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“As a small business, bringing values, your values, into your professional life is automatic, after all, wasn't that why you took the plunge? But, how often does that work get in the way? Ellen helps you find the place back to balance: your work and your values can peacefully co-exist, even better, your values can help you focus your business. Focus on your abilities so that you can grow and succeed.”
- Danielle Hender, Esq. Shapiro & Hender

Your Business Vision and a Smaller Lens

Zooming in on your business visionDo you focus on the long horizon or the short horizon? There are limits to doing either strategy exclusively. However, the short term business vision of 1 year is a building block to making your overall vision an everyday experience. How do you make sure that your current actions will lead to the big prize?

Using a PESTEL analysis or a SWOT analysis is a great way to highlight what is going on in and around your business. You need the data. It is easy to assume that the data will point out just the weaknesses or challenges. It also illuminates the strengths and opportunities.

This is the stuff that affirms your organizational vision

When you see what is working, it reminds you that you are on the right path. It’s that simple. Staying aware of the overall vision of your business is part of your foundation.

Take a moment and make the lens a little smaller. What about 2012?

See, when you engage in strategic planning for the coming year, you’re really articulating your vision for that year. Done right, it provides a stepping stone to making your overall organizational vision an everyday experience.

To make your lens a little smaller, start by answering the following questions:

1. What will be accomplished as of December 31, 2012?

2. Why is this so important?

3. Why now?

“Because the business is supposed to make money” is not an answer.

That’s a given. Any business can say that. Well, any business should say that. You have a a variety of choices of what you can offer, which service or product gets a certain focus and how you will market and sell your services and products. Why are you and your team making the specific choices you’re including in your strategic plan?

What do you see for coming year?

How is this part of your overall vision for your whole business?

About the author:  I’m Elli St.George Godfrey, a small business coach and trainer who guides established small business owners to be comfortable in their own skins, unlock the CEO within while leading and managing change in their organizations.  Whether you are expanding locally or internationally, my 3 keys coaching process helps clients move from being excited about a new business opportunity to having the tools to make it actually happen. Curious? Schedule your complimentary coaching session here.





Where Are You Going?

Business vision is True NorthWhen you were a kid and just going out the door, did your mom ask you “where are you going?” How did you answer? Did you say “nowhere” or “just up the street” or maybe even say the name of one of your friends? You had an idea of where you wanted to go when you walked out the door.

So what about your small business?

When you’ve been in business for a while, you know essentially where you going. There is a purpose to your business, right? Have you asked yourself recently, “where are you going?”

All businesses evolve over time. Sometimes by choice, sometimes by circumstance.  The people running them learn more about customer’s needs and wants or technology enables something to exist that couldn’t exist before. Someone comes up with an innovative product or system. The recent recession and economic recovery has caused some businesses to go back to their roots while other businesses are reinventing themselves.

All evolution.

With so much change, it ‘s easy to lose your True North.

Your business vision is your True North. How did you want your business to affect the world? One client I coached is committed to making it easy to communicate electronically. Another client sees her wealth management business as a tool for reliable, no stress retirements. For your small business, your vision provides the framework for the types of actions you take, the people you hire and how you stay motivated. It comes from your value system. Your vision is just over the horizon waiting for you.

To review your vision, ask yourself these questions:

1. What are your top 3 values right now?

2. What is the most important thing you want your business to accomplish and why?

3. How aligned are your current business goals with your business vision?

So, where are you going?

*For more information like this live, check out my complementary teleclass, “How To Use the CEO Mindset For Small Business Success” Thursday March 31st, 7 pm GMT/3pm ET


It Always Starts With Vision

Business visionWhy did you start your small business? I love asking this question and then hearing the stories. Business owners faces light up or take on this earnestness that displays their passion and expertise. Even when I have an incomplete understanding of what their business really does, I find I get carried away and want to learn more!

All of our businesses started with some story about living your dreams-you wanted to share a cool technology, a different way of doing things, a successful career, loving relationships, or even financial freedom. Then comes the moment when you think, “Gee, maybe I should write a business plan.” Now, assuming you haven’t become overwhelmed with boatloads of advice of how to write a good business plan, you realize that you need to set goals.

Well-targeted goal setting starts with an idea, a vision and a focused vision enables you to design a clear and measurable action plan to achieve your goal.  It also reminds you of what you value most. 

There’s not one way to write a “good” business plan. I often recommend to small business owners that they use a living business plan. This document could be the best business tool you ever use! (Seriously!   But that’s another post for another day). It is an informal document that outlines the Why, the What, and the How of your business. The purpose of your business matters deeply. Think about a job you had where you had the message you were expendable or simply didn’t matter. I’d bet that you’d didn’t go to work singing, “Heigh ho, heigh ho, off to work I go” with great zeal. Now you get to set the tone and work style of your small business. So why did you start your business?

Getting to The Why

It’s worth your time clarifying the Why. I’ve  had clients discover what scares them most and what their business really means to them. One client told me that money wasn’t his motivator and he undercharged for his services. Sometimes he even gave his expertise away for free. When he was asked what he really desired most, he explained he just wanted to help nonprofits fulfill their missions with more effective and fun fundraising. He also described how he wanted to become a philanthropist. Charging little to no fee wouldn’t meet those goals.

What’s in your heart and soul and how is your business going to fulfill this?

Brainstorm the details of your vision without editing or choosing what is most realistic.  Imagining your ideal business  requires dreaming big with no limits.  Use your creativity.  Actually, think of the craziest, most ridiculous ideas (the rest will follow, really).  Choosing the best action steps will come later.  Take a piece of paper and pen/pencil, draw, scribble, or list your ideas.  To aid your brainstorming, answer these questions:

  • What do I really want most for my small business?
  • What are my top 3 values?
  • What am I tolerating?
  • What does success mean to me? 
  • What fears am I noticing as I add details to my vision?  

 Clarifying your values or what is important to you allows you to build a solid foundation under your vision.  Having this clarity makes success easier by providing a deeper meaning to your choices.  Laura Whitworth, Henry Kimsey-House, and Phil Sandahl write that “when we are not living out our values, there is dissonance.  The discord can get so out of tune, that it can literally become unhealthy.”  These values are personal and choosing to pay attention to them may reduce some of the dissatisfaction in your life. Pay attention to your values and not what someone else believes you ought to be, not what you wish you were like or ignore a value such as recognition or financial success if it is actually something you consider important. Keep in mind that this is going to become part of your organizational culture as your small business grows and matures.

Daring to dream big nurtures creativity and motivation.  It also requires that you identify what feels scary or impossible. Developing a vision in accordance to your value system supports your desire to follow through and invest the necessary time, energy, and money.  As George Bernard Shaw once said, “Life isn’t about finding yourself, Life is about creating yourself.”  My client discovered a way to stay aligned with what’s most important to him and develop a business he’s proud of.

What small business are you creating?


Thinking Time

One of the most important activities a small business owner or executive can do is make time to think.  Whether you subscribe to the ideas of Peter Drucker, Peter Senge, Jim Collins, or many of the other business management thinkers, they share a common value regarding thinking.  I suppose a better word would be contemplating.  

Many of the small business people with whom I speak tell me they do not have time to contemplate what they really want to happen.  There is payroll to make, customer service, finances, information management, and a host of other nuts and bolts tasks.  While this is true, there is this question. 

What if refusing to take the time to contemplate the state of your business and your role in it was actually an act of self-sabotage?  Ugh!  All that time, energy, money, and dreams wasted and your business may stagnate or fail.  Oddly enough, most of us discount the time we have available for thinking.  For me, my thinking time shifted when my son was born.  This took some adjustments but it also acknowledged reality.  While some of my time was clearly overshadowed by the fog of sleep deprivation, there were the other times when I could let my mind wander and generate new strategies, new language, or simply review the current state of my business.  What are some of these good times? Here are some suggestions…

  • While taking a shower, bath, or shaving.  These 5+ minutes could be great times to rehearse an elevator speech or a presentation.  Use the time to set up your to-do list of what you really want to accomplish during the day.
  • While commuting.  You could torment yourself by thinking about the abysmal traffic conditions, the slow train, or the awful weather.  A better use of your time (and reduce your stess level; always a plus) is to let your imagination run wild and consider what would make your business more interesting or even, thrilling to you. 
  • The first 15-20 minutes.  Most of us do not jump into our work right away when we first get to work.  The advantage to using only 15-20 minutes is that you write quickly and avoid telling yourself that your ideas are harebrained.  (You can edit them later.)  Begin with the question, “What do I want?”  Take the time each day to write, draw, or type your goals, your dreams, and your brilliant ideas (i.e. the ones from the shower) in a designated file or notebook.  In the last 5 minutes, review the previous entries and delete or cross out the ones you find boring, ridiculous, or ill-fitting. 
  • Monday morning or Friday morming.  Or Tuesday, Wednesday…any time once a week you set aside 15-20 minutes.  This is a variation on the previous suggestion.  Granted there are times when we do have to jump into our work and do not stop until the end of the day (or night).  That does not mean that you give up contemplating how to make you and your business more effective, interesting, and/or financially sound.  Using the same method already suggested, write down anything and everything for the first 10-15 minutes and in the last 5 minutes, review all of your ideas and edit them. 
  • Whenever.  Creativity can sneak up on us during conversations, using the toilet, or during leisure time.  Use it to your advantage.  Sometimes just letting things percolate in the backs of our minds allows us to get them just right.  Keep your Blackberry, personal organizer, or a small notebook on hand to just jot the idea quickly and review it when you have more time.  One person has told me how she has been known to grab a paper napkin to write down her ideas. 

Taking the time to think about your business is important.  It is just as important as attending to your finances, returning phone calls, or information management.  It is an opportunity to be honest with yourself and make sure you are on track with your business vision.  It can clarify how you want to use your accountant, your coach, or your employees to make your business more