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By Victoria Mavis, Area Director, BNI – North Central PA
As a human resource consultant, I often work with business owners who grapple with the demands of employees, business challenges, and life events—all of which can derail a business. When asked for suggestions to get their business back on track, I turn to these five steps:
1. Have clearly defined and realistic goals. This means more than announcing “Increase sales” at your weekly sales meeting. Every goal should be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely.
Does your goal have teeth? Imagine that you’re taking the last ski trip of the season and you end up in a coma from an accident (unfortunately—accidents do happen at the most inconvenient times). You had a succession plan worked out, so your #1 replacement comes in to lead the company until you can resume duty.
Reviewing your goals, she determines there is nothing else to do since the company is ahead on sales by three percent. Yet, currently, the market is increasing by 50 percent and your strategy is to mirror the industry. That means 47 percent is on the table for your competitors to grab.
If you have a knot in your stomach about now, power-up your laptop and add some clarity to your goals.
Are your goals achievable? According to Dr. Ivan Misner, founder of BNI, the world’s largest business networking organization, “Re-engineer it.” If you want $3 million in annual sales and it’s the end of March and you’re at $100,000, this means sales of $322,222 per month are needed for the next nine months.
You need to question, “Is this doable? What will it require?”
If you’ve never set goals to run your business or if your goals haven’t yielded results, I recommend you get help. Read a book about goal setting; meet with other business professionals to find out what they do; or, invite a coach to help your team through the goal-setting process.
2. Remove distractions. Email and the Internet are reported to be the biggest distractions at work and often in our personal life. It is the bitter-sweet of social media. Email, tweets, and Facebook posts produce contacts who begin to know and trust you, purchase your product or service, and tell others about you.
Removing all social media that gets client attention and still expecting activity that generates sales is like cutting off your right leg and immediately expecting to run a marathon. The secret is not to remove distractions necessary for business or professional functions, but rather to shift your focus. Determine a time when you can pay un-interrupted attention to them and nothing else. For most, this is where the real work begins.
3. Get support. As business leaders, we often trip up with this one. Why? It’s simple. Our entire life we’ve been conditioned to believe that to be the leader, you need to deliver everything flawlessly by yourself. In fact, seeking guidance from others may be interpreted as a sign of weakness.
Would you rather be thought of as weak and get results or as a pillar of strength and fail miserably? The choice is yours.
4. Know what works for you and do it. Begin by identifying and stopping what has not worked in the past. According to Misner, “It sounds ‘counter intuitive,’ and it is, but it works. Many get trapped thinking ‘I’ve always done it that way.’ So if ‘that way’ is not working, try something new.”
You’re probably thinking, “I don’t know what to try.” If so, repeat Step 3 until you get it. Everyone has someone from whom they can learn from. The point is to surround yourself with a circle of friends and business associates who help your growth and development.
If that’s not your current circle, either change the conversations you have with the people you know or develop a few new relationships with people you’ve always wanted to learn from.
5. Stay for the miracle. I can imagine the furrowed brows by readers right now. I know it’s tough; but it’s not impossible. As a person who has enjoyed a walking disability for the majority of her life, I can tell you all about difficulties, challenges, and hardships, but what does that really matter?
At the end of the day, the difference between settling for what life gives you and achieving what you want is the way you respond to each person and everything that you meet along life’s journey.
If you’re committed to the life in front of you, give it your best 24/7. If you’re not, begin to migrate towards something to which you are committed that will produce positive results for you, your business, your community, or the world.
Life is too short a game not to be played “full out.” You may never achieve what you set out to do, but if you set out to do what you plan to achieve, the world will be forever altered because of your daily contribution. Make it a purposeful day now for your world!
ABOUT VICTORIA MAVIS
Victoria Mavis is a speaker, author and human resource (HR) expert that is known for always “telling a story” to illustrate her experience from over 20 years in industries, such as hospitality, local government, manufacturing, medical services, non-profits, and retail. She skillfully guides clients to increased earnings by “rightsizing” HR administration, including the use of human capital and internet technology.
Victoria holds an MBA, is certified as a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR), and also certified as a Behavioral Specialist. She is a member of Rotary International, BNI, and other business, professional, and community organizations.
I talk with a lot of people who want to start a business “someday.” And as a result, I often think about the factors that determine which “someday” entrepreneurs will actually become business owners, and which will continue to say “I wish” for years to come.
Surprisingly, the ability to take the plunge has a lot less to do with people’s personalities, and a lot more to do with how accessible and familiar the experience of entrepreneurship is to them. Those who can picture themselves running a business often do. And those who continue to think of entrepreneurship as a big, scary thing that other people (perhaps more gregarious, sales-oriented, or risk-tolerant people) do tend to never move forward.
So, if you, too, dream of someday being your own boss, an important first step is just getting acquainted with the nature of the beast. Here are four things that will help you do just that.
1. Make New Friends
One of the best ways to learn what entrepreneurship is really like is by getting to know some entrepreneurs. Not necessarily the fancy, media darling types, but just normal, low-key people who work for themselves. To start, connect with entrepreneurs who match your own demographic—it helps you to start thinking “hey, if they can do it, so can I!” But be sure to branch out from there, and also to meet people in a wide variety of industries. There are lots of styles of entrepreneurship, so the more diversity you can experience, the better!
Move upMove down
If you don’t know any entrepreneurs, just start asking people to make some introductions. Or, join groups on LinkedIn or Facebook, and start paying attention to the discussions that are happening. Ask someone you find interesting to have coffee and take it from there. Pick their brain about useful resources, groups, or meetings, and see if they can introduce you to even more entrepreneurs.
2. Pick Some New Role Models
In addition to making some new pals, it’s important to identify role models who are a little more established in the business world. You might not be able to take them to coffee, but you can learn a lot by observing them and their companies from afar.
Select three brands or companies that you like and admire. Find as many ways to follow their leaders as possible—be it their blogs, articles, or Facebook profiles. Read their books if they have them. Read their press and interviews that they’ve done. Think about how their personalities and leadership styles have shaped the brands and the companies they run. Stay abreast of their company news, and take note of what they share about their own experience.
3. Fall in Love with Small Business as a Customer
There’s a certain romance to small business. As a customer, there’s always something more special about the experience. Sometimes it’s witnessing changes over the years, other times it’s the connection to the owner, others it’s the attention to detail that’s given to the product or service.
And there’s a lot to learn from that! So, in addition to making friends with entrepreneurs themselves, it’s important to also make relationships with some actual businesses. Think about the small businesses that you currently patronize, or the new start-ups whose products you love. What do you know about their owners or story? What are their goals and where are they going? What do they do that’s memorable, distinct, or unique? What do they do particularly well? Thinking about your own experiences as a customer will give you tons of insight into running your own show.
4. Demystify “Business” Speak
Most would-be entrepreneurs get scared off by the “business” side of things. They overestimate the skills and knowledge that are needed to run a business and assume that there are huge mountains to be climbed and learning curves to overcome before even getting started.
But it’s important to confront the monster under the bed—it’s not as hard as you might think, and you certainly don’t have to have an MBA to do it. Pick a small business magazine like Inc. or Fast Company and invest $15 to get a subscription. Peruse it each month, but feel free to read only what’s interesting to you. You’ll soon see how un-mysterious business can be. From behind-the-scenes business profiles to questions about how to handle particular challenges, you’ll begin to learn a lot about the experience of entrepreneurship.
As you start talking to people, expanding your reading list, and thinking more and more about the what it’s like to be an entrepreneur, you’ll soon see that it’s not as big and scary as you might think. And that “someday” will inch a little bit closer to today.
Adelaide Lancaster is an entrepreneur, consultant, speaker and co-author of The Big Enough Company: Creating a business that works for you (Portfolio/Penguin). She is also the co-founder of In Good Company Workplaces, a first-of-its-kind community, learning center and co-working space for women entrepreneurs in New York City. She is also a contributor to The Huffington Post and writes The Big Enough Company blog for Forbes.com. She lives in Philadelphia, PA with her husband and daughter. You can follow her on twitter here and here and on Facebook too.