Decision Framework

Make Better Business Decisions

Better Business Decisions.jpg

Have you been decisive lately?

It may have been a while since you hung your business shingle and opened up shop. Or, you may still be working on hanging that shingle for the first time. Regardless of where you are today on your entrepreneurial journey, there is one thing that's consistent - you have to make choices.

Every. Single. Day. 

Every minute of every day you are making decisions. I mean, you decided that the link to this post/blog title was worth a look. When you did that you made an instant choice. You made a choice that meant you’d be giving up your time, and the opportunity cost that goes with this time, to get a little more insight on making decisions.

(This is very meta.)

I think it was a good choice and I hope you will by the end of this post too. 

When you decide to allocate something as simple as a few moments it might not feel like a significant trade but trust me, it matters. You are, whether consciously or not, acknowledging that you are willing and able to give up that time in exchange for some kind of value. In economics classes all around the world, this phenomenon is explained as the elasticity of demand. In literal fractions of a second, you measured the possible benefit of the insight of this post against a slew of criteria in which the aggregate of totals who you are as a person. 

What you do with your time you do with every other resource. Crazy, I know and it gets better.  

In the early stages of building a business, it feels like you have to make a lot of hard and fast choices. There are tradeoffs punching you in the face from every direction. Things like how you set your prices and deciding on the business activities that will make up what you do from day to day. You're putting the foundation in place so that people can find you, learn about you, like you and decide that your offer is worth their dollars.

It can feel like a lot all at once and it can be exhausting. So, how do you develop the stamina to make good decisions on the regular? 

Let's start by working through the biggest decision-making hurdles. The first trap I see most often is entrepreneurs holding on the freedom to make choices which really means overcoming the "maybes". 

Hoarding your freedom to make choices is a terrible thing.  Being an opportunity miser is actually keeping you from making any real progress. You are constantly burying yourself in the super extremes of opportunity costs and for good reason, so you think. Resources are scarce even for businesses that seem to be thriving, that’s always a barrier you will bump up against. Making bad decisions and hoarding freedom of choice can actually do more damage to your business than making decently-informed-probably-not-perfect choices. Why, because you're missing out on opportunities! If you don't invest your time, money or emotional energy you'll never take any action and you won't make any progress. 

These next few are smaller but worth acknowledging. These are the fallacies that will eat up lots of time, energy, and produce more stress than your body should probably be handling. 

Fallacy busting.

First is the Information Mud Pit. Feeling like you need as much information as possible from as many different experts, gurus and websites is like having your car stuck in the mud while you just hammer the accelerator. Sure it’s going to make lots of noise, throw lots of dirt around, and maybe even start to give you some forward motion but eventually, you are just going to overheat your engine, breakdown and still be stuck.

Don’t let your brain throttle about in the mud and then break down. All those expert sources are just people and they may not be in exactly your situation. Do those people have the same values, personal/professional experiences, or even biases that you do? Work on gathering enough information to cover any of the possible outcomes you can predict (there will be some you won’t be able to predict) and move from there. Just like getting out of the mud in your car it’s going to take a little patience, finesse, and the right tools. Not all the tools ever made – the same goes for research.

Next is being too busy. Everyone is busy so that excuse can’t cut it anymore. What you are doing is finding new and different (read: easier) things to deal with that can give you some satisfaction from safe handling the things on your to-do list that can be completed with the least amount of energy and work. The other part of the being too busy is trying to multi-task a little too much. When your attention is always diverted in lots of different directions the choices you make tend to be less informed, less qualified, less efficient, and just chock-full-of-mediocre. So no more excuses as they will just keep stressing you out as your list of decisions won’t be getting smaller.

The last fallacy I want to kick in the face is that you can’t get what needs to be done because there are always little fires that need your immediate attention. The problem isn’t that you are constantly in a flurry of micro-emergencies, it’s that you have failed to set your priorities. Decision making effectively takes a little work and a little prep time. It’s in the prep time that you should be stripping out your decisions and reorganizing them in a way that reflects their relative importance. I think there is a lot of importance in building momentum in getting things done but you shouldn’t front load your decisions will all the easy stuff. You won’t be taking advantage of the momentum and flexing your decision-making muscles the best way unless you prioritize.

Now that we busted a few fallacies let’s get to some action steps help make you a lean, mean decision making machine.

1. Are you actually making the decision? Sounds like a silly question to ask but it’s important to think about who really has the final say. If you are a solopreneur it may very well be you. But are you part of a team or have a partner you have to run this by? Decide who is going to be making that decision and then move forward with purpose.

2. Set the stage. Very few decisions we make will only affect us. So it’s important to consider how your decision is going to affect the rest of your business and stakeholders. Make sure that everyone is comfortable with what’s going on and understands at least a few of the major consequences of those choices.

3. Make every decision (even the tiny ones) part of the big picture. Remember when you started your business you put a whole bunch of time and effort into your values and mission. Yeah, those still exist. So make sure that your decisions are in line with what you want your business to continue to be and to be perceived being. Everything from color pallets, paper supplies, and even how you package your product will all impact how your brand is perceived.

4. Do your research. At this point I would like to direct your attention up a few paragraphs to part about hiding behind information.  You want to make sure that when you are making your considerations you are using good information – good in, hopefully good out. Keep your information lean and relevant. What that means for you is that you do not necessarily need to be an expert on how paper products are manufactured and distributed to pick a new coffee cup vendor.

5. Consider solutions, side effects and possibilities. You want to make sure you try to anticipate as many possible outcomes as possible. Not all your decisions are going to be of Earth-shattering magnitude but it’s important to be aware of how your decisions will interact with the rest of what your business and environment have going on. Your goal should be to get the most out of whatever your resources are all the time. That and making sure all the different departments continue to play nice together to make your business be the best it can.

Before we finish this post I wanted to cover one more thing.

It’s a concept that goes hand in hand with making decisions and that is managing integrity. Your businesses integrity is more than just making sure that all your decisions are in line with your business mission. It’s about allowing your customers and stakeholders to trust your business. It’s trust in you and your brand that will keep your customers coming back. You get to be a trusted resource by continuing to make decisions (for your offerings and how you manage your business) that continue to improve the experience for the customer and client. That includes how you manage your finances, how you handle bad customer experiences, and even how you choose to interact with your community.

Integrity Pro Tips:

1. Always do your best to meet your commitments – saying no sometimes is ok.

2. Treat everyone with respect that includes your competitors and even naysayers.

3. Always be honest. If a delivery is late, you’ve made an error, or shipped the wrong product out - your customers will always appreciate you being open and upfront. Their compassion and respect for you because of that honesty might actually surprise you.

6 Actions To Help You Build Momentum In Your Business

“The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.” - Michael Porter
 
There is no better way to start this post or a Monday morning than with a with a quote from famed Harvard Business Professor and Strategist, Michael Porter. This is a great quote because it applies to established or more mature businesses that are focusing on allocating resources for the week at a macro level as well as to the new solo entrepreneur who is firing up GMail for the first time Monday morning and trying to decide which thread needs responding to first. 
 
Short (and most likely true) answer is none of them. 
 
#MondayMotivation
 
Monday mornings are my favorite time of the week and here’s why. They are great for setting intentions, making plans and getting your desk ready for all the epic activity that’s going to come. Monday’s also provide the interesting opportunity to decide what not to do. Choosing what not to do is important because, regardless of the size of your business, it forces you to decide on the most mission critical actions that will move the needle forward in your business. We all have constraints that we are dealing with so making deliberate choices around how you allocate resources in any given day, week or quarter is important. Long term winging-it is always a losing strategy.  It also helps to keep you from diluting what makes your brand special by trying to be too many things to too many people. 
 
I’m sure you wouldn’t have to think long and hard to find enough work to fill a 100 hour work week. But, would all of those 100 hours be efficient? Value-adding? Activities that will support the direct growth of your business? Or, would you be playing in your CRM trying to decide the perfect amount of data fields when you don’t have any data to input yet be what’s going to drive more people into your pipelines and dollars through the door?
 
Probably not. 
 
Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate a tidy and well managed customer relationship management system as much as the next sales driven professional but at some point the diminishing marginal utility on your administrative activities will catch up with you. 
 
With today’s post I want to offer you six actions you can take right now to start building momentum on the week and to help you decide which actions are worth the investment towards making this week count. 

1. Close on something. 
 
You don’t have to be in sales to finalize a deal or a sale. Before you hit full on Monday triage mode after an inbox ignored through the weekend take a look at your to-do list. Is there a conversation that needs to happen, an order that needs to be filled, a proposal to be followed up with? Sealing any deal helps to start to build momentum and honestly feels pretty good! 
 
2. Rearrange your tasks.
 
Front-loading your responsibilities with all the easy stuff can actually be a negative thing because you are eventually dreading doing the not-so-easy stuff later. You’ll start to procrastinate and get distracted. Moving your lists around and reordering them in a way that mixes the heavy and the light lifting will also help keep you motivated and moving through the rest of the day. 
 
3. Stop focusing on Inbox Zero. 
 
I can honestly say that for a while I was little obsessed with my email inbox. (I think a part of me still is but, it’s that part is getting smaller by the day). While effectively communicating is crucial to help you start to the week of with a bang it’s not going to magically make you more successful - and it’s a distraction. Streamline your notifications so that you aren’t getting texts, app updates, desktop alerts, or any other notifications and focus on the important stuff in Actions 1 and 2 above. I’m not saying ignore your inbox but I am saying learn to identify the stuff that needs an immediate response from everything else. (No, not everything needs an immediate response!)
 
4. Take on a new project or two. 
 
Everyone is busy or at least they think they’re busy. You are no exception. Saying yes to help out with a project or taking on a new project can help set your productivity gears in motion. Doing this accomplishes a few things: you are continuing to prove your value as a resource to the people you serve and you will have to deliberately allocate the scarcity of your time a little smarter. Showing colleagues, co-workers, clients, etc. that you can be counted on and that you are willing to jump into something new always has the potential to create new opportunities for success. 
 
5. Get your prep-work done! 
 
Just because you have a meeting on Wednesday doesn't mean that you should wait until Wednesday morning to prepare for it. That’s what everyone else is going to be doing. If you have some time today do it now. The work you do today will be more researched and prepared than anything you might rush to come up with - no you don’t work “better” under pressure. It will also help take some pressure off of your task lists and schedule. If you haven’t already, working to shift your mindset to one of investing time and not spending it will start to pay off immediately. Better prepared means more efficient, more professional, and a better chance for you to be recognized for being awesome by not wasting people’s (boss’/client’s/stakeholder’s) time. 
 
6. Read something.

If all else fails today make sure you take some time to work on bettering yourself. It can be professionally, intellectually, emotionally, or even spiritually. Invest some time in learning a new skill or sharpening ones that will help you create the week that you want for yourself. If you are an entrepreneur take some time to work on the parts of running a business that you might not be too strong in. I find that happens a lot with regards to getting the most out of a small business's financials. There are tools and websites that are all about helping you grow as a professional - this blog included! 
 
Hope these six actions help you drill down and figure out what’s not worth doing. As a business builder and grower your primary responsibility is to deliver the best experience possible to your customers and then after that it’s to figure out the work that will best bring in more of those customers. When you’re firing on the most important cylinders doing good work for great people it won’t be hard to build up a little momentum. 

How To Go From Business Casual To Business Growth

Let’s set the stage. 

It’s Monday (or any weekday morning or whenever the equivalent of “Monday” would be in your business). 

Today’s the day you’re taking things seriously. You woke up in your CEO pants and you have more determination now than you’ve had since you made your business growth-centric New Year’s Resolutions. 

You get to your desk, shake your mouse to wake your computer up, open up your inbox and a new tab in your browser and...just stare. In an instant all the thoughts you had about making today the most productive day you’ve ever experienced evaporate, like a dream you can almost remember after waking up. And, just like that your motivation takes a bit of hit and you fall back into your normal start of the work week routine. Or, worse is you have to deal with some fire that instantly bogards your plans for today. 

I can help get your business back on track today and any other day that you happen to wake up wearing your CEO pants. I’m going to introduce you to a few Lean principles that you don’t need a “belt” or certification to put into practice that can help keep you on track when you’re business (or motivation) feels like it’s running off the rails. 

Let’s start with a quick, non-business, definition of the Lean process. It’s basically just a set of ideas, principles and processes designed to help your business deliver the most value possible in a way that keeps your expenses (money, time, emotional capacity) as low as possible. It’s a way of thinking designed to help you more efficiently shape and organize how you’re getting to the goals you have for your business. 

Below I’m going to outline four concepts you can put into action right now. This could be especially useful for those of you that have been distracted by their inboxes and are running a little low on business growth momentum at the moment. 

1. Jump on the Continuous Improvement bandwagon.

Continuous improvement is definitely a concept that gets lots of lip service but ends up being one of those things that gets thought about but never really put into place. The heart of continuous improvement is:

1. Getting you to think about the opportunities you have in a project, 
2. Then working on how you might be able take advantage of those opportunities, 
3. Trying out those changes or actions,
4. And, reviewing how those changes or actions worked out for you. 

Here’s where you can change that. Schedule a chunk of time every week essentially creating a meeting with yourself that you CAN NOT cancel or reschedule to work on your projects. Working on the planning, evaluating and tracking of your highest value projects weekly will allow you to focus on the work that matters most and force you to make decisions about how you’re carving up your work week. The goal is to avoid just showing up and blindly working on whatever needs immediate attention or what you think you “should” be working on. Adding a little more structure and an extra lens or two to the work you’re doing in your business will also help you figure out if the goals and outcomes you’re working towards are authentically the right ones for you and your business. 

2. Decide how you want to compete in your market. 

Clearly defining strategy is the concept that business owners sweep under the rug the most. I know because I see it every week. Business owners trying to grow think that strategy is just an academic exercise. They believe it’s important but don’t have the time to really think about because they are busy running their business. Well if you want to be successful, defining your strategy can’t be an afterthought. An easy, do it right now, way to get to the heart of your business strategy is to think of your business in terms of what. The biggest what you should be deciding on is what are you doing to consistently set yourself apart from your competitors and still delivering on the value your customers expect from you. 

3. Make friends with Pareto. 

You’re probably a little too close to your processes. Your marketing processes, your financial processes and operations processes can be a lot to try to keep organized as you’re in grow-mode. I mean that in the most loving way possible. Being close to your business is usually a great thing because it means you have your finger on the pulse of everything it takes to move your business forward. It also means you can get a little nearsighted about your processes and will sometimes be unable to tell what’s wrong with them. The Pareto Principle can help you figure out what work really matters and which parts of your processes matter most when you apply it to the work you’re doing and the data you’re collecting. Essentially, the principle states that 80% of your outcomes will derive from 20% of the work that you’re doing. At first glance this is a little deflating if you’re asking yourself about the other 80% of the work you’re already doing. Try not to worry about that and instead invest in optimizing that 20% of work that’s producing your results and do more of that kind of work! 

4. Stop (or strive to stop) doing all the work yourself. 

As you’re peeling through your business data and are starting to enjoy the good feelings that come from better efficiency care of the Pareto Principle you’ll start to notice that it’s getting easier to repeat the work you’re doing daily. Taking the time to stabilize and document the processes you use everyday will help you move away from doing everything all by yourself. If you’re serious about growing your business you’re going to have to hand off some of the things you have made yourself responsible for so that you have more time to focus on growing. I know it’s tough right now if you’re a solopreneur or part of a small team but you have to start writing things down. Not only will it be helpful when you’re trying to track whether or not your activity is producing the outcomes you want for the business but it’ll save you lots of time when you decide to grow your workforce. At the very least it will save you time having to relearn some task that you may only do quarterly - like building a cheat sheet for yourself essentially. I’m working on a process right now to help me edit video faster so that I don’t get stuck toying with all the neat features in Adobe Premiere. 

This is a good place to end for this post and a great place for you to start working more efficiently in your business. Taking control of your time has more to do with growing your business than you initially thought. How can you give dedicated attention to customer development and marketing if you’re spending time doing work that only marginally benefits the business? And, for the love of Gary Vaynerchuk spending 100 hours a week working and #hustle’ing doesn’t mean anything if the work you’re doing isn’t directly delivering value or making it easier for you to deliver value to your end consumer. 
 

How To Ruin Your Credibility

Building a business is hard. It’s hard to make your way through all the little decisions you need to make to pump out a minimum viable product, launch, and then grow. It can be hard to get and then keep people’s attention. It can even be tough to figure out what makes your ideal customers tick. 

Well, I should clarify just a little bit. It’s not inherently hard, it’s a ton of work and for the most part people just make it hard on themselves. I’m not saying that there isn’t  learning curve or an investment you have to make in yourself, what I am saying is that it takes dedicated attention. 

It takes focus and dedication to not only get a business up and running but to keep it running. As you grow your business you will be adding even more variables to the mix. All the while you have to maintain your position as a credible resource. More than providing value at each transaction (social or monetary) your customers and clients will keep using you because they like you and can trust you. 

One of the cores of building a successful business is establishing yourself as a credible resource. A person (or business) that people can trust to deliver on the promises you make. 

If finding success is NOT what you are looking for then I have 5 ways you can destroy your credibility. 

My honest and humble opinion is that you do the opposite of these. 

NOTE: There is going to be a lot of sarcasm going forward. I really hope you do the opposite of these 5 Tips :) 

1. Don’t follow up.

Following up is time consuming. It’s easier to just “yes” your way through conversations, networking events, and professional/social interactions. Eventually people will just stop putting any value on you and your ability to deliver if you don’t follow up. Developing relationships takes time and empathy and if you treat them like a commodity you can potentially free up your time for other things.  

2. Be inconsistent.

Customers, clients, family, and friends stress too much on reliability and consistency. If you are bringing a product or service to market it’s always easier to wing it. Being inconsistent will help lower your stress on the quality and value of your delivery and it will generally lower everyone’s expectations. You only really need that first sale from every customer right?! 

3. Always do everything yourself.

It’s challenging sometimes to try to trust people with the really important stuff. It’s easier to just leave everything up to you and try to cram as much of it into any one working period as possible. You already have all the resources you need. Plus getting others to help you in the decision making process only slows your business down. If you do it yourself you know it will be done right. The first time...probably the second...at the very least the third time. 

4. Lots of excuses and blame everything on externalities.

Everyone knows that building a business means you have to wear a lot of hats. Because of that there are going to be a lot of variables that you won’t have control over. Can you really be expected to predict what the entire economy is going to do? In dealing with problems and trying to get your business to grow be sure to make yourself look as positive and without responsibility as possible by framing that you are doing your very best and everything that goes wrong is out of your hands. 

5. Be unbending in your business's policies.

If you are a solopreneur that means sticking to the rules you created in dealing with all of the stakeholders you interact with. If you are a manager or a business owner with employees it means being unyielding in policy enforcement. The rules are there to keep order right?! If a business is to grow it has to be as strict as possible when dealing with customers, vendors, end users - they don’t know any better. Plus like I said already the economy is volatile and unpredictable so if you have an ironclad policy the business will always know the exact parameters of who it can interact with and how those interactions go down. Just because the culture of business is changing around us doesn’t mean you have to. If a party couldn’t abide by your policy then it probably wasn’t going to be a lucrative interaction. 

So there you have it! 

The 5 Ways To Ruin Your Credibility. If you are guilty of any of these I would encourage a hard look into what you are doing and how you are interacting with the communities around you. If you are indeed trying to ruin your business or reputation then I suggest you exercise these 5 tips every day. I hope you’re not though. It makes me sad to think that you might be. I’m even sad now even knowing that this is a bit of a parody, I'm sad thinking that out there right now are some businesses and people doing these things and thinking it's ok.

Are You Making Good Decisions In Your Business?

When you decided to give the whirlwind of entrepreneurship a try, you were probably making lots of hard and fast decisions in your business.

You had to right?!

In order to figure out if your business was worth pursuing you needed data and in the early stages making lots decisions and collecting any kind data about your audience or customers is critical.

The real question I want to get to the heart of today then is:

Are you now making good decisions in your business?

Or, have you found what feels like a rhythm but has revealed to be a rut? I bet I know why your business feels like it’s just spinning its wheels in place and before we dig in there is a quick disclaimer.

This is not an intellectual exercise in the different models of making decisions – it’s the real-time actionable decision making that I want to talk about.

Let’s really start by calling it like it is, you’re hoarding your freedom aren’t you?

Hoarding your freedom is when you value the ability to make choices so much that it actually prevents you from making any choices. It’s like the friend who never commits to anything because he or she is waiting to see if any better plans are happening. Hoarding the freedom to make choices is a terrible thing. You are constantly burying yourself in the extremes of opportunity costs and for good reason...so you think.

Resources are scarce even for businesses that seem to be thriving, that’s always a barrier you will bump up against. Making bad decisions and hoarding freedom of choice can actually do more damage to your business than making decently-informed-probably-not-perfect choices.

In as actionable and fluff free a way as possible let’s make you a more decisive and effective decision maker.

Before we get into the actionable bits let’s bust a few decision making fallacies. Fallacies are the things that will eat up lots of time, energy, and produce more stress than your body should probably be handling. I don’t have to tell you that making decisions isn’t always easy. Something I want you to keep in mind through all of this and to help get you out of the indecisive stupor is realistically thinking about the worst possible outcome. If you aren’t an evil scientist out of a comic book then accidentally blowing up the Earth is probably not an issue for you. So what’s the worst thing that can happen? Probably nothing you couldn’t bounce back from with a little extra work and maybe even a pivot in your business. What I’m getting at is that a bad choice is temporary – even when it feels like it’s not.

Fallacy Busting 101

First is the Information Mud Pit.

Feeling like you need as much information as possible from as many different experts, gurus and web-sites is like having your car stuck in the mud while you just hammer the accelerator. Sure it’s going to make lots of noise, throw lots of dirt around, and maybe even start to give you some forward motion but eventually you are just going to overheat your engine, breakdown and still be stuck. Don’t let your brain throttle about in the mud and then breakdown.  All those expert sources are just people and they may not be in exactly your situation.  Do those people have the same values, personal/professional experiences, or even biases that you do? Work on gathering enough information to cover any of the possible outcomes you can predict (there will be some you won’t be able to predict) and move from there. Just like getting out of the mud in your car it’s going to take a little patience, finesse, and the right tools. Not all the tools ever made – the same goes for research.

Next is being too busy.

Everyone is busy so that excuse can’t cut it anymore. What you are doing is finding new and different (read: easier) things to deal with that can give you some satisfaction from safe handling the things on your to-do list that can be completed with the least amount of energy and work. The other part of the being too busy is trying to multitask a little too much. When your attention is always diverted in lots of different directions the choices you make tend to be less informed, less qualified, less efficient, and just chock-full-of-mediocre. So no more excuses! They will just keep stressing you out as your list of decisions won’t be getting smaller.

The last fallacy I want to kick in the face is that you can’t get what you need done properly because there are always little fires that need your immediate attention.

The problem isn’t that you are constantly in a flurry of micro-emergencies it’s that you have failed to set your priorities. Decision making effectively takes a little work and a little prep time. It’s in the prep time that you should be stripping out your perceived opportunities for making decisions and reorganizing them in a way that reflects their relative importance. There is a lot of importance in building momentum in getting things done but you shouldn’t front load your decisions will all the easy stuff. You won’t be taking advantage of the momentum and flexing your decision making muscles the best way unless you prioritize.

Now that we busted a few fallacies let’s get to some action steps help make you a lean, mean decision making machine.

1. Are you actually making the decision? Sounds like a silly question to ask but it’s important to think about whom really has the final say. If you are a solopreneur it may very well be you. But are you part of a team or have a partner you have to run this by? Decide who is going to be making that decision and then move forward with purpose.

2. Set the stage. Very few decisions you make will only affect you. So it’s important to consider how your decision is going to affect the rest of your business and stakeholders. Make sure that everyone is comfortable with what’s going on and understands at least a few of the major consequences of those choices.

3. Make every decision (even the tiny ones) part of the big picture. Remember when you started your business you put a whole bunch of time and effort into your values and mission. Yeah, those still exist. So make sure that your decisions are in line with what you want your business to continue to be and to be perceived being. Everything from color pallets, paper supplies, and even how you package your product will all impact how your brand is perceived.

4. Do your research. At this point I would like to direct your attention up a few paragraphs to the part about hiding behind information.  You want to make sure that when you are making your considerations you are using good information. Good information in hopefully leads to good decisions out. Keep your information lean and relevant. What that means is that you do not necessarily need to be an expert on how paper products are manufactured and distributed to pick a new coffee cup vendor.

5. Consider solutions, side effects and possibilities. You want to make sure you try to anticipate as many probable outcomes as possible. It’s important to be aware of how your decisions will interact with the rest of your business environment. Your goal should be to get the most out of whatever your resources are all the time. That and making sure the different departments continue to play nice together to make your business perform as best it can.

Your business’ integrity is more than just making sure that all your decisions are in line with your business mission. It’s about allowing your customers and stakeholders to trust your business. It’s trust in you and your brand that will keep your customers coming back. You get to being a trusted resource by continuing to make decisions (for your offerings and how you manage your business) that continue to improve the experience for the customer and client. That includes how you manage your finances, how you handle bad customer experiences, and even how you choose to interact with your community.

Integrity Pro Tips:

1. Always do your best to meet your commitments – saying no is ok.

2. Treat everyone with respect that includes your competitors and even naysayers.

3. Always be honest. If a delivery is late, you’ve made an error, or shipped the wrong product out - your customers will always appreciate you being open and upfront. Their compassion and respect for you because of that honesty might actually surprise you.

How Improve Your Project Management Skills

Whether you are starting a business, working in a start-up business or have been in business for a while I can guarantee, with almost complete certainty, that you have dipped your hands in the murky waters of project management.

I know this because when you break down all the moving pieces and guts of almost any business, what you’re left with is a string of projects. Some successful, some not so successful and every one of them a potential cornucopia of interesting data about your business.

It’s in the data and outcomes from your projects that you will be able to make the important decisions that guide your business through the ebbs and flows of your market. When you don’t manage projects well you run the risk of wasting lots of time, money and energy on things that will never add value to your business or your customers.

That makes for a bad time.

Managing projects can be tricky business. What’s important to measure? What’s not? How are you tracking progress? Who’s accountable for what? Etc. Another part of that trickiness is the fact that there is an industry full of project management support businesses trying to get your attention. These businesses attempt to lure you to spend money on software, training and consulting that promises to fix all of your business woes - and even helps you come to terms with business woes you didn’t even know you had.

What are you, a busy entrepreneur trying to grow a business, supposed to do?

I have a simple framework to help you keep your well intentioned projects on task and on budget.

Before that though I want to share a quick caveat: I don’t think that there is one perfect tool or solution for everyone. I do think that if you look hard enough you should be able to find the tool that best supports the sizes and scopes of your projects. I also believe that the tool you adopt should be creating efficiencies and using your project data to tell stories that you can use to make solid decisions in your business. But, if you needed to start somewhere I highly recommend the Disruptive Decision Framework - this hyperlink will take you to a blog post on this site where you can get your free copy and tells you how to use it. 

1. Is this project really important?

The first step is buy in. Is the proposed project on deck really going to move some needle in your business in any kind of meaningful way? That goes for the good and bad possible outcomes. Has everyone involved reached some kind of consensus on the project’s importance? What (in as quantitative and as measurable criteria as possible) does success look like? If you are a solopreneur talk to someone you trust about what you’re thinking about exploring. Talk to two people. The worst thing you can do as a solo entrepreneur is start down a closed-system project rabbit hole. I’ve seen good businesses and entrepreneurs burn out because they dumped too many resources into a project that wasn’t really important.

2. Outline the project.

In this step you are outlining and identifying all the important milestones you need to hit to get to some kind of outcome. You are also thinking about all the people and resources you’re going to need to support the project as well. Knowing that very few things in life follow any kind of strict schedule it’s important to build in some flex room as you are attempting to get a handle on what the time frames are going to look like as you approach and pass through each of those milestones. It’s also here that you’ll identify the formal scope of the project (what are you hoping to acheive), roles and responsibilities of the people involved at each phase (this counts for you too solopreneur), what information you are going to track and why.

3. Get it on the books.

There’s a good chance that this project is not going to be the only thing your business is working on at any given time. Armed with the knowledge that things don’t always go as planned do your best to schedule your projects in terms of the milestones that need to be completed. This is important because as time passes you’ll be able to balance the demands of your day to day operations with the scope and goals of your project. After it’s on the books go back and work out your outlines for a work plan. It’s great that you gave yourself 3 days to get from one milestone to the next but what are the crystal clear action steps needed to honor that timeline commitment. Vague timelines might be acceptable here but vague workplans are not. Spend time really getting into the nitty gritty of what needs to get done. Whether you have a team or not - getting specific and granular is your best bet at actually getting this work done.

4. Create guiding policies.

Before you start working on your project you need to set up the policies that will be used to manage the project. It’s not redundant I swear. These are the things that help you manage issues in your team, expectations, accountability, quality and so on. Picture the guiding policies for your project as the rules of Monopoly. You know, Monopoly - the game that breaks up families and friendships. That Monopoly. Your guiding policies act as an independent and impartial judge for the times when playing by house rules gets a little out of hand. As the work in your project ramps up managing people's, expectations, responsibilities and the rest of your business could get potentially dicey. Guiding policies act as a way to navigate challenges because you decided them before you started. They can also help to keep you honest if motivation starts to wane as a solopreneur. And, just like any good game of Monopoly you can literally decide to abort a project by flipping the game board over in a fit of power hungry plastic house rage should the need arise.

5. Work, Observe, Record, Evaluate, Repeat (Maybe)

This is where the project rubber meets the road. You are all planned and scheduled up now get to work. As you are making your way through your milestones make sure you stop to celebrate little victories or assess the little challenges along the way. Because you did such a great job with identifying all the quantitative, measurable and trackable data throughout the project you’ll be able to see in real time how the work you are doing impacts your business. You’ll also be able to make decisions about adapting or pivoting your business as the market changes around you. Probably one of the most important parts of this step is being able to recognize when you should just pull the plug on a project. There’s no shame in quitting here - you still learned something that will help better shape your business and by quitting you’ve salvaged any remaining time, money and sanity you may have lost by following through. Individual outcomes might be good or bad but if you’ve designed an experiment or project well you can only get good information from the experience.

6. Deliver and Evaluate

Congratulations! Regardless of the outcome you’ve finished. That means you are hopefully delivering what you said you were going to in a time that closely resembles what you originally quoted. During the process you laughed, cried and communicated lots. After you’ve celebrated your completion it’s time to tear through the data of the project. What parts of your work plan were successful? What weren’t? Where were the bottlenecks? What could you tweak? Was all this work really worth it? Giving your project a proper post-mortem will provide you with insight that will help you get the most out of your next projects. Don’t be afraid of failing or of fallen flat deliverables. You can always tweak your processes and frameworks. Be afraid of putting yourself through the trouble of launching a project with vague ideas, no accountability and no clear way to identify success.

Whatever system you choose to help you manage your next project should touch on these 6 steps. If they don’t then you are missing something. There are tons of resources at lots of different price points but the most important thing to remember is that any of the project management tools are only as good as the information you are feeding them and the commitment you give them. Sounds cliche I know but I can share first hand that I have worked with businesses that have dumped ridiculous amounts of money in project management software that they never used.

Being a tool hoarder is not going to help you do better work in you business.

It's Time To Start Paying Attention To Cash Flow

Odds are you probably have seen a business plan at least once in your life. It could have been a well detailed spiral bound behemoth of a document or even scribblings on a napkin at the bar. (The scribblings are definitely my favorite!) The funny thing is about business ideas is that everyone has the capacity for great ones - I can think of at least three conversations in the last 24 hours that started, “You know what we should do next..”. The problem isn’t the visualization or the concept (OK, maybe that’s the problems sometimes.) it’s the detachment people have from the reality of the financials.

Also taking real action but, for the sake of this post, let’s stick to the gross underestimation of the need for and management of resources in a business. Being an entrepreneur can be an expensive endeavor and that goes for spending money or if you don’t have money spending time which by virtue of opportunity cost can also be measured with money.

Relatively speaking, money is not hard to come by these days. Credit is easier to get and there are amazing resources like Indiegogo, Kiva and Kickstarter to help get your project off the ground. Heck, you can even start a GoFundMe campaign if you want. The problem is that would-be entrepreneurs don’t understand how cash flow works and that it can get kind of expensive to take that napkin from the bar to a full blown business.

For the record, I really do understand that with very little liquidity, some time, and some great use of web resources you can launch a venture with a small budget.

But what next?

How do you plan to use the resources that are coming in the door to keep building your business?  <<Cough Cough>> Remember, making deliberate choices is the heart of strategy...<<Cough Cough>>

Here are a few tips to get you thinking about your cash flows even before you really have them.

1. Get real about your expenses.

When you are small and your funds are commingled it’s easy to rationalize a monthly fee, some office supplies, a subscription, and maybe even rent in a co-working space without classifying them as proper business expenses. You are never too small to take your business idea seriously. Start tracking from the outset and you will be able to make more realistic assessments of the business and be able to allocate future resources that much better.

2. In the same vein as tracking your expenses you should be staying in line with GAAP - Generally Accepted Accounting Principals.

You don’t have to be a CPA to crunch your own numbers but you should have an idea around how and where your figures are coming from. That makes your tax preparers job easier - especially if that’s you. It also makes it easier for you to compare what you are doing to your competitors. If you are just making up accounting metrics and accounting systems on the fly it will compromise the integrity of your financial information. Figure out how your industry tracks their numbers and try to emulate that. It might not always be a perfect fit but you’ll be able to tell how you are doing against your market.

3. Have a collections policy.

Sending out an invoice is great. Getting paid 180 days later is not so great. An economist could argue that people are profit maximizing little automatons and I would say that works for businesses too. Not just in maximizing what we traditionally think as profit but also conditions, environments, and choices that make sticking around easier. What all that means is that you are going to hear excuses as to why people can’t or don’t pay. You may not be able to avoid the headaches that come with being paid on time but with a well thought out and incentivised invoicing strategy. Think “2% net 30” kind of stuff. This will help keep your cash flows relatively predictable so that you can plan around them, in good times and bad.

These three tips are not your conventional cash flow kind of tips. I know. But they are important factors to consider for your business. You can have all the spreadsheets and calculations you like but if it’s not quality information, if you aren’t collecting anything, and if you aren’t realistic about what’s going out the door then you won’t be in business long.

Don't Get Stuck In Strategy Sensory Overload

Henry Mintzberg is a man after my own heart. Too bad you, dear business builder, have probably never heard of him...yet. Emergent strategy is going to be the approach that makes sense for the agile, lean and <insert another word for business flexible> models.

You’re welcome.

Writing about strategy has been awesome for me. It’s forced me to really funnel through all the academic and corporate strategy hype so that I can bring you the most distilled and actionable pieces of strategy goodness. Recently I stumbled upon what is my new favorite definition of what strategy is - “the integrated set of choices that positions the business in its industry to generate superior financial returns over the long run”.

Integrated set of choices. It’s brilliant!

In this definition you don’t see the words: plan, technology, social media, or marketing. What we are talking about is getting to the heart of how you will decide to run your business. This post is dedicated to anyone wanting to up their strategy game and are paralyzed with conceptual strategy sensory overload. Here is your 3 part strategy jumpstart.

In thinking about your integrated set of choices you should be framing them (at least at the start) into one of two camps.  Are you going to differentiate or attempt to be the low cost provider?

I am drastically oversimplifying but if you are wondering what your first steps should be when trying to build a new strategy I would recommend the following 3 steps.

1. Work out your business model.

Business models can change over time and when most people think they are talking about strategic planning, they are really talking about outlining their business model. The what’s and how’s of their business. Flushing out your business model will give you a better idea of what the entire process might look like for the customer or client experience. This is how you will make money. Once you settle on something don’t worry about tinkering with trying to get a few extra fractions of percentage points in profit out of it. Odds are it will probably be changing over time. Leave it alone, start doing the work you outlined and start collecting outcomes.

2. Pick! It’s really hard to be the low cost innovator in any industry or business.

How you get to the golden “disruption” is by experimenting and iterating with your customers. I’m not saying it’s impossible to fly out of the gate and be the instant lowest cost and most needed differentiation in the market - I’m just saying you might get a better return on your immediate investments by picking one and working at it for a little while. I’ve seen many guru’s and self-titled experts misguide clients with hopes of finding the holy grail of competitive advantages that will place them leaps ahead of their competition. That’s not how it works. You need to pick first and then start doing the work to best serve who you think your best customers are right now while doing the best you can to understand the drivers and motivations of your market - especially your competitors because they are going to be the ones reacting to you!

3. Work on systematically making choices that support your pick from number

Any time a decision has to be made you need to be able to objectively qualify it as either supporting your overall strategy or not. If it doesn’t, is there a way to tweak it so that some part of it still might. This is where the fun stuff happens. It’s all in the rationalization. What I mean by systematically making choices is to constantly be evaluating how your are conducting business.

Here’s an example: As part of a service offering you provide paper copies of all your materials. You could go to Staples and keep buying paper because it’s closer, convenient, and instant. Because of that convenience you are probably not getting that paper as cheaply as you might be able to if you worked on creating a relationship with a wholesale or office supply dealer. Now, if you are competing for low cost you might want that mass distribution discount rate but if you are differentiating and Staples offers a very specific, specialized paper then you will have to translate some of that cost over to the end consumer.

This is the decision part. Are you the low cost provider or are you trying to differentiate?

Situations like this happen every day and it’s important to make choices consistently - yes even the smallest ones. This is how real strategies gain momentum, by adjusting behavior and monitoring outcomes. Yes there are bigger frameworks like Porter, Blue Ocean, and Resource Based View that you could be considering. You absolutely should but, don’t get bogged down in the learning and understanding that you never put those frameworks into practice.

Take the first steps and make a few choices now and hold yourself to them. Then iterate as you go!

3 Tips To Creating Strategy That Works

There is such a thing as too much strategy. Way too much.&nbsp;

There is such a thing as too much strategy. Way too much. 

There is so much advice on the web about creating strategy. Lots of frameworks, lots of fill-in-the-blank plans and LOTS of generic advice that you write down but never really know how to implement.

I hate it.

So in this post I’m not going to give you a dashboard to work through or some one-page cheat sheet. That’s not to say that I’ll never do that or that it’s not helpful to have guides but today is all about getting to real progress quickly. This post is going to teach you the three most important things to think about when you are crafting your business strategy or you are trying to make decisions about what you’re going to do to get your business growing.

1. Focus on an identity. You need to get crystal clear on who you are, who you serve and why it’s important. When you focus on your identity it takes the pressure off of just focusing on generic growth targets and ideas.

Here’s real life, when you focus on generic growth you are inclined to do all the growth oriented things everyone else is doing. Which eventually just turns into stuff that looks like work. That means you’re thinking about making things more cheaply, trying to chase more of your market or even thinking about your next product/service offering based on the ebbs and flows of your competitors actions and consumers changing tastes. All that stuff takes time, energy and money that could be better spent by better honing in on who you are, why you are valuable and doing the work that only your business can.

When you focus on your identity all kinds of fun things fall into place. First, you better align yourself and your actions with your value proposition. This is a big deal because it re-enforces everything from how you make decisions in your business to how you deliver value to everyone outside of your business. Next everyone that interacts with you, buys from you or is in your audience better understands what you’re great at and why that sets you apart - in business-speak it’s your clear system of capabilities.

Lastly, focusing on your identity allows your audience or customers the chance to really fall in love with who you and your business are. It better allows you to create and foster an authentic relationship with them. You need that trust because it’s in that relationship and your differentiation that will keep people around and hungry for the work that only you and your business can do.

2. Strategy needs to be everyday. Strategic plans can sometimes be these big silly, overly complicated documents that you write and then instantly deviate from because it’s focusing on what you think you’re idea of your business is versus what you’re actually doing every day. Setting goals, figuring out what’s important to measure and having benchmarks are all great things - just make sure they reflect the work you are actually doing. When you’re building a strategy for everyday you don’t want to focus all of your energy on the big pie-in-the-sky stuff, you want to focus on what little things. Get really clear and focus on a small number of things that you do well and work on getting even better at them. (These are those pesky capabilities again.) Those activities is the heart of the work that you’re doing that ultimately reflects your values and reinforces your value proposition. You want to outline in detail the stuff you’re great at so that your employees or even virtual assistants can without any question replicate the experience you’re working to create for your customers.

If you’re not growing or don’t have any virtual assistants that’s ok too. You still want to do this stuff because it will help keep you focused and accountable to the work that matters as you’re growing your business. It’s definitely not a secret that there can be lots of distractions at any given moment in your business. As your business grows or iterates there will be lots of small changes so you want to make sure that you are keeping an eye on the stuff you’re trying so that you can pinpoint the stuff that works and continue to develop that.

3. Cutting costs helps you grow stronger. I know, sounds a little cliche but hear me out. Businesses that do the best jobs at closing the gap between what they planned to do and what they are really doing are businesses that have a near superhuman stranglehold on their expenses. I’m not going to tell you that you’re never going to spend money as you’re trying to grow your business.

That’s just downright misleading.

What I am trying to tell you is that the businesses that do the best are making sure that every dollar they spend is being spent to support what they are great at and as little as possible on everything else. When you’re looking at your business you need to be thinking of every expense as an investment, not just numbers in a checking account or in a report that Freshbooks (or Quickbooks) generates every month. You need to think in terms of opportunity costs and be constantly measuring what you’re spending money on and how that’s going to add value to your business.

Coffee meetings and business cards shouldn’t be necessary evils that are just rationalized expenses. You want to make sure, guarding money just like you should be guarding your time, that if you are allocating a resource or handing out a business card that it’s going to a person to which you can provide a ton of value.

That’s it! Those three things will help you create a strategy that actually works for you. Why?

1. When you don’t commit to an identity, your identity, you run the risk of washing yourself and your business out. You’ll scatter who you are and what you do so thinly that your audience won’t have anything compelling enough to hold on to and eventually engage with.

2. When you don’t make your strategy an everyday thing you run the risk of doing the same stuff that you’ve been doing all along. How can you affect change if you can’t distill what you want out of your business in a way that you can take action and implement daily? Answer: You can’t!  You don’t want to be the business that promises lots of things and struggles to deliver or worse never actually grows into the vision you had for it when you started.

3. When you don’t keep an eye on your spending, more specifically spending on the stuff that really matters you run the risk of self-stunting your growth. Money is easy to lose sight of because it’s easy to fall into the “I’m a habitual consumer trap” or the “if I had this one extra resource I’d be successful trap”. Be mindful and cut costs to grow stronger.

Building your strategy for your business is going to be a process. There’s going to be happy tears, sad tears and lots of anxious tears. That’s ok! When you’re following the advice of your favorite growth hacking guru or in my case I like to follow lots of different economists I want you to just remember these three things along the way. They will help ground you and help you build something that works with and for you.

Why Are Strategic Plans The Worst?!

I hate excuses. I think that the old way of creating long form strategic plans is an exercise in preemptively creating excuses for your business. Strategic plans are so often argued over, passively decided on and luxuriously spiral bound for businesses that haven’t yet done the work necessary to truly understand the impact of the decisions they are (or aren’t) making in their business. My favorite offenders are the one-page downloads that promise to, in one-page, definitively nail down the over-arching strategy you’re going to implement or execute on in your business. Definitively. All that stuff that looks just like strategic planning busy work is just that, it’s busy work and a scapegoat for you to blame your business shortcomings on later.

Don’t get it twisted though, I’m not at all down on crafting strategy for your business. Articulating goals is great. Teasing out effective ways for you to track whether or not your efforts are pushing you towards those goals, even better. Evaluating the decisions you make everyday against the backdrop of the vision and values you and your business stand for, the best. I’m just down on how maybe some institutions frame strategic planning…<<cough cough>> Some bad “business” mentors/consultants <<cough cough>>

But, that’s hard.

Getting to real understanding and depth in your business and for your customers means doing the work to understand more than just what you do and what you offer. It means getting to the heart of why your consumers choose (and maybe keep choosing) you, quantifying the real value you offer (not what you think you offer) and the ability to objectively identify what’s working and not working in your business.

Let’s set the scene. You're a new-ish business owner. (In business for yourself for less than 3 years.) You’ve been at your craft for a while, have moved a few units and/or have delivered a some hours of your services. You believe you bring value to your target market and you may even have a few testimonials on your website that support that claim. You wake up one morning and decide that you need strategy to get your business to the next level. That’s what you’ve read on the internet from your favorite “teach you how to build a business” business guru so it must be true. You’re first, albeit unintentional, excuse as to why you haven’t grown into the lifestyle or business size that you want is that you haven’t had a good strategy.

So you set off one morning and Google all kinds of fun strategic planning based keywords and over and over again you see the same kinds of results:

  • Articles about the Balanced Scorecard

  • Wikipedia Definition

  • HBR Articles

  • Forbes Articles

  • Software/Web-App Planning Tools

  • Dummies.com Articles

  • Assortment of colleges and university course resources

Great. Now what?

I know what. You download the worksheets, read the blog posts, listen to a few podcasts and probably even peruse a few HBR articles. That’s great, you just spent hours getting your learn on. I’m all for learning but your shotgun scatter patterned attempt at muscling through how to create a strategic plan has forced you to a cross roads. Also on top of that, you’re still not even sure what the value of a strategic plan is for you and your business. #mixedmessages

At this point you’re making a choice.

  1. You are either going to keep powering through and are going to try to recreate a strategic plan from some template or example and try to force what you “think” is important into a mold that most likely has nothing to do with who you are and what your business actually does.

  2. Or you’ll quit. You’ll quit and move on and rationalize that you are too busy, too small or that crafting strategy really isn’t right for YOUR business.

Both are terrible but, are totally natural reactions. It’s the result of oversaturation/information overload, you're wrestling with how to spend what scarce resources you can muster on this task and business guru’s trying to package some program to sell you in a $497 ecourse.

That’s why strategic plans are the worst. You just spent all this time trying to figure it out and have made your way to creating something that is not at all authentic to you and your business or you move on from it all together.

Strategy is important and it hurts my heart that business owners never get to see the value of good strategy. Strategy that comes from deliberately thinking through problems and opportunities and actively participating in the choices that come from that thinking process.

Instead of trying to slap together some word document that you’ll only reference once or twice a year try this instead.

The Strategic Un-Planning Process

Below I’m going to outline an example process that you could use in lieu of the templates you just downloaded that I bet will work better for you and matter more to you. It’s not the be-all-end-all in strategic planning but if I can at least help one person who’s reading this create something that has the potential to be a real asset over some generic nonsense it’s 100% worth it.

1. Figure out what your long game really is for your business and be able to articulate that long game. Is it a specific idea of what you’re life will look like, some large financial goal or building a legacy business. That’s going to be the big idea you measure the choices you make everyday against.

2. In smaller intervals what kinds of goals are you going to have to hit to get to your long game. In strategic planning speak these would be your strategic aspirations. Is it buying a building, controlling 40% of your market share, selling one-billion hamburgers? Again get specific.

3. Repeat number two again but do that process for each of the individual goals you listed from step two. That should get you to a place where you can identify the actions you need to keep track of on a daily/weekly/monthly basis to get you to those goals. I’m all for impact and engagement but to be the most effective you need to associate actions with dollars.

4. Look outside your business. Talk to your customers about the value they really get from your offerings. What are the biggest pain points that customers can specifically share with you that you’ve solved. This will help you get even more focused in your offering and how to better position it in the market.

Before we move on I just want to recap what you will have really done up until this point. Going from 1-4 means you’ll have honestly reflected on what matters most to you, you’ll have broken down to at least two tiers worth of goals that you need to hit to get there and started to work out why people are engaging with you to better frame the actions you need to take to get more customers through the door. We are flying through these steps in a very simplistic way but this is all the work that I talked about in the beginning of this post.

 5. Look at your business. Really, truly, objectively look at your business. Do your day to day actions reflect the value that you bring to the market? What does it cost to get one more customer? Is there a gap between what you planned to do at the start of your business and what you are actually doing? Are you making excuses right now because there’s a little bit of dissonance stirring in your brain about this stuff? It’s time to do something about that right now. You need to DECIDE what the actions are in your business that are the biggest drivers in how you deliver value as well as get in front of potential new customers. If you’re struggling with this part I’ve built a decision making framework that you can download for free. (Notice it’s not a one-page strategic planning template. You’re welcome.)

6. Pick a handful of actions to really focus on in your business. Think of them as strategic themes. These are the types of work that align best with what’s important to you, your customers and what you want the business to stand for. Figure out what success for each of those actions looks like in a quantifiable way and how each of those themes will get you to your short, mid and long game goals.

7. Get to work and stick to it! What gets measured, gets managed. This is where the work really begins because here you’re working to prove the hypotheses you created for yourself. Just like in 7th grade science class you need to collect data and that data comes from getting your hands dirty. Creating and managing strategy is a daily practice and it works best when you can make decisions against the outcomes your actions are showing you. No winging it, no shortcuts, no more guessing about what you think people want - just data.

8. Rinse and repeat as necessary. What’s important to you may change over time and being honest about that is what makes strategy work. If you’re long game changes, your goals change or your market changes it’s ok. It just means that scale and scope of your work needs to change. This is where old timey strategic plans fall flat on their faces. When you or your business change, your work has to change or else your productivity and the quality of your outputs are going to drastically deteriorate. Think about the last time you worked on something you hated. You probably did the minimum and just went through the motions. If you are building a business I’m guessing that you don’t want to find yourself just going through the motions. Your customers probably don’t want that either.

I hope that if this blog post did anything for anyone it at least saved you a few hours of mindlessly searching for strategic planning resources on the interweb. This post was not designed to be a conclusive resource for your strategic planning needs but it was designed to challenge you to think. If you are pressed for time or resources I like to think that I’ve also offered you an abridged approach to creating something that matters for you personally.

Strategic planning is really a personal (business personal?) process and it’s not something you can just hammer out in a one page template and expect any real results. It’s a process that you have to work at everyday and one that requires you to get brutally truthful with. The people that buy from you or that you’d like to buy from you aren’t stupid, they know when what you’re offering is lip service. Customers know what authenticity is and how to hunt for the most value. Strategy at its core is about making decisions to so that your customers can find that value.

So, are you making decisions everyday that will match what you’re offering and how you deliver with the needs of the people that you serve?