5 Strategy Myths that Hold Your Business Back

Matt never wanted to talk about “strategy”. Whenever it came up he even used the air quotes with his fingers to mock the idea.

He saw it as an unnecessary distraction that didn’t apply to his decades-old business.

He had bought into some of the most dangerous myths about strategic planning – and strategic thinking in general.

Myths like:

  1. My business is too small (or too established) for a strategic plan.
  2. Strategic planning is an expensive, academic exercise with low ROI.
  3. I don’t have time to write a strategic plan. Besides, it will be out of date as soon as it is done.
  4. It’s all in my head and that’s good enough.
  5. My operating work plans have everything I need to succeed.

The truth is that lots of businesses achieve a level of success without having a strategic plan.

They might have been in the right place and the right time. They might have been lucky. Or maybe the founder really was that good.

This kind of accidental (or fortunate) success can be dangerous because it isn’t sustainable.

Thinking strategically, and writing up a simple and actionable plan is essential to avoid or minimize the impacts of the plateaus and stalls that impact every business.

A good plan will help you:

  1. Establish and communicate clear priorities and directions for your business.
  2. Attract and retain excellent team members and partners
  3. Ensure everyone is aligned and working together to achieve your true objectives.
  4. Simplify and accelerate decision-making.
  5. Anticipate and adapt to challenges and opportunities
  6. Prepare for business succession and transition.

Matt agreed that he wanted all of the things that a plan would give him.

But he wasn’t sure where to start – and it seemed like such a big undertaking.

Especially when he was so busy trying to keep up with all of the urgent and important things that packed his calendar.

I’d been in Matt’s shoes before, both as a small business owner and from my corporate life.

I’d also seen how overwhelming the planning process can be.

Luckily I’ve learned how to simplify and streamline the strategic planning process so it is doable – and usable by really busy professionals.

And when we do the work together – all of the various pieces and parts of the business fall into place and everyone starts pulling in the same direction – on purpose – to build the business you really want.

Have you done formal strategic planning before?

What’s worked out well for you? What would you do differently next time?

Doug Brown5 Strategy Myths that Hold Your Business Back
Read More

Why Good Employees Quit

Your team is running like a well-oiled machine. Finally.

You might think that this is the time for a sigh of relief and to focus on other things for a change.

That would be a mistake.

The best CEOs are always working on protecting and developing their team – even when things feel like they are going perfectly. Because they know it’s always easier to get out ahead of a problem than to react when things go badly.

Here are some reasons why companies lose good employees. Don’t let this happen to you.

  1. Lack of Trust & Respect. Make sure you have open lines of communication with your team. Be mindful of work-styles and providing the right level of direction, leadership, and management to match the needs of the situation. If you don’t trust in them, or the knowledge skills or abilities then it is your responsibility to remedy the situation – or to replace the person. Carrying someone on the team who you don’t trust – or who doesn’t trust you – will undermine trust and respect with the rest of the team.
  2. Low Pay. Make sure you are paying your employees fairly for the value they bring. Consider the cost of replacing the team member when considering increases. It’s almost always more expensive to replace a high performer.
  3. Poor Company Culture. Culture may be intangible – but it is really important to your employees (and your customers). The culture you create (or tolerate) will either attract or repel people. If you have a team of loyal productive staff then get curious about what you’re doing right so you can work it into your operating system. If your people are leaving or underperforming then you’ve got to take a hard look at how to improve your culture.
  4. Feeling Overworked and Underappreciated. This is especially dangerous for your high performers who take on more and more responsibility and will be some of the last to complain – until it is too late.
  5. Lack of Growth Opportunities. Make sure you are talking with your employees about how they want to grow, learn and develop. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a promotion – it could be an opportunity to expand their knowledge, skills, or abilities.
  6. No Work-Life Balance. Make sure you respect the lives your employees have outside of work. And while you’re at it – respect it for yourself. Set a good example for your team.

One of the most effective tools to retain good employees is to adopt quarterly development conversations to replace the once-a-year “review”. Quarterly discussions are much less stressful for you and the staff – and they allow for a much more meaningful exchange of ideas and information.

Team development and growth need to be part of your own monthly CEO checklist – especially when things are going great.

Yours in Success,


P.S… If you are concerned about employee retention or engagement then it’s time to set up that free consultation I’ve mentioned before. I’ve only got a few each month – so if you’d like yours just Click HERE and we’ll set it up.

Doug BrownWhy Good Employees Quit
Read More

The 1 Thing You Must Have to Grow Your Business

I used to believe the number 1 thing you need to grow your business is customers.

I was wrong.

Yes, you need customers to have a business.

But the most important thing to grow and scale a profitable business is having the right people on your team to deliver on the promise of your business.

Even if you are a solo professional, you’re going to need people to support you so that you can do the work you’ve been hired for.

In his business building classic book Good to Great, Jim Collins found that companies who made the leap to greatness focused on getting the right people on the bus first.

Getting the right people on your bus isn’t as easy as it used to be. In fact, the tables have turned in recent years from a buyer (employer) market to a seller (employee) market.

Today employees are looking for much more than fair compensation.

They want the opportunity for career growth. They want to be satisfied and feel like they are making a difference – and working toward something that’s aligned with their values.

Use the same discipline you bring to attracting your ideal client or customer to the talent game.

Who are the people you want to attract? What do they value? Why?

What words would they use to describe the work environment that would be most satisfying and engaging?

Let’s say you have the perfect candidate sitting in your office, just waiting to be convinced that you are the very best place for them to work. You can’t throw more money at them.

What would you say?

Would you take the job if the roles were reversed?

These aren’t rhetorical questions.  Take a stab at answering them for real – in writing.

The business you grow (or save) might just be your own.


P.S…  I know first-hand how difficult it is to do this exercise by yourself about your own business. We’re so close to it we’re often blind to the good and the bad. If you want a really clear picture you’re going to need some honest expert guidance. If you do, give me a call. It’s what I do.


Doug BrownThe 1 Thing You Must Have to Grow Your Business
Read More

Check the 4 Pillars of your Practice Foundation

This year shook the foundations of every business. It’s time to find the cracks and make yours stronger so your practice house doesn’t fall – and is ready for the storms ahead.

I’ve been helping attorneys and business professionals repair storm damage and prepare for the future for more than 25 years. This was a norm-shattering year and it’s still not clear what a “new normal” looks like. No matter what lies ahead I do know that certain fundamentals will be there no matter what. And that’s the place to start.

First, let’s toss out the notion that you can either be a licensed professional or a business person. You must be both. To do that successfully you have to learn and apply core business principles you probably haven’t learned or mastered before.

I call these the 4 Pillars of your Practice (Business) Foundation.

  1. The vision, mission, goals, and objectives you set for yourself and your practice.
  2. The problems you solve – and how clearly you focus on those problems.
  3. The clients you solve it for – you can’t be everything to everyone.
  4. Why you do what you do – what you really value drives what you want to create.

So many professionals skip quickly over the first pillar. They are not clear on exactly what they want to accomplish for themselves or their business. They just get going and get sucked into the vortex. Then, years later they may realize that they are working for their business – rather than have their business working for them.

To check the first pillar just answer the following questions – and do it on paper or it’s not really real!

  • What do I really want for myself – and my business (Vision)?
  • What am I doing to make that vision a reality (Mission)?
  • What are my Goals for the next year to move me toward that Mission?
  • What are the interim objectives (or milestones) I’ll use to check my progress?

If you are like most professionals you’ll find that this isn’t quite as easy as it looks – especially if you’re doing it for the first time by yourself. Luckily you’re something of an expert in figuring out difficult things – so you can do this too. And if you’d like some support just reach out and we’ll talk.

Doug BrownCheck the 4 Pillars of your Practice Foundation
Read More

4 Rules for Building Relationships and Referrals

Referrals are one of the most critical elements to building your law practice.

Now that we have a firm grasp of the obvious let’s talk about the more important ideas.  Just how do you actually make referrals happen?   Why does it come so easily to some and not at all to others?   And why don’t they teach this in law school?

Doug Brown4 Rules for Building Relationships and Referrals
Read More

Good is the Enemy of Great

I practiced law for many years as in-house counsel before “crossing over” to the business side.  It was a natural evolution for me because I’ve always had an entrepreneurial mind, seeking out new challenges and building out ideas.  As I took on more business roles I was introduced to a wide array of management and leadership concepts.  One of the best was Jim Collins’ work in Good to Great.  This month I’ll explain some of those concepts and consider how they apply to building a law practice.

Doug BrownGood is the Enemy of Great
Read More

Achieving Your Business Development Goals

The second quarter has begun.  Now is the time to give yourself a “goal checkup” to make sure your on track for the coming year – specifically your business development goals.  You not only need to know how you’re doing – but why things are happening or not.

A great way to do this is to use the SMART construct:  Specific, Measurable,Realistic and Timebound.  

Coach DougAchieving Your Business Development Goals
Read More

Positioning Your Businesss for Success: Productivity @ Work

This is a piece I originally authored for and published in INC. Magazine’s Productivity @ Work feature.
People line up for all sorts of things—to get tickets to a hot show or sporting event, to buy the latest smartphone or tablet device, to rub shoulders with the rich and famous—and the best place to be in any queue is always towards the front. You should think of your business the same way. No matter what product or service you’re selling, when the time comes for your customers or prospects to make a buying decision, you want your business to be top of mind. Here are some tips for making that happen.
Coach DougPositioning Your Businesss for Success: Productivity @ Work
Read More

How to Write a Business Plan – Getting Started

The first step in writing a business plan is to decide whether your idea is a business opportunity – or just a neat idea.

In this post I’ll share some insights on new venture creation as discussed in my class for Post University’s Online MBA Program.    I’ll also provide some links to simple Business Plan Templates to get you started.

Coach DougHow to Write a Business Plan – Getting Started
Read More