How are those 2020 Goals Coming?

Time is funny. In some ways, 2020 seems to have lasted a lifetime. In other ways, many of us aren’t sure what even happened to the summer. But whether you’re still clinging to your shorts or have been wearing boots since Labor Day, the fact is that it’s October and we have only two months left in the year.

You read that right, but we’ll repeat it again for those in the back. If you own or manage a business, that means you only have two months left to reach your 2020 goals.

We know what you’re thinking… this year has been a complete curveball, how can we possibly reach the goals we set back last December? Here’s the reality: COVID-19 aside, there have always been rough years for business owners and managers. Industries ebb and flow. People get sick. Supply chains get disrupted. Consumer needs change. Sure, the goals you set in December might be unrealistic at this point, but that doesn’t mean you can’t finish 2020 strong.

First, when was the last time you actually looked at those goals? If you updated them this summer with all the information at hand, then you’re probably in decent shape, but if you put them in your desk in mid-March and left them behind, you might have some soul searching to do. As you are looking at those goals again, think about ways you can celebrate the progress you were able to make in 2020 and the way your business fought to survive. Maybe you were originally hoping for a 10 percent growth in in-person sales – which might not have happened – but were you able to grow at all? Did some of those sales pivot to online?

Next think about the challenges you and your team overcame as you worked toward those goals during an unprecedented time. If you found your shop closed for months or your capacity significantly limited, what did you do super serve your customers? If you moved to online sales, is that something you’ll continue? Should it be a focus for 2021? What challenges were you unable to meet and how did that keep your business going? Assuming the pandemic continues, what do you need to do moving forward?

With 20/20 hindsight, next look back at the last six months. What worked and what didn’t? What do you wish you did differently? What would you change if you could do it again (other than buy hand sanitizer and toilet paper)? How has this experience made you and your team more agile? How can that positively impact your business moving forward?

Finally, as you think about the next two months, create a strategy for either meeting your existing goals or creating and then meeting a new set of smaller goals. Being able to set and reach even smaller milestones really change your mindset and help motivate your team as you reflect on 2020 and plan for 2021.

While this time of the year is often filled with suggestions about goal setting for the new year, it’s important for everyone to recognize that there’s still time in 2020 to make great strides and do great things. Don’t sell yourself short by looking too far in the future because, if 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that we never truly know what tomorrow will bring. 

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Motivate Yourself with To-Do Lists

In the age of digital everything, we all have a little bit of shiny ball syndrome. New emails are constantly pinging, texts come in at virtually all hours of the day and Zoom meetings are just so easy to schedule. But when you’re constantly changing your focus, it’s easy to lose sight of your goals and stay on track. So what can you do? It’s easy – pull out a classic pen and paper to-do list.

Organization: First of all, and this is obvious, but making to-do lists or bullet journaling can help you keep track of the things you need to do, whether they are today, next week or next month. You can either have a running diary list or use a calendar, but you have to physically write down what needs to be done – with notes – and preferably not in a digital way. While having digital notes is helpful and mobile, they are also easily deleted or moved, meaning they are more challenging to use for the next two steps. More importantly, having a to-do list frees up space in your conscious thought to do bigger, better things rather than think about sending that email this afternoon. Take it out of your mind, put it on your list and get it done as you go through your day.

Dopamine: When you are able to physically cross an item off your to-do list, your brain releases dopamine, the neurotransmitter that helps you feel happy and accomplished, which in turn keeps you motivated so you can get even more done. While to-do lists can include big items, like grow a business by five percent, they are more effective if you still to the daily, weekly or monthly tasks at hand that live under those larger goals instead of focusing on the goal itself. Even on rough days, if you can put together a list of micro-tasks that you can get done on a given day and then check those items off one-by-one, we can promise you’ll feel better and, tomorrow, you’ll be able to work toward your goals.

Tracking: The Growth Coach is big on accountability – to yourself, to your coach, to your mentors and to your peers. Having a to-do list that doesn’t get deleted at the end of the day, like one that lives on a calendar, allows you to take the time to reflect on what you were able to accomplish – or not finish – over the course of the year. Having a calendar-style to-do list also allows you to easily see which day-to-day tasks are costing you the most time and which ones could be delegated to allow you to focus on business growth.

If you are having trouble managing your time or you realize that your time is not being spent effectively, your local Growth Coach can help: https://www.thegrowthcoach.com/find-a-coach.

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Enjoying the Roller Coaster of Business Starts with Staying on the Ride

Owning a business is always a roller coaster. If you push forward, there will be hair-flying-back, screaming in excitement moments, but there are also a LOT of hills to climb first and, let’s face it, along the way. From the first lift hill with the anticipation of a big drop, to the little stomach-dropping bumps in the middle, to the slowing hill pulling back into the station, those climbs help define what makes a coaster a hallmark thrill ride.

But what if you never made it through the first lift? What if, half way up, the chain lift decided pulling your car up the track was just too hard? What if you were in that first car, hanging over the edge and the operator had to pull the emergency switch to stop the ride?

Spoiler alert. You’d be back working for someone else.

If you want to be able to enjoy the roller coaster of owning a business, you have to have persistence. You have to know that there will be great – and terrible – days ahead and then plan, address, recover and push forward accordingly. You have to be able to see the fun in your future and to swallow your fear as you climb that first hill, even when it’s really tough. This comes down to something you’ve heard from us time and time again: Mindset. Check out this blog for more on that.

Of course persistence doesn’t stop with the hills – you also need it to get through the vertical drops and loops. Even when times are great and you’re barreling forward with no stops in your future, you have to have the growth mindset to focus on strategy, growth, systems, marketing and all the things that will keep you moving forward when you reach the next hill.

Just remember that you don’t have to ride the roller coaster alone – even the most dedicated thrill seekers travel with buddies! If you could use someone to help you on your journey, it might be time to find your local Growth Coach: https://www.thegrowthcoach.com/find-a-coach.

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Three Ways Business Owners Can Support their Communities

Whether your business has 10 employees or 10,000 employees, most business owners can say this: 2020 has been tough. From the operational changes brought on by COVID-19, to the downturn in the economy to broken supply chains, even the most successful businesses have had their own share of challenges. But one thing is the same across all businesses in all industries – supporting your community has never been more important.

Not every business is able to support their community in the same way, but here are three things you can do to make a difference, no matter the size of your business, your specific industry or even your individual community:

Support Your Team

Your employees are part of your community and you can make their lives, your community and your business better by supporting them. Depending on the needs of your business, that might mean allowing your employees to shift their hours to care for their children, scheduling regular check in calls to make sure they have the structure they need from you, watching for signs of struggle and helping where you can, etc. If you have a larger business, this obviously means you need to train and empower your leaders to do this for you. There’s a fine line between providing top-notch support and micromanaging. Just remember that your employees are human and they are facing the same struggles you are facing.

Give Back

Supporting your community is the right thing to do, but it can also pay off in terms of employee engagement, retention and business growth. From small things like sponsoring a little league team or volunteering or collecting donations for a food bank to larger donations or volunteer events, being part of your community means supporting your community. If you’re not sure what direction to go with this, poll your team! They are part of the community and they might see needs you haven’t even considered supporting.

Grow

New jobs. New tax dollars. Higher incomes. When your business grows, your community grows. By finding ways to grow – and sometimes pivot – your business, your community wins too. This is especially true if you keep the jobs local, source local products (when applicable) and work with local partners through a sustainable growth plan and systems.

If you need help with any (or all) of these initiatives, your local Growth Coach can help: https://www.thegrowthcoach.com/find-a-coach.

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Don’t Let Your Mindset Hold You Back

Mindset“Empty pockets never held anyone back. Only empty heads and empty hearts can do that.” – Norman Vincent Peale, author of The Power of Positive Thinking

At The Growth Coach, there’s one word that’s more important than the rest. It’s not strategy, money, success, growth or leadership. It’s something far more important.

Mindset.

And like Peale said back before he passed in 1993, being in the right headspace and having a glass-half-full perspective on the challenges you’re facing can help you overcome fear, find success and build something great. Even the darkest days have silver linings.

While we work mostly with business owners and company leaders, mindset is something everyone should consider. When was the last time you thought about approaching your manager about a promotion or a raise and then changed your mind? Have you been thinking about applying for a new job, but haven’t? Have you thought about opening your own business only to convince yourself that now isn’t the right time? Be honest with yourself for a minute… is it fear that’s holding you back?

If so – and we bet it is, even if you don’t want to admit it – then it’s time to learn about combating those fears with the right mindset.

First of all, focus on the good. As they say, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. From the minute your alarm clock goes off, you choose how you approach the day, even if you know it’s going to be a tough one. When you find yourself pulled down by the darkness, find the light and cling to it. For example, getting a root canal can really bring down your day, but if you think about how you are preserving the health of your smile – and maybe even taking the time to realize they are playing your favorite song on the radio in the office – you can get through that appointment with a positive outlook. The same can be true for your business. Find the things about your situation that are good and focus on them as you push forward.

No one is perfect. No one. Ever. We all make mistakes. Hopefully most of those mistakes are small and fixable, but every mistake can be a learning opportunity. This can be tricky because, while it’s important not to dwell on your mistakes and throw a pity party, it is important to analyze what you did wrong, how you can move forward and how you can use that mistake to do it better next time. Learning from your mistakes takes a little self-reflection and humility. If you’re struggling to make it right, we’d recommend talking to a mentor or coach.

If you spend your days dwelling on the past or focusing only on your five-year plan, you’re going to have blindspots. You can use the COVID-19 pandemic as an example of why living in the present is critical. Consider for a moment that you had a great dine-in restaurant but it was just breaking even. If you are only thinking about the past, your desire to preserve your mission or super-serve your current customers may have help you from realizing you needed to set up curbside pickup or consider a delivery service until weeks after the initial closures. Likewise, if you’re only concerning yourself with becoming the next five-star restaurant, chances are good that you were slow to react and temporarily change your menu as needed to accommodate takeout. Living in the present allows you to be proactive and flexible as you seize opportunities and meet challenges.

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It’s Not about Your Style – It’s about Your Plan

PlanningNot every business owner or company leader is a planner by nature – it’s a fact of life that we are all wired differently. But whether you call yourself an INTJ, a South, an 8w7 or any of the other many, many personality types, everyone  can learn to step back, see the challenges and opportunities at hand, and create a plan to reach (and hopefully exceed) your goals. Great entrepreneurs with leadership styles across the map and personalities from here to Sunday can do it and so can you.

Here are three steps to help you create a plan, for business and for life:

Step Back: This sounds easy, but for business leaders and company leaders emotionally tied to their business, their team or their mission, detaching to see the big picture can be extremely difficult. That gets even more difficult if the owner or leader is also the company’s main technician (which is a discussion for another day). We’ve found that taking a step back really starts with getting into the right mindset and finding perspective. Take a little time off, unplug, thinks about the goals you have for your business and your life, assess how you’re doing toward meeting those goals, and think about the challenges and opportunities you have before you. If everything is on point, then great! You’re ready to focus on a plan that puts your success into fast forward. If things are a little rocky or the weaknesses are easy to spot, then that’s where your plan for improvement should start.

Get Feedback: Being at the top of a business – whether you have 2 employees or 2,000 employees – is lonely. Don’t let the “big picture” you came up with while you were stepping back turn into a ball of big ideas that gets lost in a vacuum. Take the time to meet with a mentor, a coach, a friend or someone else who doesn’t have direct involvement in your business to talk through what’s on your mind and take honest, open feedback. Be an active listener. Once you have your ideas fleshed out, work through the details with your leadership team before you create a more firm plan.

The Plan: Once you have your ideas fleshed out and the feedback you need to make big decisions and take massive action… do it. Don’t let fear keep you from turning your good business into a great business. Not everything you put into a plan will come to fruition and, of course, you’ll have to make changes along the way, but without a plan, you and your leadership team are focused solely on staying afloat than you are on being successful. Once you have a plan built, start back at the beginning, take a step back, take an objective look at what you’ve created, get the feedback you need, adjust as needed… and then GO!

Those steps all said, there are three words you’ll want to keep at the forefront of your plan – flexible, pivot and mentor. If the pandemic of 2020 has taught up anything, it’s that the best made plans sometimes have to be thrown to the wind. Remember that, while your plan should be your guiding light, sometimes things have to change. If you need help detaching your emotions from your business, stepping back to see the opportunities and the challenges, taking action on your plan or more, your local Growth Coach can help: https://www.thegrowthcoach.com/find-a-coach.

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Six Steps to a Successful Workshop

At The Growth Coach, our coaches do quite a few workshops around the world. And whether they are working with C-Suite business leaders or facilitating a teamwork session, they keys to a successful workshop are the same. Assuming your materials are in place and you know the content of your presentation, here are six ways you can wow at your next workshops:

Understand Your Audience

It’s easy to figure out who, generally, you are presenting to or working with at a workshop – executives, employees at a company, a group of managers, a small business network – but taking it a level deeper can make a real difference when it comes to working through your materials.

Assuming you have access to the names of your participants and the group is small enough, do some reconnaissance ahead of time. Look up your attendees on LinkedIn, research their companies, consider your first impressions and take notes. While this additional research will certainly help with discussions, it will help you build trust and have a warmer start to your workshop.

Set Your Goals

This one is tricky because it’s actually much more than setting your goals – it’s really about taking a step back, considering why each participant is coming to the workshop and then setting goals that are in line with what they are expecting to walk away with at the end of the day. In most cases, a workshop is more intensive than a keynote, so it’s should be more hands-on activities and learning than presentations and slideshows. Take a step back and ask yourself how your workshop is built around helping your participants meet their goals. If you’d done this presentation before, be sure to consider any feedback you’ve received previously and make adjustments if they make sense.

Create – and Stick to – an Agenda

An agenda might seem like something more relevant to a meeting, but when participants understand what to expect and can plan the day in their own minds, everyone is more likely to be on point throughout the workshop. For example, if you know you run out of coffee at 9:30am and there’s a coffee break slated at 10am, you can probably get through 30 minutes without leaving the workshop for more coffee. The same is true for email checks, bathroom breaks, lunch and even the end of the day. Setting an agenda is really about setting expectations and letting everyone know what to expect throughout the day. It also, of course, can help you keep track of time as well.

Build Trust

OK – we’ll say it – almost everyone dreads an icebreaker. But are they terrible because the activities are lame or because we don’t really want to open up to someone we don’t know? Icebreakers continue to be a go-to activity because they work. That said, we wouldn’t advise that you spend an hour of your day warming up the room and helping people get to know each other. We’d suggest that you have everyone do an official check-in, where they introduce themselves and talk about their personal goals for the workshop, and then do a quick icebreaker. By the way, if you’re going to build trust, you have to participate too!

Once the proverbial ice is broken, take some time to talk through your background, what makes you an expert, what you are hoping each participant will get out of the workshop and what’s on the agenda. Be sure to present yourself as the facilitator of the workshop, not necessary the leader.

Encourage Conversation and Documentation

Even people who hate talking in class will probably tell you that a class discussion is more helpful than a PowerPoint presentation. A workshop is supposed to be an engaging and educational activity – a 1 to 1 experience, not a 1 to many keynote. While some people might be excited to be part of discussion, as the facilitator, you might need to help encourage that conversation.

Also, whether you bring everyone a notebook, put activities onto worksheets or just give people time to take notes, it’s impossible to expect people to remember everything. Offer them the highlights either in a printed document or a follow-up email and encourage them to write down the things that might be helpful to have later.

Assess and Follow Up

Before you send your participants out the door, ask them to take a quick survey and then ask questions that will help you improve. For example, you can ask people how, on a scale of 1 to 10, they think the workshop went, but other than a batch of hopefully high numbers, you don’t have much to work with for your next presentation. Ask for things like, “What was your favorite part and why?” “What do you think you’ll use the most and why?” or “How could I improve for the next workshop?” It might be difficult to accept negative feedback, but it’s vital to make note of what you could be doing differently.

A few days after the workshop, if you have their contact information, at least email your participants to thank them for coming to your workshop and to solicit any additional feedback. If you have additional professional development opportunities – in person, online or through another avenue – or follow-up materials, this is a good time to make those connections as well.

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Being a Great Business Leader Starts with Being a Solid Communicator

While not every great entrepreneur is a great communicator, communication skills certainly come in handy in the board room, the break room and everywhere in between and, if you want to be a top-notch business leader – not just the ideas person – it starts with communications.

If being a great communicator isn’t in your genes, you can learn the skills. Here are three things to keep in mind as you move forward:

Actively Listen: To be a good communicator, you have to be an active listener. Actively listening and engaging in the conversation builds trust and respect. It also will help you truly understand the person, situation or need that’s being discussed, which will help you make better decisions and avoid miscommunication. So how to do you actively listen? Set down your phone, ignore your smart watch, stop looking at the clock and focus on what the other person is saying. If you are 100 percent committed to the conversation and actively listening, it will benefit you, the person you’re talking to, their team and, in many cases, the company, especially if you’re trying to diffuse a conflict or remedy a situation.

Observe: Chance are good that you’ve read – or sent – an email that wasn’t received the way it was intended. Why? There’s no inflection or body language in an email. Observing a person’s body language and facial expressions will help you figure out how you need you package your message, the inflection you need to use, the body language and facial expressions you need to be using and more. Humans are complex creatures and a true conversation is about much more than words. To be a good communicator, you need to be able to observe.

Ask Questions: Asking questions is important both for you and the person you’re talking to. Firstly, when you ask good, quality questions, you’re showing the person you’re talking to that you are actively listening and that you truly have an interest in what is being said. Whether you’re talking through a staff conflict or listening to report at a staff meeting, asking questions is vital. Also, when you ask questions, you might find that you’re able to learn new things about what your leadership or employees are doing, what projects are in the hopper and how you can help. Great conversations with good questions often inspire innovation and progress!

These three tips are just the start of the communications journey, but they will help you connect and build stronger communication skills. If you could use additional guidance, your local Growth Coach can help: https://www.thegrowthcoach.com/find-a-coach.

 

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What’s Your Recipe for Business Success?

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Almost everyone has had a pizza. Most pizzas have the basics – crust, sauce, cheese and toppings – but it’s how you make those basics, the ingredients you put into them and the way you serve it to your customers that makes the difference. Some pizza is great and some pizza is terrible, but most pizza is just OK. It’s enjoyable and filling, but it’s usually not memorable.

In many ways, a business is like a pizza – you have a product or service, your business systems, your employees and your business leadership. But if all businesses start with the same nuts and bolts, what makes a business great?

First of all, you have to start with great ingredients. If you’re putting all your energy and investment into the crust, but your toppings are gross, your customers may never take a bite. Likewise, you can’t present your customers with a beautiful slice of pizza that tastes terrible. You have to have great ingredients in every element of your pizza or you’ll end up with a mediocre experience. Think about that in a business sense – if you have a great product, but your business isn’t operating smoothly, you won’t be successful.

Secondly, you have to pair the right ingredients together. You can have an amazing thin crust, but if you try to top it Chicago style, it’s going to fall apart. When you think about your business systems and you’re building your employee team and your leadership team, you have to find people who can work well together and then provide the team building and leadership training to help them be their very best. The right ingredients with the right pairing can make even a simple cheese pizza an amazing experience.

Once you have the right ingredients and the right pairings, you still have to actually cook the pizza efficiently and consistently for every customer. What systems do you have in place to help your business get those five-star reviews? Does every employee know how the pizza gets made and are enough people cross-trained to help if you get really busy? Have you documented how much of each ingredient to put on the pizza, how high to heat the oven and how long to bake each size pizza? Systems help your business operate smoothly and, in the end, can help you grow.

Finally, you have to right delivery drivers or servers for your pizzas. The best pizza chef in the world might not be the person you want handing pizzas to your new customers. It’s important to give the customers not only the best pizzas of their lives – but also the best dining experience of their lives – if you want to build a truly great pizza company.

Yes, you might have to charge more for your pizza in order to make all these things come together and, no, it won’t happen overnight, but when you think about your business as a pizza, would you eat it? Or would you send it back? Would you post a photo of your best slice on Instagram? Or let it linger in the box?

If you need help solidifying your business systems, building your team, training your leadership or setting a higher standard for your products, services or customer service, The Growth Coach can help. Find your local coach at https://www.thegrowthcoach.com/find-a-coach.

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Cancelling Your Trip? Don’t Cancel Your Vacation

willian-justen-de-vasconcellos-D8XCVSn5L1I-unsplashWhether your flights are cancelled, the city you were going to travel to has been hit hard with COVID-19, the economy has you worried or you’re staying home to care for your loved ones, lots of people are cancelling their vacations this summer. But just because you might be having a stay-cation in 2020 – and even if you’ve been home for months at this point – do not cancel your time off. As a business owner or entrepreneur, taking a break is more important than ever.

We know a trip to the beach doesn’t take much convincing and it’s more simple to be checked out when you’re physically gone, but it’s easy to stay logged in, accessible and even working full-time during a scheduled vacation when you’re just hanging out at home. We are here to tell you to STOP. When you are done reading this blog, put down your phone and go play with the kids. Walk away from your computer and go for a walk. Close your study door break out the fire pit tonight. You deserve it and you need it, especially this year and especially if you’re not going out of town.

There are two sides to this coin – you need a break from your business and your business needs a break from you.

First of all, you need a break from your business. When was the last time you went a full day without checking your emails? When were you able to send your non-emergency calls to voicemail without worrying? Even if you’re lounging on the couch, if you’re working, then you’re working. That means you’re not giving your brain time to re-energize and you’re not going to be your best, most creative and most innovative self, which can lead to business owner burnout.

Before you take this vacation time, whether it’s a few days or a week or longer, try making one of your trusted team members your emergency contact and then setting your out of office. While you hopefully have systems in place so your team can run your business in your absence, if you set an emergency contact, you won’t feel obligated to check any voicemails or texts from anyone other than that one person.

Then, while you are on vacation, try to actually RELAX. Your brain, your body, your creativity, your innovation and your family depend on your ability to check out.

Also, remember that your business needs a break from you too. If you are always in charge, making every decision and not trusting anyone on your team to lead in your stead, then you aren’t giving your team or your business the best opportunity to grow. You should be out in the community making connections, thinking about the next growth opportunity, building better systems and more. If you are chained to the daily operations of your business, you, your business and your team are stifled. Preparing for a vacation is a chance to build systems – and trust – that can help your business be more successful in the future.

So whether your vacation is taking you to the beach, the mountains or your backyard, keep it on your schedule and don’t waste it. You need it and your business needs it.

If you feel like your business struggles to thrive without you, your Growth Coach can help you build those systems. Find your local coach at https://www.thegrowthcoach.com/find-a-coach.

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