business growth, leadership, strategic

Balancing Act: 4 Tips to Become a Better Strategist and Improviser

As a leader of your business both strategizing and improvising are extremely valuable. It’s a balance between thinking deeply and having quick reflexes.

Yet if you lean too far into thinking strategically, good ideas don’t quickly get implemented and tested. Then YOU get stuck asking too many ‘what if…’ questions, and your business can lose momentum and become sluggish.

Then if you lean too far towards taking immediate action without thinking things through, YOU get too many activities going, things can become reckless, and you’re left cleaning up unintended messes.

Good business leaders know having a plan is a good idea, but they are also good at being able to adapt quickly.

The game of football is very strategic. Specific plays are called for specific situations. Yet once the ball is snapped and the quarterback sees the play isn’t going to work, the QB can make a quick decision to scramble and turn the play into a positive gain. It’s a classic example of strategy + improvisation that is needed to win the game.

Good leaders value having a plan, and they also understand the importance of being able to adapt quickly. As a business owner and leader YOU are are the quarterback of your team.

Yet from my experience, too many business owners don’t invest enough time into the plan, and rely too heavily on just rolling with what’s happening in real time.

Whether letting your business roll without much planning is reckless or not, the result is your business is not living up to your expectations or achieving its full potential.

Here are 4 tips towards being a better strategist AND improviser.

Create a plan but don’t fall in love with it.

Having a bulletproof plan is not the goal. Not having a plan at all is hoping for the best without a roadmap to get there. Y must put in enough deep thought into a plan to guide you and your business, yet you must also remain nimble and humble. Be willing to make adjustments and listen to others input.

I recommend following the K.I.S.S. principle when it comes to planning. I write more about conquering business planning neglect here

Sometimes you’ll get lucky, now take advantage of it.

We know not everything goes as planned. And then there’s times when preparedness meets opportunity and you have to be ready to engage. Luck isn’t a strategy you can count on, but you can take advantage of it.

There’s nothing more lucky than winning the lottery. No skill is required. In business though luck appears at various times. I suggest you embrace it when it comes your way and think deeply about how you might extend it. Otherwise, I suggest you read my article here about embracing the grind of building your business with these tips.

Take the lead, but yield to others and listen.

You own the business and are the presumed leader, so naturally others will yield to you. Remaining open to others is difficult in your position, yet it’s one of the greatest assets of a good leader. Probe for other’s opinions and always acknowledge their contribution.

The topic of leadership is so vast. Most owners leading their business only know a fraction of what’s been written, and few put it into practice consistently. Read more as I discuss 4-ways to lead by following in my article here.

The buck stops here.

As the leader you’ve opened the door to feedback and suggestions, yet no business operates as a democracy. As the sole equity owner you assume the risk and benefits from every decision made for the business. Listen to others and explore options, but don’t procrastinate making key decisions for your business. 

Business ownership is a balance between deep thinking and quick reflexes. It’s a dance between the plan you have, and responding to the unexpected.

You can create a plan, grind it out daily, and yield to others when needed. Yet leading a business isn’t easy and nothing’s guaranteed. 


So instead of wishing for a lucky break, or wishing things were easier, how about you focus on making yourself a better leader of your business? Here are what I consider to be the 4 business building skills you need to transform your business. See if you might agree.


Be sure to Subscribe to my blog so you don’t miss articles as I unpack how to use The PACE Principle to become a better leader for your business.


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business transformation
leadership, strategic

Use This to Initiate Any Transformation

What key ingredient do you need to initiate business transformation?

Curiosity. It’s as simple as that.

It’s the desire to explore things as a way of improving either yourself or the business you own.

In this series of articles I have shared my story about learning and persevering as I restored my now vintage water ski boat. (Check out Part 1 and Part 2 of the Supreme Transformation Series).

This project turned into a perfect metaphor for how an individual transforms as they learn new things. This is especially true when the result matches the big vision they have for the outcome.

A Supreme Transformation for Your Business

While we talk about the need to transform our businesses, what we really need to do is to transform ourselves as business leaders. We need to be more curious and learn what is needed, then follow the sometimes challenging process of learning and persevering.

Our businesses are transforming as the world around us transforms. As business owners we need to learn to transform quicker to keep up as well.

Whether your business is in its early stage, or you’re a veteran business owner, there is one constant to business ownership that can’t be ignored. Over time things are going to change – and you’re going to need to adapt.

And if you are the curious DIY-type like me, you’re going to learn new things and transform as your business transforms.

The tasks I performed apply to building a business as well.

  • First I needed to assess the situation and found the Supreme was operational.
  • I dug deeper as I was cleaning and found other issues needing work.
  • I had to make a big decision about whether to proceed, or punt the project all together.
  • For an early quick-fix, I found a mechanic who could do the tasks I didn’t want to do.
  • I researched the process until gaining confidence, then formed a vision of the best outcome.
  • Using resources I found, and testing through trial and error, I taught myself the skills needed to restore the Supreme to its original beauty.

The lessons I learned apply to building a business as well.

  • You will require patience. There is no quick-fix when it comes to transformation.
  • Everything is a process. When we turn it into a process, we make better progress.
  • It’s going to take longer than anticipated. Rushing will not get the end result you desire.
  • It will take trial and error. Mistakes and miscalculations are going to be made along the way.
  • You will need perseverance. Don’t give up. Do-overs along the way are a fact for any project.

The feelings I gained apply to building a business as well.

  • Building confidence in my ability to tackle difficult projects
  • Teaching valuable lessons I wouldn’t have gained otherwise
  • Learning new skills that can be applied to other projects
  • Gaining greater clarity of what the final outcome looks like
  • Making better decisions through curiosity and digging deeper
  • Greater satisfaction with the outcome knowing what I had to overcome
  • Understanding a process gets better the more you practice

Becoming a better leader for your business as it grows and produces greater results is what business ownership is really about. And by doing so, you gain skills, and lessons, and feelings that can be applied to any business, or any project you choose to explore.

How to Start a Business Transformation

I have been guiding business owners through their journeys for 20 years. I understand and know what it's like to wear all the hats, and make the difficult decisions.

From my learnings and experience I created an original business model called The PACE Principle. In it, I identify 4 essential areas where every business owner needs to focus in order to become a stronger leader for their business.

The PACE Principle is designed to guide business owners on their journey of becoming more proficient leaders for their business. The model’s structure forms a foundation that EVERY business needs: an owner who leads by being Strategic, Analytical, Efficient, and Influential.

The value of The PACE Principle for business owners is that it delivers a simple approach to those seeking something new in how they become better leaders and attain greater business results. It guides them through becoming more Strategic, Analytical, Efficient and Influential for their business.

Be sure to Subscribe to my blog so you don’t miss articles as I unpack how to use The PACE Principle to become a better leader for your business.

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Tools To Create A Strong Business by Creating A Strong Foundation
leadership

4 Ways To Anchor Your Business To A Strong Foundation

What comes to mind when you think of foundation? For me it’s the image of bricks and mortar, like that of a house or commercial foundation.

It’s only after a solid foundation has been set that building can proceed. Yet even these relatively small foundations are vulnerable. They will need support or reinforcement if a building continues to grow.

And what about the foundation for a big city skyscraper, or the Golden Gate Bridge, or even Hoover Dam? Structures this enormous in size are anchored to a solid foundation, but what is that foundation? 

It’s bedrock! And if you want to build a strong business that has the potential to become “enormous” it needs to be anchored to bedrock too.

What is the bedrock of your business? 

Why it’s YOU, of course! You’re the owner. You’re the one leading it. YOU are what gives it a foundation. You are what gives it its purpose for being and the values from which it operates.

You’re not made of rock, or even concrete, yet you’re expected to keep it anchored.

The foundation of a business isn’t about how strong YOU are in keeping it all together while wearing all the hats, and spinning all the plates.

The foundation of a business is the CULTURE you cultivate as your business grows and evolves.

The culture of your business is the bedrock it’s anchored to.

Here’s how you can shape and develop the culture of your business by focusing on the four ESSENTIALS of The PACE Principle:

1. Establish a Culture of Continuous Improvement - Be More Strategic

What amount of time do you invest thinking strategically? The idea of continuous improvement often gets lost in the busy day-to-day operations. Investing quality time to think strategically, be curious, and explore how your business is running must be part of your regular routine.

2. Establish a Culture of Predictable Growth - Be More Analytical

What do the numbers say about your business? If growth is important for your business, clearly understanding how your business makes money is essential. Once you manage your business by the numbers you will see trends and opportunities making growth more predictable.

3. Establish a Culture of Responsibility - Be More Efficient

Which inefficient systems drag on your production and profits? If efficiency is important for your business, then establishing clear points of responsibility is essential. You can't do everything yourself, so you letting go and making others responsible provides you the time to work ON other areas of the business that need your attention.

4. Cultivate Business Culture By Design - Be More Influential

Where could you communicate more effectively? Culture is often created through the actions of the business owner which means you do influence the culture of your business. You can also make it a negative place to work. Simple awareness of this is crucial, and from there you can create a business culture of your own design. What kind of culture or vibe do you have at your workplace?

Creating A Strong Foundation for Your Business

The bottom line is this: Setting a strong foundation for your business starts with you acknowledging that you CAN shape the culture of your business by simply understanding and becoming more proficient in each of these four Business Essentials.

The PACE Principle is designed to guide business owners on their journey of becoming more proficient leaders for their business. The model’s structure forms a foundation that EVERY business needs: an owner who leads by being Strategic, Analytical, Efficient, and Influential.

The value of The PACE Principle is that it delivers a simple approach for business owners seeking something new in how they become better leaders and attain greater business results.

As an owner you may not be made of bedrock, yet you’ve been strong enough to get your business this far. Now explore all four essentials, and when you go deep enough you will find the gaps that will lead your business to the next stage of growth.

Learn more about The PACE Principle and the 4 business building skills: Strategic, Analytical, Efficient, and Influential.

Let's Connect on LinkedIn...

You're welcome to connect with me, Asa Beavers, on LinkedIn and I'll invite you to join my LinkedIn Group: Strategic Leadership Essentials for Entrepreneurs and Other Business Leaders.

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Business Building Skills You Need To Transform Your Business
leadership, performance management

The 4 Business Building Skills You Need To Transform Your Business

To lead a successful business it’s essential to build a solid foundation first, yet some business owners are in such a hurry to grow their business they end up learning a hard lesson: too much growth too soon, or weak systems within the business can cause businesses to topple unexpectedly.

Nothing illustrates this better than trying to stack stones in a fast moving, frigid, North Carolina mountain stream.

Unexpected Inspiration on Business Skills

Recently we took our RV on a late-spring trip into the NC mountains. Earlier in the year we found a small RV park located right on a mountain stream. When we arrived at the park we backed our unit into its space.

Right behind our RV we found this beautiful, gurgling stream. Before setting up camp I walked around to take a better look. What I found was a delightful surprise.  Right there in the stream were stacks of stones people had built and left behind. It was so picturesque and calming. We felt like we hit the jackpot in finding this park and securing a reservation. This was going to be fun!

While the purpose of the trip was to get plenty of down time, we did get away from the park to explore the surrounding area. We found hiking trails to several waterfalls, and went into town to find a local brew pub to take it all in.

Yet the mountain stream was the main show. We spent a lot of time watching and listening to the moving water. It didn’t take long before I began envisioning the stack of stones I was going to build, and leave behind for the next travelers.

At some point it occurred to me. Stacking wet stones in a moving stream is a lot like building a business.

Not only that, it's a perfect metaphor for MY business. Here’s why:

I created an original business model called The PACE Principle. In it, I identify 4 essential areas where every business owner needs to focus in order to become a stronger leader for their business.

The 4 Essential Skills of A Business

The 4 ESSENTIAL areas are: Strategic, Analytical, Efficient, and Influential.

I’ve found over the years that helping an owner get better in each of these areas results in them becoming better leaders of their business, and their business consistently growing.

If you think about it, each of these four essential areas represents a pillar of a strong business foundation, and each of these pillars can stand on their own, just like a stack of stones.

Your Business Foundation Matters

I ventured into the chill mountain stream to try my hand at stacking stones. I quickly learned that finding the next best stone was more difficult than expected. Getting oval shaped, smooth, wet stones with all kinds of imperfections to fit together takes finesse, trial and error, and stacks falling unexpectedly. Not as easy as one might expect, yet one thing became perfectly clear, besides the water.

Stacking stones requires you to start with larger ones, and get progressively smaller as you build. I contend the same goes for building a business. A business owner who has strong Strategic skills may have a good business, yet they may be leaving money on the table if their Analytical and Efficiency skills aren’t as developed. In other words, you may be able to build one stack, but can you build all four?

Here’s the challenge though, business owners who push for fast business growth may not recognize the need for their own personal growth in these four essential areas of business. 

Personal Growth Leading To Business Growth

Think of the four pillars of The PACE Principle as four separate stacks of stones. Every business owner is in the process of building their own stacks within their business. The greater the proficiency they gain in these four pillars, or stacks, the greater the chance their business will grow and thrive under their leadership.

Just like with anything, stacking stones in a mountain stream becomes easier with practice. The same can be said for a business. With practice any business owner can learn to become a stronger leader for their business. 

The PACE Principle is designed to guide business owners on their journey of becoming more proficient leaders for their business. The model’s structure forms a foundation every business needs: an owner who leads by being Strategic, Analytical, Efficient, and Influential.

The value of The PACE Principle is that it delivers a simple approach for business owners seeking something new in how to become better leaders and attain greater business results.

There are so many stones from which to choose when you’re in a mountain stream, or when guiding your business. Leave the smaller stones until the time comes to start building. It’s the stacks with the strong foundations that best survive in the most inclement conditions. 

And consider this, a young kid with a stick can quickly topple a stack of stones, but NOT its foundation.

Learn more about The PACE Principle and the 4 business building skills: Strategic, Analytical, Efficient, and Influential.

Let's Connect on LinkedIn...

You're welcome to connect with me, Asa Beavers, on LinkedIn and I'll invite you to join my LinkedIn Group: Strategic Leadership Essentials for Entrepreneurs and Other Business Leaders.

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leadership, productivity

The Elephant No One Wants to Talk About

Running an effective meeting is like having a really good meal.

You know the sensation when you’ve had a really good meal. The same goes for when you’ve conducted a really effective meeting. You feel satisfied with the experience.

Yet, even when you think you’re getting it right, there’s still something that can CRUSH your ability to consistently have effective meetings. It’s known as the “elephant in the room.”

You’ve probably heard the phrase before, but may not know its meaning: The Oxford English Dictionary gives the first recorded use of the phrase as a simile in The New York Times on June 20, 1959:

“Financing schools has become a problem about equal to having an elephant in the living room. It’s so big you just can’t ignore it.”

Basically, the elephant is an obvious problem or difficult situation people don’t want to talk about because the discussion is considered to be difficult or uncomfortable.

What’s an elephant look like?

Elephants can take on these 3 different forms in the context of having effective meetings:

1. You: The elephant in the room others might not want to discuss is how poorly run your meetings can be. If you feel like meetings can be a waste of time, you are emitting those vibes and your participants are feeling them. When you conduct this kind of meeting – or have meetings for the sake of having meetings – they become tedious, dry, and uninspiring. Since they aren’t contributing to business success, you might as well not have them at all. The elephant here could be your meetings suck, and no one’s telling you.

2. Your Team: Another elephant in the room might be a participant who doesn’t know they are in the ‘hot seat’ for one reason or another. It could be an individual underperforming in their job and everyone knows about it except the individual. Similarly, it could be a participant having personal issues others know about but aren’t supposed to. The elephant here is others talking in hushed tones and under their breath or speaking in code during meetings so as to not break the secret. 

3. Leadership: Or it could very well be the owner of the business, a highly respected founder holding a tight grip to the business he spent a lifetime building. In these meetings, ideas are openly shared, but the final say-so typically rests with the opinion of the senior leader. Participants may feel involved but certainly not empowered, and soon they choose to disengage. The elephant in the room is the senior leader not allowing or trusting the management team to make important decisions affecting them or their teams.

How to conduct effective meetings, elephant free:

First, develop your mindset around having effective meetings instead of having meetings for the sake of meeting. Determine the type of meetings that best serve your business needs, set an agenda for each type of meeting, and stay within a prescribed timeframe.
Acknowledge with the participants when a meeting is productive to encourage more of the same. And remember, it’s kind of like having a really good meal; you want more just like that!
Depending on the type of ‘elephant’, you as the leader must encourage open, honest communication and feedback. Business leaders must use questions to mine for constructive conflict instead of avoiding tension created by uncomfortable conversations.
When you prepare for your meetings you have the ability to ask open-ended questions. This keeps people engaged, leads to more passionate discussion, and ultimately to better decisions.
Finally, you must avoid cooking up a meeting stew. This is what Patrick Lencioni describes in his book Death By Meeting as throwing every type of issue that needs to be discussed into the same meeting. In the effort to not waste time, these meetings become a complete waste of time.
By packing every conceivable topic into a single meeting participants are either overwhelmed or shut down. In the end, the main topic, the reason for calling the meeting, is forgotten, over-shadowed, or watered-down.
Cooking-up meeting stew may have checked off a lot of boxes, but that doesn’t mean it was effective.

This is probably the best advice one can receive:

It comes from the author of The Last Lecture, Randy Pausch, who after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer gave an upbeat lecture from his podium at Carnegie Mellon University. The lecture became a popular YouTube video and lead to the book.“When there’s an elephant in the room, introduce him”. ~ Randy Pausch

Don’t let elephants crush your meetings and make them ineffective.  Call them out.  Make sure you keep evolving your meetings to keep them from going stale.

When you get this right you will be having meetings where each has its own purpose, where engagement is strong, and participants feel empowered to speak freely and make decisions affecting their teams. Having effective meetings is a business essential every successful business leader must master.

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leadership

Clarity Creates Simplicity

Putting yourself in your customers' shoes, forgetting about what you want, and focusing solely on what they really want, is the best way for you to script the outcomes you desire in your business.

Seems simple enough, doesn't it?

In this short video I'm offering up some tips on how you can simplify things by focusing your efforts only on strategies that get your customers what they really want from your business.

Then you get what you want: happy, repeat customers who refer others to you!

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