In a question-and-answer session following a recent speech, I was asked the following question: “How should we respond when we’re constantly asked to do more with less?”
My answer might not have been particularly comforting, but it was honest: “The challenge to do more with less is industry agnostic,” I said. “Virtually everyone, everywhere is being given that challenge. And I expect that will be an ongoing mantra far into the future.”
Judging by the expression on the questioner’s face, I suspect that wasn’t what he wanted to hear.
But I wasn’t finished. The good news, I told him, is that the “do more with less” challenge presents a golden opportunity for smart, proactive people.
Most anyone can do less with more. That’s a no-brainer. Doing more with less requires strategic sorting of priorities. It’s fairly common for business people to tell me that in their organizations “everything is a priority so, therefore, nothing is a real priority.” That’s the equivalent of saying you’re too busy driving to stop and get gas.
Read more here.
Source: Forbes Magazine, Roger Dean Duncan, December 4, 2014
What can you learn from a veteran about your small business? Turns out, quite a bit.
A former US Marine turned entrepreneur and I have been working on growing his small business. He is smart, driven, and has built a successful business in a relatively short period of time. And he wants more (sound familiar?). As we chatted about growth strategies and prospecting in particular, it struck me: fighting in the Armed Services and successfully growing a small business have two things in common:
- A clearly defined purpose
- Repetitive training
What they don’t share is the same driver for success: a gun pointed at you.
Many of my clients have heard me remind them that “this is your livelihood.” This is what sustains you and your family. This is often when a business owner is going soft about letting an employee get away with sloppy work, bailing out on prospecting efforts, or something that requires a little more push. That push is needed when we’re faced with a fear so strong that it feels like we have a gun pointed at us, but of course we don’t…and we let it slide. We tell ourselves that we can clean up when an employee doesn’t quite meet our standards or that we have “enough” business. Those things are true, but we don’t end up with a business that brings us joy. Instead, we end up frustrated, tired, and a little defeated. And that’s where the US Marines come in.
I honestly can’t imagine what it’s like to be in combat, but I can imagine the overwhelming desire for success that our Armed Services personnel feel. That desire, coupled with a clearly defined purpose and repetitive training, becomes success again and again. So how does this translate into success for small business owners?
- Know your purpose for each mission. Speaking engagement? Define exactly what the purpose and your desired results are – market exposure, perhaps, and follow-up meetings with complimentary professionals, on-site newsletter sign-ups, requests for more speaking. Prospecting? Be specific and define your success path: in some industries, if you want 5 new clients, you’ll need 8 meetings, and you’ll need to speak with 40 prospects.
- Practice. If it’s important, and most things are, practice again and again. Whether it’s an employee meeting, customer open house, or prospect phone call or meeting your confidence will grow with practice. Clearly define your purpose (see #1) so that the words you choose will help you reach your goal. My former US Marine and I ran through several practice prospecting calls until he reached that “I’ve got this” point.
- Reflect for a few moments on the bigger picture of your business – your “Big Why”, your dreams, your definition of success. All of that rolled up together is why you do what you do – it’s not a job, most entrepreneurs wouldn’t even call it a career. It’s your livelihood. When you connect with all of that, you will be driven to succeed in a way a gun to your head never would.
Today, thank a veteran or an active service member for their service. And, take a page from their book and remember that your business is your livelihood, and it deserves to succeed.
Have you built a culture of quality in your business? While “striving for excellence” is part of nearly every business mission statement, what does that look like? A recent study by the Forbes Insights showed that companies that regularly instill quality measures and test them are more likely to meet their goals than companies that do not.
Instilling quality is more than just developing a mission statement and setting goals – it’s leadership in action, and it has to come from the top down, and should be reflective in every aspect of your business. Key questions, like the one in the study, can determine whether your team is on track or whether they should change course. Read on here.
Reference: Forbes’ Insights, November 5, 2014
Cold calling prospects, or even warm calls to referrals, stops many business professionals in their tracks. The other day a client said to me “I fought in Afghanistan, I’ve been shot at as a police officer, but I’m afraid to make phone calls! What gives?” Adrenalin played a part in those scenarios, but beneath that, she felt the same emotion that she does when trying to call prospects: fear. Fear of being rejected, fear of saying the “right” words, the fear of not knowing what to say, period, all prevent us from making calls even when we know it could help our business. I’ve heard more than a couple business professionals say that they’re just giving up on calls, but there is an alternative.
Chances are, especially if you’ve been struggling with making calls, you’ve read that you need to be confident in what you have to offer and then you’ll “easily” make the calls. I consider confidence as Step 1; Step 2 is understanding your objective in calling beyond making a sale or scheduling an appointment. What feeling do you want as a result of the call? What emotion do you want to evoke in the person you’re calling?
When my client and I walked through these questions we discovered that she loved to connect with people – to hear their stories, to find a connection between herself and the person on the other end of the call. That’s really what each of us wants – to connect with another human being – whether it’s by phone, at a networking event, or by e-mail. We worry about the words we will say when calling someone, yet connecting is more about listening than talking.
To increase the effectiveness of your phone calls, choose your words deliberately and carefully to share your offer (remember it’s about the benefits not the features!) but most of all, listen and connect. Let that other person know that you care; even if you get a “no thanks” you’ll feel better about the call and they will remember you as that person who listened.
Small business owners are full of initiative, motivation and drive (if you’re not, check in on that – you may need a re-boot, which is a different story). So why do I hear so often “I’m stuck” or “I’m not making any headway”? There are a couple of reasons I hear over and over; let me share those and give you some solutions.
- It won’t be good enough, or I don’t know how to do it well. Business owners love knowledge, so many
turn to self-help books or “expert” websites to find the answer. The catch here is that these experts don’t know your situation, what you want to accomplish, and can’t answer your specific questions – what’s really standing in your way. I have two solutions:
Don’t get tied up in knots – learn how to be effective and take the next step!
- Decide just how “good” you need to do the task. Is a “B” good enough? If so, define how much time you will spend to accomplish the task and stick to it. For short term tasks, set a timer.
- Hire the task out. There are people out there that are better at almost every business task that needs to be completed. Not only will they get it done more quickly, but they will also do it better than you can. Think: newsletters, bookkeeping, website creation and upkeep, order fulfillment. Zero in on your unique abilities and spend your time using those abilities; the rest – find someone else to do it.
If budget concerns prevent you from hiring out, determine what amount you can afford and start with that. Any step forward is better than standing still.
2. “I just can’t get myself to sit down and do it.”Small business owners are creative; ideas often run rampant through their minds. When it comes time to mundane tasks, well… there’s always tomorrow, right? Call it ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) or just plain ants in your pants, repetitive, routine tasks are often downright painful for many small business owners. Chances are your need for flexibility and a varied schedule are part of why you chose to own your own business. You know they need to get done but you struggle to get them done. I’ve seen clients repeatedly postpone billing every month until it becomes a cash crisis. Here are some quick tips:
- Break these mundane tasks into small pieces.
- Identify your best “mundane task” time of day and week. Stick to that schedule; if it is ADD, you will thrive with routine (although you will go there kicking and dragging your feet, you will love it once you get there).
- You’re great at the big-picture, right? Hand off the detailed stuff to someone who loves the details. As hard as it is for you to believe, there are people out there who love it.
Look at the tasks that stay on your desk, the “To-Do’s” that you repeatedly postpone. It honestly breaks my heart to see small business owners struggle and stagnate; if you’re on the struggle bus, make a decision today to get off for good.