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grow your business with precision

As an entrepreneur with an annual revenue of $350,000–$500,000, you are in a great position to grow your business more quickly. Numerous opportunities await you. However, growth at this level requires precision and priority. The challenge is often about selecting the best opportunity to leverage for growth, which requires clarity, focus, and strategies to generate the most impact on your business. 

During the early days of your startup, it might have been easier, albeit chaotic and stressful, to venture down multiple paths. However, as your enterprise expands, it becomes more complex and uncertain. This marks the point where the real work of growing your business truly begins.

A change in mindset is beneficial to reduce the overwhelming chaos and stress and experience continuous growth with ease and grace. The actions that brought you to your current position are not necessarily the same ones that will continue to propel you forward. 

grow your business with precision

Photo by LUM3N on Unsplash

Strategize With the End in Mind

Since you’re moving forward, why not have some clarity about the destination you intend to reach? It makes choosing the correct route much more apparent. 

Consider your personal objectives since your business is often a tool for achieving them. Business, by itself, is not the complete end game.  End game options may look like selling the business for $X, retiring at the age of 45 with an annual income of $X, working fewer hours, traveling the world while you still can, owning an ocean and a mountain home, or being more available for those little people in your orbit. Whatever you choose is yours to hold and shape your business direction and decisions. 

What happens if you’re not clear on the end game? Fret not. Go as far as you can see, and when you get there, you’ll be able to see further. 

Plus, don’t waste time on detailed long-term planning. For now, you want a framework for your end game. With the rapid pace of change in business, keep more detailed planning to one year with a moderate amount of framework for years 1–5. 

Know Your Numbers 

Gut intuition and hunches are powerful tools, although most strategists would pooh-pooh the idea (Me? I’m not like most strategists.) Even so, it’s beneficial to have the best of our gut feelings backed up by solid data. 

Data guides our decision-making. It doesn’t lie. It always speaks truth to power even when you don’t like what it’s telling you. And, when you base your decisions on data rather than what you read on Linkedin as a solution, you’ll never go wrong.  

When I was in sales, I optimistically shared my goals with a trusted friend, which she immediately pooh-poohed. She wasn’t wrong. The notion of what I intended to accomplish was a bit “pie in the sky”—until I began to look at the numbers. I used data to guide my decisions. Within nine months of that honest interchange, I achieved what I intended. Numbers matter. 

What data does one collect? That’s an excellent question. With technological advancements, one can drown in data, so selecting the critical numbers is essential. These metrics could include revenue, profit margin, realization rate, customer acquisition costs, social media impressions, website visitors, or something entirely different. 

Again, your business and its destination are unique to you. The data or metrics you track should be as well. 

Hire Top Talent

Oh, this is a big one. Often, as small business entrepreneurs, our budgets are limited. Consequently, we look for the best talent we can hire for our budget. That makes complete sense unless you want to grow your business more quickly and with greater precision. Hiring top talent is a priority. 

One of my clients recently learned that valuable lesson when hiring a “junior” technician due to budget concerns. After months and months of training, the employee was still struggling to keep up. This was followed by more training and further coaching, adding extra costs. 

All of this additional time and the subsequent cost to “train up” a lesser qualified or experienced individual really adds up—especially when it’s your time as the owner. 

This wasn’t the end of the story, however. The employee ultimately made critical mistakes, resulting in client loss. It happens, right? Even though the disciplinary action didn’t result in termination, the employee stopped showing up for work. Egads! 

It was an incredible learning experience. Although the idea of training up talent is enticing, it adds unexpected costs and isn’t so budget-friendly after all. Plus, it slows down business growth. There’s a huge and hidden cost involved in hiring lesser talent. 

My advice (and that of many of my clients in the Messy Middle) is to stretch yourself and hire the best you can. 

Focus on High-Impact, High-Value Tasks

One of the most common missteps we often fall victim to is the tendency to take on every task ourselves. With the myriad responsibilities of running a business, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. As the CEO, it becomes crucial to hone in on the tasks that can significantly impact your business growth and success.

When it comes to prioritizing tasks, focus on those that have the potential to generate substantial revenue, minimize costs, or enhance overall efficiency. By identifying and prioritizing these high-impact tasks, you can allocate your precious time and energy in ways that create tangible value for your business.

Additionally, it’s essential to recognize that not every task needs to be managed by you. Delegation and outsourcing can be crucial in streamlining your workload and optimizing productivity. Handing off assignments to others allows you to free up your valuable time and attention for those critical, high-impact duties that truly demand your expertise. And, when you’ve hired top talent (see above), you will spend less time managing their work. 

Achieving business growth demands a disciplined and systematic approach and an unwavering focus on priority tasks and strategies. You can confidently drive business growth by beginning with the end in mind, prioritizing high-impact tasks, investing in top talent, and implementing precise metrics. 

Sustained growth takes time and consistent, purposeful actions to deliver remarkable results.

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Growing your business is not about doing more; it’s about doing it smarter. That’s where precision and priority—and Synnovatia—come into play. Schedule your first free consultation today.

accountability for entrepreneurs

Have you heard of the Messy Middle? Few entrepreneurs don’t realize it’s their everyday experience until they read the description.  Suddenly it clicks — “That’s me!” These savvy individuals can discern symptoms, identify pain points, and empathize with other businesses experiencing the same predicament. Arriving at this moment of clarity for oneself is a game-changer. It shifts the focus from chaos to clarity, empowering entrepreneurs to take action toward a more progressive outcome. 

The Messy Middle vortex, or stage two of business growth and development, is the natural progression following establishing your start-up foundation. You’ve proven your business model. Your marketing and sales funnels are functioning beautifully and creating a consistent stream of clients for your business. You are growing your team in numbers and skill.  Essentially, you have successfully ironed out many of the kinks associated with your start-up and have created some sustainability and resilience in your systems. 

Even so, revenue can be sluggish, anywhere between $350,000 and $1 million annually, depending on your industry and service. Despite the expansion of your team, the talent pool looks cloudy. Cash flow is shrinking. And the worst part is being swamped with day-to-day operations when all you really want to do is focus on growing or scaling your business.

Extended work hours, once believed to be temporary, are now permanent and no longer sustainable. There is no time to think—let alone the time needed to think strategically. (A different thinking skill, BTW, requiring some white space.) The inadequacies of one’s growth system become increasingly conspicuous.

The chaos of the Messy Middle often forces businesses to abandon their successful tactics, including accountability, needed to grow. Business life becomes all about extinguishing fires.

So, let’s talk about accountability—what it is and why it’s crucial for an entrepreneur, especially at this stage of business growth, and the common misconceptions about accountability. 

accountability for entrepreneurs
This is NOT accountability! 

Entrepreneurs and Accountability to Success Tactics

Webster defines accountability as “an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions.” It refers to the responsibility and answerability of individuals or organizations for their actions, decisions, and outcomes.

For entrepreneurs, accountability is a slippery slope. Often strongly-driven entrepreneurs resist personal accountability. They often see it as a sign of weakness or failure. Or accountability can often be associated with micromanagement and excessive control, which stifles creativity and freedom. 

And yet, in business, owner accountability is a crucial aspect of the growth process. It builds trust and credibility, promotes team engagement, enhances the business’s overall performance, and, most importantly, fosters a more disciplined approach to our decision-making. Holding ourselves accountable encourages critical thinking and helps us avoid impulsive decisions. 

accountability for entrepreneurs
THIS is accountability!

Navigating the Messy Middle: How Accountability Helps Tackle Challenges

I’ve touched briefly upon entrepreneurs’ challenges during the Messy Middle stage, where things can become chaotic. Clarity and focus provided by accountability, whether to oneself, a mastermind group, an accountability coach, or a system, are paramount for rising above the noise. And its effectiveness is multifaceted. 

  • Improved performance. Accountability promotes establishing clear goals and encourages entrepreneurs to strive for excellence, take consistent action, and achieve better results.
  • Strategic decision-making. Rather than making ad-hoc or impulsive decisions, entrepreneurs committed to accountability gather the relevant information and weigh the risks and benefits to ensure their choices are intelligent and thoughtful.
  • Enhanced trust and credibility. Stakeholders are more confident doing business with you knowing your word is your bond. 
  • Engaged employees. Someone said, “The speed of the leader is the speed of the gang.” Members of your team will often mimic your behavior. So, credibility builds when you do what you say you’ll do. 
  • Accelerated learning. Accountability encourages business owners to proactively address problems and challenges, which fosters accelerated learning and subsequent growth. 
  • Sustainable growth. Entrepreneurial accountability ultimately builds a culture of responsibility, transparency, and ethical behavior that ensures the business operates in alignment with its values, which leads to greater resilience and long-term success. 

Accountability: The Final Word

Accountability, in some form, is essential for business success. Identify the method of accountability that best supports you and your business. Then, take the time to review your accountability measures regularly and adjust as necessary for maximum effectiveness. 

You’ll be glad you did, as it will keep you on track and moving forward. 

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If you’re looking for accountability in your business, check out our Mastermind for the Messy Middle or contact us to discuss how to create a system of sustainable accountability for you and your business. 

entrepreneurs delegate

As ambitious boot-strapping entrepreneurs, you’re no stranger to hard work. You’ve turned over every rock to identify valuable work and avoid unnecessary tasks that keep you from bringing on employees. But despite your best efforts, you’ve hit a wall. Your personal capacity has reached its limit, and you know that to take your business to the next level, you need to expand your team.

Knowing that hiring is the next best step, why does the thought of it fill you with dread? It’s simple: you’ve built a brand based on exceptionalism that you, personally, have commandeered. The idea of trusting someone else to do the job as well as you creates a deep sense of anxiety. Even so, bringing on help is necessary for your business to grow. It’s quite the dilemma — hire, trust, and grow or keep to a small scale.

The fear of entrusting some of your work to others can hold you back. But, by continuing to work beyond what is humanly possible, you are only bottlenecking your growth and limiting your success. 

The truth is, bringing on help doesn’t have to be scary. With the right skills in place, your team is equipped to handle tasks with the same level of excellence you require.

entrepreneurs delegate Photo by Eden Constantino on Unsplash

Task Assignment for Entrepreneurs: Deciding or Delegating

When it comes to managing your team and getting the right tasks done, there are two fundamental approaches: deciding and delegating. The problem is — most entrepreneurs think they’re “delegating” when they’re really “deciding.” It’s no wonder they’re frustrated 

Deciding is when we take charge of a task and make all the decisions on how to complete it. This approach makes sense when a project requires only the entrepreneur’s specific skill set or knowledge. In such situations, you want control to ensure the task is completed correctly. 

On the other hand, delegating involves assigning tasks to team members with the necessary skills and experience to complete them. Delegating, done right, frees up your time so you can focus on more critical tasks. It also allows your team members to take ownership of their work and develop their skills. It makes them an integral part of your organization. And it’s the primary reason most entrepreneurs want to expand their teams. 

Mastering Delegation: A Step-by-Step Guide

Delegation is an impactful skill that involves assigning tasks and responsibilities to others. Done right, it free’s up your time, expands your team’s skills, and boosts overall productivity. 

To avoid the “decision trap” when you really intend to “delegate,” here is a step-by-step process:

  1. Identify the task. The first step is to identify the task that needs to be assigned. Sounds simple enough, right? Except, identification is not enough. It’s equally important to be clear about what needs to be done and why it is essential. This increases the likelihood that you reach your intended outcome. 
  2. Choose the right person. The next step is to choose the right person for the task. Consider the individual’s skills, experience, and workload before assigning the task. And, if you don’t have the right skill on your team? That’s a dilemma immediately. However, it can serve as a powerful reminder to understand and hire the skills needed to move work off your plate. 
  3. Define the task. Once the right person has been selected, communicating the details of the task clearly is essential. Explain the task’s goals, timeline, and expectations. Finally, be sure to ask if they have any questions or concerns. 
  4. Provide support. Make sure your team member has the necessary resources, tools, and support to execute the task successfully.  
  5. Set deadlines. Inform your team member of the date by which the task needs to be completed. Honestly, I love providing a timeline that is 48 hours before the actual deadline to allow enough time for anything that may go wrong. 
  6. Monitor progress. Without micromanaging (no one likes a “helicopter boss”), check in with the team member periodically to monitor progress and ensure that everything is on track.
  7. Provide feedback. When the task is completed, provide feedback on their performance and coach them through their experience. 

Finally, when delegating tasks to others, it’s essential to reward your team members’ ownership of the task. Your goal, after all,  is to shift your responsibility for decision-making to them. If a team member is being punished or made to feel they failed for wrong decisions, you merely train them to come back to you for decisions.

Keys to Fruitful Delegation: Trust & Communication

Trust and communication are essential for business success. It’s no different with delegation.  

As entrepreneurs, we must trust our team members to handle the assigned tasks and make the right decisions successfully. This trust doesn’t happen overnight. It’s built over time through clear communication, collaboration, and beneficial feedback. If we’re struggling to delegate, it may signal that we lack trust in our team members, which leads to micromanagement, reduced productivity, and demotivation.

Another crucial skill required for productive delegation to occur is communication. We must communicate our expectations clearly, which means that we need to be clear about our own expectations. We also want to provide guidance and support whenever needed, answering any questions or addressing any concerns without hovering.  Good communication fosters a culture of collaboration, essential for effective delegation and growth. 

In essence, deciding and delegating are two distinctive approaches to task assignment, and each has its benefits and drawbacks. Deciding can be appropriate for short-term or high-pressure situations requiring quick decisions. Delegating, on the other hand, is essential for long-term success, as it allows team members to develop their skills and take on more significant responsibilities. Effective delegation requires trust, communication, collaboration, and feedback. Being skilled in both and knowing when to use each approach to achieve the best outcomes for their team and organization is key. 

strategic thinking

When entrepreneurs think of “self-care,” we often think of indulging in a long walk, a vigorous run along some trails, a massage, an afternoon nap, a fictional read, or a long weekend. We would not add “carving out time for strategic thinking” to that list.

Strategic thinking, a cognitive process of clarifying your business objectives, goals, and plans, is often viewed as a task worthy of our undivided, focused attention. It’s time to concentrate intensely on planning and problem-solving using every brain cell available. Self-care? Hardly!

The Self-Care Myth

strategic thinking

Most of us conflate “self-care” with “work-life balance.”  We often place our attention and effort in the work-life balance bucket in search of a drumbeat of work and rest that keeps us sharp, focused, and innovative — only to stumble repeatedly.

And it’s not just me. The entrepreneurs with whom I strategize share the same angst.

Attempts to achieve self-care through a balanced life feel a bit like a mirage. There are continual roles to juggle, projects to implement, and deadlines to meet. That’s how business functions in today’s fast-paced competitive marketplace. Being overwhelmed by all the responsibilities of growing a business almost feels natural.

Unfortunately, self-care is usually the last item to be addressed — unless we’re “forced” to slow down, take a break, and take it easy.  But never fear! There is a way to make self-care more of a priority without losing your sanity.

It turns out that strategic thinking is the ideal form of self-care for overwhelmed entrepreneurs.

Who knew?

21st Century Self-Care is Powerful

Honestly, self-care has gotten a bit of a bad reputation.

Yet, a continual diet of stress and overwhelm that often accompanies business growth forces our bodies into overdrive. We produce high levels of cortisol. Adrenaline increases our heart rate, elevates our blood pressure, and uses more energy than normal because of the perceived or real threat. The result? Even greater levels of stress and overwhelm — only this time, our bodies are less equipped to fight back. Eventually, burnout sets in.

But you already knew that, right?

Rather than succumb to the unseemly impact of persistent pressure, why not reignite possibilities by taking time to think strategically about the future of your business?

Open Your Mind and Say, “Ahhh”

You may think you’re too distracted or stressed to take the time to think strategically — especially if you’re caught in the Messy Middle. Yet, the gains of doing so far outweigh the many perceived disadvantages.

Strategic thinkers, often characterized as having high levels of creativity, adaptability, problem-solving skills, and decision-making abilities — all important traits for any successful entrepreneur — require time to see things differently. It’s mandatory for success.

When the frantic speed begins to slow, our minds open to creative possibilities. We create space to listen to ourselves — an often-ignored quality. Strategic thinking pulls us out of the vortex of crisis thinking and encourages objectivity.

It emboldens us to look at problems from different angles and to come up with imaginative solutions not previously considered to address stubborn problems.

But it goes beyond finding solutions to problems; strategic thinking helps identify opportunities and create strategies that lead to growth. You make better decisions about where to invest your time and money to achieve the best possible outcome for your business. It empowers you to avoid costly mistakes, maximize profits, and stay ahead of your competitors in an ever-changing market.

Finally, as a strategic thinker, you are better equipped to ensure that everyone involved in a project understands the vision and objectives for each task or project. It fosters collaboration and allows your team to work together towards common goals more effectively.

In addition to gaining clarity, strategic thinking enhances well-being and quality of life. Energy levels increase since you’re not expending unnecessary vitality in catastrophizing. It improves your ability to do quality work and boosts your willingness to persist when business gets tough.

Think Smarter, Not Harder

The first step in utilizing strategic thinking as self-care is to figure out what “strategic thinking” means — and looks like — for you.

Strategic thinking involves understanding the bigger picture of your life and work and figuring out how to move forward with those goals. It focuses your energy on the most important tasks, or as one of my clients calls them, “high-impact, high-value tasks,” while minimizing distractions from less important ones. It allows you to prioritize your goals so you can focus on the ones that will influence your business growth the most.

More importantly, it recharges your soul.

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We would love to help you think and grow more strategically. We’ll even share our “famous” planning process with you. Click here to schedule a time to explore the possibilities.

entrepreneurs growth strategy

Ahh, you’ve arrived, but it hardly looks like the destination you thought it would be. Instead of smooth sailing and fewer hours as a reward for years of hard work and dedication, work hours extend beyond what is possible, and it feels like the business is being held together with duct tape and glue. Frankly, it’s a little chaotic and a lot stressful. 

How did you get here? Like most entrepreneurs, it was likely by default, not by plan, even though you had your sights set on a brighter destination from the beginning. One thing you’re sure of — it’s not what you thought it would be. 

Welcome to “The Messy Middle.” 

entrepreneurs growth strategy
Photo by Robert Bye on Unsplash

Defining The Messy Middle 

The Messy Middle is the time in your business between start-up and smooth sailing. It generally occurs at around $350K -$500K, then about $750K to $1M, and once again at approximately $3-4M.   

It’s often punctuated by stagnant or slowed growth, dwindling cash flow, a withering talent pool, and missed opportunities. 

The exhaustion experienced by you and your team from what was once temporarily extended work hours is now untenable. 

Not only is there no time to pause to think strategically to make clear, data-based decisions, but the cracks are widening, and critical pieces of the business are vanishing. 

At this point in your business, you realize that what got you here is no longer working. The strategies you use to build your business won’t get you to the next level. 

Surviving The Messy Middle 

Even though you’re drowning in seemingly unsolvable complications and problems, The Messy Middle is survivable. 

Start with a deep breath and realize, first and foremost, that you’re not alone. Even though it may not be reassuring given your current situation, every business enters this unavoidable phase of growth and development. Whether or not an organization passes through to the next level depends on the decisions and actions going forward.  

Muffling The Messy Middle 

You might think you could have avoided this — if you had only known. But unfortunately, the sad truth is that there is little information available about this stage of business growth and development for most entrepreneurs.

Frankly, I don’t understand the lack of knowledge in the business environment, which is why I’m starting the conversation. It’s one we need to have that is long overdue.

Most business journals focus on larger organizations, but only 6% of all business enterprises fit that profile. Even as a member of The Messy Middle, you make up 19%, with the remaining 75% comprised of stage one organizations.  

The Messy Middle is a natural part of the business growth and development continuum. But, sadly, a colossal information gap exists between startup, stage one business growth and development, YOU, and the corporate behemoths. Moreover, it’s vital for solving your enterprise’s problems.

Plus, most entrepreneurs who are members of this elite club known as The Messy Middle are either too busy or utterly exhausted, with little time to learn, study, and share their dilemmas. 

You want proven strategies to stop the stall, turn the momentum around, and get to the next level.

For further insight into The Messy Middle, read: What No One Tells An Entrepreneur About Breaking Through a Business Plateau.

Thriving The Messy Middle

Interrupting and moving through a stall requires new knowledge and skill for entrepreneurs. You can no longer rely upon the know-how and expertise that got you to this point of business growth. This challenge is especially true during difficult economic times. 

Although your chosen strategy is business-dependent, there are several situations to address, such as: 

  • Insufficient access to resources needed to succeed, like money and talent. 
  • Missing growth plan
  • Limited cash. 
  • Inadequate deployment of resources such as staff, time, and money.
  • Burnout and fatigue, yours and your team. 

Regardless of the underlying factor contributing to your plateau, you can elevate your business above the current chaos. It’s a balancing act to test the boundaries of what is possible, understand the limits of your business, and maximize its potential. 

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We’re here to help you make the most of your business. If you need advice on where to grow next or just a listening ear, we’re happy to chat.

entrepreneur

Entrepreneurship is fun and exciting — until it’s not. 

There comes a time in every entrepreneur’s journey when you realize that the skills, abilities, industry knowledge, and personal know-how are no longer the right components to take your business to the next level. 

They served you well for a time. Finally, your entrepreneurial skillset got you to a point where you’ve survived the dreaded start-up phase, proven your business model, and are maintaining revenue. And yet, growth has stalled.

What do you do? 

Many entrepreneurs work harder. They invest more hours into their business. They worry about tomorrow. Stress and overwhelm punctuate their day.  Pushed beyond what is humanly possible, they develop a distaste for what they love. Why? 

They doubled down on the tasks, actions, and plans that got them to where they’re today, yet nothing seems to budge the numbers.  

What’s going on?!

One thing we know for sure — what got you here won’t get you there.

entrepreneur

Moving Beyond the Stall 

Unfortunately, every business passes through a somewhat predictable and unavoidable growth pattern. 

Stalls in growth generally occur around $250 – 350K, then around $750K to $1M, and approximately $3-4M.   

Several components contribute to a plateau. However, in most cases, it’s a combination of factors. For example, mindset, confidence in delegating, finding the right talent, and implementing the right strategy are only a few factors influencing the business’s evolution to the next level. 

Mindset 

A trusted colleague and friend once said, “If you can leave your business for three weeks and not have a drop in income, you have a business. However, if revenue grinds to a halt in your absence after a few days, you’re merely self-employed.” 

The collapsed definition between entrepreneur and solopreneur is a common dilemma, especially among professional service providers who launch their business based on their skill set. But, whether it’s your legal acumen, accounting, bookkeeping, human resources, training, or coaching skillset, there’s a limit to where your business can grow when you’re doing it all yourself. 

It takes a village — and often a crowbar — to dislodge a business owner from the day-to-day delivery of core services. 

Talent 

…and its evil twin, delegation.

Talent acquisition is a tricky area to maneuver for the entrepreneur. Often, one’s confidence in engaging talent, whether it’s through employment or subcontractors, is multi-faceted. 

Considerations include budget, cash flow, sourcing, and learning about an entirely new industry, human resources, with its many rules and ramifications. 

Primarily, however, is the entrepreneur’s ability to strap on a new skill set of locating, identifying, interviewing, onboarding, training, delegating, and most importantly, trusting the talent you’ve hired. 

Strategy 

Often we outgrow the strategy with which we have launched our organizations. Whether it’s the primary driver of profitability, a refinement in services you provide, or the core clients for whom services are delivered, when you begin to bump your head against the growth ceiling, an upgrade in your strategic approach to the future of your business may be necessary. 

Often, a niche within an industry holds a disproportionate percentage of the profit.

Growth plan

Growth plan? What’s that? 

Often our days are so packed full of fires that the notion of planning, even for a week, feels unachievable. And yet, the actions we take today will determine our tomorrow. 

Your growth plan doesn’t have to be complicated or sophisticated to redirect your efforts in the direction you want to take your business. Instead, a simple framework of what you want to achieve in the next 3-5 years with a detailed drill down for the next 12 – 18 months is most effective. 

Gone are the days when a detailed plan painstakingly developed over an extended period is of use. Instead, with business rapidly changing, you want to keep your plans flexible. 

Execution

You can’t execute on a nonexistent plan. I know it’s common sense, but it’s worth saying. 

The internet is full of tools, tips, and experts willingly sharing their know-how on how to be more productive and efficient. However, until your growth plan is on paper, information on improved efficiency might lead you down the wrong path – only this time more quickly. 

Execution is driven by your priority, revealed in your growth plan, and informed by data. 

Cash

Not much happens without it. The larger your organization grows, the more critical money becomes to finance your growth. Did you know Microsoft keeps a year’s operating expenses in the bank? 

“Growth sucks cash,” and “cash is the oxygen that fuels growth,” says Verne Harnish, author of Scaling Up: How a Few Companies Make It…and Why the Rest Don’t. 

Cash flow, budget sheets, profit and loss statements, balance sheets — I can hear the wheels of your brain grind to a halt. Don’t panic. Your accountant can help you understand your financial numbers and their impact on making strategic decisions. 

The Right Tool to Bridge the Here—There Gap

My Dad was a diesel mechanic in a small farming community in North Dakota. At the time of his retirement at age 65, he had amassed the most extensive equipment possible. He had tools for hay bailers, tractors, trucks, and combines. He also had specialized tools from various brands like John Deers, International Harvestor, and the occasional Case that wandered into his business. 

I doubt he secured all those tools and the accompanying skills to use them initially. But, over time and one by one, he added to his toolbox his understanding, his skill, and his business growth. 

Your situation is not unlike my Dad’s. 

And, like my Dad, you can start with identifying the best tool for the job and secure the intellect to apply it appropriately and strategically. 

Recognize that the work habits, beliefs, and attitudes — the tools that brought you to this precipice in your business are not the same set of equipment that will elevate your business to the next level.  

What got you here won’t get you there. 

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We’re here to help you make the most of your business. If you need advice on how to break through your plateau or just a listening ear, we’re happy to chat.

business growth

Life is hectic, especially when you run or manage a small business. Business growth is challenging. Of course, profitable, sustainable growth is your goal, but how do you get there with all the distractions thrown at you every day? You’re speeding down the highway at 90 miles per hour, windows down, music blasting, kids screaming. Sounds fun, right? Hardly!

business growth

But what about all that scenery you took the trip to see? It’s gone in a flash, just a blur in your rearview mirror. Likewise, running a business can sometimes feel hazy and vague without the proper strategic intention.

So how do you take the time to stop and smell the symbolic roses, all while continuing your day-to-day tasks? How about having time to do what you know you should do to grow and maintain your business? Simple!

Determine which of these four stages of business growth your company currently resides, then focus your efforts on the suitable business development activity. 

  1. Core Business Development
  2. Expansion
  3. Professionally Managed Enterprise
  4. Organizational Maturity.

 Common characteristics, growing pains, and a primary focus define each stage of developing your enterprise. To know your specific goals, you first need to know and understand your business’s growth and development stage. Awareness of each step’s obstacles allows you to prepare better to overcome them – with the least amount of stress possible.

One of the most important things to remember about growing your small business is that your growth and development stage is not defined by how long you have been in business. Instead, revenue is a better definition of your developmental stage. Not accurately identifying your growth stage is one of the biggest mistakes when strategizing and planning for growth.

You risk focusing on the wrong activities by misdefining your business’s growth and development stage. As a result, you go around in circles rather than streamlining your activities to overcome the obstacles and leverage the opportunities you’re facing in your current stage.

The first two growth stages are when most business owners feel the highest amount of pressure and discouragement. They involve finding your niche, developing your products or services, getting your business up and running, learning to manage your resources, and creating functional operational systems. These steps set the tone for the rest of your business’s lifespan.

 

strategic thinking

Strategic thinking, the thinking process used by the most intentional and successful of Stage II enterprise entrepreneurs is getting a bad rap!  And,  who’s paying the price for it?

You are! The small business owner!

Apparently someone (insert air quotes here) is attempting to sell snake oil on how to think about thinking strategically. After a while, it gums up our business growth. 

 

strategic thinking

 

Myth #1: Strategic Thinking is Only for Big Business

Actually, strategic thinking is for any business looking to take a long-range view of their business and the environment in which it operates. It’s what’s required to make the most of any changes on the horizon.

Applied successfully, strategic thinking helps you better leverage your precious resources of time, talent, and money. With better use of resources comes accelerated forward movement.

Myth #2: Only Certain People are Qualified for Strategic Thinking

The numbers are in — and they aren’t pretty! Chief Executive Magazine reported that only 3 out of every 10 business leaders know how to think strategically.

Don’t let this statistic reinforce the myth. Actually, it points out that few people have been taught this critical business skill. If you’re willing to learn,  you can become a strategic thinker for your business.

Myth #3: I Don’t Have Time to Think Strategically

This is quite prevalent, especially for small businesses. I understand first-hand how difficult it is to pull our heads out of the day-to-day operations, especially once the flurry of our inbox is unleashed.

My dad taught me that if you don’t take the time to do something right the first time, how much time do you have to do it over. That’s a valuable lesson to learn.

High-level thinking encourages the proactive monitoring of your business so you’re not caught off guard by some unnoticed event or trend. Strategic thinking saves you time and money. In the end, it’s what takes the business to the next level. 

Myth #4: Strategic Thinking is a Waste of Time

This myth is particularly poignant for many business owners who escaped the bureaucracy of a corporation in search of their own business.

Having spent hour, upon grueling hour, tied up with multiple people who talked ad infinitum only to use the strategic plan as a doorstop, it’s natural to think it’s a waste of time.

Truthfully, strategic thinking is fast, easy, and very effective when done consistently and correctly. (Be sure to ask us how!)

Myth #5: I Think Strategically All Day

Is it strategic in nature? Does it take your goals into consideration? Is it based on data? Are actionable, corrective actions included in your thinking?

You may be thinking all day but you’re not thinking strategically. In fact, most entrepreneurs spend their day thinking tactically. In reality, you’re thinking about how everything will get done.

Strategic thinking, at the start of your week and/or day, means less thinking (i.e., worrying) about how to get it all done. Strategic thinking clears out the clutter lurking in your mind. It keeps you focused and on track with the activities most meaningful to achieving your dreams.

Do any of these myths sound familiar? If so, rethink your approach to the kind of thinking that ultimately impacts your business.

Strategic thinking is the quickest, most predictable, time-effective skill to achieving business success.

 

Wow! I did not see this coming…

business growth invisible

There’s an “invisible gorilla” in my business? (It does, however, explain who’s been raiding the snack drawer late at night.)

And it’s having its way with my business growth!

An an entrepreneur, my business depends on attention. In fact, I pride myself in staying focused on strategies to grow my business. The notion of not being alert to a “stocky animal with broad chest and shoulders, large, human-like hands, and small eyes set into a hairless face” is horrifying.

Admitedly I’m less than perfect in pursuit of the attention objective. Like you, my attention is divided between client requests, meetings on zoom, acquiring talent,  moving projects forward, juggling cash flow…

Growing a business today isn’t easy — despite what we often read online. Moving a business forward strategically and systematically is not for the faint of heart.

The fact that an “invisible gorilla” roams aimlessly around the office is unconscionable!

.   .   .  

TLDR:

  • The business owner’s inability to pull themselves out of day-to-day operations overshadows key elements of business growth.
  • “Inattention blindness” ultimately slows or stalls business growth that prompts owner burnout, overwhelm, and despair.
  • Join an entrepreneur cohort, engage a strategic business coach, or learn to retrain your brain to break out of your concealed silo existence.

.   .   .   

Sight Unseen: It’s Monkey Business

But what about the gorilla? In the book, The Invisible Gorilla: And Other Ways Our Intuitions Deceive Us, professors Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons explore the inner workings of our minds. As a result, they uncover how we miss things right in front of us.

Their groundbreaking experiment, known as “The Monkey Business Illusion,” reveals a great deal about our focus, attention, and perceptions — key elements that elevate a business to the next level or keep it plateaued.

Watch “The Monkey Business Illusion” video.  And, experience for yourself how critical pieces of information can be, shall we say, “invisible”.

The Invisible Impact on Business Growth

As Simons points out in the video, “When you’re looking for a gorilla, you often miss other unexpected events.” So it is with business.

When we are so intensely focused on a particular aspect of the business, such as juggling cash flow or delivering value to clients, we often miss the most impactful aspects of business growth. Yet, they are right in front of us.

This is called “inattentional blindness.” “Inattentional blindness” refers to devoting one’s attention to a particular activity and unintentionally missing other critical information.

When Chabris and Simons speak of “inattentional blindness,” they might as well be speaking about our experience as an entrepreneur.

What does it mean to miss cricital pieces of information to grow your business? Here are a few “inattentional blindness” fallouts:

  • loss of relevance and market competitiveness
  • high client turnover
  • slimming profit margins
  • cash flow on life support
  • talent not growing with the organization
  • sluggish or stagnant growth
  • owner burnout and despair

Retrain Your Brain to See the Invisible

Whether your attention is focused on a single aspect of your business or diverted to a multitude of activities, objectivity allows us to identify the opportunities and obstacles we’re missing. For instance, to avoid missing critical information, here are a few solutions to consider:

  1. Join a Mastermind Group of like-minded business owners. Others often see what we are missing. As a result, the insight is priceless for discovering and implementing the right solution.
  2. Engage a strategic business coach. A trained strategic business coach is well-equipped to see the “invisible gorilla” in your business.
  3. Train your mind to think differently.  See the “gorilla” for yourself to recognize the opportunities and strategies to grow your business. In fact, consider reading Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know by Adam Grant. It’s eyeopening! ?

Look around. As a result of this new information, are you seeing any “invisible gorillas” in the midst of your business?

Have you considered the power of your environment on your success?

Think about it.

As an avid gardener, I know certain kinds of vegetables grow best in specific types of soil and under particular weather conditions. I don’t stop to consider if the seed planted is “talented enough” to grow. I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the environment plays a strong role in whether or not that seed is going to sprout and produce an abundance of produce.

Yet, how many of us stop to consider the impact of our environment on our ability to grow our business? Do we argue for our talents, knowledge, and abilities in our success? Of course, we do, with perhaps little thought going into the role that our environment plays in our achievements.

What if we did — if only for a moment — give credence to the notion of the contributing factors of our environment? What would be different for you?

As I consider the environmental factors influencing my performance, here are a few of my favorite things:

  • Music uplifts my spirit — and it wins hands down over the news.
  • Sunshine — ahhhhh, nothing is more mood elevator than the sun rising over the horizon. It signals the dawn of a great day.
  • Warmth. What is it about being warm that brings me to attention? Must be my North Dakota upbringing. When it’s 30 degrees below freezing, all I want to do is hide under the covers — where it’s warm.
  • Early risings, especially when the early morning hours of the day, when most people are asleep, are used to attack — and yes, I do mean attack — the tasks of the day.
  • Accomplishment seems to be the next important “thing.” The more I can tick off my to-do list early in the morning, the more I am inspired and motivated to take on the next task.

Although some of these “things” are more about habits than they are environmental, I recognize how my environment sets me up to develop habits that influence my success.

Decorating for Success

James Clear recently wrote an article on the impact of our environment on our success. It was, in fact, the inspiration for this musing. And, it did get me thinking about the environment for small business owners — especially those who are bootstrapping and working from a home office.

Certainly, as someone who has worked from a home office for over 30 years, I understand the joys — and complications — that come from such a location. There are distractions (think dishes, laundry, and other household chores) yet there is also a sense of freedom that comes from sliding into my home office in my pajamas and slippers, comforted with my cup of coffee while I watch the sunrise. Frankly, although I’ve considered the so-called benefits of working outside of the home, I’m not sure it’s really worth it in the long run.

Surprisingly, while I pondered the marriage of environment and success put forth by James Clear, I couldn’t help but think about my home office environments of the past decades.

Certainly, there were functional………..(insert long pause here) and that’s about it. Now that I give it some intentional thought, it’s almost laughable. Yet it’s not…and I bet I’m not alone!

The location in which we spend a significant number of waking AND working hours can — and should be — a better place to nurture our success. (Read that sentence again, for effect, and put yourself in the picture.)

What can you add to your environment (beyond a computer that works well) that feeds your soul, nurtures your dreams, and fertilizes your success?

Is it…

Flowers? Beautiful works of art? Luscious green plants? Pictures of loved ones?

Maybe it’s…

Your vision board. Brightly painted walls — that you can write on! (Can you imagine?) A comfy chair. A beautiful rug beneath your desk that keeps your feet warm.

Or, perhaps it’s a cat that sits quietly next to your keyboard purring while you plunk away.

What would you change about your environment that, like the ideal growing conditions for your vegetables, would foster your business growth? It’s well worth considering, isn’t it?

Why not till — and care for — your environment in a way that would support you in producing a bumper crop?

You are, after all, the seed that produces.


What elements of your business environment inspire your growth?

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Testimonial

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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