follow these tips and pretty soon I bet your will start feeling like your are ready to ATTACK your Monday mornings!

What is the best way to fund your business?

There are many different ways for you to fund your business. There are two main categories when it comes financing –  debt financing and equity financing. Under each one of these two categories comes many more options on financing.

One of the more popular ways of equity financing is to use an angel investor, on average a angel investor will invest from about 25 to 100 thousand dollars into a company but this can differ. There are lots of different questions and things you will need to be prepared for when looking to find a angel investor for your business. Check out this article by Richard Horroch for 20 different things you should know about angel investors.

Bank loans sometimes come with a much more negative perception when it comes to borrowing big amounts of money. Depending on the stage of growth your business is in and the amount of money that you need this could be a good option. Bank loans are one of the main two ways that debt financing is used, bank loans come with a much lower cost of capital then most equity financing options. In this article by Brent Gleeson he talks about both bank loans and angle investors.

 

 

When Is It Helpful to Have a Board of Directors?

It is hard to know when the right time is to create a Board of Directors, never mind who to put on your Board.

As a business owner, you know a lot about your business which is a great advantage, but can also be a disadvantage when it comes to growing your business. Putting together a Board of Directors can help you increase your perspective when it comes to creating strategic decisions for growth —  allowing you to collaborate on how to growth your business.

A great Board of Directors can help you stack the deck in favor of successful growth because you will now have a team of people committed to same objective – SMART GROWTH. Different members will have different strengths and will contribute various perspectives. It can help you stay on track and focused on your strategic plans – providing you and your company the accountability you need to implement change.

Check out this great article by Bernie Tenenbaum on Forbes.com about the benefits of creating a Board of Directors.

Communication Skills

Effective Communication is Critical for all Employees…and Employers

Effective communication skills are at the top of the list of what employers are looking for in their people. Think about it…how often are your people communicating?  Pretty much all the time.  They are communicating with each other, with your customers, and with your vendors.

When your people are communicating well – positive relationships are built which, in turn, impact revenue positively. When communication falls apart – relationships are impacted negatively which has it’s own impact on revenue.

Having your employees go through communication training can add strength to your business. Really impeccable communicators can learn how to become even more effective communicators, while turning around poor and average communicators will have a huge impact. Check out this article by Blake Morgan from Forbes.com for more information on communication training.

Mastermind

Mastermind Groups – How joining a Mastermind group will help both you and your Business

Joining a Mastermind Group could be just what you need to leverage your mindset and start rocking your business.

Starting your own business can be a difficult and stressful processes at times. The weight of having to stay focused and on-track, as well as the responsibility of make timely and effective key decisions, can be overwhelming.

That’s where joining a mastermind can be the perfect solution for you.  These groups can offer the business owner a highly-valuable sounding board, providing the ability to collaborate and brain-storm solutions to your business needs.  Additionally, these groups can help you feel like you are not alone on the road to business success – that in and of itself is incredibly supportive.

Check out this article by Sarah Kathleen Peck on Forbes.com to learn more about the different benefits of becoming a part of a Mastermind Group.

gears

Data Safety – How secure is your client’s data especially if you are cloud-based?

Data safety is at the top of business discussion boards again this week as Chili’s announces a major data breach of customer’s credit card and debit card information.  Read the full article here…

Regardless of whether your company runs B2B or B2C transactions, you must protect their data at the highest level in order to maintain customer confidence. It’s even more important to have a solid security strategy if you are running a cloud-based business.

Check out this article by Tommy Wyher on business.com for a 7 Step approach to Securing your Client’s Data.

Diversify or Go Home….How to diversify your business

According to a recent article in The New York Times,

“Hundreds of Start-Ups Tell Investors: Diversify, or Keep Your Money.”

Even these start ups are looking at who is running the investment companies they are getting money from. More and more companies want to do business with other companies that work with and support a diversified talent pool. The call to diversify is coming from all across the industry spectrum.

 Where are you when it comes to diversification in your key staff? 

 If you are looking to grow your business and you need to add talent to your key positions, it will benefit you to diversify by broadening your search parameters and finding qualified, kick butt people from diverse backgrounds to apply for the key positions within your business.

Check out this article from Forbes Magazine on Tips to Attract a Wider Range of Candidates in Order to Diversify Your Team.