Your Minimalist Business

A minimalist business is uncluttered, deeply niched, automated, with a simple, profitable business model based on your strengths. See previous posts for what that looks like.

Other than being part of a fad, why would you do this?

You will be more profitable. You will have more capacity within your business to work on interesting projects. Your business will be more valuable, if you choose to sell it. You will love your business again because it will be fun and easy.

You will have more time

When your space is uncluttered, it is easier to find things. Automation will free your time. Delivering only what is most valuable takes less time.

You will have more energy

Automation frees you from worrying about the details. Working from your strengths means better results from less effort. Loose ends, clutter, bloat and non-clarity all suck your energy.

You will have more money

Focusing on a single deep niche means you can charge more. A business model that gets at the heart of what your customers want and your strengths is very profitable. Automation usually saves money, when done appropriately and well, take the time to do it right.

I’m sold, now what?

Start where you feel the most pain – time, money or energy. Look for the low hanging fruit. I find working on these projects in that first hour of the day is essential to accomplishing anything. You’ll still feel like you have run out of time at the end of the day, but you will be making progress to a better business.

Your business can be this simple. Stay tuned for a deeper discussions.


Join a community of other small business owners just like you at the Business Owners Success Club.

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What is a Minimalist Business Part II – Uncluttered

The common perception of minimalism is about an uncluttered space. The outcome of decluttering space is an uncluttered life. Today we are talking about business. What does uncluttered look like in business?

Certainly, it’s our space. An uncluttered space makes it easy to move, to think and be creative. An uncluttered space makes it easier to focus on the task at hand, not on all the other things to be done. An uncluttered space is more welcoming to our customers. Think about shops and offices you have visited.

Work towards an uncluttered value proposition and business model. The fad these days is to pile on the bonuses like extra reports, ebooks and videos. Or to upsell, cross-sell and package our offerings. While these strategies  make the offer seem more valuable, they also feel bloated and come with obligations to store, manage or consumes these extras. Companies that focus on one thing and do it really well, thrive. Think about the Chicken Burger restaurant or Pete’s Frootique. You know what you will get there and you are not disappointed. Both of these have been around for decades and continue to thrive.

Having our mind uncluttered means we can focus deeply on what is most important at the moment. We choose that particular task because it gives us the most value in reaching where we want to be. We can do this by automating repetitive tasks and by storing things we need to remember in the most important place outside of our brain.

An uncluttered customer relationship is one where both sides are clear on what to expect and those expectations are met or exceeded. Communications are anticipated and provide what the customer is looking for. For instance weekly flyers from the grocery store. People who shop sales, look for them.

The hardest part of creating an uncluttered business is being clear on what we offer, to whom and how. After that, we can strip away the rest and focus on what is most important to reach those goals.

Your business can be this simple. Stay tuned for a deeper discussion in Part III.

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 rebelling against the MBA model of business management for small business. Join all of us at the Business Owners Success Club for a better way to make 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.

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.

Mindful Business

I’m working away and another email comes in from a client asking a question. I sigh. This will take a while. It’s not a difficult question, in fact I get asked it often. But I have to think it through and write it out. This isn’t paid work and it will take time away from paid work. It is customer service work, so it is important.

I send a reply and get an email back asking for clarification about some of the points I made. This continues intermittently until I call the client, find out what they really need to know and answer that question.

Skip ahead 5 months.

Another client email asking for information about a topic. I get this question a lot. That makes it easy to reply. I go into my FAQ file and copy and paste the relevant answer. I take a few moments to think deeply about this client. How is she doing, what is she working on? Why is she asking this question? What does she really need? I continue to draft her email reply, editing the pasted FAQ answer to suit her.

By being mindful of my business, I realized I was answering many of the same questions and taking too long to do an ineffective job at it. I decided to fix that.

I invested the time necessary to draft up clear, concise answers to the FAQ’s (which I continue to refine based on feedback). Now, I can reply easily. I remain mindful by taking the time to make each reply useful. It means we’re not emailing back and forth for clarification. It means I provide much more value.

Mindfulness in your business means you spend less time and get better results. Mindfulness takes away worry, focuses your attention on what matters and brings a resulting sense of contentment.

What is mindfulness? From Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mindfulness

“…as a mental factor it signifies presence of mind, attentiveness to the present, rather than the faculty of memory regarding the past. It has the characteristic of not wobbling, i.e. not floating away from the object. Its function is absence of confusion or non-forgetfulness. It is manifested as guardianship, or as the state of confronting an objective field. Its proximate cause is strong perception (thirasaññā) or the four foundations of mindfulness.[5]

I am a rank amateur in this and well over my head in trying to share what this all means, except that being mindful is the best way I can describe how I have managed to do all I have done. I am terrible at meditating and my monkey brain gets the better of me most of the time, but sometimes and more and more, I am fully right where I need to be.

Here’s what it looks like to me…

Be present.

Place your focus on the present moment. Think and feel deeply at this time. Not thinking about what happened or what will happen, but be here now. We’ll talk about review and  planning in a bit.

Expand your view. When you are stressed and upset, your worldview, your field of vision, shrinks. When you are fully present, your view opens up and you see more.

One task at a time.  Give your all and your best to what you are doing right now. Complete each task. It may mean blocking off sufficient time to do the task and making the expectation clear to those around you. Focusing on one thing at a time, means you get that one thing done well the first time.

Choose the right task. When you are mindfully diving into your next task, you naturally give thought to whether or not it is the best task to be doing. Is it the best way for you to spend your time?

Listen

To the person in front of you. Listen deeply enough so you hear what they are telling you, not just their words. Consider your reply after they have finished talking. Yes, that may mean a pause, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Conversations don’t have to be a race.

To yourself. How do you feel in this moment. What do you need? What is your body telling you? Do you heed your ‘Spidey Sense’? Do you recognize your intuition?

To what’s not spoken. Only a small part of communication is by words. Being mindful means being aware of what’s being communicated beyond and around the words.

Time

Expands! When you slow down. time slows down. I get the most done during the times when I slow down and work mindfully on one task at a time.

To Think. Being mindfully in the moment means setting time aside to think. You need to head into your head and think sometimes. Sure I like to savour doing the dishes, who am I kidding, that’s a great time for me to lose myself in thought. I keep a list of things I need to think about in my head, so that I’m not distracted trying to think about them at inappropriate times like when I should be focused on the task at hand; and I know what I need to think about when the time presents itself.

To Review. Set aside time to review what happened. Replaying the past can be a distraction, or worse, it can erode your sense of self. You know what that’s like.

When you deliberately set aside time to debrief after a situation, you can prepare yourself to look for the lessons and to acknowledge the good, the bad and the ugly. Learn from your mistakes and make your future actions work better for you.

To Discuss. Deep, juicy discussions are soul enhancing and mind expanding. Give yourself and your friends the gift of wonderful conversations.

I think there’s a lot more to explore here and I will post much more about this. In the mean time, what do you think? Does this resonate? How does this manifest for you?

3 little words

I came across Chris Brogan doing this a few years ago. http://www.chrisbrogan.com/my-3-words-2014/

I’ve been doing it ever since. My words are my theme, my overriding reason, my ideas of how things will turn out.

Last year my words were Epic Adventures! I threw myself into the year with great plans for big epic adventures I would take! The biggest was a Cross Canada Odyssey with the Kids. I would, of course, meet up with people, do workshops, sell books and, oh, by the way, research rural coworking spaces.

That one didn’t work out. I did do the research, but from home and at a couple of great and relevant conferences that I went to instead. Not quite epic, but adventurous none the less.

File it under ‘reach for the stars and get the moon’.

2013 was a year of change; of transition; of moving from being the owner of a bookkeeping business to being a business strategist. I wish that the chiming of a new year meant that the tribulations of the old year were automatically over.

Change always takes longer than we think it will. But, like a hatching bird, the time it takes is necessary for the feathers to dry before the chick is ready to leave the shell. ‘Helping’ the bird only hurts it. It’s all part of the process, right?

My words for 2014

ECOLOGY

This is one of my values, too. It is about highest and best use. It’s about reduce, reuse, recycle. It’s about making our environment help us rather than hinder us.

I choose this word on several levels.

The home/permaculture level because there is a part of me that loves the whole homesteading thing – in fact I did it for 10 years, complete with chickens, milking goats, pigs and meat rabbits. I picked up a carton of coffee cream last week that is good until Feb 14 – that’s over a month and a half! for a carton of coffee cream! Why? How? A carton of coffee cream in the dairy section. Ingredients: milk, cream, sodium citrate, sodium phosphate, carrageenan, dextrose. When Michal Pollan says eat food, not too much, mostly vegetables, he admits that’s very difficult to do. Things like this cream is why it’s so hard. I’m harping on this because it’s an example of why I feel a need to do more ourselves.

I’m also thinking about ecosystems. I see. think and work most comfortably at an ecosystem level. I will continue to work on building entrepreneurial ecosystems.

BUILD

Nilofer Merchant talks about air sandwich in her blog post here http://nilofermerchant.com/2013/12/16/how-to-tackle-the-new-thing/

…the gap between strategy and execution is a persistent one. It happens in organizations, it happens in our lives. In my 1st book (do you know about it? Published in 2010, it’s called The New How), I describe this gap as an “Air Sandwich” – the persistent void between the big idea and the execution. I called it the Air Sandwich because all the stuff that matters — the thing that makes it complete — is missing. To fill it is about making the necessary tradeoffs, making tough decisions, and aligning resources.

I have several very cool projects I need and want to take through that air sandwich.  They have been languishing there for far too long. I want to focus this year on building on these existing ideas.

OUTWARD

This past year has had me pretty inward-focused. Transitions start from the inside. Like a vine-ripened tomato, it happens inside before you see it on the outside.

This past year’s transition has been hard financially, so I haven’t participated in community events as much as I would like. I want to do fun things like this. https://www.facebook.com/events/416558458472982/438145019647659/ One thing I did learn this year is that it is possible to participate without money, with some effort. Focus outwards and participating in life!

The common advice is to build a big list, provide tons of value to deepen your relationship and then sell by providing great value in the ways your tribe is asking for. I have resisted! and resisted. I think I’m more comfortable with the idea of helping a few people who are close to me, then a few more, then a few more. In other words, starting close and building outward.

Some people at this point in their careers have helped 1000’s of people. I may have, but I’m more interested in the 100 or so I have helped over the past almost 20 years by working very closely with them.

I’m building outward.

My 3 words for 2014. What are yours?