Facing Your Business Challenges During a Crisis

unnamedThe economy was strong. Unemployment was at historic lows. Sales were up. It was hard to find good help because there were so few candidates. For most business owners and entrepreneurs, 2019 was a great year and there was a clear path for business growth for 2020. Then COVID-19 hit the United States and, for many, it was like someone pulled the rug out from under them. But whether your business was forced to temporarily close, you changed your operation to serve a new world or you’re an essential business trying to keep your team – and the community – healthy, one thing is true: it’s hard to plan for an uncertain future, but you have to do it, and it helps to have a coach.

Depending on what your business is facing, we think there are three main approaches to facing your challenges and planning for the future. Remember that working with a third party like a Growth Coach can help, even if it’s on the phone or through a video conference.

Business is Open and Doing Well

If you’re the owner of a business that’s deemed essential and you’re continuing to be successful, that’s awesome, but we know you’re still feeling the strain of COVID-19. In almost every case, even most essential businesses are completely changing their operations to accommodate pick-up or drive-thru services, finding ways to keep staff members safe from shoppers and keeping shoppers safe from each other. Even businesses like vehicle repair companies are closing lobbies and asking employees and customers to avoid close contact.

There are a few challenges facing these businesses – not knowing when closures could happen, worrying about employees who could get sick, having concerns about employees whose family members could be laid off, finding ways to help maintain social distancing when you can or even looking for the best ways to support your community.

The important thing for business owners and entrepreneurs in this situation is to support their teams, make adjustments as needed to keep teams healthy, take precautions when you can and build a plan for what you’ll do if your business is forced to shutter. As the COVID-19 situation changes every day – and in every state – it’s important to have plans in place to keep your business on a successful path, even if it means just staying afloat for now and finding ways to grow in the future. None of us know what tomorrow brings.

Business is Open but Struggling

Some essential businesses are open, but operations – or needed services – have changed so much that it’s difficult to know what to do next. Even owning a gas station can be troubling right now when so many Americans are staying home. If you are in this situation, there’s a two-pronged approach.

First find ways to be as successful as possible given the ever-changing COVID-19 situation. Find ways to do no-contact deliveries, try doing store pick up orders, create 6-foot barriers between your customers and your staff… every business is different, but finding ways to serve your customers as easily and safely as possible is paramount.

Secondly, look at your business operations now and moving forward. If something is working – like delivery services – is there a reason those services can’t continue when the crisis is over? If something is costing you more than it should (like over-ordering inventory), can you cut back? Do you have the systems in place to keep your business afloat if certain team members were to get sick or require self-isolation? What can you do while things are slow to revamp your business plan, put systems in place, train employees, offer professional development opportunities or find other ways to promote future growth?

While it might seem challenging to think about business growth right now, we are more than a month into state-based stay-at-home orders, so it’s time to shift from crisis mode to planning mode, especially if your business is open, but struggling.

Business is Closed

In many cases, business owners suddenly went from having successful businesses to having empty stores, stagnant inventory and no way to serve customers. While pick-up and delivery services are great for people who sell products, that doesn’t work when you own a nail salon, a daycare or another service-based company.

In this case, it’s easy to go into full-blown crisis mode. Without customers, you can’t pay rent, you can’t pay vendors, you can’t keep employees… and, especially for small businesses, that’s an emotional situation.

If your business is closed – and you’ve exhausted potential ways you could serve customers, including hosting video conferences – it’s time to start thinking about planning for your recovery and finding ways to jump-start your business when you’re able to open the doors again. Does your business plan need fully revised? Are your business systems sufficient? If you can’t bring back your team members after laying them off, do you have a plan to hire and train new employees? Does your marketing need to be adjusted? How can you engage your clients now and keep them engaged for when you’re ready to reopen?

Regardless of where on this spectrum your business lives today, the COVID-19 situation is constantly changing and it’s a good idea to plan for the uncertainties of the future. It’s also helpful to bring in a professional business coach, like your local Growth Coach, to help you navigate the changes you need to make to be successful today and into the future.

Posted in Business Coaching | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What Did You Want to be When You Grew Up? Don’t Let Fear Hold You Back

moonAstronaut. Firefighter. Doctor. Movie Star. When you’re little and the world is a wide open field in front of you, the options for what do when you grow up seem endless. You think about your passions and you naturally set the bar high. So what happens over the course of your lifetime that keeps you from pursuing those big dreams?

Sometimes we grow out of those dreams naturally when we realize how many amazing career opportunities there are out there and where our talents lie, but, too often, we’re held back by fear. Fear of the amount of education required. Fear of the risks associated with the job. Fear of the competition. If you take a step back at where the journey of life has led you, are you happy with the paths you took? Or do you regret the fears that kept you from doing something more?

At The Growth Coach, we often talk to our clients about understanding your fears, overcoming them and using them to push your business forward in smart, sustainable ways. It’s hard – fear is part of our instinct to survive – but it’s possible. Here’s a simplified, three-step guide to get started:

  1. Identify Your Fears

The first step to overcoming your fears is understanding what those fears are and where they come from. Take the time to write down all the fears keeping you from taking that next big step. Are you worried about failure? Is your fear financially driven? Are you scared that you’ll let people down? Are you afraid of change? Identifying your fears can help you face them.

  1. Face Your Fears

Once you’ve figured out what fears are holding you back, it’s time to face them. Are your fears founded in reality (and, of course, some are) or are you immediately jumping to the worst case scenarios? We’ve found that, with our clients, it helps to walk through the worst case scenarios, the best case scenarios and then come to terms with something in between. Being able to figure out what’s driving those fears and then come up with counter-points or solutions to those fears can help you ground them.

  1. Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

In The Matrix, when Morpheus offers Neo the choice to take the red pill or the blue pill, he’s letting Neo decide whether to face the cold truths and reality of the new world (red pill) or stay ignorant (blue pill). Taking the red pill is hard because it means living in discomfort and finding ways to overcome challenges you might not have known you’d face. But the ability to do great things – and build great businesses – doesn’t start with the blue pill. You have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.

So if you are thinking about starting your own business, scaling your business, trying something new with your company, taking a new leadership position at work or breaking into something new, don’t let fear hold you back. Focus on having a growth mindset, set your goals, create your plan and take action.

Posted in Business Coaching | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Spring Cleaning Your Business

daniel-von-appen-QUHlPs4y8PQ-unsplashNo matter what kind of business you own or how successful you are, there’s one thing you can’t buy – time. If you are going to commit time to focusing on making big progress in 2020, you have to find ways to make more time for yourself. So how do you get started? With some major spring cleaning.

Declutter: The first step in spring cleaning your business is to declutter. Take a deep look at where you and you team are spending the most time. Are there things you are doing that could be simplified or cut? Where are you wasting the most time and energy? For example, if you are handling payroll and human resources yourself, could you outsource those tasks in order to spend more time focusing on business growth? Identify and remedy the clutter.

Scrub: Once you’ve figured out how to get rid of some of your clutter, it’s time to do a deep clean. Are there projects or tasks that you’ve continuously put on the backburner that you could get off your plate? Do your business systems need updated? Have you or your team taken on any unnecessary tasks that could be delegated elsewhere? It’s important to get back to the most effective baseline before you can make progress on a stronger 2020.

Organize: Now that you have a clear, clean picture of your business, it’s a good time to think about organization. How do you want your team to spend their time? What projects are at the top of your priority list? Are there equipment, software or hardware needs that could make your business more organized and efficient? Putting things “where they belong” can save your business – and your team – a lot of time.

Plan and Commit: Once you’ve spring cleaned your business, don’t sit back and let the clutter build up again. Take the bull by the horns and create a plan to keep things as decluttered, scrubbed and organized as possible. Then, schedule a meeting with yourself to plan for meeting and exceeding those big 2020 goals. If you need help creating that plan – or spring cleaning your business –your local Growth Coach can help: https://www.thegrowthcoach.com/find-a-coach.

Posted in Business Coaching | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

Systems

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.

Staff

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.

Mindset

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.

Posted in Business Coaching | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Three Tips for Managing Personality Challenges

andre-hunter-5otlbgWJlLs-unsplash

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.

Posted in Business Coaching | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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: https://www.thegrowthcoach.com/find-a-coach.

Posted in Business Coaching | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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: https://www.thegrowthcoach.com/what-we-do/strategic-business-mindset.

Posted in Business Coaching | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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: https://www.thegrowthcoach.com/find-a-coach.

Posted in Business Coaching | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Social Responsibility: Supporting the Right Cause

SocialResponsibility

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.

Posted in Business Coaching | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Four Steps to Building Business Relationships

BizRelationships

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: https://www.thegrowthcoach.com/find-a-coach.

Posted in Business Coaching | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment