Posts Tagged ‘Long Term Vision’

Let’s See Where Curiosity Takes Us; Set Big Business Goals

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When I was a little kid, my dream job was to be an astronaut; specifically, I wanted to be the first woman on Mars.  No surprise, then,  that I was glued to the radio yesterday listening to NASA command center as Curiosity successfully landed on Mars.NASA Curiosity

Two things stood out for me:

1. The bold goal, stated out loud, of having humans on Mars in the 2030s. Saying your goal out loud sets it in motion, compels you to act. The bigger the goal, the more important it is to say it loud; it will gather energy and support will rally around you. Believe in your bold goal and circumstances seem to line up for you, opportunities will appear. If your network is less than encouraging, find a new support network. It’s your dream; it deserves strong, sustaining, support.

2. Just like JFK’s stated goal of putting a man on the moon, the path to putting humans on Mars may not be clear, the steps not yet clearly defined. What matters is taking a step that hadn’t been taken before; amazing things can be learned by taking action. Entrepreneurs like to be in control; when we don’t know the exact path to take it can prevent us from acting. No matter if humans are on Mars in 2039 or never, I guarantee that scientists will know more by sending Curiosity into orbit. Small business owners will be farther ahead by trying something they haven’t tried before, by being curious. 

Command center’s chatter stays in my mind, and I can’t stop imagining what it felt to be in the room as milestone after milestone was checked off as successful. NASA team members celebrated the success, yet acknowledged that it is but a step along the bigger journey. One employee couldn’t have summed it up better, for them or for business owners, when he said, “Let’s see where Curiosity takes us.” Explore.

– Helen Dutton, Business Coach

photo credit: Brian van der Brug-Pool/Getty Images

Small Business Productivity Tip: Working With Pre-Vacation Intensity

When it comes to organization and small business productivity, there is no shortage of apps, templates, and tools. If I had to choose just one tip, though, it would be this: have an activity so compelling, so exciting, that you just can’t wait to get to it, nothing can get in your way. How many times have you found yourself amazed at how much you get done in a short period of time, the week before a vacation? When we have time away with family to look forward to, we are somehow able to clean out our in-box, organize our desk, initiate new projects and finish up lingering issues. I hear again and again, why can’t I be this productive all of the time?


You can, of course, if you are as excited about what to tackle next as you are about vacation. Think of a time when nothing could stop you: chances are, you were inspired by a cause, a passion, a strong desire to reach a destination – could have been the beach, but it could also have been a political or humanitarian cause or a financial goal. Connect your business goals with your biggest “why” and you’ll move forward with purpose. When we’re unsure about the direction to go, or have fear or uncertainty about our next action, our protective mode steps in and we move in slow-motion.

One fear that commonly prevents business owners from consistently taking action is the fear that if we finish everything on our plate that we won’t have anything to do. The gremlins tell us that surely means we are not successful; it’s better to move a little slower or allow our actions to wander. Small business owners also worry that if they complete all the tasks and ideas they have to build their business, but the business still isn’t where they want it to be, then what? The illogical part of us believes that there will be no more revenue generating ideas, no new directions discovered, and, of course, our business will fail. Once again, small business owners believe, it’s better to be safe by moving more slowly and always leaving some tasks undone.

If your goals are evading you and you seem to wander through your day, check to see if you are truly connected to your goal. Secondly, ask what worries you about completing all of your “to-do’s” and what might happen once you did. Sure, there are great tools and apps, but productivity begins from within.

– Helen Dutton, Business Coach

Focus on What Matters in Your Business

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One of the most common daily challenges I hear from clients is their never-ending to-do list. These days, small businesses need to do more with less which often means that more falls on the business owner’s plate. It can be easy to fill a day with e-mail, employee issues, and putting out fires. It’s no wonder that small business owners often feel frustrated in the pace of reaching their goals.pinterest business inspiration

A simple, yet effective tool in accomplishing more is this simple question:

If I get nothing else done today, what one action will most move my business forward?

Sure, there’s satisfaction in crossing off a whole bunch of items on our task list and there are days we can do that. But if you are more interested in being productive than industrious, then focus on what matters.

Let me give you an example: I just got off the phone with a client who wanted to get his e-mails to less than 100. He also told me how on some days he felt like he went home at the end of the day having accomplished very little. When I asked him, “what one action can you do today that will most move your business forward?”, he knew that a staff meeting to straighten out training of a new, key employee was that one item and a much better use of his time than clearing out his in-box. I also asked him what the outcome of that staff meeting needed to be today so that, in a month’s time, he could say, “That was time well spent.” He articulated two key outcomes and we devised a meeting format to insure those outcomes. Detailing the desired outcome of the one action greatly increased the likelihood for his success.

Check out this “sticky” note – I keep a supply of them on hand and pull them out whenever a client (or me, for that matter) is struggling with real progress in their business or is getting mired down in the day to day muck.


If you’ve accomplished at least one task that will truly move your business forward, you’ve had a productive day. Can you say that about your day?


– Helen Dutton, Business Coach

Business Owners’ Never Ending To Do List

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Summer is quickly approaching and the kids will be out of school soon. I adore my work, but as the days get nicer I want to spend more time outside playing than inside working. As a business grows, there seems to be more to do leaving business owners less time to enjoy the “freedom” they envisioned when starting their business. I often hear business owners say they could sit at their desk all day and never get “it” all done. And they’re right. A business owner’s to do list is never ending.Business Owner To-Do

Before you throw up your hands in discouragement, walk through this exercise with me. Imagine completing that last item on your to-do list and feel the satisfaction of crossing it off the list. Revel in how good it feels to have an empty list. What would you do next? When I ask my clients this question, I hear “take a nap”, “read a book”, and the most frequent – “take a vacation”. Now imagine what you would do after your vacation, after you cleaned out the garage, and after you’ve worn out your golf partners. Then what? Sooner or later, you’d start a project. And that project would require a to-do list, even if it’s just in your head. That’s the nature of entrepreneurs: we don’t sit still. There is always something new and interesting to try, a subject that piques our interest. The truth is that when an entrepreneur is finally done all of their projects, well… they’re done, too. Lights out. Life is over.

The real solution is not to try and get it all done; the solution is a mind-shift. Accept that you will always have open projects – it means you are active and engaged. Be thankful that your business is engaging and provides you with mental stimulation. Focus on those tasks that matter most, on what will most move your business forward, on what will make your business (and life) run more smoothly and more successfully. Understand that the rest will be there tomorrow for you to tackle, or even the next. And that’s okay.

Writing this has reminded me of a book idea I need to add to my to do list. I may never get to it with everything else that’s on my list, but honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way.


– Helen Dutton, Business Coach

The Commencement of Your Small Business Success

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Graduation ceremonies mark the day that a high school student starts a great new adventure in their lives. They’re “commencing” adulthood, with all that’s exciting and challenging, with all their dreams, hopes and wishes before them. As business owners, we experience the same excitement every day that we step into our offices, so it’s appropriate to reflect on one of the best commencement speeches I’ve heard recently – whether it’s something you read to gear yourself up for work this morning, or you’re looking for inspired words of wisdom for that high school senior in your life.graduation

My weekends are filled with graduations and senior events, and I see words of wisdom quoted on Facebook and heard on the radio. If we’re honest, the commencement speeches are often boring and rarely offer anything insightful for the graduates. But Conan O’Brian’s Dartmouth speech from 2011 felt different to me; it caused me to laugh several times, he was open about his personal path, and frankly told the seniors that they will fail at some point in their careers. Let me share several phrases that apply equally to business ownership and business success:

Fogbound, with no compass, and adrift, I started trying things…. To this day I still don’t understand exactly what happened, but I have never had more fun, been more challenged, and this is important —- had more conviction about what I was doing.

It is our failure to become our perceived ideal that ultimately defines us and makes us unique.  It’s not easy, but if you accept your misfortune and handle it right, your perceived failure can be a catalyst for profound re-invention.

But today I tell you that whether you fear it or not, disappointment will come.  The beauty is that through disappointment you can gain clarity, and with clarity comes conviction and true originality.

And there is no greater cliché in a commencement address than “follow your dream.”  Well I am here to tell you that whatever you think your dream is now, it will probably change.  And that’s okay.

For business owners, that boils down to:

  1. Try new things.
  2. Be wiling to change your course. 
  3. Learn from your mistakes. 
  4. Follow your dream, as long as it is not cast in stone. 

O’Brian’s final words sounded a bit more like a traditional commencement address, and yet I still find them meaningful and germane to business. He wrapped up the Dartmouth speech in the same way that he concluded his NBC career by saying, “Work hard, be kind, and amazing things will happen.”

– 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.