Fastest Path to Growth? Tap Into Your Network

Untapped Gold: How Biz Besties Can Help You Grow

What do you envision when you think of growing your business? Typically it’s new leads or prospecting. But most of us do a really crummy job of utilizing that asset called our network, or our Biz Besties, to really help us grow.

What is a Biz Bestie?

  • You may have met recently or known each other forever, but the connection is unusually strong.
  • You can share anything, without embarrassment, shame etc. Stories of biz mistakes, hiring errors, deep levels of debt, business deals gone wrong.
  • It’s a no holds barred relationship for both of you!

There are three different types of Biz Bestie:

  • Bosom Buddies: These are your best friends. You can tell them about your failures, your debts, your stupid last hire that cost you$$. No shame!
  • Connectors: They know EVERYONE and take special joy in putting people together. Make them happy!
  • Influencers: These folks are industry experts. They know everything in a specific area and are usually happy to share it.

How can you serve each other to build your businesses? (Hint: It’s not about leads!)

  • Assist with locating vendors, suppliers, assistance of all kinds
  • Sounding board for any problems that come up
  • Seek out their specific expertise – knowing you will do the same in kind for them (brainstorming, etc.) Be sensitive – if this kind of advice is how they earn their money. Keep it short – a single specific question or two tops.
  • Referrals! (Duh!) You have to ask?

Make connecting with your network part of your weekly schedule.

One of the techniques that I use to make that happen is “3x2x1.” Schedule a half hour block on your calendar once a week, at least. I first heard this from my real estate broker about how she built her very successful business. Just sayin’, it’s not a new concept.

Here is what it looks like in terms of weekly targets:

  • 3 phone calls. (Or individual emails, but don’t forget about the phone.)
  • 2 handwritten thank you notes. (Who gets mail anymore? Set up a little kit on your desk – cards, a pen, stamps.)
  • 1 face to face encounter. (This could be right in your neighborhood – just integrate a conversation about what you do in your everyday life.)

When you do connect, then let your Biz Besties know what you want them to feel/know/do.

Be sure your conversation is not just a social call (although it can be that as well). Make it count. Here are some things to hit during your connection:

  • How do you want them to feel as a result of connecting with you?
  • What do you want them to know about you and your biz right now? This will change as your business moves forward.
  • What would you like them to do? Do you have an event coming up that you’d like her to know about? Do you need a publisher for a book you are writing? Are you looking for a venue for your next live event? GET SPECIFIC!
  • Always, always offer to help your contact. “What can I do for you?” will cement the relationship and keep the reciprocity going. My fabulous CPA ends every meeting or phone call by asking how she can help me grow my business, and who she can connect me with?

How many of you are thinking “I don’t have the time to nurture my Biz Besties.”

Why not? Make the time. That’s part of your role as the CEO of your business. Your weekly calendar should have slots built in for client time, content creation, team call/building and a CEO time slot. Find a block every week for a Biz Besties half hour. Build your week according to your needs, not the other way around.

What is your mindset when you go to a conference or a networking event?

Do you hate them? I used to until I changed my goals. I now am looking for Biz Bestie material, not leads. Think about building your community, not your prospect pool. It really takes the pressure off.

  • Find one, maybe 2 women that you sense may be a possible Biz Bestie. It’s as easy as finding one or two women that appeal to you. You may like how they look, their hair, jewelry, their smile, or something they said during a session. – Something resonates with you.
  • Make a point of sitting next to them during the next breakout or workshop for more conversation. A little stalking is OK.
  • Be a servant, not a taker. Try to find a way to offer help by sharing a contact or offering a solution to a problem that has worked for you.
  • It’s not about leads. That MAY come later. It’s about building your network of Biz Besties.

Keep connecting and building your network.

Make a point of going to networking events once a month. Revisit ones you have enjoyed in the past, or seek out new ones. Or, commit to one organization and attend the majority of their events to establish a presence.

Can I help you on your path to growing your business? Let’s schedule a call to chat about where you are right now and how I can help you.

CEO Time – Is it on Your Calendar?

Plan CEO time to think about your business.

Ah – time to plan…when is there ever enough time to stand back and just think? I may sound like a broken record, but putting a non-negotiable block of time on your calendar for CEO time is the only way this is going to happen.

As entrepreneurs, especially during growth surges, it is easy to get sucked back into working IN your business (“ I just need to get this DONE!”), rather than ON your business (“What is happening in the big picture?”). Your best bet for getting out of the weeds is to plan some think-time.

I’m sure you have a strategic plan for your business or you wouldn’t have made it to year two or beyond. So, let’s assume that’s a given. You also need the discipline of doing a weekly check-in. Pick a time in your schedule when you are at your clear-headed best. For me, that’s early morning, and Friday’s are the day when I’m winding things up. So, Friday morning is my weekly CEO time block on my calendar. I don’t’ take calls, check email, schedule meetings. I’m booked for a solid two hours, sometimes three.

What do you do during your CEO time? Pick a few of these ideas or rotate through them throughout the month so you hit them all:

  • Update your KPIs. Establish what your key performance indicators are and update these at least monthly. This is not just for revenue, but any measure of progress that you deem important. How many strategy sessions did you have? How many client meetings, new email contacts, web visits, and new social media followers did you have? Did you attend any networking events?

 

  • Monthly – Take a look at your profit and loss statement. How are you doing? Are you making a profit? Here is where it comes back to the bottom line!

 

  • Plan – Long and short range. If your 3 to 6-month plan is nailed down, then revisit and make adjustments as necessary. Start making notes about the next 6 months – the first stage before actually setting things in motion. You may have set aside some ideas and projects for later. Start building one or two of those into the next planning phase.

 

  • Set your specific goals for the next month. Can you contact five potential partners for a collaboration, schedule at least one speaking gig, attend one new networking event?

 

  • Build organizational culture. If you have a team, this would be the time to plan team-meeting agendas, team events, and think about the areas where your organizational culture needs to improve.”

 

  • Plan for scaling – Next stage of business. Think about it now as you are growing. Keep on eye on that org chart (fledgling as it may be). Will you need additional team members? What additional professional services will you need add – legal counsel, CPA, salesperson or manager? Are there areas of your biz that are ripe for outsourcing

 

  • Build Playbooks – Processes for scaling. For anything you do more than three times, write down your process in detail or film a training video. Create templates, email copy, or scripts that you can just cut and paste or reuse repeatedly to save time.

 

  • Check in with yourself on your own performance. How am I doing? Am I delegating enough and doing it well? Am I aware of customer needs? Am I on top of team needs and performance? Are you truly spending 80% of your time on things that will move the needle in your business, or are you spending too much time on busywork? Re-visit your top priorities – do they still hold?

 

Pixar studios did a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of the film “Finding Nemo.” A few of the lead animators and story creators attribute the success of the movie to “story think time”-cut to a picture of them asleep at their desks. Don’t sleep! But do plan your own story think time, or what I call CEO time, into your schedule today!

Ditch the Distraction – Insert Focus

Staying focused is a learned skill

Growing a business is a roller coaster. Good days, bad days, good months, bad months. As you grow, the balance can tilt to the bad side if you are not careful to protect your strategy, your direction and your “why.” Nothing kills the desire to get out of bed on a workday than if you have lost track of why you are doing all this in the first place.

Keeping focused is a skill that needs to be worked on to improve. It’s similar to meditating – you get better at it as you do it. Here are a few focus killers that you want to be aware of:

Looking over your shoulder at your competition – You are where you are in your business. Hopefully, you have mapped out a strategy for the next 3-6 months that will provide a guide for you. (If not, please email me asap and let’s set up a time to chat!) There will always be competitors, and there will always be other formats, techniques, tricks that others are doing that you are not. Should I be starting to podcast? Why aren’t I doing a weekly Facebook Live? Should I start a YouTube channel? What are they doing that I should be/could be doing? The list can be endless.

As my fabulous son, Sam says. “You be you, mom.” So often this is a lack of confidence in the road that you have chosen for your business. Or you have not clarified what makes your business stand out from the others.

If you are haunted by your competition, I highly recommend the book Blue Ocean Shift: Beyond Competing – Proven Steps to Inspire Confidence and Seize New Growth by Kim and Mauborgne. The authors walk you thru the process of defining who you are and how you are different from all the others in your field. It’s a great read – not a distraction, I promise!

It’s not a bad idea to be aware of new ideas, formats, and channels. But save this for “info gathering or self-education” blocks on your calendar. And it’s just that. Not a signal to question what you are doing. Stay strong in your current strategic direction, but set aside possible tests for the NEXT planning cycle.

What are the latest trends? What’s newest that I could be incorporating into my biz model? This is a productivity killer, and I won’t spend too much time on this. Being on the bleeding edge is rarely good for revenue generation. It’s good for PR buzz, media attention, and distraction. Don’t be diverted by what is the newest and greatest. Even the newest iPhone has bugs and needs time to be tested out. Stay open, but not consumed by the latest trends.

Too much input – I find this is a BIG one for the entrepreneurs I work with. We are all inundated with too many emails, podcasts, YouTube videos, and ADVICE. My advice: Cut down the clutter to preserve your clarity. Be ruthless! Pick an hour to go thru your inbox and unsubscribe from any email newsletter that does not provide REAL value to you. Same with YouTube channels and Social Media connections. Pick a guru or two to follow, ignore the rest. Make a short list of e-newsletters, blogs, podcasts or YouTube channels that are really worth following. Unsub from the rest. Cut deep. You will be so happy not to have all those voices coming at you. (Coming soon, my list of favorite podcasts and books.)

As you get more traction in your focus, you will start to notice when you are getting distracted and it will get easier to pull yourself back on track.

I have blocks in my calendar to check email and social media 2x a day. But I notice that I slip back into checking more frequently if I’m doing something that is hard, or I don’t want to do, or I’m just plain bored with what’s on my desk. I find if I take a small break, even a short walk around the block, I can get back on track pretty quickly without the distraction of more thoughts coming into my brain.

Bottom Line: Cut back on all sources of distraction that you can control to maintain your focus on your business and the goals you have established. It’s not always easy, but with practice, we all get better.

Freedom! Map Out Your Week According to You

Create your own work life!

Last week we started with non-negotiables in our life and business. This week, let’s take that a step farther. Establishing a weekly schedule to fit you and your life is a very freeing experience.

I can just hear the screams now:

“But I have so many clients to tend to!”

“But I have so much work to do!”

“But things crop up – there is NO WAY.”

Yes, there is a way – and you are in charge. Keep your calendar for personal and biz in one spot. Really. If you separate them, as I did for years, you will double book, forgetting personal commitments while you are working with your biz calendar as you do most of the day. Put them together – trust me on this!

Weekly: Here is where the magic happens. Plug in blocks for the way you want you’re your week to go. You may have more categories, but at a minimum, include blocks for:

  • Client work (work done by you for your client)
  • Client meetings
  • Team meetings
  • Content creation (blog, podcasts, social media posts, course creation, team meeting agendas, etc.)
  • Email, calendar, and social media management
  • Prospecting
  • CEO time – strategic planning, updating KPIs,
  • NOTHING– blank space for chilling out, breathing. Here’s the spot where other things MIGHT creep in – and that’s ok.

A few key tips:

  • Batch anything that can be batched. Create a month’s worth of blog posts at a time. Only check your email 2x a day and clear the inbox each time. Put your phone on do-not-disturb and only return phone calls 2x a day.
  • Set boundaries with your clients and prospects and stick to them. For example, only take client meetings on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. If you work with an online calendar where clients/patients can schedule themselves, then open up only those times in the scheduler that YOU want to work with clients.
  • Create a template out of anything and everything. Save major time by not having to reinvent the wheel. Is there an email that you are sending out more than once (a pitch, an answer to a question, a thank you)? Create it once so that all you need to do is copy and paste. I’ve created dozens of emails that I keep on file. This saves SO much time. Is there a launch that requires a ton of prep (and what launch doesn’t)? Create a “work-back” schedule in excel detailing each step and the number of days before the launch that it has to occur and save it for the next time. All you should need to do is plug in the launch date, and the rest of the dates should auto-populate. Ta da!
  • Start with your personal energy levels in mind. As I mentioned last week, I’m the most creative in the morning. I schedule all of my content creation blocks before 11 am. If you are not quite at your best until you’ve been up for awhile, schedule client meetings after 1 on a few days.
  • Look at the week as a whole. Let’s be honest –getting back into work mode after a weekend can be slow going. Plan for that on Mondays. Fridays are for winding things up and crossing things off your list. This may not be the day to initiate new things – for yourself or your clients. Go with your own flow.

Two strategies that have completely changed my business:

Scheduling blocks of time for content creation on a consistent basis. I have a lot of content creation time built into my calendar since I create a lot. I’m no longer panicking about “OMG, when am I going to get that weekly blog post done, when am I going to prepare that presentation I’m giving next month?” I’ve scheduled consistent time for it and it all gets done. Wow – what a concept!

CEO time – Being a true CEO (strategic, having the long vision, planning) takes an unencumbered mind and a free schedule. It’s a critical part of your business. Make sure you have blocked out time weekly or risk getting lost in all the details of day-to-day operations.

Run your business, don’t let it run you. By mapping out a weekly schedule, you will be in charge.

Put your own oxygen mask on first

Non-Negotiables in your day and week

Public Service Announcement: It’s your business and it’s your life. The best place to start is by designing your business to fit you personally.

If you’ve come out of a corporate or a traditional business model, you are probably accustomed to a 9-5 (or maybe 7-7?) workday. When I jumped into my entrepreneurial career, I kept to that schedule like a madwoman, and never questioned it. Keeping to a hard-charging schedule was the essence of productivity, wasn’t it? My fear was that if I wasn’t logging the hours, I was not going to get to where I wanted to go.

With age comes wisdom, and after multiple rounds of burn out, and quite a few grey hairs, I’ve changed my perspective.

Work/life balance (a myth right there) is an ongoing negotiation, but you need to begin somewhere. Start by putting a few stakes in the ground for the aspects of your life and biz that are the most important to you, and make them non-negotiable.

For me, it’s 3 things:

Working out. I started working with a personal trainer in the last few months. It felt self-indulgent, vain, and it cost a pretty penny But here’s the thing: I’m in it for the long haul. I hope to live a very long time and I’m the full-time caregiver for my husband. I want to be as healthy and fit as I can well into my 90’s. I had to make a commitment to that long view. I know I work best when I have some accountability and a mentor. I’ve done that in my business life, and I saw that I needed it in my personal life as well. So I’m plunking down hundreds of dollars a month and showing up. Not just for my training sessions, but working out or at least walking almost every day on my own as well.

Honoring my energy cycles. I am an early, early bird. I am at my best, most creative and clear thinking at 7 am. I’m fairly spent after about 3 pm. I’ve mapped out my daily and weekly calendar (more on that next week) to fit that cycle. I start my day at 7. I take a lunch break at noon. I quit at around 3. I don’t work on Friday afternoons because I’m already in “relax mode. I don’t work nights – ever. That’s when I magically turn into a wife and mother and can barely remember what’s going on in my business. But I do work some weekend mornings if I feel like it. That’s my design!

Family time. This will differ for all of us, but unless you build it into your schedule, it’s going to slip away or be given a lower priority. Every year I block out planned family vacation time. When my kids were smaller, I blocked out every event that I knew about – school plays, field trips, days off, birthday parties, etc. These became un-moveable blocks of time in my schedule (for the most part…there are always exceptions). Evenings, (for me that’s after 3 pm,) are for family. I plan and cook dinners, spend time just hanging out with them without thoughts of business creeping in. It’s cherished time and I don’t take it lightly! Down time – being completely away from biz refreshes me for the next day.

These 3 changes have been game changers for me. I had to give myself permission to make my work life fit into my personal life. Not the other way around.

Next week I’m going to go into more detail on this principle: How to map out your week and month to fit your business and life for the most efficient, productive and powerful results. Plus a happy life. Stay tuned!