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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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.

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?

That Didn’t Work

Now what?

What happens after you try something and it doesn’t work?

Deal with the Consequences

If there are consequences, deal with those first. If you have made promises, or commitments, honour them or apologize and undo them.

Forgive Yourself

Forgive yourself. There will be a part of you that is ashamed. You are thinking you could have done more or should have done it differently or something. Let that part go. At this point you are feeling pain and blame. You won’t be able to learn and make progress until you let that go. Later on, you will examine what happened to learn for next time. So forgive yourself.

Centre Yourself

Take a breath and centre yourself. You want to be able to come at the next steps from a place of strength, rather than reacting. Lift your head and pull your shoulders back. Really, do it, it will make you feel stronger. Body language reflects our feelings, and it can lead our feelings.

Congratulate Yourself

Congratulate yourself for having the courage to try something! You are already a hero! We need people like you to keep doing what you do. Thank you for leading the way.

Examine What Happened

Now, examine what happened. Process it in the way that work best for you. Journal it, write it out, talk to trusted people, go for long walks, create a vision board, whatever gives works for you. You are looking for the difference between what you had hoped would happen and what really happened and why there is a difference. It could be that no one wanted what you were trying to do, that you didn’t have the resources to do it, you didn’t know all the steps to do it, or that you executed it wrong. Unless you know that answer, every other project you do, will fail in the same way.

This is where the key – take time to think – is so important. The more the thinking we are doing makes us uncomfortable and I can assure you thinking about failure makes me very uncomfortable, the more important it is.

How do you figure it out? Ask people. Compare your project to successful ones. Try breaking it down and doing small experiments with each piece. For instance, send out a poll asking people about what you offered: the subject, delivery method, price and outcomes.

Next Time

Take that learning and start thinking about the next one. No one has succeeded without going through this process again and again, until they succeeded, and even then.

My Failure

This post comes out of our attempt to release a program. I’m ready to do the examination part, I suspect I will find that what we were offering is the problem, no one wants it. There are enough e-courses out there so that the delivery isn’t the problem. Our marketing plan wasn’t well thought out, and that needs work, too, but to inform our inner circle about it and not get a single sign up, even for the free course, makes me believe that the ‘what’ is the problem.

There’s more work to do there and any feedback would be appreciated.

Don’t Let a Good Failure Go to Waste

It sucks when it doesn’t work. Rather than just wallow and ignore it, I’m going to use it to get better and to make the next one more likely to work. I’m following Ash Maurya and his Lean Stack. His angle on Lean is the experimentation piece. Have a look here http://leanstack.com/lessons/leanstack/overview

We Need You

We need you to do what you do best. We need you to keep bringing your A game. We are your cheering squad! Go!

 

Keys to Crafting Your Effortless Environment

Communication
Your Environment communicates to people about who you are and how you see yourself. You will want to make sure that the story your environment is communicating is accurate.

Your mind is your most important environment so it is vitally important that you guard what is communicated to your mind. Do not fill your mind with the equivalent of junk food. Fill your mind with enriching, creative, thought-provoking communications.

Time and space to think
Your environment should give you and your staff time and space to think. That may mean a comfortable place to rest, stimulating decor and some privacy.

Sell what people want to buy
The second part of selling what people want to buy is to create an atmosphere of value and to make it easy and conducive for your clients to pay you.

Mastermind
Your mastermind is an important part of your mind environment.

Only putting out fires won’t build Your Effortless Business

It’s a long weekend here so I’m working in the garden doing a few things while I give myself time and space to think. At first, I wandered around overwhelmed by how much work needs to be done.

Finally, I stopped and did a couple of little chores. I cleaned up a bed by the deck so I can plant a few flowers there. I cut the grass around another group of flowers, I will likely plant a shrub there that I have languishing in a pot on my deck. I hilled the potatoes. Doing those things got those chores done, but it didn’t do anything to improve our overall garden. I will plop that languishing shrub beside the tansys because I don’t know where else to put it and it needs planting.

We get overwhelmed by all we know we need to do to get our business working for us: refine our business model, revamp our offer, create a staff manual, write up our marketing plan, update our cash flow and budget, make our admin work, create a sales funnel…

The list goes on.

Fire brigade - Pernem station

No wonder we dive into the tactics andthe little fires. Those we can solve. But, while we do that, we  don’t move our business ahead, we don’t do anything to stop the same fires from flaring up again and we don’t work on  making our business effortless.

Working on putting out the fires is important, as long as we are strategic about it and working to make sure the same ones don’t keep coming back.

We need to be able to move from the micro to the macro level in making our business effortless. Both are important, both have their times and both must be done.

Micro levels like where to put your keys and macro levels like where to put your office. Some things are both: pricing is macro in how you position your business and micro in whether you go with $12.97, $12.98, $12.99 or $13.00.

Effortless in your strategies and in your tactics.

Effortless in knowing your story and telling it consistently and effortless in tying your twitter feed to your blog.

Effortless in locating your office so you can walk there every day and effortless in making your signs show people where you are.

Effortless in charging enough to perform the level of service you want and effortless in having a clear, predictable process for getting that money in.

Effortless in having the right equipment and tools to do the work and effortless in having a workspace that is ergonomic.

Effortless in defining and sharing your culture with everyone and effortless in serving tea and cookies to your guests.

Today’s chores in the garden include clearing more of the path to the field garden, preparing for some fruit trees and planting that poor little languishing shrub. These are chores that will have a more lasting effect and will make the garden more effortless.

Your Effortless Business is created from the big and the little things you do. The best place to start is with the little things to begin saving time to tackle the big things. Be thinking about the big things, too.

What big and little things are you doing in your business this week?

Overwhelmed? Don’t Panic!

What to do when you are overwhelmed
I had a dream this morning. One of those anxious, nothings-working dreams. As I was waking up, The thought came: ‘they will know your mind’. In the dream, it wasn’t fully a good thing, it was a double edged sword.
I still haven’t figured it out fully, but as I was thinking it through, I got the idea for this post.

Don’t Panic
Douglas Adams had it right on the cover of the Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Universe. When you feel overwhelmed your body releases adrenaline and you respond with the fight or flight instinct. This is not helpful when your overwhelm is caused by a staff or customer problem! Unless there happens to be a saber toothed tiger bounding towards you, all else is manageable. This response was designed to deal with saber toothed tigers, not a mix up at the bank. Remember: you are the boss of you. You can control this.

Take a deep breath. Close your eyes, Smile. Smiling releases endorphins and makes the people around you respond by smiling. We mirror the people around us as mechanism to fit in. Again, this is a pretty ancient survival tactic. If you weren’t part of a tribe, you died.
http://www.simoleonsense.com/mimicry-how-to-influence-people-become-likeable/

Slow down
I know, it seems counter-intuitive that you need to slow down to go faster.
When you go fast, you mess up, you drop things, you make mistakes and you don’t do a good job. This means it takes longer or you end up doing it again.

When you slow down, you think it through, you get it all, in the right order and faster. Your mind opens and you are creative, brilliant and you do a great job with it.

Enjoy
Life isn’t something you get through so you can get on to the real fun. This is it. Life ain’t no dress rehearsal (I love that line). If you are not enjoying yourself, then why bother?

One of the big changes I made in my life that paid off big time, was to give myself the gift of the first hour of the day to work on whatever projects interest me. This book, blog and community is one of those projects. We all have ideas that we plan on getting to ‘once we get all this working well and under control’. I’ve got news for you, it will never be under control. Start your projects now.

Single Task
This isn’t even a question anymore.
http://zenhabits.net/how-not-to-multitask-work-simpler-and/

http://lifehacker.com/5646560/the-one-task-at-a-time-method-increased-efficiency-in-a-multitasking-world

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/life-saving-philosophy/201201/it-works-doing-one-thing-time

Build Capacity
This means have more resources than you need so that if something happens, you have the ability to deal with it.  Sleep, health, money, people, contentment, joy, time, love.

Even your best work, the work that only you can do and that puts you into flow can’t be sustained all the time. You hit a place of diminishing returns. You get tired and depleted. You need to surround it with white space, a palate cleanser, rest.

The more you do this work, the more productive you are. Ideally you set up your life so that you do this work in several intense spurts through the day, with breaks to do other fun, yet different and productive work.

We all get overwhelmed at times. Try these tips and let us know how it went
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Please share your best tips for dealing with being overwhelmed

Time and Space to Think

I just spent a jam-packed 5 weeks – 2 weeks planning, arranging, organizing, fighting-for and getting ready for my trip; 2 weeks traveling, meeting people, navigating and learning; and 1 week jamming a month’s worth of work to meet the 30 April accounting deadline.

I built time into my travel schedule. I had several overnight traveling options and I stayed for 2 days in Doha after the Summit. I did that because I know how important it is to have that time and space to think.

Still, for the past 2 days I find myself sitting in my chair staring out the window. Then feeling guilty. I have contacts to follow up, blog posts to write, workshops to organize and client work that still needs finishing.

If I don’t take the time to think, I will lose the opportunity to learn deeply about these experiences. If I don’t take that time, I will slip into old habits, doing the same old things in the same old way regardless of the changes I identified that I want to make.

I give myself permission to sit staring out the window. I give you permission to do the same thing.