Posts Tagged ‘small business development’

WTH are you doing? Overcoming lost self-confidence in business

June 3, 2014

feeling disappointedA small business owner on Facebook recently posted a cry for help.  She said she was wondering “WTH am I doing?”.

Many business owners get the WTH “what the heck” am I doing feeling from time to time.  This probably occurs most frequently after getting rejected and the feelings of disappointment that follow.  You may lose some of your confidence.  It’s ok.  The bottom line is that it is a signal to stop, reflect, plan a strategy, and implement a strategy.

To overcome the feelings of lost self-confidence and anxiety, here is a simple five (5) step plan:

  1. Start by writing down your statement of purpose – Always begin with seeking clarity and with having a clear mission in mind. Reflect on your career and your life and ask write down the answer to this question: “What are you passionate about?”
  2. Next, do a Self SWOT to list your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.  This will give you a quick Strategic Plan outlook.

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By Clovia Hamilton, MBA JD – President

Lemongrass Consulting

(c) 2014. All Rights Reserved. Lemongrass Consulting, Inc


9 Leadership lessons from War Leaders

June 3, 2014

fdr-and-churchillI watched the History Channel’s special entitled “The World Wars” about war leaders such as Mussolini, Douglas MacArthur, FDR, Winston Churchill, and Adolph Hitler.  I have counseled hundreds of small businesses and worked under several leaders over the course of my careers.  Often, the competitive nature of business development has been and can be compared to being at war.  Here’s nine (9) leadership lessons I learned from the war leaders:

  1. Have fast moving forces – Adolph Hitler was known for having fast moving forces that could punch a hole in the enemy’s territory and their speed would impact the enemy’s nervous system.  This was called a brain and heart assault.  I have witnessed many, many slow moving business leaders and equally slow moving troops that follow.  Being decisive and well trained to move out fast in business can help knock out the competition.  Leaders bear the responsibility to make judgments and motivate their troops to move out quickly.  The competition would not know what hit them!
  2. Be not a dictator in your business – On the History Channel program, Colin Powell explained that dictators think that they know best; they do not listen to others; and they do not keep anyone around them that will tell them otherwise.  Years ago, I worked for a dictator.   Many years ago, I worked for a dictator who was a small business owner.  He never listened to his staff’s ideas and if they did not agree with him, he would fire them.  I later found out that when I left, he had cycled through more than 60 professional staff people.  This is a ridiculously high turn over rate in his industry.  If you are guilty of this, then it is best to go see a psycho therapist and get some professional help fast!
  3. Know your competition’s, client’s, and prospect’s ultimate dreams – With respect to Adolph Hitler, his ultimate dream was to gain world dominance.  Trying to appease someone like this to avoid war and to negotiate diplomatic solutions is fruitless.  Very few small business leaders take time out to study their competition, client’s and prospect’s, get to know what makes them tick, and study their long term goals.  The more intelligence you know about what they need, want, and their mission, the better you can strategize what might work in business negotiations.

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By Clovia Hamilton, MBA JD President Lemongrass Consulting

(c) 2014. All Rights Reserved. Lemongrass Consulting, Inc.


Five (5) Characteristics of Entrepreneurial Drive

November 20, 2011

I counseled a small business owner last week and she kept stating that she realized she just needed more patience. She was so frustrated with her firm’s performance that she felt debilitated. She kept stating that she knew that with patience she would eventually achieve her goals. I countered that it will take a lot more than patience.

My Webster dictionary defines patience as enduring without complaint; tranquil waiting or expectation. I don’t like these definitions. My beef with the tranquil waiting without complaint or expectation is that it lacks energy. I do like Webster’s definition of patience as endurance and perseverance. It takes discipline, consistency, perseverance, endurance, and motivation.

1. Discipline – entrepreneurs have to have the discipline to make sales calls, market the business, and get the customers’ work done on a daily basis. Do you think your daily behavior is disciplined?

2. Consistency – business owners have to develop routines and business systems that they execute consistently. Attending to customers, sales, and marketing must be consistently carried out every day. Do you try things once or for a short period of time and quit when there’s no immediate reward?

3. Perseverance – Webster defines this as the ability to persist despite difficulties. When you hit a road block, you find a way to go under, over, or around it. Webster also defines this as having a high sense of holding on to a worthy course against all difficulty, opposition, or hindrances. Do you persevere or do you cave in?

4. Endurance – Endurance requires energy. It helps to be in good physical and mental shape. It helps to be around energetic people. I recently distanced myself from a friend because he is incredibly lethargic and negative. His negative energy drained my positive energy and left me feeling depleted. His disinterest in doing anything more than being a couch potato unnerved me. I recently talked to a guy who said he did not understand why folks felt they needed to be surrounded by like minded individuals. Well, for me, at the very least, being like minded means having matched ambition and drive. What is your level of endurance?

5. Motivation – I think that many entrepreneurs know what they need to do to achieve the goals they want to achieve. However, many do not work on it because they lack motivation. There has to be something there to motivate small business owners to work as hard (and hopefully as smart) as we do.

Many years ago, I completed a Certified Public Manager training program. We studied Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs in our introduction to motivation theory. We learned that people are motivated to get work done so as to satisfy needs. So, business owners need to not only reflect on their own unsatisfied needs but also the needs of other people they rely on to get work done through. The Maslow hierarchy of needs ranges from a pyramid’s base physiological needs (air, food, water, sleep, sex); to safety and security; to social friendship and belonging; to self-esteem, respect, and recognition; to the pyramid’s peak, complex self-actualization needs (challenges, creativity, growth, achievement, advancement).

According to Maslow, a person advances to the next level of the hierarchy only when lower needs are minimally satisfied. Take a moment to self-reflect. What are your unsatisfied needs? How can working on your business satisfy your needs?

One of my favorite woman owned small business advocates is Nell Merlino, founder of the Count Me In program and Make Mine a Million (M3) race. She teaches that women business owners need to save themselves. In Nell’s book, Stepping out of Line, she advocates that it helps to create a whirl of activity around us similar to a political campaign. Patiently and tranquilly lying in wait for your season or your day to come is not going to get it done. Actively working on our shortcomings and unsatisfied needs just might get it done!

By Clovia Hamilton, President, Lemongrass Consulting, Inc.
Clovia founded Lemongrass Consulting in 2005 with nearly 30 years of government work experience and serves as a procurement counselor in the Georgia Tech Procurement Assistance Center (GTPAC). Lemongrass Consulting provides strategic planning solutions including government contracting strategic marketing plans, intellectual property, social media marketing strategic plans, and other services. Contact Clovia at:
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3 Sources of Limiting Thoughts – Don’t Put Limits on Yourself

April 24, 2011

I attended a black business expo in southwest Georgia this past weekend. Allen Payne, one of the actors on Tyler Perry’s show House of Payne gave an appearance. He spoke about being from Harlem and how he was headed for trouble in the streets until he began to study acting. I too grew up in a rough and tumble inner city neighborhood. I was raised on Chicago’s south side in Roseland. There were drugs, there was prostitution, and there were fights. But my parents raised us differently and encouraged us to go to college.

What resonated with me as Allen Payne spoke was the message that to succeed, you must stop putting limitations on yourself. He spoke about limits that our loved ones can put on us; our peers; and ourselves. I think this is a valuable lesson for anyone, especially small business owners. This article shares some thoughts I have about how this rule of thumb should be applied by small business owners.

First source – Loved Ones

You may have to love some friends and family members from a distance. If they are being negative about your desire to start and grow a business, then love them from a distance. Distance yourself from them. If you cannot physically relocate, then find a group of like minded individuals that can give you support. You may have parents, spouses, children, and others discourage you and tell you that you cannot make money. Find strength in God and don’t quit.

Second source – Our peers

Allen Payne talked about having to pass the thugs he once hung out with in order to get to the Actor’s Studio for training. I had a similar experience as a youth. I attended college classes at a local junior college and at Chicago State when I was in high school and participated in college prep programs at the University of Illinois in Chicago. When I was sixteen, I worked as a civil engineer in training at Harza. I had to pass our neighborhood thugs, and others that labeled me an uppity goody two shoes. Luckily, my parents taught us at an early age to hold our chin up and walk pass taunts.

That life lesson still applies. As a small business owner, you have to hold your head up and walk pass peers that are jealous, petty, unsupportive, or evil. You must surround yourself with supportive people. The use of social media and trade organizations are a great ways to find like minds. Meet online and take the conversation offline when there’s synergy.

Third source – Ourselves

You can put limits on yourself with nay saying thoughts and reluctance to move out on tasks that can catapult your business. From time to time, I talk to a fellow female business owner that I met in a small business development program. We share our business development challenges and ideas about how to improve our businesses. What I have notice over time is that on some ideas, she is quick to point out (a) how she has tried it once already and failed; (b) how it may become too costly; (c) how it can get you in trouble; and (d) how she would not try this and that because she just hates it.

Well, first of all, hate eats up A LOT of energy. You cannot succeed in business by trying something only once. You have to be consistent, work a routine, and be persistent. For example, it may take 6 to 24 months to land a first government contract. Further, successful entrepreneurs are optimists rather than pessimistic, risk averse people. Business owners can plan ahead to control costs and risks. One of my favorite quotes is “A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week. George S. Patton”.

Getting back to Allen Payne – he shared a few other important lessons that I have lived by for years. It was refreshing to hear him share these sentiments. Allen spoke about seeing your life as a miracle and finding strength in God. He compared his journey and relationship with God to riding a wave. I have a similar experience.

Years ago I more than doubled my salary. I called it being on auto pilot. I simply moved out on faith; focused on my career goals and dreams; and set out on a journey that took me to several states and great career posts. This is the mindset you have to have to survive this down economy. Having the support and strength of a Higher Spirit certainly helps.

By Clovia Hamilton, President, Lemongrass Consulting, Inc.

Clovia founded Lemongrass Consulting in 2005 with 25 years of government work experience and serves as a procurement counselor in the Georgia Tech Procurement Assistance Center (GTPAC). Lemongrass Consulting provides strategic planning solutions including government contracting strategic marketing plans. Contact Clovia at or follow Clovia on Twitter @lemongrassplans

7 Steps to Retreating, Reflecting, and Re-Strategizing in your Small Business

April 10, 2011

As a small business owner, I can attest that all of the new technologies, marketing techniques, and advice can make you feel overwhelmed, unorganized, and confused. The key is to stay focused, coherent, and consistent with what works for you. A good old fashioned retreat and look into a reflection pool is beneficial. I recently put my company through a series of exercises that I’ll share with you here.

First, I took time to retreat and reflect on who our niche market is. I began by listing all of our past customers. We have subcontracted to subcontractors and I included all customers served whether we had a direct contractual agreement with them or not.

Second, I studied all of our past customers. I developed 6 Excel spreadsheets and bar charts to describe our past customers in the following 7 categories:

(1) Customers’ Race
(2) Customers’ Gender
(3) Customers’ Profession
(4) Our Marketing Methods than Won the Deal
(5) Customers’ Geographic Location
(6) Customers’ Industry Type
(7) Type of Service provided to the Customer

Third, with our customer information in hand, I revisited the fundamental identity of my company. I gave thought to what we do best and where our strengths lie so that we can build on our strengths. For my firm, it is our emphasis on research, analysis, strategy, and legal compliance. Our clients have been primarily white men in the land development construction arena. Most were referred to us. The referrals came from complimentary service providers that we do not compete with. Most were in our home state. The services have been related to public outreach and buy-in, business writing, and strategic planning.

Strategic Planning Retreat Fulton County, GA Health

Fourth, I developed a clear idea of how we create value. We offer 20 services, so I worked on each service area. I came up with unique, clear, concise, and compelling sales propositions for each of the service areas. I listed ways our services are unique in terms of customer benefits. I then listed the pain points for each service we offer. Reviewing customer testimonials, words of praise, and recommendations helped to see our customers’ perspective of why we are still in business. I am not integrating all of this into our marketing materials as we are in the process of freshening all of that up!

Fifth, I drafted a description of the number one thing I want our prospects to know about what we do and how it will benefit them.

Sixth, I drafted a list of 10 categories of people most likely to want our services. They include:

(1) land development managers
(2) architects
(3) civil site development engineers
(4) surveyors
(5) community development managers and grassroots organization’s leaders
(6) external affairs or community affairs department directors
(7) attorneys and procurement officials seeking training, legal research and writing assistance
(8) chamber directors seeking training seminars
(9) higher education continuing education directors
(10) small business owners in need of business writing services and coaching

Seventh, I listed our top strategic priorities. For my firm, the current priorities are all focused on implementing tools to generate income via ecommerce and web stores. I put the top five (5) priorities on Q cards and posted them to a task cork board. I also wrote the tasks in my calendar to make sure they would be given priority and would get done.

Have you studied your customer pool? If so, what was your approach?

By Clovia Hamilton, President, Lemongrass Consulting, Inc.
Clovia founded Lemongrass Consulting in 2005 with 25 years of government work experience and serves as a procurement counselor in the Georgia Tech Procurement Assistance Center (GTPAC). Lemongrass Consulting provides strategic planning solutions including government contracting strategic marketing plans. Contact Clovia at or follow Clovia on Twitter @lemongrassplans