Great Conversations at Step Up to Growing Your Business 

Stepping Up To Leading the Growth of Your Business on Tuesday was fun and energizing. The breakout groups were the high point where everyone shared suggestions and thoughts on the challenges small business face.  Thank you to for sponsoring the lunch. You are invited to join this smal lbusiness network.  But the one hour workshop was too short to get into deciding on a course of action.  We cover decisions that generate value in the two-hour workshop Step Up to Growing Your Business this Tuesday on August 23.

Here are the suggestions and ideas on the three BIG issues from the break out sessions:

Issue One: The complexity and rising cost of marketing without clear results

  • Give top priority to content for marketing since that is what makes you stand out
  • Focus marketing messages, promotion and social media on a consistent marketing theme
  • Keep the tools and steps to publish as simple as possible

Issue Two:  Hiring quality employees, managing turnover and rising wages

  • Hire in stages if you can before making the employee permanent.  Use probationary periods or internships before you make the candidate a permanent employee.
  • Have an on-boarding process so you have lots of opportunities to give feedback and determine the level of trust and confidence in the worker and the work.
  • For tech companies you may want to develop non-traditional recruiting and training processes. Develop a program to hire interns with diverse backgrounds from local colleges and train them for full time positions. The employees are more likely to be loyal because of the career support.  The positive contribution enhances the reputation of the company. The CraneWorks worked with a local tech services company using this hiring strategy and it helped manage turnover.

Issue Three:  How to Manage the Rising Costs of Commercial Rent?

  • The classic response to this issue is to purchase a commercial building. Owning a commercial building supports long-term business and financial strategies, such as retirement and securing financing for future growth.
  • When you negotiate a lease for commercial space build in the right to sublet space. Then you can sublet space to offset partial or the total cost of the lease payments.

In the two-hour workshop Step Up to Growing Your Business on Tuesday, August 23 from7 – 9 p.m. at NextSpace Berkeley use a framework to decide on the number one strategy to act on. 
 Our key topic will be how everything the company does supports revenue generation.

What is Steady Growth?

When I describe The CraneWorks as a steady-growth company people come back with the question, “You mean slow growth?” What I mean by steady growth is determined by the CEO and leadership team. We believe that owners/entrepreneurs have to own their goals to succeed. When owners focus on stategic goals to iimprove cash flow management or to consistently market and promote products and services revenue growth rates can range from10 – 100% or more. That isn’t slow growth. Steady Growth is achieved through strategic thinking and action.

We encourage setting a range of goals and objectives with high and low targets to aim for and learn from.  Items to set goals for are pretty standard and include the external context:

  1. Annual revenue growth rates and objectives based on the market opportunities, industry trends and economic conditions
  2. Acquiring  financing, resources and settig a pace to implement
  3. Evaluating results financial and operating as well as achieving goals which may be social, economic or sustainable impact focused

Steady Growth Works for the Independent Business Owner:

  1. The company reaches for a stretch goal and set targets.  The emphasis in on taking the action steps that achieve end results while sustaining the core operations of the business. You only get results when you complete your strategic growth projects. 
  2. The rate of growth can be as aggressive or conservative as the CEO and leadership team decide and want to manage.  The point is to own the goal and work toward being within the growth target range. A good rate of annual growth may be around 20%, but frequently ambitious owners  frequentlyly reach for 40-60% revenue growth per year. At least one company in The CraneWorks group programs or an advising relationship will break out and hit 100% in the first year after finishing our programs and sustain growth at high levels. 
  3. The leadership team gets used to regular reviews of efforts to grow and improve rather than just report success and failure. When the leadership team sets and owns the goals and targets they frequently exceed the highest target.  Annual financial statement reviews helped two companies we worked with in 2015 recognize they had significantly exceeded their goals for 20% revenue growth goals.  If the company realizes they did not hit the target then the annual review leads focuses on improvements and new ideas to achieve goals and targets before launching the next growth project.

I am always thrilled when I hear from former clients that they keep reaching for new goals, delivering new products or services, deciding to restructure if required and making successful exits confident their decisions are right for them. 

​Here is my sketch for this week.

Experience the Steady Growth Approach at our August Events

You are invited to attend our events and network with other businesses and professionals dedicated to small business growth please register below our August events.  Thank NextSpace Berkeley and for their sponsorship of these events:

​Check out the details of each event and join us to network and explore business growth in the Bay Area
Lunch and Learn, 12 – 1 p.m. August 16
Stepping Up To Leading the Growth of Your Business
Network with other businesses and get strategies to sustain growth in theBay Area.
Click here to reserve your place

Evening workshop, August 23, 7:00 -9:00 p.m. Refreshments  served.
Step Up to Growing Your Business
Take away a big picture of growth opportunities for increasing revenue and growing long-term value.
Click here to register

Thank you to our sponsors:
NextSpace sponsor the training room and sponsor for lunch and evening refreshments
Register below:
We invite you to checkout and join, by clicking here 

End Email Misery

The topic of Email Courage struck a chord in many conversations last week. So this week’s theme is all about having the courage to manage email and not reduce productivity or take over your life! The top three suggestions from myself and others are:

  1. Close email and keep the priority on getting work done
  2. Take control of email
  3. Pick up the phone more often to resolve issues

1. Close email and keep the priority on getting work done
Yipes! I can see you screaming at the suggestion to turn off your email. The point of working is to complete essential tasks, make good decisions and provide great products and services—not get stuck in email for hours every day.
     Every day set your priorities for work that must be completed before you open up your email. Update your daily and weekly to-do lists with an app you like. Identify the top action items or key conversations that have to be completed today or next week, in priority order. Block out the hours needed to complete the high priority tasks today. Then open your email and respond to the highest priority emails only. If you know you can’t complete a response that day then flag it. You can send a very brief message as to when you think you can respond if you think it is necessary.

2. Take control of email
My sister works in a tech company and recently told me she does not go over 100 emails in her inbox. She deletes anything low priority, unclear or informational. She keeps it under control because she hates feeling guilty about not responding. Feeling guilty distracts all of us from focusing on the task at hand. Other people I know use autoresponders, and a voicemail recording that clearly say, “I am unlikely to respond to email unless XXXX; for urgent matters. the best way to reach me is text or phone call.” This kind of message clearly let’s me know how to reach this person.
You can also reduce email time by keeping your email responses short. Do not write novels. Respond to specific and clear requests with brief clear statements. Unclear messages will lead to delays and more back and forth. Cut the number of words in emails by 50% and cut a lot of the time.

3.Pick up the phone more often to resolve issues
If an email raises issues or challenges that are better resolved in a conversation, then have the courage to pick up the phone and call. If you are anxious about an issue potentially escalating, then arrange an in-person meeting before that issue hits email. Prepare for the phone call or meeting in advance by bringing the relevant facts. Stay calm. Clarify and explore ways to resolve the issue so both of you can move ahead.   

Above all, avoid responding to or sending emails that leave room for misinterpretation and possible animosity. Quickly and simply focus on constructive end goals for projects, work and relationships.  

Use email as a tool you control:
1.Close email as needed and prioritize to complete items on your current To Do list
2.Take control of email
3.Use the phone more often to resolve issues
If you’re already in control of your email, you deserve a medal! 
Please share this email with others who suffer from email guilt or frustration, and share your comments and suggestions.

Coming up next: What does steady growth mean for small and mid-size businesses?

Decisions Shape End Results

How are you shaping your decisions for strategic results?
Given the volatility in the economic and financial worlds, strategic thinking and action is more important than ever. But entrepreneurs often forget about strategy under the demands of running the business. Here are three ways to help you find the time and aim for strategic goals and results:
1. What is the best first strategic step?
2. Decide to make time to accomplish strategic goals and decisions.
3. Commit to using your precious time and to thinking and acting more strategically!

1. What is the best first strategic step?
The best first step in thinking and acting strategically is to set a goal to complete one compelling major goal. Debbie Pfisterer, CEO of Blue Heron Inc. dreamed of running a family-focused café serving memorable food near her home. In 2014, Debbie set a goal to open the Cannery Café inside the Hayward Area Historical Society. She needed a strategic approach to be able open the café in 3-4 months. I was pleased to work with Blue Heron using my accelerated growth strategy and project tools. In July, the Cannery Café will celebrate two years of successful operations with top ratings on Yelp. Check out the full case study on Blue Heron and the Cannery Café here. The success of the Café project has led to more strategic goals and projects using our Great Decisions Framework™.

2. Decide to make time to accomplish strategic goals and decisions.
For any business to become “established” in their industry, community, and financial industry, it takes five to seven years. It is critical to build in the operating consistency and future planning to achieve steady steps in revenue and meet financing requirements. The earlier you start planning and taking the steps to manage your personal finances and track business performance, the faster and more effectively you can move toward established levels. Even if you are planning to sell your business, you will get a higher sales price if you demonstrate consistent planning and management. You should be spending at least 2–4 hours per week on strategic goals and achieving desired and measurable outcomes. Reach for a higher purpose than just money. If you can’t find two hours in your schedule, you are adding risk and reducing the value of your business: step back and think about the future.

3. Commit to using your precious time and to thinking and acting more strategically!
We all know time is money—but entrepreneurs so often get distracted by low-value tactical tasks like emailing. If you have a thorny problem to solve, email is never the solution anyway.  I’ll post more about this soon, but when you need to resolve issues or customer problems, do it face to face or at least on the phone. Protect and prioritize your strategic time: turn off the phone, shut down social media or get in early so that you have time to identify and act on your strategic goals and improvements.

Get the full story on Blue Heron and the Cannery Café here.
Complete our quick Free Business Growth Readiness Assessment then request your
​15-minute feedback session using The CraneWorks’ Great Decisions Framework™.

Hope you enjoy our sketch for the week!