Execute, Execute, Execute

A business coach that I hire once told me that I needed to spend less time in learning mode. He suggested (to put it lightly) that I needed to get out there and start DOING. I had the baseline knowledge to get started and I would fill in the gaps by screwing up along the way. Now this seemed to be a terribly uncomfortable way to go about it, but I had paid him for his advice so I complied and got into the game. Alas, he was right!

Fast forward to now…I have talked to numerous business owners that spend time on webinars, reading books and learning from every source possible. The are constantly learning to get ready to go do it one day.

My observation on this behavior is that many business owners are simply not good at execution. Planning? Check. Preparing? Check But it’s scary when we are not totally sure about what to do, so we just keep preparing-to-do. In many cases, the cautious attitude has worked, to a degree. They are still in business, aren’t they? They are, indeed. But are they thriving? Isn’t that why we started our businesses in the first place (that and a healthy lack of respect for authority, but that’s an article for another day)?

So strap on your gear and get after it. It’s GO TIME. Execute, Execute, Execute.

Reduce Stress in Your Business

As if our stress levels have not been impacted enough by Covid risks, stupid government shutdown decisions and overall market uncertainty, I find that businesses can cause undue stress within their own organizations. Stressed out leaders often lead to stressed out employees (and vice versa). Here are some ways by which we, as business leaders, can reduce overall organizational stress.

  1. It is critical for leaders to create very clear expectations for their team members. Nothing is more frustrating, for an employee, than working hard at doing their job (as they see it) only to find out that the company is disappointed in their performance. I’ve been guilty of this. I recently had an employee that was not doing what I wanted them to do. As I investigated the situation, it became clear that I did not set detailed enough expectations as part of their job description, process instructions or their training. That’s on me. Having corrected that situation, now if the employee does not perform, it’s on them (as long as I am giving consistent feedback to them).
  2. This leads us to the second way we can reduce stress levels: Ensure that we have efficient and effective feedback/communication loops. Our team members want to feel valued. And, if we are leading well, we want their feedback, too. More eyes, ears and brains on a particular task almost always delivers better results. Plus, it makes our team members feel like they are making a difference. This has been called elsewhere “creating a community.” Who doesn’t want that?
  3. One of the more challenging, yet worthwhile, tasks is to make sure we have the right people doing the right jobs. While it’s pretty much a given that our businesses will be more successful if we hire good people, making sure the job in which we place these good people is the right job for them is like turbo-charging their performance. Imagine a football team with a great quarterback that plays offensive tackle while the tackle plays QB. They are still great players but they are not being utilized optimally. The team is going to struggle. It’s the same in business. Get to know your team members so that you can put them in positions to be successful.
  4. Finally, build great systems in which your team members can excel. We can set clear expectations, and have great communication with them while having them in the perfect postions for their skillsets. However, if we don’t have systems and processes in place to ensure clarity and consistency of their results, we won’t be much better off than if we did none of these things. People need structure. Period. A lot of people will say that they thrive in an unstructured environment. These people, however, simply create their own structure within which to work. Not everyone can do that. It’s incumbent upon us, as leaders, to ensure that we have good processes and systems to help ensure our team’s success.

With these four situations addressed, stress will be down, business results will be up and leadershp burnout will be minimized.

Do Something

I remember back in 1978 when I was playing high school football, we ran a play where I pulled from my tight end position and led the wingback (yeah, that was a position back then) up the sideline. On this particular occasion, I hesitated to throw my block on the D-back because I didn’t want to miss. It was a close game and I didn’t want to screw up.

Well, that hesitation WAS the screw up. A linebacker caught up to the play and sent me flying which allowed the D-back to make the tackle for only a short gain. Had I made my block, it would have been a long-gainer. From the sideline I could clearly hear my coach yelling: “Rasmussen, do SOMETHING, even if it’s wrong.”

He was right. Instead of throwing the block, I did nothing and the play got blown up. Had I thrown the block, I had a decent chance of making it (I’d done it before). It wouldn’t have taken much to spring the runner; just a little contact would have done it. It’s a lesson I have kept all these years.

In working with business owners, I find that they often get into the same mindset. They don’t want to screw up, so they get vapor locked and do nothing. When I work with them, they often know what they should be doing, but they just need “permission” to make the move. Heck, they even sometimes have trouble deciding whether they should hire me. Yes or no….decide.

If you are a business owner, don’t get analysis paralysis. Make the best decision you can with the information that have and get moving. Either yes or no. It feels difficult at times, but it really is just that simple.

Businesses Have a Life Cycle, Too

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I have had the opportunity to be involved, one way or another, with a lot of businesses throughout my career. While they were all different, there are still some big-picture similarities between all of them. One set of similarities resides in the stages of each business’ life cycle.

They all, at some point, start out in the entrepreneurial phase. It’s in this phase that each business vies for Viability. The owner(s) pour their heart and soul into the business trying to make it reach and surpass the break-even sales level. The owners work IN the business almost exclusively.

Once profitable, the business goal becomes to emerge from the rest of the pack and get noticed as a provider-of-choice. Credibility is the goal of this stage. Necessarily, the owners begin to work ON the business more and more.

The third stage of a business’ life cycle is when the business becomes an established member of its community or industry. Here, Stability is watchword. Owners may be working almost exclusively ON the business at this point. Often times, this is that stage where the owners gain from some introspection and reach out to valued mentors and coaches to seek help on the next steps. Nothing wrong with that. None of us knows everything.

The fourth stage often happens when the owners get ready to sell the business or are simply tired and go into auto-pilot mode. This is the erosion phase where the growth stops and the business often shrinks. This is know for its Vulnerability.

Now, just because a business has become vulnerable does not necessarily mean the end is in site. It’s actually a “fork in the road.” The owners (either original or new owners post exit) have two choices: 1. Keep riding the current path and ride it to the end, or 2. They can look for new opportunities to re-grow the business. This might be new products/services, an acquisition by which to add volume or diversify. Perhaps an infusion of new leadership is in order. The options are many and only a thorough analysis of the situation (along with a lot of prayer) will reveal the best path forward.

If you are in phases 1-3, enjoy the grind and keep your eyes on the horizon. If you have hit Vulnerability, don’t despair. You have options other than simply letting it die. Remember the grinding stage. Take a deep breath and dig back in. I’m in this stage right now. I choose to fight!

How to Experience More Success and Less Stress as an Entrepreneur

A Guest Article by Chelsea Lamb of businesspop.net

Being your own boss and setting your own stage for success can be the most exciting and rewarding way to make a living. However, being an entrepreneur is also really hard, and being personally responsible for the success or failure of a company can add stress to your daily life. If you’re aware of the risks and still want to make the jump to entrepreneurship, there are ways to prepare that will help lay a path to success and reduce the everyday stress that comes with it.

Setting Your Goals

When it comes to entrepreneurship, the best place to start is figuring out what you want your business to be. Some people come into it with a lifetime of passion for a certain industry, while others need to take time evaluating what they enjoy and are good at. Once you determine what kind of products or services you will provide, you’ll need to narrow your target audience to a niche. Figuring out these factors will help you know what kind of funding you’ll need (if any).

Determining a Business Structure

This part of entrepreneurship is not particularly riveting for most people, but it’s important nonetheless. The business structure you choose will affect how the government taxes your profits, how protected your personal assets are, and how you will go about your long-term plans for the business. Many new business owners go with a sole proprietorship, because it’s the simplest structure overall. Other common business structures include a partnership, limited liability company (LLC), S corporation, and C corporation.

Hiring a Web Developer

You’re probably aware that in today’s world, a good website for your small business is a must. While there are many website platforms that offer free services these days, making your site stand out among the competition may require a little more effort. For most businesses, this means hiring a web developer to tackle creating a professional online presence.

One of the better solutions is hiring a JavaScript developer. Making good use of JavaScript can significantly boost your ROI and impress a wide range of customers. Also, JavaScript is mobile-friendly, so the look and function of your site will be consistent across various devices (e.g., computer, tablet, smartphone, etc.).

A professional JavaScript developer can make your site more dynamic and showcase the products you want to push the most. However, choosing the right expert is critical to ensuring you don’t waste your money, so make sure that any candidate you’re considering is proficient in the following:

Utilizing Payroll, Time and Attendance, and HR Solutions

At some point—whether it’s when you’re starting your business or down the road as you add employees—you will likely need help in the areas of payroll, time and attendance, and HR. As G & A Partners explains, outsourcing can be your best solution in this regard. Otherwise, shuffling tax tables, sorting HR rules and regulations, and even time tracking can become unwieldy prospects, when your time and energy would be better spent on other tasks.

Creating a Workspace

It’s more common than ever for entrepreneurs to work from home. It not only saves money on office space, but it also comes with ultimate flexibility and freedom, and it doesn’t require a commute. If you’re willing to put in a little extra effort to stay motivated and focused on your work, then setting up a comfortable workspace at home that inspires productivity is likely to be your best option. Just be sure to get everything you need to stay comfortable and productive, such as a quality chair and desk, as well as any supplies and decor you need to fulfill your tasks and distinguish the area from the rest of the home.

Starting your own business won’t be easy. But you can put yourself in a position to succeed and mitigate stress by establishing clear goals, choosing the best structure for your business, and investing in a professional website. Finally, be sure to set up an adequate workspace at home, and consider HR solutions to make your operations more efficient.

If you’re having difficulty getting started or your business hasn’t prospered as much as you’d like, it’s time to seek outside guidance. Fairway Business Advisors can help your business succeed by offering coaching in strategic planning, leadership, financial analysis, process improvement, and more.

Photo Credit: Burst

Business Plans Aren’t Just for Start-ups

When I work with a client that wants to start a business, the first question out of my mouth after hearing about their dream, and their journey to it is, “Have you written a business plan yet?”

There are a number of reasons why they need a business plan. First and foremost, the business plan and its financial forecast is the “proof of the pudding” for their concept. It also acts as a guide as they make preparations to launch the business in order to make sure they don’t get enticed by some shiny object and get off track (that would never happen to an entrepreneur). Finally, a well thought out and presented business plan is critical in getting start-up and operating capital whether it is from a bank or investors.

Once the plan is done I look them in the eye and warn them not to just throw this in a drawer, never to see the light of day again. It needs to be a living, breathing document that serves to guide the growth and development of their business. Of course, when my time with them is over, I have no idea what they do with their business plans. But, I can usually make an educated guess based on how their business is doing.

When I work with plateaued or struggling business that have been around for a while, one of the early questions is, “Have you written a business plan lately?” Blank stares typically follow.

Shocking.

As cliché as it sounds, business don’t plan to fail, they fail to plan. The marketplace changes. A major client gets acquired or goes out of business. Technology makes the products you have been producing obsolete (printed catalogs anyone?). We have a pandemic. The business is growing beyond what was ever imagined and the growing pains are fierce.

That business plan, if it came out of the drawer once or twice a year, should have been updated for potential events that might help or hurt the business. The strategies and tactics needed to capitalize on or protect against these eventualities should have at least been discussed so the business is not caught completely flat-footed.

Of course, I don’t personally know anyone that foresaw Covid-19 and the ensuing severe reactions from our government agencies. But, many companies were quick to pivot and take advantage of things like the need for face shields, physical distancing floor graphics and hand sanitizer. My guess is that many of the businesses had spent some amount of time thinking, “what if;” even if it was not a full-blown formal planning process. At least it created a flexible, creative mindset within the company.

Just like the ad slogan, “Orange juice: It’s not just for breakfast anymore,” business plans are not just for start-ups anymore, either.

Where Do We Go From Here?

In the US, we have reached the point in the Covid-19 pandemic that more cities and states are issuing shelter-in-place orders every day. This is creating a substantial hardship on our nation’s small businesses. While there are government programs available now to provide aid (you can easily find these via Google), it still is going to be a while before we get back to normal. For now, we need to survive.

While we are busy surviving, we need to be thinking about not only recovering, but about what fundamental strategic and tactical changes we can make to our businesses to be stronger for this pain. We cannot simply go back to what we were. The economy will NOT be what it was prior to the pandemic. A recession will still be taking place for several months even as we climb out of it. What do we need to do?

Right now, conserve your cash. Take government programs, offer discounts, cut back hours and reduce expenses as needed. I will suggest that, if you cut hours or enact layoffs that you, as the owner, participate in a bigger way than your team. Lead by example.

Concurrently, research what your industry has looked like as recessions of the past have come and gone. Make needed adjustments. If you aren’t sure how to make the needed changes, get a mentor/coach. Use every resource you can get your hands on to restructure and re-tool. Be ready for whatever is next.

The changes won’t be the same for every industry. Some industries are counter-cyclical; they do better when the economy is down and consumers pull back spending (think fixing your car vs. buying new). Others will have an extended recovery timeframe. They will need to market hard, and get creative about products, services and delivery channels to stay “in the game” until the economy improves.

We cannot assume that what worked before will work now. Access every resource you can in order to lead your business back. Don’t be shy. Be bold. Your team and customers are counting on you.