A business is so much more than a “job”. It’s a lifestyle, a world-view, a reflection of the type of person you want to be. It’s how you want to contribute to the community, where you see yourself in your future, and in some cases, it’s what you want to leave behind.
So many business owners tell me that they want to take their business to the next level, but they never define why. Everyone has goals, but they rarely take the time to write everything down and decide the “how’s” and “why’s” of what they want their business to be. In my experience, it’s not only helpful to carefully consider and record your vision – it’s essential.
These personal goals and business goals can be defined and followed by crafting a personal vision and a business vision. Here is a brief outline of both and not just how they are different, but also how they can work together.
Create your personal vision first. As the owner of the business, your vision is key to where you want to take the business.
Do you dream about being able to take your family on vacation to an exotic location once a year? How about a four-day workweek, or buying your dream home? These things could be part of your personal vision.
When crafting a personal vision statement, you’ll need to write down where you want to be in a year from now or 2 years from now. This could include considering your desired material lifestyle, your passion giving back, your ideal workweek, time with your family, and time enjoying the things you love (not your business). If you want to make sure that you are making enough money so that your children can have their college tuition paid for, this should be recorded in your personal vision statement too.
In addition to this, it’s important to include an exit strategy in your personal vision. This will detail how you would like your business to proceed when you retire, including whether or not you intend on naming a successor (e.g. a spouse or child), or if you would prefer to sell the business. Be mindful that your exit strategy is carefully considered, and entails what you plan to do in place of work. Some business owners find it hard to leave their business behind, and it can never hurt to plan ahead for how you will fill your free time in the future.
Once you’ve completed your personal vision, it’s time to concentrate on your company vision. The two go hand in hand. If for example, you want to spend only 6 months of the year working at your business, then part of your business plan needs to include finding a current or future employee who can take on some of your current roles and responsibilities. If your plan is financial freedom, then your company vision will be to increase your sales and marketing efforts, etc.
As the business owner, it’s up to you to set the company vision; it is not a team approach. Although you need to share it with your staff, the company vision statement needs to be synergetic with your personal vision so that the two can work together to create a business that benefits both you and your employees.
The company vision will also help you create a big picture idea of what your company will look like as a whole, for both you and your employees. This is why creating a company vision can enhance your existing leadership skills, which in turn helps your employees attain their own career visions.
Writing out a personal vision and business vision and following them is crucial, and often, overlooked in creating the kind of business you’ll be proud of. Writing out what you really want out of your business in a personal vision and then writing out how it can be achieved through your company vision can be both humbling and gratifying.
To get a better understanding of how to help your business grow, contact me today to find out more about joining The Alternative Board.
As a business owner, you feel fortunate when landing a large client. This client can become your bread and butter, but this could also mean that your success is tied to theirs, and if they struggle, so will your business. Should another supplier offer your client better pricing or packages, their loyalty to your business can be compromised. Your largest client may have overdue payments or expect lower prices if they know your dependency on them. However, a greater concern is if you are spending all of your time and resources focused on your main source of income, you are likely to neglect or not seek additional clients.
There certainly are benefits to having larger clients, including the consistent revenue stream and workload, aligning your brand with their reputation, and possible referrals and references when trying to land new clients.
In my 30 years of business experience, I’ve found it critical to diversify your client portfolio with large and smaller clients. In doing so, you reduce the risk of the impact to your business if a large client leaves.
Despite your best efforts, losing a key client can be devastating for some businesses, especially when more than 30% of your business is reliant on them.
Here are a few suggestions I’d recommend to help you safeguard your business from the loss of a large client:
1. Stay connected with all your clients
As the business owner, making a call to your client’s C-level person is critical in gauging the health of their business. Ensure you speak with that person on an ongoing basis and integrate your value. If they do stop working with you, hopefully you’ve laid the groundwork for working with them in other capacities (e.g. as a consultant on an as-needed basis) or keeping the door open for their possible return or referrals to other businesses.
2. Foster Business Development
Create an action plan for networking and building an ongoing flow of potential clients. Leverage your existing clients for new business. Participate at networking events and seek referrals from clients.
3. Advance your marketing efforts
Create a lead generation marketing plan to support your business development efforts. This might include call out campaigns, email blasts, downloads, boosting social networking posts, and pay per click.
4. Join a Peer Advisory Board
It’s been proven that by sharing with other like-minded individuals, it helps to increase your bottom line. Members of Peer Advisory Boards are asked to contribute industry information or business ideas and meet on a regular basis, sharing best practices, networking, and putting forward objective recommendations. By hearing encouragement through a different perspective from other business professionals, you can help grow your business.
Through the continual development of a diversified client base, losing a large client will not devastate your business, but stand as a learning experience and opportunity for growth.
Regardless of whether a business is seeking to satisfy a major increase in demand, or strengthen its competitive position, growth is a vital step in the development of any business. From hiring employees and increasing office space to increasing production, expanding services or extending product lines there is a lot to consider. Growing your business requires you to take a bit of a leap. Look for these signs before you look to grow your business:
1. You are being approached by potential clients
When you find that you are receiving request and inquires from customers and clients, this is usually a sign that you are in a position where growth is possible. Your brand has now gained just the right amount of exposure to for growth to take place.
2. Your team is strong and ready to grow
It is vital to know if your company has the right staff in place for growth to be possible. Valuable leaders are important however, having a strong team of employees who are experts at what they do and are committed to your business, is crucial in the growth phase.
3. You have the necessary funds for growth
Knowing your sales cycle and what income you can expect on a regular basis will ensure that you do not experience a shortage in cash flow during growth. It is important to know this as you will not be able to successfully grow if your sales do not match with your income. Measure this before you grow.
4. You are personally ready to grow
Are you ready for the commitment that comes with growing a business? If you are not prepared, business growth can have affect your personal well being as well as your family and daily life.Your business may be ready for growth but it can only be successful if you are ready for it. Experts say business owners should assume a 12 month adjustment period to achieve normal balance in the business after a growth spurt.
5. You have realistic expectations
Know what your business can handle. It may be difficult to not get carried away if you’ve mastered a particular market or excelled in a specific area. You may think you have everything you need to do exactly this all over again but be realistic in what you hope to achieve and what you can handle. Consider the economic benefits, your existing infrastructure and current resources to evaluate if you will be trying to take on too much at once.
6. You have met and continue to meet set goals
Stop making excuses for failed goals and instead find alternate ways to meet them. Doing this will encourage confidence throughout all levels of your business and help overall growth in the long run.
If your business is growing, you’re doing something right. It’s also important to understand that growth is a disruptive force. A period of substantial growth will influence every single aspect of your company, which is why you need to adopt a strategic mindset.
When most people are asked the question, “what makes a great leader?” the responses are predictable, with a list of qualities that most often includes confidence, charisma, and energy. But there is a whole other type of leader that tends to be forgotten: the silent leader.
What exactly is quiet leadership? Simply put, it is the ability to inspire, motivate, and encourage through action instead of words. While a boisterous leader may have the right effect in some cases, they are certainly not the right fit for every company or team. Fortunately, anyone can adopt a quiet leadership style by practicing a few important behaviours that I’ve detailed below:
- Effective Listening
- An ability to listen to others and actually hear what is said will ensure everyone feels respected and has ownership in the work of the company.
- To be a successful quiet leader, your employees must trust you implicitly. Being truthful will ensure loyalty from your followers.
- This goes hand in hand with honesty. While remaining quiet, you must still ensure you are open and approachable to your team.
- Even as a leader, you do not put yourself above your team. You hold yourself to the same standards and accountability as your employees.
Keep in mind that although a quiet leader may be in the background a lot of the time, they still have an air confidence about them that people respond to. Leading by example and not just “talking the talk” can be the best way to motivate your staff. When you build the right relationships with your employees, you will find that you no longer have to be loud in order for them to listen.
Have you ever adopted a quiet leadership style within a team? Was it successful? Please share your experiences in the comments!
After careful consideration and research, you have decided to enlist the support of a business mentor to help you and your business. You have found a coach with plenty of experience, who is easy to talk to and interested in embarking on this journey with you.
So what now?
How do you ensure that you reap the value of your business mentor, and see improvements and growth in your business? Unsurprisingly, this is where the work begins. Before you meet with your mentor, you must be prepared to take a good, hard look at your business and be ready to make objective observations about how it is performing. Take some time to decide where you want your business to be in a year, five years or ten years, because thorough reflection will ensure that your business mentor knows how to challenge and push you to reach your goals. Take inventory of the strengths and weaknesses of your business so that you are prepared to discuss and tackle issues that need improvement as well as ways to further strengthen your attributes.
In short, you must do your homework before every meeting with your mentor in order to make the most of the time you spend with him or her. This ensures that this time is spent instead on learning from their experience, asking thoughtful questions and developing tactical steps to reach your goals. I’ve compiled some questions that could be helpful for provoking conversation with your mentor:
1. What advice can you give me in developing or improving my business plan?
2. From your experience, what lesson did you learn that would be most valuable to me?
3. What are the ways that will help me determine the risks and benefits of an important business decision?
4. From your observations thus far, what do you identify as my areas of weakness?
5. What does my business do well?
6. This is where I am, and this is where I want to be. What needs to change for me to get there?
7. With my goals in mind, how should I be spending my time?
8. How can I help you?
The last question, while different from the rest, becomes just as important because it signals the strength of the relationship between mentor and mentee. Mentorship is never a one-way street and by investing in this relationship and looking to contribute to it, you are communicating your commitment to the mentorship process and ensuring your mentor sees value in playing the role of your mentor.
What other questions would add value to a meeting with your mentor? Do you think that taking time to reflect on your business beforehand enriches the mentorship process? I look forward to your comments below!
The goal of the Women Business Owners 3-part blog series for my blog was to bring a female perspective to the unique challenges faced by business owners. In Part 1, I researched the potential obstacles for women when undertaking business ownership that may contribute to the gradually narrowing disparity between the number of male vs. female entrepreneurs. The aim of Part 2 was to delve into the journey of successful business ownership in an interview with the owners of Bayview Sheppard RMT, who openly shared the ups and downs of their story with us. In a fitting conclusion, Part 3 of this series explores the value of mentorship in business and who better to give voice to this topic than the successful business owners themselves.
For Helen Milic and Lisa Macchia, the “Go” button was pressed nine full years before the two ladies thought they would take the plunge into business ownership together. As much as they initially envisioned putting-off starting a business until the youngest of their children attended school full-time, in January 2005, circumstances arose where the women realized that their time was now or never.
They opened the doors to their clinic three months later.
As Registered Massage Therapists, the Helen and Lisa completing schooling knowing that they would be self-employed in terms of attracting and maintaining a solid clientele base. The ladies rented a room in a clinic together, and while their families were young, their highest priority was the ability to leave work at the end of the day to be present and attentive mothers and wives.
When I asked Helen and Lisa the most difficult part of beginning this journey, three factors came up without hesitation: Money, Time and Family. The ladies recall an appointment at the bank in early 2005, business plan in hand, and remember how the female bank associate laughed in their faces. On paper, the finances and time needed to realize their business goals did not add up.
However, nine years later, their success speaks for itself. Having the business grow more than necessary to prove themselves, Helen and Lisa attribute the opportunity to succeed to the strength of their families and husbands. Between sewing curtains, painting rooms and their mothers even taking time off work to be available for the young kids, the women could not speak enough about the community effort that was necessary to see their goals achieved.
These goals of Bayview-Sheppard RMT however, are not achieved without a great deal of careful planning, daily organization and self-awareness on the part of the business-owners. The women recalled a day in recent memory where their hourly schedule seemed impossible to fit into a 24-hour period: Wake-up, make lunches, make breakfast for kids, drop off kids at school, massage, teach after work, back to the office for paperwork, make dinner, get kids ready for bed, phone meetings, check email, bed. Finally.
As women, work-life balance is not an added bonus to business-ownership – it is a requirement for both women to want to continue on this journey. Owning their own business would only work for them if their first priority as mothers was maintained. The women speak of a strong want and need to be present caregivers to their children and attribute their ability to be full-time mothers and business-owners to their business-partnership. “No one truly understands what the other goes through better than we do,” Lisa says, because, in their case, the ability to lean on each other is what makes their goals possible.
Mentorship outside of the advice they provide each other has played a significant part in gaining perspective and pushing their business to the next level. By deciding to enlist the support of a business coach and peer-mentorship with The Alternative Board, the women found a grounding force from where they were able to seek advice and wisdom from sources who wanted to see them succeed but were not personally invested in their business. Mostly, the women found reassurance that they were making the right choices and on the right path.
As for what’s next on the path for Lisa and Helen, their goals are simple: They want to always improve their customer experience by continuing to service the needs of their loyal clients as well welcoming new ones and give back to the community that supports them. With a passion for what they do and shared values as business owners, these women ultimately want to be happy and make those around them happy.
A big thank you to Helen and Lisa for spending time with me to share their story as business-owners. Does their story echo the journey you or someone you know took to business ownership? What have been your challenges and successes been? I look forward to your thoughts below!
Bayview Sheppard Registered Massage Therapy clinic, founded by Lisa Macchia and Helen Milic, opened its doors on March 22nd, 2005, and began operating with only 3 registered massage therapists. Today, they have 24 RMTs on staff and perform a variety of treatments from aromatherapy and deep tissue massage, to pregnancy and hot stone massage. They strive to provide a recognized clinically-oriented health option that achieves undeniable results in the relief of an array of discomforts stemming from stress, muscular overuse and many chronic pain syndromes.
Overall, there are fewer Canadian female business-owners than their male counterparts. Why does this disparity exist? For the next couple of weeks, I will be writing a 3-part blog series focusing on female business-ownership and how women can begin overcoming obstacles to success, either societal or otherwise.
Of all the business-owners I have worked with over the years, only a small percentage of my mentees are female, and I believe with more female presence in the entrepreneurial community, more women would feel inspired and compelled to see themselves undertaking that challenge.
Based on some very preliminary research, there could be several reasons why there are simply less female Canadian business-owners:
- Fewer females in positions of power in business: Only 21 of the Fortune 500 CEOs are women and women hold only 14% of executive officer positions*. With statistics like these, perhaps young women do not identify or aspire to become business owners when they do not see female role models.
- Work-Life Balance: Although we now see much more equality between women and men in the domestic setting, women traditionally still take on a large portion of the household responsibilities, which results in less available time to spend putting in the hard hours of work required to get a new business up and running.
- Societal gender expectations: Traits that are often valued in male business-owners, such as assertiveness and drive, are sometimes incorrectly perceived as aggressive and selfish in female business-owners. This can affect a female business-owner’s confidence in reaching her next level of professional success.
- Lack of mentorship: Starting a business can be a very personal undertaking, and it may be difficult to ask for help. Business-owners, both male and female, would benefit from seeking mentorship and business coaching to gain perspective, learn from others’ experience and get support.
Do you agree with some of the reasons why there may be fewer female Canadian business-owners? Would you have added more to the list? Let me know what you think in your comments below.
My next blog will feature an interview with two local female business-owners who will give us some insights into both the obstacles and successes of their business. Stay tuned!
* Information referenced from Business Insider Magazine.
As mentioned in an earlier blog, the largest advantage of a peer advisory board is getting completely unbiased opinions from your business peers who act as a sounding board for your business concerns. Providing real life experience, your peers help you step back and think, are available to bounce ideas off of and keep your business on track.
Do they work? When many business owners think of a peer advisory group, they are a little skeptical as to whether or not they really work. All we have to do is look to the thousands of successful programs like Weight Watchers, or any 12-step program for the answer. The truth is they work because we not only crave the communal sharing and camaraderie, but we gain huge benefits from sharing mutual understanding and insights.
Sometimes entrepreneurs and small to mid-sized business owners feel they are “alone at the top” and find that meeting regularly with a peer advisory board, facilitated by their board’s facilitator, not only helps them to gain insights they otherwise wouldn’t have, but makes them more accountable and keeps them on track to meet their business goals.
Even if a business is large enough to have its own board of directors, many peer advisory boards can act as a sounding board where someone could present issues to a collection of business professionals and bright individuals for feedback before taking their concerns to a company’s board of directors.
Although there are many types of boards, a peer advisory board is something quite special because it allows business owners to unite and share common experiences. For example, all businesses have personnel, operations, finance, and marketing concerns. If one member on the board has had a recent personnel issue, they can share their experience as to how they handled it, discuss what types of infrastructure needs to be in place and even where they posted a job.
Staff is not going to challenge a business owner, and owners need to have their ideas and decisions questioned, a peer advisory board will challenge you to consider new approaches to tackle a problem that they too have experienced.
Do you feel you could benefit from a peer advisory board? If so, in what way do you think you could benefit? I look forward to hearing from you in the comments below.