One of the questions I hear most often from SMB’s is “how can I gain business among so much competition?” I say don’t focus on gaining the business. Focus on gaining competitive edge, and it will lead to gaining more business.  How does one do that?

Well, I believe we all have an edge. Some of ours are just more dull than others. So, gaining a competitive edge begins with staying sharp.

Let me share a story I heard years ago. Two men were splitting wood. One of the men was tall and muscular and in excellent physical shape. The other man was shorter and much less muscular and appeared to be no match for the larger man.

The two men began chopping wood at the same time. When the first coffee break rolled around, the smaller man took a break while the larger man continued to split the wood. The larger man did not join the smaller man during their lunch break or afternoon break either. Instead, he continued to split wood all day long.
In the evening the smaller man went home, but the larger man continued working late into the night.
Their routine continued for nearly two weeks.

The larger man did not understand how the smaller man’s pile of chopped wood was roughly the same size as his when he was clearly stronger and had worked longer hours than the smaller man.

After about three weeks the smaller man’s wood pile was even with the larger man’s wood pile. After four weeks, the smaller man’s wood pile had surpassed the size of the larger man’s wood pile. The larger man was astonished and confused.

One day, as the smaller man was about to take another break, the larger man said to him “I cannot understand why you have more wood split than I do. You are smaller than I am, and you don’t have the strength that I have”. The smaller man replied “Ah yes, my friend, but you never stop to sharpen your axe”.

When it comes to getting the job done, your greatest tool is your own mind. Here are 4 tips to help you keep your mind sharp as a small business owner:

1) Make the most of your peak performance time Figure out the time of day when you are most energized and focused. Are you at the top of your game first thing in the morning, or are you ready to go after your second cup of coffee? Whatever your peak performance time may be, make sure that you schedule your most complicated tasks during this time of the day. The extra brain power will bring clarity and concentration.

2) Make a to-do list A to-do list lets you focus on the task at hand instead of trying to remember your mental list of the tasks to be done. Writing down your objectives for the day helps you stay focused on your key result areas. It also keeps you from feeling unproductive. One of my clients recently took a trip to NYC with his team to explore opportunities to expand his fast growing food and hospitality business. He later told me how disappointed he was that didn’t feel they accomplished much after a 12 hour day together. I asked him, “What were the key objectives you planned for the day?”  He replied, “I didn’t have any clear, set objectives.” His to-do list stopped with a decision to go to NYC which wasn’t clear enough. Make sure to-do list items like this also include what your most important goals are to accomplish.

3) Always be learning. If you want to gain the competitive edge you need to be willing to continue to up-level your skills and knowledge. I’m not talking about trying to be the “Jack-of-all-trades” type of person. I’m also not referring to setting yourself up for complete information overwhelm where you end up not being able to focus on your core competencies.  What I am saying is to choose one new important trend to learn more about or skill to hone that is effecting your industry. Those aha moments often occur when you’re in the midst of delving into new subjects, skills and technology.

4) Leave Work at Work I find that business owners tend to be type “A” personalities. You’re character trait to keep on pushing yourself is a large reason why you’ve succeeded thus far. But, be careful because your “strength” can also prove to be a double edged sword which is when we end up hitting the point of diminishing returns. You send in your car for regular maintenance checks. You power down your computers because even a piece of machine needs to rest to reboot. When you go home at the end of the day, it’s time to give yourself permission to leae the work on your desk. Spend time with family or friends and allow your mind to be present, not drifting back to thoughts about work.

I have always found that it’s much more exhausting thinking about work, than the energy it takes to actually get that work done. Your mind needs time to rest, re-energize and refuel — part of the process of sharpening your axe. So, commit to start each day refreshed, ready and re-sharpened to get the job done!

QUESTION: What do you do to keep your skills and your mind sharp as a small business owner?  Please share your ideas in the comment box below.

About Yoon Cannon: Top business coach Yoon Cannon has helped thousands of small business owners, entrepreneurs, coaches, consultants and sales teams achieve dramatic results in growing your business. Over the past 20 years Yoon has started 4 successful companies and sold 3 of them. She offers fresh insights as a seasoned business growth expert. Yoon delivers proven process for your sales, marketing and management development.  Grab free valuable gifts and resources at http://www.ParamountBusinessCoach.com  To book Yoon to speak at your next event email: [email protected] To schedule a complimentary business coaching consultation call (215) 292-4947. 

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