Small + Successful: For Schoolhouse Craft 2011


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In the book, The Boss of You, my co-author and I put forward the premise that success doesn't need to bea bout being big or being small – it’s about being what’s right for you as an entrepreneur. This presentation builds on that perspective and talks about:

- Why small (business) is awesome
- The importance of defining (and redefining) success for yourself
- How to make a small business sustainable
- Tips for when you do want to get bigger

This slide deck accompanied a presentation given at Schoolhouse Craft in Seattle in September 2011.

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  • Overview of what we’re going to talk about today. No details, just one line about each, e.g. 1. Smaller is sometimes better - why small has value and is the better option for some companies. 2. Define success for yourself - We inherit a lot of ideas about what success looks like, so creating your own personal definition is critical. 3. Grow your way - there are ways to stay small while growing & evolving. 4. Be your own best boss - how to manage HR in a small firm (even if it’s just you).\n
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  • Not literally, obviously. But for some businesses, there’s no efficiency of scale. So question the “wisdom” that gets handed down to you from know-it-alls. Stick to your vision and your own business plan.\n- Guy at a party who was always saying this to us during a time when we saw fast growth companies in our business dying all around us. This never sat well for us. Our vision was to grow a sustainable business and a place to build our careers not to make a quick buck.\n\n
  • What size of business feels right to you, will vary for every entrepreneur. Being at a helm of a large business can mean removing yourself from the clients/customers or the delivery of your product/services to instead focusing solely on the tasks of “running a business”. Many business owners who come to the entrepreneurial world due to a passion for a product/service/client base, will find that if they grow their business/experience quickly or through rapid growth, they no longer get to be involved in the thing that made them most passionate in the first place. Example of Sandra Wilson here.\n \n
  • Close relationships, sustainability, slow growth, mitigating risk - these are all valid reasons to want to stay small. Again, if these things are part of your vision for your business, make sure you prioritize them.\nAlso worth noting: small = boutique = potential to make yourself more exclusive & therefore valuable. \nHendrick's Gin "It's not for everyone".\n
  • Worth saying: It’s possible to increase revenues and most importantly profits while staying small. We’ll touch more on how you can redefine growth in ways that work for you later in this presentation.\n
  • Is small number of staff? Types of clients? Number of sales? Number of locations? \nStaying small doesn’t mean you can’t evolve or even expand, it just means you put limits on what growth looks like. \nAce Hotel: still small, never the Hilton but has grown over time. \n\nSo what does small mean to you? What does big look like? Create a list of too small/too big and let’s chat about it.\n\n
  • When you read business news, it’s easy to conclude that profits & growth trump everything else in life and business. Share an anecdote about how after writing a book about it, we still need to revisit this lesson regularly - it’s so easy to compare yourself to others. And this is why it helps to write it down. There was a time, not so long ago, when Emira & I were swapping a single modem cable back & forth between our 2 computers. Now we have a lovely, bright office full of iMacs & staff. It’s easy not to notice that stuff.\n
  • Share some q’s people can ask themselves when they’re crafting this. Slides follow.\n
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  • This isn’t something you do once & forget about. Your def’n of success is like a biography - you have to update it once in a while. You’ll need to revisit it regularly & tweak it, so that it continues to inspire you. So check in every few months & make sure it stays relevant and exciting. (this will lay the foundations for the next section on growing while staying small, so important not to go too deep into that stuff).\n
  • LB & EM share our definition of success (some components off the top of my head: happy, healthy workplace; no overtime / time for personal & family lives; clients we love & who are doing good in the world; comfortable incomes that keep us living & working in beautiful Vancouver; enough profit to keep reinvesting in the company & keep achieving our goals)\n
  • Talk about the lunch I had with Steve Tannock where I came back full of envy. Key lessons for me are: 1) write it down; 2) revisit it regularly (whether that means a sparkly vision board a la Signy or a bi-weekly task in your to-do list); 3) breathe deeply & ask yourself, “What about this do I envy? Do I envy it enough that I want to revise my definition of success?”\n\nSo what will success look like for you? Let’s write some things down. \n
  • So what does yours look like right now? Remember this may change.\n
  • Just because we like being small doesn’t mean we like things to stay exactly the same, or that we aren’t growing in other ways. Let’s talk about some ways you can grow differently.\n
  • Some ways you can expand without getting big: set yourself new challenges; partner with new people; let go of the stuff you no longer want to do; refine your niche & ideal clients. Some of the ways we’ve done this over time have been to simply Talk about some of the ways we’ve done this, e.g. partnering with ADG (?); client acceptance framework; stopping doing WP templates; etc.\n
  • What are some of the factors that contribute to a sustainable small business? Healthy finances, happy staff (even if that’s only you and we’ll talk more about that in the final section of this presentation), and a stimulating work environment, if you can get all that from a so-called small business, why not? Over time what you want and need from your business to feel fulfilled is going to change, it’s likely that it will take money to get there so evolving your business over time is a good idea -- it will also keep you more personally fulfilled. One thing to really focus on here is profit. A lot of fast growth businesses -- a lot of business in general -- will talk about gross revenues, often at really high numbers. Comparing yourself to those numbers when you’re a smaller business can feel really intimidating, but the more valuable comparison is to profit -- numbers that sadly few people share. \n
  • You have your definition of success, you know where you want to go, but things will distract you along the way. While not being willing to revise your vision or respond to new opportunities that may arise could be dangerous, if you’re going to be successful at staying small you’ll need to become very comfortable with saying no to things that don’t work for your definition of success and, in some cases, of letting go of things that no longer work for you. This is where having regular check-ins as a business or just with yourself about what success looks like for you are important. If possible, be able to tie individual products or activities/services within your company to achieving some of your goals, some clients/products may no longer be serving you: be ok with letting them go. \n
  • Maybe share our stubbornness about not hiring help until 5 years in? And talk a bit about how to know when it is time to hire someone. Also discuss what being a good boss for yourself entails: 1) Get help for the stuff you don't want to do, 2) Plan for your own professional development, and 3) Compensate yourself fairly.\n
  • Haul out the old E-Myth thing about how the most important hat you wear is running the business (why? because that’s the only way this evolution/growth stuff we’ve been talking about will happen - otherwise you’ll be stuck in the hamster wheel), and if you can’t find time to do that, you need to figure out how to make time. \n
  • It’s important to budget for things like giving yourself raises, paid vacations, professional/career development, and other benefits. Doing otherwise is a recipe for burnout and/or resenting your staff.\n
  • Share some of the tips we’ve learned (esp. the hard way) - Orchard’s post-it exercise is probably the most obvious thing here, but we might also want to add some tips like not being afraid to place the parameters *you* want on the position (e.g. our first 3-month, P/T contract with Chris where we sought a fellow perfectionist).\n
  • Overview of what we’re going to talk about today. No details, just one line about each, e.g. “1. Smaller is sometimes better - why small has value and is the better option for some companies.”\n
  • Now make time to workshop through some questions/struggles people are having with staying small/being small and being successful.\n
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  • Small + Successful: For Schoolhouse Craft 2011

    1. 1. Small + SuccessfulDefining and Achieving Your Entrepreneurial Goals Emira Mears
    2. 2. Quick PollHow many employees does yourbusiness have?• Just me• 1-3 employees• 4-6• 7-10• More than 10
    3. 3. “We may not bebig…4 lessons i’ve learned:1. Smaller is sometimes better2. Define success for yourself3. Grow your way4. Be your own best boss
    4. 4. Another Quick PollHow many years have you been inbusiness?• Not yet launched• <1 year• 1-3 years• 3-6 years
    5. 5. Lesson #1:Smaller issometimes better.Fact:The myth that “if you’re not growing,you’re dying” could kill you.
    6. 6. Lesson #1:Smaller issometimesbetter.Fact:One size does not fit all.
    7. 7. Lesson #1:Smaller issometimesbetter.Fact:There are real benefits to staying small.
    8. 8. Lesson #1:Smaller issometimes better.Fact:You can grow and stay small at thesame time.
    9. 9. Lesson #1:Smaller issometimesbetter.Fact:Redefine what small means in yourworld.
    10. 10. Lesson #2:Define successfor yourself.Why?If you dont know what success lookslike, you wont recognize it when you
    11. 11. Lesson #2:Define successfor yourself. ?How?Questions to ask yourself.
    12. 12. Fill in the blank:“I’ll know I’msuccessful ?when…”
    13. 13. Questions to ask:What are youcraving most in ?your work life?
    14. 14. How do you wantto feel? ?Questions to ask:
    15. 15. Questions to ask:What kinds ofcustomers willyou be working ?with?
    16. 16. Questions to ask:What kind ofrecognition do ?you want to get?
    17. 17. Questions to ask:What salary &benefits do you ?want to earn?
    18. 18. ?Questions to ask:How busy will yoube?
    19. 19. Lesson #2:Definesuccess foryourself.How?Holding yourself accountable: checkingin & making changes.(Image credit: lululemon athletica on Flickr.)
    20. 20. Lesson #2:Definesuccess foryourself.stay true to yourword:Sticking to your definition when
    21. 21. My Definition:• $ = enough to keep me & my family going• Decent benefits plan• Up to 1 month holiday time• Working no more than 4 days a week• Loving my clients & coworkers• Getting a chance to connect with respected colleagues
    22. 22. Lesson #3:Grow your way.Fact:Small doesnt mean you cant change &evolve.
    23. 23. Lesson #3:Grow your way.Moving thegoalpost:
    24. 24. Lesson #3:Grow your way.Small +sustainable:
    25. 25. Lesson #3:Grow your way.Make peace with“no”:
    26. 26. Lesson #4:Be your own bestboss.Consider this:Get help. Plan for learning. Pay yourselfwell.
    27. 27. Lesson #4:Be your ownbest boss.Fact:Sometimes hiring is the best way tomake time to do your best work.(Image credit: pboyd04 on Flickr.)
    28. 28. Lesson #4:Be your own bestboss.Fact:You deserve benefits as much as thenext person.
    29. 29. Lesson #4:Be your ownbest boss.Planning for newhires:
    30. 30. Let’s recap!1. Smaller is sometimes better2. Define success for yourself (and remember to revisit thisregularly)3. Grow your way4. Be your own best boss
    31. 31. More tips on“growing” while staying
    32. 32. Thank you. Emira Mears @emiramears