Adapt and Grow

If you’re not always changing and adapting as a business, then your business is dying.

You have probably heard that idea before, but if you’re running a small business are you so caught up in the day to day that you’re forgetting to ask yourself how you can continue to do better, be better, and adapt to and ever-changing and often fickle marketplace?

Part of the solution to this issue is a commitment to education for leadership and employees of any organization. And the other part is a willingness to grow and change, to try new things and to let go of that which is no longer serving you.

In order to do this effectively you have to ask a lot of questions, which means listening to your customers, your employees and to peers and leaders in your field. And, when you do start getting feedback, you have to be willing to do something about it.

If you start hearing that your pricing is too high, for example, that could mean one of two things. Either you need to come up with a product or service that is more affordable to your customer base, or you need to court a different demographic because you’re probably not working with your ideal clients.

Obviously no business should want to jump on every trend that pops up, but being savvy enough to balance what your customers need and want with new advances and best practices in your business are a winning combination and one which we all should be striving for.

And even if achieving the perfect balance of innovation and consistency is tough, you don’t have to be perfect to be effective. In fact, any steps you can take towards intentionally creating an innovative and forward thinking company are going to serve you well and move your closer to your goals.

Perfect Place, Perfect Time?

At times running a business can be scary. You could lose a big client, make a costly mistake or have issues with an employee. Your office space could flood as we’ve seen happen recently down in Texas, or you could get sick and have to step back from the company for a while.

I recently spoke with business owners who have experienced all of the above, and one of the similarities that I found among them was this.  While no one enjoyed actually going through the unpleasantness of a major setback, every one of the people I spoke to was convinced that their lives and their businesses are better off now than before they experienced their life-changing event.

One friend, for example, had extreme challenges in her business when she lost a major client. She was forced to dramatically cut back on her staff, and then shortly after that she became seriously ill, which meant that working 70 or 80 hour weeks was no longer an option for her.

What ended up transpiring was that she cut her work hours back dramatically and actually found that without her previous overhead, that her profit was actually significantly higher, even with the shorter hours. She also started working on a book that she had been meaning to write for years but which she had to keep putting off due to other obligations.

It’s not hard to see how this friend’s life and business were better after the unwelcome shake-up happened, and interestingly, I found the same thing to be the case with everyone I talked to about this. Each of the business owners had had a significant setback that turned out to be a blessing. And that’s the part that I started getting very, very interested in.

So often we resist change, especially when it’s something that is perceived as negative, but in the cases of the people that I spoke to, the changes they had endured all had incredible blessings attached to them.

There is a school of thought that says the Universe is always conspiring for our highest good, for our best interest – even when it’s difficult or impossible to see it at the moment you’re going through something challenging. I for one am going to work on actively remembering this the next time things don’t go my way in life and in business. Sometimes the best thing we can do is to relax and allow, and lean into our faith in happy endings and positive outcomes.

Tribe it Up

The other day I had lunch with my friend and fellow entrepreneur. We spoke candidly about some of the challenges in our respective businesses, and as we were getting ready to leave the restaurant she said to me, “I’m so relieved that I’m not the only one who goes through this stuff.”

That statement struck a cord with me because so often as entrepreneurs and small business owners we do feel like we have to figure everything out on our own, and that can be a very lonely position to take. The truth of the matter is, we have more in common than we realize. Even though we may be running businesses in different industries with our own very specific challenges, on a slightly higher level we are all the same.

We face issues and questions around cash flow, sales, employee recruitment and retention. We have to pay attention to marketing, advertising, culture and reputation. As our companies grow we most likely have a team in place to assist with many of these items, but ultimately, as a small business owner, the buck does stop with us.

But that doesn’t mean we have to go it alone.

Taking the time to intentionally seek out and build a support network for yourself is, I believe, key for the success of a business. At a minimum you may want to consider hiring a business coach or a mentor, but beyond that setting up a “mastermind” group of trusted peers will help you to keep challenges – and successes – in perspective.

Elin Barton is the President of White Knight Productions and the host of the podcast, Ready, Set, Grit.  Her first book, Ready, Set, Grit: How to Turn Your Daydream Into a Phenomenal Success, will be released in the Fall of 2017.

Let’s Celebrate!

What do you celebrate in your business? Is it reaching a sales goal or locking in a promotion? Winning an account or delivering a great pitch that your client loved? Is it a certain number of years in business or a new and greater number in your bank account?

People celebrate all kinds of milestones and achievements, but if you’re like most of us you don’t do it often enough. When we achieve any kind of goal most of us don’t even take the time to acknowledge it, much less sit back and rest on our laurels. More often than not, we just keep moving forward, continually resetting the goal posts higher and higher.

And, really, there is nothing wrong with that strategy, for that tendency to constantly push ourselves to reach higher and do better is how we grow. But I’d like to suggest that equally as valuable is the act of pausing for a moment to recognize the small victories. Taking a moment to reflect on where you started and how far you’ve come is a great habit to get into.  When you adopt this practice of celebration it can help keep you moving forward when the going gets tough, because you’ll be better able to remember your successes, victories and achievements along the way. And, if you’ve had celebrations in the past, why not also in the future?

That is easy enough to understand, but here’s the part that most people don’t realize: you don’t just have to celebrate victories.

What if you also learned to appreciate your failures? How would things change for you if, instead of berating yourself when things don’t go the way you planned, you chose to stop and honor the lessons learned during the experience? What if, instead of getting angry and upset with those who have wronged you, you instead practice showering that person with love, light and even gratitude?

The thing that happens when you do this, is you shift the energy and rid yourself of negative connotations that you may be associating with a so-called failure. Start seeing these failures as valuable lessons and stepping stones and suddenly everything gets a little easier. You may find that you’re less afraid of missteps along the way when you remove the aspect of judgment from them, and that newfound boldness may lead you to victories and green pastures that you’d only dreamed of previously.

So, go ahead and celebrate the good and the bad. Every step along your journey really does move you just that little bit closer to your goal, and that truly is something that’s worth popping the champagne cork for.

 

 

Elin Barton is the President of White Knight Productions and the host of the podcast, Ready, Set, Grit.  Her first book, Ready, Set, Grit: How to Turn Your Daydream Into a Phenomenal Success, will be released in the Fall of 2017.

Turning the Impossible Upside Down

I have a confession to make. My husband and I are not athletes. Not even close, actually. We enjoy light activity – yard work, walking, sailing – but you probably won’t catch us running marathons or entering Ironman competitions anytime soon. Yet, in recent months we have been paying more attention to our health. We changed our diet, taking out sugar and carbs, and started walking. As we began to feel better we wanted to do a little something more to improve our health, and when I came across a Facebook post for a 30-day plank challenge, we thought, “Yes! This is it!”

If any of you have done the plank challenge before you know that you start out planking for just 20 seconds, and in the course of the 30 days you work up to more than four minutes. Well, on day one planking for 20 seconds was hard (but not that hard), but thinking about doing 60 seconds (or – gasp – four minutes!) seemed impossible.

We’ve now been doing the challenge for several weeks and are approaching the four minute mark. We got here by practicing consistently (almost every day, with some resting days planned in the schedule) and by pushing ourselves just a little harder and longer each day. There is no way we could have done a four-minute plank during our first week, but now we’re no longer scared of this goal and we know that we’ll be achieving it within the coming days.

The other day I was listening to a Tony Robbins podcast and the topic was building a business by pushing yourself just a little farther out of your comfort zone, day after day. On the show they talked about building up and learning to flex your entrepreneurial muscles and it got me thinking how similar that concept is to what we have experienced this past month.

  1. Dig deep and find your grit: there are no shortcuts. Whether you’re building your muscles or building a business you have to show up and do the work day after day. No one can do this for you and there is no faking it.
  2. Don’t beat yourself up: some days are just better than others. Some days we would go to do our planks and we’d feel like we were on top of the world. Sometimes we’d improve our time by 20, 30 or 40 seconds from the day before. Then other days we just couldn’t hold it very long at all.
  3. Don’t psyche yourself out: it’s mind over matter. You really have to go into every challenge with a belief that you will prevail. If you tell yourself that you can’t possibly hold the plank for more than a minute, guess what? You’ve lost before you’ve even begun.
  4. Seemingly impossible obstacles become easy. When we started planking it was just like when we started the business in that it was easy to get lost in the overwhelm of the enormity of the situation. If you focus on the obstacles you will never progress as quickly as if you break your challenge down into manageable steps. When we’re planking it comes down to focusing on our breathing; one breath at a time. With the business we consider our goals and build a strategy around them. Then we figure out specific tactics – small steps – that we can take to help us achieve our goals.
  5. Teamwork makes everything a little easier. We could do our planks at the same time, I suppose, but so far we’ve been taking turns so that the one not planking acts as timekeeper and cheerleader for the other. It’s a small thing, but taking on the challenge together has made us more likely to show up to do our part, and I’m sure that we’re both trying a little harder than if we were just doing this on our own. Plus it’s more fun to work on something like this together. I think the same is true in a business. If you don’t have a business partner, then getting your employees on board as part of the team that is working together towards a common goal is key for long-term success.

Up For the Challenge

How are you – as a business owner, entrepreneur, wife, husband, daughter, friend, employee – challenging yourself today? How are you getting smarter, more successful, and better than you were yesterday?

Are you getting by with the same old same old, or are you being very deliberate about your growth and development? The good news is, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Here is what has worked for tens of thousands of people who have gone before you:

  1. Find a mentor. Find someone you really admire who is better than you – smarter, richer and living a life that you admire. Find a person like that who is willing to teach and guide you, then take the time to truly appreciate them and listen to what they have to say. When you find such a person make sure you realize their worth and tell them frequently how much you appreciate their time and help. A good mentor can easily make the difference between you staying stuck and getting to where you really want to be.
  2. Get some good books. Embrace reading .- or audio books or podcasts – as an opportunity to get smarter and to get an edge over your competitors and others who are in the proverbial room. Reading and learning helps to keep your creative juices flowing too, so be sure to dedicate time every day to this practice.
  3. Examine your habits and figure out which ones are not serving you well. Which habits are bad for your health, are unproductive or even harmful? Which habits do you need to shed and which other ones should you be cultivating? If you can make good habits as much of a no-brainer as brushing your teeth you’re going to start seeing tangible results, pretty much guaranteed.
  4. Rub shoulders with the upper crust. If you aspire to be more successful, richer and more influential than you are now, it’s important to start associating with people of the caliber you wish to become. Please don’t take this as permission to be a fake friend or a “social climber” but do take note of who you’re spending time with. Create and cultivate real friendships with people you actually like, but also think about doing this somewhat strategically. If you want to be an artist you’re probably going to be more successful if you start hanging out with other artists and get into the circles of buyers and gallery owners. The same goes for almost every other industry I can think of.
  5. Think good thoughts. You have to teach yourself to focus on positive, not negative, thoughts. Learn to imagine life as you would like it to be, and not focus on the problems at hand. When you do this you’ll be much quicker to shift your energy into being productive, and you’ll also turn into a kind of magnet for others who will show up and want to do business with you, or help you out in some way. All of that positive energy will make you practically irresistible!