Highlights & Insights Blog

When is it Time to Hire a Consultant?

Are You on Track to Meet Your Quarterly & Annual Goals?

goals2I’m not just referring to your sales goals (although those are critical), I also mean goals of the mission and vision of your company, employee satisfaction and engagement, awareness, and everything else that indicates a strong and successful business. If you’re not quite on target, it’s time to make a change. Bringing in an outside consultant may be the breath of fresh air (and new set of eyes) your business needs to have a strong year of target hitting and growth. Even the largest, most successful companies turn to consultants; maybe it’s time you consider it too!

Here are seven signs it’s time to hire a consultant:

1. You feel stuck or stagnant.
Simply put: If you feel like your business is in a rut, it probably is. If you’re not growing, you’re dying, and now’s the time to take matters into your own hands. Hiring a consultant can help address these concerns and get you back on track for growth.

2. You need help identifying problems, issues, or areas for improvement.
It’s a hard truth that people “on the inside” often don’t see things as clearly as those “on the outside”. Sometimes executives and business leaders may be blind to areas within their organizations that aren’t functioning optimally, or opportunities to enhance their business both externally and internally. Consultants bring the fresh, objective perspective that can open up new ideas and avenues that weren’t identified previously, and enhance a business.

3. You’re unsure of which direction to go.
Even if you have identified areas for growth, it may be tricky to decide on how to move forward. Consultants can help strategize as well as implement new plans, programs, and procedures to move forward and help your business grow.

4. You want someone to supplement your staff, but don’t want to hire a full time employee.
Let’s face it- hiring a full time employee is expensive. Consultants are an efficient way to get temporary expertise and support when you need it most. By hiring a consultant, you will get a relatively low cost, low commitment solution to a project or problem you’re facing.

5. You want insight into your market.
Many business leaders think they know their customer, but their knowledge is often biased and subjective. It’s tough to remove your “business” cap when trying to understand your customers. Consultants don’t have the same biases, and are able to conduct the research necessary to provide honest insight and feedback that will help you relate to your customers and better serve them.

6. You want freshness and creativity.
Every company does things differently and has their own creative process for operations, marketing, production, etc. Because they have been around other businesses and been exposed to innovation among different industries, consultants will bring new ideas and creativity to your business that you may not have had access to previously. In an ever-changing world, innovation is critical to stay afloat.

7. You want to bring new life to your organization.
Companies get stale, but consultants can bring a freshness and excitement that may have been lacking. Mixing it up and engaging new professionals with your team can liven up the work environment, spark new ideas, and create a critical collaborative environment.

If you find yourself identifying with any of these seven signs, do your business a favor and consider bringing on a consultant to help. Amazing results come from collaboration, and recognizing the need for improvement is the first step in achieving your goals.

 

Originally  posted by;

Breanna Bremer

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Accountability is Not a Four Letter Word

I went into business for myself in part because I continually found myself frustrated while working for someone else.

Meetings felt like a waste of time, most of my bosses continually asked me to do things then never acknowledged my accomplishments, quickly moving on to the next project.

Frequently I found myself focused on something only to discover my manager had abandoned it and forgot to tell me they were going in a different direction.

And then there’s that, the changing directions, which left me feeling uninformed, behind and frustrated.

Going into business for myself seemed like freedom from meetings, confusion and having to answer to someone else. You know the answer to the question “Why’d you decide to start your own business?”

“So I could work less, make moreDuh money and not have a boss.” Yeah, well, most of you know how that goes. The lessons having your own business delivers are seemingly endless, frequently surprising and followed by more face-palm moments than I care to admit.

One of my earliest connect the dots moments was the discovery that other people actually want to be told what to do. Not only did they just want me to tell them what I wanted they actually appreciated being held accountable.

Huh.

accountability

This realization, that accountability makes people feel that what their doing matters was to say the least, surprising. Who knew that telling people what you want them to do, being clear about your vision and your expectations was mostly meaningless without following it all with accountability.

Turns out holding people accountable to what you’ve asked them to do let’s them know you meant it, you didn’t change your mind a week later, gives them the satisfaction of completion and a sense of accomplishment. It builds their trust in you and each other.

Turns out accountability is a big part of getting things done. Not only that but providing accountability helps your team to have clarity around what they’re doing and when you want it done by. It gives them the opportunity to ask for clarification, confirmation and to share their accomplishments with you.

Now imagine my surprise and frustration when I became an advisor to business owners and discovered how little accountability they were using in their companies. More connect the dots moments for me when I realized this lack of accountability was a large part of why so many businesses are struggling to get things done and accomplish their visions.

It seems that many business owners having disliked being held accountable themselves have assumed that accountability itself was the issue and not who or how it was being employed. The experiences they’ve had with accountability makes it difficult for them to learn the lesson of it’s importance. It causes them to resist it sometimes at all costs (their business goals) and leaves them and their teams struggling and frustrated.

Instilling some healthy accountability into my clients businesses has proven to be one of my biggest challenges as an advisor when trying to help them turn their visions into reality.

Accountability is not a four letter word.

Huh.

 

Continue reading Accountability is Not a Four Letter Word

5 Must Do’s Of Successful Entrepreneurs

 

  1. Take Purposeful Action
  2. Embrace Your Mistakes
  3. Networking
  4. Resist the Negativity of Nay-Sayers
  5. Give Without Expecting Anything in Return

 

Easy right?

So if the above actions lead to success why isn’t everyone doing them? Why do so manysettinggoals entrepreneurs struggle to succeed? Let’s look at them closer.

 

Take Purposeful Action

When you’re a busy entrepreneur with multiple visions dancing through your mind, it can be difficult to choose which one to act on. Staying true to your core vision and purpose should be your filter for prioritizing ideas for action. However finding the space and clarity to think this through is the tough part, it’s important to have someone you trust to bounce ideas off of. Regular meetings with someone who’s able to help you clear the brain clutter is crucial to determining which of your biggest ideas should be acted on and when.

 

Embrace Your Mistakes

Well no problem right? Ha! Seeing as how most entrepreneurs have perfectionism as part of their DNA even the word mistakes makes one cringe. The reason perfectionism slows us down is that even though we know learning from our mistakes is important we rarely have the time, space and clarity of mind to sort through the mistake for the all-important lessons.

Having a group of trusted advisors who will dissect mistakes with you will give you much needed perspective in much less time, saving you from further mistakes and wasted time (money).

 

Networking

I know ahhhhhhhhhh, right? Just the thought can make an entrepreneur say “No way.” while rolling their eyes. I understand, being myself a non-lover of networking it took me a while to integrate this onto my “important actions” list. Let’s try to remember that this is where we will meet the trusted advisors who will provide us with clarity and short cuts through all of our great ideas and time sucking mistakes. The right advisors can save our sanity as well as our money, so maybe this should be number one on this list.

 

Resist the Negativity of Nay-Sayers

Easier said than done when some of the nay-sayers are your friends and family; you know, the ones trying to save you from yourself. Believe me I slogged my way through my share of “this will never work’s” and “wouldn’t there be a better time to do this?” To be fair, I was nine months pregnant when I started my business, but still…Don’t underestimate the value of other entrepreneurs, they get it, and it’s nice to have someone in your corner through the tough stuff.

 

Give Without Expecting Anything in Return

There are many ways you can help other business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs. Sharing your experience, knowledge and resources builds trust and expands your network of trusted advisors. Remember, “Life is an echo, what you send out comes back to you.”

How does a busy entrepreneur find the time to put these 5 Must Do’s to work?

YOU MAKE TIME. Think through the people in your life and come up with a list of those with experience whose opinions you value. If you find you have a shortage of trusted advisors who can help you hold yourself accountable to the above actions then get puzzle_piecesnetworking. Seek people with experience in areas you’re not strong in and ask them to coffee. Create an advisory board and schedule quarterly meetings. Join an entrepreneurs peer group, most meet monthly and provide a variety of business experience and support. Find someone who’s able to help you clear the brain clutter and prioritize all your “Must Do’s” then make the time to meet with them weekly. Will you take the necessary actions to make your business a success?

 

How can I help?

 

Suzanne Lyon

612.801.9320

Suzanne@lyon-sfocus.com

 

 

Owner Dependence or Independence? Your Choice

dependenceOwner dependence can be the biggest hurdle business owners will face when it comes time to hand over the reins. Whether you just want more time to enjoy your life while hanging on to the business or you find yourself ready to sell this is an issue you’ll want to solve years before it comes up.

Dependence on the business owner is the largest obstacle small and medium size businesses face when it comes to taking much deserved time off or maximizing their sale value. Cutting your hours in the business down to just 40 hours a week can’t happen if you are the reason the business runs. And buying a business that can’t operate without the owner is a risk most buyers aren’t willing to take.

The biggest barrier to fixing the owner dependence problem is usually the owner themselves, who are un-able or un-willing to let go. If you have employees who are willing to step up but find yourself thinking that none of them can do anything as well as you can, then you likely aren’t delegating enough. If you’re not delegating then no one is going to be there when you are ready to hand over the reins.

Overcoming the “owner dependence” issue requires you to put systems processes and accountability measures in place. This includes employee training programs for all company operations as well as fully documenting standard operating procedures. Owners often underestimate the time and training needed in order to adequately prepare the team to successfully run the business in their absence.

independenceUnless you plan to be one of your own employees for the rest of your life the time to start preparing is now. Here are 5 must haves that are key to your team being able to run the business according to your vision with or without you.

  1. A strong 2nd in command
  2. Documented standard operating procedures
  3. A training program for all staff, entry level through leadership
  4. A delegation, results measurement and accountability system
  5. Clear communication

If any of these five items are weak or missing it’s time to prioritize them and make a plan to put them in place. A Vision & Action Plan is a good way to identify gaps and areas that need development. Connect with me for a complimentary “Vision & Action Jump-Start” session to start identifying ways to overcome “owner dependence” in your business.

 

Suzanne Lyon

Lyon~S Focus

612.801.9320

Suzanne@lyon-sfocus.com

 

 

DIY Entrepreneur to DDIY Entrepreneur (Don’t Do It Yourself)

im001We often here entrepreneurs say “I wear lots of hats” Which translates to; “I’m saving money by doing it all myself”.

This can be a big mistake that ends up costing the entrepreneur more than they realize. Some things are done better and more efficiently (saving money) by delegating or outsourcing them to professionals with expertise in those areas. You know what your area of expertise is and it isn’t the multiple tasks you find sucking up your time every day.

All of these DIY tasks take you away from doing what you LOVE, what you’re BEST at; the big vision, new ideas, sales, or finding investment dollars that help you grow your business to the next level and increase revenue. These are the highest level, most important drivers of company growth; you should be prioritizing them over everything else. So why aren’t you?

Saving money? You can just do it yourself? You don’t have enough work to hire someone full time?

No problem, the new “Gig” economy allows business owners to outsource expertise in many areas by hiring experienced professionals on a part-time/fractional basis, while saving the added costs of hiring full-time employees; employment taxes, benefit packages, training and onboarding expenses to name a few.

If you’re a DIY entrepreneur or small business owner who’s still doing it all, it may be time to embrace the “just because I CAN, doesn’t mean I SHOULD” approach to your business growth plan.

Consider hiring an experienced professional to leverage your company growth in one or more of these areas:

 

Legal

It may be tempting to proceed without legal advice or proper contracts but this can be dangerous and end up costing much more than what you saved. At minimum there are on-line services like CorpNet can help you register your business as an LLC and perform other legal tasks, and the websites such as RocketLawyer that you can use for creating basic contracts. However there are many circumstances where hiring a lawyer will provide the legal protections you need and peace of mind is priceless

Financials

Even if you have some knowledge in finances, bookkeeping or accounting, these are very specialized roles with specialized knowledge, especially in places with lots of regulations. There are companies specializing in fractional part-time placement of bookkeepers who can balance your books each month, accountants to help you with your taxes at the end of the year and even part-time CFO’s who can give you broader advice on business growth, cash flow and tax implications. The time savings is worth every penny, and again peace of mind…priceless.

Graphic Design

Unless you are a trained graphic designer, don’t do your logo, website, business cards, or other graphics your business needs. This DIY will leave your business looking unprofessional and foolish. Even the professionally designed templates can leave your business with a “paint by numbers” feel, not good! There are many great freelance designers ready to upgrade your brand identity at very acceptable costs, just ask your network of business owners for a trusted referral.

Web Development

Yes, anyone can create a basic website, but if you’ve spent any time working with Word Press or other DIY sites you already know this is a lot tougher and time consuming than it looks. Again reach out to your network for a trusted referral and find a good web developer. Having a freelance developer on retainer who’s familiar with your website or blog can be a life saver when you’re stuck or something breaks.

 Social Media

….Ugh! Really what is the best use of your time? Social media is one of the easiest things to outsource. Just do it!

 Copywriting

Yep, you certainly can write your own content, but should you? If you’re not a professional copy writer you’re an amateur, is this something you really want to leave in the hands of an amateur? Freelance copywriters can be found in abundance just tap into that network of yours and let go of it. If you want to hold on to some control write the first draft and let them polish it for you.

Filing, Data entry or Transcription

Many tasks that don’t require special skills can easily be done by a virtual assistant or part-time office assistant just a few hours a week. Have paperwork to be filed, data to enter, or audio or video transcription to be done? These tasks can be outsourced quickly and easily.

Marketing

Again, unless you are a marketing expert, leave it to the pros — there are many marketing experts who have joined the gig economy and left big businesses to go independent. You can support them in their ventures and save yourself lots of time and money. This covers everything from a direct mail campaigns, email marketing, Facebook and more. Professional skills and experience can make the process quicker, easier and more profitable.

IT and Data

Having someone on retainer to phone when the computers go down is saves a lot of stress for you and your team, not to mention limiting the time your business is down. Beyond that businesses need to understand and interpret all their data in order to make better business decisions. Let someone else fix the computers and sort your data into useful reports, save your time for making key business decisions with that data.

Operations

At the risk of sounding redundant, leave it to the pros. Plain and simple, no business can grow successfully from  start up to millions in revenue without a solid operating system at its core. And I’m not talking about Windows or iOS. I am referring to the people management, communication, growth planning, strategic execution plans, problem solving, and accountability systems and processes. These are the systems and processes that visionary entrepreneurs get a headache from thinking about, so don’t.

There are a rising number of operations advisors and experts available to collaborate with you to create an operating system that will fit your unique culture and business model. Everything from the pre-fabricated systems like; Gazelles, EOS, The Great Game of Business, MAP, etc. to independent operations advisors who will work with you and your team to custom design a system that maximizes your results your way. Also available on a part-time fractional basis, reach out to your network for a trusted referral and find your unique fit.

Household to do list?

Those of you who’ve already outsourced home chores, please share this life saving tip with your network of entrepreneurs, you know the ones who are so busy DIY’ing they can’t see the forest for the trees? Downtime is quite simply a necessary ingredient to every successful business; so pay the kids or hire the neighbor’s kids to handle the raking this fall.

So what are you doing yourself that you should be delegating to the professionals?

What high level high priority activity should you be doing instead?

Who you gonna call?… DIY busters!

 

2016, Is It Going The Way You Planned?

Have You hit your goals so far? Are your initiatives for the year on track for success?

targetIf you’re disappointed with your results so far there’s still time to make some critical changes and ensure your team is pulling in the right direction.

If you were to ask the key people on your team if they knew what you saw as the top priority for your organization this quarter what would they say?

If you asked them to rank the items on their to do lists would their number one priority match what you see as their number one priority?

And if you asked them if they felt like they received clear guidance and direction from you so that they could do their jobs well, what would they say?

Reaching your financial goals requires the work and efforts of the entire team, but frequently leaders don’t communicate with their team as well as they think they are.

No matter how great your vision is it won’t become a reality unless your team members are all pulling in the same direction with the same end goals in mind.

If they are focused on the wrong things or have different priorities than you do, well then it will take you longer to reach your goals. Picture a relay race where your team starts with one runner carrying the baton and that runner decides to keep the baton himself and run all the way with it or he does hand it off but the next runner heads off in the wrong direction taking the team off course. They may eventually finish the race but they won’t win it and it won’t be very impressive.

Entrepreneurs often take their ideas and run with them forgetting to hand off to others who can help get them to their goals, or they do hand them off but they forget to tell the next person on the team what direction the finish line is.

communication-planning
“Oh, you wanted it done this year?”

A communication plan is the key to getting the right things done!

A defined communication path will set clear direction that ensures your team members understand what you want them working on and when. Team alignment is a key part of winning your race. Never underestimate the importance of communication & alignment in reaching your goals.

A communication plan will:

  • Share your vision with your team and ensure everyone knows what the company mission is
  • Deliver clear directions and expectations from you to your team.
  • Get questions answered solve issues and provide clarity and support for your team.
  • provide consistent follow up on expectations; that includes recognition as well as redirection.
  • Keep your team running for the right finish line and on schedule.

If you leverage your vision with talented people receiving clear communication from you, everyone will be racing in the same direction and crossing the finish line a lot faster.

And that is a win for everyone.

It’s not to late to design a communication plan that will put you  on track for a successful 2016!

Call or email to schedule a communication assessment and let me help you hit your goals for 2016.

Suzanne Lyon Mollerud

suzanne@lyon-sfocus.com

612.801.9320