Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9 pm ET. This is excerpted from my recent interview with Melanie Benson Strick (@melcoach), America’s Leading Small Business Optimizer who shows fast-paced, creative entrepreneurs how to grow exponentially without overwhelm. Co-author of Entrepreneur Press’s Start Up Guide to Starting an Information Business and having her optimum performance tips featured in Online Marketing Manager Magazine, American Express OPEN Forum, Woman’s Day and FOCUS Magazine, Melanie is a sought after consultant and speaker across the globe. For more information, visit successconnections.com
SmallBizLady: You call yourself a Small Business Optimizer. What does that mean?
Melanie Benson Strick: In order to grow exponentially, a business owner has to be able to discover what works and do it over and over again. When you optimize, you stop creating new things and start making what you have work better. It’s 100 times more profitable.
The problem is that most entrepreneurs get juiced by being creative and they think that means they have to keep creating NEW things. I show business owners how to use that creative energy more profitably by identifying their profit leaks and leveraging their hidden gold to exponentially grow their impact and income.
SmallBizLady: You have a background with a Fortune 500. What did you learn there that affects how you make decisions?
Melanie Benson Strick: For 10 years I worked for a company that designed and implemented communication systems for our public safety agencies. The proposal phase could take 2 – 7 years. A decision to work with a client could literally mean millions of potential revenue…or hundreds of thousands of wasted man hours and budget. Learning to make the decision whether to pursue an opportunity based on a set of criteria that was good for the company became a valuable skill. The company designed a “decision making filter” that allowed us to ask the right questions in order to have the best information to make the right decisions – quickly.
SmallBizLady: What is the value of the right decision to a small business owner?
Melanie Benson Strick: Making decisions is an essential skill to master for any business owner. A decision has the potential to deliver big financial results…or position the business for failure or loss.
Business owners can also set themselves up for more stress and frustration when picking “bright shiny objects” that don’t align with company’s goals/key competencies.
Value can be 6-7 figure boosts to bottom line when picking the most viable opportunities and ideas. But, you have to learn how to weed through distractions to get there.
SmallBizLady: What are the pitfalls that a small business owner can face in their decision making process?
Melanie Benson Strick: Pitfall #1: Chase a Bright Shiny Object that becomes a waste of time, money and resources. These are just distractions/time bandits.
Pitfall #2: Burn out yourself and your team pursuing an opportunity that isn’t profitable in the long term. What may have seemed like a good idea turned out to be the wrong market or positioning.
Pitfall #3: Saying yes for money/ego alone – but doesn’t bring satisfaction or fulfillment; sacrificing too much in the long-run to pursue short term success.
Pitfall #4: Focusing on incremental growth strategies at the expense of a more sustainable exponential growth. This is reactionary vs. proactive.
SmallBizLady: What is a Bright Shiny Object and why is it bad for business?
Melanie Benson Strick: BSO Syndrome is when a creative, visionary entrepreneur chases lots of “fun” ideas that don’t necessarily add value, profit or growth for the business.
Often BSO Syndrome is a direct link to overwhelm, unprofitability and lack of momentum. Too many ideas being pursued diminish the owner’s power and resources.
BSO Syndrome plays out in a new product, strategic partnering, marketing strategies, speaking gigs, social media and even some online visibility opportunities. Basically a BSO is anything that you say yes to that becomes a distraction to your goals or ends up wasting your time, money or energy.
SmallBizLady: What are the criteria you use to make profitable, high-impact decisions?
Melanie Benson Strick: Having criteria for decision making is a massive time saver (and eliminates making rash decisions that end up being a mistake).
The first thing you have to do is learn the difference between your head and your gut. Your “brain” will often get in the way of good instincts.
Then you have to take the time to determine what’s really important to you for energy, resources, time, personal fulfillment and long-term success.
I use a combination of two formulas: 1) THRIVE Formula and 2) High ROI Formula to balance facts with instincts.
SmallBizLady: How does someone determine their THRIVE formula?
Melanie Benson Strick: The THRIVE Formula ensures that you make decisions that are good for the long-term. It ensures alignment with your long-term goals, values and vision of success. By outlining the criteria that position you to THRIVE, it’s easy to make fast decisions that keep you in alignment.
THRIVE includes: short-term priorities, values, genius factors and your lifestyle factors so you make decisions that feel like you are thriving.
Lifestyle factors are things like: how much you want to work, where you want to work, what legacy you want to leave behind, etc.
SmallBizLady: Can you outline what an ROI formula could be for a small business owner?
Melanie Benson Strick: Your ROI Formula gets into more facts & data. This is the numbers side of the game – and often this info is skipped in our race to the finish line.
ROI looks at: what’s the cost to implement, how long till break-even, how long till profitable, what resources do we have to pull off, who on the team will take the lead.
Each of these factors, when answered, will tell us if the opportunity is really the best use of time, money and resources. It’s essential, especially if resources/time is tight.
Balancing the facts and data (the numbers and how) with what’s aligned with your values and priorities provides great insight.
Often my clients have HUGE a-ha here as I’m helping them design their Signature Offerings and Marketing Machine. This can mean difference between struggle & 7 figures.
SmallBizLady: How does making the right decision speed up results?
Melanie Benson Strick: Most entrepreneurs waste valuable time & energy worrying about or flip-flopping on what decision to make. Learning to make fast decisions is essential to optimizing results.
If you have a formula that speeds up the process of making the RIGHT decisions then you’ll have better ROI for your team, your investments and your time.
The cost of making a bad decision can derail your momentum and negatively impact your bottom line. That’s one of the reasons to use your mentor/coach & a process like this.
SmallBizLady: What kind of decisions does this process work best for?
Melanie Benson Strick: You’ll use this system on decisions like: “is this a good product to create,” “what event should I speak at (or attend),” “what new business should I create”. I guide my clients through this formula before they allocate resources for any new venture, partnership or business change.
I once had a client with 20 “businesses” she was trying to manage (all performing poorly). After going through this process she eliminated 12 of the businesses, and then combined 3 together to create her highest performing business ever. She’s catapulted her credibility to new heights simply by focusing on her high ROI opportunity.
SmallBizLady: Can you delegate this decision making system to others on your team?
Melanie Benson Strick: Absolutely. One way we often bottleneck our growth is by holding on to the decision-making process and not empowering key team members.
Consider delegating small “low risk” decisions first. Things under $100 or that have low impact. Build up trust. Eventually, delegate as expertise, autonomy and good track record happen.
Build a formula for things like: evaluating a marketing strategy, filtering out good visibility opportunities from distractions, handling problems, etc. Create a checklist of questions to answer BEFORE they bring you the opportunity. Have them suggest the solution to you.
SmallBizLady: Melanie these have been invaluable tips. How can someone start to optimize their business right away?
Melanie Benson Strick: It starts with deciding that you want to achieve exponential results with less effort. Once you decide that you deserve to reduce overwhelm and be more profitable…
Then the next step is to get clear on WHAT area of your business you need to optimize first? Decision making? Time? Sales? Resources? What will give better ROI if it works better?
I designed a free resource that will help: 15 Commonly Untapped Strategies for Exponential Revenue & Results” at http://www.tiny.cc/optimize. It’s an Easy place to start and overviews 15 opportunities to optimize YOUR business fast. I hope it helps!
And I share great resources all the time here on Twitter & on Facebook.
For more tips on how start or grow your small business subscribe to Melinda Emerson’s blog http://www.succeedasyourownboss.com.