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.


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?


What are they talking about?

Mesh – This is based on the book, The Mesh by Lisa Gansky. One way of looking at it is that we want the hole, not the drill. It’s about shared resources, renting not owning and access trumps ownership.

When we share, it means we can use better, for instance, a group of neigbours could collectively own a snowblower. By sharing the expense and maintenance, they can buy an even better model, with more bells and whistles than they might alone.

Abundance – There is plenty for everyone, so share freely, no need to hide. Abundance thinking leads you to treat ‘competitors’ as collaborators, peers and resources. This opens the possibility of mesh thinking – like starting an industry group and bringing in speakers or other resources.

Yes, there’s a book for that, Abundance by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler. Reading this book I could believe in a time/society without money transactions. Now, before you scoff, think about this. We have the ability to supply everything we need for everyone, but we don’t have the ability to give everyone a job to pay for it. Riddle me another way to solve that one.

Long Tail – Chris Anderson (not TED Chris Anderson, but editor of Wired magazine Chris Anderson – yes there are 2 of them) wrote this book and we’ll be looking at another of his books later in this list.

The idea here is you don’t need millions of customers. A small group of dedicated, happy customers can give you a great living. It makes more sense to niche very tightly especially when you realize shelf space is not a limiting factor.

Selling to the masses is a difficult job best left to big business.. Your opportunity is in selling to special interest groups. For instance, we’re not business consultants, we’re not business consultants in the new ways of doing business, we are business consultants working with boomers who have owned businesses for a long time and are interested in learning the new ways of doing business.

Free – Yet another book by Wired Chris Anderson. I first listened to a free copy of this book. Chris argues that as the marginal cost of things approaches free, it will be difficult to charge for it. How many times have you come across something and were irked to pay for it, knowing the cost was next to nothing. That thing for me is Kindle books – when they cost more than the paper versions.

Of course for books, as in other forms of media, the cost is in the creation of the content, not the form. Increasingly, the revenue model is in the live performance associated.  The book becomes a calling card. The Grateful Dead knew that decades ago. Give it all away – people will pay for connection.

Gift economy – This is closely related to Free and it means giving gifts without expectation of direct reciprocity; paying it forward; giving gifts instead of money.

With Free, I give you my Manifesto and you give me your email address; I give you my book and you hire me to speak at your event. With Gift Economy, I set my Manifesto and book free to the world and when I travel to your community, you want to help me. Ask Amanda Palmer.

Connection – People want to feel connected to others, we are a tribal people. If you really want to be a hero, help people connect to each other. Help your customers talk to each other. Intuit has done it by creating a forum for users to ask questions and get answers from each other.  That sense of connection ties people into a community and makes them feel closer to your product.

It is also the business model of many to many. Ebay connects many sellers to many buyers and makes a little piece each time.  So does Amazon and ITunes and Etsy. Any time you can connect people, you add value.

Curation – Make it your job to make sense of the world, to distill all the information out there into the most important and bring it together in a way that makes it easy for your people to access.

This presupposes you have a group that you consider your people. When you think in terms of a group who are your people and how you can bring them what they need, you will have created a very valuable business.

Art – Doing your art doesn’t have to be about painting, sculpting or music. It means putting your heart and soul into what you do. It’s about being passionate and human in all you do.  Seth Godin talks a lot about this. He also uses the term ‘emotional labour’ that was first used as a way to describe the toll that Stewardesses pay to keep smiling through a long flight.

Resistance – aka the Lizard Brain, aka the Amygdala, aka that Critical Little Voice in your Head. You know the one, it says, “If that were such a great idea, someone would have done it already” or “Who are you to…” or “If you do that, people will say that you are…”.

Steven Pressfield has some great work on this, as does Anne Lamott and Elizabeth Gilbert. Yes, they are all writers, because writers deal with writer’s block.

Triple bottom linepeople planet profit, means that it’s not only about the profit at all costs. The backlash against profit-at-all-costs has forced business to take responsibility for its human and environmental costs, too. Practices like cutting down the rainforest (the planet’s lungs) and exploiting people in developing nations are coming under attack by consumers and by attack we mean they stop buying. It’s another manifestation of the the desire for connection. If we are all connected, then what we do (buy from corporations) affects all of us.

Radical Transparency – comes from abundance thinking, that being transparent means that people will trust you more and understand why you make the decisions you do.

Do you have the guts to step out from behind secrecy? It opens you to people misunderstanding you, misinterpreting your motives because of their own view of the world. You need patience to explain, yet again and you need a thick skin.

It’s worth it, because it binds your people to you even more closely.

Social enterprise – This is an enterprise that has a positive social impact, it’s sole reason for being is not around profit. This must be baked into the culture, mission and operations, not just a veneer for the PR it offers.

It’s tied to the 3BL and it does not mean you can’t have great pay for creating high value. It means that the value you create is not just for the shareholders.

What you and Hobbits Have in Common

Rebooting to Your Effortless Business is a quest that takes you from your comfortable hearth to an epic and uncertain journey. Why would you even contemplate doing such a thing? Because your comfortable hearth has become increasingly uncomfortable or it is a trap that keeps you from taking the epic journey you want to take. Think of your journey forward as a quest just like the great ones in stories.


In the great quests, our hero knows very clearly what he has to accomplish. All else is unclear. The way forward, the paths to be followed, the dangers to be encountered, the distractions and the people he will meet, who will help, hinder or do both. The most important thing and the most difficult part of the entire journey is to begin. Even in the face of all that uncertainty.

They set out together

There is almost always a ‘they’ because epic adventures can’t be done alone. No one person has the courage, the knowledge, the strengths, the skills and the contacts to do it on their own. They know that and welcome the help. You, our hero start this journey knowing you cannot succeed on your own.

The band that gathers around you each bring their own unique skill or knowledge that will be vital to the success of the journey. Some will join because they believe in you. Some will join because they know that you can help each other. Some will take persuasion, but you will both benefit in the end. It is that pooling of resources that spells the success of the journey for all.

There is a wise guide who starts you on this journey and continues to show up right when needed. There can be many other guides as you go, usually associated with specific territory. These guides keep you moving forward and they bring specific resources you couldn’t get otherwise.

Adventures ensue

The path is never fully clear. It’s one thing to know where you are and where you want to end up, it’s another to know the safest and fastest route. There is usually a trade-off between safest and fastest. Sometimes safest is important, but more often fastest is. This is where your courage comes into play.

There are dangers to be met. Okay, let’s be real here. There aren’t Orks waiting to cut you in half, or Imperial Storm Troopers itching to blow up our planet. The dangers you encounter will all be in your head. Losing a whole bunch of money is a drag. Not making payroll is very uncomfortable. Having creditors call eats at your ego. But you won’t die from doing this. I’m not saying your health (physical and mental) won’t suffer if you let it. That is entirely up to you. Really. You control the most important environment here and that is your mind. Treat your mind like your most precious asset. The land you navigate is the one you see in your mind. Make it one that works for you. This is the biggest difference between people who make it and those who don’t.

Many times the way is blocked and you will have to go back and try a different way. This isn’t a maybe, it is a certainty. Prepare yourself for this. This is what they mean by fail fast and fail often. Try a route, if it doesn’t work, try another one. That works on the level of headlines, product offerings, funding sources and businesses.

There is help along the way

Sometimes, the cause seems hopeless and all is lost. It is at that moment, that the right help appears. Recognize it, take it and appreciate it. It’s easy to see the right help when it’s more warriors joining you in a battle or a wizard with a spell to stop a monster. It’s important not to lose sight of the world around you as troubles come and must be ready to open up to help that may take any number of forms.

Sometimes you have to give something to get something. In epic stories, many times the hero has to give up something in order to get something that will help. Be prepared to make that trade off to invest in your most important tool – you.

Our adventurers take rest when they can

Intense battle cannot be sustained forever and our adventurers rest, eat and repair when they can. So should you. Your health and ability to carry on depend on it. Recognize cycles and work with them. When you find a respite, use it, don’t lament the loss of intensity. Adrenaline is an addictive substance, but it will drain you. This is a choice you must consciously make, so make it.

There is failure

Things don’t work. A route is tried and is blocked and you will have to return the way you came to try a different way. It is disheartening, but you will rally and go forward again.

People are lost. No, they don’t die, they move away, they change focus, they decide to play another game. This is when you adjust your strategy, you draw on your reserves (that you invested the resources to build when you could) or you find someone to fill the gap.

Failure is when you give up, not when it doesn’t work. As long as you keep trying, you haven’t failed, you have found a new way not to do it.

This is another one of those cases when you realize this isn’t life or death. You’ll make it. You just have to try another way.

Critical help is sought and refused

No matter the necessity and purity of the quest, sometimes motives collide and help that you thought was essential, is not going to happen. Sometimes this necessitates a change in strategy, sometimes it means looking for that help elsewhere; sometimes it means doing the work to align motives and convince the helper to help.

Plans are reexamined regularly

Roadblocks are encountered, new information comes or needs are uncovered. The leaders come together and discuss the best way forward. You ask advice, you scout ahead and you make choices. Sometimes it is choosing the lesser of two evils. Sometimes it is stepping into the abyss, the unknown, trusting that you will figure it out as you go.

Once in a while it means turning from the path to pursue a necessary piece of the puzzle. You may need new information, new tools or new skills. It may feel like you are deviating away from the goal, and you are. As long as the deviation takes you closer to where you are going or helps you leapfrog a block, it is a worthy investment.

But, always the way is towards the end goal.

Motives Diverge

When you are not in alignment, it is time to part ways.

Others in your band have their own needs and obligations. They are all on their own quests While motives are converged, all can be working together, but there comes a time when members may have to step away from your quest in order to further their own. Everyone must benefit from the journey in their own way.

You are on a quest, not a drive to the office

If it were easy and well-known, everyone would be doing it. It’s not. You have chosen to strike out on an epic adventure. Some have gone before you and some are ready to join you.

You are used to driving to the office, you have done it for decades. The world out there has changed in the time since you came of age. That makes for more challenges for you. The way you did it all the times before won’t give you the same results.

You have something else going for you. Remember that you bring wisdom and connections. Use that.

Fellow travelers in this land, let’s do this together.

The Secret to Learning

Business isn’t the only thing going through a huge change. So is education, and that means education for business, too.

MOOCs (massive open online courses) offer everyone with an internet connection the opportunity to learn whatever they want from the best.  I took a Behavioural Economics course from Dan Ariely of Duke University (and author of Predictably Irrational among other books).

Seth Godin of publishing experiment, Domino Project fame, is on to a new experiment around MOOC and learning research called Krypton Community College. The idea is that, rather than individuals taking a course, a group will take a course together.

Learning research shows that people learn best within groups. It’s the idea behind the flipped classroom: watch the video lecture at night, do the work and discuss the material as a group during class time.

In Your Effortless Business I talk about how important it is for you to belong to a group. The only examples I gave in the book are mastermind groups, but I tried to leave the language open enough to get you thinking about other kinds of groups like this.

Learning in business will not end, can’t end or we’ll be left behind. The good news is that it is getting easier and easier to engage in learning.

Get ‘Er Done

If the objective is to get the work done the way you do it, then of course it is faster and easier for you to do it.

But if the objective is to have someone else do it, then your time is best invested in teaching, mentoring, praising and letting go. This is an important mind shift in how you work with other people (including your kids).

  1. Be very clear about the outcome rather than the process.
  2. Show the process – that means you have to understand what and how you do it.
  3. Mistakes will happen, be prepared. By prepared, I mean ready to stay out of the way and let it happen (assuming it won’t cost more than you can pay and recognizing that it’s part of the cost of training). Discuss the situation and help them come to a solution. I know, it’s really hard to see someone else fumble. Leave the building, tie yourself to your chair or put on earphones if you must, This is the hardest part and the most important. This is where you reveal your culture and your mettle as a leader.
  4. Success will happen, be prepared and act accordingly as in, lavish praise.
  5. Let it go. They may not do it the way you do. In fact, they may do it better, but they will do it in a way that plays to their strengths and interests.

If your staff or your kids aren’t living up to your expectations, it is, as one kind friend pointed out to me, “a training issue.”  When you see a team working like clockwork, you can be sure the leader followed these steps.

What will you do right now? Today?

Week 6 – Wrap Up of Your Team

How did you do?

Do you feel less alone?

Have you planned any events or methods for connecting customers?

What are you doing differently for your staff?

Have you changed your marketing?

Are you part of a mastermind?

As Crystal Clear Bookkeeping becomes Crystal Clear Money Management for Small Business, we are keenly aware that we are starting with a solid customer base. This is one of our biggest assets. We are building this business around the questions and experiences of our business owners.




Janet Gets Advice with Her Dinner

“Thank you for coming. The reason I invited all of you is that I need help turning my roofing venture into an effortless business and I think, no, I know that you can help me do that.”

“How could we refuse what with you buying us supper and all.” said Mike. Everyone smiled at that.

“It’s a pleasure to help you, Janet. Helping small business succeed is my passion.” said Susan.

“Let me introduce everyone. This is Maggie, she works with me and she is taking on some of the management now that our crew is growing. Karen works at the bank and is my oldest friend. I have listened to her advice all along. Susan is a business whiz and coach. Mike is a sales guy and another good friend. He taught me what little I know about sales and he’s a fun and funny guy.”

“That’s who we are and I hope we can meet every quarter so you can give me some advice and keep me moving forward with growing my business. The topic for this quarter is managing growth. The phone hasn’t stopped ringing after the Boat Club job. Thank you for the idea of putting a business card holder on the truck, Mike. I had to refill it twice over that week and a half.”

“I could put together two more crews to handle all the work coming, but I’m not sure I can manage that much growth that fast.”

“First of all, put up your prices. When you have more work than you can handle, put your prices up. Don’t forget, you are getting this work because you are the Roofers Who Care. That means you have to be very careful with your hiring. Your roofers have to care, too, which means you have to care about your roofers.” Karen shared her expertise.

“Oh, she cares about us all right. We were very lucky finding Robb, Steve and Alex. They are working out really well. I know you weren’t sure about them, but I learned enough about them working on the Boat Club job to know they will do us proud.” Maggie beamed.

“How did you find them?” asked Susan

“They were people we met along the way. Different roofers ask Michelle and I about openings, and we can talk to the Building Supply drivers, too. They see and hear a lot.”

“Recruiting isn’t something you turn on and off. It’s an ongoing part of running your business and you should have a process in place for identifying good candidates and bringing them into the culture of your business.” Susan knew what she was talking about. She had seen many businesses ruined by bad hires.

“Janet made up a process, what did you call it?” “An Induction check list” “Induction check list .that takes ½ a day and covers everything. By the time we take them through it, they are clear about how we expect them to work and act.”

It was Mike’s turn,”The reason you are getting all this business is because you really do care and the way you work shows it. There are many good roofing crews around who could not have done that Boat Club job and made them as happy. It is much more than just hammering nails, it’s about deportment, demeanour and attitude. Your new crews will continue to grow your sales or they will not. No pressure, Janet, but you better hire, train and treat your new people carefully.”

When Janet paid the bill, she knew she just got a huge bargain. It’s a great feeling knowing others’ care about how she was doing.

Janet Builds Her Team

“How are Robb and Steve working out?”

‘”They are a little faster than you guys, but not as careful.” Michelle frowned. She was competitive and Janet could see her thinking about speeding up her work. “I couldn’t imagine putting them anywhere near Mr Wilson’s roses.” That eased the competitive spirit a little.

“We don’t get to see them very often.” prompted Maggie.

“I have a surprise for you. We got the contract to reroof the Boat Club.”

“Holy cow, that’s huge.” “Isn’t that a heritage building?”

“Yes, Maggie, it is a Heritage building, but as long as all we do is replace the cedar shakes, we’ll be in keeping. We’ll all be working on that one together. We’ll also have to hire some grunts to get the materials to the roof. The gardens surrounding the Club House mean we won’t be able to boom the materials onto the roof this time.”

“Do we have to wear gowns to work there?” They laughed. The Boat Club is considered the ritziest place in Town and it is no stranger to Gowns and Tuxes.

“We will have to be on our best behaviour. This will be a great chance to instill more of our “Roofers Who Care” culture with the new crew.” Janet felt Robb and Steve didn’t listen to everything she said and take it all the way to heart. They were too experienced for her to need to train them, but that also meant they had their own bad habits. Without hovering, she hadn’t been able to see how they acted.

Another hot and sunny day working at the Boat Club. There were six of them working, because they needed two young grunts to keep the roofers in shingles. One of them was a great worker and he was interested in the work. Janet was already trying to figure out how to add him to the team. But the other….


Janet’s face flamed red and she looked around the patio to see who else had heard that. No one seemed to react, maybe they were too far away, but this would never do.

She gave the new guy a stern talking to about appropriate language and sent him back to work. Later she came across him sitting on a chair on the patio, he said he was on break. Janet told him to take his break somewhere else.

Later six of them were cleaning up the tools and packing the truck. Maggie said, “The new guy isn’t working out.”

“Which one?”, asked Janet. Everyone else looked at each other and Janet noticed that one of the crew wasn’t there helping out. It was the one she had spoken to earlier. “Where is he?”

“Must be break time. Again.” said Robb.

“I have to fire him, don’t I? I’ll see about getting us another helper tomorrow.

“I can keep up. I pretty much did it on my own today.” said Alex, now a part of the crew.

“We can pitch in by bringing up a bundle every time we go up on the roof.” Steve was a big guy.

The next day the Commodore approached Janet, “You seem to be short a crew member.”

“We had to let one of them go. We will carry on with five for now.”

“Putting together a crew that pulls together isn’t easy. You know what they say, ‘hire slow and fire fast’. Good for you. I’ve had to fire a good number of men in my time and it’s never easy, but it comes with leadership. I wasn’t sure if I should talk to you about him, but I see you had his number.”

“I’m sorry, did he disturb your guests?” Janet thought of that word ringing out over the patio.

“No, not at all. We want you to succeed and he was making for choppy waters. Very good Corporal, er, Janet”

Janet liked the idea that even her customers wanted her to succeed.

Week 6 – Important Members of Your Team


I can’t stress enough how important your mastermind group is to your success. They will cheer you on and be your biggest advocate when you are flying high. They will brainstorm with you, advise you and open doors for you when you need a hand. They will hug you, pat you on the back and kick you in the pants when you need that, too.

If you don’t have a mastermind group, think of 5 or 6 people in your community you really admire and ask them. Ask your peers. Look within your industry association or start one. Ask around at the next Chamber, Rotary or networking event you attend.

You can meet as often as you like. Weekly is great if people are busy trying new things and deep into business development. That keeps things moving. Monthly meetings are good for keeping things sailing smoothly. Quarterly are good for checking in and keeping an eye on economics and industry trends. If you feel like you want to meet weekly and those you invite are talking quarterly, you will have to keep looking. Expectations have to match.

There are many forms the meetings can take from very formal and structured to very free-form. Again, It depends what the group wants. You may even start with one type and find you morph into another. As long as everyone is benefiting.


You knew that your customers were one of the most important members of your team already. The more you can get them talking to and helping each other, the more value you bring. Hold events that bring people together. Share resources like bringing in speakers, negotiating bulk ticket prices for a group of you or building a small library.

The best way to grow your business is to make your current customers deliriously happy. They will spread the word for you. That means put more of your resources to customer satisfaction than to customer acquisition. Look to Zappos to see that principle in action.

Sell what they want and you can find that out by asking them.


Treat your staff the way you want them to treat your customers. With respect, caring, and professionalism.


the people you buy from are very attuned to industry trends. Ask them if you have a problem. They have likely seen it solved several different ways.

Vendors can also be a source of financing for growth. They have a vested interest in your success and growth.