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Flexibility and Freedom for Small Business OwnersAs we all get back to work from a long weekend, it’s a good time to talk about freedom – in life and in business.

July 4th represents to me not just a chance to celebrate our nation’s independence but also gratitude for the rights we enjoy. While my parents (the WWII generation) instilled in me a strong appreciation for the freedoms we possess, they also encouraged me to exercise those freedoms thoughtfully.

Entrepreneurs tell me that one of the reasons they chose business ownership was because they wanted flexibility; the ability to do what they want when they want. Yet the most frequent complaint I hear is “I have no life!” Small business owners feel tied to their business 24/7 and ask for more balance in their life. What happened to flexibility and freedom?

Most often, the loss of freedom is self-imposed. My kids have heard me say many times “Everything is a choice.” Although it feels like flexibility at the time, choosing two hour lunches can result in the loss of freedom later at deadline time. That’s the time the business owner feels like they’re working all the time.

Just because we have the right to free speech, it doesn’t mean it is right for us to exercise that right at all times. In the same way, just because we can do household chores in the middle of the day doesn’t mean it’s the best choice. Look at your time from a longer view: what schedule, what work flow, what accomplishments would cause you to feel that you have reached the flexibility and freedom you craved? Personally, I used to get caught up with errands – I hate an undone task lying around! When I realized I was feeling overwhelmed with too much to get done in not enough time, changing that one habit helped tremendously. I now have a small notebook with me to jot down errands and to dos. Clumping them together, or delegating them, has played a part in my reclaiming my flexibility and freedom.

I hope you enjoyed your holiday weekend. When it’s time to go back to work, choose wisely. Your freedom is at stake.

   – Helen Dutton, Business Coach

Got Data?

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If you’re having trouble making a decision, there’s a good chance that you need more data. I don’t mean the “what should we have for dinner” kind of decision; I mean sorting out and deciding on a path of action.

Let’s say you need to decide between two business system application providers. One has the latest web technology (Provider A); the second, less applications but is significantly less expensive (Provider B). A client of mine was in this situation recently and really felt stuck, not sure which direction to go. We discovered that there was really just one additional application he wanted in the less expensive option. Part of the solution was to talk with the software development team of Provider B; was the missing application in development? If so, when did they expect it to be ready? If it wasn’t in development, what solution did they recommend?

Indecision often comes from sweeping statements that include words like “most” or “almost never”. Good old fashioned laziness can lead to indecision, too. Instead of relying on generalizations, spend some time to get relevant data. Determine the critical elements of your decision by asking yourself and your team “What outcome must happen to make this decision the right one? How would we know it was the wrong decision?” Those answers will help define what data you need to collect or what questions to ask.

We sometimes think we don’t have time to get more information. But how much time have you spent waffling on your most recent tough decision? Get data. It will do your business good.

   – Helen Dutton, Business Coach

Helen Dutton, A Vision of Your Own, has provided business and personal coaching for small business owners since 2000, providing online and face to face coaching for entrepreneurs, small business owners, start-up businesses as well as established businesses across the country. Clients come from New Hampshire, her home state, but she has also acted as a mentor to business owners in Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, the Denver area, and closer to home in the Boston area. Helen helps her clients develop their small business ideas, create marketing plans, improve operation efficiency, build customer service systems, build management and leadership skills, and develop confidence as a business owner. Helen provides business tips and resources through her blog and her newsletter, where you can also find business templates to help your business prosper.