Financial Planning for the Rest of an Uncertain Year

Strong finances are a foundational keystone for any business, but getting the numbers in order after a crazy 2020 while preparing for an uncertain 2021 can seem overwhelming. But do you know what’s even more overwhelming? Having no plan at all.

Financial planning basically comes down to three basic steps: Crunch, Budget and Plan.

First of all, even if 2020 wasn’t your best year, you have to know where you stand. If you’ve been avoiding crunching those numbers because it gives you anxiety, this is your wake-up call! Schedule time with yourself to crunch those 2020 numbers, compare your income and expenses, identify your biggest challenges and successes and put all of that data into a document you can refer to later and, ideally, update throughout the year.

Secondly, once you have those numbers boiled down to something you can work with, it’s time to do some classic budgeting. How does your income compare with your expenses? If you have data going back a few years, how did last year compare? From there, you can create a budget that works for your business, your team, your customers and your bottom line. We do have one warning: some businesses fared especially well because they were essential in 2020 or created a much-needed product. If that situation has changed in the last year, don’t budget off your 2020 income alone!

Thirdly, the world is still an uncertain place, but you have to be to plan – at least to some degree. What are your ongoing expenses? Do you have large capital expenses coming this year? How will your income continue to be impacted by the pandemic? Are there incremental changes you can make to improve your business throughout 2021 without taking any major risks or making large investments?

Financial planning is challenging and working with an accountant and a Growth Coach can certainly make a difference, but as a business owner you have to be willing to see the clear picture, budget according and plan for the future. Without those three steps – and an eye toward achieving your business goals – you’ll keep spinning your wheels for the rest of 2021.

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Four Ways to Better Manage Your Time

We are all given the same amount of hours in a day, so making the most of that time really matters. If you want to preserve your relationships, spend more time with your kids, take more vacations and generally enjoy being a business owner, but you find yourself stuck working way more than you’d planned, it’s time for a change.

First we have to start with a disclaimer: If you are working 80 hours a week, it’s time to hire staff, train great managers, put systems into place and delegate. We can help you address that with our Strategic Business Owner program. That’s not about time management – it’s about business structure.

However, if you have those support systems in place, but you’re struggling with your to-do list, finding yourself less to be less productive than you’d planned or watching those hours slip through your fingers like sand at the beach, we have a few tips that can help:

Front Load Your Day: Whether you start your work day at 6am or 9am, start your day with your hardest and most crucial tasks. The most difficult tasks require the most energy and focus, so you’ll do them faster and more efficiently at the beginning of the day. Also, once you have those tasks complete, the sense of relief will power you through and keep you motivated as the day wears on.

Turn off Your Email: We know it feels impossible, but even committing to only checking your email once per hour means you avoid interruptions for at least 45 minutes at a time. Back in the day, if you needed time to focus, you would have closed your office door. This is basically the same idea. People have come to expect nearly-immediate communication, but an hour isn’t that long to wait and it can make a big impact on your day.

Schedule Meetings with Yourself: Whether you need a half day to review your annual goals or you need an hour to take a walk and brainstorm, schedule those meetings with yourself. Having that time booked – and committing to taking those meetings with yourself – can help keep you on track to meet your goals. Here’s a tip: when you are planning out goals, whether they are 90-day goals or annual ones, schedule monthly meetings with yourself to review, evaluate and adjust your approach to exceeding those goals. Time moves quickly, but if we preplan to stop and reflect, that evaluation is more likely to happen.

Organize: There is a delicate balance when it comes to organization, but having a system that works for you is important. For some people, that means using your calendar or a project tracking software to help manage meetings, recurring tasks and projects and then categorizing those items by urgency and importance. For others, it means having immediate, short-term and long-term goals that are broken down into individual to-do lists. However you organize, making sure it happens can save you time, keep you on track and make you more accountable for your successes and challenges.

If you’re struggling to manage your time, your local Growth Coach can help you by pairing our Growth Coach services with our Smart Time Management training. Find your coach at https://www.thegrowthcoach.com/find-a-coach.

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Using Short-Term Goals to Overcome Anxiety

While 2020 is in the rear-view mirror, the world is far from right-side up. And with uncertainty comes anxiety, especially for those who already suffered from it. In some cases, anxiety can push you forward and keep you busy – which can have its own negative side effects – but in this post, we’d like to talk about the other kind of anxiety… the kind that leaves you frozen.

We’ve all been there in one way or another – stuck between fight and flight, thinking about what our next steps should be, when we should take them, what they should look like and how we make sure they aren’t in the wrong direction. The trick is to find ways to overcome the paralysis of “if I don’t start, I can’t mess it up” because, when you own a business, not doing something automatically sets you up for failure, either in the short or long term future.

So how do you get moving? How can find ways to overcome anxiety and start taking steps forward, even if they are small steps? If you’ve suffered from anxiety before, you know being told “don’t worry” or “stop stressing yourself out” never, ever works. What does work? It’s not fail-proof, but at The Growth Coach, we’ve found that setting small, challenging – but achievable – goals, in 90-day batches, can make a huge difference.

Think about it like this – if your 2021 goal is to increase your business sales by 10 percent, you could spend January and February planning, March and April thinking about how you have plenty of time to take action on those goals, the summer just dealing with your busiest season and, by the time you get to September, you realize you haven’t made any of the changes you were going to make for 2021 and now the timeline is too short to reach your 10 percent goal, which takes you back to the beginning of the cycle. Then you start thinking about the next year and you’ve lost October, November and December.

However, if your 2021 goal is to grow your business by 2.5 percent each quarter, you give yourself an aggressive enough timeline to require you to step back, plan, take action, evaluate, improve and then take action again thout giving yourself the ability to put your plans on the backburner. Additionally, having smaller goals along the way can help drive you toward your long-term goals more quickly because, as you reach those smaller goals, you have an opportunity to celebrate your progress and set even bigger goals for the next 90 days.

Of course the idea of small goals is nothing new – many of us do well with daily checklists and our coaches have been utilizing a 90-day planner for years – but approaching your goals this way requires a mindset change. If it’s time for you to try something new, we’d encourage you to give it a try. And remember, your local Growth Coach is just a call away if you need help: https://www.thegrowthcoach.com/find-a-coach.

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Skip the Resolutions and Try 90-Day Business Goals

How many times have you made resolutions and then let them slide by February? Whether it’s a commitment to build your business or lose a few pounds, setting big, 12-month goals rarely works. It’s not because we don’t want to do the things we’ve resolved to do – it’s just how our brains are wired. Thinking about it like this – it’s easier to wrap our brains around walking a mile a day than it is to commit to walking 365 miles by the end of the year. So rather than saying “I’m going to grow my business by 12 percent in 2021,” why don’t you work on ways you can grow your business by 1 percent every month?

Quarterly goal setting and business planning is nothing new – in fact the 90-day planner has been part of The Growth Coach program since the beginning – but it’s especially relevant this year. Short-term planning allows you to pivot more quickly, take quicker action and avoid the anxiety of trying to figure out what 2021 will bring when you look at a 12-month plan. Planning in smaller chunks can help you find actionable ways to improve and keep you more regularly accountable for your successes.

So how do you get started?

First take a step back. Think about the progress you’ve made in 2020 and what that means for 2021, especially the first quarter. Are there things you postponed starting until “after the holidays” that need immediate action? Are there business decisions you’ve been avoiding making because you wanted to see how the vaccine impacted the marketplace? We’re not saying to make all of those decisions now – but it’s important to know where you stand.

Secondly, think about 2021 overall. If you were planning for the whole year, what sort of things would you be looking to do? Are you focused on business growth? Do you want to roll out a new product or service? Do you want to expand your staff? Are there culture changes at your company that are pressing? 

Now think about just the next 90 days. What can you do today, tomorrow, next week and next month to work toward those goals? If you want to grow your business by 10 percent over the year, how can you grow it by 2.5 percent by April 1? What do you have to do now to make progress toward that goal? If you want to hire additional staff people in the spring, can you take time now to focus on those job descriptions, plan for recruitment, revamp the training if needed and create systems for onboarding? If you want a staff person to start in April, those pieces of the process need to be underway soon.

The point of short-term planning is to set challenging – but achievable goals – in a way your brain can process and with the understanding that you can pivot quickly as needed. It also allows you to assess those goals, hold yourself accountable and celebrate your successes more often, which will help drive you forward.

If you’re interested in this 90-day philosophy but you need help getting started, or if you know you’ll be more successful with a partner in your corner, your local Growth Coach can help: https://www.thegrowthcoach.com/find-a-coach.

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Celebrating Your Team (and the End of a Crazy Year)

Celebrating your team, recognizing their work as a group and as individuals, and measuring your progress against your goals is a vital part of the end of every year. But, as we close what has been an emotional and trying year, that recognition and celebration is more important than ever. So how you do celebrate without a happy hour or holiday lunch? What can you do for your team to remind them how important they are to your overall success? We have a few ideas:

Virtual Lunch: While everyone might have video call burnout, you can use a service like Zoom or Teams for more than meetings. Send gift cards to your team members and then invite them to join you for a year-end celebration. Open the event with a thank you and quick run through of the year’s challenges and successes before giving people time just to hang out and enjoy each other’s company. It’s not the same as having a holiday party in the conference room, but it’s a nice compromise that can help keep everyone safe.

Personalized Recognition: If you have a small team – or managers who know their teams well – you can send out personalized year-end thank you cards, perhaps with a gift card enclosed. If you decide to go this route, take the time to truly recognize the efforts each team member has made throughout the year. Without regular office hours or meetings in 2020, many employees have felt less engaged than before the pandemic. Remind them that you realize how hard they are working and the impact that work makes on your organization.

Peer-to-Peer Thank Yous: This one is easy, but it takes a bit of planning and some staff buy in. Have each member of your team self-address a stamped envelope with a notecard inside. Once you get them all back, randomly pass them out to each employee and ask them to write a note of thanks or encouragement or recognition to the person who will receive their card. Ask them all to be mailed by a certain date for a morale boost.

Even if you don’t take on one of these ideas, it’s important to at least send a year-end thank you email to your staff. Take the time to recognize the goals you set a year ago, talk about how the company has pivoted, address the challenges ad successes you’ve had throughout 2020 and encourage your staff to keep their heads up as we get into 2021.

Need help with morale, teambuilding or a recognition program? Let us help: https://www.thegrowthcoach.com/.

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How Business Leaders Can Overcome Disappointment

Disappointment is tough. Whether someone let you down, you let someone down (including yourself) or something just didn’t pan out the way you’d hoped, the emotions around disappointment are strong. But, as a small business owner, you have to be able to feel your feelings, address those emotions, push forward and persevere. Here are four steps that can help:

1. Feel. Process. Accept.

Disappointment stinks and it’s OK to feel bad. Buy yourself a fancy coffee and sit in the sun at a park or have a glass of wine and hide on your couch to process those emotions. While you don’t have time to wallow in your emotions, not taking the time to grieve what might – or should – will leave you with a pit of resentment over the situation. Feel. Process. Accept.

2. Stop Thinking about What Might Have Been

Disappointment often comes on the heels of hope… which makes the letdown even worse. Whether you were dreaming about that corner office or thinking about hitting that big 2020 business goal, realizing that the things you hoped for aren’t coming your way – at least not right now – can be a tough pill to swallow. We know it’s hard, but stop wondering what might have been and turn off the self-pity.

3. Address the Situation

Sometimes, when you’re disappointed, it leads to an awkward situation. It might just mean going back to your regular desk knowing you didn’t land that promotion, but there are times when it means moving on, letting someone go or having an uncomfortable conversation about what has to be different next time. It’s hard to get through those next steps, but take a deep breath, hold your head high and make it happen. The longer you wait, the more awkward it becomes.

4. Find Perspective and Reset

Once you’ve processed your emotions and ripped the band-aid off whatever step came next, it’s time to take a step back and find perspective. Access your current situation, talk to your mentor, have lunch with a friend… While disappointment is a sharp pain at first, it often fades as reality sets in. Maybe you really weren’t exactly right for that promotion? What can you work on for next time? How can you congratulate whoever did get it? What can you learn from that person?

If you’re ready to up your skills through additional training or you could use help putting your business on a new track, your local Growth Coach can help. Learn about our programs online at https://www.thegrowthcoach.com/what-we-do.

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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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