(Hint: it isn’t you.)

Most of us who start small businesses didn’t start out in business school. We didn’t read all the textbooks, or learn how to read a balance sheet until we’d gotten far enough to hire an accountant.

We all have lots to learn, especially in the early days. So it’s seductive when we find someone who seems to have it all figured out, and has packaged it up in a shiny, “Follow These Three Sure-Fire Steps” kinda way.

A lot of my clients come to me after having invested a lot of time and money in these systems, and they tell me they feel like failures because:

  • the system didn’t work for them,
  • they never got around to implementing it fully, or
  • something about it just didn’t sit well with them.

I’m of the opinion that while there’s a lot of value in many of these tools and processes, they go about things backwards.

They focus so much on the outcomes – especially the financial ones – that they lose sight of what drives you.

They’re all profit margins and no purpose.
All world domination and no connection.
All quantity and no quality.

The business owners I know aren’t just in it for the $$ – sure, you want to make a healthy living, but there’s something else that gets you moving, keeps you going forward even when things are hard.

99% of the usual planning tools, marketing systems, and cookie-cutter courses are based on assumptions. They assume they know what your version of a successful business looks like – but the truth is, that’s different for everyone. Every great business is built from a set of very personal values, drivers, and preferences – and if you try to simply replicate someone else’s model, without sharing those drivers, that model isn’t going to work for you.

(And that’s not even getting into all the people who just want to sell you what worked for them, without bothering to ask themselves if it even applies to anyone outside their particular circumstances. That’s a whole other rant.)

So instead of jumping straight into planning frameworks, I always start by helping you define success for yourself. That way, when you develop your strategic plans, you’ll have way more clarity, energy, and momentum for moving forward with them.

I know this might sound like more work than following one of those “systems,” but it actually requires way less effort, because you’ll be trusting yourself rather than trying to squeeze yourself into someone else’s cookie-cutter formula.

Put another way: until you’re clear on the business you want to build, and what gets you motivated to move forward on your strategic plans, all the magic formulas in the world won’t move you forward.