Are You Having a Business Identity Crisis?

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When rethinking your business model, different roadblocks spring up along the journey. One that nearly always happens is the business identity crisis: What is my business, and where is it going?

It feels as if you’re starting out all over again with incredibly basic questions. Darn! Again? Didn’t you do this at the very beginning of your business?

Sometimes it feels like you’re sliding backwards toward square one. Don’t worry, you’re not.

It can be frustrating when you are trying to transform your business to have to question your entire business model all over again. Truly — it’s necessary, and a wise move for any seasoned business owner. I see it as a great opportunity during your business reinvention process to pause and re-examine The Nine Big Questions.

Here’s an exercise in big-picture thinking for you and your business:

  1. What do you want from your business: emotionally, financially, intellectually?
  2. What personal values does your business reflect?
  3. Have your personal values changed since the last time you created your business model? If yes, what has to change in your new business model to reflect those new values?
  4. What brand does your business currently have? Do you need to re-brand it?
  5. If you re-brand it, what image/message do you now want to project for your new business model?
  6. Which marketing techniques are working and which ones need to be ditched?
  7. Who do you serve and do you still want to serve this audience?
  8. Who are your best customers? Who are your repeat customers? How can you serve them better?
  9. And the biggest question of all: WHY are you in this business? (Maybe, just maybe, it’s time to get out.)

Don’t Panic

I know that rethinking your business can feel overwhelming. Take a look at these nine questions and pick just one to ponder. Pick a question that calls to you. Trust your intelligence and gut instinct to select a starting place for rethinking and redesigning your business model.

Business re-design is not just about making decisions and implementing plans. It’s about asking questions, getting clarity and finding focus. You’ll be happy you took the time to ask yourself The Nine Big Questions.

So, how about you? Which Big Question is the one that’s on your mind right now?

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Category: Rethinking Your Business
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When a New Business Model Sneaks Up On You

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Claudia didn’t have a “big plan” for redesigning her business. She knew she had outgrown her old business model of working with new mothers as her target audience, and had made the decision to stop actively marketing her business. Then things happened that she couldn’t have foretold.

Recognizing It’s Time to Change

Claudia confides, “I hit a place with my target audience and I never got beyond it. I found that I always had a certain number of clients, which was fine, but it never moved beyond that number of clients. I felt that I needed to go in a different direction.”

“I was kind of banging my head against a wall,” she says. “I started to realize that I wasn’t enjoying writing my ezine anymore, I wasn’t enjoying marketing to new moms. It was hard for me to recognize: I didn’t want it to be true because I had spent so many years doing it and stopping felt like I was failing. The truth was, I wanted to want to do it. I think that if I had been honest with myself, I would have made a switch earlier.”

Claudia recommends that when small business owners feel that something is off, they take a few days and figure out what’s not right. Admitting to yourself that your old business model isn’t working for you anymore is an important first step.

Reinvention from an Unexpected Source

Claudia had tutored teenagers for over a decade, had always had a small number of tutoring clients, and had been teaching a summer class on SAT preparation for several years. Even though she had been tutoring children for quite a while, she didn’t consider this to be a major thrust of her business previously because she wanted to be home with her own child after school hours.

But now that her child is older, and Claudia knew she was unhappy in her old business, she began to close it down and revisit the idea that tutoring could be a viable business model.

“As soon as I closed down my old business,” she says, “In one week, five new tutoring students came to me! It was so bizarre. I suddenly had more students than I knew what to do with. My business just took off.”

Mourning Your Old Business

When you’ve been in business a number of years, you invest a lot of yourself in it. So when you close down your old business completely, you need to be aware of the feelings that can come up.

“I actually felt sad,” says Claudia. “I wish I could say that I was really joyous and happy, but I wasn’t. It felt like a really big loss. I think because it was a business that I put so much into and cared so much about.”

But Claudia has a great philosophy about this business cycle: “People change and I changed. Once I got my mind around that, I realized that it was a really positive thing and once I realized that it was a positive thing, letting my business go was kind of a relief.”

Pausing to Plan

When I asked Claudia, “On a scale of 1 to 10 — one being you’re just starting your tutoring business and ten being that you have a complete new business model — where would you say you are in the arch of building this new business?” she replied, “Four.”

Because Claudia had run a successful business previously, she knows that she needs to design a business model for this new business – for next month and for 10 years from now. She says, “Not only the marketing skills, but the planning and the organizational skills that I learned in my last business, I know I have those assets to take with me in my new business model. Knowing everything I know is going to help me tremendously. I’m actually much better off now than I was when I was starting my life coaching business for new moms!”

So what do you do when your new business comes out of the blue? You step back and take some time to plan the foundation, even as you are conducting the new business work.

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Category: Rethinking Your Business
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Improvement versus Innovation When Transforming Your Business

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How can you tell if you should just go after improvements, or if you should go after true innovation when transforming your business?

Susan M. Grotevant of the University of Minnesota says, “Old organizations, like old people can become set in their ways.” We tiptoe around innovation because it means getting rid of sacred cows, those projects, tasks, products and services we’ve been doing a long time but are no longer profitable, effective or efficient. Instead we settle for improvements, small tweaks that seem like we’re moving forward but really are a smokescreen to real transformation and business reinvention.

Improvement can be defined as small levels of change that have low risk, and typically start with an existing problem or process. There’s nothing wrong with gradual, consistent improvements, and the Kaizen philosophy of  change is being embraced all over the world.

But gradual improvements don’t allow for the type of creative thinking that starts with a clean slate, breakthrough thinking which helps innovate new ways of serving your customer and leapfrogging over your competitors.

Yes, innovation is riskier, but the rewards often outweigh those risks: greater revenue and profitability, thought leadership, and a bottom-up overhaul of how you serve your customers so you can serve them even better than ever.

Which strategy is better for your business reinvention? Both have their place in your strategic thinking, and your long-term goals will help you determine whether innovation or improvement is right for you. Don’t push away innovation because it feels to overwhelming or risky, though. You could be pushing away the future of your business.

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What Does Business Redesign Really Mean?

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The phrase “business redesign” might have you quaking in your boots. After all, who wants to start all over again from scratch?

Ah. I think I can help by offering up a different definition for you to ponder.

Business redesign isn’t about tossing it all away and starting from scratch (unless you really, really want to do that).

Instead, I think of business reinvention as a process of rethinking your current business model and your own goals, and finding places that could use a redesign. Knowing why you’re reinventing your business is the first step in the process of transformation.

There are lots of places where you can rethink and transform your business: your marketing, your target audience, the services and products you sell, the way back-office administration happens, your technology, your scale (national versus local), your resource base, your business and personal goals. You can choose to remodel every single one of these items or pick the one that will give you the biggest bang for the buck.

Some business redesign stories…

One of my clients is a chiropractor and has been doing it for nearly 30 years. But as she gets older, its harder and harder to lift patients off the table and the work itself causes her back and shoulder pain. In addition she feels that she would like to reach a larger audience with her message of being in conscious choice about all aspects of your life and not just following what everyone else tells you to do or think. She will take everything she’s ever learned as a chiropractor and everything she’s been studying and living for the past 30 years and create a new business where she can teach and coach.

One client of mine is taking her existing locally-based business and making into a virtual business that she can conduct from anywhere in the world. This frees her up to travel with her husband and continue to have a business she loves.

Another client of mine stayed in the same industry but changed his service offerings. In the past he had offered sign design and installation to his local customers. Now he’s offering sign management on a national scale to large organizations with multiple locations throughout the USA. He’s taken all his knowledge, experience and connections and put them to work for a new, larger, and more lucrative target audience.

In all these business redesign stories you’ll see a common thread: as a small business owner, your goals, your values, your needs and your lifestyle can change. And you can redesign your business model to reflect these new dreams and move you towards the business and life you want.

You decide how, when and where to transform your business

Business redesign is what you make it. But it’s not making tiny tweaks here and there; it’s shaking up the whole business and marketing models and realigning them to your goals, values and needs.

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Category: Rethinking Your Business, Running a Strong & Efficient Business
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Finding Time to Think About Rethink and Redesign Your Business

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If you’re not busy, raise your hand.

Ha! I knew it!

Everyone is busy. Everyone has a full calendar and a full To Do list.

So where are you supposed to find time to think about the future of your business and how you will redesign it?

Of course you know that you have to find the time to think about the future of your business or it will sneak up on you and bite you in the butt.

A Calendar for Redesign Your Business Model

I can’t offer a miracle time-creator pill (wouldn’t that be cool?). But here’s how I carved out time to plan for my business redesign — maybe some of these tips will work for you.

  1. First I had to figure out the best time of day for me, the time when I’m thinking clearest and the time when I have energy and vitality. For me, that’s early in the morning.
  2. Next, I picked several one-hour time slots each week (8AM – 9AM) and booked an appointment with myself. No phones, no email, no hubby, no cats. I did this for a four-week period, two “self-appointments” per week for a total of 8 hours for the month. This time is used for brain-heavy thinking and planning.
  3. Then I figured out my most dreamy times, the times when my brain is shut off and my heart and intuition are open. 3PM is my mental down time.
  4. I scheduled 4 one-hour appointments in a month (once a week) to visit the lake and just sit for the hour from 3PM – 4PM. No cell phone, no laptop, no paper, no pen. Just me and the waves and the ducks. This time is used to sit quietly and just let whatever comes up to ripple to the surface of my consciousness. I figure if it’s important, I’ll remember it later and write it down, but I don’t want to stop the flow of energy by stopping to write down notes during this one hour “business meditation.”

It might take you a month or two to schedule these appointments with yourself. Just get them on your calendar.

Schedule Business RedesignMega Time

The final thing I did was schedule a business redesign weekend for myself, away from the house. I was lucky that I had a business trip planned so I extended my stay a few days so I could have three days of undivided attention to my business future.

I also used a mastermind group retreat weekend to focus on my business redesign and brainstorm it with my mastermind group colleagues. But you might find a willing friend who will let you stay in their guest room for a few nights and who will understand if you’re incommunicado for part of that time so you can spend quiet time rethink and redesign your business model.

A Question for You

How are you carving out time to devote to planning your next business move? What suggestions do you have for people who know they need to find time to think and dream about transforming their business, but also lead very busy lives? Leave your comments below; I’d love to hear from you!

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Bigger Audience, New Service: Doreen Amatelli’s Business Redesign Story

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Meet Doreen Amatelli, who is right on the verge of launching her redesigned business. I spoke with Doreen about her journey to rethink and reinvent her business and how she plans to take it in a different direction.

She started her first business as a career coach in 2004. She says, “It fit my lifestyle, it was very flexible, it allowed me to work at home and out of the corporate rat race. So I thought that was exactly what I wanted.”

She built her coaching business into a successful, full-time practice. “I did have a thriving practice where I was having my ideal clients come to me very focused on their career development and career aspirations, initially. But then they’d get laid off and our coaching went from being very strategic and open ended and adventure-filled, to very tactical. Clients would say ‘That’s great that I have all these dreams but I really need to get a job by next week.'”

What’s Next?

Within four years of starting her business, Doreen started to think, What’s next for me and my business? She says, “There is a little bit more of me that I wanted to give. I’m in my early 40s and I feel I want to say something: I want to be more informative. I want to share the tools and information I’ve learned over the years with more people. And that’s where my redesign started.”

Because of the changing needs of her clients and her own changing needs, Doreen started to explore new possibilities. She was still 100% committed to personal development topics, but as she puts it, “It’s just the model in which I deliver the services that is changing for me.”

She knew what she didn’t want, but wasn’t sure what she did want. It was a confusing time for her and she did a lot of journaling and working with her own coach to sort through the issues. “I just felt confused and I felt kind of lost — like there was a little bit of a grieving process in there for me. Here’s that dream that I thought I finally found and basically told the world about it, and now I’m not wanting to do that dream business anymore.”

Her Redesign Journey

In her journey through the business redesign phases, she came to realize that she loved when she worked with clients who were open to exploring themselves and what they wanted. Experience had taught Doreen a way to guide them through this process. She also discovered that she loved to teach most of all. “There are tried and true practices that have worked for my clients — and have worked for me, too — why not share that? I wanted a business model where I could impart that knowledge on a regular basis and provide those guidelines and tools to people on more of a massive scale than just one-on-one.”

It took her six months to find clarity on the services she’d offer and her exact target audience. Now she’s positioning herself as a workshop and seminar leader, offering workshops within corporations, and to the public through associations and groups.

Is her redesign process over? “I wouldn’t say I’m finalized, not ready to Put the Pen Down yet. It’s still a work in progress. I’m pursuing my dream but with a lot more experience and realism behind it. My feet are on the ground even though I can see the dream out there that I’m still committed to.”

Is she giving up coaching? Not exactly. She’s taking everything she’s learned as a coach and taking it up a notch. She says, “It’s almost like I gave myself a promotion.”

How About You?

Got a business redesign story? Share it in the comments! I’d love to hear about your journey.

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Category: Business Strategy & Planning, Rethinking Your Business

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