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!

The economy may be slow but you CAN grow your business

 Surefooted, steady-going growth works!
Successful business owners are able to grow in good and bad times alike because they:

  1. Know their strengths well and build on them
  2. Face the crucial business gaps, then narrow them
  3. Aim for the revenue levels you must have to sustain the business

Know your strengths well and build on them:

In saturated markets like law, architecture, wellness, IT services or consumer services it is crucial to identify your distinct strengths and keep building on them. Look at all your work, research markets and explore niches that you can uniquely serve in a way that is hard to copy. Define products that could be patented and distributed. On our website  see that Jenny Kassan, Jenny Kassan Consulting, launched two nationally recognized companies by building on her expertise in the non-profit  and public sectors. She helped write the laws that launched Crowd Funding and launched programs and services to provide small businesses with more options to acquire capital. 

Face the crucial business gaps, then narrow them:

Entrepreneurs have a higher likelihood of realizing business results from growth strategies if you recognize and narrow crucial operating gaps. Do this before you invest significantly into a growth project. One of the operating gaps I see the most is unreliable accounting and financial statements.  The financial gap is the easiest to fix by finding and paying for reliable bookkeeping and CPA services.  The second gap is the entrepreneur doing too much of the market research and positioning necessary for growth and expansion projects.   Entrepreneurs may be too close to the business to critically explore their own markets and niches.  You can close this gap by bringing in interns from business schools majoring in marketing, hire professionals or search for or buy independent market research reports. 

Aim for the revenue levels you must have to sustain the business

It is hard to generate sales all the time.  It does not help to start selling new products and servcies and hope you get the revenue you really need.  Set sales goals in steps that get you to the break even level and beyond.  Commit to keep trying to find more strategies and tactics that feel right for you and get results.  Track your sales monthly and if you miss a sales target it does not help to fall into blame.  It is the time to turn to your strengths and feel the confidence they bring you.  With a fresh and stronger mindset think of it as an adventure to find your ideal customer.  Get feedback from your existing ideal customers on your communication and sales approaches.

Steady, surefooted action creates improvement and growth for years to come. Clarify your strengths, find the crucial gaps and develop the sales process that works and is authentically yours. Use one or two of the numerous career skills, leadership and entrepreneurship assessments to identify strengths and gaps. The CraneWorks provides growth readiness assessments for small and mid-size businesses.  The sketch poster below can help you remember these recommendations without having to read the who article.

PCI Crane Consulting is now The CraneWorks

Our company has evolved and our name has too. When I started PCI Crane Consulting over two decades ago with specialties in corporate product development and enterprise projects, I had to get specifics on forming and growing a consulting practice from books and a few generous people. There was no support or published work about how a woman of color might build an independent consulting business integrating finance, technology and program management.

Educated as a research librarian, my role models are authors and anyone who dedicated themselves to recording and sharing knowledge with others. Over the years, I kept all my work documents and illustrations in the hope that these collected works would be useful to others especially other pioneering women, people of color and unique individuals. The CraneWorks will develop and widely distribute the most relevant and valuable content, services and products to businesses that want a repeatable process for growth at a pace they set. 

My husband Steve Crane, Dean of Presidio Graduate School and Chief Financial Officer of
​PCI Crane Consulting, is an advisor and contributor to future products and services. Steve’s expertise in sustainable management and finance complements my work in marketing, product development and steady growth.

Our new logo evokes the voyagers of the Pacific Islands who sailed immense distances to discover, settle and stay connected. The twin sails of the Islanders’ traditional catamaran represent the love Steve and I have not only for my home state of Hawaii but our respect for island cultures and passion for the value local businesses of many sizes and industries bring to communities.

We look forward to helping your company thrive. Welcome!

Darlene Crane
President, The CraneWorks

Figure out your path to business growth—learn from the experience of Santa Cruz-based entrepreneurs  

I have been working with companies across the Bay Area for many years. Santa Cruz has had four companies—run by very independent thinking and talented business owners—come through my PROPEL Small Business Growth Programs. One of them is Sara Isenberg who publishes Santa Cruz Tech Beat (SCTB). I just wrote an article in in SCTB that I think will be useful for very independent-minded entrepreneurs–check it out here.  

There are many routes to growing a business. Being a tech entrepreneur and creating your own startup is big in the Bay Area. But there are many routes to growing a business. One owner is Julia Gaudinski, Founder of MobileRanger, who recognized that she wanted an accessible process designed for someone who was not from the technology or business industries.

If you’re looking for a more accessible way to grow an independent or privately held business, visit my signature group program called Business Growth Studios here.