Bite-Size Chunks of Wisdom

January 2022

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strategic thinking

A delicate balance exists between running your business on a day-to-day basis and strategizing for tomorrow. The good news is that small business entrepreneurs spend a generous amount of time thinking about their future. The bad news is that it’s done on the fly and on the run (or in-the-shower).

Is that the kind of quality strategic thinking that shapes the business strategy for business growth? Although there is an up-side to on-the-fly strategic thinking, there’s a greater down-side as your trade-off quality.

Several years ago, I enrolled in the MDE (Management Development for Entrepreneurs) program at UCLA Anderson School of Business. It was a course held on campus every Friday for six months. So naturally, we cringed at the idea of leaving our business “unattended” for 8 hours! Can you relate?

We were so caught up in the daily operation of our business. Yet, we also realized the need for dedicated time to think more deeply about our futures.

strategic thinkingImportance of Strategic Thinking On Business Strategy

Thinking about the future of your business in an organized manner is essential to growing your small business. Although it won’t allow you to predict the future, it empowers you to shape your future.

Dedicated time for strategic thinking challenges the status quo. It gets you out of the “business as usual” mindset and trains your brain to see things that are new and vital to the future of your business. And, when you’re better informed about your business, your decision-making produces a better business strategy and quality decisions.

Most of us recognize the importance of strategic thinking. The real question is — when! Given all we juggle in the course of a day, personally and professionally, it isn’t easy to imagine an uncommitted time.

Time to Think Strategically

As business owners, we need to make time to think strategically. We can’t just be operationally busy all the time. We need to escape the day-to-day business operations to achieve a strategic perspective.

How much time? That varies from entrepreneur to entrepreneur. Because of current commitments, it may be necessary to ease into it by blocking out 1% of your schedule for uninterrupted, quality strategic thinking. If you generally work 40 – 60 hours each week, this is only 40 – 60 minutes. Every two weeks, increase the percentage of your strategic thinking time until you can adjust your schedule to accommodate 10% of your time.

Now What?

If you’re not well-practiced in effectively using your artfully committed strategic thinking time, it may feel a bit odd at first. You might think it’s time to get caught up on that lengthy to-do list. But, trust me, it’s not!

During your strategic thinking time, explore the issues in your business. Look to see what’s happening around you, in your business, and your industry. What’s changing? How do you need to adapt to the changes? What opportunities exist? How can your business capitalize on them?

Depending on the time, you’ll find that your strategic thinking time takes on a strategy of its own. Tap into Unzip Your Success! 5 Types of Planning Every Small Business Needs for a more detailed outline of what to think about on a daily, weekly, monthly, or quarterly basis. 

Thinking about the future is not linear. However, as you take steps and regularly commit to a predetermined quality amount of time each week, you’ll notice the positive influence on the future of your business.

Strategic thinking helps you shape that future.


business ask

A recent business connection on Linkedin resulted in a fun and insightful conversation. My pen flew across the page to capture how she leveraged the information to get “unstuck” and in motion as we chatted. Enjoy and read the course of action she implemented to break through her resistance to ask.

A small business entrepreneur’s day is filled with opportunities to ask for – and get – what we want—asking leaves some small business owners fearful and hesitant — especially when unaccustomed to their requests being realized. As a result, some small business owners grab hold of the “ask” in a manner that triggers an inability to achieve their quest. 

On the other hand, victorious entrepreneurs seize the opportunity to “ask” and forward their objectives. Why do some entrepreneurs succeed while others fail at asking for and getting what they want? The triumphant entrepreneurs employ “the art of the ask.”

business ask

The Art of the Ask in Your Business

Most small business entrepreneurs are masters of their craft. They are highly skilled in their area of expertise. Their competence may be legal, financial, design, communication, project management, process improvement, technology – the list is endless. Seldom is “the art of the ask” taught at the advanced learning institutions attended.

Consequently, this means using trial and error (i.e., mostly error) to hone their “asking” skills. In contrast, people who ask for and get the “yes” regularly have become skilled at “the art of the ask.”

Does This Make My “Ask” Look Big? 

Asking for and getting what we have in mind isn’t the same. We ask for permission, a referral, the sale, to be paid, for help, approval, an introduction, special treatment. Getting to “yes” depends on the skill and the size of your “ask.” Here are a few pointers to get you closer:

1. Be reasonable. Consider the desired outcome of your ask. Is it directly proportional to your relationship with the supplier of the “yes”?

2. Keep it simple. Research indicates that one (1) reason gets the best results. So, avoid the need to pile on the reasons for someone to do what you want.

3. Draft your request before making it.

4. Be kind/honest/professional. No BS allowed.

5. Be specific and brief. Don’t him-haw around.

6. Provide an easy out. Make it easy for someone to say “no” without damaging your relationship.

7. Show your gratitude.

8. Be willing to give in return.

9. Make it WIIFM compliant. WIIFM stands for “what’s in it for me.” It’s the question that subconsciously goes through the mind of each provider of a “yes.” If your request is WIIFM compliant, your “yes” broker will quickly see that your “ask” imparts something for them as well.

The ability to ask for what you want to increase the likelihood you will obtain it is a crucial business skill. With a bit of practice, you’ll master “the art of the ask.”

Now, go ahead. Ask me anything!

A Brilliant Step by Step Ask

Here are the steps my new Linkedin connection took to overcome her resistance to asking for help:

1. Make a list of people she wanted to contact.

2. Noted her relationship with each. 

3. Identified one “ask” for each. 

4. She considered how to provide an “easy out” if she heard hesitancy.

5. Made the WIIFM (What’s in it for me) crystal clear.

Your turn. What’s your ask?

small business opportunity

Didn’t we all think the pandemic would be in our rearview mirror by now? I sure did! In fact, in my 20+ years in business, I’ve never quite seen anything like the current situation, meaning the pandemic and its impact on all aspects of life.

Given the past two years of never-ending virtual meetings, non-existent in-person team collaboration, and ever-changing regulations, COVID has undoubtedly upped our resilience game. 

Many small businesses have thrived despite the relentless challenges and changes. But, unfortunately, others haven’t enjoyed the same experience. So what do you guess contributes to the difference? Did they find a four-leaf clover, rub a genie’s bottle, unearth a rabbit’s foot, or are they just plain lucky?

Roman philosopher Seneca said, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” And, despite it the results, sometimes we have to create a little luck. 

So, if you’re looking for a four-leaf clover in your business to lift your spirits and relieve some of the COVID pressure, here are a few considerations for prompting opportunities in your small business:

  1. Launch a new program. Nothing infuses energy and opportunity into a business more than a new program or service. Can’t think of a new idea? Find a new way to repackage your expertise.
  2. Develop an inbound marketing model. Inbound marketing, coined by Hubspot, Dharmesh Shah, and Brain Halligan, is perfect for small business owners short on time but long on expertise (especially when in-person relationship development opportunities are limited.) 
  3. Have coffee with your clients, virtually, of course. You’ll learn volumes about how to create opportunities for your business by jawboning with your clients. Plus, it shows your clients you care all the time — not just when you need to make a sale.
  4. Guest blog on sites where your ideal client is known to frequent. Regular guest blogging is an excellent way for others to know you exist. Find curated and membership sites where your ideal client hangs out and become a contributing editor.
  5. Understand the buyer’s journey. Not everyone who visits your website or likes your Facebook page is ready to hand over their credit card. Many want to date for a while to get to know you better. Take them gently through the Nine Steps to Building Trust Online & Offline for Your Small Business. And, can’t we all agree? The buyer’s journey of 2022 is not the same as it was in 2020. 
  6. Adopt a giver’s mindset. I’m not talking about giving away all of your expertise for free. After all, you’re in business for profit. It’s an attitude of what you can do for this person rather than what they can do for you. That’s my favorite part of capitalism — being a giver rather than a taker. 
  7. Learn 21st-century consultative selling. Put away the double-knit plaid pants and loud, abrasive sales scripts. In the 21st century, selling is uncovering the needs of others and satisfying them. And boy, if there was ever a time that conditions for businesses have changed, it’s now. 
  8. Keep in touch with your network. Don’t just stop by your social media platforms when you have something to sell; stop by and say “hi.” Turn your favorite social platform into “Cheers” – where everyone knows your name.
  9. Fill your sales pipeline. Put enough effort into lead generation to satiate your sales pipeline. And, don’t stop just short of “full.”
  10. Apply the 80/20 rule. Spend 80% of your time focusing on sales, marketing, and networking activities each day. Try this for two weeks. You’ll amaze yourself with the number of opportunities you’ll enjoy.
  11. Revise your business model. How does the saying go, “It’s Not Your Dad’s Cadillac.” Not that you’re a 120-year old car; however, what worked well pre-2020 may no longer be relevant in the pandemic world. 
  12. Change your business strategy. In fact, why not run your current strategy through its paces by asking the 8 Questions to Scrutinize Your Business Strategy (Like a Boss)

I’ll admit — that even these considerations can be daunting and ineffective in giving your business the infusion for growth it needs. Why? Because “it depends.” Success in uncertain times is dependent on many factors — many of which may feel out of our control. 

No matter what, opportunity, like luck, isn’t what happens to you; it’s what you do that creates opportunities. So, what sort of opportunity are you making today?

Opportunity, like luck, isn’t what happens to you; it’s what you do that creates opportunities. So, what sort of opportunity are you making today?

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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