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  • Aspire » Small Business Strategy

    19 Sep


    It takes real effort to stay sharp – in fact most performance (whether it’s you or your team or both) naturally degrades over time if you don’t do anything to address it.

    It’s not rocket science, but this outrageous insight came to me this morning while I was shaving.

    It turns out that I have this issue about changing out my razor blades…I just don’t do it very often.  Not for any specific reason, it just doesn’t cross my mind.

    However when I do finally change the blade – like I did this morning…Wow!  Huge difference!  The razor doesn’t pull anymore.  No burns, no cuts!  The whole process is smooth.  It’s faster…and the end result is much better!  It’s a completely different experience (and outcome).

    Realistically I should have changed the blade weeks ago…but I didn’t consciously notice that the performance was degrading.  The old blade technically still worked…just not as well.  Because I wasn’t paying attention my morning shaving process had become a lot less effective.

    What are you not paying attention to?

    The world moves fast and most of us are spending our time and effort just to keep up the pace.  We fight fires.  We deal with the squeaky wheels and basically ignore everything else due to lack of time or energy.

    But while you’re ignoring aspects of your business, the performance is degrading.

    How about that website that you built 3 or 4 years ago?  Is it still performing for you the way it did when you launched it?  (Did it ever perform for you?).

    How about your back office systems?  Is there a better…maybe a more automated way to create invoices, take payments, communicate or deliver your services?  Are you spending a lot of time and effort on certain tasks just because that’s the way you’ve always done things?

    Chances are, if you’re still doing things the same way you did a couple of years ago and you haven’t really thought about it, you’ve lost the edge and you’re not performing as well as you could in that area.  It’s not a significant enough issue to shut you down, but over time when many parts of your business aren’t performing well…you’ll have a major issue (kind of like death by a thousand cuts).

    The good news is that when you finally do upgrade you are going to be amazed at how much better things work.  Technology, new ideas or processes, different employees – all of those things can lead you to a new breakthrough way of running your business.  It’s a never ending battle, but by consciously looking at the neglected parts of your business on a regular basis, you can get ahead of the game.  It’s not quite as easy as just putting in a new blade, but it doesn’t have to be hard.

    As an example, I upgraded to a new version of Quickbooks not long ago and I was able to cut a few hours out of my monthly accounting work…not bad for a small investment.

    How about you?  What’s some aspect of your business that needs a refresh?  What process needs to be sharpened or replaced?  What’s something that is holding you back (maybe more than you realize) that you could fix up?  I’d love to hear your thoughts – share them in the comments below.

    Shawn Kinkade  Kansas City Business Coach

    04 Sep


    I was one of those weird people who actually enjoyed physics in college and in fact it still influences how I think.  Here’s an example…Newton’s First Law of Motion states that:

     A body at rest tends to stay at rest and a body in motion tends to stay in motion – unless acted on by an external force.

    The application to business? If your business is stagnant, if you’re feeling stuck…if you’re not seeing growth or momentum, then you have to make a meaningful change (create a new force) to get a new outcome.  Momentum starts with making something happen!

    Have you fallen into a rut with your business?  If things are going fairly well, it’s easy to let up and just kind of coast…and if things are challenging, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and just do what you have to to get by.  Either way, now is the time for you to apply an external force and make a change.  Invest quality time and think about how you’re going to get ahead…what can you do today to create momentum?

    Hopefully the list below can help you brainstorm an idea that will work for you:

    6 Ways to create momentum

    Every business is different and unfortunately there’s not a one size fits all solution when it comes to growing your business, but it’s a safe bet that at least one of the ideas fits your situation and could direct you towards next steps.  Pick the one that resonates the most and take action!

    Addition By Subtraction

    It’s the biggest mistake a business owner can make – many businesses have at least one and maybe several employees that just don’t pull their weight.  In some cases they’re really nice people but they don’t perform.  Or (and this is even worse) they’re very good at the work but they’re poisonous to be around and no one wants to work with them.  Whatever it is, if you have an employee who’s a bad fit, if you don’t have the right people on the bus, you can build up serious momentum just by getting rid of them.

    It’s always difficult to let somebody go but there’s no better time than the present to take some action and get that drag off of your business.

    Question – Do you have an employee that’s holding you back?  What would it take to act on it?

    Straight to the Bottom Line

    Most business owners are under-charging for their services.  Even if you think you’re priced right, it’s worthwhile to at least consider raising your prices.  It’s unlikely you’ll lose business (especially if you haven’t raised prices in the last year or two) and it could have a profound affect.  Raising prices is the only thing you can do that will immediately go straight to the bottom line.  Yes there’s a risk of losing customers, but even if you lost some volume, you’re still likely better off from a profit perspective – check out this table to see the impacts (second page).

    Question – How would your business be impacted if you raised your prices by 10%?  20%? 

    Revisit Your Marketing

    If you’re like most business owners, historically you’ve done some marketing and then you get busy and lose focus.  But you’ve got to have consistency if you want to win at Marketing!  What if you made marketing your strategic priority for the next 90 days and really invested time, effort (and money) into developing the right message and tactics?  Created a calendar to help keep everything on track?  Is it time to finally redo your website and establish some repeatable tactics that will consistently drive opportunities?

    Question – Are you effectively communicating the benefits and the outcomes you deliver?  What would it take to amp up your marketing in the next 90 days?

    Find a Referral Partner or two…

    Everyone wants to get great referrals and one of the best ways to do that is to find a great referral partner.  Find a complementary business that sells to the same clients that you want to work with, someone who sees the world in a similar way to you.  Add in a little creativity around packaging new discounts or find a way to co-marketing and you’ve got a fantastic new sales channel that will help drive new business to you and your new partner.

    Question – Who’s out there as a potential partner?  What product / service complements what you do? What would it take to set up a meeting?  Can you get the ball rolling this week?

    Finally Get that Big Project Done!

    Almost every business owner I know has at least one and usually several big projects that they’ve been ‘working on’ for an unknown period of time. It’s generally a wide range of stuff: 

    • Marketing stuff like redoing a website, developing great content marketing or creating a great newsletter.
    • Getting structured…hiring administrative help to free up time, delegating more, finding a difference maker sales person or employee.
    • New Stuff like rolling out a new set of products / services or revamping the ones you have.

    Whatever it is, what would happen if you really narrowed your focus and committed to getting that one big thing done in the next 90 days? You know it’s a great idea, you’ve been thinking about it forever…now is the time to commit to doing it.

    Question – What project has consistently been on your to do list for a long time?  What’s been holding you back?  How would you get really get started on it?

    Get some Help

    Building momentum is all about taking consistent focused action on great ideas -  you’re capable of doing that on your own, but it’s a lot more likely to happen if you get some help.  Find someone who can help you frame things up, get clear on what your constraints are and help push you to make things happen.  Of course you could always look into a Licensed Professional Business Coach or maybe a  Peer Group Advisory Board, but there are lots of ways to find help – the key is to get someone who will push you and support you.

    Question – Do you have resources or people you know who might be able to help you make something happen?  What’s the next step to getting them on board and helping you?

    This list doesn’t even scratch the surface of stuff you could do and you likely have different opportunities, but the one thing that’s true in every case is you have to take action if you want something to happen. 

    You want to grow your business – what are  you going to do to get the ball rolling?

    What ideas do you have for sparking growth?  I’d love to hear them or any feedback you have on my ideas above.  Share your thoughts in the comments below.

    Shawn Kinkade   Kansas City Business Coach

    04 Jul


    Everyone starts their business with the intent to win…unfortunately many a well intentioned business owner gets derailed along the way and it all comes crashing down.  Sometimes the best way to succeed in the long run is to identify the issues…what’s driving you towards a potential train wreck and then focus on fixing those issues first. 

    To that end, I spent some quality time with my clients and Peer Group Advisory Board members and asked them what qualities or traits were required for long term success as a business owner…and inversely what qualities would guarantee a business train wreck in the long run. 

    That led to the following list.  It’s a pretty powerful collection and odds are you’re dealing with at least a couple of these issues to some degree…but as they say, the first step in solving a problem is admitting that you have one!

    Read More…

    05 Jun

    trapped2  photo by remuz

    It didn’t start out this way. 

    When you first started your business you had a dream, it was exciting…maybe even fun!  Sure there was a lot of hard work, but you can still remember the thrill of your first clients, cashing your first check and the quiet satisfaction of delivering on a job well done.  Unfortunately that seems like a long time ago.  Now you feel more like a caged animal…trapped by a business that demands all of your time and energy and doesn’t give much back in return.

    You’re not alone – according to a recent study, only 40% of small business owners took a vacation last year – some because of lack of money, but many of them because they can’t physically be away from their business for any length of time!  You’re past the point when running harder means you go farther and faster – now running faster only makes the wheel in the cage spin harder!

    Are you a slave to your business?  Here are some surefire ways to tell and more importantly what it takes to escape that slavery.

    Read More…

    03 May

    drinkcoffee  photo by chuckyeager

    I started Aspire 4 years ago, give or take a couple of days, and it’s been a fun, exhausting and enlightening ride so far.  Not only have I had a chance to learn a ton of great things through my own business efforts, but I’ve picked up a lot of amazing things from my clients as well.

    When I started Aspire, I didn’t realize I was ramping up my business a few months before the ‘Great Recession’ started, which has led to some really strong lessons as well (things like living within your means, slow and steady, bootstrap wherever possible, etc.).  It hasn’t been easy and certainly there have been plenty of stumbles and frustrations over the years but there’s also been steady growth and I’ve gained a lot of clarity with each lesson.

    As they say…”If I only knew then what I know now…!”.  Which brings me to the point of this post – I wanted to take a shot at sharing the most useful things I’ve learned over the last few years – hopefully they’ll be helpful to others…and if you’ve got some useful things that I haven’t learned yet, then share them in the comments!

    Read More…