What is holding you back?
Each of us has at least one thing that holds us back from reaching the “next level”. The next level is different for each of us personally and professionally.
In working with and talking to many small business owners and entrepreneurs I see some of these obstacles repeatedly. This is a great exercise for me to look at my own business and think critically about what is holding me back from my next level.
- Complacency – complacency is a killer. If you are complacent you are moving backward.
- Fear – fear can immobilize you and keep you stuck.
- Hesitation – hesitation can be good until you can make an informed decision. Many hesitate out of fear and we know where that gets you.
- Snap decisions – while hesitation can immobilize you, making snap decisions bring your company down in the blink of an eye.
- Lack of balance – having a balance between work and your personal life is a key element to success. It seems that lack of balance catches some people early in life and for others it takes years. I find myself in the middle years – I pray I choose to continue striving for balance.
- Lack of planning – business plans, marketing plans and operational plans are critical for business success. Plans no longer have to be 50 page tomes that no one will read much less follow, but plans are still necessary.
- Lack of flexibility – plans are important. SO is flexibility. Plans are not chiseled in stone (they should not be). Whatever plans you make will change. If you expect this up front and can “go with the flow” you are less likely to hit other obstacles such as fear, hesitation or snap decisions.
I could go on and on. There are so many obstacles. What obstacles are you facing and, more importantly, how are you overcoming them? I’d love to hear your success stories and your struggles.
Knowing your limits is a key element in maintaining integrity.
One of my most favorite quotes: “you can do anything you want as long as you are willing to pay the price”. I was having a discussion today with some of my peers about this issue as it relates to business. A particular action may be legal but is it ethical and/or moral.
The price I am willing to pay for “doing anything I want” is not very high. As I gain more experience in business and in life my road gets narrower. As I see it the prices we pay fall into seven categories.
How do you see it?
Now is a great time to reflect on all that we accomplished or missed the mark on in our business over the last year. It is important for all businesses to take inventory. This is more than just counting the number of widgets we have left – it should include taking an inventory of how well we served our clients/customers and how well we served our employees.
As a small business owner how well did you serve your employees? Did you empower them to do their job effectively? Do you they see your passion for the business? Do you all work well together as a team?
How about your client’s? Do they feel like they matter to your organization? Do they feel like you listen to what they need and then provide it?
If your answer to these questions is a resounding yes! then celebrate and do more of the same in 2011. If your answers are and it stings a little then perhaps the New Year should ring in some changes.
Food for thought…
If projects are not managed well, clients and employees alike may not be happy or productive.
A key element to solid project management is communication. Goals and expectations must be clearly communicated. If the information people need to be effective in their roles is not provided then frustration, lack of commitment and missed deadlines are sure to occur.
As a small business owner it is important to make sure that those managing your projects have a well thought out approach. There is more than one approach out there. He is my basic approach to managing projects.
- Obtain overview of the project
- Identify all stakeholders
- Interview key stakeholders (if necessary before kickoff)
- Create the project plan including timeline and applicable milestones
- Facilitate project kickoff meeting
- Communicate expected deliverables from each stakeholder
- Call team meetings only when critically necessary
- Establish regular communication intervals
- Maintain regular communication with all stakeholders
- Regular communication with specific groups on the project as necessary
- Maintain accountability of project stakeholders to insure on-time, successful project launch
Being someone who typically has 47 things going on at once it is important for me to have an organized approach to projects. I hope sharing my process with you can help you get your projects better organized.
Sometimes we need to stop and take inventory.
If appropriate for our business we don’t seem to forget to take a physical inventory at specified times. How often do we take inventory of our effectiveness? This should be at regular intervals as well. I asked an executive last week what he thought were the weak spots within his 21 year old organization. He was surprised by the question.
- Do you know how your customers feel about you?
- How about your employees?
- How effective is your communication?
- How effective is your marketing strategy?
This is a key element. How does your effectiveness inventory look?
Communication is critical. How many times have we heard or written statements like this? If it is so critical then why are most of us so poor at it?
As a small business owner communication is a key element to the overall health of your company. Effective communication takes work. Effective communication is also multi-directional.
It is important to communicate with each of your stakeholder groups:
- Your employees – employees are internal customers. If you do not communicate information about the company, projects, clients and other vital information they will begin to feel unimportant and undervalued. There may be many sub-groups within your company, i.e. sales; production; IT; accounting, etc. that may need to receive differnet messages.
- Your clients – some might say “duh” but precious few actually do it effectively. Part of effective client communication is consistency and clarity. Do a quick spot-check with your clients to find out how well you are communicating – ask them!
- Other Stakeholders – when managing projects it is essential to clearly communicate with all stakeholders – not just the ones who write the checks or do the work. There are other affected by your project and deserve to be informed. Effective communication can be tricky when there are multiple stakeholders but it is an important group that is sometimes excluded.
The message you communicate may need to be modified to fit your audience. This extra attention to detail can prove invaluable. Clear, consistent communication informs your audience. Clear, consistent communication builds trust and credibility with your stakeholders. Clear, consistent communication coupled with consistent follow-through can set you apart!
Effective communication can mean the difference between just fulfilling the client’s requirements and a client that is so ecstatic about their experience they cannot stop talking about your organization.
That’s what I want! How about you?
Marketing and advertising can be difficult to measure. Especially campaigns designed to increase awareness for a brand. However, there are success metrics that every company can put in place to help determine the ROI. If you are not measuring your marketing efforts in at least come way then you might as well open the trash can and just throw the money you are spending directly into it.
Marketing is part art and part science. Both parts are necessary. A key element to an effective marketing strategy is measurement. Here is a brief overview of my process for measuring success of a campaign.
- Create the campaign plan (many steps in this process not being discussed here today)
- Include how you plan to measure the success of that campaign
- Review the campaign success during the campaign whenever possible
- Revise the campaign strategy if it is not meeting the success criteria
- Or revise the strategy for the next time
The point is the review and revise method can save countless dollars spent and time wasted on ineffective strategies that do not yield the desired results.
Mini Case Sudy: This morning I was talking to a business consultant who said he had a client that was spending $30k/year on a certain type of advertising. He just assumed it was bringing him business. He began to really look at where his business was coming from and none of it was coming from the advertising investment. This is an extreme example of what can happen if your organization does not have success metrics in place and a lesson we can all take to heart.
If you need help in figuring out ways to measure the success of your marketing efforts talk to a marketing professional who can coach you through the process.
As a small business owner you undoubtedly know about some areas of your business or marketing strategy that need improvement. Awareness is half the battle. We cannot change something unless we are aware of it. However, if we stop with awareness nothing will change. Action is a key element for change.
Time is a major factor. We all wish we had more time in the day to complete everything we feel we have to complete. Still, putting off changes that need to be made to help your business grow may not be the wisest move one could make.
Here are five steps you can take to turn awareness into action:
- Write down what you are aware of that needs to change (just make a list)
- Identify who can help you make those changes (spouse, staff, outside consultant, marketing coach, etc.)
- Give them the power to help you (ask them, engage their services, etc.)
- Create a plan of action to make the changes (prioritize them)
- Take the action!
These may sound simplistic but sometimes we overlook the simple actions we take to make a significant impact in our lives or our business.
Taking the action…