Good, Better, Best

by Tina Manzer

Freedom is one of the biggest reasons many of you became independent business owners. You can start and stop work each day when you want to, and there’s no one telling you what to do. You call all the shots.

It all works great if you have the discipline to stay focused and consistently follow through. If you don’t, however, that freedom becomes a detriment and your dreams of independent success fly right out the window.

“Maintaining the discipline it takes to be successful doesn’t happen naturally,” says Paul G. Krasnow, author of The Success Code: A Guide for Achieving Your Personal Best in Business and Life. “You’ve got to develop it like any other skill. If you don’t, you’ll get derailed by distractions or become plain-old complacent and your income will reflect that.”

Experiencing real business growth for the first time can keep independent retailers stuck in the first phase of success. Today’s complicated retail environment is no place to get stuck without going for the next phase and the next phase after that. “Building your business is a process made up of a-million-and-one tiny little steps,” says Krasnow. “If you don’t have the discipline to keep pushing for the next step, you’ll never reach it.

He credits his own success to his constant focus on goals, even in the face of setbacks and failure. Following early financial achievement with a chain of clothing stores, he experienced a devastating bankruptcy that forced him to rebuild his life from scratch. He went on to join Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company where he’s been a top producer for 40 years; winner of multiple “Top Agent” awards.

How does he do it? By following “The Success Code.” Here are just a few of Krasnow’s recommendations.

Know your weakness.

Everyone has vulnerabilities, but we often try to cover them up or pretend they don’t exist. Are you a poor time manager, for instance? An even worse people manager? Is it slowing down the momentum of your business?

Until you can acknowledge your shortcomings, you won’t be able to overcome them. Maybe you surf the web too much or chat on the phone too long when you should be planning business strategies. Address your daily distractions so that you can approach your workday in the most efficient and streamlined way possible.

Dream big but plan small.

The best way to get big things done – like opening a new location or moving to a bigger space – is by focusing on each small step along the way. It’s easy for business owners to get bogged down and ultimately overwhelmed by the “bigness” of their goal. Yes, keep your eye on the prize, but don’t let it prevent you from winning it.

Combine something you want to do with something you need to do.

We all have jobs we are tempted to put off: reorganizing product categories and shelf space, choosing a new POS system, or creating clever merchandising displays. The trick to getting them done, says Krasnow, is combining them with other things you enjoy. If you have an idea for organizing the chaos at your cash/wrap counter, for instance, set aside some time after hours and then head into your store with your favorite music, snacks and beverages. Set it up and then review the changes with your team over muffins and coffee the next morning. Make it fun.

Remove temptations and distractions.

The best strategy is “out of sight, out of mind.” Keep your cell phone in your purse or desk drawer. De-clutter your work space. Create an environment that best allows you to get your work done and serve your customers efficiently.

Prioritize tasks.

Complete the hardest and most pressing tasks first. If you need to fire someone, easily a manager’s least favorite job, do it first thing in the morning. Getting the big stressors out of the way helps to make you more productive as the day goes on.

Don’t wait for change to “feel right.”

If you decide to establish a new, more disciplined routine – like arriving at work an hour early, sitting down to eat a healthy lunch rather than grabbing it on the run, or scheduling employee meetings every Monday – understand that change won’t feel comfortable right away. The rule is that it takes 21 days, on average, for a person to form a new habit.

Krasnow recommends embracing the feeling of “wrongness” because it’s only temporary. If you’re having trouble making the change a habit, start by changing only one part of it and keep adding on.

Stay on top of your goals and track your progress.

Review your goals each morning (maybe during that “one-hour early” you’ve been trying to add to your day). Pick a quiet time or place to meditate on what you want to achieve in the short- and long-term. Do you want to introduce your customers to a new technique and product category? Make room for gallery space? Train every employee on effective sales techniques? Write down your progress each day and acknowledge your achievements. Examine your list each week to see if you need to adjust or stay the course.

Get the right support.

Surround yourself with friends, family and employees who are enthusiastic and supportive of your business. They will help you stay on course. At the same time, take a moment to identify some blockers in your day-to-day commitment to discipline and remove them.

Forgive yourself and move forward.

Even the most disciplined among us realize that things don’t always go according to plan. When you have a setback, acknowledge what caused it and move on. Use each one as a learning experience. Resentment and unaddressed feelings can slow you down. Face them directly, take action to fix them, and forgive yourself.

“With enough discipline and passion, your day-to-day tasks can become more meaningful and inspiring as stepping stones to surpass your goals.”

Paul Krasnow enjoys teaching others about the mindset of resilience and the skill set it takes to prosper in any environment. For more information, visit

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