For many of us, self-promotion is tough. We were raised not to brag. Laura Posey, Chief Instigator at Simple Success Plans, faced that early on in her consulting career. But when she realized one key fact about herself (you have it too), she never hesitated to promote her services proudly… and brings in a steady stream of appreciative clients as a result.
In this episode, Laura also shares a shortcut to help you make any business decision. If the answer is “no” - you let it go without guilt. Yes - you take action. It’s also a handy way to avoid “shiny object syndrome.”
Listen now to discover…
- How to eliminate “fuzzy” goals from your business planning
- The “boring” parts of your business you have to master before you innovate
- What it takes to reach your biggest goals - it’s not fast, but you get there
- Ways to train your brain to ignore the distractions that plague entrepreneurs
- The key to envisioning the “Big Picture” that gives you confidence, purpose, and perspective
Listen to Laura Posey and Steve Gordon now…
Laura Posey | Make Clear Decisions that Get You Closer to Your Ultimate Goal
In this episode, we're talking with Laura Posey. Laura brings so much passion to her work as the chief instigator of Simple Success Plans. She's an absolute firecracker who likes to create and get things done. She is an internationally recognized speaker, she's a consultant, and she brings over twenty years of strategic planning and marketing and sales expertise to her clients. Over the years, she's received all kinds of awards and recognition for her sales and management contributions to Fortune 500 companies and she's had an extensive sales career that covers the gamut from pizza to insurance to cars. She broke into sales in high school selling cutlery door to door. I'm super excited to have Laura here and share with you. Welcome, Laura.
Thanks for having me. I'm excited to be here.
Great to have you. To give everyone a little bit of background on how you got to this point, how'd you start in business, and how'd you meander your way here?
Like most entrepreneurs, I’ve done a lot of different things. I've worked in restaurants, front and back of the house. I was actually managing a Little Caesars when somebody came in and said, “You missed your calling, you should be selling something big like cars or jewelry.” I actually got recruited into selling cars and did that for a while. Then I sold a car to a guy that recruited me into the insurance business and I owned an insurance agency for a number of years. Then I got recruited into sales management and realized at that point after a couple of years of sales management that I was not cut out for the corporate world.
I asked a lot of questions, I challenged a lot of assumptions, and that doesn't fit in well in a Fortune 100 company a lot of times, especially in an old industry like insurance. They did the most unforgivably thing you could do to somebody with a sales background, they kept my income. That was the straw that broke the camel's back. I said, “I got to go.” I made them an offer. I said, “I’ll earn what you're paying me in September, and then I’ll just not work for the last couple of months of the year. Then when you start paying me again, I’ll come back work.” They didn't think that was a good idea.
That wasn't aligned with their vision?
No. They wanted me to keep on selling even though I wasn't getting paid over a certain threshold. That didn't go too well. I left the following year and started a sales training company with a business partner and ran that for a few years. We were doing okay, but I wasn't feeling fulfilled. I was working with a lot of sales teams and again getting back into the corporate thing. What I enjoyed doing was working with entrepreneurs. I ran away from home and came back and bought out the business partner and ultimately changed the name and the direction of the company and here we are today and I’m the chief instigator at Simple Success Plans and absolutely loving life.
I've talked to many people that have gone through that process inside the corporate world. I missed that bit of experience in my path. I went to work for a small company and worked directly with the founder for a long time, so my whole experience is in a very agile entrepreneurial type organization. I don't take well to instruction or authority, so I can understand you needing to escape that. It sounds like you've navigated that quite well. Through all of those twists and turns, what is it that you draw on when things don't quite go the way that you expected to keep pushing and keep moving things forward?
This is going to sound totally self-promotional, I don’t mean it to but it's the absolute truth, I go back to my strategic plan and I go back to the values that I set for myself and my company. I go back to the vision of what it is that I'm trying to build. I go back to our theme that we set for the year to find some motivation, and I get refocused on what is it that we want to build here, what are we trying to accomplish? One of the things that gets me every time as I look back and I look at the plan because we've got a revenue goal and all kinds of stuff.
That’s exciting some days, but honestly, that piece of it that gets me every time I read it is we get emails every day from clients telling us how we've changed their world. That's my vision for the company. My inbox is full of people who go, “You're not going to believe what happened. I did this, I used your advice, and this amazing thing happened.” That's the thing that gets me unstuck. It's like, “This is why I'm here. This is what I'm supposed to be doing. I got to go back and I got to get motivated. I got to get my head out of my butt and just keep moving forward.” I do strategic planning for a living so it sounds weird to say, “Just go back and do my job,” but that's the thing that drives me and that gets me over the humps.
It’s so important to stay connected to the reason why you're doing whatever it is that you're doing. It's so easy, especially for those of us who spend a lot of time marketing like I know you do, to get sucked into whatever it feels like you're supposed to be doing with whatever tactic that is going on in the business. Like, “I got to go execute this.” I get that, but stepping back sometimes and understanding this is the bigger purpose, this is the why for it all, it gives you such tremendous perspective.
It does because I think sometimes like every entrepreneur I get through those days where I think, “I'm just going to go get a job. I've had enough, I'm so frustrated with whatever.” You have friends that have corporate jobs or whatever. I come home and I never think about it. They have health insurance, sometimes I think that sounds good. I think about it and I go, “I’d be bored in twenty minutes.” I'd be back to that place though, where I’d be going around and asking all kinds of questions and stir up trouble and I'd be a thorn in somebody's side, so that's not a viable option. I’ll just go back and do what I'm supposed to be doing.
It's really tempting. You're not the first person I’ve had that conversation with who said, “There are those days when I wish I had a normal job,” and it's tempting to want to hand over the responsibility to someone else and say, “I’ll get a paycheck every two weeks and all I got to do is show up and somebody else is worried about the whole thing when I'm not there,” because that's what they have a CEO for. “I could have that role.” For those of us who have taken this path, it's hard for regular people to understand. That's like Kryptonite after awhile. It's tempting, but for most of us, were are here because we want the freedom that you can only get by taking full responsibility for your economic well-being.
I know with absolute certainty, if I decided I was going to go work for somebody else, then I’ll go, “I’ve had enough of this. I'm going to go get a fat paycheck and benefits and whatever.” I'd have a side hustle going and I'd be thinking about how to turn that into a seven-figure business and I just started all over again. This is how I'm wired and I know what I signed up for and I'm willing to take the risk and I'm willing to deal with the frustration and all the stuff that comes with entrepreneurs. No matter how well your business is running, you still wake up at 3:00 in the morning sometimes and think, “What if this breaks? I got everything just right. What could go wrong?” This is part of the life, but I wouldn't trade it for anything.
You've successfully sold everything from pizzas, to cars, to insurance.
I sold Cutco Knives.
I'm shocked at the number of people that I’ve interviewed on this podcast who have sold Cutco knives.
It's a great training ground.
I feel like I had some of that rub off on me. I had a roommate in college that sold Cutco knives. I have been through that presentation more times than probably most Cutco Knives salespeople. It's funny how many people have gone through it and how many very successful salespeople have gone through it. How did it change in going from you're selling somebody else's stuff to, “Now I’ve got to sell myself?” Because in consulting and what you're doing now, you're really selling yourself. You're the product.
It's a great question because I think it's one of the hardest things for a lot of entrepreneurs to do. We're raised in our culture to not brag. We’re not supposed to talk about ourselves particularly in a good light. Where most people's humor is very self-deprecating, and it's how we were raised, at least I was anyway. Bragging was like the worst thing you could do. Selling yourself feels a lot like bragging. It took me awhile to get to a place where I just went, “If I can help somebody, if I can change their business, I have an obligation to tell them that I can do this and to say I have this skill set and I'm good at what I do and you have to give me money for me to do that. It's a good, fair deal for both of us.” I get something I want, which is money. They get something they want, which is an improved business, which is ultimately money. We're just trading dollars here. They're giving me a dollar with the expectation that I'm going to turn it into ten and give it back to them.
When I started thinking about it that way and stopped thinking about it as self-promotion but really just go in, “I have an obligation to tell these people that there's help out there, and that I'm the one that can provide it,” that changed things for me and I got more comfortable. There's still that little grandma's voice in my head, “Don't Brag.” It's funny, I just read a blog post by my grandma. The whole not bragging thing is big in my family culture. My granddad was a successful businessman, and one of the things he did was he bought my grandmother a Cadillac. She would only drive it at night because she didn't want anybody to see her driving it because she didn't want them to think that she'd gotten uppity because they had money now. She would never wear the jewelry that he bought or she hid everything. It was hilarious.
I think you're in Virginia right now. You grew up in the south?
I'm from Maryland.
It's funny how that stuff affects us and it gets baked in. I know in the work that we do with clients and trying to help them with their marketing with professionals particularly, that's one of the biggest things for them to overcome, is to have the confidence that they can go out and share this expertise that they may be have spent eight years developing and be able to talk about it. It's not an insignificant problem. We all run around and we put our fancy suits on and we go to business meetings and we try and act like we're all that, but at the end of the day, we all have got these things that in the back of our head somebody is telling us something that we heard a long time ago that we've got to overcome and push through.
If you can find a way to make it okay, if you can find a way to say, “Doing this is actually benefiting people. It's not me tooting my own horn. It's not me trying to go make money. It's not me trying to sell stuff.” It's me going, “I have something valuable to contribute, and it's right that I get paid for that.” Because quite honestly, I could go out and do the exact same work that I'm doing and if nobody paid for it, nobody would use it, because we never use free advice.
Part of the value you deliver is actually charging the fee, because then people take it seriously. We're actually doing something here instead. If it's free, it’s like, “This is nice. Let's learn something here,” but there's usually no accountability that comes along with it, but when you put money on the line, suddenly we have to account for it.
That's why most people read books. They read all these books, they get all these great ideas, and they never execute on any of them. That is one of the questions I ask people. I say, “Read this book.”They say, “That’s a great book.” “What did you execute? What did you implement? What's changed in your world because you read this book?” Most of the time it's like, “I think about things differently.”
It's funny you bring that up because a buddy of mine was asking me what conferences am I going to next year and what's my rationale for that? I said actually for the last three years I’ve pulled back from doing a lot of that. Because I found that I would go and I would get all these ideas and then I wouldn't do anything with any of them because in a lot of cases they either weren't a great fit for us or it was for a business that was at a different stage. You go to the conference though when you're made to feel like you got to get all this stuff and do all this stuff. One of the things that we've been doing lately is trying to very closely match here's the information we were taking in with here is when we're going to take the action with the information. I don't want the information until I'm at a stage where I can take the action with it.
I went to three conferences in a row, and one I booked last year. By the time I get to this year I was like, “I don’t really want to go to these things but I'm going to go.” The last conference I went to, I actually took an index card and I said, “Everything that I walk away from has to fit on this index card.” In the back, I wrote these questions, “This thing that I think I want to do, does it have a measurable ROI in the next 30 days? If not, it can't go on the card. Why do I think I want to do this? Is it because it's new and shiny and I’ve never heard of it and it sounds like it's fast money but it's not?” I wrote these little qualifying questions on the back of the card.
I'm taking notes like I always do, but I actually took the card, I wrote down four things on the front of the court, took all the notes and threw them away. I came home from the conference with this little card. I was like, “I’ve got 30 days to implement what's on this card or I'm throwing the card away too.” It was a revolutionary way for me, because I got rid of all the guilt. Every conference I go to moving forward, this is how I'm going to go in. This is my lens. It got to go on this card, and I'm not even going to take the notes, I'm just going to write the stuff on the card as it comes up. If the card's full, no more. Even if I'm halfway through the first day like, “That's it, done.”
The great news is you can travel home a lot lighter.
It's interesting with the conferences, because one of the things I started doing at the conferences is I have been going for the relationships. Instead of going for the content, I'm going for the people. I'm looking to see who the people that I know that are going to go, who can I meet up with and build a better relationship with. I went to conference, big huge industry, 4,000 people, and didn't go to a single session. Some friends of mine rented a house and they were live streaming the conference at the house, but there were about ten or fifteen of us. We came and went most of the couple of days, a beautiful house on the coast, and we just hung out and talked and figured out how to work together. Hence we had our own mini conference. It was great.
It's funny, it came up in this conversation last week around this topic, and that to me is the key, because the information that you're going to learn at the conference, what I found after going to a lot of them is that there really aren't any secrets. We're going to share the secret with everybody right now, there aren't any secrets. The real value to me is who can I meet and how can we figure out a way to help each other that's meaningful, not just, “Let's talk,” but “Let's make a mutually beneficial relationship, but what could we do that's meaningful.”
There's tons of value in that and totally worth paying for the conference and not going to any of the sessions. Probably bigger ROI and fewer notes. I think that's fantastic advice. I know that your real expertise is in helping entrepreneurial businesses get their act together when it comes to planning and doing that in a very efficient way. I'd love for you to share some of that with us and tell us what you're most excited about right now in business.
Here’s my thing with planning and the reason why planning is so powerful. It just helps you make really good clear decisions that are in alignment with what it is that you ultimately want to build. We understand what your vision is for your company, and not just we want to make a bunch of money, help a bunch of people, but getting specific. How big a company do I want? What kind of company do I want? Do I want virtual folks? I made a decision a long time ago. I had employees, I had a lot of payroll. I don't want payroll anymore. I have contractors, and I want my contractors to be very entrepreneurial. I want to be their favorite client, but I want them to have other clients because they're going to learn and grow beyond me. That's part of my vision for my company, when you get clear about what it is you want, what do you really want to build.
I want a seven-figure business. Is that $1 million or $9 million? Because there's a big difference between a $1 million business in a $9 million business, so don't tell me you want seven figures. If somebody says, $1 million business, why? What's that going to do for you? I know a lot of failing million-dollar businesses. We had a client one time, it was $50 million, and he was failing miserably. It's getting clear about, “Actually, what I want is this much profit.” Let's start with that. What kind of customers do you want to work with? Who do you want to serve? How do you want to serve them? What do you want to be known for? What are the things that you really care about that are deeply personal and emotional? Once you understand that and have that, then it's pretty easy to create a plan and a series of actions and milestones to get you to that place. It becomes this great decision making tool because you keep asking yourself. Is this thing that I'm getting ready to do or this thing I'm getting ready to spend money on moving me significantly towards that vision?
If it is, I’ll think about doing it, but if it's not, then it's one less thing to have to think about. It helps clarify all the things that you want to accomplish in life. Then we take that vision. Visions typically can be far out. We start breaking it down into some near-term milestones, some three-year targets, some one-year goals, and then we ask really specific questions around those one year goals and say “If you're going to hit those goals, something in your business to change.” If your goal is to double your business in a year, you're not going to get there by working twice as hard, and you're not going to get there by hiring twice as many people. Something's got to change significantly in the systems inside your business. The big systems in your business are your strategy, your financial management, your lead generation or your revenue generation, your profit maximization, and your people.
Looking at those systems and those bunch of subsystems within there, figuring out what has to change, what system do I have to add or improve to make me hit those goals this year. Once you figure out what systems you need to work on, then you can sit down and go, “I need to work on my revenue generation if I'm going to hit that revenue goal. I need to make more money.” What are the projects within that that I'm going to have to do? Do I need to refine my sales funnel? Do I need to get better conversion between the stage and that stage? Do I need better and more targeted lead gen? What is it specifically that I have to change?”
We can say, “We've got a project to work on.” Once we have a project, then the project gets break it into tasks and get it done, but it's understanding that change that has to happen systemically in the business. Once we've got that, then it's easy to figure out, “Here's what I have to do. Here's what has to change in my company this year for me to get different results.” We can organize all of that on one sheet of paper or make it simple. I said earlier, that for me and for my clients becomes the true north. That's the thing that you go to every single day. “What am I supposed to do so that I can hit those goals?” This thing. It becomes a series of tasks.
The most important thing you said there which I have not heard it said that way before, is that having that plan gives you this decision making framework. I haven't heard it put that way before and there's some elegance to that. I've seen a lot of companies do their planning, they lay this thing out. It's a brilliant plan. It's got all these grand goals and all that, and then they get into February and they start adding stuff because there's something else new that's interesting. There's this scope creep to the strategic plan, and they get around to the end of the year and they go, “I guess we'll use the same plan again because we didn't get any of that done.” What you're saying is lay the plan out and then that’s your enforcer. It's a way to say no, it's a way to discern, “Should I do this or not?”
Running a business is just about making decisions. I saw an article the other day that said the average person makes 35,000 decisions a day. Entrepreneurs make more decisions than that, because we don't have anybody telling us what to do. We have to decide minute by minute, “Where am I going to spend my time and money for optimal results?” It can be confusing to make those decisions on the fly and keep winging it. You end up getting pulled in a million different directions and we do get pulled into the bright shiny object. As entrepreneurs, we're wired to be opportunity seekers. That's how we approach the world, and it's great for starting a business. Opportunity seekers tend to be very risk tolerant. We get excited about new shiny stuff, perfect for starting a business, crappy for running a business. The nice thing is we can train our brains to get all excited to create this plan, to put it on a piece of paper, and then stick to it.
Then the decision each day is not, “Do I do this or do I do that?” The decision is, “How do I get myself to execute on this plan?” How do I take a look at those tasks and go, “I'm going to go do this one right now?” Even if it's not the most interesting thing I could possibly think of doing. I was writing content plan for Q1, one of my least favorite tasks on the planet, but it's super important and I'm the only one that can do it, so I got to sit down and do it. I'm a big fan of Brian Tracy's eat the frog first thing in the morning. I’m just going to get this thing done and then out of the way. Then I can go do the fun stuff. It's what we tell entrepreneurs. You can say yes to everything, but a better thing to do is to say, “Not now.”It doesn't mean you can't do that cool thing at some point, but not now. Not until I get the plan done. When I get the plan done, I can do all the fun I want, I could try all the new shiny, fun stuff, but not until the plant gets done.
I think having that discipline is what takes an early stage business into grown-up business, into one that actually becomes sustainable. I've been through that transition twice now. The first time we didn't know what we were doing. I was in a business that was existing and took over CEO. We did the first strategic planning that had ever been done in the history of that business, and the business was like twenty years old. I'm sure the founder had done some stuff, he went out and had a cup of coffee somewhere, he thought about stuff, but nothing had ever been written down before.
As we got to the point where it was more than the founder and staff and we had managers who were executing things. That became important to have that all pulled together and put together in a thoughtful way. I wish we had it on one page. Instead we had a thick binder or at least we had a little thin binder, but even that was difficult to work with. We didn't get the most bang for our buck there. How do you get all this boiled down into one page? “Here's our whole year and it's right here on a single sheet of paper.”
A lot of it is learning how to say no. A big piece of it is applying 80/20 to absolutely everything. I believe so much in 80/20. It's actually one of our core values. We 80/20 everything. It's looking at all these things we could be doing and saying we could do all of these things, but where is the biggest leverage. If we get this thing done, where are we really going to be able to move the needle? Let's take all that other stuff and put it over here. We can go play with that stuff later. There’s always that, “These could be big ideas,” ‘could be’ and ‘or’ are very different. Let's look at the stuff that we know is going to work, and sometimes it isn't the new innovative, exciting, crazy, wild stuff. Sometimes it's basic blocking and tackling. For an awful lot of business that’s doing okay. You ask them like, “Who's your target market?” “Anybody who needs our product.” Like, “If I hear that one more time, I'm going to shoot myself and them.”
It's those basic things. Who are your ideal client? Where are you going to reach them? What's the message that they need to hear? What are the stages of your sales funnel? What are basic blocking and tackling? Until those systems are in your business, then running solidly, all that other stuff is just a distraction. It becomes pretty easy to get everything on a single sheet of paper when you apply that 80/20 lens and say, “Here's the list of all the stuff we could do. Where are we really going to get some big movement in our company.” What are the basic systems that aren't in place?
I come into businesses all the time and they don't have any cash flow management. They just ride the roller coaster and they've been doing it for so long. They are growing like crazy, they are $12 million,$13 million, and constantly drawn on their line of credit and bumping up against the edge of it to make payroll. They are stressed beyond belief. “We have all this growth. We got to take this opportunity.” I’m like, “Opportunities aren’t going anywhere. It's there, you got to get a handle on your cash flow, because if you walk in one day and have to tell your people I'm sorry, we maxed out everything we have and we got no money and we can't pay you, do you know what's called? Out of business.” We have a whole list of the systems that propose to focus on. When you do that, it's pretty simple. We let people make four changes a year, four systems.
One per quarter, I assume?
It typically shapes out that way. We'd like to focus around that and say, “What are we going to do this quarter? Where are we going to make big, significant progress?” Sometimes that'll bleed over into another quarter. Some of the systems don't take a whole quarter to do the changes that we need to, but we map it all out where throughout the course of the year we're going to make these changes. We're not trying to change four things at once starting right now. That's a recipe for disaster. There are some things that we'd go, “You're going to make this change, but we're not going to touch it for nine months. It's going to sit there and be broken. We know it's broken. We're just going to let it stay.”
It is but what we find is that when we write it down, we put it on a plan, and we let people know it's not going to get forgotten. It's here. It's got a date. We've got to do these other things first and it's better to do these things well and get them put to beds. We don't have to think about them anymore. They were going to be much better at fixing that other thing nine months down the road. Most entrepreneurs resist a little bit. They want to do everything at once, but they started asking the questions, they've had enough experience trying that and failing at it that they go, “I’ll leave it out there. I know it's there. I know we're not going to forget it.” I tell them if you get the other stuff done earlier, you can always go move things up. That's totally okay. Some of them get excited about that and they take it as a challenge. “I'm going to get that started in July instead of September. We're going to get everything else.” L5et's do that.
Where can people find out more about the work that you're doing? I know you've got some great tools and you do some great training as well. Where's the best place for them to go?
You can go to our website, SimpleSuccessPlans.com. On the home page, we have a whole online course that I’ll walk you through creating your own one-page success plan right there. You'll see it right there on the homepage, so it’s easy to find. We have blog, we post a lots of good articles and things. This is the place that I like to get people started because it’s where you want to go read about a bunch of stuff and read blog articles. I always want to give people a tool that they can implement immediately. Obviously I want everybody to do their strategic plan. I want them to go through the online course. I want them to do the plan, but that's going to take a couple of hours. I want something that in five minutes they can start seeing some results in.
What I like to give people is our daily success checklist. It helps you focus in on today, what do I have to get done today? What are my success habits that are going to team me up for this to be the best day ever? What are the critical tasks I need to work? A nice section at the end there, to reflect on the day and pull out the biggest lessons so that we can make tomorrow even better than today. If they go to the website at SimpleSuccessPlans.com/Daily, the daily success checklist, they can download a copy there. We have a blank copy for them. It's a fillable PDF so they can create their own. I've got sample versions so they can see what it looks like when it's all filled out, and then I have put an instructional video with it to walk them step by step through it. It's a whole kit.
I've downloaded it before, and in fact I have it on my desktop on my computer and I fill it out, so everybody should go get it. It's SimpleSuccessPlans.com/Daily. Laura, thanks so much for investing some time with me. This has been a lot of fun.
Thanks for having me, Steve. It's been great.
Mentioned in the show
- Laura Posey
- Simple Success Plans
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