Now what? Getting and staying unstuck in the face of constant change in your small business

Editor’s note: This is our first post from our new blogger, Michelle Van Schouwen. We’re very happy to have her on board!

Michelle van Schouwen (Photo courtesy of The Republican)

My father once said to me, “Your job is great! You’re a CEO. You just sit there and think the big thoughts.”

Oh, if only that were true. Like most small business owners, I spend days upon days attending to the urgent rather than the important. When and if the time becomes available to “think the big thoughts” I may find myself feeling more like a gerbil on a wheel than a brilliant entrepreneur.

Unfortunately, for many business owners, this presents a problem in an unforgiving, fast-changing business milieu. Just since the turn of the millennium, we’ve seen two major recessions, accelerating technological advances, tightened bank lending, increasingly extreme weather, a new healthcare scenario, and many other shifts. The ability to manage change – or better yet to leverage it – is key to enjoying continued business success. Being stuck in the day-to-day doesn’t cut it, and in fact creates additional stress for already worried business owners.

I suggest that “getting unstuck” is every bit as important as addressing ordinary business demands. As president of a B2B strategic marketing firm, I have the good fortune to work closely with many company owners, presidents and managers and to witness firsthand the rewards derived from their best thinking. It is indeed possible to step outside the daily grind (and even to sidestep the attendant burn-out) to refresh, rethink and renew, and thus to deal better with whatever comes next.

Here are a few activities and approaches that can engender new ways of thinking and moving forward:

Take your pulse: It is all too easy to assume that business goals should always include growth, larger staffs, more products and services, and higher revenues. Push aside conventional wisdom. Take the time to determine what you want for your business and for yourself. Really, that’s the privilege of ownership, isn’t it?

Create a vision for the next several years: Find and then articulate your vision for your business and your life, and write it down. There are some great online articles and templates to help you create a “visioning” plan (and this doesn’t have to be a long, onerous process). Start by Googling “visioning process” and “visioning exercise.”

Don’t be an island…reach out: Being a business owner can be isolating. Many times, well-meaning family and friends can offer only limited support and advice. Consider identifying, developing and using the knowledgeable support resources you need right now. For example, business and life coaches can offer new perspectives and help you shake out the cobwebs. (I’ve been surprised recently to learn just how many successful business owners engage coaches.) The right CPA, attorney, business broker or M&A professional can provide insight on challenges relevant to their expertise. Creating a business advisory board can provide you with a personalized panel of experts. Attending good conferences or networking events can lead to new contacts and new ideas.

Read on: There are some great recent books that deal with thinking, decision-making and finding new ways to meet business challenges. Some of my newest favorites include Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work as well as Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard, both by Chip and Dan Heath; Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success by Adam M. Grant; Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman; and Leading Change by John Kotter.

Finally, don’t be afraid to throw out what’s not working anymore so you can focus on what could be serving you better: Obsolete services and products, counterproductive people and processes that waste your time have no place in a continually changing business environment. Determine what changes may help create a better future, and then to go forth bravely and make them.

Here’s to the big thoughts.

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Michelle van Schouwen is president of van Schouwen Associates, LLC, a B2B marketing company based in Longmeadow, MA. The company is known for vSALaunch™, its proprietary, modular and scalable system for B2B marketing launches, as well as its expertise in integrated marketing for B2B. Contact Michelle at michelle@vsamarketing.com.

© 2014 Michelle van Schouwen

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