Growthink Blog

2013 Words To Live By


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The ending of one year and the beginning of another is a natural time to take stock of all that was accomplished in the past 12 months, and usually more excitedly, to dream and to plan on the great promise of the New Year.

In this spirit, below are a few of my favorite quotes regarding dreaming, planning, goal-setting, and "going for it."

"You see things; and you say, 'Why?' But I dream things that never were; and I say, 'Why not?'"

- George Bernard Shaw

(My comment: reflects the essence of the entrepreneurial spirit)

"What is not started today is never finished tomorrow."

- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

(My comment: the "fierce urgency of now" must inform and drive us all now more than ever.  It is too fast-moving a world, too merciless a marketplace, to in any way dawdle or delay.)

"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts"

- Winston Churchill

(My comment: The most accomplished executives and entrepreneurs that I have worked with have impressed me as much with their great fortitude as they have with their “glamorous” attributes - brilliance, connections, salesmanship, etc.

"Really great people make you feel that you, too, can become great."

- Mark Twain

(My comment: This is the essence of leadership in modern, always morphing collaboration-driven organizations. The best managers build alignment and focused energy around shared goals and objectives.

"Goals are dreams with deadlines."

- Diana Scharf Hunt

(Our comment: The great ones dream it now do it NOW!)

Happy New Year, and may 2013 be the best year of all of our lives!


The Power of Full Engagement


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I had the great good fortune this past weekend to co-host Growthink's third and final Business Blueprint Live event of the year.

This is a conference where entrepreneurs and business owners gather for three days and nights to dream, plan, and network as to how to best grow the revenues, increase the profits and better fulfill the missions of their businesses.

What is really neat is that because of its longer group and in-person format, there is time and space to really listen and, correspondingly, to be heard and to share best business practices, ideas, and inspirations for the New Year.

Golly - what a weekend!

The attendees that ventured from near and far and from the comforts of their homes and regular routines took a chance.

The chance that by "mixing it up a bit," that breakthroughs would follow.

And they did.

From a medical device entrepreneur having that flash of insight as to how to best position his business for a strategic sale, to the software entrepreneur reflecting on how best to integrate a traditional marketing channel (radio) with a burgeoning one (texting), new and powerful business ideas and tactics were hatched and committed to.

And I was reminded of an old wisdom that I forget way too often.

It goes like this: when there is something “nutritious” in my life and business that I am resisting, it is that thing that above all else I need and should be doing.

It could be getting up early and doing that workout.

Or not having that second glass of wine. 

Or sending those holiday cards.

Or taking that vacation.

Or, in business, making that call, writing that plan, structuring that partnership.

Going to that meeting, that conference.

And when you do, hold nothing back.

Don’t let any nagging doubts about whether this strategy, this decision, this job is the right one.

Just dive in.

Wasn't this so much at the essence of Steve Jobs' genius?  This full commitment to do with fierce excellence whatever it was that he was working on at that particular time?

I saw and felt this full engagement this weekend.

Those there were fully there.

And from this full engagement, millions of dollars of business and conceptual breakthroughs and lovely relationships naturally flowed.

And when I reflect on these amazing outcomes, and then when I think back to the resistance I felt of not wanting to organize, not wanting to go to the event…

Well, it hits home that so important wisdom that when I really don't want to do something that I know in my heart that I should…

…well that is the exact thing that I must do. 

And then let the magic happen.


Is Your Business Giving You the Results You Want?


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Take this short quiz to find out:

Are your revenues growing month after month without fail?

Are your profits rising, and allowing you to pay yourself enough money to spend freely on the things you want?

Do you have plenty of customers, with no need to get more?

Do your employees care as much about the success of your organization as you do?

Do you have enough cash flow to radically grow your company?

Would your business thrive if you took the next month off?

Are other companies regularly approaching you to buy your company?

... If you answered NO to one or more of these questions, then your business is NOT giving you the results you want or deserve.

And unfortunately, you’re not alone.

In fact, millions of other entrepreneurs and business owners are struggling.

As you may know, Inc. Magazine found that 80% of businesses fail within the first 5 years, and Dun & Bradstreet research showed that 91% of businesses fail within 10 years.


And according to the United States Census, only 3.9% of businesses make it to $1 million in sales, and only 0.6% of businesses make it to $5 million. And with the slow-down in the economy since 2008, many businesses have been struggling...

with no growth and declining profits.

That’s just depressing.  But there IS a solution...

...and I am so committed to helping you find it that I am offering free copies of Dave Lavinsky's new book so you too can discover what it is.

To learn more, click here: http://startattheendbook.com/free-offer


49 Days and Counting


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If you haven’t yet registered for my Wednesday webinar, this is your last chance.

Webinar: “How to Make 2013 Your Best Business Year Ever!”
Date: Wednesday, November 14th
Time: 8 pm EST / 5 pm PST
Registration Link: https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/459943082

The fact is this: successful people figure out what they need to do BEFORE they do it.

For example, a winning football coach always comes up with a game plan BEFORE the game. Then he’ll go over the plan with his team and practice BEFORE the game. So when the game starts, the team is ready and able to execute on the plan.

The same is true in your business. And if you want 2013 to be your best business year ever, you need to start planning NOW (2013 is only 49 days away).

That’s why I’m hosting a complimentary webinar on Wednesday, November 14th at 8pm Eastern / 5 pm Pacific.

The webinar is called “How to Make 2013 Your Best Business Year Ever!”

REGISTER HERE*
https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/459943082

On the webinar you will learn:

•    How to significantly increase your business’s 2013 sales and profits
•    The precise way to figure out the best 2013 opportunities for your business to pursue
•    How to set attainable 2013 goals that lead to long-term success
•    My #1 tactic for ensuring sustained success in 2013 and beyond
•    And much, much more!

You can expect to hear a positive, motivating message loaded with actionable intelligence to make 2013 the best year of your business life.


This Happens in Just 56 Days


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2013 is just 56 days away.

And if you want to make 2013 your best year ever, you need to start planning now.

To help you succeed, I’m hosting a complimentary webinar next Wednesday, November 14th at 8pm EST / 5 pm PST.

The webinar is called “How to Make 2013 Your Best Business Year Ever!”

REGISTER HERE (note, to allow for quality audience interaction, we are limiting attendance to the 1st 40 registrants):
  https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/459943082

On the webinar you will learn:

•    How to significantly increase your business’ 2013 sales and profits
•    The precise way to figure out the best 2013 opportunities for your business to pursue
•    How to set attainable 2013 goals that lead to long-term success
•    My #1 tactic for ensuring sustained success in 2013 and beyond
•    And much, much more!

You can expect to hear a positive, motivating message loaded with actionable intelligence to make 2013 the best year of your business life.

REGISTER HERE (there's limited space for this free webinar):
 https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/459943082

P.S. Whenever Growthink hosts a webinar, we get a lot of requests asking if there will be a replay or a recording of the call.  Right now we don’t have any plans to do a replay nor to record the call -- so my advice is to be on the webinar LIVE!

REGISTER HERE (there's limited space for this free webinar):
 https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/459943082


Should You Play a New Game or Just Keep on Keeping On?


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Dave Allen, author of the great productivity best seller "Getting Things Done," has developed an almost cult-like following for his ideas, structures, and best practices around to-do list management, prioritization, and metrics and schematics that define what an effective work day should be.


Without question, there are great benefits to his methods, and I especially like his best practice of always ending a meeting, conversation, or work on an open-ended project with the simple question "What is the Next Action?"

This discipline alone can greatly improve daily and meeting productivity, and perhaps more importantly reduce that sometime suffocating sense of anxiety common to knowledge and entrepreneurial work that there is always way more that must be done than there are hours in the day.

 

But a focus on simple to do list management, in the modern world, is far from sufficient.

You see, the dirty little secret that all of the self-help masters, all of the highly paid management consultants fail to tell you is that in our incredibly fast-moving, changing, competition from everywhere modern economy it is virtually impossible to design a plan or strategy that is in any way close to being assured of success.

The reason why is simple. Plans and strategies, by their nature, are speculative and assumptive.

They require the planner to survey the current market and competitive landscape along with assessing the current strengths and assets of their enterprise.

And then, from those assessments, forecast how a course of specific decisions or investments will be received by the market, by current or perspective customers, and responded to by the competition.

 

When stated this way, it becomes obvious that there is a very high likelihood that a plan as designed will not work.

It really doesn't matter if that plan is to introduce a new product or service offering, a new marketing or advertising campaign, a website re-launch, or an internal re-organization.

So, does this mean that planning is worthless? Of course not

But it does point to a pair of strategic best practices:

1.    Before commencing any planning process, first reflect deeply and document extensively what is working now.

These could be the practices and habits of a top sales person, a pay-per-click advertising campaign with positive ROI, an invoice collections best practice, a particularly profitable partner or affiliate.

Or, on a personal level, an exercise or diet or spiritual regimen.

Now to do more of these things that work, productivity and accountability best practices as outlined by the Dave Allens of the world are incredibly valuable and should be incorporated aggressively into the daily work habits and disciplines of the modern professional.

2.    But for everything else that falls outside of this realm, the right mindset is one of testing and exploration, of brainstorming, of speculation and possibility. Of open-ended questions.

AND it should be noted extremely well that it is usually in this mode that the big outlier, “black swan” ideas and strategies and relationships are usually discovered.

As for the question as to how much of #1, or playing more of the existing game better, versus #2, playing a new game, should be incorporated into your daily work flow and planning processes, well that is a decision that the best managers, the best consultants and the most renowned self-help masters are paid a lot of money to answer.

My answer is - no surprise here if you've ever met me at a party - is to have my cake and eat it too.

Strictly schedule times, deadlines, to-dos and accountabilities to accomplish more of the stuff that you know works and leave plenty of open space - on the calendar and in one's mind and spirit - to step out of the safe harbor and into the big sea and dream more than just a little bit.

And when you balance doing and dreaming like this - and sprinkle in a little luck, a little bit of being at the right place at the right time - your dirty little secret will soon be how much money you are making.

Or even better, how much difference for the better you are making in the world every day in every way.


The Non-Urgent and Extremely Important


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A great best practice for all companies of ambition is to establish and hold regular meetings - in person - of a well-qualified and experienced board of strategic advisors.

Let’s set aside for now some of the mechanisms of setting up a quality board (of which more can be read about here) and instead focus on some of the “tough love” feedback a board can offer executives on what they are doing right and far more importantly what they are doing wrong and how to fix it.

That Often It is Better to Receive than to Give:  While advisory board members, unlike a formal board, do not have liability nor fiduciary responsibility, their time and energy requirements to participate are significant.

And for most smaller companies, the financial incentives it can offer advisory board members are relatively little compared to the value of a board members’ time. 

A good if imperfect analogy is that for many senior executives their involvement with a smaller company advisory board is almost a philanthropic endeavor - where they give of themselves without expectation of direct reward - financial or otherwise. 

Correspondingly, the owners and managers of the small company must approach the sage advice and good energy offered by their advisory board fully in “receiving” mode.

For businesspeople of the mindset of always trading value for value and reciprocal obligation, this is hard. But only by clearing this space can the board’s counsel be best received.

And somewhat counter-intuitively, often only by management fully accepting the “gifts” of its advisors will the board member’s experience be richest.

Begin with the End in Mind: For companies beyond the startup phase, its operating executives are naturally pulled to the shorter-term challenges and realities - this quarter’s revenue and profits, this month’s sales, the challenges and angst of a difficult employee decision, etc.

In contrast, an advisory board discussion - by both its nature and by the kinds of folks attracted to serve on it - naturally pulls to the long view, to the big questions that all businesses should be regularly asking themselves always but rarely do.

Or, as they say, the “why” and the “which.” 

The "why" questions are hopefully embodied in the Company’s mission and its values, and need the regular attention of strategic planning sessions like advisory board meetings to keep them from existing only in “hot air.”

The “which” questions are in many ways the harder ones that an advisory board dynamic can help address. 

You see, ambitious entrepreneurs and executives (especially after they taste a little success!) are naturally drawn to expanding their sense of their market opportunity, and correspondingly their list of products and service offerings.

This naturally leads to a diffusion of focus, of trying to be all things to all people

A thoughtful advisory board will challenge management to more clearly define where they are aiming to be 1 year, 3 years hence and beyond, and from this vision where resources and attention should be focused today.

Speak Little, Listen Much: Managers and owners of emerging companies are often also the lead salespeople, the lead “evangelists” for their companies.

As a result, their default mode is to always be selling, always be pied-pipering their incredibly bright futures. 

Even if, especially if, so doing is buzz-killing and / or depressing.

Why?  Because it is often only in the “low negative” energy state that a certain kind of reflective creativity can flourish and completely new approaches to solving vexing problems can be discovered.

Brevity is Next to Godliness: Strategic planning sessions in a modern business context should be tightly scheduled to last not more than 2 hours.  After this length of time, diminishing returns starts setting in fast. 

A tight frame also requires all participants to come to the meeting prepared.  And, in turn, that the meeting organizers select the right meeting homework and then plan and moderate the agenda with the proper balance of structure and free-flowing dialogue.

Doing all of the above requires work – a good guide is that for every hour of strategic meeting time there should be 5 hours of planning time by the meeting organizer and at least 2 hours of preparation time by each participant.

Conclusion: Given that the only way to increase the value of a business is to either a) increase its bottom line financials and/or b) to improve its strategic positioning and growth probability, creative planning sessions like advisory board meetings should be a FIRST priority of any responsible manager.

They are classic Steven Covey, “non-urgent and extremely important” activities. 

Ignore them at your peril, and benefit from them in ways well beyond predictable expectation.


How NOT to Start Your Entrepreneurial Day


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Probably the worst way for an entrepreneur to begin his or her day is to read the newspaper.

Or watch the news.

Or, for that matter, to surf the net or even check in on the latest and greatest on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, et al.

It is not to say that keeping up with events is necessarily a bad thing, and of course for many types of businesses and professions, it is part of the job description to do so.

But for the busy and ambitious entrepreneur, doing so first thing in the morning at best is highly distracting, and at its worst misdirects one's mind and energy in the absolute wrong direction.

Why?

Well, unfortunately the overwhelming majority for what passes as “news” these days is a downbeat recital of the things that either have, are, or are about to go bad the world over. 

War.  Economic crisis.  National disasters.  Scandal. 

All usually presented in that oh-so depressing of "yes this is bad, but just wait because it's only going to get worse" tone. 

Not the best “stimulus” with which to start one’s day to get out and conquer the world, now is it?

Yes we should be informed.

But really, it is not the “informed” that change the world for the better.

Rather, it is the men and women of action, purpose, and zest that do.

And these energized and effective souls don’t start their day with the “news.”

Rather, they feed their spirit, minds, and bodies wholesome fare.

They meditate. They read inspirational literature. They exercise vigorously. 

They set their day's goals and get right after the most important ones first thing.

They recognize that the first hour is the rudder of the day and so they tack their daily ship in the best direction right from the day’s get go. 

And once they are good and going…

…well, then they take a peek at a few tweets, they accept a few friends requests, and they indulge themselves in a little of the “news.”

But not too much.

This blog post is a reprint of an article written by Jay Turo in this month’s Vistaprint Small Business Blog.


Really Rosy Scenarios


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As any venture capitalist worth his salt will tell you, there is a chasm of difference between the mostly grounded-in-reality financial forecasts offered by public companies, and the almost never to come true "rosy scenario" projections offered as a matter of course by startups and small businesses.

And while large public company CEOs and CFOs are judged as a matter of the highest honor on their ability to deliver on projections, exceedingly rare is the entrepreneurial executive that comes anywhere close to meeting forecasted results.

For a sense of the extent of how bad this problem is, a partner I know at a prominent venture capital firm estimates that of the 30+ companies that his firm has invested in, only two have consistently met or exceeded their financial projections.

And let me add that it isn’t like the inmates are running the asylum at my friend’s fund - as a prerequisite of having them as an investor, each of their portfolio company CEOs are required to undertake and report on a vigorous, quarterly budgeting and forecasting cycle.

And also let’s not assume that my friend is just a lousy investor. Lack of consistent financial performance is pretty much par for the course for startups and small businesses.

So what is going on?

Are the entrepreneurs just not ready for prime time? Are their managerial skill levels that many levels below their big company brethren?

I’ll say this - it is certainly not for lack of trying.

Most small technology company executives work longer hours than businesspeople have at any time in history.

If you doubt this, pick up Ron Chernow’s masterful biography of John Rockefeller.

In it, we read enviously of Mr. Rockefeller's daily 9:15am visits to his barber, his afternoon naps, and his unwavering commitment to always leave the office each day, no matter the season, so he could be home before dark.

And it is not for a lack of know how.

Modern entrepreneurs - with their always-on, “click of a button” best practice knowledge and connections base - are a better informed and more globally networked lot than at any time in history.

So if they aren’t the problem, is it modern business itself?

Has it just become - with all of its technological bells and whistles, all its globalization and pricing pressures, all of its customer unpredictability and fickleness - just too unwieldy a beast for any small company to ever consistently ride?

And concurrently, has accurate financial forecasting become equivalent to throwing dice?

Or more disturbingly - is it not even worth doing as even when they do turn out to be accurate it just falls into the category of the blind mouse getting some cheese every now and then?

For better or for worse, modern business demands that we take a more “balanced scorecard” approach in judging managerial effectiveness and entrepreneurial progress.

Factors like intellectual property development speed, organizational design, and client satisfaction as measured by a companies’ net promoter score are proving to be just as important predictors of a business’ value creation as is its forecasted-to-plan accuracy.

Please let me be clear: on their own these factors do NOT make a business valuable. 

Rather, the right matrix of them, properly prioritized, IS highly correlated with businesses that attain high profit exit and investment outcomes.

As an added bonus, these non-financial key performance indicators (KPIs) can be designed to be far more consistently predictable than traditional projections.

As such, they are usually far better measures of executive effectiveness than budgeting and forecasting “gap analysis.”

You just have to have the guts to forget about the numbers for a quarter or two.

Or, if you are really get good at defining, tracking, and accomplishing the right non-financial KPIs, to forget about them permanently as they will just take care of themselves.

Now wouldn’t that be nice.


Changing the World ONE Business at a Time


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Holding constant for socioeconomic factors, the typical entrepreneur makes less money, work more hours and suffers more work-related stress than their employed counterparts.

And when we combine these statistics with those that show a very incredibly low percentage of startups and small businesses ever attaining meaningful profitability, it is remarkable that people ever even dream to be entrepreneurs and start businesses at all.

But start them they do!

Quite possibly the most amazing and inspiring number in all of American business is 550,000.

That is the approximate number of new businesses that are started in American each and every month, or more than 6 million per year.

Now these opposing statistics beg the question, “Why?

Why would 550,000 people - who statistically are far better educated and wealthier than the population as a whole - engage in behavior that on the surface clearly seems contrary to their self-interest and dare I say, delusional?

Well, on the cynical side, many of these brave folks probably think the odds of economic success are greater than they really are.

And even if they know the odds, they think that they don’t apply to them. 

On the slightly less cynical but still not totally inspiring side, one could argue that businesses are started out of boredom - out of the need for that “action rush” that in the realm of business often only an entrepreneurial endeavor can truly provide.

Inspirationally, many believe like I do that entrepreneurship is the greatest force for positive change in the world today, and they start and grow businesses to be positive change agents, on levels big and small.

They start restaurants to create and share beautiful food, service, and atmosphere.

They open day care facilities to provide quality, spirited child care for working families.

They start creative agencies - graphic design, public relation, web development firms, and the like to leverage their business and creative talent to its most effective end.

And they start drug development and medical device companies to help people live longer, healthier lives.

And thousands of types and forms and sizes of business in between, led by entrepreneurs with aspirations big and small, driven by motivations both pedestrian and soaring.

But at the heart of all of their reasons for starting businesses, at least of the ones that survive, is that often begrudged but really most inspiring motivation of them all.

They start businesses to make a lot of money.

Now the key word in that sentence is make - as in bringing into existence through creativity, effort, and as often as not more than a little serendipity and luck, something that did not exist beforehand.

Making money is the difference between Mo Ibrahim becoming a billionaire through bringing inexpensive mobile telecommunications to millions in Africa and Mo Gaddafi stealing billions of his people’s money at the point of a gun.

It is the difference between Steve Jobs and Apple creating $630 billion in market capitalization - and untold additional hundreds of billions in economic and multiplier effect.

Now often, for the entrepreneur and those that back them, the touching of this money often takes many years, even decades, of under-paid, hard, and often thankless work, before a cash windfall in the form of a business sale or a public offering.

But that is a story for another day. 

For now, find those entrepreneurs that can truly make money, encourage and back them, and you and the world will get to a better place.


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Blog Authors

Jay Turo

Dave Lavinsky