The Gifts of Imperfection: Book Summary and Riff

The Gifts of Imperfection Let go of who you think you’re supposed to be and embrace who you are

by Brene Brown

This book is about living a wholehearted life. As always, I think about business. As I read this book, I was thinking about what it means to live a wholehearted business.  I have already written about your mindful business. Let’s explore wholehearted business.

This post started out being a summary of the book and ended up being a mashup of Bene Brown’s book on wholehearted living and my thoughts on wholehearted business. Any mistakes or flawed logic are mine. All the good stuff is her’s. Italicized text are quotes.

Living wholeheartedly

How much we know and understand ourselves is critically important, but there is something that is even more essential to living a wholehearted life: loving ourselves

Head work is important, but heart work is just as important. Your business needs to make sense (cents) as well as feed your soul.

Courage, compassion and connection are daily practices. My favourite virtues and the ones by which I run my business are courage, truth, wisdom and beauty. Sometimes I lose sight of those as I get sucked into the day-to-day, making-the-mortgage rat race of small business. When I do, I find myself and my business spiralling into an abyss.  Every time I stop myself and focus again on those virtues, my world opens up, money flows again and the anxiety melts away. The more human, courageous, compassionate and connected I am in business, the more successful I become.

Courage to do the right/compassionate/vulnerable thing. Courage to show ourselves as less than perfect.  The reality is we are not perfect, so our business is not perfect. Pretending to be, means we are lying and everyone hates a liar.

Compassion involves learning to relax and allow ourselves to move gently toward what scares us. The heart of compassion is really acceptance

Connection is the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard and valued; when they can give and receive without judgement; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.

Until we can receive with an open heart, we are never really giving with an open heart. When we attach judgement to receiving help, we knowingly or unknowingly attach judgement to giving help.

This may be one of the hardest lessons for small business owners to learn. Part of the difficulty we have with delegation is around not being willing to let go and not being willing to receive help. I took part in a discussion the other day where one business owner talked about getting help from a number of people. Her business is a very community-minded social business. Another business owner asked about how she managed those relationships so no one felt taken advantage of. Her answer was – cookies. She makes awesome cookies. That discussion opened my eyes to how I don’t ask for help enough. I’ve looked at that first business owner and seen the amazing progress she has made. That discussion is a clue to the reason why.

Can we love others more than we love ourselves?

If we want to live and love with our whole hearts, and if we want to engage with the world from a place of worthiness, we have to talk about the things that get in the way – especially shame, fear and vulnerability.

We want the how-to and it is very alluring, yet we are still standing in the same place. We have to clear what’s in the way. It’s not that we don’t know how to be happy, it’s that we do the things that make us unhappy. Like feel shame, afraid and alone. Everyone struggles in their business. This is where comparing my insides with other people’s outsides makes me feel like I’m not doing as well as everyone else. I must be a really lousy business owner. So who am I to offer to help people with their business…. You get the picture. You’ve probably said the same things. Loving and accepting ourselves is the best thing we can do for ourselves and the people we want to help.

In the same way that we all know how to eat well, yet it’s a struggle to do it all the time; we all know how to make our businesses work. Yet, we let the opposites of courage, compassion and connection get in the way – fear and the sense that we need to do this on our own get in the way.

Shame resilience 101

Here are the first 3 things you need to know about shame:

  1. We all have it. Shame is universal and one of the most primitive human emotions we experience. The only people who don’t experience shame lack the capacity for empathy and human connection.

  2. We’re all afraid to talk about shame.

  3. The less we talk about shame, the more control it has over our lives.

We have a tendency to judge our insides by everyone else’s outsides. That leads to feeling inadequate. We feel that our businesses reflect ourselves and if they are less than perfect, then so are we. The myth of the lone entrepreneur overcoming obstacles to reach that pinnacle of success, is just that. A myth. First of all every successful business person uses the word we, not I. They readily tell you that they did not and could not have done it on their own. They will gladly share their failure stories, too. They will tell you that their failures are what lead to their successes.

A wise and very experienced business woman told me about guiding her business through the recession of the 80’s. She said the worse thing was the loneliness and the feeling that she must have done something wrong otherwise her business would have been able to weather the storm better. After is was over, she said she heard the same things from other business people and she promised herself never to let her fear and shame keep her from connecting with other business people.

Guilt = I did something bad

Shame = I am bad

When our businesses are less than perfect – and whose business is perfect? – we don’t feel we did something wrong or made a few bad decisions and we certainly don’t feel that it’s the ecosystem we are in, no, we feel there is something wrong with us. We are bad business people.Too many business owners ask me if they should get an MBA so they can be a better business owner. We are sold the idea that we need to master marketing, operations, HR and finance. No one can do that. So we feel shame that we are not good enough.

 

Guideposts to Shame resilience

Cultivating Authenticity. Authenticity is a practice. We can let our business reflect who we really are. It’s what makes people want to do business with us rather than someone else. Staying true to ourselves is the hardest battle we will have.

Get Deliberate: Face into your uniqueness and practice awareness of it

Get Inspired: Look around you to other business people who are practicing their uniqueness and take courage from their example.

Get Going: recognize when you begin to slip away from your authentic self. Give yourself a little space and gently allow yourself to be yourself.

Cultivating Self-Compassion. Perfectionism is the unhealthy expectation of never making a misstep. Striving to be your best and to improve, are positive endeavours. The best businesses have a healthy doses of the unknown, messiness and letting go. We need to be able to accept in ourselves the compassion we share with others. You would never tell a friend that they were stupid for making that decision in their business, so why do we feel it’s okay for ourselves. Perfectionism is contagious and we end up infecting everyone around us creating critical and charged environments.

Get Deliberate:Listen to your self talk and if you wouldn’t say it to a friend don’t say it to yourself

Get Inspired: Imperfections are not inadequacies, they are reminders that we’re all in this together.

Get Going: Have a replacement mantra for when we feel our critical self-talk begin.

 

Cultivating a Resilient Spirit. Resiliency is that capacity we build so we can draw on it when needed. Recognizing and building a community around you that you can draw upon when you need help. The ability to ask for that help and receive it. So, hope is a combination of setting goals, having the tenacity and perseverance to pursue them and believing in our abilities. Hope is learned. From experience, we can squash our hope, and therefore our resilience by focussing on the times we didn’t follow through with goals we set rather than applaud our courage in trying many things and focusing on the ones we did accomplish.There’s a difference between thinking we deserve something and the knowledge that we can accomplish it. One of the ways we deal with these feelings of shame is to numb. Any behaviour that has a whiff of addiction is eligible. Facebook, anyone? Email checking. Bad eating, work a holism, another podcast? all of these. when we numb the dark, we numb the light.

Get Deliberate: Food your body, mind, spirit and community every day.

Get Inspired: Hang out with people who have a resilient spirit.

Get Going: Develop a practice that nourishes you.

 

Cultivating Gratitude and Joy. These go hand in hand. Having feelings of gratitude gives you feelings of joy. When you are feeling grateful for your customers do you treat them differently than when you don’t. The answer for most people is yes. Don’t let this become another thing to fail at. No one feels joy and gratitude all the time. The opposite is fear and scarcity. When we are working from a place of scarcity and fear, we make decisions that are based on protecting, hoarding and saving rather than on generosity (which always ‘pays’ more in the end), openness (which invites collaboration and support) and investing (which multiplies).

Get Deliberate: Recognize when we are acting out of fear and making decisions based on fear. Replace those feelings with gratitude and feel the joy.

Get Inspired: Recognize and acknowledge the small moments of joy. Celebrate. That’s something we don’t do enough, especially in business!

Get Going: create a gratitude practice.

 

Cultivating Intuition and Trusting Faith. Intuition is not a single way of knowing – it’s our ability to hold space for uncertainty and our willingness to trust the many ways we’ve developed knowledge and insight, including instinct, experience, faith and reason. What gets in the way is our need for certainty. We need the facts! the process happens without our consciously following it. Faith is also about letting go of uncertainty and trusting. You know more than you think you do. You have accomplished things that you didn’t think you could when you started them, but you did.

Get Deliberate: When you begin to feel the anxiety of uncertainty, lean into it. Give yourself some breathing room to let it wash over you and come back to a still place. Then listen to your intuition.

Get Inspired:

Get Going: Allow intuition and trust to guide you for small things and build from there.

 

Cultivating Creativity. There’s no such thing as creative people and non-creative people. The only unique contribution we will make in this world will be born of our creativity. If we want to make meaning, we need to make art. The more you let that side of you out the richer your business will be. By that I don’t mean rich in money, although it is inevitable that money will follow. James Altucher talks about our ideas muscle. He advocates spending time every day to come up with 10 ideas for the sole purpose of exercising that muscle. I consider myself to be a very creative person, whether or not I’m doing ‘art’. I did try to avoid using the words creative and bookkeeper in the same sentence, because sometimes people would misconstrue. I was and remain a creative bookkeeper and business strategist. I think this is one of the most underrated competencies in business and one that flies out the door the more stressed we are. That’s when we need it most.

Get Deliberate: Carve out time to be creative. Bring creativity to all you do.

Get Inspired: Connect with other people practicing creativity.

Get Going: Take a class. Explore widely. Pick up magazines in things you’ve never looked into before. Bird carving? Cabinet making? Jewelry making? Pottery? Yup, there’s a magazine for that and very likely you will find a copy at your local library.

 

Cultivating Play and Rest. Our best ideas come when we play and rest. We are living in an epidemic of sleep deprivation. We cannot do our best work when we are tired, cranky and strung out. Play and rest are the antidotes. In these days of our self-worth being tied to our net-worth and our worshipping at the altar of productivity, we revere workaholism.When things aren’t going well, our instinct is to put our heads down and push through. The reality is that the strategy most likely to work is to step back, play, rest and come at it again with renewed energy, creativity and vigour.

Get Deliberate: Get very clear about what the ingredients are for your ideal business. We’re not talking about revenue goals here, but what it feels like for you, your staff, your customers and your community. What is the joy and meaning in your business?

Get Inspired: Watch children closely enough that you see the light bulbs go off as they play. Then go do that.

Get Going: Take something off your to do list and add in play or rest.

 

Cultivating Calm and Stillness. It’s not about being anxiety-free or even anxiety-averse; [but] anxiety-aware.  ..bring perspective to complicated situations and feel their feelings without reacting to heightened emotions like fear and anger. Slow down and start by making sure you have all the info. Stillness is not about focusing on nothingness; it’s about creating a clearing. It’s opening up an emotionally clutter-free space and allowing ourselves to feel and think and dream and question. Meditation comes to mind. We’re supposed to focus on something (an object, image or mantra) and if our minds wander, we should gently and without judgement bring our thoughts back. Holy, moly, IF my mind wanders? It felt like a failure every time. But I came across something that helped the object isn’t about emptying your mind so much as it’s about practicing controlling your thoughts. The whole object of the exercise is to practice focusing our thoughts. That I can get my head around.

Calm and stillness are contagious in the same way anxiety is. One of the paradoxes of time I have found is that the more I slow down, the more time I have. The worst thing to do when I’m up against a deadline is to rush. Invariabley I make mistakes and I can’t engage deeply enough to bring my best. When I take a breath, focus on the task and ignore time, I have enough.

Get Deliberate: Recognize when anxiety is rising and breath.

Get Inspired: Stand up and step away from your desk. Get outside for a 10 minute walk. Your whole perspective, breathing, body language and focus relaxes and engages after that.

Get Going: Take it up a notch and try meditation or regular trips into nature. Allow yourself the luxury of leaning into flow with a hobby or your work.

 

Cultivating Meaningful Work. Ignoring our gifts and talents eats our soul. This is where bringing your uniqueness into your business feeds you and it means you bring the best of you to play. Some people are able to align their passions with their profits. It takes a strong awareness of what your gifts and talents are, deep work on building a business model around those and then consistent and sustained effort to build that business. It may seem effortless from the outside and certainly with hindsight. In some ways I’m not sure if I will never retire because I love what I do (and I don’t have the savings) or if I have already. I have the luxury of dictating my own schedule. I don’t live a life of conventional success, but I get to choose what success means for me. And you do too.

When we define who/what we are we need to own it. I tell people all the time that I’m not a writer, and yet, I have a published book, I have blogs dating back to 2004 and I spend the majority of my time making sounds with my computer keyboard. It is how I spend most of my working time but I don’t make money that way. We are what we do. I am a writer. and a mom, friend, strategist, community builder, traveller, etc.

Get Deliberate: What does meaningful ‘work’ mean to you. I use quotes because I want to define work as how you spend your time, not how you make money. That may or may not come, but it definitely won’t if you don’t define it.

Get Inspired: I try to take the first hour of every day to work on interesting projects, you know the kind, the ones that we promise ourselves we will get to, once we’re caught up and everything is working properly. After many years of waiting for that time, I decided just to go for it. I find that I can tackle the rest of the day with more joy and creativity.

Get Going: Choose one thing that you want more of and do it. Volunteer, make it a hobby, integrate it into your offerings, write about it, study it – do what it takes to make it a part of your life.

 

Cultivating Laughter, Song and Dance. This is a tough one for me. I used to dance – I was a disco dancer, I took modern dance as a young adult. I have a stack of vinyl records that I haven’t heard in about 2 decades. I’m not telling you this to give away my age, but to indicate how much I have shut this part of my life down. I have a hard time with multiple sources of sound, so I tend not to impose my choices on the rest of the family. I’m . I always feel noticed in public. I don’t dance when all the girls head to the dance floor, because I am 6 ‘ tall, head and shoulders taller

I think (Country)’s Got Talent, Dancing with the Stars, So you think you can Dance and (Country) Idol have created an atmosphere of judgement around dancing and singing. It’s not about joy any more, it’s about how you compare.

I miss singing and dancing for the pure pleasure it brings. I wish I had a story about how I got brave and did it anyway. Maybe I will some day. I’m going to work on that.

The Hopi Indians have a saying, “To watch us dance is to hear our hearts speak”

Get Deliberate:I did try to start a women’s modern dance class at the dance school my daughter attends. I will keep trying.

Get Inspired:

Get Going:

 

This is a book about Wholehearted Living. I’ve taken each piece and applied it to Wholehearted Business. I’ve incorporated Mindful Business and I’m adding this into my exploration of business. I am so interested in your thoughts on this.

How do you make your business wholehearted? Can you have a wholehearted business? What will it take for your business to be wholehearted?

Frances Schagen is a small business innovator, geeking out over business strategy, business models and building entrepreneurial ecosystems. She believes that’s the kind of thinking we need to save the world. Her calling is to create places where entrepreneurship can thrive within our business and within our community.

Books in February

I finished 8 books. That’s a big month even for me. Two were audiobooks borrowed from the library. I download them onto the Overdrive app on my phone so that they are very portable. I listen to books when I’m walking and when I’m doing chores.

The only way I can afford my reading habit is because of the library. The other books this time were all library books, too, and all plucked from the front table where the librarians set out a selection. It’s the only way I would have come across Swedish author, Jonas Jonasson or Parisian author, Katherine Pancol. It is interesting to ‘hear’ the slight differences in views, voices and customs. I’m more sensitive to the differences after spending a week with 700 people from around the world at the TEDxSummit. We all bring our own lens, the way our experiences shape the way we see the world. I look for those shades of viewpoints when exploring concepts.

This was a month of shedding old ideas by stepping into other perspectives.

Pond Life: a swimmers journal, by Al Alvarez. I must admit that I put this down because at the start it was pretty much a log of his daily swim: water temp, other swimmers and wildlife. It seemed almost boring, even though I enjoyed the writing, but I have a big enough pile of books to read to feel them looming over me. There comes a point in every book where I make the decision to keep going or dive into the next book. I don’t put a book down lightly. Something drew me back and I’m glad I did. The story that unfolded over several years was one of aging. In fact he describes having several strokes and his determination to continue swimming despite the difficulty in getting around. Let me be clear, he is talking about swimming year round in a pond in London. The idea of swimming in 4C water is daunting, but it made me think about habits, what’s possible and determination.

Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams, read by Martin Freeman. Douglas Adams was a genius at taking an idea and showing you the other side of it. You’ll have to read the book to find out the big flip in this book. His books are full of characters that see the same things and have completely opposite views of what they really are. Listening to Martin Freeman read Restaurant at the end of the Universe, was cool for 2 reasons. He played Arthur Dent in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe movie. The third season of Sherlock went by way too fast and we miss it already.

Hands of Flame by CE Murphy. Yet more books about the ‘other’ races that live among us. We can only see what we can see.  PS if you want a funny story about vampires, read the Fat Vampire series.

The 100 year old man that climbed out the window and disappeared, by Jonas Jonasson. This was a thoroughly enjoyable book with an eccentric cast of characters. The story is also about Karl’s life (said 100 year old man). He had great swaths of years and decades that were seemingly lost – one to an alcoholic haze on a beach. It made me feel that it’s okay to be able to sum up a decade with a few sentences. Being able to do that doesn’t mean those years are lost and that it’s hopeless to bother carrying on. We can still do something that matters. There is also the element of living longer. Being able to climb out a window at 100 years old isn’t far fetched. How does that change the way we view our time on earth?

The Yellow Eyes of Crocodiles by Katherine Pancol. When a book comes out of another country it’s likely to be one of the best. When it is translated, I can’t help but wonder whose voice are we reading? I loved the writing, in fact I stayed up until the wee hours to finish reading the book. This is a book about reinventing oneself and about the more things change the more they stay the same. I know that seems like a contradiction, but I think our core stays the same, while we can change how we navigate the world. We can’t change others or how they relate to us. It’s why we often lose relationships as we change.

Heartbreak Hotel by Deborah Moggach. She wrote the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, another ensemble piece set at a hotel. The story is about a retired actor from London being left a B&B in Wales. He decides to trade the city life for town life. His solution to not enough custom opens the doors to interesting people and interactions. Another story about reinvention on one’s own terms.

Walden on Wheels: the open road from debt to freedom, by Ken Ilgunas. When he graduates with a “useless liberal arts degree” and $32,000 debt into a non-existent job market, Ken takes to the wilderness in Alaska to make as much money as he can. Along the way he learns about strength, resilience and determination. This is a true accounting of his life over 6 years. He explores simplicity, the slippery slope and the loneliness of not stepping in tune with the conventional drummer.

Secrets of Eden by Chris Bohjalian. This is the second audiobook and, as always, I listened to it over the same time period as reading other books. This makes for interesting juxtapositions. This was another book I almost didn’t finish. The story is based on spousal abuse and a murder suicide. I try to be careful with what goes into my mind. I believe our minds are our most important environment. The story was presented from 4 different perspectives (read by 4 different people). It’s a story of assumptions based on surface information and only seeing what we are looking for.

I didn’t plan to consume a group of books all about reinvention, seeing what we are looking for and determination to be true to ourselves. Then again, maybe that’s what I got out of these books because that’s what I’m exploring now. Maybe if you were to read all of these, you would find a different unifying theme.

I’m Frances Schagen, business strategist and author of Your Effortless Business.

More Sales is NEVER About Marketing

There are only 3 ways to make more sales:

  • Sell more often to your existing customers
  • Sell more each time to your existing customers
  • Sell to more people

Only one of them is about selling to new customers and the most expensive one.

Selling to your existing customers is easy. They already know, like and trust you. You already know them, their situations and their needs. If you need more information how or what to sell them you only need to ask them! For heaven’s sake, just ask.

Make it Easy

The easiest way to sell more often is to make sure your sales process is easy. The less friction there, the more often people will do click the button, contact you or drop by.

Have a way to gently remind your customers. We all get busy. Would you be appreciative or irritated if your mechanic sent you a text or email (your preference) when you are due for an oil change?

 

Be Valuable

Making bigger sales is about providing all the value you can. Don’t stop when you are getting close. The biggest mistake I made with my bookkeeping service was in not having an easy, predictable way to sit down with our business owners on a regular basis to talk about their business. I knew I needed to do it, but the biggest hurdle was in believing that I could really help. I thought that I had to do it all in a couple of hours so I didn’t charge them too much. That’s impossible. I did a major disservice.

There is a balance that has to be made between providing more service and staying with your focus and your strengths. We were often asked to take on admin roles like sending out letters or being an answering service. We chose not to do those kinds of things because they were not part of our core competency of bookkeeping.

Tell Your Story

Start with your Why. Why you are in business, your values, your beliefs are every bit as important as the mechanics of what you sell. It is what makes you unique (ie your USP or unique selling proposition). “People don’t buy what you sell, they buy why you sell it.”

Tell your story Tell your Story

 

Own Your Story

I heard about a tea shop that wants to be a quiet place to get away, so they block internet and phone signals. Another tea shop wants to be the place you explore the world so they bring you the most unique teas. You won’t find Earl Grey or Orange Pekoe here.

Tell your story in everything you do. Your place of business, how you communicate, your rituals, your processes, your results are all parts in the way you tell your story.

One of the ways I used to tell our story was to run the Crystal Clear Lunch & Learn series. I believe in the power of community in small business so I created a way to bring us together on a regular basis to hear from and meet local experts.

 

Preach to the Converted

Convincing people to change is not easy. So why bother even trying. There are too many people who believe what you believe and it is easy to find them now. The more unique you are, the less effective will be mass marketing.

It is so much easier to take people a couple more steps along a path they are already on, than to ask them to switch paths. Hang out where they are, share what you know, and listen to what they have to say. Join that conversation. Never mind all the other people who could use what you offer. They’ll get it or they won’t and they are more likely to ‘get it’ from a friend who is already your customer than from you.

 

Word of Mouth

is the most powerful way to share your story. which is why you need to turn every one of your customers into…

Raving Fans

These are people who are so blown away with the results you give them, that they couldn’t not tell their friends if you asked them to.

 

The best way to get more sales is to focus all your attention and resources on your existing customers and make them ecstatic. Work closely and deeply with them to find out what they really need from you and give them that.

7 Steps to Taming the Idea Monster

Also known as the shiny object syndrome or our ADD culture. The idea monster grows more bloated every day until we tame it. If you are like  every business other owner you have more ideas than you can possibly execute. And you get more ideas every day.

And when you search for information and resources on how to execute on those ideas, you are overwhelmed by the sheer volume. So you do nothing.

Does that sound familiar?

It should, because it almost certainly plays itself out in your life and aspects of your business. The good news is that there are parts of your life and business where you are good at evaluating ideas, learning about how to do them and executing on them.

Successful business owners prioritize ideas and execute on them one at a time.

  1. They have a way to evaluate ideas.

  2. They invest in learning how to execute on them.

  3. They stay with it until it succeeds, no matter how long it takes or how many iterations it goes through.

 

When is the last time you did that? Really? Because we all have in some aspects of our lives, at some times in our lives or with some teams in our lives. Recall it, think about it and think about how you will do that again. Now. With one really promising idea.

 

Here’s a 7 step process for Taming the Idea Monster

1. List all of them

Information and ideas belong somewhere other than your brain. Use your brain for working, not storage.

The act of listing your ideas will clarify your thinking. As you articulate them, you will realize that some of your ideas are not suitable, realistic, possible or desirable for you and your business.

 

2. Know your values

We all know that family, kindness, integrity etc are important values. That being said, we all have different values that are important to us. For instance, my values are fun, learning, ecology and community. I love my 4 kids. I love to travel. When I did a values exercise, I didn’t get family or travel, I got fun, learning, ecology and community. I engage in my family and travel with fun, learning, ecology and community.

Knowing that helps me to do another cull of my ideas. If they aren’t about fun, learning, using resources wisely or building community, then they aren’t for me.

If you haven’t done an exercise to figure out your values, here is a link to an exercise http://businessownerssuccessclub.wordpress.com/2013/01/15/discovering-your-values/

Doing this is an eye-opening experience. Once you discover your values, you will find that some of your past choices make more sense to you.

 

3. Clear Vision

Where are you headed? Are you building a business to sell? Or a business to give you a specific lifestyle? Are you focussed on providing an income?

We are constantly told how to grow our businesses bigger. But if that’s not what you want, it doesn’t make sense to follow up on any of those ideas. On the other hand, if bigger is where we want to go, then leadership, team building, culture and developing brand ideas are the ones to follow.

My vision is centred pretty squarely around community. If new ideas don’t lead me in that direction, they are dropped.

 

4. Your Business Model

Who are your customers? What problem are you solving for them? Where do you get your revenue? Who cares about what you do?

Lean Canvas and Business Model Canvas are both great tools for clearly articulating your business model. It helps to be very clear on your revenue model and on what’s important for your customers.

If an idea doesn’t support your business model, or actively works against it – drop it.

 

5. Your Story Your Identity Your Brand

Who are you? How do people see you? How do you see yourself? Ask. It’s the only way you will know for sure.

Which ideas fit with that? If people see you as logical and you get all emotional on them, or if they see you as human and approachable and you get all facts and figures on them, everyone will end up confused.

Be who you are and really own it.

 

6.Think Strategically About How

By now, you should have a shortlist of ideas. Ideas that fit your values, vision and business model.

Spend some time thinking through each of these ideas strategically. This is what strategic planning is all about.

Think through what results you can expect – best case and worst case.

What resources do you need to implement the idea? What will it take to get those resources?

7. Now Choose

Armed with this, which do you want to do first? Which will you make your highest priority? Which excited you? Which are you willing to commit yourself to seeing succeed?

 

Now Execute!

That’s it. That’s your process for evaluating ideas. You will find that focusing on one idea, will make it easier to ignore other ideas.

Now that you know your values, your vision and your business model, continue running any new ideas through those considerations before adding them to your ongoing idea list. Each time you complete the implementation of an idea, go back to your list to choose your next idea.

Tell Us How You Did

Do you recognize this? – maybe not explicitly stated in these words. Where have you used this in your life before? How did you do with this process? Please share below.

Drowning in Ideas

Do you ever feel this way?

Like you have so many ideas that you are drowning in them?

You don’t know which ones to do first. They are all great ideas and they would work – probably. Other people have made them work for their business. You can make them work for you, too.

They all come with pieces you don’t know how to do, especially around technology. Podcasts are a great idea and you can even see yourself doing them. But. What mic to use? What software? Where and how to post them? Video is good. Writing articles. Making signs. Doing PR. Automating. All of it, would be great, but how?

The information is all out there. You can fill your day just reading, listening to podcasts and watching videos showing you how what to do to succeed in your business. Some of it is great and some of it is fluff. How do you find the good stuff? Really, I want to know your methods for finding the good stuff.

Most of it is for online business. Dig even a little and it turns out it’s all about online business. Great ideas, but how do they help you with your store, restaurant or service business? Hint: your customers are online, too. Feeling as overwhelmed as you.

Lean Canvas is a powerful tool for helping you see very clearly, where you should concentrate in your business and what is most important to your customers. Here’s a great online ebook to show you how the lean canvas is used for startups. I’m hosting a workshop on how to use Lean Canvas as a tool for offline businesses that are past the startup phase. http://youreffortlessbusiness.wordpress.com/business-strategy-workshop-series/

Customer/Problem Fit

The first step with lean is to solve the customer/problem fit. What is the problem your customer is solving with your product or service?

Why do your customers come to you?

and not to your competitor?

Great service isn’t the answer. Nor is better products. Nor delicious food. All of those are gimmes. They are baseline standards.

No, your customers are coming to you for a solution to their problem.

For instance: every restaurant has delicious food and good service. What experience do your customers want from your restaurant? Why are they choosing you over every other food option out there.

Is it comfort? Speed? Conversation? Relaxation? Fueling?

What story are they telling themselves?

Are they thinking about getting food in as quickly as possible at as low a price as possible? Is this merely a functional experience?

Are they treating themselves? Are they looking to be pampered and fed delicious food and drink?

Are they sharing the experience with someone else? Are they making an impression? Are they giving this gift to a loved one? Are they showing their kids how to be in the world?

Are they concerned with the food? Do they have allergies or intolerances? Is this part of their health care?

How important is the food? The ambiance? The service? The speed? The nutrition? The taste? The experience?

What trade offs are they making? Speed for taste? Price for service? Health for convenience?

You can’t be all things to all people. When you try, you become nothing for no one. You recede into mediocrity like all the others.

The first step in Lean is to investigate the customer problem fit.

Ask!

How can you ask your customers in a way that you get the answer?

Especially considering most people may not even really know, or they may not want to give you the true answer for many reasons.

 

What do you think?

Lean Canvas isn’t just for Startups

The lean canvas  is a tool used by Startups to model a business idea. There are several versions, but they all have you think through essentially the same things: your customers, how you interact with them, and their problem that you are solving. Further they ask you to outline revenue and costs.

When used properly, it is designed for you to make several lean canvases with different assumptions on each one.

For instance, you may want to make an app for shared rides to and from other-than-school classes (band practice, teams, dance or music lessons). You identify several distinct user groups: after school kids, other than school kids, adults. Each group has different needs, wants and desires. In several cases the user is not the payer – parents pay, but kids get the lift.

A lean canvas is made for each user group and the riskiest bit in each scenario is identified. Those risks are tested to see which of those scenarios is the most likely to succeed. As you do that testing, you will be looking for all feedback that will help you refine your offering. For instance (yes, I played with this one) I thought the riskiest bit would be that parents were afraid to let their kids travel with ‘strangers’ (really just other parents that they could all get to know), but the feedback from parents was that even though they found the driving around irritating, they felt it was a way to show their parental love. That’s a tough one to overcome. If one were to pursue this app, we would have to show how this app would help parents in showing parental love, by maybe pointing out that not driving meant a home cooked meal.

You can see how this is a valuable tool for a startup that is trying to figure their way forward.

Can you use it in your traditional, mature business?

You bet you can!

In fact, you have a huge advantage, because you have access to your customers, right?

Start by making a canvas for each of your product/service offerings and each of your customer groups. for instance, if you had a women’s clothing store, you might have a canvas for business attire, for dressy and for casual. Your customer groups may be business women and retired women. Once you start playing with mixing and matching those, you get a better understanding of which group buys each of your offerings and what they are most interested in with them?

Then ask them. Start by asking them why they come to you. When I asked my bookkeeping customers why they came to me, they didn’t talk about competence, timeliness or adherence to regulations, no, they talked about comfort, relief and assurance. That changed the way I set up my service, how I offered it and the story I told to attract the right customers for me.

Think about your favourite customers. What do they buy? When? How?

How can you do that, only more?

What service is important to them? Back to the women’s clothing store: can you spin that service off as a value-add or as a paid option? Personal buyer, private viewings, trunk shows?

As you can see this is a great tool for strategic thinking for every business. What do you think?

If you would like to learn more, join me for our Lean Canvas is not just for Startups Workshop.

All I need are more customers

So, is that a marketing issue or a business issue?

Let me start by saying that marketing is a big business practice and is best left to the pros. We know that a small business isn’t a little big business, it is a whole other animal. Marketing, and for that matter, finance, HR and operations are functional areas for big business. Businesses big enough to have groups of people with those specific responsibilities.

Your job, as a small business owner is to make your customer ecstatically happy. That’s it.

How you do that is:

Work from your Sweet Spot

When you can give the best of yourself (and your team), you can’t help but put out the best service. When you work from your strengths and your passion, you live and breath what you do. You gain mastery.

Be who you are. If you are trendy and cutting edge – own it! Don’t let anyone tell you that you need to ‘tone it down’ or your customers can’t keep up. You will attract the customers that appreciate you being out there on the edge and sharing it all with them. If you are comforting and helpful – own it! Make tea a part of your service, make your space cozy, explain what to expect so your customers are comfortable. If you are utilitarian and to the point – own it! Make transactions seamless. Stay out of the way and let your customers do it.

Help your customers get what they really want

Your customer doesn’t want to just buy a sweater. She wants to know it is the latest trend, show her pictures of that sweater on the catwalk or worn by trendsetters. It is important for her to feel on top of what is new, help her do that. Or she wants help buying it, choose several that will look great on her and help her see why they are great for her. It is important for her to feel less stress about the choosing and buying process. Or she knows exactly what she wants and you need to make the transaction as seamless and quick as possible. It is important for her to be done with this task.

This applies to restaurants, accounting and car repair, too.

Tell that story in everything you do

AKA Marketing. From the moment someone comes across your business, you want them clear on what they can expect from you. Your advertising tells that story, your place exudes that story and the experience is exactly what your customer would expect.

Your environment, from your premises, to the phone experience to your packaging all tell that same story.

Your team is clear on that story, they buy into it and they share it, too.

The experience is set on autopilot. Of course each person is treated as an individual, but the routine is set up to be, well, routine and automated.

The value exchanged on both sides is sufficient that your customer is happy and you are able to build capacity to continue to add to that experience.

Your customers become your raving fans

Who needs marketing when you have a team of raving fans telling everyone how awesome you are?

 

Is Your Business Full?

There are 2 kinds of businesses:

  • those looking for more customers
  • those that have plenty.

Why…

One company focuses on getting their message out and meeting new clients.

The other focuses on making their existing clients so thrilled they can’t help raving about the service they get.

Which are you?

When I focus on making my clients really, really happy, my business flourishes. As soon as I take my eye off that ball, things slow down.

Making your customers ecstatically happy can be very easy to do.

How to…

Ask

Then listen. Your customers will tell you exactly what is important to them. I have a friend who tells me that every project where he runs out of time to write up a detailed report, his clients seem to be much happier. They would rather have a short doc that they will read, than a long one that sits on the shelf. He still writes long reports when he has the time.

What….

Your highest and best value lies with your talents/strengths . Many times this is portrayed as a Venn diagram with the added circles of what your clients need/want and what people are willing to pay for. When you are working from your best place you attract the people who need what you offer and the money will follow.

By that, I mean Zig Ziglar’s famous quote “You will get all you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want”

Everything else flows from that.

What’s your Super Power? What can you give that is special? What is that unique combination of talent, experience, passion and even compulsion that drives you? What do people come to you for? What can’t you help doing? By you I mean you personally or you, your organization.

Don’t make the mistake of trying to please everyone or being pulled off your path. Only do what only you can do.

Who…

Who can benefit most by what you offer? Who needs it most? Whose life can you make better? Who comes to you, now? Who makes you happy when you see their number on your phone?

What do you do for them? Keep doing that and making the people you like very happy. Next thing you know, you will be so busy doing the kinds of things you love to do with the people you most enjoy.

Not only that, you will be paid well for it!

Productivity is for People Who Don’t Love What They Do

There is a whole industry around productivity tools, tips, tricks etc. The funny thing I found is that people who love what they do and are really, really good at their art, don’t need any of those things. They do their art. The thinking and planning time is done to support them in doing their art, it’s not a category of task in itself.

We’re using the Seth Godin definition of art.

“Art isn’t only a painting. Art is anything that’s creative, passionate, and personal. And great art resonates with the viewer, not only with the creator.

An artists is someone who uses bravery, insight, creativity, and boldness to challenge the status quo. And an artists takes it personally.

Art is a personal gift that changes the recipient. The medium doesn’t matter. The intent does.

Art is a personal act of courage, something one human does that creates change in another.”

If you love what you do, you jump out of bed and dig in wholeheartedly

You don’t have to trick yourself into working. You don’t need tools, lists, motivational talks or pumping up routines. When you love what you do you get other things out of the way so you can work on your art.

You know what the most important things are to do to move your project ahead and you get to it

Whether it is a painting, a renovation, displaying your wares or building a business, you know where you are going with it, you have a process to get there and you execute. As you build mastery with your art, you spend less time with planning and more with doing.

You don’t get mired in the day to day. Those tasks feel like distractions, like necessary bits to get out of the way so you can get to the real work of building or doing what you love.

You have a better dialogue with your lizard brain.

Your lizard brain is stronger when you aren’t committed to what you are doing. When you are committed and excited, whispers of disaster are more likely to make you smile than to make you fearful.

Your lizard brain has a role to play, but if you listen too much, it will stop you from doing anything new. You tame your Lizard brain by listening, thanking and patting it on the head and doing what you want to do anyway.

When you do your art, you tap into something bigger than you

In her TED talk, Elizabeth Gilbert described how genies or genius comes from outside of us. When you are deep into making your art, you feel the touch of that genius as ideas and abilities come from seemingly nowhere to manifest in what you are doing.

What a relief! It means that if you do great things, you can only take credit for channeling the genius and if you flop, well, your genius was being a bit lame that day.

Tapping into the genius, is a magical feeling. It feels like running with the wind. What you do is better than the effort you put into it.

Until you get to that point, it can feel more like a slog. You have to practice your art with deliberation and mindfulness until you reach mastery for your genius to be there reliably. Is that what beginner’s luck is? We are open to the genius when we try something? But then we get deeper into our head and focus on the mechanics until we have them mastered. Then the we let the genius in again. Hmm, interesting thoughts.

When you love what you do, you go with the Flow

You know that feeling when time stand still and you lose yourself in what you are doing? I’ve experienced it playing volleyball and managed to make moves that shouldn’t have been possible.

I definitely experience it when doing bookkeeping (don’t judge me). The numbers begin to dance with a movement that is both logical and beautiful. It’s why bookkeeping and any other task that means interruption, such as reception don’t mix. Just sayin’.

I like writing, I like it a lot.

The writing itself for me is a means to an end. I’m highly motivated to write when I have something I feel I have to say, or I’m writing to work through some thinking. My book, Your Effortless Business began as a writing exercise to puzzle through why business seems to be so hard when it’s really just about buying and selling what other people need or want. Business isn’t hard in the same ways all over the world, which led me to think it isn’t inherently hard. Writing it out helped me clarify that thinking.

I didn’t need help rolling out of bed every morning at 6ish to put in an hour or so at the keyboard. I’m able to keep it up anytime I have something I want to say or to figure out. If I don’t have something to say, I need the push of the productivity machine to ‘make’ me write. That’s no fun!

It’s why an artist doesn’t need motivation to do their art, but does when it comes time to make a living from it, unless sharing their art is part of doing their art. If you want to make a living with your art, you have to get to a place of loving the sharing of your art. The place of seeing that as a necessary and loving piece of the doing of your art.

The best productivity tip I can give you is: Love What You Do.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 37 other followers