Business Owner: Are You Able to Unplug?

stefan-spassov-hkN2Zde2ga4-unsplashWhen was the last time you truly unplugged? Whether it turning off your phone to go to lunch with an old friend or setting a true out of office and taking a family vacation, being able to leave technology – and work – behind is an important part of being an entrepreneur. After all, you didn’t go into business to have nothing more than a really demanding job, did you?

In our world, being able to unplug actually means two things: (1) can you walk away from your email, turn off your notifications and enjoy your life outside of work and (2) can you unplug from your role as a business owner to go on a vacation, care for a loved one or take a mental break? Being able to unplug in both of those ways –at least some of the time – can protect you from business owner burnout, keep you innovative and help you build much-needed systems into your business. But in order to truly unplug, we at The Growth Coach think you need three things: the right systems, the right staff and the right mindset.


Having the right systems in place separates the strong, happy business owners from the ones who find themselves stuck deep in the business every day. You can’t be out marketing, building and innovating your business if you’re also the lead technician and the end-all solution for every challenge. You need to build systems into your business that would allow your staff to run the company without you – and then trust them to do it. Building systems will help you unplug, but it will also help you step back from the day-to-day operations of the company.


Once you have your systems in place, take the time to find, train and appreciate quality staff members. You need leaders who can be trusted with the overall well being of your company and you need team members who can follow the systems you have put into place to keep the wheels turning while you’re gone. When you are ready to help those staff members develop professionally, The Growth Coach offers team building and strategic manager coaching.


Staying constantly connected to your business means you have the ability to maintain full control of every aspect of your business. Unfortunately, it also means you’re not learning to delegate and you’re heading toward major burnout. Your team shouldn’t have to call you to make normal, day-to-day business decisions, but that all starts with you being willing to give up some of that control, train your team and trust your staff to run the business. You can have all the systems and the best staff in the world, but if your mindset doesn’t allow you to accept that your business can live without you and that your team can handle it, you’ll never be able to unplug.

So whether you are setting down your phone to enjoy dinner with your family or jet setting to Europe, being able to unplug, both from technology and from your business, is an important part of building a strong company and a balanced life.

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Three Tips for Managing Personality Challenges


Don’t let challenging personalities negatively impact your company’s culture.

People are all wired differently and, in many cases, that wiring makes people good at their particular jobs. So what do you do when the challenges of one of your employees starts to create rifts in the team? And how do you help those people – who are sometimes top performers – be successful without negatively impacting the other people who work for you? Here are three tips to get you started:

Stop, Look and Listen

As a business owner or a manager, it’s easy to feel like you know your team or to know you have the answers, but whether you’re caught up in the day-to-day operations of your company (time to call a Growth Coach!) or you’re out of the office helping your company grow, the world you live in as a company leader is often not the world your employees know. When your gut – or your team members – tells you something is wrong, it’s time to stop, look and listen. Is the issue with a person or something else, like an operational policy or a schedule? If the issue is a person, take the time to look at everyone involved in the issue, listen to the challenges they are facing and work to create a solution that works for all of their different personality types. Once a potential solution is in place, be sure to check back in intermittently to make sure things are still running smoothly, especially if it’s a personnel issue. Remember that your team is the face of your business!

Find the Hidden Need

Often the people who are the most challenging have needs that aren’t being met – it’s as true for kids in school as it is for members of your team. Is that difficult person not feeling challenged, or appreciated, or like they are doing their best work? Are they just not meshing with the team or are they struggling with the work? In other cases, it might be simpler – could a different piece of equipment or software help them to be successful in their individual job? Knowing you have a great employee who just needs something a little different, and then taking action to fix the issue, can help you retain talent and improve your company culture.

Don’t Feed the Beast

It’s easy for leaders to praise their top performers or to notice the people who boast about their accomplishments, but it’s important to make sure that their success isn’t built on the backs of an unappreciated team or that they aren’t the only ones being recognized. Those top performers, often because of their performance-drive personalities, can be the most challenging to work with and constant praise can make your team bitter. As a leader, it’s important for you – or at least your managers – to have a finger on the pulse of your team overall so you can give credit where credit is due and help those with difficult personalities be successful without having a negative impact on your company’s morale.

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It’s OK to Say No (and How to Do it)

SayNoBeing able to say no is tough, especially when you’re a business owner. You want to be liked, you want the sale, you want happy employees, you want return customers… but never saying no will lead to major burnout. It’s important to understand both when to say no and how to say no.

Saying yes is easy as long as you can follow through on whatever you’ve agreed to, but everyone would rather get a no up front, than get a yes that turns into a no later on. It’s tough to say no, but before you say yes, slow down and think about how saying yes will impact you and the projects you are already working on. If saying yes is going to create challenges you aren’t willing to face, then it’s time to say no.

When you say no to something, remember that you are saying no to the request, not the person. It’s not that you never want to help in the future or that you don’t want to work with that person on other projects, it’s just that you can’t help with their particular request right now. Understanding what you are actually saying no to will help you communicate it most clearly. And, once you’ve decided to say no, it’s helpful to be polite and appreciative while still being firm and confident.

Sometimes a no is a hard no – a project you won’t undertake, a business trip you can’t go on, a speech you’re not willing to do – but sometimes a no is a soft no. It’s important to know the difference. Is your no something you’re ready to stand behind or would you be willing to come around to a yes if the circumstances change?

People are pushy, especially when they want your help, and they may adjust their request to get a yes. Prepare yourself for those changes in the original request: Can you say yes if the timeline changes? Can you say yes if another project comes off your plate? Can you say yes if you have help? Having those roadblocks to a yes identified in your mind will help you negotiate if necessary. And, if your no need to be a consistent hard no, it’s important to be OK with that.

If you need help creating priorities, setting boundaries and putting systems into place, your local Growth Coach can help:

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Three Ways to Stay Focused on Success

Focus“Work smarter, not harder.” It’s a common saying and we hear it all the time. It’s true – and some people have absolutely mastered it – but sometimes working smarter is challenging, especially when you’re a business owner with projects, requests and questions coming at you from every direction. Here are three tactics that, when used together, can help you work smarter and keep your focus on the success of your business.

Identify Priorities

While everyone might think their individual project or request is the most pressing, sometimes business owners have to set priorities and make those priorities clear. By working on too many things at once, you spread yourself too thin to be effective. By setting your priorities, communicating those with your team and staying focused on the most important priorities first, you can keep your focus and work more efficiently.

Stay on Task

This might sound like blasphemy but… it’s OK to turn off your email and close Facebook for a few hours. When you’re knee-deep in working on a project, even the small ‘bing’ from your email can be distracting enough to pull you out of the zone. To be more effective, set aside specific times to work on the projects in front of you so you can stay focused and stay on task. If your project is a larger, more time-consuming task, set timers and deadlines to allow yourself to work on that project in chunks rather than haphazardly throughout the day.

Delegate When You Can

Owning a business is a demanding career, but you can’t be in the weeds and on the outside planning, strategizing, brainstorming and innovating. Create systems and processes others can follow and then delegate to your team whenever you can. There are only so many hours in the day and, if you’re spending half your day on accounting or making widgets, you’re not out there growing your business and thinking about the future.

Having priorities, staying on task and delegating will not only help you improve your business, but it will also help get you out of the business so you can focus on future growth rather than the daily grind. If this is something you’re not sure how to do, your local Growth Coach can help:

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Being a Thankful Business Owner this Thanksgiving

ThanksgivingThanksgiving is a special time of year that inspires us to slow down and think about what we’re thankful for – whether it’s family, friends, good health, a comfortable place to live or something more personal. But if you’re a business owner, Thanksgiving is also a stressful time that’s on the bleeding edge of the holiday shopping season and the end of the year. As we approach the next Thanksgiving, we here at The Growth Coach encourage you to take some time away from your busy schedule, celebrate with your loved ones and be thankful. It’s time to Stop, Look and Listen.

Stop: We know this is probably one of your busiest times of the year, but taking a few hours to be with your family on Thanksgiving – even just to enjoy each other’s company – is important. You need to reset your emotional battery and, even if you procrastinate and are planning for Small Business Saturday, those few hours aren’t going to make or break your business. Plus, if you are able to recharge your battery, you’ll be even more prepared for the busy weekend ahead.

Look: Before you close up shop for the holiday, take a few minutes to look around and take stock of all the things your business gives you to be thankful for – whether that’s the ability to support your family, the great team you’ve built or even, hopefully, the fact that you don’t have to spend every day at a job you hate. If there are people who deserve a little extra appreciation on Thanksgiving – and throughout the year – take a minute to do that too. It’s worth the time.

Listen: When you are home with your loved ones, really listen to them. Turn off your email notifications, put your phone on silent, avoid Facebook and really soak in that time you get to spend with the ones you care about the most. When you’re a business owner – especially when you’re starting out – life can be especially busy. Thanksgiving is the perfect time to slow down and enjoy life.

Repeat: Thanksgiving is a great time to slow down and be thankful, but make time for your loved ones isn’t a 1-day-out-of-365 job. Look at your calendar and schedule other times when you can clock out and reset that emotional batter.

If you can’t take a break from your business this holiday or if those few hours really are make or break, it’s time to talk to your local Growth Coach. We’d be willing to bet you didn’t get into business because you wanted a really demanding job. Find your coach:

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Social Responsibility: Supporting the Right Cause


Social responsibility in business has become an important business trend across America, especially as employees and customers continue to raise their expectations around the companies they choose to work for and support. So how do you, as a business owner, find ways for your company to be socially responsible?

The first step is to choose a cause. Think about the kind of mission you would like your business to support and consider how that mission aligns with your business. There doesn’t have to be a direct alignment, but when it comes time to give back, having a more direct connection can be helpful. For example, if you own a restaurant, it might make more sense to support a food bank than an animal rescue organization.

Once you’ve chosen a general cause (or two), put together a list of non-profit organizations in your community that you could partner with to support that cause. Make sure they are reputable and that they could benefit from the time, talent and treasure you bring to the table. When you’ve narrowed that list down to three or four organizations, contact each of those organizations for more information on how you could get involved without making any promises. Once you have a few examples of the kind of volunteering or fundraising you’d be doing for each of those organizations, let your staff vote on which one you choose.

When the votes are in, reach back out to the organization your staff chose to let them know they’ve been selected and to see what kinds of projects or efforts your company can be involved in over the six few months. Talk through your expectations and see what that organization expects from you and your team. Get volunteer opportunities on the calendar while the partnership is still fresh, discuss possible fundraising or sponsorship opportunities, etc.

Communicate the partnership back to your team and share the opportunities they will have to be involved. If at all possible, schedule volunteer time during the work day. Yes, it will cost you in productivity, but it will pay dividends in morale and, eventually, in sales.

Share the story without selling it. The perception that a company is socially responsible often starts with social media. Post photos of your team – in their company shirts – at the food bank, share event posts with your sponsorship information attached, encourage the community to support the same cause… but never use any of these things as a platform for direct marketing. Let the community see what kind of company you own and let your customers and employees make their own assertions.

One of the biggest mistakes small business owner make when it comes to social responsibility is thinking the work is ever complete. You can pat yourself on the back for volunteering at the holiday food bank in the 10-degree weather, but don’t forget to sign up to help with their spring clean-up or sponsor their next fun run. Consistency is key.

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Four Steps to Building Business Relationships


Building strong relationships is an important part of the success of any business, but when you’re a new business owner – or when you’re not an extrovert – knowing how to get started can be challenging. While relationships are complex and every relationship is unique, here are the four basic steps to creating, fostering and maintaining business relationships.

Meet: Being an entrepreneur can be lonely and isolating, especially when you don’t have a network of professionals to help you along the way. The first step to building business relationships is to find the people you want to build business relationships with and meet them. Even if it’s not your cup of tea, going to networking events, chamber of commerce events and other business gatherings can be a good place to start. If you have your eye on someone particular, try asking a mutual connection (either in person or on a site like LinkedIn) to help you with an introduction.

Partner: Business relationships have to be true partnerships – we’re not talking about mentors here. Once the pleasantries are out of the way, talk about why you want a business relationship with this person and what the benefit to both parties might be. Is this a referral partnership? If so, why should that person trust their business reputation to you? What can you offer in return? Partnerships are two-way streets and you have to be ready to meet in the middle and prove your worth, especially if you’re new to the industry.

Build: This is where the rubber meets the road. Once a relationship has been established – either formally or not – it’s up to you to build that relationship. Send referrals their way. Introduce them to people who might help them grow their business. Do what you can do foster the relationship as much as possible. If you were the one who initiated this relationship, the ball is in your court to build it when you can without being too pushy or forward.

Maintain: Like any relationship, a business relationship takes commitment and energy. You don’t want to spend all that time fostering a relationship with another business leader just to let things wane, but it’s also important to remember that the people you have relationships with are busy too. Find ways to stay connected without taking up too much time – put a note in your calendar reminding you to send that person an email or ask them to meet for coffee.

If you need help finding ways to connect with other business owners or even marketing yourself as a good partner, your local Growth Coach can help:

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Planning Small Breaks Can Help You Avoid Burnout

SmallBreaksBusiness owner burnout is an epidemic. Our society values entrepreneurs and business leaders who work tirelessly to build success, but working 80 hours a week, never seeing your family and never having a free second without feeling on call is exhausting. There are articles all over the internet – including this blog – about the importance of taking vacations, making sure your staff can run the business without you, etc., but sometimes finding that right time to leave town is tough, especially in the early days of building your business.

That’s why this time we want to talk about something a little more simple – setting aside time for yourself and for your family without spending a week on the beach.

Take out your calendar… Are there days when you can head into the office a little later and spend an extra hour reading on the patio? Could you take a long lunch to get a pedicure? Is there a weekend you could go camping without being on call? Could you take a day off to surprise your kids with a trip to the zoo? Could you and your significant other spend a couple of nights in the city without worrying about the business?

If the answer is yes, then while you have your calendar out, book those appointments with yourself and stick to them. Don’t reschedule if you don’t absolutely have to and don’t feel guilty about taking the time you need to take care of yourself and be with your family. You didn’t launch a business to have a really demanding job – you launched a business to be a business owner.

If the answer is no, then it’s time for a change. We are just asking for you to think about small breaks – not long vacations. And if you can’t even take a small break, then what happens if you win a trip to Jamaica or you have a medical emergency? It’s time to put systems and staff members into place that can help you take a step back so you can work ON the business instead of IN the business. Your local Growth Coach can help:

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Finding the Right Mentor

MentorSometimes mentorships come naturally and without a lot of forethought – like when a manager takes you under his or her wing and helps you with your personal and professional growth. But sometimes, especially when you’re trying to grow a business or break into something new, you have to work to find, and recruit, the right mentor.

The key to finding a great mentor is research. You need to find someone you’d want to be like in the future or who has successfully walked the career path you have in front of you now. Just like preparing for a job interview by learning about the company, you need to do your homework about the person you want to mentor you before the introduction.

Once you’ve found that person and you’ve done your research, reach out to them! Never assume someone is too busy – even the busiest people will take the time to mentor someone if they see the value and they feel a connection. Start by making an introduction and asking to meet for coffee, but keep the meeting short. Come with questions that you’re not afraid to ask.

After that initial meeting, show your appreciation with a heartfelt thank you note and, if you’re not already connected on LinkedIn, send a connection invite ASAP. Also, if the person you want to mentor you offered any advice or insight based on your questions, follow up soon to let them know you took their advice and how things went. No one wants to feel like their time has been wasted, so this is a good way to show that you value what they bring to the table and that you are worth the energy.

At this point you have a decision to make… do you want this person to mentor you? You’ve put in the work, you had a great first meeting and you’ve shown that you are worth the investment, but it’s still OK to walk away with that one coffee meeting under your belt. You’ve made a great connection and that’s worth it.

If you do want to continue the relationship, then it’s time to make the ask! This 2018 article from MarketWatch has some great advice on moving forward:

If you’re looking for someone to offer more practical, immediate advice on growing your business, that’s work for a business coach rather than a mentor. Find your local Growth Coach online at

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Worrying About the Competition Can Help You Make Your Business Better

Competition can be scary. Whether you’re worried about a rival store opening down the street or you’re in an emerging industry watching other start-ups launch with a new twist, it’s hard to make sure you’re in the lead. But while competition might be stressful, it can also help you make your business better.

Even if you don’t have any direct competition today, thinking about what that competition might bring to your market is a great way to stay on top of your game. What are you doing to continuously improve your business? What keeps your customers coming back? What makes you unique? If someone did open a rival shop, what would they offer? Is that something you could offer without sacrificing your current business strengths?

If you own a business and you haven’t had time to ask these big picture questions, chances are good that you are working IN your business instead of ON your business. Let this be your wake-up call! You have to get out of the day-to-day operations of business to be able to think strategically – and that starts with having systems and a team you can trust to run the business and handle operations without involving you in every decision. This is something your local Growth Coach can help you work through.

Once you’re able to step back and see the big picture of your business, start looking for your company’s weaknesses, strengths and opportunities.

Weaknesses: It’s hard to talk about the things that are holding you (or your business) back. From customer service problems to bad online reviews to sub-par products, finding the things that are keeping you from building a loyal customer base or bringing in new customers is the first step in addressing your weaknesses. Start by reading the online reviews of your business, talking to your staff, observing the operations of the business from afar and, if possible, talking to or surveying your customers. Once you identify the issues, build a plan for making improvements and be patient – change takes time.

Strengths: As you focus on improving those weaknesses it’s easy to lose sight of your strengths. Don’t spread yourself or your staff too thin to keep doing whatever it is you do best. If you have the best cold brew in town, don’t sacrifice it to spend time making better lattes. Find ways to do both, even if it’s a gradual change. Or, if you can’t make better lattes, don’t sell them at all. Your current loyal customers likely keep coming back for whatever it is you do best and it’s important to keep them happy.

Opportunities: Predicting the competition can be tough, but as you work toward continuous improvement, it’s important to anticipate the needs of your customers and research what your competition might be looking to offer next. You can’t be the first to do everything, but staying on top of industry trends and making sure you’re pursuing the opportunities that make sense can help you stay relevant. Remember to talk to your staff frequently – they often have their ears closer to the ground that you do!

Helping your business be its best starts with being able to step back and look at your business without getting pulled into the day-to-day operations. If you need help getting there, The Growth Coach can help. Find your local coach online at

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