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More On CEO Mindset – The “Right” Habits & Less Ego-Driven Leadership

CEO Mindset, leadership, habits, leaders, Tweak Your Biz, KaizenBizAs some of the regular readers of this blog know, I blog on Tweak Your Biz and KaizenBiz as well. If you have missed my latest posts there, here they are:

Becoming CEO Of Your Small Business Means Finding “Right” Habits

For many successful small to mid-sized business owners, having the CEO Mindset is everything. While I’ve talked about how small business owners (even sole proprietors/ sole traders) are really CEO’s of their companies on Tweak  Your Biz and here, this is just the beginning.

Every day there are things we do or don’t do that influence the direction and pace of business growth. A lot of this is much more internal than it might seem at first glance. One area that is written about quite  a lot is the habits or common behaviors of  famous business leaders.  Reading these posts leads you to believe that if you just did these things, you would be successful. My post isn’t one of those posts. Often what is left out is the work and the business leaders did to find the “right” habits that work for them. So, before you think “if only I did X”, remember they had to do the work of finding what works for them. Becoming CEO of your small business means finding your “right” habits.


Is It Feminine Leadership We Crave Or Less Ego-Driven Leadership?

Once a week, I have the pleasure of leading a chat on Twitter called #KaizenBiz. (Shameless plug here: Every Friday at 5pm GMT/12pm ET/9amPT and all are welcome) If you are not familiar with this chat, we take business topics and apply critical thinking, enhance our skills and deepen our self-understanding. This past Friday (August 16, 2013), we looked at The Athena Doctrine: How Women (and the Men Who Think Like Them Will Rule the Future and the ongoing global conversation about gender, traits and leadership.  There is a perspective that the lack of women in executive roles contributed to the organizational failures that triggered the global recession.

Is there a female style of leadership? A male style?  Are people wrong in their rejection of so many men in decision-making roles as found in recent surveys? Could it be more likely that highly effective leaders of both genders exhibit the same traits? Read this post and add your thoughts.


Thank you

Thank you for taking a look at these posts, commenting, sharing or simply thinking about them. I look forward to sharing more posts next month.



8 Tips For Expanding in US for Irish Small Businesses

Irish small business owners, expanding in the US, exportI was just reading the other day in The Irish Independent that the Irish Export Association changed its forecast from positive to negative. They attributed the contraction to weaker demand in EU and US markets as well as other international markets. It may not sound like the best time to consider doing business in the US but it does give you time to prepare. You already know that preparation is a key piece for growing in your current market. As one of my Irish clients discovered, there are a lot of details when entering the US market. Here are eight tips to make your process smoother.

8 tips for expanding in the US

1. Know “why” – Your reason for expanding in the US is the cornerstone for the effort you will put into this venture. Identify your strategic intent and business goals for why this is a good move for your business. Be sure that you are operating from a sound business reason and not from the extremes of naivete or cynicism.

2. SWOT and/or PESTEL analysis- The US is a big country and, despite some consistent cultural qualities, there are a number of sub-cultures due to geography, ethnicity, race, politics and economic class. Conduct a SWOT analysis to clarify what is going on within your business and a PESTEL (also known as a PEST, PESTLE) analysis to clarify what is going on outside of your business. There may be regulations, demographic trends or other information that you need to know.

3. Do your marketing homework- Americans don’t think or experience emotions like Irish people. As an example, the ads that run on RTE or UTV use different emotional touchpoints than the ones on American television. Even language (even though we all speak English) is used differently. This applies whether you’re selling food, software or medical devices.

4. Hiring/outsourcing- If you decide to hire someone or outsource,  first learn about benefits and legal responsibilities. It may be useful to speak to someone who specializes in human resources to make sure your company doesn’t violate any regulations or laws.

5. Legal entity- It is often necessary to establish a US-based business entity when expanding in the US as it may be more cost-effective, increases options for funding, reduces how much you travel and other considerations. For example, a foreign small business who establishes a legal US-based business entity is eligible for assistance from the US Small Business Administration (the SBA).

6. Work with someone who can help you with the details- The are a number of brokers and organizations that can help you expand in the US. However, many of them require a fee upfront before they help you. Another (and less expensive) option is to work with a non-profit group like The Business Coalition who can provide advisors and/or a liaison for immigration/visas, business law, rental space (offices, manufacturing, living), transportation,  mobile phone companies, explain cultural differences and other business needs during your growth phase.

7. Develop and write a plan that outlines funding, personnel, risks and goals- There are a lot of details to keep straight between the business goals, who is responsible, legal requirements, regulations, schedules and so much more. A written, living document allows you to see progress, benchmarks, accountability and potential problems so you  can respond appropriately.

8. Your role and identity will change- Becoming the owner and/or executive in an international business is a transition for everyone. As you interact with new people who may be from a different country or economic class, it is not unusual to feel as if you are in over your head or are somehow a fraud. Just traveling back and forth will open up experiences that are good and bad. This is where the CEO Mindset will serve you so you can manage your stress, exhibit confidence and adapt to your new status.

Smoother process, less stress

While these tips may not the workload any less, they do provide you with an outline. There will be easy victories and perplexing problems. But it is an exciting venture well worth preparing for so someday you can say, “yes, we serve customers in Ireland and the US.”

*Update as of 8/15/2013- Sometimes things change on both a micro and macro level. This is more the macro level.  The Irish Times reported today that Ireland and the Eurozone emerged from recession during the spring months of 2013. Irish exports played a major role in growing the economy.

image: iStockphoto Andrew Johnson

About the author:  I’m Elli St.George Godfrey, a small business coach and executive coach who guides established small business owners and executives in Ireland, Northern Ireland and the US to use the CEO Mindset and be comfortable in their own skin. I have a deep appreciation for learning and understanding my client’s business style and culture. Whether you are re-focusing your small business or expanding in your own backyard or into another country, my 3 keys coaching process helps clients move from being excited about growing to having the tools to make it actually happen. Curious? Schedule your complimentary consultation here.


Confidence – An Often Overlooked Business Tool

small business owner, Irish business owner, confidence, busines tool

This blog has been a little quiet as I’m after being in Ireland for a business/family visit. While I was there,  I watched the new television programme, Taking Care of Business on RTÉ. Like Fergal Quinn’s show, Retail Therapy, a struggling business and its owner are the focus for each episode. While there is much conversation about business plans, debts and the relationship with banks, the most striking thing that is talked about is the low confidence level each business owner exhibits at the beginning of the episode.

Ireland is a tough place for small business owners right now

I had quite a number of conversations with various small business owners while in Ireland who described their frustrations and worries. There are many questions about the rising tax levels, continuing austerity budgets, the obstacles business owners face accessing credit, the high debt levels and the actions taken by the Irish government.

Confidence has taken a hit

Confidence is a remarkable thing. It is not the belief that you can do no wrong nor that everything is going to be the way it was.  It is the belief that “I can handle this somehow”, even under pressure. However, when you are faced with what seems like never-ending obstacles, confidence can be undermined so even normally confident people get to a low moment. As I’ve written before,  it’s not unusual to question your values, choices and actions during a major crisis of confidence. It is also overlooked as a business tool during times of crisis because it seems so tenuous and airy-fairy. Yet, it is the underpinning for what makes a small business owner effective.

To be confident, you need focus

Daniel Goleman, who studies emotional intelligence has discovered that focus is an important ingredient in confidence. In an interview with Dr. George Kohlreiser, he quoted Kohlreiser as saying:

“How you manage your own emotions is determined by how you focus. The mind’s eye is like a flashlight. This flashlight can always search for something positive or something negative. The secret is being able to control that flashlight – to look for the opportunity and the positive. When you do that, you’re playing to win. You’re able to focus on the right things and maintain that positive self.”

Getting that groove back

Someone once wrote that “It’s not a hill, it’s a mountain when you start out the climb” in reference to changing one’s heart and mind. There is a tension between old expectations and current reality. However, building up confidence brings the small business owner back to what makes him/her tick. This is the focus.

For some business owners, they need to be meeting prospective customers. This is where they get get their groove back. For others, they need to be doing something else to get their groove back…meeting with current customers, revising the business plan or accessing help from an outside resource. For my coaching clients with struggling businesses, the return to basics (reviewing the business plan and current goals, looking at up-to-date financial reports and completing a SWOT analysis) plus acknowledging the emotional aspects gets their feet back on the ground and their minds looking forward.

Confidence…that overlooked business tool

For Irish small business owners, indeed small business owners in many places, it is an uphill climb. The slow pace can feel grueling and the wins seem so small. It is so easy to think so-and-so has it easy because of their location or specialty but you don’t really know what their story is. And it’s tempting to ignore that you have certain skills, have faced adversity before or that there are other small business owners like yourself.  People gauge how well your business is doing by your posture and how you speak (Amy Cuddy has a fascinating TED talk about body language and confidence). Your prospects get excited if you are enthusiastic. Your staff and/or outside resources will feel more secure that you are projecting solidity. And most importantly, you will discover you can weather what comes your way. Confidence isn’t about the bad stuff going away. Confidence supports finding a way to face forward and seek solutions.

**After 2 active conversations on LinkedIn started due to this post, I wrote a companion post, “CEO Mindset: Confidence When Your Business Is Struggling“,  to flesh out more about what makes confidence such an important business tool.


About the author:  I’m Elli St.George Godfrey, a small business coach and executive coach who guides established small business owners in Ireland, Northern Ireland and the US to use the CEO Mindset and be comfortable in their own skin. I have a deep appreciation for learning and understanding my client’s business style and culture. Whether you are re-focusing your small business or expanding in your own backyard or into another country, my 3 keys coaching process helps clients move from being excited about growing to having the tools to make it actually happen. Curious? Schedule your complimentary coaching session here.



Using the CEO Mindset During the Mid-Year Business Plan Review

CEO mindset, business plan, small business ownerWhen you reach the middle of the year, is it a time for celebration or redoubling of efforts…or both?As leader of your organization, it is your place to seek out and tell the truth about what is working and not working. This can be a tough role but necessary.

Assumptions get in the way of good business practices

Your willingness to see things as they are and  not what you wish them to be shows up in testing assumptions. As an example, one of my Irish clients is really excited about launching his product in the US. However, he had a number of assumptions that just did not hold water hen he looked at them more closely. For starters, he assumed he knew how American consumers thought about Irish products. He also did not realize the costs involved as well as the various legal (immigration law, small business law, employment law, etc.) issues that needed preparation. It was in the business plan review that he was able to test his assumptions before committing large amounts of  money.

But there are other assumptions that need testing

1. While I could spend a whole blog post on the cognitive biases that could interfere with a small business owner’s performance, one can quickly prove demoralizing as well as financially dangerous. Sunk cost fallacy which is the thought process that “I’ve committed so much money to X that I have to make something of it.” Some might say that this is throwing good money after bad.

2. “There is money for all of our plans” could be another assumption if cash flow is not monitored. Taking time to go through the financials, even if you are not a money person, does matter since it indicates if you need to step up business development or maintain your current course.

3. “I’m sure it’s getting done” I’ve worked with a couple of business owners who found out the hard way that not holding their staff accountable cost them thousands of dollars. Without asking your people if they are fulfilling their assignments or having agreed-upon measurements, you are potentially telling them that you are incompetent or disorganized.

There are more assumptions you might be making about time, your role(s) or any number of things. The key is to ask questions, even to what seems obvious, so that you have a clear picture of how your business is performing.

That is the CEO Mindset

Whether you have the title or simply take on the mindset, you are CEO. This makes you the one who sets the tone for the whole organization and shows through words and actions the most desired values and behaviors. Whether you use a SWOT analysis or another tool to answer the questions, you show a curious, honest and pragmatic type of leadership. Taking this approach during the mid-year business plan review promotes problem-solving, brainstorming and acknowledgement of successes and failures. Question your assumptions and stay willing to see things as they are.

How can you access the CEO Mindset?

Here are some suggestions to start implementing the CEO Mindset for yourself:

  • Be a pragmatic visionary. Take your vision, build business goals that support it and measure your results.
  • Examine the data for trends, patterns or anomalies
  • Stop and listen so  you can become aware of your assumptions
  • Manage your attitude. Notice if you are overly optimistic, frustrated or tired can affect how your evaluate your data or interact with your staff.

What other assumptions need to be questioned by the business owner/ chief executive?

What are the best tools or resources for asking the right questions?

 About the author:  I’m Elli St.George Godfrey, a small business coach and executive coach who guides established small business owners in Ireland, Northern Ireland and the US to be comfortable in their own skin. I have a deep appreciation for learning and understanding my client’s business style and culture. Whether you are re-focusing your small business or expanding in your own backyard or into another country, my 3 keys coaching process helps clients move from being excited about growing to having the tools to make it actually happen. Curious? Schedule your complimentary coaching session here.



7 Reasons Why Upgrading Your Business Networking Events Matters

Business networking, business owners and executivesI recently attended the Boston Irish Business Awards Breakfast hosted by the Boston Irish Business Association and the Boston Business Journal last week. As I listened to the inspiring stories, quite a few of the honorees mentioned people they had met who were helpful to them as they developed their careers and businesses. They described how they met these people through common organizations or through other introductions. It was clear that networking had made a difference!

Networking is key part of building your small to mid-sized business

There is a reason why we go to events and spend hours standing, talking and listening to people we don’t know. But have you thought about why you choose one event over another? Here are seven reasons that occurred to me as I was listening and meeting the people sitting with me at the awards breakfast… Click here to read more »


Dilemma of Wanting to Be CEO and Future of Social Entrepreneurship

Some of you might have seen these posts on and but if you haven’t, allow me to share them with you.

When Your Small Business Isn’t Ready For You to Be CEO

You may have seen some of my previous posts here since I’ve been a regular blogger since 2009. It’s not an unusual situation for a small business owner to be ready for the next stage of his/her career but feel they have to put the brakes on their activities because the business needs their direct attention. When Your Small Business Isn’t Ready For You to Be CEO talks about the dilemma small business owners face when they cannot move to the next stage of their own growth. So, when is your small business not ready for you to be CEO? And how do you prepare it so it is ready?

Latest Ideas of the Future of Social Entrepreneurship

On a weekly basis, I host the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz. (If you would like to see what this lively, thought-provoking and international chat is like, please join us every Friday at 5pm GMT/12pm ET/9am PT) We talk about all kinds of business ideas using critical thinking so we can enhance our skills and deepen our self-understanding. So this past week, we took a look at Social Entrepreneurship.

If you are not familiar with social entrepreneurship, it is is a subset of entrepreneurship with the emphasis on using business to drive a social change. It is not simply corporate social responsibility. It is a company that is founded with the intent to change the world. The 10th annual Skoll World Forum was held recently and there are some interesting ideas emerging. We decided to take a closer look with this framing post, Latest Ideas of the Future of Social Entrepreneurship. Do you see social entrepreneurship becoming more mainstream? What expectations are being created for social entrepreneurial ventures in terms of sustainability, creating customers and earning profit?

Let me know what you think by commenting here or on the posts themselves…


Managing the Business Owner: Do You Need to Get Up Early?

Ever since January, I’ve been seeing post after post about how the most successful people (read: leaders and CEO’s) get up very early in the morning. As if the only way to be a successful CEO, you have to be up at the crack of dawn to exercise or begin working or what have you. It might be true for small business owners and executives…and it might not.

The last straw

Margaret Heffernan’ s post was the last straw. Her  point was that leaders get up early because they are excited about what they do. They are fully engaged and not lazy. They use the early hours to exercise, think, plan or just enjoy some quiet time before their day starts. Now, you might wonder why I would ever want to rant about that?!

My rant is really simple…there isn’t one way to be successful. The posts that say that getting up early make it sound like that is the only way to build a successful company and career. However, the way you schedule your day may not even be indicative of laziness or lack of engagement.

Self-care is an essential piece of leading a small business

It is well documented that sleep deprivation is not just a few hours lost. Immediate effects include poor memory, trouble concentrating, appetite disturbance (higher tendencies to eat too much) and difficulty tolerating even garden-variety stress. Continued sleep deprivation is correlated to depression and mood disorders, attention deficit disorder, drug and/or alcohol abuse, increased likelihood of high blood pressure, heart attack or stroke plus cognitive impairment. Sleep deprivation and ignoring other parts of self-care can lead to burn out and/ or feeling trapped or resentful of your business. Not exactly the best recipe for building a sustainable business.

Use caution when reading advice

Yes, even my blog.

Normally I’m a big fan of Margaret Heffernan but I do wonder about her supposition that a leader might be lazy or disengaged. As small business owners, we have to be careful about what we read and how general the application might be. Some of us chose to start our business to maximize the quality of our lives. It does seem strange when you are working long days or worrying about finances that this is a better quality of life. On the other hand, control over our income, time and autonomy is in our hands most of the time. Some of us are parents, volunteers in our communities or simply want to create another way to do business and be successful. While we may want to be develop ourselves so we are better leaders and managers, it is important to remember that different things work for different people.

Working mega-hours doesn’t make you successful by itself

All those posts that got me riled up aren’t really about who gets up early or stays up late. It’s about what we do with that time. There are ways our time gets used up that make a work day seem far too short. Between making sure we engage with social media, do things that increase our visibility, network, do the work our clients hire us for and so much more, productivity can get away from us without a plan.

Some suggestions to keep yourself healthy:

  • Even experts don’t have the answers that will fit you 100% of the time- We need inspiration, new ideas, fresh perspectives and education. However, notice how you feel about the advice you are reading. If it feels like something  you would never do, trust yourself.
  • Remember you have physical limitations – No matter how much you love what you do, your body will let you know when it has had enough. Make an effort to eat well, sleep and take time away from the office.
  • Create a schedule that suits you – If you are an early riser, a late night person or something in between, make the time work for you. Use the Pomodoro method for specific tasks and schedule specific days for overall activities.

Do you need to get up early?

Only you can really answer that. Use the early morning if it provides you with time to think, get moving or do a little work before the rush of the day. Conversely, if working at night allows you that necessary time for concentration, use that. When you read blog posts that tell you that the only way you are a “real” leader is if you do X, ask yourself if this is true for you. If you are not sure, try an experiment with the recommendations you read about.

There are many ways to be successful…design your own!

 About the author:  I’m Elli St.George Godfrey, a small business coach and executive coach who guides established small business owners in Ireland, Northern Ireland and the US to be comfortable in their own skin. I have a deep appreciation for learning and understanding my client’s business style and culture. Whether you are re-focusing your small business or expanding in your own backyard or into another country, my 3 keys coaching process helps clients move from being excited about growing to having the tools to make it actually happen. Curious? Schedule your complimentary coaching session here.



Small Business In Ireland – Time of Doubt, Hard Work and Hope

Irish Small BusinessThere are reports that the Irish economy is growing, fractionally, but growing. And there are reports that things are very bleak. The truth probably contains a bit of both.


Conflicting reports about the Irish economy and small businesses

  • In February, 2013, the Irish Independent reported that small business failures dropped by 32 percent
  • In March, 2013, The Irish Times reported that the services sector grew at a slower rate
  • Also in March, 2013, Business + Leadership reported that in a IBEC (Irish Business and Employers Confederation) business sentiment survey, indicators showed strong  improvement in business confidence at the start of 2013
  • In April, 2013, the reported that Davy, a stockbroking firm, revised its projections upwards for the Irish economy due to better performance and foreign investment
  • In April, 2013, FinFacts Ireland detailed that “Half of all lending to SME (small and medium enterprises) business is in arrears, according to the Central Bank”

But I got curious and asked my counterparts and peers in the #SMEcommunity in Ireland. I posted a query on the Facebook page of the #SMEcommunity.

A few perspectives

Geraldine Kennedy : (Jerros) “I have a boutique in Birr and I am seeing a lift in confidence. People are still cautious but definitely more optimistic. We are seeing more people out and about compared to last year which was desperate at this time.”

Debra Harper: (Tús Nua Designs and co-founder of the #SMEcommunity) “From what I can see there is a lot of small guys emerging, a lot of bigger established companies struggling with big overheads. A lot of biz based from home. There is a real fighting spirit going on, its not easy but the desire to succeed is there. A lot of frustration around new government schemes, all the right language is used but they are not moving with the times, not taking into account that the emerging new biz are tech or digital so can not forecast as easily as someone with a traditional shop and stock.”

Ray Wilkins:  ( “There is a change in the air alright, a little more positive than before, small businesses continue to struggle though and changes are badly needed to help these businesses grow and create employment…government need to listen to the needs of small business and stop overlooking them..then we will see a bigger improvement…desire,drive,determination are all there..government ignoring SMEs causing road blocks..unnecessary.”

Debbie McDonnell: (The Marketing “There are still no realistic options for a small business owner who provides a service or is a sole trader. If you can create a product or you opt to become a limited company you can get more than advice. Frustratingly there are situations where an enterprise board in one region can provide a lot more than one a few miles away too so your postal address can work against you which is all wrong. I think our government are doing a lot of talking about what they’re doing for small business but I know so many with viable businesses that get nothing because of rules, many of which were created pre-recession e.g. innovation vouchers which were last updated in 2007.”

Not exactly bullish

 While this may be not a technically representative sample, their comments reflect the frustration and concerns shared by SME owners in Ireland. There are calls for the Irish government to create policies that support the business growth of indigenous established small businesses. With the overall Eurozone trending downwards  and mixed signals in the Irish economy, it isn’t going to be an easy ride but it isn’t impossible either.

What is your observation about small business in Ireland?

If you could get someone from the Dáil to listen to you, what would you tell him/her?

What do established small businesses need to succeed?

What makes you optimistic about the future of Irish small businesses?

iStockphoto image by Artsy


Managing the Business Owner: What Do You Want?

What do you wantFour words that strike fear and make an otherwise capable professional unable to make sense.

What do you want?

When I ask this in a coaching session, there usually a release of breath and a nervous laugh. Then the avoidant answers come out. Formerly articulate people stop putting two sentences together. I have noticed that it isn’t so much that we don’t know what we want (yes, I’ve been struck dumb with this question too). We know all too well. We are dreamers who see ourselves making that dream salary, gaining recognition as a “go-to” person, serving our customers with excellence and living that satisfying life we crave.

Negative messages and negative experiences Click here to read more »


Does Gender Really Have Anything To Do With Risk-Taking

  For the KaizenBiz community, I wanted to give you an update about our site. It will be back. We’re moving to a new hosting company to resolve the current issue. It has been very educational, to say the least. The good news is the site will be up and running sooner than later.

Does Gender Really Have Anything To Do With Risk-Taking

I was reading a post on the Harvard Business Blog Network when I discovered Do Women Take as Many Risks as Men? The author, Doug Sondheim, noticing a disparity between the men and women he interviewed for his book. There were far more men than women featured in stories about risk-taking. So, he started to wonder why.gender, risk taking

His original question

When he began his research, he asked, “Who, from your personal networks, would you consider smart, successful risk takers?” The referrals numbered more men than women.

What could be involved?

There has been quite a lot of research exploring risk-taking behavior over the years. So here is a quick list of some of the possible variables involved:

  • Testosterone: Research has identified that higher levels of testosterone leads to more risk-taking. According to John Coates, a neuroeconomist, the cycle feeds itself through increasing levels of confidence which leads to higher levels of testosterone.
  • Presentation of the risk: Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky discovered different levels of risk aversion due to circumstances and language used to describe the risk.
  • Physically attractive, tall and strong: I could not have made this up if I tried. Researchers found that these qualities led people to be more likely to tolerate higher levels of risk. They also determined that women were more risk-averse.
  • Stress: The findings find men and women take very different paths when feeling stressed. Men are more likely to take risks while women are less likely.

 So, what?

There seem to be some problems with the research. Most of the studies seem to focus mainly on men and  how they handle risk-taking. There also may be some mountains that were made out of molehills. According to Julie Nelson who reviewed literatures in statistics and cognitive sciences and reports that the differences may not be so stark as previously understood.

Please join us on Friday, March 1, 2o13 at 5pm GMT/12pm ET/9am PT for the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz and add your thoughts about gender and risk-taking. Do we really admire the kinds of risks men take more than ones women take?


How do you define smart risk-taking?

What kinds of personality traits have you noticed in men and women who are smart risk-takers?

What role does culture have in supporting risk taking for men or women?

How do women demonstrate their risk-taking behavior?

How could redefining risk change how we evaluate and engaging in decision-making?