By Bea Wray, VP of Member Development

Connecting The DotsWhen my son was younger, we’d spend hours together doing puzzles at the kitchen table. One of his favorites was “Connect the Dots” – remember those? As he carefully drew the lines connecting one numbered dot to the next on the puzzle sheet, a picture would magically appear. He was always amazed and delighted by what took shape under his pencil, and proudly showed me the star or the dog or the house that he’d created.

There’s a lot of buzz in business about the importance of connecting the dots. Entrepreneurs put serious time and energy into connecting the dots – from prospects to phone calls to clients. Do that often enough, and you’ve created a profitable company. But playing the growth game that way expends a lot of energy, muscle, and time – and too often not in the most efficient way. Why work harder when you could be working smarter, getting more done by putting your attention where it will reap the biggest benefits to your business?

I thought about this when my son and I were playing his current favorite game. It’s also built around the idea of dot connecting in a sense, but it’s far more strategic, dynamic, and three-dimensional. In this game, you only have to connect four dots to win. It sounds easier, but if you’ve ever played Connect 4, you know it’s actually tougher than good old “connect the dots”, because there’s so much more to consider in each move; gravity, the relationships between the various columns, and your ongoing strategy versus your opponent’s. Competition is fierce and you’re never sure who’s going to win until the last few moves take shape. Getting good at Connect 4 requires thinking strategically as you make your moves toward dominance.

When entrepreneurs are trying too hard to connect too many dots, they can lose steam, because it’s taking them away from their core mission. Connecting all those dots is labor intensive, and when you’re counting on something to move your business forward, but that goal is 36 dots ahead of you, the chain can break down at any point and you may never reach your desired result.

But what if you played your business game like Connect 4, and played smarter instead of harder, utilizing strategy and elevation to help you reach your goals?

For instance, anyone can pump out a huge amount of advertising and hope it reaches their ideal client. All it takes is money.  But what if you spend that money on elevating your authority and raising your visibility to just those people you want as customers? Much less wasted effort and comprehensive approach should include speaking, blogging, public relations, and online branding, and at the center of it all, a book authored by you.

Nancy Eberhardt is a great example of how to play smarter. As owner and CEO of consulting company Pathwise Partners, she’s helped organizations experience rapid growth by teaching leaders and managers how to be more candid and open with people. Her book, Uncommon Candor; A Leader’s Guide to Straight Talk, has been a powerful tool for her company’s growth, getting her message out and putting squarely in front of the clients she wanted most to reach. It’s not only brought those clients directly to her, it’s raised the level of clients that she works with, and has increased the scope of the projects she’s offered, meaning she can do fewer of them and put much less time into connecting all those dots. Not only that, she’s shared that the exercise of putting her ideas down on paper helped her become better at communicating them to others.

For Nancy, that book was the springboard that led to the speaking engagements, interviews and heightened authority in the marketplace that made her the go-to expert.  What steps will you take this year to raise your game, and work smarter, not harder, to reach your goals?

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