Cyndee Lake on Overcoming Barriers to Small-Business Growth

by Susan Johnston on August 28, 2012

Business consultant Cyndee Lake has watched countless small-business owners struggle through growing pains. Their biggest barriers? Not having a long-term strategy and ignoring their own needs.

“Small businesses sometimes feel that they need to be all things to all people, and the very first thing that goes out the window is their own personal well-being,” says Lake, who teaches classes at Intuit (we’re one of her clients). “They’re working crazy hours, doing all-nighters. Next thing they know, they’re completely burnt out.”

However, small-business owners can overcome these barriers by focusing on how they want their business to look in the future. “Give yourself a chance to get really focused on the canvas of what you would like it to be like,” Lake says. “Then work backward. What are the three focus areas that you want to invest people, time, and money in? From your focus areas, you can define your goals.”

Without these clearly defined goals and focus areas, small-business owners may find themselves chasing opportunities that aren’t worth their time or working themselves sick, which can hurt the business over the long term.

Lake compares a small-business owner’s priorities to juggling rubber and glass balls. “The rubber balls can fall,” she says, “but we all have a few things that we’ve identified as glass balls that can fall on the ground and shatter.”

Those glass balls vary, depending on each person’s definition of success, but Lake says it’s important to focus on the core business. In her own business, for instance, she’d love to have an iPhone app; however, first she needs to solidify other aspects of her business, because the app would build on those.

“Sometimes as small-business owners, because we get energy from that really cool idea, we get distracted by it, and we lose our focus on that core thing,” she cautions. “You really need to put your time and energy into those core offerings.”

Lake uses what she calls the GUIDE system, which she says, “gives individuals and businesses a thought process by which they can work through and unlock a level of excellence”:

G — Goals
U — Understanding yourself and others
I — Interactive perspectives to “really understand” your brand.
D — Directional choice, or “knowing and declaring explicitly what your path is,” Lake explains.
E — Engaged example, because “you have to live the work that you’re selling,” she says. “It’s got to be in your DNA and part of who you are.”

Give it a try. Using the GUIDE system can help you make decisions in your personal and professional life that reflect your long-term goals and align with your core values.