Bite-Size Chunks of Wisdom

May 2014

Recent Posts

 Colonel Sanders has a “secret recipe” for his fried chicken. Outback Steakhouse developed a “secret ingredient” for their Bloomin’ Onion. McDonald’s applies a “special sauce” on their Big Mac. And, Duke is continually trying to disclose Bush’s Secret Family Recipe!  What’s your business’ “secret recipe?” Pinpoint that and clients will flock to your business.

Every business – large and small – believes they identified what makes their business special and uniquely different from their competitors. Recent research tells a different story.

Daniel Newman, author of The New Rules of Customer Engagement: 6 Trends Reinventing the Way We Sell, urges us to “Remember the 80 and 8 rule. (80 percent of companies think they are highly differentiated, but only 8 percent of clients think their vendors are highly differentiated.

Whoops! To clients, we’re all vanilla. No wonder qualified potential clients pass by your business without a second thought. S/he thinks you’re the same as the next guy.

Frustrating as that may be, clients don’t have a crystal ball to know what you know that makes your business distinctively unique, different, and – let’s say it together – better! If clients aren’t buying, perhaps your offer isn’t compelling enough for them to take action.

That’s the job of your “secret recipe” – your company’s value proposition.

The Perplexity of the Small Business Value Prop

Research “value proposition” on Google and you’ll uncover 19 million results. To cut through the clutter, we turned to our friends at Wikipedia for the down and dirty definition. Here’s what they had to say…

A value proposition is the promise of value to be delivered and acknowledged and a belief from the customer that value will be appealed and experienced.

Simply stated, your value proposition clearly states the tangible results a client receives from using your product or service. It communicates your value to their business. And, it plays a major role in converting potential to patrons.

Although stating the definition of value proposition is simple, creating one is not as easy. It requires self-reflection and digging to uncover what makes your product/service distinctive.

Small Business Owner’s Secret Recipe

Did you ever watch your Mom prepare her favorite recipe? The first thing she did was collect the necessary ingredients. Being that process worked so well for Mom, who are we to argue with success, right?

These are the ingredients needed for your “secret recipe”:

  • The product or service being sold – from your clients’ viewpoint
  • The end benefit – from your clients’ viewpoint
  • The target client
  • The problem or challenge your product or service solves – from the clients’ viewpoint
  • The quantitative value for your client – from the clients’ viewpoint
  • The one thing that sets you distinctively apart from everyone else – from the clients’ viewpoint


Mix your ingredients together. Answer the WIIFM (What’s in it for me, the client.) by completing each sentence:

“I want to buy this product or service because it will…”

“The thing I value most is…”

“What I like about doing business with you is…”

Pull your responses together. Avoid jargon. State your value proposition simply and clearly. Use language your clients understand.  Let simmer.

Seek feedback from trusted advisors and your most skeptical clients. Stir in feedback until your “secret recipe” is well blended.  Repeat until – like Goldilocks – your “secret recipe” is “just right” as demonstrated by results.

Keep this recipe handy. You’ll come back to it again and again. As your business grows, evolves, and changes, so does your value proposition.

You’re going to get good at this!

Small business time out

Every good sports coach knows the importance of judgment when calling a “time out.” Applied at just the right moment, it creates strategic flashes that can turn the tide of any game, effectively interrupting the flow of the opposing team and disrupting their momentum. “Time outs” also re-focus resources and galvanize the energy to move forward more intelligently.

Calling a small business time out creates the same effect.

Confessions of a Strategic Business Coach

Recently, when working on a series of projects, I could tell I needed a break. There were “early warning signs” signaling prime poor performance and burnout was ahead.

I was holding my break. I was rushing through the project to check it off my list. Carrying on three different conversations in my head about what I’d rather be doing. I wanted to escape from the project. Does any of these sound familiar? (P.S. No client project was harmed in the doing of this project.)

It wasn’t that I didn’t want to do the project. I loved the project…when I started it. Unfortunately, I had worked on it for an extended period of time. I had drained the resources I needed to continue to perform at a level to which I had become accustomed.  I needed a “time out”.

Small Business Time Out Averts Burnout

Growing up in a farming country, you learn to push yourself through the difficulties and angst of work. Alas, I learned the error of that strategy the hard way.

Following many years of a grueling, self-imposed work schedule, I experienced a health crisis. (Is anyone really surprised?) During my recovery (and relearning) phase, I worked with a bodyworker who shared this sage advice: Life is like a river with a flow. You have to let it take you where it wants you to go.

Yikes! That’s tough medicine for someone with a strong work ethic and analytical thinking. I learned through experimenting with the concept of how right she was.

Whenever I felt the need to push myself back from my desk, I acted on it – not as a mindset of avoidance but rather an indication that I had blown through my resources and it was time to refuel. Or, whenever my desk didn’t call my name, I knew another need required attention before my performance was ready to kick in.

Scientific Data Supports Result – Rest Cycle

If you find it challenging to trust your gut, new research demonstrates that calling a “time out” is the ideal strategy for accelerating performance.

Pierre Khawand, author of The Results Curve(TM): How to Manage Focused and Collaborative Time, discovered after a decade of research that the best results are achieved after 40 minutes of focused work followed by 20 minutes of collaboration.

Tony Schwartz, President of The Energy Project, discovered the accelerated performance benefits of The 90-Minute Solution. Through his work, Tony uncovered scientific research revealing the human body’s natural 90/20 cycle. Carrying the 90/20-minute sleep cycle into our day dramatically influences performance.

Do you need to call a “time out”? After completing this blog, I do! Join me. Let’s call it a “time out”.

Apps are popping up everywhere and changing the way business gets done. Non-existent just 5 years ago, apps are serious business tools that make it much easier for entrepreneurs and small business owners to run their business more effectively and efficiently.

 Turn Your “App”titude Into Success

Here are some of the favorites we recommend along with how you can use them to run your small business more smoothly.

1. Evernote makes modern life manageable by letting you easily collect and find everything that matters.

Prior to the introduction of this little gem into the marketplace, how did we save articles and information for later consumption? We printed out the information and saved it in an ever-bulging file or we bookmarked it — never to be found again. Evernote changes that.

How to use it — why we love it:

a. Create topic notebooks on subjects of interest from goals to research for blogs to client projects. The possibilities are endless.

b. Add notes for each notebook to better organize information you want to access at a later time.

c. Clip and save online articles to the appropriate notebooks

d. Share notebooks with others to facilitate collaboration without overwhelming your inbox with emails.

e. Tag notes to find the right information at the right time with search.

f. Download app to desktop, ipad, iphone, or android device to automatically sync across all platforms. You’re never without the info you need when you need it.

2. Google Docs/Drive is a web-based office suite offered by Google that keeps your files backed up and easy to reach from any phone, tablet, or computer.

Another great replacement for files, faxes, and mailing documents to your clients resulting in delays, disorganization, and disruption, Google Drive works with the pace of business today.

How to use it — why we love it:

a. Back up files in the cloud saves space on your hard drive.

b. Access files from anywhere at any time.

c. Share files and folders easily with others while reducing the amount of email in and out of your inbox.

d. Collaborate on a variety of documents with your clients in “real time” to accurately and instantly capture edits and changes.

e. Automatically sync documents from your desktop to the drive saves time and makes sure you’re not in the field while a key document is at the office.

3. Dropbox is a free service that lets you bring your photos, docs, and videos anywhere and share them easily.

Similar to Google Drive, Dropbox serves a similar, yet slightly different, purpose as noted by our client, Zbra Studios, who is a hug fan of Dropbox.

Dropbox, like Google Drive, has security. The desktop app for Dropbox allows you to drag and drop files. There’s no login required so it’s easy to send or forward files, particularly those that are large.”

4. Feedly is a news aggregator that compiles news feeds from a variety of online sources for the user to customize and share with others.

Back in the “olden days”, we gathered information on “what’s hot and what’s not” from newspapers, magazines, and colleagues at the local coffee shop. Although those remain viable sources, the speed at which business moves renders information garnered through those channels obsolete and irrelevant very quickly.

How to use it — why we love it:

a. Keep up with the latest news, business trends, and information without overwhelming your inbox.

b. Allows you to “go to” information when you’re ready rather than have info pushed at you, interrupting your workflow and creating a distraction.

c. Easily subscribe to blogs (like Synnovatia’s business coaching blog).

d. Save useful articles as a “must read” for later consumption.

e. Keeps your leading resources of information in one place so you can quickly and easily capture what you need to know to grow your business.

5. ActiveInbox gets things done by turning Gmail into a task manager.

Seldom are emails a two-way conversation. Email contains tasks related to projects that have deadlines. How do you stay on top of everything you need “to do” without becoming incredibly overwhelmed, obsessing over details, or missing critical timelines?

Paper and pencil works — sort of. ActiveInbox is a task (and project-lite) management system that keeps everything in one place. Make ActiveInbox remember — so you won’t forget.

How to use it — why we love it:

a. Turn any email into a task allows you to quickly sort through your emails and get out of your inbox.

b. Easily organize tasks into action/waiting for, due dates, or assign them to specific projects (or all three) keeps tasks organized and easy to complete.

c. Move emails requiring action out of your inbox and into an organized system to reduce email bloat and overwhelm.

d. Display tasks by project, due date, or action required depending on what system best supports how you like to work.

e. Create additional “to do’s” and notes related to each task/email within each task/email so nothing gets lost.

6. Buddhify is the #1 mindfulness app for modern life.

When you need to chillax, and don’t have the time to escape to your private island (haha), Buddhify provides bite-size chunks of “ahhhh” no matter where you are.

How to use it — why we love it:

a. Provides guided meditation based on where you’re at or what you’re doing to target what you need most. Online work stressing you out? No problem. Buddhify has a meditation for that.

b. Choose from over 40-guided meditations so you never get bored hearing the same mantra over and over and over.

c. Meditations vary in length from 5 – 20 minutes to fit whatever time frame you have available to distress and relax.

That’s our down and dirty top 6 business apps to sharpen your “app”titude. It doesn’t stop there, however. I’m sure you’ve found incredible apps that make you a smarter and faster entrepreneur. We want to hear from you. Tell us the apps you love and how you use them.

 “Hate” is such a strong word but it’s the one I use to describe my extreme dislike when faced with the notion of working on a weekend. And, I’m not alone! Few small business entrepreneurs look forward to passing their weekend with their head buried in their business. What’s wrong with this picture? (Cue the music!)

I’m the first to admit there are times you give up a bit of your weekend to clear your head or to get ahead. However, when conducting business on weekends occurs with regularity, something is out of sync.

We’re Not Alone

Should entrepreneurs work on their day off? More and more experts are talking about working at a pace that prevents burnout — which includes weekends off.

Tony Schwartz of The Energy Project states, “We’re at our best when we move between expending energy and intermittently renewing our four energy needs: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. When you’re intent on supplying fuel in each dimension of energy, you’re creating happier people that will affect your organization’s success.”

Arianna Huffington, President of Huffington Post, took on the challenge of redefining traditional measures of success — money and power — to include “The Third Metric” which includes well-being, wisdom, wonder, and giving. How did she come to this enlightened perspective? Arianna discovered this the hard way. After long, uninterrupted work hours and burnout, she fell asleep at her desk breaking several bones in her face.

With documented studies in hand, renowned Harvard researcher, Shawn Anchor, explains how happiness precedes success. When we’re happy, we’re more productive, more creative, and better at problem solving. Who could disagree with Shawn?

The Entrepreneurs Time Out

Rather than list the reasons we feel the need to spend a prized weekend “catching up” in our office, let’s take a practical approach to ensure our weekends are work-free.

  • Say “no” more often without fear of repercussions
  • Outline expectations upfront of your availability
  • Get organized
  • Set realistic and reasonable deadlines for deliverables
  • Establish regular business hours
  • Unplug from email after-hours and weekends
  • Discover some fun hobbies and activities to fill your weekend

Ah, yes, sounds so easy, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, it’s not. Nothing worthwhile — like weekends free of business — is ever easy.

Have you mastered the off-switch for weekends work? How did you achieve it?

It doesn’t take long before you realize that your business needs to accomplish more. But, when your resources are tapped at capacity, how does your business achieve more without adding additional assets like time and money. You scale! Without it, you’re merely an employee with overhead and stress…better and smarter but not necessarily richer.

Scaling your small business means multiplying revenue with minimal cost. Doing so allows your business to operate and grow without you doing all the work. What a novel idea! It’s the reason you went into business, isn’t it?

Small Business: To Scale or Not to Scale

Whether or not all businesses are scalable is open to debate. The question to ask is this: Can your business gain 100 clients overnight without adding costs, including your time?

If your next sale requires just as much time and effort as the one prior, your model is not scalable. For instance, in the professional services industry, work is customized. With new clients comes work to customize the solution for them.  In many cases, the client chooses the professional — not the assistant — to do the work.

Although not all businesses may be scalable, portions of them may be subject to scale.

Consider Before You Scale

There are several questions you need to ponder before jumping into the deep end of scaling your small business.

  1. Is your business scalable?
  2. What would scaling your business look like? How do you want to spend your time? What activities can be outsourced that frees your time to work “on” your business rather than “in” your business? What is your monthly support budget?
  3. Are there aspects of your business that can be scaled?
  4. Is my product and business model proven? Scaling a business is not the solution to generate more revenue when the cause of underperformance is an unproven business model.
  5. How is my product delivered? Can this process be automated?
  6. What aspects of your business can be replicated quickly and cost effectively? Automating whatever and wherever you can is a must before you scale.
  7. Are you clear on your “secret sauce”?

All of these questions, and their corresponding answers, allow you to scale different aspects of your business without adding too much more staff. It’s the best first step.

If you would like discuss scaling your small business, request a complimentary strategic consultation for your business.  The first one is on us!

Request a Strategic Consultation for Your Business

 Honestly, I don’t know where I first heard the phrase “time theft protection” but, like you, it made me chuckle. Yes! That’s what I need! I need something to protect my most precious of resources — time.

Time is money for the small business entrepreneur. Time is the currency by which we move our small businesses to the next level. Time, like money, can be either spent or invested.

The Entrepreneurial Robbers

When I stop to consider time embezzlement, several activities come to mind, such as:

  • Reading emails that don’t further my goals
  • Reading newsletters or online articles that don’t add value to my goals
  • Engaging in social media without a specific goal or intention in mind
  • Not setting limits on projects, phone calls, or meetings
  • Not sticking to limits set on projects, phone calls, or meetings
  • Allowing interruptions and distractions by everyone, including myself
  • Multitasking

Can you think of other ways your time is pilfered?

Small Business “Time Protection” Plan

Wouldn’t it be great if, like identity theft protection, we could buy a subscription that would guard our time? And, if stolen, would turn back the clock to restore our time? (Hmmm, I see a new business brewing. <G>)

Unfortunately, until advancements in technology, time machines, robotics, and holograms allow for this to occur, we have to protect our own time.

That means making choices on how you’re going to invest your time — many of them tough, including:

  • Stop any activity that “spends” your time.
  • Dramatically increase the amount of time “invested” in activities that move your business closer to its destination.
  • Place limits on phone calls, meetings, and projects — and stick to them!
  • Unsubscribe from all newsletters that don’t contribute to your goals. (Do you really need to know the sale items at Costco?)
  • Place hard stops and starts on business hours. Business, after all, is not meant to keep you occupied 24/7.
  • Apply boundaries on your availability.
  • Devote the first two hours of each day working “on” your business — not “in” it. That means dedicating time to projects and initiatives that advance your business…not email!

What other items would you add to the “time protection” plan?

One of the biggest frustration small business owners experience is being overwhelmed with all they have to do. As a strategic business coach, my biggest angst for overwhelmed small business entrepreneurs is when they say “they can’t” implement a “time protection” plan. It’s tough to watch them struggle in their overwhelm knowing there’s a better way to invest their time — if they were willing to make some tough choices.

Are you ready to say “heck yeah” to these tough time choices?

I recently had the good fortune of celebrating the accomplishments of a former client. When Betty (not her real name due to confidentiality) and I first met she was overwhelmed, stressed, scattered, and didn’t know where to start to get her business back in control. As a single mom of a teenage boy, she didn’t have the luxury of taking time to put long-term strategies in place to grow her business. She needed to unravel the knots in her life and business, reduce her expenses, and generate more cash flow immediately. We started where we could have the greatest impact.

 Betty felt that in order to provide excellent service for her clients she needed to meet them in their neighborhood. As a result, she was traveling all over Los Angeles, wasting valuable time caught in traffic. She also had the added expense of micro offices around the city where she could meet her clients. Although it was difficult, we combined all her offices into one that was located near her to make it more convenient for her. We also helped her realize that if she was a good fit for her clients, they wouldn’t mind the drive — especially when you consider people drive all over the city to attend sporting events, go shopping, etc. If it’s important enough to them, they’ll make the drive.

We also needed for Betty to see her value. When one is in over their head, it’s tough to see what one brings to the table that’s of value. We developed a strategy that allowed her to embrace her strengths and abilities.  This also was instrumental in helping her raise her rates to one that was much more sustainable for her business. Prior to this, she was definitely underpriced — and underearning — with her “bargain” rates.  Her lack of belief in her own value caused her to also implement a policy of providing the first hour for free. Now that she knows and embraces her personal and professional value in the equation of working with her clients, she has eliminated the first free hour. Rather than discounting her services, she now delights her clients instead!

And, she’s no longer growing her business alone. She’s learning to delegate.

What made the difference for Betty being able to make these needed changes in order to grow her business? Focus! With weekly conversations focused on developing strategies to grow her business, she could no longer sweep things under the rug and pretend they didn’t exist. We took the emotions out of the decision-making to make smart, strategic decisions. And, we stripped away the many myths she had about running a successful business.

If you’re curious to discover what strategic business coaching can do for you and your business, feel free to sign up for your free coaching call. The first one is on us!

 As busy entrepreneurs, we make decisions all day long. It doesn’t matter whether they’re big or small, each decision requires energy and thought for the decision to be smart and move your business forward.

Have you ever made a decision and later regretted your choice? Haven’t we all! Undoubtedly, we agree that there are times when delaying a decision is in order. For instance, it’s best to defer a decision when you’re:

Looking at this list, doesn’t it make you wonder how smart decisions get made? I’m just kidding, of course, but decisions made under these conditions are not always going to be our best and brightest.

The smartest decisions are those that are made:

It’s very grounding, in fact, when you’re in control of your decisions.

Although we don’t talk enough about the importance of our environment — internal and external — has on business growth, the ability to make smart decisions directly influences the direction our business grows.

When it comes to making smart decisions, what have you found most helpful?

Raise your hand if you’re a high-achieving entrepreneur who is overwhelmed by all there is to do to grow your business? Between meetings, emails, social media, phone calls, blogs, and requests for help, it’s a miracle you’re able to get to the projects that matter most to your business…until now.

Here’s a simple solution that guarantees you’ll have more time to devote to business growth initiatives that matter — apply limits to everything you do. That’s it! No hidden secret. No skill required. Nothing to download.

For instance, if email is eating through your day, set limits to check email twice a day for 15 minutes. That’s it. Set a timer, if you must, but don’t leave it open-ended or you’ll be stuck in your inbox!

How about setting limits on meetings? Most people talk about what a waste of time they are. Rather than spread a 15-minute agenda across 45 minutes, limit the time assigned. Everyone will be more focused and the meeting more productive. Plus, you’ll have a gift of 30 minutes to advance your strategic plan.

I know what you’re thinking! Before you say, “you can’t”, promise to try this simple solution for one week. Put time limits on the activities that are eroding your business success.

You’ll accomplish more than you realize is possible.

Oh, the numbers! I previously had a “dislike” relationship with them until I discovered what the numbers meant and how I could use the metrics to give me insight into how to better direct my business.

Metrics are key elements used to measure progress toward your goals. They provide valuable insight into what’s working and/or what needs to be changed. They guide your decisions, influence how you spend your money, and determine where to invest your time. In many ways, they act as your GPS, navigating you successfully to your destination, while re-routing when you take a wrong turn, or the road ahead is under construction.

To give you a sense of the kind of numbers (aka metrics) you want to track, Hubspot wrote a blog recently titled Which Marketing Analytics Should You Be Looking At. The article does an excellent job of breaking down the marketing stats that you want to track based on your desired outcome.

A quick Google search provides additional metrics — including best practices and target goals — for your specific industry. Although you want to devise your own metrics and target goals, understanding best practices provide a helpful place to start.

Measure Twice…Cut Once

That’s the mantra of a good carpenter. It also speaks to the importance of measuring to track the health of your business, and preserve vital resources…as does this recent experience:

I have a client. Let’s call him “Bob” for the sake of confidentiality. “Bob” is a smart guy who really knows the ins/outs of his business. Crunched for time — like any business entrepreneur — he never quite got around to launching that marketing plan he spoke of. When client numbers were discussed, “Bob” would respond with an approximation.

Just last week I was finally able to pin “Bob” down long enough to identify some real numbers. Surprise! He had an average client turnover of 15% — twice his industry average! No wonder he was feeling as though his business had flat lined. It had!

Although Bob’s client numbers will likely continue a downward trend for the next month or two (alas, the behavior of momentum), the good news is that Bob is launching a growth initiative to bring that trend around and grow his client base in the next 9 months.

The important lesson to take from “Bob’s” experience is that tracking key metrics on a regular basis gives you the opportunity to quickly identify peaks and valleys and to adjust your plans to ensure your numbers continue on an upward trajectory.;

Numbers, numbers, and more numbers:

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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