one word

Leadership and Your Word

Keep It Simple

Small business owner have a lot to focus on. Heres a way to keep it simple. Each year I choose a word that represents what I will focus on that year. This year it’s “Self-Care.”

I’m not big on resolutions defined as (To start or stop doing something) Understand, I thrive on accountability.  I own several businesses and accountability is a must for me because it’s the only way to get my desired results.

The one-word idea was introduced to me a few years ago and since then I share it all the time. It’s my non-negotiable for the year. So, I’m including a self-care activity each day. It could be exercise, reading, getting a haircut, a phone call to a friend or a walk in the park. Something that brings me joy and allows me to unplug for a little while. Self-care includes getting enough sleep.

You see, I love what I do and can easily get immersed in a project or idea and want to run with it. In the past this has led to staying up late and throwing off my energy in other areas of my life. I’m sure we can all relate.

My one word helps me to focus on growing to be the best version of myself to best serve my customers/clients, businesses and my family without burning myself out. It’s more than making a living. It’s about making a difference.


Business Owner/Leader Mindset

Most small business owners started as operaters in business. As an operator/technician a to-do list works for the tasks that must get done, but as an owner, you’re responsible for

  • the company’s vision 
  • the company’s brand
  • empowering your team

While many business owners are great at making to-do lists. Not as many have a plan. A to-do list should support a plan and without a plan you feel like you’re spinning you wheels. As a result owners say their busy but, they’re not getting their desired results and wonder why.

Sometimes it’s easier to understand with an example outside of your business. If you want to build a home, chances are you wouldn’t just purchase materials and start building. You would have a plan and revise if needed.

Things to consider

  • Location- Family and work?
  • Size – Growing family or downsizing?
  • Budget – Within your means or get in over your head?
  • Lifestyle – Entertain, hobbies, schools, activities, quiet space?

With a plan you feel in control and confident to go ahead with the build, so why don’t most do this with business ownership?

Many business owners started out doing something we enjoyed and became good at it. Then the idea of business ownership takes over. The challenge is the thing that you’re good at requires different skills from the ones needed as a business owner.

In the past you may have been responsible for an area of business such as production, but as an owner and leader, now you’re responsible for the people who are responsible for production. Even if you have a one-person business, this leadership mindset is needed to grow, otherwise you have yourself a job. If you keep doing and not focus on the planning (strategy), you will find yourself spinning your wheels but not moving forward. I suggest trying the one-word approach to keep you focused and aligned this year. Your team, customers and family will notice that you enjoy your business. You will also feel more in control and confident about the decisions you make. Better decisions will help your bottom line by making your business more profitable and sustainable.

How Does Working With Family Work?

The Debate

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This is a topic I often have with business owners. It can be a controversial topic because it can feel personal. Some will say it can work and others will say it can’t. I say it depends.  It depends on your mindset going into the working relationship.  

  • Looking for cheap help it won’t work.                               
  • Make your decision from fear or the overwhelm of business ownership it won’t work.
  • Take the approach that they should or they owe you in some way, it won’t work.

As a result you or your family member will end up with resentment, which could jeopardize your relationship outside of work. Business success shouldn’t come at the expense of relationships.

If you come from a mindset of you get to work with them instead of you have-to work with them, it makes a difference. Your company culture should work for both family and non-family team members alike.

Three Must-Dos

  • Share your WHY. Money is not a why. Money is the result of working.  What is the real reason you started your business? You could have continued working elsewhere or changed your career. Why did you start a business? We all have a story. Tell yours. Your core values will show up.
  • Only hire family if they have the attitude and skills for the job or position. Sales, Marketing, People, Operations, Finances. If they couldn’t get hired by another company for the same job, why would you hire them or anyone who isn’t a good fit. Formalize their hire the same as other team members with documentation, job descriptions and promotions based on merit.
  • Business ownership is your dream. It may not be theirs. They will learn and developing skills, but they may not be there forever. Don’t pressure them or make them feel obligated. Everyone needs to find their own path.

I have first had experience with this. Tony and I have been working together since 1999. He had the technical experience and I had banking experience. When we started working together, we saw qualities in each other that we hadn’t seen before. We also saw weaknesses. It was easy to be supportive of the other when one of us was stepping out of our comfort zone or building a new skill. When we were both challenged with growth at the same time, it was hard to see the other person’s struggle and difficult to be supportive. With three young children, those were hard times. Once we realized what was happening, we could work through it to be supportive of each other as we built our skill sets and grew personally and professionally.  This made our trust in each other, relationship and business stronger.

Our oldest daughter joined us full time in 2015 and is still working with us. All our children have worked in the business part time when they were young. At work we are Maryann and Tony. Outside of work we are mom and dad. It may feel strange at first, but it works. Some vendors, suppliers or newer team members had no idea our daughter was working with us and were surprised when they found out.

Mindset: Dont Take Family for Granted

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As family, we tend to know a lot about each other so in a work enviornment it’s easy to make assumptions. It’s healthier for the business to treat family with the same respect you would give any team member. Hold them accountable as any team member but don’t be harder on family members which can be easy to do.

  • Appreciate the value, attitude and skills they bring to the business
  • Be open to feedback and new ideas
  • Give them the opportunity to grow and develop skills.

For these reasons, I never pressured my children to work at our transmission shop. My daughter and I were interviewed a couple of years ago. The topic was family businesses. She shared an insight that I heard for the first time. It was interesting that she saw us as more than mom and dad. Seeing what we created and the work that went into it. She wanted to bring value and saw an opportunity to mix old school ways with new ideas and felt that she was contributing, learning and growing and saw us doing the same.

What I know is change is inevitable. Embrace change and grow. Resist it and growth will pass you by. Every team member brings value to your business. Do you see the value in every team member and appreciate them? Your mindset is a choice on how you show up each day.

10 Business Lessons I’ve Learned

Small Business

Whether you’re a new business owner or have been a business owner for decades there are lessons to be learned at each of the 5 stages of business. The key word being learned. While most owners look for ways to be more profitable, profitability is only one part of achieving a healthy business. A healthy business is one that is profitable, sustainable and enjoyable. When focusing only on profits it’s easy to work at a level that is not sustainable or enjoyable. Those closest to you usually try make you aware of it, but letting you know you’re working all of the time. It’s difficult to build a team with a model that is not sustainable or enjoyable even if it is profitable at first.

I’ve learned many lessons over the years that have helped me build a healthy business, by doing the work. The difference between a successful business and an unsuccessful one starts with the owner’s mindset.  

Lessons Learned by Doing

  • BE OPTIMISTIC – Is the glass hapf empty or half full. Having reasonable optimism helps you realize opportunities and attract positive people. This is about how you show up each day. Starting the day with gratitude helps.
  • MAKE DECISIONS​ – Don’t just talk about the problems. Identify them but focus on the solutions and implementing. Take chances by believing in yourself and the people you surround yourself with. Know that everything can be figured out. 
  • YOUR TEAM IS YOUR BIGGEST ASSET – You’re are only as good as the team around you. Hire smart people and allow them to do their job and own their role. If you find yourself telling them what to do, or doing it yourself, you’re not leading. Take care of them.
  • RESPECT EVERY JOB– Look for the dignity and excellence in every role and part of your business. Every person you connect with is important to your business success. Be an example of professionalism each day.
  • ENCOURAGE DISCUSSIONS – Be open to different ideas. Be approachable. Your way is not the only way. People will be open when they feel valued and heard. Appreciate others.
  • WORK ON YOUR BUSINESS MORE THAN IN YOUR BUSINESS – Understand that in the beginning you are doing it all. Don’t use that as an excuse to not look at the big picture. Busy doesn’t mean productive. A business will grow as the owner grows. Develop yourself both personally and professionally.
  • HAVE A VISION AND A MODEL TO MAKE IT HAPPEN​ – What does the end look like? (Vision is the future) Define your success.) How will we get there? (Model is the framework you use daily) Take time to plan your future. Don’t allow it to just happen.
  • ADMIT AND LEARN FROM MISTAKES – Admit mistakes then learn from them so you don’t keep making them. Know someone that hasn’t learned their lesson yet.  Don’t allow yourself to be the bottleneck in your business.
  • ASK FOR HELP – Develop this skill because it’s a strength. If you surround yourself with good people you will be inspired to be your best. Asking for help is NOT a sign of weakness. You’re not supposed to know it all.
  • MAKE TIME FOR BREAKS – Daily moments to clear your head and longer breaks to get away from the day-to-day. Your ideas and creativity will flow. We all have different versions of ourselves. (Parent, Spouse or Partner) Allow yourself time to use your creative imagination.

As a business owner and leadership coach/speaker, I learn something every day from my team, customers/clients, peers and suppliers/vendors. These insights help me to better serve my team, customers/clients and community. (Subscribe to receive my weekly behind the scenes insight emails.) The relationships I build, fuel me and my continued passion to serve trade business owners, the trade industries and the good people in it. You can do the same for your business.