Blog

  • Mel B. Cook

Guidant and the SBTA surveyed over 2,400 current and aspiring small business owners nationwide with their annual Small Business Trends survey. The most popular reasons reported for starting a new business are people were ready to be their own boss or they were tired of corporate America. I have met hundreds of small business owners that ventured into entrepreneurship for the same reasons. Those two reasons are rarely enough. Often, people have a misguided view of what it takes to be their own boss and generate consistent revenue. As a result, what gets them into business doesn’t keep them in business.


Becoming your boss always sounds great in theory. However, being your boss requires discipline, consistency, and character. You establish your metrics and milestones. If you don’t meet those metrics and milestones there isn’t a warning, a reminder, or a paycheck. A failure to produce results in a loss of revenue. A consistent loss in revenue will lead to serious consequences. I have watched entrepreneurs lose their homes, family, and dignity because their focus was on being in charge versus being a leader. Leadership requires a vision, plan, and consistent execution. Emotions are fleeting, so when you no longer feel warm and fuzzy then discipline must go into overdrive.


You only eat what you kill, or you harvest and I promise that’s more than a catchphrase. It is a promise and a reason most businesses are not able to sustain. There are so many times I wake up and I don’t feel like performing. I used to hate cold calls, networking events, and social media but losing is a luxury I can’t afford. I have a family that needs me. I have a child in college, one who loves the arts, and dreams that require resources. Also, I have parents that are aging and a community that requires my presence. Therefore, I make a different choice on the days I want to hit snooze, lay in the bed, and stream movies all day. That doesn’t mean I am all work and no play. It means I must consistently remain conscious of what I am building and why I am building it. If the only thing I considered was being my own boss, then I would rarely get up. However, outside of my personal pep talks, there are few practical things I put in place to keep me focused. A few of those tools include:

  • Time blocking to keep my schedule in check

  • Personal development to keep my character in check

  • Clear targets to keep my goals in check

  • An accountability partner/coach to keep me in check

It’s aspirational to seek entrepreneurship to escape a corporate career or to become your own boss, but that’s not enough. You must develop your leadership skills, character, consistency, and discipline. When you’re the boss it’s too easy to lose due to bad habits and a lack of accountability. There is nobody there to tell you to get up or to assign your priorities. In addition, you don’t get paid whether you perform or not. Therefore, put the proper measures in place to succeed, so you can show up consistently every day and produce. Safeguards that will prevent you from being the next entrepreneur with a big dream and big desire to succeed but lacks the skills to sustain it.


  • Mel B. Cook

Every leader must be a salesman but sometimes it bites. We are constantly pushing new ideas, products, services, and processes. A component of our success depends on buy-in and an ability to sell the vision. However, it presents challenges to mid-level managers, at least it did for me and many others. Often, the vision you're selling doesn’t belong to you and you're not fully sold on it. Still, you must put on a smile, arm yourself with charisma, stand in front of your team, and deliver. If you fail to deliver by putting your ego and uncertainty before the organization, then the vision becomes lost. The adage says, where there is no vision, the people will perish. Therefore, it is your job to keep them focused and sell the vision of the company.


I spent almost a decade as a mid-level manager and almost twice as long consulting them. It can be challenging because the entire organization is betting on your ability to sell the vision to the team members on the front line. In most organizations, you are responsible for implementing new ideas but have very little say in developing those ideas. You are the first to be called to the plank and the last to come to the table. It can be frustrating because plans are fully developed before they reach your desk. It makes it feel impossible to remain proactive. Not to mention, you often feel overlooked and underappreciated. I have been THERE! I spent many days peeling out of the parking lot, tension tap dancing on my temple, contacting my best friend using speed dial, and inaudibly venting my frustrations. However, it was not good for my blood pressure or sanity, so I had to make some adjustments.


The first adjustment that came to mind was to quit. I wanted to quit and tell the man what he could do with his little job, but I am not the quitting type. I just like to feel like I have options sometimes. The only time I quit is on my terms and when I have conquered the flag. Besides, based on feedback from colleagues, friends, and research studies, this was a common complaint provided by mid-level managers. I could not move on and marry a new company with the same problem. Therefore, I developed some guiding principles to make me check in when I desired to check out. I learned how to sell, even when I was not pleased with the product.

Here are my top three guiding principles:


Plan for the objections. A large part of being able to sell is understanding objections. Therefore, when I was skeptical about introducing a new idea, process, product, or service I wrote down my objections and the possible objections from my team. What made me feel uneasy or uncertain? What do I need to research or better understand? How does this impact current processes or workflows? By thinking through the objections, I became better prepared for conversations with my team and senior management. Also, it allowed me to see the concept from different perspectives and present it from an objective point of view.


Focus on the how not the why. Often when decisions are made, we want to know why the decision was made and why they chose to go in that direction. Then, if we feel the reasoning is illogical or unjustifiable it awakens our inner toddler, and we can become stubborn and bitter. In cases where you can’t veto the decision or the reason behind the why is a luxury, then your only focus is on how to get it done. Become obsessed with how you can pull this off with the least amount of impact on human or capital resources. At times you will have to roll up your sleeves and get in the trenches to let your team know you are in this together. Deciding to make this adjustment is the total opposite of speaking poorly about why decisions were made and being the captain of the Disgruntled Dianas.


Choose to be a team player. If you have played on any team then you know the win isn’t always pretty. Also, you know you will run some unsuccessful play, but your job is to stay in position. Whether you agree with the play or not, your team needs you to run it and run it to the best of your ability.


My guiding principles weren’t just to assist me with selling to others. They assisted me with selling it to myself so that I could confidently gain buy-in from others. They helped me develop momentum and a positive outlook to push new ideas, products, services, or concepts regardless of my level of involvement and the reasoning behind the plan. I was able to remove my personal feelings and support my team and organization. Being a mid-level manager can feel unmanageable, but you can handle it. You have all of the necessary abilities to deliver and play your position. Trust in your abilities so that you can show up and perform at a high level. Remember, plan for the objections, focus on the how versus the why, and choose to be a team player to run the play and sell the vision.


If you need some insight, please send us an email at info@kendallficklin.com or CLICK HERE to take our FREE assessment.


Solid project implementation is necessary for small businesses to build, grow and scale. However, many small businesses don’t have the resources or manpower to hire a project manager, who is solely responsible for managing projects. As a result, many employees are expected to multi-task and complete “duties as assigned.” This process can be a nightmare in an ever-changing environment with impeding priorities and limited resources. Some employees adapt and excel, but many will struggle because processes and detail aren’t their strengths. Nevertheless, there are simple solutions you can get the entire team involved, alleviate pressure, and successfully employ new processes, policies, and systems. Besides, the project you've been prolonging is a need not a want.


Recently I was leading a talk with over two dozen small business CEOs throughout the United States. One of the major pain points reported was successfully employing new processes, policies, or systems. The CEOs were clear about what they desired to accomplish but believed they didn’t have the right staff to get the job done. Consequently, they delayed major projects that could save them time and money, while improving their client experience. Many of these successful CEOs reported that they attempted to start but once they began to map out the details the process seemed cumbersome, and they instantly became overwhelmed. They were sacrificing long-term gains for immediate wins. Therefore, the business was maxing out in its position versus its revenue.


I have been a part of 5-figure and 8-figure implementations. The key to any successful implementation is getting everyone involved in the planning stage, collectively designing a project plan, communicating early and often, and setting realistic milestones. Furthermore, each team member must be clear on the project goal and be committed to making it successful. You don’t have to the latest technology or project planning software to remain organized and communicate clearly. While working with Johns Hopkins, one of the top 5 health care systems, our first multi-million dollar install required a spreadsheet, a scope document created in MS Word, and CRM to store critical documents. Then, a team invested in the success of the project and organization. These are the tools most small businesses have access to or can gain access to with limited barriers.


I understand that within small businesses the teams have multiple priorities. That is the best incentive to implementing more efficient processes, policies, or systems. Typically, that one change will impact the functional area of each employee within the business. Therefore, call everyone to the table and tell them what you desire to implement, set a clear objective, and collectively draft a project plan. Your local small business administration or chamber of commerce has extensive resources to assist with project planning and guiding your team. Besides, you can bring in a consultant to guide the process, gain buy-in, or design the project planning process. Also, several CRM companies host free classes on leveraging their software to get desired results and increase efficiency. You have a variety of resources at your disposal despite your budget, company size, or revenue. Be mindful that once you get a standard project management process, then it can be duplicated for future projects, no matter the size of your new endeavor. Furthermore, it will empower your staff to provide their feedback and become deeply invested in the success of the project and business. Not to mention, you will gain a deeper understanding of your staff, their hidden talents, and the strengths that didn’t make their resume.


Often, project implementations can be complex and contain many moving parts. However, we mustn’t delay processes, policies, or systems that can lead to stronger, healthier, and more sustainable businesses. Including your entire team in the project will increase the richness of the implementation, offer diversity, and allow you to create rich project plans, which will result in promising results. The size of your team, budget, or revenue is no excuse not to implement what is best for your small business. You can keep the process simple, access quality resources, and get adequate assistance if needed. By including your entire team in the planning and implementation process you alleviate pressure and get those critical projects done. Building, growing, and scaling awaits!!!


If you are struggling with current project implementation or prolonging your next project, then reach out to us and we can help. Send us an email to info@kendallficklin.com and tell us how we can serve you and make the project implementation process easier for you and your team.