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Does Your Business Have the Right Foundation for Success? Take this Assessment to Find Out

Is your business meeting all of its goals? Is it achieving all of the results you want?

If not, you’re not alone. In fact, according to this report, just five percent of small businesses achieved all their goals in the past 12 months.

There is no magic bullet that will propel you to become one of the five percent. And to be clear, being in the five percent doesn’t necessarily mean your business is doing better than others. Consider this: if you set your goals low and achieve all of them, is that better than setting them high and achieving half of them?

Regardless, foundational business principles tell us that there are specific things you can do to set yourself up for more success in your business.

Take this free assessment to see if your business is effectively positioned for success. You might be surprised at what you discover.

Foundations for Success Assessment title and a Get Started button over top of an image of a chess pawn.

The assessment covers 25 foundational areas like your business’ purpose, planning, people, and processes, as well as accountability structures you have (or don’t have) in place. Taking the assessment will show you where you’re strong already, and where you might need to invest some energy to improve a weakness (or a few weaknesses).

Identifying a problem is the first step in solving it. Completing the assessment will take you less than 10 minutes, and even if you never act on the results, the process of completing it will force you to think about your business and will be well worth your time. That’s the feedback we get from our clients who take the assessment at the outset of our work together.

Try to be as objective as possible with your answers. If you’re strong already in an area, don’t be afraid to give a rating of three or four. And if you’re weak in an area, it’s okay to admit that and give a two or one rating.

At the end, total up each of your one, two, three and four ratings, and do the math to give yourself a score out of 100. Don’t worry about what your score is – there is no pass/fail mark. Again, the purpose is simply to get you to spend a few minutes to reflect on your business and to gain some insight on areas you may need to improve upon in order to give you a better chance of success in reaching your goals.

The assessment also establishes a starting point, aka your current state, so that you can measure improvement over time. For example, if you commit to improving in a few areas over the next three, six or 12 months – whatever timeline works best for you – you can retake the assessment and watch your overall score climb with each area you strengthen.

If after taking the assessment you’d like to discuss how to go about improving your score (and your business results), you can schedule a free, no obligation 30-minute one-on-one call with Andy.

Take a few minutes to do the assessment now. You’ll be glad you did!

Gratitude Shuts the Door on Stress and Helps Your Business Grow

Success as a business owner depends as much (or more) on your mindset as it does on your strategy. If you want to grow your business, you’ll have a much better chance to do so if you have a growth mindset. Sounds obvious, but “fixed” or “lack” mindsets hold many business owners back from achieving the results they want in their business and in their personal lives.

There are lots of tips and tricks to help with your mindset (I have written about some here and here), but for me, having a growth mindset all starts with being grateful and practicing gratitude on a daily basis.

One really cool thing about gratitude is that it’s impossible to feel stress or anxiety – or any other negative emotion, like resentment – while expressing gratitude.  In other words, when you are in a grateful frame of mind, you literally shut the door on stress. (For more on this concept, I recommend Bruce Lipton’s fabulous book The Biology of Belief.) So expressing gratitude daily is one of the best ways to manage stress in your business and in your life.

Some business owners mistakenly believe that gratitude equals complacency. Their line of thinking is, if I’m grateful for what is, then I won’t be motivated to grow. They think that gratitude and growth are at odds with each other.

The danger with that thinking is the assumption that gratitude and happiness lie around the next corner. It’s an example of the limiting Have-Do-Be mindset rather than the more empowering Be-Do-Have mindset.

One of the great lessons of my life that I learned from a mentor of mine over a decade ago is that happiness lies in the balance between being grateful for what is, and striving for more. That has become a guiding principle of my life. I can at once live in a state of gratitude AND push myself to achieve more; to grow personally and professionally. You can too.

So how do you express gratitude? There are lots of ways. The key is to be intentional about it. Make gratitude an action and turn it into a habit.

Here are some ideas you can try out:

  • Think about three people or things for which you’re grateful every morning when you wake up, or every night before you fall asleep – or both.
  • Make a point to pause and reflect once or twice a day not only about the blessings you have, but also about the everyday wonders of the world all around you and about all of the people and experiences and circumstances that have brought you where you are today. Set an alert in your calendar to remind you to do this.
  • Start a gratitude journal where you write down what or who you’re grateful for every day. Before long you’ll have a powerful list that you can refer to anytime you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed, to help you shut the door on those negative emotions and get you back on track with your growth mindset.

I have combined my daily rating practice with my gratitude practice. Often when I rate the quality of my day and make notes about it, I find myself not only writing about what happened but also what I’m grateful for. This process has made me realize that I don’t often have zero or minus days (see here for more on this rating scale), because even when things don’t go as planned there is still so much to be grateful for that it just doesn’t feel right to say that I’ve had a bad day. It still happens, but not very often.

Another suggestion to keep in mind is to be grateful for your problems. Wait, what? Grateful for my problems? Grateful to get rid of my problems maybe – but grateful FOR them? That makes no sense!

Sure, on the surface that’s true. But when you think about it, problems are what make our lives interesting. They challenge us and force us to grow in ways we wouldn’t otherwise. Same is true in business. Look at how the problems that have surfaced during the pandemic have forced businesses to change the way they operate – in many cases for the better.

To take it one step further, your business exists to solve problems. People buy the services or products your business provides because they solve a problem that they have. People buy drills because they have a problem: they need holes.

So whenever you’re feeling down or stressed or anxious about a problem you’re facing in business or in your personal life, try throwing a little gratitude at it. Be grateful for the opportunity to tackle the problem, and remind yourself that your business exists to solve people’s problems. Ain’t no problems, ain’t no business – for you or anyone else.

That simple shift in mindset will help you spend less time in stress mode and more time in growth mode. And that will benefit you and your business.

How Did Your Quarter Go?

I love quarterly planning time. It’s my favourite time of year. And luckily for me, it comes four times a year! 

Generally, quarterly planning involves two components:

  1. Looking back on and assessing the quarter that was, and
  2. Planning for the quarter ahead.

LOOKING BACK

In looking back at the previous quarter, you and your leadership team should ask:

  • What went well, and why?
  • What didn’t go so well, and why?

Use your quarterly goals and building blocks as a guide. Which did you achieve? Where did you fall short? What lessons were learned that you can apply going forward, into next quarter and beyond?

Be sure to celebrate successes and, on the flip side, course correct in areas that underperformed in the quarter.

Looking back at the prior quarter also allows you to see just how far your business has come—how much you’ve accomplished—over the last 90 days.  There is a tendency to underestimate or underappreciate our accomplishments if we don’t consciously take note of them. Taking time out—usually a half-day or a full-day, depending on the size of your business and leadership team—to engage in quarterly planning helps you shine a light on your accomplishments so that you don’t just skip past them. It energizes you for the quarter to come. And it reminds you what all the hard work is for. 

For example, I was facilitating a quarterly planning session with a client recently and they were feeling just okay about the quarter that was. But as we dug into it, they realized they had achieved over 80% of everything they had set out to. Yes, there were a couple of items that needed to be pushed into the next quarter, but they had moved the needle on their business in a big way, and going through the process helped them realize that when they may not have otherwise.

Oh, and they exceeded their quarterly profit goal by a whopping 112%! Full disclosure: that was due in part by over estimating expenses when setting the goal. But still – they had more revenue than expected in the quarter and much fewer expenses, which led to a big win in the profit department. I always love it when a business owner I’m working with can put a huge checkmark next to their profit goal at the end of a quarter.

Another client realized when looking back at last quarter that it was their non-financial goals about creating a positive impact in their community that actually drove them to achieve and exceed their profit goals. (Look for an upcoming article about the connection between purpose and profit.)

LOOKING AHEAD

After your team debriefs and analyzes the quarter that was, the next step is to plan for the quarter ahead. It’s helpful to use the same framework each quarter for your planning, so you’re not reinventing the wheel every 90 days. The framework I use with the majority of my clients is called the Quarterly Picture. It’s simple but powerful. You can see what it looks like here.

Here’s the process we follow to complete the Quarterly Picture:

  1. Whiteboard: List everything you want to accomplish this quarter
  2. Discuss and agree on priorities
  3. Set Profit, Impact, and Enjoyment Goals
  4. Set Building Blocks with deadlines
  5. Make sure each Goal and Building Block is measurable
  6. Revise/confirm Key Data
  7. Update your list of Issues, Problems, and Opportunities (IPOs) (and time permitting, we give some PDA to the IPOs)

Engaging in a structured quarterly planning process four times per year keeps your team focused on the business’ annual priorities, encourages necessary course corrections, and offers an objective yardstick of your accomplishments. 

Most importantly, it sets your business up for the best chance to succeed. It helps you achieve more that you thought you could, and in a manner that doesn’t exhaust resources and morale. A commitment to quarterly planning is a commitment to sustainable, enjoyable growth for your business. 

Slay Your Monkeys: How to resolve recurring problems in your business

I recently put on a workshop for a about a dozen business leaders about solving recurring problems in their business once and for all. I called the session Slay Your Monkeys

The title comes from a metaphor used in the business management book The One Minute Manager Meets the Monkey. In that book, the authors describe how employees often try to leave their problems—their monkeys—with their managers, rather than tackling the problem themselves after seeking some guidance from their manager.

The authors rightly stress how important it is for employees to leave their manager’s office with the monkey they walked in with. It’s the manager’s job to make sure that happens. If not, at the end of the day a manager might have five or ten monkeys in their office, messing around, creating chaos and ultimately overwhelming the manager.

Think of the problems in your business as monkeys jumping around creating chaos. One way to deal with them is to shut them in an office without windows and pretend they don’t exist. But sooner or later those monkeys will make some noise, cause distraction, and eventually find their way out. 

A better way to deal with problems in your business is to implement a SYSTEM to resolve them; to Slay Your Monkeys once and for all. There is nothing that saps the energy of a team more than having to deal with the same problem over and over and over again. 

Systematizing problem-solving in your business will help you:

  • Avoid circling around an issue and kicking it down the road unresolved
  • Reduce frustration and inefficiency in your business
  • Get more of the results you want in your business, faster

So what is the Slay Your Monkeys process for problem solving? 

It’s quite simple, actually. It involves three steps:

  1. Track your problems
  2. Create time and space to deal with your problems
  3. Implement a system to resolve your problems

TRACK

The first step is to create a parking lot for all the problems in your business (recurring or otherwise). This can be a list in a Word doc, Google doc, Excel sheet – whatever works best for you. One person on your team should be in charge of keeping the list, and then when anyone identifies a problem that can’t be (or doesn’t need to be) dealt with right away, it gets added to the list. 

I encourage my clients to keep their list in their Quarterly Picture. It looks like this:

I call it the IPO list, for issues, problems, and opportunities – but you can call it whatever you like. The point is, if the problem isn’t tracked and written down somewhere, the likelihood of it getting resolved efficiently is almost nil. 

Here’s an example of an IPO list:

CREATE TIME AND SPACE

The second part of the process is to create time and space every single week for your leadership team to dedicate to resolving problems in your business. The best way to do this is 1) to have a weekly leadership team meeting, and 2) to structure the meeting so that the majority of the time is spent on resolving problems. 

Here is the agenda I recommend my clients use for their weekly leadership team meetings. You will see that 60 of the 90 minutes is allocated to agenda item #5 – IPOs. 

SYSTEM TO RESOLVE

Now that you have a running list (parking lot) for your problems, and have carved out an hour a week for your team to allocate to them, you need to systematically resolve them. The system I recommend is called “Giving some PDA to your IPOs”. It involves three steps:

1. Prioritize: Spend 5 minutes to decide as a group which of the IPOs is most important.

2. Discuss: First, use the Five Whys technique to determine the root cause of the problem. Second, allow everyone to provide input on how the problem should be handled. It’s the meeting chair’s job to keep the discussion only on the problem being discussed. 

The slide below shows an example of the Five Whys technique in action. Initially the problem is identified as not getting the data into the software, but by asking Why five times, the root cause of the problem is discovered: how the company’s bonus structure drives Bill’s actions and priorities.

3. Address: An IPO is addressed when 1) it is agreed by all that it is no longer an IPO; or 2) there is an agreed upon action item assigned to someone to report on at the next meeting. In the example above, the action items identified to address the problem might be:

  • John to look at bonus structure
  • Elaine to meet with Bill to develop training on data software entry

Repeat the PDA process for your remaining IPOs. Not all IPOs will be resolved in every meeting. That’s okay as long as you PDA your IPOs at each weekly meeting.

Give the Slay Your Monkeys process a try in your business. It works. It will reduce frustration for you and your team, it will energize you, and it will propel your business forward as you systematically resolve problems—especially energy-sucking recurring problems—in your business.

Not getting the results you want in your business? Maybe I can help. You might have some cracks in your 4P Foundation or you might need to rev up your Flywheel of Accountability. To set up a free 30-minute conversation about your business, contact me here. I’ll tell if you I can help, and I’ll tell you if I can’t. Either way, you’ll learn something from our conversation. 

What do you need to STOP doing to create more time in your week?

When I work with my business owner clients to implement the Whole PIE Business Management System, so that they can create more profit, impact, and enjoyment in their business, one of the first things I ask them to do is create their Stop Doing List.

Most business owners and leaders tend to operate on the brink of overwhelm. Their days are full to overflowing with duties, responsibilities, putting out fires, and contemplating their next big idea.

So it’s vitally important when implementing something new into the business owner’s life or business to first clear out the time and space required for the implementation to have a chance of success.

I tell my clients that completing my training program will require 2-3 hours per week of their time. Then I ask, given that your days are already full, where will you find the time to commit to this program so that you get the most out of it?

The answer is almost always that they need to stop doing some of the things they typically do every week.

No matter who or how busy you are, there are probably things that occupy your time every week that don’t meaningfully add value to your life or your business.  

What are some of the things YOU could STOP doing to create more time in your days and weeks? Could you:

  • Delegate some tasks to others to free up some of your time?
  • Automate some of the tasks you currently do?
  • Reduce time on social media?
  • Reduce time watching Netflix?
  • Reduce time (and energy) fixated on the news (which is almost always negative)?
  • Get up a half hour earlier every day?
  • Eliminate time spent with people who drain your energy?
  • Make your lunch rather than go out for lunch?
  • Avoid the drive thru coffee lines?
  • Work smarter/more productively in less time?
  • Other?

Challenge yourself to come up with 2 or 3 things that you can stop doing over the next month, and calculate the total number of hours this will save in your weeks.

I will STOP…Time savings per week
  
  
  
Total hours saved per month = XX

How are you going to spend all this time you’ve just committed to free up for yourself?

Want more time and energy? Deploy values-based decision-making in your business

One of the most underrated benefits of getting crystal clarity on the purpose of your business is the time and energy savings that come from values-based decision-making (VBDM). 

Each day you and your team are faced with countless decisions, and making decisions takes energy. Small decisions, big decisions—they all take some energy to make, oftentimes a lot of energy. But when you have a clear purpose (consisting of a vision statement, a purpose statement, and core values), every decision you make can be run through the filter of these three questions:

  1. Will this move us closer to our vision?
  2. Is this consistent with (or does this further our) purpose?
  3. Will this align with our core values?

It is amazing how many decisions can be made swiftly (or not have to be made at all) because the answer to one or more of these questions is No. 

When that happens, you don’t have to spend another ounce of energy thinking or, in many cases, agonizing about them. Your purpose gives you the compass to focus on what is important, and to let go of all the rest. Or, as Stephen Covey famously put it, it allows you to keep the main thing the main thing. 

For the more visual learners out there, here’s a VBDM decision tree you can use until you get the hang of it:

Timeline

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If you actively employ values-based decision-making in your business, you’ll be amazed at how much time and energy you save that you can allocate to really moving your business forward, toward its purpose. 

So while it may seem like it TAKES a ton of time and energy to figure out your purpose and to go through the process of creating vision, purpose and values statements, if you do it right the process will actually SAVE you a lot of time and energy in the long run.

And who couldn’t use a little more of those in their business and life as a whole?

Here’s a great way to measure your level of joy

In my last article I shared the first nugget of wisdom I took away from Tim Ferriss’ recent podcast episode with Good to Great author Jim Collins: Put Butter on Your Waffles.

The second nugget I took away from that interview is Collins’ method of measuring the quality of his days. For years, Collins has used an Excel spreadsheet to rate every single day. The rating scale is:

  • +2 is a great day
  • +1 is a good day
  • 0 is a ‘meh’ day
  • -1 is a net negative day
  • -2 is a bad day

Each day he adds some notes about what happened that day to give some justification for his daily score. The notes allow him to search the text from time to time to find trends as to what makes for a great day or a bad day. With that data, he can set goals to focus more on what makes for a good day, and avoid what makes for a bad day.

Of course, this isn’t a foolproof method to avoid bad days – but it is a great tool create more good days than bad.

Another application for this daily rating tracking system is that it’s a method to measure the level of joy in your life. My clients and followers will know that enjoyment is one piece of the “triple bottom line” pie that I encourage business owners to focus on (the others are profit and impact). But joy isn’t always easy to measure.

Collins’ system is a great way to measure enjoyment. As the adage goes:

How we spend our days is, of course, how spend live our lives.

Annie Dillard

Enjoying our days is the key to enjoying our lives. The daily -2 to +2 rating scale is a simple and effective way to measure that.

After hearing about Collins’ system, I set a quarterly goal to establish a daily rating habit and to have an average daily rating greater than 1 for the quarter.

I am pleased to say that I achieved the first part of the goal. I implemented the rating system at the start of the year and I am now in the habit of rating the prior day each morning, and adding notes about what happened that led to the particular rating. It has taken the place of my journaling practice, since the notes are a mini journal of sorts. (I am not sure at this point if my longer form journaling practice will make a comeback).

As to whether I achieve the second part of the goal, time will tell. I had a good mix of good and great days in January, only a handful of meh days, and just one net negative day. So I like the trend.

If you’re looking to measure and increase the level of enjoyment in your business and overall life, I encourage you to give Collins’ system a shot. And if you have a different way to measure joy, I’d love to hear about it.

Put butter on your waffles

Audio is my preferred medium of consuming information (as opposed to print or video) because audio allows you to consume the information while doing something else, like driving, exercising, doing chores, etc.

I am a consumer of podcasts. Like millions of other people, The Tim Ferriss Show is one of my faves. Recently, Tim interviewed famed Good to Great (among other books) author Jim Collins for a second time. There were so many nuggets to pull from the interview and apply. I’d like to share a couple of them—one in this article and one in the next.

The first nugget was a lesson Collins learned from one of his mentors: 

Put Butter on Your Waffles. 

As the story goes, one morning Collins was having breakfast with the mentor not long after he (the mentor) had recovered from a heart attack. Collins watched the mentor order waffles and then proceed to load them up with butter and syrup. 

Collins politely asked his mentor if that was the best idea, given the recent health scare. The response was something along the lines of, I’ve enjoyed my life up until now, and I’ll continue to enjoy it until the good lord takes me away.

The lesson Collins took from this interaction was that life is meant to be lived to the fullest, and enjoyed. If you do what you love, and enjoy the process of living your life, then there’s no regrets when life comes to end, whenever that may be. That’s how the mentor had lived his life, according to Collins, so who was he to tell him NOT to put butter on his waffles?

The business application of the concept is to make sure you enjoy the process of building your business. All the money, growth, accolades, titles, or otherwise that may come from building and running a business aren’t worth much at the end of the day if you don’t enjoy the process of doing so. 

Later in the interview, Collins expanded on the Put Butter on Your Waffles idea by suggesting:

If you can’t figure out how to make it fun, don’t do it.

I love that. 

No matter what business you’re in, you’re not going to love everything about it. But the overall process has to be fun. It has to be enjoyable. Otherwise what’s the point? 

In my mind—and I assume based on the Ferriss interview that Collins would agree—building a multi-million (or more) business doesn’t constitute success if it comes at the expense of your happiness, health, or relationships.

If you’re finding you’re not enjoying the process of running your business as much as you’d like to, challenge yourself to figure out a way to make it more fun. Maybe you need to delegate more, or make a key hire (or a key fire), or add some fun incentives into the business, or shift your business’ culture, or something else.

Create some goals around making your business more enjoyable. You can check out this article for some tips on how to do that. 

And the next time you sit down to a plate of waffles, throw some butter and syrup on there and enjoy every bite.

Disclaimer: Don’t eat waffles every day and waffles are best enjoyed after exercise 🙂

How to set profit, impact, and enjoyment goals as part of your annual planning process

It is annual planning season (and Q1 planning season) for many business owners, which means it’s time to identify the overriding goals for your business over the next 12 months (and then to break those annual goals down into smaller chunks that can be accomplished in the next 3 months). 

Since the three most important measures of business success are profitability (is your business making money?), impact (how is your business making a positive difference in the world?), and enjoyment (are you actually enjoying the process of running your business?), I help business owners create goals in each of these areas. (You can download some helpful tools at the end of this article.)

Profit Goals

Profit goals are generally easiest to set. Money is tangible and easy to measure. You set a goal for top-line revenue, subtract your estimated expenses, and that’s your profit goal for the period. 

Impact Goals

Impact goals can be trickier to set at first, but generally they become easier with practice. Essentially, these are the non-financial goals of the business. 

Start by looking to the purpose of your business. That will offer clues as to (or might even explicitly lay out) the impact your business intends to make in the world. 

If your purpose involves making the lives of your customers better, then your impact goals should relate to either how many customers’ lives you’re improving, or how much you are improving them—or both.

Same for employees. If your business’ purpose involves being a fantastic place to work and build a career, then set impact goals around that. 

Maybe your business wants to make your community a better place by donating goods, or money, or volunteer hours.  Or perhaps your business is intent on making the world greener, or safer, or more peaceful, or something else. If so, set some impact goals around this.

In each of the above examples, it’s vital to make the goals specific and measurable, meaning that there is no grey area as to whether or not the goal is or is not achieved at the end of the period. 

Did you help 100 new customers or not? Did you reduce energy consumption by 20% or not? Did your employees do 500 volunteer hours or not?

Goal achievement should always be binary. If your goals are specific and measurable, then when you assess whether or not you achieved the goals at the end of the period, there is no “sort of”, or “a little”, or “mostly”.  You either did or you didn’t.

Enjoyment Goals

Setting enjoyment goals can also be tricky because it’s difficult to measure joy. But you CAN measure things that you know produce joy.

For example, if you love going to conferences or taking professional development courses, but you rarely find time for them because there is always so much else to do, then set a goal to attend X amount of conferences or training courses in the next year. 

If you find you love everything about your business except how much time it takes away from your family (or nurturing other relationships), then you could set a goal to delegate specific tasks to others, to free up X amount of hours per week – and then be sure to allocate that extra, freed up time to family time or relationships. 

Another way to look at setting enjoyment goals is to look at what frustrates you in running your business. For example, if you find that meetings don’t start on time, or that there’s too much paperwork to be done, or one of your team members constantly grates on your nerves, or your close rate on proposals is too low, then set a goal to reduce or eliminate that frustration, which will by definition lead to greater enjoyment for you in running your business. 

Sometimes there is temptation to create an enjoyment goal along the lines of: Achieve profit and impact goals. The idea is that as long as the business is hitting profit targets and making the impact you want, by default you will enjoy your business more. Be careful of this approach. 

The beauty of the profit-impact-enjoyment “triple bottom line” system is the inherent checks and balances it provides. It’s great to set stretch profit and impact goals that make you a little uncomfortable and force you to achieve more than you ever thought you could in these areas, but if the achievement of those goals requires so much of your time, energy, and commitment that it leads to burnout, or health issues, or breakdowns of your personal relationships, then is it worth it? 

The key to the triple bottom line approach is setting goals that are aligned and support each other, so that you move the needle in all three areas and not one or two at the expense of the other(s).

Here are the Big Picture and Quarterly Picture tools that I use with my clients to help with goal setting.

Feel free to use them for your planning process. And if you’d like some help, feel free to send me a raven anytime.

Business lessons from a $4 Christmas gift

With four school-aged kids in our house, Christmas morning is quite the production. Wrapping paper flies everywhere as the kids open their gifts from Santa, mom and dad, grandparents, and other relatives. Among the mix this year was a new bike, a giant dollhouse, an Xbox, some Lego sets and, of course, lots of clothes. 

Despite those relatively big-ticket items that the kids found under the tree, it has become clear already that the most enduring gift received this year is the $4 chess set that my 10-year old son Noah gave to my 13-year old son Gabe. 

As you might imagine given the price tag, the board is small and the pieces are smaller. Plastic on cardboard. Usually a gift like that is broken, or pieces lost, within a few hours of opening. But not this gift. 

Gabe and Noah have probably played 20 games so far. My oldest daughter Alex (15) and I have learned to play and are now hooked as well. I expect my wife and my youngest daughter Charlie (6) are not far behind. 

After only a few days it is painfully evident that one chess set in this family isn’t enough to meet the growing demand. Boxing Week sales, here we come. Maybe we can get the next set for $3!

Why do I share this story here? What does it have to do with running a small business?

Two reasons.

First, strategy. Even though I don’t yet have much in the way of strategy when playing chess (as evidenced by my terrible won-loss record so far), it’s clear that good players are well versed in chess strategy. A few episodes of the Netflix series The Queen’s Gambit has confirmed that. (Yes, that my wife and I have started holiday binge-watching that show—and not one of the thousand other options available—is another sign of our new-found family addiction to chess.)

And while chess strategy and business strategy aren’t the same, what is the same is that good business owners, like good chess players, are guided by good strategy. Heading into a new calendar year (even if it doesn’t coincide with your fiscal year) is a wonderful time to revisit, refresh, or even recreate the strategy for your business. A great way to do this is by creating your 1-Year Plan and 90-Day Plan for the first quarter of 2021.

Peter Drucker famously said that culture eats strategy for breakfast. That may be true. But that’s not to say strategy isn’t important. My take on it is that creating a business culture of accountability, built on a regular meeting and planning cadence that includes annual and quarterly planning, is in and of itself a great corporate strategy. 

The second business takeaway from the $4 chess set is that small changes can have a big impact. When examining your business as part of your annual planning process, resist the temptation to keep doing things the way you’ve always done them simply because that’s the way you’ve always done them.

In other words, never invite SALY (Same As Last Year) to your annual planning party. SALY is a TERRIBLE party guest. Responding to the questions Why are we doing this? and Why do we do it that way? with Because that’s the way we’ve always done it, or Let’s just do it the same as last year, is a TERRIBLE way to plan for and run your business.

Now, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it – that’s true. But if you can’t articulate WHY something ain’t broke (or, more positively, why it’s working), then you’re just getting lucky—and your luck can change. 

So in looking ahead to 2021, ask yourself: what are some small changes I can make that could have a big impact on my business? Could you:

  • Delegate or outsource some tasks to others to free up more of your time?
  • Raise your prices or fee structure a little bit?
  • Make a key personnel decision you have been dragging your feet on?
  • Develop a new relationship with a key account, supplier, or joint venture opportunity?
  • Implement a fun weekly or monthly activity into your culture?
  • Find 20 minutes a day for exercise, or a creative outlet, or something else that feeds the body or the soul?
  • Set a goal to meet with your leadership team weekly, and actually stick to it?
  • “Fire” one or more clients who aren’t adding value to your business or your life, so that you can free up room for more clients who do?

The list can go on and on. What one or two or three small changes can you make in your business that could most increase the level of profit, impact, and joy in your business

What will your $4 chess set be in 2021?

Need help with your annual planning process for 2021? Want to learn the SYSTEM for creating more Profit, Impact, and Enjoyment in your business? Consider joining other like-minded business owners enrolling in the Whole PIE Business Management System Training Program beginning January 20, 2021.