A strategic narrative is central to a healthy company’s branding and their decision-making process. It’s the lens through which your small business perceives itself and the lens through which outsiders perceive your small business. It shapes your culture and strategy, casting a vision for the future and illuminating a path to get there. Your strategic narrative is unique to your company’s DNA and sets you apart from industry competitors.
A strategic narrative is a compelling, concise and yet comprehensive story that captures your unique history and your vision as well as the way in which you as the owner, your employees and your customers can participate as co-contributors towards your unfolding story.
On engageforsuccess.org, one writer explains that this narrative “[shows] people your landscape around them and the horizon in front of them.” It gives everyone who engages with your brand a place to belong and a sense of purpose.
A company operating without a strategic narrative is like a rudderless boat on the rough seas – easily tossed by the wind and waves and lacking consistency and vision. A strategic narrative is the rudder that brings clarity, direction and purpose and moves a company towards a bright, foreseeable future.
When your small business implements your unique strategic narrative…
A strong sense of your purpose fueled by your values:
Make sure your narrative clearly states your mission. Why does your company exist? What does your company stand for? What compels you to wake up every day and do what you do?
A clear vision:
Where is your business headed? How are you planning to get there? How can your employees and customers partner with you to move towards your vision?
A strong value proposition:
How does your product or service improve people’s lives? Be bold, specific and authentic.
At Sage Group, we help you tell your story and grow your business. If you want help crafting your strategic narrative, visit our website to connect!
The United Nation’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs created The Agenda for Sustainable Development. This Agenda outlines a plan for “dignity, peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and in the future.” These goals are set in 15-year increments and through a collaboration among business entities worldwide, nearly all of the goals from the past 15 years were accomplished.
Nonprofits and government bodies don’t have the structure to address many of the effects of global economic inequality but business people are nimble and innovative and as such, are able to make a profound impact. Take for example, TOMS Shoes who, for every pair of shoes purchased, donates a pair of shoes to a child or adult in need. As of 2016, TOMS donated over 60 million pairs of shoes in economically impoverished countries such as Argentina, South Africa, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Haiti and Mexico – and dramatically improved the health, safety and quality of life for 60 million people (and counting!).
A recent article in the Miami Herald, “Miami-Dade’s economic inequality is the nation’s second-worst,” acknowledges a “small and shrinking middle class and a large workforce dependent on poorly paid service jobs…on par with Panama and Columbia.” The article cites the disparity between Miami’s richest of the rich and, on account of an economy based largely on hospitality and tourism, the vast majority of the population who earn some of the lowest wages in the nation. On account of the high cost of living and service class wages, many Miamians struggle to pay rent or a mortgage and put food on the table.
Living and working in Miami, the local economic climate tugs at our heartstrings and at the same time, we know that small businesses can make a big impact. This knowledge fuels our passion! That’s why, at Team Sage, we align our mission with The Agenda for Sustainable Development – Goal #8, which “promotes sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.” As Miami-based business coaches, we help Miami business owners run better businesses and pay out better salaries – the living wages that their employees deserve. We are B1G1 champions and champion our local businesses for the benefit of our local and global economy.
If you would like to learn more about how small businesses are making a big impact in the Miami area or are interested in learning more about The Agenda for Sustainable Development, contact us through our website. We would love to speak with you!
Brand fascination may sound a bit mysterious but it’s actually something we are all familiar with in our personal relationships. Do you ever feel like you gravitate towards someone because of their personality or the way they communicate? The same can be said for business relationships. The way you communicate your brand affects whether or not people are drawn into a relationship with your brand. Therefore, positioning your brand to fascinate your audience and draw them in is one key to attracting clients and operating a successful business.
So what are some key components of brand fascination?
Take time to assess what beliefs and values your company is built on and how you are pursuing your mission. Instead of the tendency to conform to the values of your competitors, own your uniqueness. Your company is like no other so quit apologizing for it. Instead, fascinate your audience and create a sense of intrigue by operating out of your unique perspective.
By crafting your ideal customer persona, you can keep your marketing efforts in line with your customers’ interests and needs. Consequently, customers will gravitate towards you and come to view you as an expert in your field. This is brand fascination at its finest and a sure way to grow a successful business.
Everyone loves a good story. What’s yours? Continue to tell your story. It is a huge part of your branding. Over time, your story, your logo and your mission will become more integrated and increase your brand fascination. Also, carefully consider which platforms you’re using to tell your story. The platforms you choose impact the way you share it.
Be who you say you are and boldly live out your story. This builds credibility and helps you grow a loyal customer base. When your brand is perceived as reliable, trustworthy and authentic, more and more people will gravitate towards you and choose to do business with you – and your company will experience the momentum of brand fascination.
At ActionCOACH Team Sage, we fascinate with trust. Trust underpins everything we do. It informs our business development, all aspects of operation and all of our business processes and functions. It’s not about how we see ourselves but about how others see us and how they see our clients. It gives us the verbiage to connect with our ideal clients and it helps our clients do the same. With this sense of clarity, we can help our clients market their businesses and speak to the people they are meant to serve. With this solid foundation in place, innovation can flourish and success is inevitable. If you want help digging into your brand and how you can fascinate to attract your ideal clients, we would love to help. Visit our website to sign up for a complimentary strategic coaching session.
All small businesses are affected by change. It could be something as simple as implementing a new payroll system or as monumental as switching to a new operating system or moving the office to a new location. Even if the change is warranted and the results are promising, change is rarely easy and a large percentage of change efforts fail. So how can leaders set themselves and their teams up for success when it comes to implementing change? It truly all begins with effective change leadership.
When you look at the Clifton StrengthsFinder personality types, effective change leaders can emerge from
any of the four strength domains: Executing, Influencing, Relationship Building or Strategic Thinking and any combination thereof. When you know your StrengthsFinder strengths and where they fall in these four areas, you can dig into ways to improve your effectiveness in implementing change. Some common personality types of effective change leaders include:
Gallup’s book, Strengths-Based Leadership, covers the four attributes that people look for in their leaders as well as how leaders can develop their natural talents to deepen their leadership skills.
Working with their natural wiring, leaders can successfully enact change in many ways. Here are some important components of effective change leadership:
When a leader comes in like a bulldozer and starts implementing change without notice, they take employees off-guard and can trigger a host of negative reactions. However, when a leader communicates clearly from day one and involves employees in pre-change discussion, even in situations where employees are hesitant, they feel respected and often embrace the change as the process moves forward. When proposing a change, here are some key questions you as a leader can address:
The why: Why is this change necessary? Addressing this can be particularly challenging in an environment where employees perceive operations to be humming along just fine as is. When presenting your “why,” it may be necessary to debunk some myths and shed light on ways company operations could stand to improve.
The where: Where will the proposed change take your employees and the company as a whole? Cast a vision for a bright future and all the benefits that await everyone on the other side of this change.
The how: How are you going to move your company from Point A to Point B? Delineate a roadmap with manageable steps that helps your company move into this new, beneficial place.
If you want to be an effective change leader, it’s necessary to involve employees and key stakeholders early on in the decision-making process. Creating a sense of unity around the proposed change will help strengthen employees’ dedication to implementing it. Unify your team for a successful collaborative experience.
Instead of approaching the situation as if you have all the answers, ask questions of and solicit formal and informal feedback from your employees. This will allow you to make effective adjustments and course corrections before and during the implementation phase. It can help open your mind to perspectives and possibilities that only people with their boots on the ground can contribute, unify employees and management and increase the likelihood of a successful outcome.
Want help managing change for success within your organization? Sign up for a complimentary strategic coaching session on our website!
10+ years after the Great Recession of 2006-2007, the U.S. economy is healthy. For the majority of small business owners, taking out loans to fund growth is relatively easy through conventional banking as well as alternative funding sources. Many small businesses sales are strong. But how long will this trend last? History teaches us that the economy ebbs and flows and on the heels of every boom there is an eventual downturn. Currently, there is a sense of uncertainty due to the political and economic climate here in the States and around the world. Additionally, as we come up on an election year in 2020, many people will sit tight and withhold spending. Let’s take a look at how an eventual economic downturn will affect small businesses and what small businesses can do to prepare.
Trends in the small business sector show that of recent, fewer and fewer small businesses are borrowing capital to grow and expand their businesses. More small businesses are focusing on maintaining their operations and profitability. Small businesses sense a shift in the economy earlier than large businesses and currently 43% of small and medium-sized businesses say that an economic downturn is on their radar and they are taking steps to prepare.
Lending comes to a halt: Traditional institutions stop lending to small businesses so credit and capital are restricted. This can spell disaster for unprepared small businesses.
Sales decline: Depending on your industry, your sales can suffer greatly. In an economic downturn, consumers reduce discretionary spending and move into a maintenance mentality. For example, if your business sells recreational vehicles or remodels homes, you will notice a sharp decrease in demand as consumers reduce spending on “extras” in order to focus on necessities.
Suppliers can’t be depended on: Supply chain disruptions are to be expected in tighter financial times. Some suppliers go out of business while others are spread thin and have a difficult time delivering on customer demands. Smaller suppliers are small businesses of their own and will be impacted more than large suppliers.
Even in our current economic boom, according to the PCA Index Survey Responses Trend Analysis by Pepperdine Graziadio Business School and Dun & Bradstreet, 60% of minority-owned businesses are reporting financing difficulties and as a result, a squeeze on business growth. 66% of minority-owned businesses say this squeeze will have a negative impact on hiring in 2019. When an economic downturn does come, minority-owned business who are already experiencing financing challenges will be at even greater risk.
There are a handful of ways small businesses can prepare for a recession.
Diversify your client base: Because a downturn in the economy affects industries differently, make sure if at all possible, that your clients represent a wide range of industries. Avoid putting all your eggs in one basket.
Exercise financial discretion: Operate your business finances in such a way that you’re prepared if revenue gets tight. Think twice before making long-term financial commitments such as signing a lease or hiring new employees.
Secure your financing now: Take that line of credit now when money is easier to come by. Even if you don’t need it at the moment you will have it when you do, and you should only be charged interest on the amount you use.
Consider hiring freelancers and contractors: There’s nothing more painful during tight financial times than instituting layoffs. While layoffs are often necessary to help small businesses stay afloat, consider hiring freelancers or contractors to minimize this possibility. Layoffs affect company morale and can have a devastating effect on hard-working employees and their families.
Is your small business prepared for a recession? Visit our website and sign up for a complimentary strategic coaching session. We’re here to help!
21st century leadership is moving away from the traditional leadership hierarchy of the past and embracing a more approachable leadership style. Leaders are climbing down from their lofty positions of power and forging a more human-to-human connection with their team(s). This shift in leadership styles is largely fueled by research from thought leaders such as Pat Lencioni and Brené Brown who acknowledge the value of empathy in leadership and is driven by employees who, in this age of social media, equate transparency with trustworthiness.
Vulnerability – the precursor to empathy
Our ability to be daring leaders will never be greater than our capacity for vulnerability. – Brené Brown
Empathy is putting ourselves in the shoes of another in order to truly understand their experience. This simply cannot be done without being willing to be vulnerable. When you’re empathetic, you’re taking a risk; you risk feeling something that may be uncomfortable or even painful. The benefit for those willing to be empathetic is connection and fulfillment. Leaders who are willing to be vulnerable and extend empathy forge a connection with their team members that cannot be created any other way.
Employees want transparent leadership
Why is transparent leadership so important? According to “5 Powerful Things Happen When A Leader Is Transparent,” a September 10, 2012 article in Forbes;
“Being transparent is a powerful thing, if you can trust yourself and be trusted by others. The reason most leaders are not transparent is because they believe they will be viewed as less authoritative; that the credentials they worked so hard to attain will lose their power, leverage and gravitas. This is the problem with most leaders, they are not aware of the reality that exists around them. People want to relate to [their] leaders. People want to know that their leaders have experienced the same problems and/or how they have overcome personal hardships.”
“We are all living during a time when people want and expect their leaders to be more human, less perfect and at times a bit vulnerable – regardless of hierarchy or rank.”
Transparency unifies teams, increases trust between team members and their leaders and increases workplace productivity. When a leader exhibits transparency, they allow others to see them without pretense. This creates an environment that fosters vulnerability – which occurs in the context of relationship – and opens up the doors for empathy.
Empathetic leaders foster healthier workplaces
“To scale daring leadership and build courage in teams and organizations, we have to cultivate a culture in which brave work, tough conversations, and whole hearts are the expectation, and armor is not necessary or rewarded. We have to be vigilant about creating a culture in which people feel safe, seen, heard, and respected.’
Conversely, ‘the greatest barrier to courageous leadership is not fear—it’s how we respond to our fear. Our armor—the thoughts, emotions, and behaviors that we use to protect ourselves when we aren’t willing and able to rumble with vulnerability—move us out of alignment with our values, corrode trust with our colleagues and teams, and prevent us from being our most courageous selves.” – Brené Brown
When leaders show up as their true selves and relate to their teams with vulnerability and empathy, a bridge of trust is built. Employees know that they are accepted for who they are, that they are indeed part of a team and that what they contribute matters. When they know that they are valued and can trust their leaders, team members are motivated to do their best and make a difference in their workplace by applying themselves more fully to their work.
How can leaders develop and increase empathy?
Regardless of the size of your business, fostering empathetic leadership will have a positive impact on morale and productivity. Here are some great ways to do this:
Would you like to foster more empathy and engagement in your workplace? Get in touch with us, we have tools and programs specifically designed to help you create this in your workplace!
We’ve acknowledged the employee engagement crisis and established the importance of engaging your employees. But how does an employer go about this? Would adding a soda machine and a ping pong table to your breakroom engage your employees and turn a bigger profit for your company? Most certainly not. Increasing employee engagement requires a clear employee engagement strategy. Here are some important components of an effective strategy:
Be transparent: In order to engage employees, it’s crucial to gain their trust and be relatable. As opposed to the temptation to appear larger than life, foster open and honest communication with those you lead. Tell the truth, admit when you make a mistake and ask for input from employees when it’s appropriate. Your employees will respect your authenticity and repay you with their hard work and dedication.
Clearly communicate expectations: This goes beyond clarifying job descriptions. Alarmingly, according to recent Gallup statistics, only 50% of employees know what is expected of them at work. Make sure your team knows what you expect of them in every aspect of their jobs. Also, set performance goals so they know what they’re working towards. This will keep them from floundering and will fuel their motivation.
Encourage teamwork: Employees who feel disconnected from their co-workers often disengage at work. Combat this by fostering an environment where collaboration and strategic thinking are encouraged and watch your employees thrive.
Encourage growth and development: Do your employees have the tools they need to do their jobs well? Do they have the resources to grow personally and professionally? Is there additional training you could provide for your employees that would spur them on to the next level? Stagnant employees easily become disengaged employees. Equip them with the tools and vision to develop and refine their skills and encourage them to move beyond their current roles in your company.
Allow flexibility: If the nature of the work your team members do allows them to work remotely or set their own schedules, consider offering them this flexibility, even one or two days a week. Also encourage them to step away from their desks frequently throughout the workday to recalibrate. The New York Times reports that employees who take a break every 90 minutes claim a 30% increase in focus and a 50% increase in creativity. Giving employees some control over their time will help combat burnout and create more of a sense of work-life balance.
Empower your employees: Show them that they’re a part of something bigger than themselves and give them a platform to voice their opinions on happenings within the company. When possible, allow them to weigh in on important decisions. When employees have a voice and a sense of mission, they will go above and beyond their minimum responsibilities, work with passion and experience greater job fulfillment.
Recognize employee achievements: Take every opportunity to recognize employees for their contributions, accomplishments and for meeting performance goals. This will motivate your team to continue to strive for excellence and produce quality work.
If you’re interested in diving deeper into employee engagement and learning some effective ways you can engage your team, I will be speaking at the South Florida Business Excellence Forum and Awards in Coral Gables, Florida on January 14, 2019 and we would love to have you join us! Tickets can be purchased online at http://www.sfbefa.com/#tile_tickets_anchor.