Bite-Size Chunks of Wisdom

February 2014

Recent Posts

Fear of failure is familiar territory for many small business owners. Perhaps that’s why many willingly stay there. It’s well-known terrain. Success, on the other hand, is uncharted land with unintended consequences we want to avoid. Because of the unfamiliar road, fear of success is rampant among small business owners.

 Is fear of success causing you to dodge the accomplishments that would carry you to success? Take this quiz and see if you’re afflicted.

This is a Test!

Boston College professors, Donnah Canavan, Katherine Garner, and Peter Gumpert developed and published the following quiz in The Success-Fearing Personality. Although the quiz isn’t fail-safe, it gives you a pretty good idea of where you stand.

If these statements apply to you, answer yes. Then calculate your score below.

  1. I generally feel guilty about my own happiness if a friend tells me that (s)he’s depressed.
  2. I frequently find myself not telling others about my good luck so they won’t have to feel envious.
  3. I have trouble saying no to people.
  4. Before getting down to work on a project, I suddenly find a whole bunch of other things to take care of first.
  5. I tend to believe that people who look out for themselves first are selfish.
  6. When someone I know well succeeds at something, I usually feel that I’ve lost out in comparison.
  7. I rarely have trouble concentrating on something for a long period of time.
  8. When I have to ask others for their help, I feel that I’m being bothersome.
  9. I often compromise in situations to avoid conflict.
  10. When I’ve made a decision, I usually stick to it.
  11. I feel self-conscious when someone who “counts” compliments me.
  12. When I’m involved in a competitive activity (sports, a game, work), I’m often so concerned with how well I’m doing that I don’t enjoy the activity as much as I could.
  13. A sure-fire way to end up disappointed is to want something too much.
  14. Instead of wanting to celebrate, I feel let down after completing an important task or project.
  15. Mostly, I find that I measure up to the standards that I set for myself.
  16. When things seem to be going really well for me, I get uneasy that I’ll do something to ruin it.

Scoring: Give yourself one point for every question you answered yes to, except Nos. 7, 10, and 15. For each of those, subtract one point if you answered yes.

Scorecard: Anything under 5 points means you’re basically okay. Between 5 and 10 points, you’re moderately at risk for self-sabotaging behavior. Between 10 and 16 points, you have a problem.

Fear of success is based on speculative assumptions. “I’ll be overwhelmed. I’ll never see my family. I’ll be buried in my office. I won’t be able to do it all by myself. I’m afraid I’ll be disappointed.” These are a few of the thoughts that run through the minds of small business owners who fear success.

If the fear of success overwhelms you, talk through your doubts and worries with your strategic business coach. Side-by-side, identify the resources you’ll need when your ship comes in and put your unresolved fears behind you forever.

Small business owners are famous for juggling. Even though we juggle everything from bookkeeping to bill collections to business development, there’s much we can learn from professional jugglers to help us turn the madness of juggling into a masterpiece.

 Juggling is a skill. Once it’s learned, it’s very much like riding a bike. You never forget. And, if juggling is going to be part of your everyday business, why not learn to master the craft. Here are 7 tricks professional jugglers want you to know:

  1. Practice and persistence is key. You’ve heard “practice makes perfect”? Well, it’s actually persistent practice makes perfect. Don’t just randomly juggle all there is to do in your business, learn to juggle with intention.
  2. Relax and visualize what you want to happen. Juggling can be stressful — especially when injected with worry and fear. Take a few, deep breaths. Picture yourself smoothly and effortlessly moving from one task to another. Concentrate on what you want to happen.
  3. Accept that “dropping” is inevitable. Perfectionism is incompatible with juggling. An occasional “drop” is a normal part of the process. Forgive yourself when it happens.
  4. Learn to throw and catch one ball correctly first. Who doesn’t want to be a master juggler? It’s only natural. But, even the most gifted jugglers hone their craft one step at a time. Start simply.
  5. Work on consistent, steady throws. When you focus on the throw, the catch naturally follows. Skillful execution leads to successful outcomes. Focus on the implementation and the result will follow.
  6. Pause between each throw. The brain is incapable of sustained performance without time to rejuvenate. For maximum performance, plan a 10-minute recess every 90 minutes to refresh and renew your efforts.
  7. Hold each ball loosely in your hand. Don’t choke innovation by holding too tightly to a proposed agenda. Cradle proposed plans loosely to allow for opportunities to develop.

There you have it. Everything you need to know to juggle like the pros. After all, if you’re going to juggle in your business anyway, why not refine your talent and impress your friends.

What’s next? How about eating an apple while you juggle….

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 For centuries, philosophers have contemplated the nagging causality dilemma, “which comes first, the chicken or the egg.” Equally perplexing for small business owners is “which comes first, the goal or the plan”. We all know the goal comes first, right? Regardless, small business owners often find themselves in the middle of a random pile of activities that have little connection to their final destination.

Why Plans Don’t Work

It’s not uncommon to see small business owners embark on their journey with a meager plan in hand. With little reference to the final target, we eagerly set sail accomplishing an array of tasks.

We create “to do” lists of when to blog, how to tweet, and what to post. We’re busy people! We hit the floor running each and every day systematically checking off our never-ending tasks to accomplish. Sound familiar?

We pause occasionally to scratch our head in bewilderment when the flurry of activities fails to produce results…and immediately pick up where we left off. Busy. Busy. Busy.

The Missing Ingredient

The “chicken-and-egg problem” is commonly used to describe a situation that is not a philosophical dilemma, but one in which it is impossible to reach a certain desired outcome because a necessary precondition is not satisfied, while to meet that precondition in turn requires that the desired outcome has already been realized.

Thanks Wikipedia! You’re a big help! Are you saying that in order to achieve our goals, we need a plan? And, in order to create a plan, we need a goal? Precisely!

In the case of the “which comes first, the goal or the plan” quandary, you can’t go wrong when you start with your goals. Begin with the end in mind to significantly improve the likelihood of selecting the best plans and actions that move you to your destination.

The next time you find yourself knee-deep in dastardly deeds, pause momentarily to ask, “what goal does this action achieve?” If there’s little or no correlation between the action and the goal, it may be time to break that activity.

That settles the “goal-and-plan” dilemma, doesn’t it? As for the “chicken-and-egg” problem, you’ll have to decide for yourself.

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When things aren’t working as well as one hope or plans, it’s natural to push harder. Whether our push is through longer hours, more frequent contact with potential clients, or bigger, louder marketing messages, it all adds up to one thing — beating your head against a wall. Not only is it unproductive, it’s not the smartest strategy for growing your small business. Rather than get a bigger helmet so it hurts less when your head hits the wall — again — learn to pivot.

 To pivot means to turn and go in a different direction. It’s one of the most effective strategies for creating movement. While strategizing with clients, we found the pivot to be one of the most effective strategies to counteract lackluster results.

No one really understands how some of the best-laid plans fail to produce. But, after a good effort, it’s ineffective and unproductive to continue with the same strategy. Like Famous “Wally” Amos said, “If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll continue to have what you have.” It really is the true definition of insanity. When we continue to do what we’re doing without results, we become blind to opportunities for growth around us.

Master the Ability to Pivot

How do you know when a “pivot” is necessary? The telltale signs include:

  • lackluster results despite a well-developed plan
  • metrics severely missing the projections, despite strategic tweaks to the plan
  • sense of disappointment and lack of motivation

Most harmful for any small business owner is when disappointment and lack of motivation creep into the picture. Without impetus and inspiration, success becomes a struggle.

Knowing each small business situation is as unique as the small business owner means you’ll need to use your judgment to determine when a “pivot” is in order. Areas to look for the potential “pivot” involve:

  • where growth is currently occurring
  • where you find inspiration
  • what is fun and effortless for you to do
  • wherever you’re not bored performing the same action

Although the possible setting of your pivot may not draw a direct line to your primary business goal, a pivot injects new energy into the business. It’s that renewed sense of energy that revitalizes your small business growth once again.

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 Nothing is more exciting than the victory celebration following the achievement of a goal. For many small business owners goal achievement doesn’t happen often enough. The solution is simple — set goals you’re willing to make a priority in your day.

Goals don’t have to be big to be a priority. However, they need to be important to you. That’s when goal achievement becomes a habit. Although it sounds simple, you would be surprised how many small business owners set “should” goals — goals they “should” achieve based on what others say. That never works since it’s someone else’s agenda, not yours.

Important goals, big or small, are so significant that you’re willing to reshuffle your schedule to make sure actions related to your goals are upfront and center in your day. They are value-based goals that inspire you. That’s what guarantees the achievement of your small business goals.

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“Your actions speak so loudly, I cannot hear what you are saying.” That was Ralph Waldo Emerson’s take on priorities. As small business entrepreneurs, we can talk a good game. But, can we successfully execute the plays that guarantee a win?

 Throughout my years as a small business strategist and business coach, I’ve noticed a common theme among small business owners. They talk about their goal for growing their small business yet their actions — and their calendar — would say something different. It’s like professing my goal to lose 5# while grazing my way through a bag of Doritos.

Take Inventory

Consider the goals for your business. What do you intend to achieve this week? This month? This year? (Goals are not your to-do list. Be sure you’re clear on the difference.)

Check your calendar. Does your schedule — and all the goings-on stuffed into it — reflect the activity needed to achieve your goals?

Are you surprised by the discovery? Most small business entrepreneurs are stunned to discover their calendars aren’t aligned with what is needed to achieve their goals.

Shuffle the Deck

Let’s re-configure your calendar so it’s reflective of your goals.

For starters, schedule your most critical goal-focused activities for the beginning of your day. Next, line up other activities behind your goal-focused actions. Arrange your day according to the priorities of your goal. Voila! Achieve your goals with greater ease and less stress. Who doesn’t want that?!

Be patient. It takes time to rework your calendar so it’s properly prioritized and aligned with your goals. Don’t give up. In the words of Wally “Famous” Amos, “If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you’re getting.” And, who wants that?!

What does your calendar say about the probability of achieving your goals?

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 Anyone within earshot of Super Bowl XLVIII heard Pete Carroll and the Seattle Seahawks reference the “12th man.” I’ve heard this before from another 3-time NCAA Division/FCS championship team, my alma mater, NDSU Bison. Former coach, Craig Bohl, and the Bison football players credit their success to their fans.

The success achieved by two winning teams, and the role of their fans, speaks volumes about the importance of fans to support your small business growth. Yet, most small business owners and “silopreneurs“, continue to “grow it alone“. Perhaps it’s time for a change.

Who makes up your fan base? Who cheers you on? Who continues to demonstrate their belief in your ability to achieve in the face of pending defeat? Who is your “12th Man”?

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Core Business Assessment


Brooke Billingsley

Vice President
Perception Strategies

Synnovatia is a strategic coaching firm that is detailed and knowledgeable about business. i have a small business that grew from $150K to $750K because of the goal setting and resources that Synnovatia provided. It saves me years of learning on my own.

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