With NFL training camps underway, I took the opportunity to re-watch Super Bowl 52 (for the 23rd time) this past weekend. As a long suffering Philadelphia Eagles fan, it was with great joy that I was able to watch them finally bring the big trophy home. Winning is fun, and this championship will certainly help me get through any bad seasons that might be ahead. (Well, that, and healthy dose of “Boos” should they be warranted.) But, watching this team was fun for so many reasons more.
Now as a small business consultant, I couldn’t help but admire the job General Manager Howie Roseman and Head Coach Doug Pederson did, along with a lot of the various coaches and players. Now that I have come down from the euphoria of winning (sort of; I’m still watching replays of the game), I have had a chance to really think about how special the season was.
As we gear up for a new season, here are five takeaways from the Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles organization that small businesses should note:
1. It will be harder than you think
The 2017 Philadelphia Eagles is really a testament to the idea that we should plan on adversity. Think about it: NFL Teams have 11 starters on offense and defense, along with 2-3 key players on Special Teams for a total of 25 key players. The Eagles lost 8 of their best players due to injury, including starting QB Carson Wentz who was having a MVP-caliber year … that’s a whopping 32% of top-level production. The team never missed a beat when a teammate was injured. They just kept winning.
Could your small business survive if one-third of your best producers left for a new job? Start planning for adversity now, and it will be easier to contend with when the time comes. Cross-train employees, build a solid cash reserve and communicate to your team that adversity will happen, and together, you will overcome it.
2. Surround yourself with smart people
One of the best moves this team made when they hired Doug Pederson two years ago was to surround him with two coordinators who are smart enough to be head coaches. They hired a former Head Coach, Jim Schwartz, to run the Defense; and they hired Frank Reich, whom many considered a Head Coach-caliber mind, to help run the offense. Both coordinators were well-respected, smart coaches. Due to the Eagles success this year, Reich was hired by another NFL team to become their head coach this year.
Don’t be afraid to hire smart people. If they have a skill set you don’t, why wouldn’t you want to have the smartest person you can get?
3. Always look to improve
The Eagles had a better than expected run-game in 2017, with a triumvirate of players contributing despite an injury to All-Pro RB Darren Sproles. Yet the Eagles did something rarely seen in the NFL during the regular season. Halfway through the season, they traded for a starting-caliber Running Back. It was a bold move for a team that was already sporting an NFL best 7-1 record.
For Small Business owners, this means act now. Even if times are good, and you are succeeding, find ways to improve. Train your key players. Add new, smart people. Find opportunities to improve the business – and communicate to your crew that they should always be doing the same, especially during periods of success.
4. Don’t Underestimate the Value of Short-Term Planning
Pederson was extremely good at preparing his team to focus on the task at hand. Yes, the Eagles goal was to win the Super Bowl, but they had to beat the opponent in front of them every week in order to have a shot at reaching their goal.
As small business owners, we are always chasing the big trophy or that vision of “Success.” Many don’t even stop to write a plan on how to get there. This is a huge mistake. Take time now to build an action plan that identifies the short-term milestones leading to your version of success.
5. Celebrate the Wins
We had a saying at a former workplace, “Celebrate the victories, both big and small.” I still believe that this is true. The Philadelphia Eagles embodied this approach throughout the season. Understanding that a series of successes could lead to the ultimate success was something that Pederson effectively communicated to his team. As small business owners, we tend to get tunnel vision, and could miss some of these milestones.
It is an opportunity for team-building, as well as an opportunity to show your appreciation for a job well-done.
And of course, when you reach the ultimate goal – it’s completely justifiable to reflect and celebrate.
With July 4th Festivities gearing up in earnest this week, we couldn’t help but pause and note a few things worth giving thanks.
Despite what might be happening on a grander stage, we are so very fortunate to be living in this country. And when we spoke to our kids about Independence Day, we were struck by the fact that the idea of business ownership really is a perfect embodiment of independence. And it made us think about the challenges small business owners face.
In an honest article regarding the realities of being a small business owner, Paul Downs – author of Boss Life, a book by Paul Downs – reminds us all of the striking reality of being the boss: it ain’t easy. Reality #2: no such thing as feeling secure.
But the most striking revelation from the excerpt published last week in Inc.com was this:
“Where can I get good advice? This has been a problem for me from the start. I opened my doors when I was fresh out of college, back in 1986. I didn’t even know anyone in the business. And there was no Internet back then, no magic universal library that answered every question. My nature is to try to figure things out on my own, which, in retrospect, has been bad for me. I stumbled on the most basic business problems: Where do I buy materials? How do I keep records? How do I pay taxes for my employees? How do I advertise? It was very hard to find answers. There were books about running a business, but none about my business. I never imagined that anyone would be interested in helping me, so I never asked for help. And I was always so strapped for time that I would implement the first idea I found, even if it was bad practice. I just muddled along for years and years.”
Where can I get help? Where can I get good advice? These are questions we hear time and again. The struggle to balance every aspect of small business is real – but finding good help should not be as difficult.
First – start with your local resources: the city or county Chamber of Commerce, SBA office and SCORE chapters are all loaded with information. Many cities also have a Small Business Development Center. These organizations are eager to help – it’s why they exist!
Second – your local colleges and universities are a resource as well. Some even have programs dedicated to small business owners!
Third – it isn’t 1776, or even 1986 anymore; the internet is here and a perfect place to find business professionals who have dedicated themselves to helping small business owners. If you are at a loss – a basic google search and LinkedIn are your best friends.
Finally – there is a sentence in the quote above that really jumps out at us:
“I never imagined that anyone would be interested in helping me, so I never asked for help.”
Like our fledgling country back in 1776, small business owners need to understand that surrounding yourself with people who want to see you succeed is key. Independence does not equate being alone. You can’t do it alone, not should you. If you need help – seek it out. (Our forefathers did.)
Happy Independence, from us here at BBS.
Dwight Eisenhower once said, “Good planning without good working is nothing.” We tend to agree. While there are some small businesses that have succeeded without a plan, this is generally speaking not the best way to plow forward. As a matter of fact, lack of a business plan is one of the reasons many small businesses fail. But what gives? Why should a small business owner care about writing a business plan? And if they have one, then who needs a strategic plan or an action plan? Good questions, all – let’s take a closer look.
A business plan is typically utilized for several reasons, chief of which is to determine the viability of a new business idea to launch and be sustainable. Once the idea is validated, it acts to secure funding in the way of a business loan or through investors. It definitely helps to provide structure to the idea, and allows small business owners to determine the best way to shape its operations.
A strategic plan is used by existing organizations to describe where the business is, and where it would like to be in the next 3-5 years. It outlines specific goals and what the benchmarks of success will be. It also describes how an action plan will be put into operation.
An action plan is a document that helps guide small business owners and their teams in the day-to-day tasks of the company. It specifically defines what needs to be done, when, by whom and what resources will be needed to succeed. When done correctly, the document will help define specific processes for individuals, teams and departments.
If we were to return to Eisenhower’s quote, it becomes clear that the business plan and strategic plan are elements that go hand-in-hand with an action plan. Once each is in place, the only thing left to do is work the plan.
And as the iconic phrase goes, there’s only one thing small business owners need at this point – just do it.
You’ve been caught in the corporate hamster-wheel since graduating from college and now, you are about to take the big leap: business owner, entrepreneur. When you start mentioning your intention to family, friends and colleagues – that little thing called doubt starts to creep into the back of your head. But you ignore it, and press on, all the way to launching the business.
Then that negative voice, the lizard brain as Seth Godin likes to call it, starts to yell loudly in your head: “YOU’RE NOT A BUSINESS OWNER! YOU’RE NO EXPERT! DO YOU REALLY THINK YOU BELONG??!”
And Imposter Syndrome has solidly taken root in your brain. But there is way around this awful bout of bad juju …. And here are six ways you can combat it:
1. Reframe your fear
Every time you hear that little voice tell you that you shouldn’t be doing this, adopt the mentality to prove that voice wrong. Get angry at it, be challenged by it – and work harder in the task at hand. By reframing your fear, you will quiet that voice in your head.
2. Talk it out with a mentor/trusted colleague
Building a small business can be lonely at times (particularly if you are a sole proprietor/solopreneur), so it is essential to make sure you have a trusted network of professionals with whom to bounce around ideas. Even better, a mentor would help you process not only any doubts, but the challenges you face as a business as well.
3. Remember your accomplishments
That’s right – your accomplishments! You were driven to launch a business by something, and more than likely have had some success before. Take a step back and look at your career thus far, and remember that this in just one more step in your professional journey. You have every right to be here and now, working in your small business.
4. Provide value with every interaction
We love this one, because it is another way to get out of your head and get your hands into the work of being a business owner. Every discussion, task, networking or customer service encounter is an opportunity to focus on providing value, as opposed to listening to the little voice.
5. Stop the Comparison Game
It’s an easy trap to fall into, particularly when competing for business or networking. Understand that you are on your own unique path. Believe in your value proposition or differentiating factor. When you do that, there’s no way you’ll fall into the comparison game.
…until you make it. This old nugget still holds true today. When all else fails, fake it. No one will know.
If you’re a small business owner, you’re already pre-disposed to keeping a tight watch on expenses. Naturally, any financial decision is on that comes with some considerable thought and even some hand-wringing. After all, you’ve gotten this far on your own. You wear multiple hats on a daily basis, and have been successful to this point. Why should you spend the money? Is it worth it? The simple answer is yes, but here are seven reasons why:
1. A Consultant removes emotion from challenges and difficult decisions
Sometimes business owners can be faced with challenging and emotional decisions. Countless hours were spent building the business into what it is today. Many folks – whether it be employees, vendors or family members – helped to get it to this point. But it may be time for some hard choices. A consultant can come in with a fresh perspective and give you the unemotional and unabashed advice needed to move forward in the growth of your business.
2. Consultants are Professional Problem-Solvers
Let’s face it – this is why you’re even considering a consultant to begin with: there something amiss in your business. Consultants are able to come in and help diagnose the challenge in front of you, and develop a plan of action to help you get moving.
3. Consultants are Teachers
This is our personal favorite, and not just because we both had had experience leading trainings or teaching classes. No – the real value a good consultant brings to the table is that they help you the small business owner learn something new. Perhaps it’s a sales strategy, a client relationship system or a new payment processing platform – the consultant should give you the knowledge needed to help your business become more efficient, and profitable.
4. You don’t have the internal staff to level up
This is one major reason why hiring a consultant makes sense: you need a rock star to help you get to the next level in your business. The other major reason…
5. You don’t have the expertise to level up
This is an extension of number 3, really. And it’s a common challenge for many newer small business owners as well, particularly those who are amazing in one particular area. The need to be competent in so many areas of a business (HR, Accounting, IT … the list goes on) can be too much. A consultant can make up for that shortcoming.
6. To help launch a business
Launching may be the toughest part of getting started for some, particularly if you are doing it alone. A consultant give you an opportunity to bounce ideas around, strategize around financial decisions, and hone in on your marketing message and target audience to name a few. And of course, it’s great to have another set of eyes to review documents, licenses, and leases.
7. To facilitate change
Finally, one of the hardest challenges to overcome is that of change. It is human nature to resist change, often times because it is so uncomfortable. A good consultant knows this, and helps businesses navigate the emotional minefield that is filled with fear, anxiety and uncertainty. They also can inspire a business to tackle the change by setting digestible goals.
Finally, if you’re a business owner looking at bringing on a consultant – do your homework. Line up a few choices, ask about how they work with their clients, and seek out testimonials. When you make your choice, make sure you are ready to dive in head first with someone you like and trust.