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Playing Hookey Can Help! A Surprising Secret To Small Business Success!

Would you like to increase your chances of business success by 350%? The good news is that you can!

Before you start working harder or learning the latest business theories so you can work smarter, try something different. You can increase your chances of success by as much as 350% by being more innovative and uncovering dramatically different ways to look at your business and develop your product or service. (***footnote #1) This is good news.

Even better news is that one highly effective way to increase your innovation ability is by playing hooky from your normal business activities and learning how to have a Visioning Day.

A Visioning Day is a time you set aside to remove yourself from your normal work and home life and expand your personal experiences and your thinking. It is a time where you specifically do not try to answer the challenges you face in building a great business and instead focus solely on developing your ability to listen and engage.

The best Visioning Days are those where you stretch yourself and do something entirely new and different. Taking the time to get new perspective and input, while giving up conscious focus on your business projects, allows your creative mind the input and uninterrupted time necessary to generate new and innovative solutions.

Visioning days can help all business people at all stages of business. Sometimes they are even the impetus for starting a successful business.

When Frank, a franchise product manager for a major food chain, was layed off, he did not know what his next step would be. His wife, a day spa buff, suggested he take a Visioning Day at a local spa.

Although Frank liked the relaxing services at the spa, he was bothered by the lack of business organization and consistent service. The experience got him thinking and he discovered a need within the salon and day spa industry for the kind of pre-formulated manuals and systems he had specialized in creating when he worked in franchising.

What Frank was able to create was dramatically different for that industry: a computer program and set of manuals that capitalized on the best franchising had to offer, while still allowing individual business owners to remain independent and unique in their vision. Although the content was not particularly different from the franchising manuals that exist in other industries, marketing it to an emerging industry that had little exposure to the ideas was different--different enough to make Frank a wealthy business man in a short period of time.

Visioning Days work for small scale operations that are struggling as well as they work for new ventures. Sometimes the worse a situation looks, and the less time and energy you feel you have to spare for a Visioning Day, the more you need one.

A few years ago, Edna, a dog breeder and owner of a successful local boarding kennel, found herself in a difficult position. Her love of people and of animals had long since been buried under a mountain of work and details to manage. Work that was once a joy had become tedious, a venture that originally provided a sense of freedom had turned into a burden and a trap.

To make matters worse, business was no longer booming, and in fact, profits and opportunities were starting to decline. Serious financial hardship loomed on the horizon and everything Edna was doing to reenergize sales and save her business was failing. The harder she worked to solve the problem, the worse things seemed to get. What Edna didn't know at the time was that she didn't need to work harder. What she needed to do was play hooky.

Edna had to overcome a great deal of resistance in order to take time away from her demanding business and start taking Visioning Days, but the results were remarkable. The second Visioning Day she tried led to a total re-invention of her business and a dramatic increase in both her profits and her personal freedom.

For her Visioning Day, Edna chose to take a tour of homes a local interior designer was conducting in a nearby neighborhood. During the tour she was struck by how often her fellow tour participants would comment that while they loved what they were seeing, it would never work in their own homes. Curious, she began to ask why. What she discovered is that two or three of her fellow participants had dogs that were too destructive to be left alone in a newly redecorated home for long hours while their owners were at work.

An entirely new question emerged for Edna. What if, instead of taking care of people's animals while they were away on vacation, she took care of them while people were at work? Edna realized that doggy daycare was a service attractive to busy professionals but entirely unavailable in her area. She also realized that by specializing in doggy daycare, she could reduce the feeding and energy costs associated with keeping animals overnight, and that she could arrange a doggy daycare business in a way that allowed her to take weekends and holidays off, which had been her busiest and most stressful times for years.

This simple innovation allowed Edna to establish her business in a unique and profitable niche, recharge her personal batteries, and increase her profits. And it came from simply getting out of her business as she knew it and taking a fresh look at the world. As Edna put it, "I was so used to thinking about how to serve the customers I had, that I completely forgot to ask what kind of customers I wanted and how could I serve them instead."

Take a Visioning Day-You'll Be Glad You Did

As Edna discovered, Visioning Days can help entrepreneurs step back from concerns about operations and think like someone working on a business instead of working in one.

Visioning Days help overworked and overstressed individuals stop overworking and obsessing, and instead help them synthesize what they already know and see the resources and solutions they may already have.

Visioning Days stimulate new thinking with new senses and often allow innovators to create new product or service ideas by "borrowing" a concept or custom from one industry and applying it to another.

Because of the focus on having new experiences and meeting new people, Visioning Days can help develop social courage and grace and increase one's overall sense of personal resiliency.

Visioning Days can introduce entrepreneurs and business people to a new and possibly unexpected source of networking contacts

Seven Steps To Creating Your Own Visioning Day Experience

#1 Clear your calendar for a whole day. Effective visioning requires time to unwind and get into the experience, and time to integrate and let things settle after it. Plan on at least 12 hours without obligations or interruptions.

#2 Plan one Visioning Day for yourself every quarter, whether you think you need one or not.

#3 Spend the day on your own. Do not invite friends, colleagues, or family. They will require social attention and may unconsciously hold you to old ways of thinking. Be prepared to be alone and or meet entirely new people on your Visioning day.

#4 Do something entirely new for you. A Visioning Day is not the same as simply taking time off to recharge your batteries. It is a time to challenge yourself and build innovation skills. Consider doing something you would "never normally do" or learning about something that you have had very little knowledge or interest in. The point is not to find a new career or a new hobby, the point is simply to be exposed to entirely new experiences.

#5 Get involved. Try to learn something and seek out experiences that engage all of your senses. Instead of just reading about a new topic, go to a new place. Instead of watching a demonstration, try a hands-on experiment.

#6 Don't expect too much at first. It may take four to five Visioning Days before you see a real impact on your resilience and innovation. You will see one, though, if you keep on doing it and make occasional visioning a way of life and a part of your ongoing business development.

#7 Take the time to write down your observations. Ask yourself what assumptions the people you met were making, and what skills and processes they took for granted. You might discover thinking approaches, skills, and processes that can be transplanted into your business. Applying old ideas in a new way is the heart of innovation.

So go ahead, PLAY HOOKEY it just might lead to more fun, more profits and greater innovation.

Mari Geasair

copywright 2003, Mari Geasair All Rights Reserved

*** footnote: Based on a study by J. H. Davidson as reported in the Harvard Business Review (April-May 1976) and confirmed by research from Doug Hall as described in Jump Start Your Business Brain, copyright 2001 by Eureka! Institute (p. 131).

Mari Geasair is a writer, trainer and coach specializing in helping Small Business Owners and Information Service Professionals make more profits with less stress. Visit her website at for a varity of tools to help you make the journey to success easier and more fun. You will find self assesments and audio trainings and free resources on Small Business and Creative Prosperity.

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