Grow Your Business, Make Great Decisions

After dealing with health issues since the beginning of the year I am back and focused on business growth more than ever.  This is now The Great Decisions Blog. Each blog post will focus on one key decisions owners have to make to grow.
The key decision for this post is: 
Making the decision to grow your business
Many owners want to grow their business, but a clear decision keeps getting put off because of daily pressures, fear of taking the risk to grow or unsure about what business growth really means and the best route for the business to take. If you have questions about growing your business attend our events in April and May.
Panel:  How to Grow Your Business and Make a Better Economy FREE
Darlene Crane Moderator successful patterns for business growth in consumer, professional and B2B services Attorney Roseanne Torres, Esq. and Debbie Pfisterer, CEO Blue Heron Inc.   
Date: Friday, April 28, 2017, Time: 8:30am No registration required
Location: Sherman Balch Pavilion, St. Rose Hospital, Hayward
By the Latino Business Roundtable of the Hayward Chamber Commerce.

​Workshops:  LEVEL UP!! Business Growth Practices for Real People
​May 2 and May 7

​To help you get started thinking about growing your business now read more…

Here are some of the most frequent reasons to grow a business in the next year or two.
Circle up to three reasons why you would decide to grow your business now.

  1.  Your need to increase sales and cash flow to break even
  2.  Build up reserves in case of changes in the economy, your industry or market
  3. Increase revenue  30 – 100% by distributing new products
  4.  Buy another company to increase contracting capacity
  5.  Increase revenue and earnings to improve living conditions and save for retirement
  6.  Achieve your greatest professional ambition and purpose
  7.  Other motivation to grow::________________________________________________

Now decide what is the number one reason to grow your business and put a star by it.
If you have difficulty making a decision about the number one reason to grow your business, you can

  • Do more research on your industry and the local economy
  • Interview customers or industry experts
  • Get input from peers.

The following story illustrates how business growth can be done with focus and persistence. I was pleased to hear from a past participant in one of our small business growth programs.  As an experienced construction project manager he could get work from a prior employer to cover baseline expenses.  He came into the program to double his earnings to have a better lifestyle and cushion. In a year after finishing the program he was very excited because he found his ideal customer niche and had reached his revenue goal. He now had the tools and successful results to keep growing his business.   
If you are asking questions about growing your business get answers at the panel and workshops on April 28 in Hayward and Oakland  .

For more insights into the real purpose of a business check out the article below from McKinsey & Company the leading consulting firm to CEOs click on the link:

Get the Great Decisions Framework at December 6 Workshop: Achieve Your Business Growth Goals in 2017


I am very excited that our workshop Achieve Your Business Growth Goals in 2017 with the Great Decisions Framework will be video streamed on Facebook starting at 6 p.m. 12/6, on the Townsquared Facebook page.  

​For those or you who want to network and attend the live experience, please join us at Oakstop in Oakland on Broadway.

Click here to Register 
Enter Promo Code GDF2017 for the lowest price

In this workshop you’ll learn to uuse The Great Decisions Framework (GDF) to get focused and energized by creating  your 2017 Vision of Success. Then turn the vision into business strategy. Next, set strategic objectives and take away your number one action item to complete in the next 30 days. Take home the brand new Great Decisions Workbook.

Location: OakStop, 1721 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94612
Mandela Meeting Room in the lower level

Near BART 14th Street Exit, Parking on the street or nearby lots.

5:00–6:00pm Networking and Holiday Reception
6:008:00 Workshop (join live stream on Townsquared Facebook page)
8:008:30 Networking and wrap-up

The purpose of the Great Decisions Framework is to help business owners and leaders avoid pitfalls and make effective decisions on a daily basis and be ready challenging decisions effecting the business and their lives. The framework helps business owners manage the increasing intersection of business, people and technology.
Recently, I got a call from a former client who needed help with a critical decision. I spent the next couple of hours with this person. All the data was there but the final decision was still not clear. So I suggested we go for drink to relax and let the decision surface. The person did take some time off the next day and the decision was clear. Business negotiations moved forward.
The pitfall in this situation was pressing for a decision. Releasing the tension allowed the individual to evaluate the options better. Relaxing the mind helped the individual open up their thinking and honor  their values and personal goals related to the decision. Learn more next week.

Sixty Million People Make Up Gig Workforce, Larger and Potentially More Valuable than Assumed per McKinsey


Research from McKinsey & Company, one of the leading consulting firms, provides deeper understanding of the Gig Workforce.  The Gig Workforce is the growing number of freelance workers,contractors and independent businesses since the Great Recession.  In October, McKinsey reported that the gig workforce is much bigger than previously thought. “Up to 30% of working-age people in the United States and Western Europe are engaging in independent work, either as their primary source or supplemental source of income,” said Susan Lund, partner at the McKinsey Think Tank.  About 60 million people in the U.S. are in the domestic gig workforce. Furthermore, 70 per cent of these people choose to be independent to have more creativity and more opportunity to learn and grow. 

It was great to see that the study shattered the common perceptions that the gig economy was composed of primarily Uber and Lyft drivers.  The report did not mention that many Uber and Lyft drivers may be between jobs while they look for professional or career satisfying positions.  The report noted that these independents do grow into businesses and hire other contractors or employees.

What is important to me was the last line of the report which noted that gig workers represent all ages, genders, incomes and education levels.  They acknowledge that “independent work is growing and we (in America) need to redesign what it means to have a career or a job.”
I am pleased to see that the talent and business moxie of 60 million people is finally recognized as an important sector of the economy. 

My research indicates about 15% of independent workers and solopreneurs do form businesses and continue to grow.  For those 9 million future independent growth businesses here are my three tips from transforming from a solopreneur to a business:

1.Validate customer demand and the profile of your ideal customer
2.Create a vision of success for your business and hold on to it
3.Learn about business at a pace you can absorb and make improvements in your business
1.Validate Customer Demand and the Profile of Your Ideal Customer

First, think about who your current ideal customers are who recognize your value. Write down the key characteristics of these customers. Also describe customers that do not work out as expected. You want to avoid taking on clients with those characteristics.  For consumer products and services, business owners have to be specific about demographic characteristics of customers like age, gender, cultural profile and lifestyle.  With public information verify the number of ideal potential  customers and find out where they gather.   

2.Create a Vision of Success for Your Business

If you and your family are dependent partially or fully on cash flow from your independent business activities, then plan and work to be successful.  Start with describing, visualizing and setting goals for the success of your business.  Be realistic and aim for a sales level that covers your baseline needs and allows for cash to invest in future growth.  Growth may require a credit line or capital from friends, family or crowd funding. 

3.Learn About Business at a Pace You Can Absorb and Make Improvements in You and Your Business Work
You are now in business so learn about it. You can start with free workshops on money management, marketing and sales, and staff hiring and management.  It is also important to learn about yourself especially your strengths and weaknesses.  Of course build on your strengths.  If you are a good writer then improving your marketing and communications skills can help initially.  But at some point you have to decide if paying for marketing and promotion assistance is better so you can lead your staff toward your vision of success.

As independents, we have to acknowledge our shortcomings and make improvements in our skills and behaviors. We have to be honest about our receptivity to making change or hire a specialist to just close the gap.  Beating ourselves up or ignoring our gaps is non-productive.  Our job as owners is to fix problems and keep moving forward.  We have to manage the whole business to be successful.

Italian Fashion Week Makes a Statement

After writing the last blog post on Marc Jacobs, Italy’s Fashion Week in Milan illustrated the other end of the spectrum with a collective strategic statement on both American politics and the next stage of women’s equality. Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi kicked off Fashion Week by saying, “We’re all looking at what will happen, and we will be available to welcome the new President of America—whoever she may be.” The review of the collections revealed how fashion can support the changing role of women and insights as women seek power in politics and business.

A Shift in Fashion from Power through Sex to Self-Confidence with Power
In her New York Times article,  journalist Vanessa Friedman offered this very insightful comment on the Milan Fashion Week: “It crystallized a shift in emphasis from clothes that communicate power-through-sex to power-through-self-confidence. It’s a pretty significant change, and probably not coincidental.”  

The designers’ cooperative approach to selling products sent a compelling and impressive message to their customers, industry and the political stage. Designers including Bottega Veneta, Versace, Jill Sanders and Marni all showed clothing lines that set a tone for the commercial markets of what stylish woman leaders can wear in government, professional careers and as business leaders. Versace was quoted as saying it is “time for a woman to take the lead.” Real dresses without cut outs were showcased along with suits with big shoulders in pin-stripe fabrics and stylish boomer jackets

Confidence to Lead is Not Quite There
The progression of women seeking self-empowerment to women confidently seeking power in government and industry is a major shift that U.S. women have not fully embraced.  A recent study by the New York Times indicated that while women are pleased about a woman running for President, they are still not seeking leadership at the same rate men do. About one in two men want a leadership role in government and business. About 40% of Black women but only 25% of White women want leadership roles in government and business. Statistics for Latina, Asian and other women were not provided. 

Confidence, as we all know, comes from more than clothes. Women and people of color will be the majority of small business owners by 2018, per the U.S. Census. In business, women can gain confidence and stature by doing more to manage and develop products that are relevant to the majority of the population. In addition, we can expand distribution to more communities which benefit the larger economy.

To aid in these efforts, I am finally (after years of careful refinement) rolling out my value-creation decision and implementation frameworks. The Great Decisions Framework™ (GDF) and the Seeing Solutions Map™ (SSM) are strategic thinking and action frameworks that have been taught to over a thousand graduate students and used with hundreds of managers and business owners over twenty years. This rollout will include webinars to be released in October, ongoing half-day workshops starting in December, and eight-week implementation programs in 2017.

If you have questions contact me at

Marc Jacobs’ Team:  Small Decisions Make for a Big Blow Up

​I have to comment on the decision making of the Marc Jacobs team for the New York Fashion Week runway show with faux dreadlock hairdos. This internet blow up is an example of business decisions made without knowledge and sensitivity to the social and cultural envirnment that can affect a major product launch. The New York Times article on Sunday pointed out how the big and little players in the Marc Jacob show were uninformed, insensitive and unprepared for the blowback. 
(Faux Locs, A Real Uproar. NYT 09/18/16)

Last Thursday, the Marc Jacobs models had their hairdos structured as faux dreadlocks out of multicolored yarn for his New York Fashion Week show. When the pictures hit the Internet it triggered a social media blow up about cultural appropriation. Comments by Black women highlighted the double standards for high-fashion Caucasian models wearing dreadlocks, versus Black women or anyone with non-traditional hair as not being a good fit to hire into companies. 

These are my comments from a business point of view on how social/cultural awareness and sensitivity are now essential elements of marketing research, communications, product development and sales promotion. I am struck by the lack of product marketing, planning and decision making at all levels of the hair debacle by Marc Jacobs, Guido Palau (the hair stylist), and Jena Counts (the hair-piece artisan). Even if you are “just” a team member or a task doer, you want to make sure you as the little guy in a chain of decision making have both local market information and a voice with the decision makers to achieve a desirable market and customer experience. 
Marc Jacobs’ initial response to the negative social media comments set off another blow back, but he finally apologized Tuesday afternoon. Mr. Jacobs did not anticipate nor test his dramatic hair styles on a diverse audience. He got a lot of publicity but the headlines were not about his clothes and designs. 
All business is local
The hair designer Guido Palau said he was inspired by a “mishmash of things” from punk rock to Japanese Harajuku styles. He forgot that all business is local. In a U.S. show, sensitivity and respect for the role of hair in the African American and all ethnic communities is essential. More than anyone on the runway show team, he should know how much time and money diverse women spend straightening, dying and styling hair to appear in public with “good hair.” Alicia Keys’ statement to style her own hair and not wear makeup is a powerful role model for me as a women of color to let my hair go where it wants to.

The very last paragraph in the article mentioned the artisan Jena Counts who constructed the hairpieces. She was quoted as saying, “It is so hurtful to me. It was never in my head that it would be brought up as an issue. I don’t understand why they would react that way.” 

She may feel hurt now, but hopefully she can turn it into a learning moment for herself, small business owners, contractors or team members who assume there is little risk by being the quiet dutiful task-doer on the team. As a part of a highly visible project, she can take responsibility for understanding trends in her industry, location and asking if the concept had been previewed with a diverse group. She could have even asked for a focus group with diverse women to develop styles they loved and felt were respectful of their social, cultural communities and values. 

This runway show could have been a great success, building trust with new customer segments in the lucrative New York and broader U.S. market. Testing for audience response from strangers on the street is one of the best tests before any consumer product launch. 

If you are a contractor or business owner of any size, prepare for high visibility opportunities. Define your guidelines for success for these big opportunities. Be sure to ask questions to bring to the surface issues and risks that must be addressed before you go public and hit the Internet. Be the leader who delivers the project or product results that generate trust and confidence with your ideal customers and public. 

Feel free to modify these guidelines to use as you build public visibility:

  • Be clear on your business values and how they help you and your team be successful
  • Clearly define the public reaction you want to generate from specific audiences
  • Surface risks or challenges that could result from going public and address the issues
  • Do the market research and anticipate possible internet reactions
  • Be actively involved in the decision-making process for products you contribute to in any way

Here are some questions for you:
What do you think about this controversy?
Do you have other ideas for how the Marc Jacobs team could have been successful? 
What are you doing to build the voice you want to be known for on the Internet?
How have you dealt with difficult internet conversation you may have experienced?

Webinars and webinars and workshops in October.