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Puzzle Me This

As puzzles are back in vogue these days, I thought this might be of interest. Unfortunately, I’ve only had the opportunity to complete one over the past few weeks, but several themes rang true as I worked on it. Puzzling (is that what we call it?) makes you go through several stages, much like the business circle of life.

At first, puzzles are exciting. You find all the outside pieces, you put the four corners in a special place.

Startups are exciting!
You have a new mission, it’s constantly evolving, you get to make things up as you go along. The world of possibilities is endless.

You compile the outer ring and you start to feel like you can really do this.

You’ve got your first clients.
You are starting to hit your stride on marketing and hiring. You start to fill in some infrastructure. You hire your first BD person, your first C-Suite.

Then, the grind hits. You must keep at the puzzle. What seemed easy 100 pieces ago is suddenly very monotonous (for me, it’s always the sky portion!). The buzz wears off.

Months bleed into years.
Your offerings may change or expand, as does your client base. But the excitement starts to leave and the magnitude of what you want to accomplish and how hard you have to work hits you.

You find yourself trying the same pieces in the same spots, over and over. And they don’t fit. Yet you keep trying, expecting different answers. You find that you can’t see the forest for the trees (or the entire picture for the one area you are working on).

You lose focus on what’s important.
You can get caught up in the tactical, day to day without your eye on the exit plan. You may retain team members that you had from the beginning but no longer fit or they aren’t in the right positions. You know you have to pivot but you aren’t quite sure how. You feel like you are stuck in one place.

Through it all, you keep trudging along and the puzzle slowly comes together. Big chunks get done and you start to feel accomplished. You feel like you are working on the big picture and that there is light at the end of the tunnel. You’ll get stuck a few times, but you know that you will make it through. Pieces that you didn’t think would fit actually do. All it took was a different perspective.

Did you read that? All it took was a different perspective.

Right team in the right places.
Corporate culture that aligns. Everyone is focused on the mission and works together.

Finally, you complete the puzzle. A sense of reward, a sense of accomplishment. In my case, I turn it over to someone else to put it away, not wanting to personally break up what I worked so hard on.

This is different for everyone.
It may be the big sale, it could be a purchase of another company, it could be an ESOP or Management Buy Out. You could decide to step down as the CEO and let someone else run it.

And then you consider your next puzzle.

Or your next opportunity.
Entrepreneurs at heart always have another company they’d like to start or will serve on boards or as advisors for those that want to start their own thing. We are a community that pays it forward.

What stage of the puzzle are you in with your current company? If you’re in the “grind” or “focus” section and you’re looking to get to the next phase we’re poised to help you prep. Change IS coming and preparing for it now is your best course of action. We have virtual support while you need it and on-the-ground professionals when the new-normal resumes. Contact us, and let’s discuss.

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]

Corporate Housekeeping

As we turn our attention to back to school sales, last summer vacays, finishing up our trashy beach novels and start shifting towards the fall, it’s a good time to take a minute and do some general housekeeping. Face it – it will be the holidays before you know it!

GovCons, you are in the lull between the storm – proposals are submitted, awards are forthcoming but not here yet. Tt’s a great time to catch up on some of the mundane, but necessary parts of doing business.  It’s boring, and always gets pushed to the back burner as more revenue-generating opportunities come in.  But ignore these at your peril – they always come back to haunt you at tax time, during a transaction or with any litigation.

We’re kind of like sour patch kids, here at BOOST. Now that we’ve given you a bit of a gut punch, here’s a quick checklist to keep you sane:

1. Org Chart
When was the last time you actually updated it?  Do it now before you onboard all the new contract wins.  This way it’s readily available.  Now might also be time to consider if folks are really in the right positions/titles.

2. Articles of Incorporation
Time to dust it off and make sure it’s still legit and up to date

3. Board meeting minutes
For privately held companies, this can feel like an administrative task you don’t want to do.  Remember that these board meeting minutes come in handy when you are looking toward a sale, are in litigation/disputes and are just plain good practice.

4. Tax Filings
Given all the changes, are you structured the way you should be?  If your uncle is still providing all of your advice, it might be time to get a second opinion.  Are you maximizing your tax status for your long-term strategy?

5. State filings
We always forget that when we add new employees in new states, we suddenly must start filing taxes.  Be proactive about registering and don’t let it be a nasty surprise year in arrears.

6. Insurance
When was the last time you sat down and went through what you are covered for and where you might have gaps?  I absolutely HATE this practice but make myself (and another person to get a different perspective) sit in the excruciating meeting and review everything.  Line by freaking line.  It’s horrible, my broker hates us, but we’ve discovered multiple things that weren’t covered or that we didn’t need to pay for.  It’s worth the investment of time (and sanity) once a year to know your risks.

 

If you need help with anything, we’re happy to give you our advice or introduce you to others that have that specialty.  Don’t slack off as we head towards the fall.  It will only come back to haunt you when you least expect it (or have time to deal with it!).