Mastermind Your Small Business Success

Mastermind Your Small Business Success

Although it had been a dream of my husband’s for decades, the thought of starting a business on my own was simultaneously exhilarating and terrifying. After some careful thought and discussion, my husband Gerard and I cashed in our NY chips and moved to Maine in 2003 to birth Gerard’s “baby”, his jewelry store, Porte4.

For all of you self-employed, small business owners reading this, you know what I mean about the exhilarating / terrifying contrasting emotions that occur in the course of running your own business don’t you? In fact, the exhilaration can turn to terror in the blink of an eye, feeling like the two emotions are inseparable.

But get here, we did and I found the resources available to small business owners and entrepreneurs overwhelming. If you are thinking about starting a business, want to buy a business or want to grow the business you already have, there’s no shortage of information here: SCORE, SBA, ASBDC [http://www.asbdc-us.com], http://www.Business.Gov, Small Business Assistance Center at http://www.sbacnetwork.org. These are just a few; the list goes on & on. Two other great sources of information are Entrepreneur.com and the small business section on About.com ( http://www.about.com/business). Happy researching!!

Gathering the information wasn’t the problem. What I found the most difficult was converting all the information I found into usable and practical ‘how-to’ data. It was data overload and I needed to talk to someone about the real-world of starting the business, not the academics of it. Things like:

  • How do you balance the needs of everyone: customers, employees, family, self?
  • When and how do you make the decision to hire your first employee?
  • …and then how do you recruit and keep great people?
  • What is the right mix for marketing your small business? – Multi-media advertising, PR, speaking, event sponsorship, direct and e-mailing; networking; community involvement …Argh!
  • Growth Strategies – How do you balance the need for growth & innovation yet keep the core of your business steady and strong?
  • Well? Who can you turn to for help in making critical decisions? Wouldn’t it be nice to talk to someone on a regular basis who 1) you could trust and 2) could give you feedback based on their experience?

    Consider joining a small business mastermind forum. Mastermind forums or peer advisory groups provide small business owners and entrepreneurs a confidential environment to share with each other, helping each other by leveraging each other’s experience and knowledge, and so much more.

    The benefits of a good group will FAR exceed the investment.
    Among them are:

  • Reduce Costs: Small business owners often don’t have the budget to “re-invent the wheel”. By learning what other businesses have successfully done, you can save time and money.
  • Avoid Mistakes: Solving business problems on your own can result in costly delays and errors. Learning what others have done can help keep you moving forward.
  • Find New Ideas: Get outside your own paradigm and see through the eyes of other business owners. They may give you a perspective that leads you to a far greater outcome than you could have achieved on your own.
  • Improve Performance: When you look for best practices outside your own business, a wonderful thing happens. You raise the bar of performance and set new standards of excellence to propel your company forward.
  • There are a number of executive / CEO forum groups you can consider. Most are franchised and target the executives of larger companies (those with $10 million in sales or more). From personal experience I know the challenges small business owners and solo-preneurs have are every bit as plentiful and just as frustrating and complex as those of larger organizations. However, the smaller the business the more the professional can benefit from participating in a small business mastermind forum.

    Larger organizations have their boards of directors and big budgets. Small business owners and entrepreneurs should have their own advisory support. Grow your small business success through a small business mastermind group.

    Until next time, BE BOLD, Do Bold Business. Remember, it all starts with a Vision.

    3 Questions to Identify Roadblocks to Business Growth (and How Strategy Can Clear Them)

    What challenges you most about your management and leadership role as business owner? Do you think about it? Our observations suggest too many business owners work according to learned practices which they do not renew. The result is company financial performance staying well below potential. Good and reasonable performance can become a hindrance to excellent and exceptional results. It’s easy to think ‘we are doing OK, there’s no need to change.’ Consider your response to any of the following questions:

    • Please explain your marketing strategy and how all the methods tie together.

    • How does your business use strategic planning?

    • Describe your long-term strategic plan.

    • Do you have an effective written business plan or marketing plan?

    • What are the key elements of your staff training and development program?

    The first step to facing uncertainty and challenges is to admit there are potential roadblocks to creating business growth. The second is perhaps admitting ‘I need help to remove the roadblocks’. If you take the second step to seek help, you are in the top 25% of business owners. Most resist help. A recent classroom experience at a prominent Australian University highlights this. A working student from India observed Australian business owners seem to be very independent and commonly have the view it will all work out in the end. ‘She’ll be right mate’ still prevails. This attitude may cost your business significant profit performance.

    There is a key understanding every business owner needs to grasp if consistent growth is to become normal. We all have blind spots and beliefs we hold onto and thereby restrict success, breakthrough and improvement.

    Will we confront and remedy our blind spots? Gaps in vision, strategy planning, marketing plans, leadership and management practice, our experience and even how we view our own industry or product groupings can form craters of restriction.

    Let me suggest 3 questions every business owner could answer to start to identify gaps and reveal blind spots. You may find the questions confronting. None of the answers are necessarily easy to find, let alone the solutions simple to implement and establish in your business. Don’t put aside the questions if you are overwhelmed by the multi-faceted specifics required to instigate change and create growth. Consider the exacting specifics of research and change required in industries such as airlines, development technology, communications, security, automation, medical practice and more, where blind spots or neglecting systems can cost lives.

    Q1. What time, energy and money are you prepared to invest in research, relationships and skill acquisition to begin or accelerate business growth?

    Any change or adjustment will upset routines, historical practices, processes and systems, or the current lack of them. This is often the reason change and improvement is avoided. It disturbs routines, the status quo and demands careful change management. The easier part is usually discovering what is required but the high level challenge is in execution and implementation of the business plans to be introduced.

    We’ve observed so many businesses try to create a strategic plan using basic goal-setting practices, but the day-to-day pressures pull staff back to operational and more urgent matters. There is no overriding business plan in place to maintain accountability and ensure target achievement. Strategic planning is not only the realm of large companies.

    Q2. How will the required changes be achieved and what process will be used to advance all facets of a new business plan?

    A Harvard Business School study found that 70 to 80 per cent of small businesses fail to see the projected return on investments due to the inflexibility or lack of strategy. Many small to medium business owners ignore or resist strategic planning for growth because it’s too hard or perceived as irrelevant. Hence, there is no certainty of business practices or clarity of company purpose beyond basic revenue generation and continued existence.

    A successful business plan begins where we are and moves us towards where we want to be. Strong implementation and execution must articulate how we are going to move there. Clarifying goals and expectations is part of the process and ideally should be in light of relevant product and market life cycles. Plans start with small, deliberate steps for what’s important now and then create projects with longer-term specific action plans. Maintaining team focus on the desired outcome will then happen.

    Q3. When was the last occasion your senior team members spent dedicated time with you as business owner to grapple with the high level thinking, leadership and creativity needed to see a breakthrough into new ways of running the business?

    We worked with a company that supplied and installed a hi-tech product with increasing demand. The company had a staff of 10 people and the business was growing quickly. The director of this company argued in an elevated tone that he needed no one’s help, he was self-sufficient and no person can change how they operate. He was certainly right about himself. Discussions with staff showed he was blind to the true needs in the business and most staff were cruising well below capacity. A strategic plan would have accelerated the business into exceptional growth.

    Robert S. Kaplan and David P. Norton, authors of The Strategy-Focused Organization, identified in larger businesses, 85 per cent of executive teams spend less than one hour per month discussing business strategy. Too many SMEs never even mention a strategic plan. To lead a business into high-level thinking, leadership and creativity the key team must be reading, studying and keeping up to date with what is happening in their industry and business at large.

    “Pay special attention to evidence that contradicts your beliefs” – Charles Darwin

    Decide to push through those long-held beliefs screaming at you ‘it’s the only way something can work’. Remove the roadblocks, fill in the gaps and move forwards with certainty and clarity.

    Small Business Achievement Thinking Through Study

    You need to be a student of your clients. A small business leader needs to know and appreciate their clients. You need to study their behavior to constantly develop and enhance products to meet their needs. Having the habit of studying your clients creates a powerful tool to help you grow your small business.

    What do I mean by studying your client? That is research, right?
    Study is really on-going research. You need to be an observer of the environment in which your clients live and work. By know what influences them you can better appreciate and predict their buying behavior.

    The key is really timing. For example, suppose that you read an economic report specific to the demographics of your core market. The report is an example of information that you can use to make decisions in your business. The information is historic however. Something already happened. Not only that, but the information is public knowledge. You have it and your competition may have access to it as well.

    By studying the environment that impacts your client, you can be ahead of the game. This is analogous to predicting when somebody will want something. Read what your clients read. Participate in the same activities that interest them. By knowing the day-to-day experiences of your clients, you will provide a better product and service to better meet their needs. Study your clients to learn how their environment today will impact their purchases tomorrow.

    The more accurately you can anticipate and plan for the future changes in the buying behaviors of your clients, the better prepared you will be to grow your small business.