Growing Your Business Through Partnerships

Owning a business can be a lonely career path – you don’t have traditional colleagues or coworkers, you aren’t going to happy hours with your team and you don’t always have someone you can lean on for support. Mentors can make a big difference in that journey, but in this post we want to talk about another approach – developing partnerships.

Strong partnerships – from referral partnerships to promotional partnerships to actual supply and service partnerships – can truly mean the difference between succeeding alongside another entrepreneur and struggling in your own corner. Before we get started, we want to take a minute to mention that, as Growth Coaches, partnerships are an integral part of our own business journey. Our clients trust us to help them along the path of business growth and personal development. Partnerships are vital to the work we do in communities around the world.

So, when it comes to industry partners, take a look around your community, both locally and within your industry. Who you can develop relationships with to help you both grow your businesses together? For example, if you own a restaurant and you meet another entrepreneur who runs a farmer’s market, is there a way you can work together so that both of your businesses can benefit? Of course you can buy your produce from the farmer’s market, but how can you work together to make sure all boats rise together?  

To get started, consider the best ways to develop partnerships in your community and industry. In most situations, it doesn’t make sense to show up on someone’s doorstep with a proposal you created in a vacuum. Does meeting up at networking events make the most sense? Can you approach the potential partners directly in a email? Do you have a shared colleague or friend? Does it start with a LinkedIn connection? Whatever the best way to approach a potential partner might be, it’s important to be clear about your intentions and to outline the potential overall benefits for your business and for their business. Like in any relationship, trust has to be earned and built. It will take time and effort.

Once you have someone’s interest in a partnership, the next step is to create a strategic plan that benefits both parties equally. Sometimes it makes sense to do a brainstorming session over lunch or coffee. Making sure that both partners are getting the full benefit of the partnership is key to keeping everyone satisfied and moving forward. Perhaps your partnership is promotional? Maybe you buy your produce at the local shop and put their logo in your menu and, in return, they include your logo in their advertising and sell gift cards to your restaurant at their store. Maybe it’s a product trade at a reduced rate? Perhaps it could be a direct referral agreement?

If you’re unable to get something started, that’s OK. Not every approach works out and there are typically other options in the marketplace. Our advice is to look for potential partners who are at your level. If you own a small restaurant, it will be significantly harder to break into Whole Foods than the local grocer. The key is that, by working together, you can grow together.

If you could use help creating these kinds of partnerships and developing strategic plans that align your goals, your local Growth Coach can help: https://www.thegrowthcoach.com/find-a-coach.

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Learning Grit with Passion, Practice and People

Persistent. Unshakeable. Tough. Devoted. Steadfast. Resolute. Determined. Driven.

There are a lot of words to describe those whose passion and perseverance help them stand strong, even when the tides change and the winds are strong. The ones with the Indomitable Spirit. At The Growth Coach, when we’re talking about entrepreneurs and business owners, we call that trait Grit.

Somewhere in the universe is an entrepreneur who hasn’t heard no, who hasn’t faced disappointment, who hasn’t had to pivot… but since we haven’t met that person yet, we believe that grit is what separates mediocre business owners from amazing entrepreneurs. It’s that little something that keeps those entrepreneurs from giving up. It’s the trait that keeps them going to funders even after hearing “no” a dozen times. It’s the characteristic that encourages them to focus on innovation to keep their business growing, even when times are tough.

We all know people who are naturally gritty, but it’s also a trait you can learn or grow. There are countless articles and books available on how to grow your grit, but there are three things we’d like to focus on in this post:

Passion: The first – and most obvious – thing to help you have grit is to pursue something you’re passionate about. Sometimes this is as simple as having a product or service you really believe in – something that you feel so strongly about that a hearing “no” a hundred times won’t shake your foundation. The second thing is to think about the passion of the outcome of your business. But what if your business is something more straight forward… like plumbing? Owning a plumbing company might not be the sexiest business venture, but it creates jobs, meets a need in your community, allows you to give back, gives your family the live you want for them… Fueling your drive will keep you passionate and help you to be more gritty.

Practice: This one also has two meanings – you can practice having grit and you can practice to have grit. If you are practicing to have grit, it starts with forcing yourself to learn to get back up when you fall off the horse. You can’t wallow in self-pity when something doesn’t go your way. Practice finding ways to help you accept feedback in a way that keeps you pushing forward. Secondly, when we say practice to have grit, we literally mean to practice. Learn your trade. Practice your speech. Have as many answers as possible ready before you walk into the presentation. Being truly prepared – and not defensive – will help.

People: While this is the most simple item on our list, it’s also tough… Surround yourself with people who are driven, passionate and determined. Hanging out with the “right crowd” will help you learn to have more grit. So why is this hard? Being an entrepreneur is a lonely life sometimes, so making friends can be hard. Try finding fellow entrepreneurs through your Chamber of Commerce, join a BNI group or asking a mentor for help.

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Growth Coach Check In: Where Did Q1 Go?

If there’s anything we can all agree on, especially in challenging times, is that even when the days seem long, time still goes quickly. We’re pretty sure Christmas was, like, two weeks ago… and yet the first quarter is already over! If time has snuck up on you too, chances are good that you haven’t done a 90-day check in on your quarterly or annual goals yet. Before you get discouraged, remember that it’s still only April and you have time to get on track.

To get moving, open your calendar and schedule an out-of-the-office meeting with yourself. We’d recommend taking at least two hours, but the time you think you’ll need is up to you. Block out that time on your schedule, stick to it and plan to leave the office – and your email – behind. If you don’t have this time set aside, checking in on your goals will continue to slip to the backburner and, if you don’t leave the office, you’ll be distracted.

Once you have your meeting scheduled, do your research. You want to spend that meeting examining your original goals, digging into your data, considering the adjustments you made and then planning what actions you can take moving forward to continue to move the needle. You don’t want to spend your meeting trying to dig up Facebook data or sales reports. Round up those materials ahead of time so you can reference them as needed.

When it’s time for your goals meeting, start with examining your goals and comparing them to your progress. If you’ve created SMART goals, they should be fairly easy to measure. If you’ve hit your benchmarks, that’s an opportunity to either decide you’re on the right track and continue your progress or adjust your goals to reflect the progress you’ve made. If you wanted to grow your sales by 3 percent and they grew by 5 percent, don’t just pat yourself on the back and slide back to where you were last year.

If you aren’t quite hitting your benchmarks, we’d suggest looking at three things: (1) Have you fully implemented the changes you were going to make to reach those goals? (2) Are your changes enough to reach those goals over time? (3) Are your goals in line? Sometimes we have to make educated guesses for benchmarks and those guesses aren’t always on point. It’s important to be honest about what’s keeping you from reaching your goals so you adjust, take action and be on track for success throughout the year.

Goal setting, strategic planning and implementing changes are some of the most difficult tasks business owners have to do. If you are struggling in this area or you feel like you are treading water, The Growth Coach can help. Find your local coach at https://www.thegrowthcoach.com/find-a-coach.

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Organize Your Dreams into a Strategic Plan

Most entrepreneurs create a business plan when they launch their company, but sometimes, when you’re wrapped up in the minutia of actually building a business, those plans fall to the wayside. When was the last time you updated your business plan? And does that business plan have a strategic plan behind it?

You read that right – a strategic plan outlines the goals, key performance indicators and targets you’ll work toward in order to support your business plan. Think of it like the roadmap to your success that helps you allocate resources. If you don’t have a strategic plan, this is your wake up call. You need one and it doesn’t have to be a complicated process.

First, take a step back from the day-to-day operations of your business for a bit and look at your business plan. Does that original – or updated – plan still jive with the business you have today? Does that plan itself need updated? If so, start there. If not, then you’re ready to build a plan.

Once you’re ready to start on your strategic plan, you need to know where you stand today. Look at the last three years and put together some high-level data about your business growth, business challenges and business opportunities. Once you have that data, start building out your SMART goals. How many goals you set is likely going to be depend on how aggressive those goals are, the support systems you have in place and the resources you have available.

One you have goals, you need to set key performance indicators, or KPIs. KPIs are the things you are going to measure to see how you are progressing toward your goals. For example, if you want to grow your business by five percent, your KPIs might be an increase in sales, additional staff members or even something like follows on Facebook. Your KPIs are going to depend on your individual goals.

Next you’ll want to set your targets. Targets are the numbers against which you’ll measure your KPIs. If you’re looking at sales, what percentage do you want them to grow or is there a number you want to reach? If you’re looking at staff size, how many additional people do you want to hire. If you have SMART goals, these should be easy to determine.

Once you have your goals, KPIs and targets, you can compare those to your business plan, make necessary adjustments and then start making decisions about how you’ll allocate your time, resources and energy.

A strategic plan is a map to help you reach your goals to help you grow your business. If you need help building that plan, it’s time to reach out to your local Growth Coach.

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How SMART Goals Can Help You Make Smart Progress

When people are talking about goals for their life or their business, it’s easy to keep things generic and bold. Saying “I want to grow my business” is less scary than “I want to grow my business’ income my five percent by the end of the year.” One is easy to brush off and one requires a plan that can be tracked, measured and evaluated. One can be built into a strategic plan and one is just a wish.

Without Goals that are SMART – Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-Based – it’s hard to work toward meeting and exceeding your goals. But where do you start? We can help:

Specific: Goals need to be specifically outlined. If you want to grow your business, do you mean you want to increase your profits? Add staff? Serve more clients? What is the end goal? While some of those boats may rise together, for you to measure your success, you have to get into the specifics of what “growth” means to you.

Measureable: Profits, staff size, sales… those are all measureable goals. However, if your goal is around something like community impact, branding or staff training, things get a bit more nebulous. For example, let’s look at branding. Are you going to send out surveys? Are you going to measure the growth of your social media channels? What’s the number for your goal?

Attainable: Goals should be challenging, but attainable. If you’re going to stay motivated, you need to be able to celebrate successes along the way. If you want to grow your business by five percent, consider the growth you’ve had in the past and what you’ll need to do to see that five percent increase. However, if your business has grown five percent every year, then maybe you can aim for a 7 or 10 percent growth goal.

Relevant: Business growth is likely a relevant goal because most people do want to grow their businesses, but what if that’s not your end game? What if you want to be able to sell your business at the end of the year? In that case, business growth is important, but it might not be the goal you really need to work toward. Maybe your goal is to create a business handbook by the end of the year? Maybe you need to have a business sales plan in place by the end of the year? Goals aren’t always percentage based.

Time-Based: This one is easy – at what point will you measure your progress against your goal? A quarter, a year or two years? Whatever your goal is going to be, it needs a timeline for success.

So let’s look back at our original goal statement: “I want to grow my business’ income by five percent by the end of the year.” Is that a SMART goal? It’s specific: You want to grow your business by five percent in a year. It’s measurable: That’s where the five percent comes in. It’s attainable: This is subjective based on your past business year-over-year growth, but we’ll assume yes for this exercise. Is it relevant: Again, this is subjective, but we’ll assume you want to grow your business, since that seems likely. Is it time-based: Yes! The goal is to reach that five percent growth by the end of the year. How can you rethink your goals to be SMART goals so you can plan, track, measure and evaluate your progress and then take additional action? If you need help, contact your local Growth Coach!

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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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