Finding Your Thoughtful Spot

Advice for a stronger 2013 for your business…and for you
By Jim Rafferty
December 18, 2012
THE TALK... | Management

Less than five minutes’ drive from my home, I have access to a series of trails that wind through the woods and around the shores of a reservoir. My wife and I regularly go and hike a loop we especially like; with some good elevation changes, it’s a nice workout in a serene setting. We rarely encounter anyone else.

Sometimes I go alone, usually when I need some time to think about something: a pending proposal or presentation, or an article I’ve been asked to write. Winnie the Pooh had his "thotful spot"…and I have mine. It has yet to let me down.


Something changes in my thoughtful spot at this time of year: with the leaves off the trees it’s a completely different experience. Paths that previously were hidden now reveal themselves, and where in summer the view was shrouded by branches, there now are panoramic vistas of the reservoir. The start of a new calendar year offers similar opportunities to see a different, and larger, view. It’s usually a bit quiet as your customers recover from their holiday spending hangover, and while you’d like to be busier, the potential for a better year lies in using that time wisely.

More than enough has been written about the nuts and bolts of business planning, and I won’t rehash that here–of course you want to have a plan and a set of goals for this or any new year. Offered instead are a few more personal things to consider including in that plan. I believe that working these ideas into your road map for the year will mean better times for your company…and for you.

Start with Why
We like to tell others what we do. Sometimes we tell them how we do it. But the fundamental question from which everything else springs is why. Set aside 15 minutes and watch the video called How Great Leaders Inspire Action, featuring Simon Sinek. If you’ve already seen it, watch it again and rediscover your own why. What a great way to start the year.

Tech the Halls
Call me Captain Obvious, but across two decades in the home improvement industry I’ve noticed something: A substantial percentage of those who run remodeling businesses are not terribly tech-savvy. (And please don’t be offended if you’re one of the many exceptions.) This presents something of a challenge as marketing transitions into the digital age. More and more, marketing means using a computer to make something happen. Google AdWords, SEO, social media, banner ads, video, blogs, press releases and the all-encompassing realm of content marketing demand digital competence.

If technology is your own personal brand of Kryptonite, you’re not alone. Don’t worry about your shortcomings…there’s plenty of help out there–and the people giving it probably don’t know how to install windows. Take advantage of that help, set aside your reluctance and figure out how you’re getting on board this year.

Talk to Strangers
In the year just ended, I launched my new business, a marketing consultancy. Knowing that any growth would come through word of mouth, I made it a point to reach out to nearly every acquaintance I had, and spent most of the summer over coffees, breakfasts and lunches, bouncing my ideas off of people and refining those ideas with each meeting. All were incredibly generous with their time and knowledge.

The real stunner for me, however, was when that first round of networking led outwards to the next circle: former competitors, current competitors in the form of other consultants, complete strangers whom mutual acquaintances thought I would find some benefit in knowing (and vice versa, I hope). Not one person declined to meet and not one failed to offer at least one idea or suggestion I could put to use. It has been, and continues to be, humbling and gratifying.

Who can help you? Whom can you help? Go ahead and have lunch with a competitor, or someone who runs a like-sized company in a different industry. It’s one of those things we always mean to do but never get to, so block out the time now–say twice a month–and make a list of likely prospects. You will make your business better every time out.

Cultivate an Attitude of Gratitude
In his excellent book The Only Way to Win, Jim Loehr notes the many very successful people he’s worked with who remain unfulfilled. As a culture we’re bombarded with the message that happiness comes from the next achievement or possession: the promotion, car, house, championship won or business goal met. But many who achieve their goal, whatever it is, continue to feel empty…so they chase the next thing, feeling sure that this is the one that will make them happy.

What’s the alternative? There are many, but what jumped out at me was this: among the most fulfilled people are those who are grateful for what they have. Not satisfied, not complacent, but simply in the habit of reflecting on all that is good. Try this on for size: 94 percent of people who recounted three good things that happened to them every day reported feeling significantly happier and more energetic…within about two weeks. Want a simple New Year’s resolution that will help you and your business? There it is. (Bonus tip from The Only Way to Win: To improve your marriage, spend five minutes a day reflecting on all the things about your spouse for which you’re grateful. You can thank me later.)

Keep Your Head Up
On the trail at any time of year the footing is irregular at best. There are many literal stumbling blocks like roots and rocks, and it’s easy to fall into the habit of trudging along with your eyes cast down a few feet in front of you. Do that, however, and you miss the spectacular view, the path you didn’t know was there…or the opportunity on the horizon. Get your eyes up and out of the day to day…and block out some time for regular visits to your thoughtful spot.

Have a great 2013.

Jim Rafferty is the owner of JMRketing LLC, a marketing, communications and sales consulting firm based in Timonium, Md. He is also a speaker and presenter on a variety of marketing topics and a columnist for Remodeling magazine. Previously, he served as VP of sales and marketing at Welsh Construction Remodeling Co., based in Baltimore, Md., for more than 20 year, where he was involved in traditional and digital marketing, CRM and sales management.  He can be reached at