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Leading Through Uncertainty

We know what you’re thinking. “Not another #COVID19 article.” Not to worry, we’re providing you some insight on how you can lead your team through the next few weeks (or months?).

Let us start off by saying “Who gives a s#*t?”  To put it bluntly, if this is the first time you are talking to your clients, you are screwed.  No one cares how you are handling it – they care about how they are handling it.  People are scared. This black swan event is one that no one prepared for. Right now we are all trying to figure out how to keep the doors open.

What can you do as a leader?

First, chill out.  Meditate, go for walks, stress bake, or figure out what your go-to is for reducing your stress. This will help you act insightfully and rationally, not out of fear. Get real clear real quick as your level head is needed now more than ever.

Second, take a step back. What is the short-term impact to your company?  What is the state of your cash flow situation?  How long can you keep running and at what pace? (I won’t go into how you should have already known this through good business acumen. We’ll save that for another day). Figure out the next week. Then the next pay cycle. Then the next month.  Day by day, week by week, piece by piece.

Third, look for areas to pivot quickly and where you can exploit opportunities. (By exploit we don’t mean nefariously, only above-board ideas please.) What can you leverage quickly to keep your business afloat?  Where can you pursue leads with limited effort to increase sales or revenue?  Where can you cut costs?

Costs are always the easiest – it’s finding new revenue sources that requires creativity, forward-thinking and leadership.  Before you start cutting everything, what can grow with minimal investment?

Finally, lead like your business depends on it.  Because it does.  Now is not a time to delegate to your surrogates.  Now is not a time to not answer hard questions.  Now is the time to show your business what you are made of.  Even if you’re closing your doors or laying people off, the way and manner that you choose to do it will be remembered.  If you are an entrepreneur at heart, you will take another shot at it in the future.

 

Who knows? You may even pivot to a new business model and revenue stream that only enhances your business AND keeps your employees employed. People will remember how you handled your business during these times. Don’t ask anyone to do anything you wouldn’t do.

 

Stay sane.
Exploit opportunities.
Lead from the front.
Act with kindness and grace.

 

Business Lessons from the Billy Goat Trail

I recently had the opportunity to get away from my laptop and go hiking at the Billy Goat Trail along the Potomac River.  Beautiful day, only a little bit of foot traffic and plenty of time to think (or not think), whichever way my mind felt like going.

As I began to traverse the trail, a theme started going through my mind.  I could clearly see how the trail was much like business.

Here’s how:

• There is no straight path.
There is no right or wrong.  There were blazes to follow, but it wasn’t an exact science.  I went right where some might have gone left.  I walked directly most times but strayed if I thought the view was interesting or if I wanted to see something that caught my eye.

Lesson: Others in your industry may have done it one way or another, but there are no absolute duplicates of success.  Do what works for you and your business.

• Everyone moves at their own pace.
I was easily passed by very seasoned hikers who had been there before.  I stepped aside and admired their skill.  But I also passed my fair share on the trail.  Those that stopped for a break between scrambles, those that were out of their comfort zones, those that were waiting for others.

Lesson: Set your own pace in business, don’t let others set it for you.  Do what’s right for the business, the cash flow, the employees, and the clients.

• Leading the way.
For some of the time, I led the way with my partner and navigated which rocks to climb and where to step.  Other times, he led the way.  In the end, we still chose different footings, different areas to ascend, but it was nice to be in both positions.  I thrived on finding the best place to stand/climb when I led.  I also enjoyed following in the path and spending more time being present.

Lesson: You don’t have to lead the competition all the time.  You need to lead when it’s important to you.  And even if you aren’t leading now, it doesn’t mean you won’t sometime soon.

• Horizontal versus Vertical.
As with any climbing and scrambling, you really must watch where you step and where you place your feet.  This means a lot of time looking down.  But you can’t be so focused on looking down that you don’t see the big picture, don’t see the path and don’t get to enjoy the scenery.

Lesson: You can’t be only inwardly focused, nor can you be solely outwardly focused.  Leaders tend to navigate to one area over the other, but your job is to be conscious of both.  Know when to put your head in the weeds and when to keep it above the forest.

Almost two hours out in nature, away from the worries of the business world is a great way to step back and refresh your entire outlook.

If you’d like help with your outlook, feel free to contact me (Stephanie) for executive coaching at [email protected]

End of a Year, Start of a Decade*

We are looking dead straight into 2020, right around the corner.  How did that happen?  The expression “the days are long, but the years are short” rings particularly true to me this year.  As we close out the year and the decade, it’s a good time for reflection on where things stand as a business owner.  At the top of my list for this holiday season is to proactively take time to reflect on the state of the business and what the next year and next decade look like.

Here are some thoughts to get you started:

  • Most importantly…Are you doing what you want to do?
    Do you love it (you don’t have to like it every day)?  You may have started your business and things may have grown significantly or gone in a different direction from your original intent.  While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s a good time to take a hard look at what you are doing and ask if it’s what you want as the owner.  Is it time to retire?  Sell?  Buy another company?  Pivot into different offerings?  Different clients?  View the turning of the calendar as a new opportunity to reinvent your company or reinvigorate it.
  • Strategy.  Does it exist?
    Are you following it?  If not, why?  Do you have an exit plan?  What steps are you taking to meet your goals?  Now is the time to really think hard about if things are working, what could be tweaked, what you want to accomplish and how you’ll get there.  We all know that things change rapidly in business (hourly somedays!).  When was the last time you pulled your head out of the tactical and really spent some time on the long-term strategy?  Not a corporate off-site with a ton of PowerPoints….but time by yourself reflecting and thinking?  Pull your head out of the day-to-day.
  • Scale.  Are you scalable?
    If you meet your goals or make significant progress towards them, do you have the support to deliver?  What do you need to do that?  Scalability is critical to success should things start to pop quickly.
  • Partners. Do you know your own?
    We all need them. Do you have the right ones that can help you in the next phase of your company?  This isn’t just teaming partners (though we’ve got a platform for that), it’s the right advisors, right support and even the right mentors.
  • Well-being. How’s your health CEO?
    It’s an overused buzz word but damn if it doesn’t impact everything.  Are you burnt out mentally and physically?  Are you taking care of yourself?  A reminder that money is just an asset.  Your health cannot be bought.  Your overall well-being and wellness are what will allow you to enjoy the success you worked so hard for.  Figure out what works for you in terms of stress management and overall health.
  • Gratitude. Do you take time to appreciate your life and the people in it?
    No one got to the top alone, no one built a successful company alone.  Are you truly grateful for the opportunities you’ve been given?  Are you grateful for your life?

Taking time to truly appreciate what you have is important and contributes to your overall well-being.  Your well-being contributes to being a better partner to others.  Having partners to leverage allows you to scale faster and with better results.  Scalability leads to a strategy that will actually work.  Put this all together and, you’ll love what you do.  Be better in 2020.

*While “technically” we understand that a new decade begins 1/1/2021, we’re all about those round numbers. (Thanks, Frank!)

Accidental CEO

What’s an accidental CEO?  Are you one?

You may or may not know the type.  They’ve spun out of government or a large integrator and had a good consulting gig as a 1099.  They are well connected with their customer (they used to be colleagues) and they deliver.  Since they can deliver, they are asked for additional resources.   They, in turn, hire their trusted network.  Within a few years, they’ve built a 10-20 person show churning $2-10M.

Everything is sunshine for a bit.  The SME/CEO is still billable, doing what they love.

Inevitably, the business side of the business rears up.  The SME finds themselves running a company of highly technical folks, spending most of their time on administrative tasks – cash flow projections, recruiting, contracts, minutia.  They spend less time on customer delivery and more on the day-to-day running of the company.  Their customer becomes frustrated as the SME can’t deliver the same level of service.  The employees become frustrated as their trusted colleague is always busy with other tasks and is often unavailable.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the SME-turned-CEO wakes up wondering how things got to this state.  They hate their day-to-day life.  They hate not delivering to the customer and find themselves questioning why they are running a company.

If this sounds like you, let me be the first to tell you the following:

  1. You are not alone, by a long shot
  2. It’s not uncommon at all
  3. You need to decide on your path forward before you completely lose it

There are several options that can move you out of this state, but before you can move forward, you have to take a hard look in the mirror and ask yourself what you want out of your career and what success looks like to you.  For some, it’s a dollar figure in their checking account.  For others, it’s flexibility in working on high-value work.  Still for others, it’s in cultivating a culture that they want.  Regardless of the answer, knowing your definition of success can help guide your path.

Admittedly this is a difficult step to take (aren’t all first steps that way?). Luckily you don’t have to go it alone. BOOST has the resources, personnel, and experience to help guide you through this process. Whether it be executive coaching in the form of mentoring or strategic planning from a whole-business perspective, BOOST can help. Let’s sit down over coffee and discuss your next steps. [email protected]