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Posts Tagged ‘Long Term Vision’

Break Free: 5 Tips to Break Out of “Stuck-ness”

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For some reason, I was having a hard time truly accomplishing anything of substance this morning. I hear this from my clients often, and it can sometimes last for days and weeks. Here is a quick list you can go through to move from being “stuck” to being in overdrive.

  1. Recognize your “stuck-ness”. Try to figure out what is blocking you from moving forward. Common blocks are boredom, the need for a decision (you may not have enough information), or being overwhelmed with chaos.
  2. Take 30 minutes to resolve your block – set a timer if necessary. Clean up the clutter, get the missing information, or take a walk around the block.
  3. Decide what one action will most move you forward. Figure out the one next action and do that one thing. Tout à fait fini (over and done).
  4. Create a ritual that defines your overdrive mode. Could be a special chair, location, or a cup of joe, whatever will tell you when THIS happens, I move forward and get stuff done.
  5. Just start whatever you feel stuck around. Don’t worry about completing it (yet). Get started – you never know where you might end up.

I’m sitting in my special writing chair, got an iced tea by my side, and I started an article by just writing the pieces that I felt confident about. You’ll never guess what happened: I finished the article and then decided to help someone else who might be having a stuck moment, too, by giving you this step-by-step guide to moving from stuck-ness to overdrive.  

True Value: What Business are You Really In?

Do you know what you are really selling? Here’s a hint: it’s not the widgets on your inventory shelves, it’s not the thing that you do to or for your customers. It’s something more: it’s the change that results in your customers’ lives because of their interaction with you.

We know that our marketing materials need to talk more about benefits than features. But all too often, we define the benefits we provide for use in our marketing materials and then forget about them – we go back to our widgets and “that thing that we do”. What’s the big deal, you might say; if they’re already a customer, isn’t that all that matters?

Consumers (including businesses, if you are a B2B business) have an infinite number of choices to fill their needs. Your customers have a choice to work with you or…with someone else. They make the choice based upon the benefits received. On first pass, customer benefits look something like this:

  • Value
  • Proximity
  • Ease of use
  • Reliability
  • Comfort
  • Safety

Dig a little deeper, and you’ll discover more intrinsic benefits like:

  • Peace of mind
  • Confidence
  • Personal Pride
  • Family Protection
  • Time
  • Relationships

If you want your customers to recognize the benefits that you bring to them, you need to do more than tell them. The benefits of doing business with you need to be part of every step you take in serving your customers and clients.

  1. Define the benefits you provide and narrow them down so that you can fit them on a notecard. Post that note card and focus on those 5-7 words every morning for 2-3 minutes. Let those benefits guide your day.
  2. Talk with staff members about the benefits that you provide to your customers. The benefits need to be in the front of their minds as well as yours.

 

What it boils down to are the same wants every one of us had in elementary school; we want to feel included, we want to be confident, we want to know that we are doing well. Fill those wants for your customers and clients, and they’ll come back to you over and over.

Business Consultant or Business Coach: Which Should You Choose for Your Business?

Telling the difference between a consultant and business coach is confusing!

Telling the difference between a consultant and business coach is confusing!

Over the course of my corporate business years I used the services of business consultants many times. My clients and I have discussed the work of their consultants, from direct mail consultants to product packaging consultants. Professionals that are experts in their fields can be just what the doctor ordered when you have a particular, focused question.

In the best scenarios, the business receives an expert answer to a specific issue or question that was holding the company back. However, in the worst case scenarios, the business simply receives a ream of notes that collect dust and a large invoice.

In those latter situations, it’s often the case that what the business truly needed was a small business coach, instead of a consultant. Let me explain the differences between small business consulting and small business coaching and when to use either:

Small Business Consultants

Chances are, your business already has a roster of Business Consultants – CPAs, attorneys, and insurance representatives are good examples.

A Consultant brings expert answers to specific questions or challenges. Common questions that Consultants might handle are “How do I increase business profitability?” or “Is my corporate structure appropriate for my business?”

The job of a consultant is to bring solutions to small businesses. The communication is primarily one-way, with the consultant delivering a prescribed solution for the small business owner to implement, although the consultant may sometimes complete some or all of the work.  An example of this is the social media consultant who recommends a marketing strategy and then creates a Facebook and Twitter presence for the business.

Consultants often teach skills, allowing the business staff to implement recommendations made by the consultant. Consultants focus on improving business weaknesses over developing business strengths.

A consultant is best used when you have a specific question or challenge to which you want a directive answer. You are willing to either pay to have the solution implemented or have the time and energy to implement it yourself without varying greatly from the prescription.

Small Business Coaches

A Small Business Coach may be an expert in a field, but that expertise is used as a backdrop to how a Coach works with a small business owner. A Business Coach looks at the whole business and the owner’s goals with respect to the business, and integrates the owner’s personal goals.

Communication between a Business Coach and a small business owner is generally two-way, with the business owner doing more of the talking than the Coach. The most skilled Small Business Coaches are masters at asking questions, in drawing out the best solutions for a particular business owner. Once solutions are created, a Coach provides accountability to agreed-upon actions and changes to achieve the results they want.

Coaches generally focus more on business strengths than weaknesses, although it is every Coach’s mission to develop you, the business owner, to be the best you can be.

A Small Business Coach is best used when your questions are “big picture” in nature OR when you aren’t certain you’re focusing on the right questions to grow your business. Many clients hire a Coach because they want to follow their own path or they have a general feel that “something isn’t quite right in the business”.

There is a place for both Business Coaches and Business Consultants in your small business. To choose the right one and get the most value from your investment, start by knowing what questions you’re trying to answer.

Long-Term Goals: What’s Your End Game?

Long term planning can feel daunting; we know it’s critical, yet it seems so ambiguous and a long ways away, even when it’s only a few years. If you’re like many business owners, you push it off to tomorrow, and worry about later, well…later. The problem is that “later” arrives when the time for careful and thoughtful planning is past.

Years ago, I joined a young, growing, software company. Profits were strong, and growth seemed easy. I asked the CEO “what’s the most likely end game? How do you want to get out of this? What do you want to get out of this?” I was shocked that he had no idea. Over the next few days we’d circle back to the question again and again, and he eventually realized that the most likely outcome was to be acquired by one particular company. My next question was “what decisions do we make that will make that outcome most likely to happen?” That most likely, and desired, outcome guided the company’s strategy over the coming years and yes, we were acquired by that most likely company at a very lucrative price.

A client and I were talking about his 2014 plans this week when I threw in the question “how long do you want to do this?” My client has owned a very successful business for 14 years and, honestly, he’s tired. I wanted him to start thinking about his ultimate goal, and we then started talking about his most likely exit strategy and the path most likely to get him there.

This week, another client and I talked about possible outcomes and what each might look like for his life. After all, business ownership, and it’s winding up, should support our personal goals and dreams. Once he sorted out the most likely outcome, we created possible paths to reach that outcome. When you take a trip, you look at different ways to reach your destination and select the path that best meets your wants and needs. At every intersection, you make a decision to follow the road that will get you to your destination when you want to, in the manner you want. You select one course, but you know there are alternatives in case you encounter obstacles.

Defining long term business goals and strategies is the same as creating your travel plans; define a goal, set a course, but always have alternatives in the back of your mind in case you need to take a detour. Long term planning, whether it’s an exit strategy or a few years away, becomes simple when you think in terms of “most likely and desirable outcomes”. Give it a try and let me know where you want to end up. 

3 Fail Proof Ways to Set Goals – And Stick to Them!

2014 will be here before we know it - have you started setting your goals?

2014 will be here before we know it – have you started setting your goals?

“If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”

“If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.”

We’ve heard so many times about the importance of setting goals. Calendars, mugs, desk paraphernalia and social media (heck – even me!) remind us daily to set goals, often with quotes like those above. We all know we “should” set goals, and we want to, we intend to, but we just don’t get around to it. What’s the deal?

There are a few reasons that goal setting gets put aside. Let’s walk through the most common reasons and find solutions.

  1.  There’s just not enough time. I hear this from business owners frequently. Between the never-ending email, answering client questions, working through staff concerns and issues, and keeping the revenue stream going, long-term planning gets pushed aside.
  2. It can be scary to put a stake in the ground, so it feels easier, in the short term, to avoid it. The catch is that the lack of goals causes us to waste time and energy by pursuing faulty avenues, wondering how we are doing, and just plain worrying. Classic “short-term easy way out” versus long-term gain.
  3. We don’t know how to set goals. It’s natural for humans to set goals and to go after them; honestly, I think we are born with that tendency. Somewhere along the way it gets complicated with books, checklists and workshops. Amazon lists over 6,000 books on “how to set goals”!

Now that you’ve seen yourself in at least one of those scenarios, let’s explore some solutions:

  1. As many quotes as there are about setting goals, there are probably as many quotes about time – “we all have 24 hours in a day” – that sort of thing. It comes down to seeing value in spending time on setting goals. If you haven’t experienced success with goal setting before, just try an experiment with a small idea and see how it works. For example, set a new customer inquiries goal for January, 2014 and follow the steps I’m about to outline.

If you truly believe it is just about time, set aside time and space for goal setting – preferably out of the office without interruptions. Give yourself a time limit and stick to it; a couple of hours is a great place to start.

  1. I get that setting goals is scary – I get scared, too. Remind yourself how good it feels to set a goal and to achieve it. Pause long enough to really capture that feeling, and it will help pull you towards setting a goal and achieving it.

Give yourself a safety net if you’re nervous about setting a goal. Rather than relying on one strategy, map out two to pursue and have at least one in the back of your mind.

Find someone to share your goal with, someone who will safely hold your goal for you – encourage you, strategize with you, and celebrate with you. 

  1. The “how” of setting goals starts with finding the “right” goal for you. My definition of the “right” goal for your business is one that makes you smile, gives you the feeling of everything falling into place, and makes you squirm. Goals that push us to try new ideas,  to learn new concepts or skills, or to use previously untapped resources can make use nervous; as long as they meet the first two criteria you’re on the right track.

Once you’ve landed on a goal that you feel good about and that pushes you, here’s where we often get off track. Believing in your goal is a requirement to reaching it, but action needs to accompany that belief. Mantras and positive self-talk can help but they can not achieve.

Separate your goal into pieces:

  • Results Goal – Define the outcome of your goal; what can you measure? Outside forces that we can’t control are at work on our goals, so we can’t completely control the outcome. Results Goals are things like revenue, percentage growth, or customer count.
  • Action Goal – This is the piece of your goal that you can control; it’s what you do – the number of phone calls, the education you attend, the events you host.

Correlate Action Goals to your Results Goals, asking yourself “what action will most likely help me to reach this Result Goal?”

Finally, measure your actions and results and record them. Every Monday a reminder pops up on my screen to record my weekly traffic; sure, it is sometimes a nuisance and I think “I don’t have time”, or “what if the numbers went down this week?”. I plug away, though, because setting goals and working towards them is my nature, and it’s your nature, too

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.