by Suanne McGrath Kelly @PlanInMotion
I am an avid reader. When I come across a good story, I am also drawn into the television or movie depiction of the book. It’s often not as good as the original. But it is always exciting to see the characters visualized on paper come to life on screen. Such was the case when I watched the recent HBO mini-series Mildred Pierce, based on the novel by James M. Cain.
I am not critiquing the television rendition or writing a book review. As an independent consultant who has just completed her first year in business, I don’t have time for that. A valuable exercise, however, was to reflect on this past year with my own company, Plan in Motion, Inc, and incorporate inspiration from this fictitious 1930’s female entrepreneur.
Here are 15 practical lessons that still ring true for small business owners today:
1. Always keep your eyes open for opportunity. A business has to fill a need, and who better to identify that need than yourself. You never know where and when you will find this inspiration.
2. Find your “why” (what you’re good at and what makes you tick) and make it your business. You have a better chance of success doing something that matters to you.
3. Read, watch and listen. Once you find your niche, learn everything you can about it and never stop discovering.
4. Anything is possible if you plan and execute properly, and prioritize accordingly. There will always be too much to do so stick to your plan and focus efforts appropriately.
5. Your brand is everything, and everything is your brand. Reflect a positive brand image and ensure your message is clear, concise and consistent.
6. Not every problem is yours to solve. Seek help and expertise when you need it and it will eventually pay off.
7. Leverage your network. Always look for opportunities to network, partner and build alliances.
8. Keep looking for ways to streamline operations and improve efficiency. If you can identify sources of backlog and cut costs in innovative ways, you could gain competitive advantage.
9. Learn from your mistakes, be persistent and keep trying. Figure out how to do it better.
10. Have other things in your life outside of your work. Family, a hobby, time off, whatever… You may love your work but your work won’t love you back.
11. Listen to your children. They often speak the truth even if it is hard to hear or easy to dismiss.
12. Protect yourself and your personal assets.
13. Manage your debt and savings, do not live beyond your means particularly in tough economic and political times. Be practical.
14. Competition is not the end of your business, in fact, it can be healthy for business. It keeps everyone agile and innovating.
15. Stick to your core competency. Growth is good, but make sure you stay true to who you are and what you are good at.
In the story, Mildred comes full circle with business, finances and marriage, learning a lot of tough lessons along the way. Staying focused on your goals and believing in yourself are two qualities that get you through. That, and, recognizing delayed success. A project or initiative may not realize success straight away, but that does not mean it has failed. Give it some time.
The next installment: Running a small to medium sized business with limited resources is tough enough. When it comes to making decisions related to business process improvement or software selection and deployment, it helps to have an experienced management consultant assess your needs. Plan in Motion, Inc. works with you to realize the benefits a new system can bring, ensuring your people, process and technology strategy is aligned with your overall company goals. The upcoming posts review the various stages in the software selection process.
Suanne McGrath-Kelly is President of Plan in Motion Inc. in Toronto. Her passion for problem solving and commitment to help clients achieve successful outcomes has made her a trusted executive advisor. She is a known thought leader and mentor in the business community with active involvement on boards and professional associations. She has published dozens of business technology papers and presented on the topics such as Digital Transformation, C-suite Alignment, and Women in Technology. Beyond her love of all things strategy, she enjoys creativity, cooking and the great outdoors.