Bite-Size Chunks of Wisdom

July 2017

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In small professional service businesses, there are options for choosing the services to provide. This is generally divided into camps — services you can provide based on previous skill and expertise and those services you’re most passionate to deliver.

What may seem like a clear-cut choice for some is really quite agonizing for a small business owner. This is particularly tormenting in the early stages of business growth and development when cash — or lack thereof — dictates decisions.

The Struggle of the Small Business Startup

This was certainly the dilemma experienced by one of my clients…

They left the safety of a well-paying, albeit boring and unchallenging job, to spread their wings in the unrestrained and exciting world of entrepreneurship. They have dreams. They long to be involved in work that flipped their switch, got them excited to get up every morning, and fed their soul.

Yet, they found themselves at the intersection of a very important decision.

Past employment allowed them to hone skills involved in services they can provide. Yet, the work choked the life force from their being.

Do they “play it safe” and focus on providing the services they can even though it makes them a bit queasy? Or, do they “take a risk” and deliver on their passion?

Safety and Security vs. Risk and Vulnerability

Risks are scary. They create fear and anxiety, which most like to sweep under the rug. Who doesn’t love a good “out of sight/out of mind” phenomenon?

Starting a business opens a world of uncertainty. There is unpredictability associated with revenue generation, client acquisition, and industry competition. There is also a danger of events that pose a risk, such as an unforeseen economic turndown or a weather calamity. (OMG, I’m scaring myself now!)

Yet, it’s only when one is willing to take calculated risks is the satisfaction of success experienced. Until we’re willing to discuss the fears standing in the way of delivering the kind of work we’re passionate about, we continue to live beneath our dreams, desires, and potential.

So, have the discussion. Get your fears out on the table. Sort through them. Find solutions that reduce exposure so you can face the fear and take the risk.

Starting a business requires trade offs — particularly in the early stage of business development.

There’s a give-and-take between that which is comfortable and that which is awkward, annoying, and downright tortuous to put into action. Like a tug of war, it’s the unspoken agreement we make with business startup success.

These concessions, although not always pleasant to the palate, create a strong core for your business.

You Can’t Always Choose Comfort

The desire to avoid discomfort is one of the biggest challenge amidst the small business startup. It’s particularly apparent among the millennial generation.

This is not to knock this particular generation. However, it’s been my experience that boomer business launchers appear more willing to do what it takes. They choose to do things they don’t like — temporarily. It’s part of what business success requires.

I don’t want this to come across as though I’m generation bashing. (Is there an echo in here?) One size doesn’t fit all — every member of a particular generation doesn’t fit the stereotype.

What I am saying is different generations adopt different work styles and attitudes. In fact, differences between the millennial and “older” business owners are well documented. (Hey, who are you calling “old?”)

The biggest difference, in my humble opinion, is “time in the saddle.” We (i.e., “older” business owners) were once young, dumb, and wet behind the ears. Thank goodness wisdom comes with experience for most — but not all — of us.

Of course, some would say with business longevity comes rigid thinking, limited creativity, resistance to change, and defunct innovation. Imagine “this is how we’ve always done things” bellowing from the dingy office of the older business owner.

And they would be right…

For instance, 68% of millennial small business owners rely on social media for brand promotion compared to 14% of older business owners. (Get with the program, Grandpa! Facebook, albeit a slacker, is here to stay.)

Some millennial business owners make respectable choices that could/would have served the boomer well — like intentionally carving out quality time with family.

The challenge arises when one, regardless of generation, choose something other than the hustle — particularly in the early days of business.

Do The Hustle

What does it mean to choose the hustle? To the melody of the 1975 Van McCoy song, The Hustle, playing in the background…

Hustle is not…

  • working 24 hours per day
  • missing your kid’s little league games
  • responding to customers requests at the dinner table
  • working through sick days and vacations
  • …fill in the blank with your belief about hustle

Hustle is…

  • doing what success requires
  • taking calculated risks
  • coming out of the closet to your strengths and passion
  • not surrendering to your fears
  • adapting gracefully and graciously to changing trends
  • willingness to briefly be uncomfortable

Hustle is blogging — even when the thought of it makes you queasy — if that’s how your buyer persona locates your services.

Hustle is attending networking events — even when you think they’re lame — if that’s how you expand your network.

Hustle is sending emails to potential clients — even when you’re convinced they’ll say no — if that’s how to inform your audience.

Hustle is experiencing the discomfort — even when it’s a hassle — if that’s what is required to succeed.

And when you’ve been in business for a while and have done the hustle to succeed — to build your reputation, to create awareness, to reach out to others, to hone your expertise in your skills and rework your services time and time again — then, and only then, are you empowered to be selective.

Until then, put your big girl/boy panties on and let’s hustle.

High performance and work/life balance are two terms deemed by many so-called experts to be at odds with each other. I mean, really!

In fact, if you were to poll small business owners, you would discover that many believe high performance/achievement is synonymous with long hours, dedication, missed recitals, meals eaten on the go, exhaustion, lack of sleep…and stress! Let’s not forget stress.

Work/life balance, on the other hand, is seen as being compatible with a sense of calm, going with the flow, sufficient sleep — even going to the gym! Who knew!?

Business owners who cut their entrepreneurial teeth a decade or more ago continue to believe that the two of these phenoms are incompatible. And, today’s entrepreneurs have a tendency to follow in their mentor’s footsteps and adapt the same — albeit flawed — belief.

Technology: Compliment or Curse of Work/Life Balance

With the advancement of technology has come greater complexity. But wait! Wasn’t technology intended to make life and business easier? Less complicated? Less stressful?

In a word — yes! That was, and still is, the original intent. However, this equation breaks down when we ADD ON rather than ADD TO.

The Pile-On Small Business Generation

In a time of “more,” business owners are notorious for piling on. And why wouldn’t we? The mantra for the past several years has been “do more with less.” Less brain cells, that is…

Is it any wonder we’re developing kyphosis? Most ergonomic experts have told us it’s the way we slump at our desks. Honestly, it’s because of the burden we experience from what is already a heavy load to carry.

Doing It All — Having It All

In case the email went directly to your spam folder, the notion of “doing it all” has failed in epic fashion.

Those who embraced this concept drug themselves through a trench only to emerge bruised, muddied, and a bit dazed. Despite this beating, overachieving types continue to press forward on solving the do it all-have it all dilemma. (Insert definition of insanity here.)

How do we rectify our legion of ambitions with our finite supply of resources like time, money, and energy?

Here’s a little something I discovered recently…

The Excess Overload

My sister recently brought up the notion of walking the Camino de Santiago. I love the outdoors and immediately saw this as a physical challenge to experience.

In case you’ve not heard, El Camino is a 500-mile pilgrimage in Spain. First made famous in 1994 by Shirley MacLaine and later in the movie, “The Way,” with Martin Sheen, the El Camino is a mental, physical, and emotional challenge.

Along with training for El Camino, I want to learn Spanish, strengthen my spine to avoid the ravages of osteoporosis, and grow my business and that of my clients…

As someone who came to age during the “do it all/have it all” era, my bucket list doesn’t end there. I have goals to achieve, health to gain, retirement funds to procure, places to see, people to visit…you get the point. It’s endless. Plus, I want dust-free baseboards in my office.

I need a 32 hour day!

There’s little to no accommodation for balance — or so I thought….

The Add-To Alternative to Having it All

Early on, my mom taught me to take a load of “stuff” when enroute to the basement. Whether it was a load of laundry, pickles for the “fruit room,” or toys returned to the playroom, including those items during pre-planned trips optimized the trek…and the workload.

Was it possible to incorporate a similar philosophy into my goals? Yes, of course.

And so began the great mashup with these two discovery questions:

  • What am I currently doing that is not — to use a common phrase — optimized?
  • How can I optimize that activity to include other objectives and goals?

Spanish podcasts, business audiobooks, meditation, and farmers’ market expeditions are being added to my daily odyssey of 10,000–20,000 steps. Sun salutations and planks happen during Facetime with my niece. A “never cook alone” philosophy is unfolding with friends. Even drafts of my blogs are audio recorded during walks when my mind is free to roam about the countryside.

Lunch with a business colleague? Why not replace with a stroll through the local museum. Just because it doesn’t follow conventional wisdom of how business is conducted doesn’t mean it’s not an effective replacement.

The Bottom Line

You get the point…we truly can have much of what we desire when we’re willing to add to rather than add on. In fact, that sounds like a dandy new mantra!

You in?

We all have “those” folders on our digital devices. You know the ones I’m referring to? The folders we use to organize our rapid growing number of apps…

Ah, yes — those!

All neatly labeled, they contain the plethora of applications once deemed essential to growing our small business. Now, over time, they’ve lost their shiny penny appeal yet linger in the background — eating up MBs.

The Label Master…

If you’ve followed my work for any period of time, you already know that organization pulses through my veins.

My mom often said, “Everything has a place and there’s a place for everything.” A quick tour of my digital screens confirms I learned that lesson well.

I have folders labeled for music, entertainment, reading, travel, virtual meetings, financial, etc. The list goes on. My most frequently accessed folders, however, are productivity and meditation/health.

One day it struck me. What was my meditation app doing in the meditation/health folder?

Given all the benefits of meditation — calmness, reduction in anxiety, release of stress, clarity of direction, focus and purpose — wouldn’t it make more sense to move the meditation app to the productivity folder?

Working Day ‘n Night…

When people say the United States is an industrialization nation, they’re not kidding. Our productivity and efficiency is well documented. (Although recent studies reveal our productivity waning. Burnout, anyone?)

One measurement that seems to be missing from the equation is about the quality of life and the satisfaction that one gains from their work. Studies prove happiness and work/life satisfaction precede success.

I will admit that for way too many decades, I followed the path outlined by the so-called thought-leaders and experts in the world of business — increasing my “productivity” by working longer hours — until I ended up sick. SICK! Not sic….

Given the gravity of the diagnosis, one would think I learned my lesson about the outcomes of working long hours, and it’s accompanying stress. I guess it takes years for some of us to get that message — particular when said lesson is contrary to what the rest of the nation is doing.

Salmon Anyone?

Swimming upstream challenges most of us to the core. “Going against the grain” of conventional wisdom triggers a fear that causes us to question our inner wisdom about the small business of our design.

Admittedly, it’s happened to me. Following my intuition — my gut — triggered all sorts of fears common to any small business entrepreneur. From missing goals, being left behind, or not achieving the success I desired were all real fears triggered by following a path less traveled.

Open Your Mind…

Meanwhile, back to the changing path of productivity…

I pooh-poohed the whole notion of meditation for years. As someone who is continually (Okay, mostly.) on the move, sitting “still” for 30 minutes sounded tortuous. Living in a time and task-oriented nation, it went against everything I was taught.

Even though the thought of calmly breathing in and out made me break out in a sweat, I longed for the business benefits tied to the practice of meditation.

More and more studies are proving that meditation does, in fact, enhance productivity for small business owners through the following modalities:

  • Builds capacity to focus on one task at a time. With an attention span of a gnat (8 seconds according to science), the ability to maintain laser-like focus also reduces decision-fatigue.
  • Spurs creativity. With a brain less stressed and anxious, innovative solutions to tenacious problems float to the surface.
  • Triggers a more efficiently functioning brain. And, what small business owner doesn’t want that?!

Find Your Om

With all the science behind the many personal and professional benefits, it’s too nonsensical to continue to believe meditation is a waste of my time. Particularly when current methods for improving productivity are failing in epic fashion…

Find a methodology that works for you. Is it a measured stroll to Starbucks? (Walk! Don’t run to your daily dose of caffeine.) Or, 10 minutes sitting on a rock in your garden?

Perhaps, like me, a quick slide of your meditation app from your health to your productivity folder will drive home the point that changing the current path to productivity is a good thing.

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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