Business growth is a reality, Holder says

“If there is one message you get today,” featured speaker Louise Holder told the attendees at the May 28 regular meeting of the Greater Bothell Chamber of Commerce, “it is, ‘Yes, you can grow your business.’”

Holder quickly added that contention applies even in today’s weak economy.

A graphic designer by trade and owner of Holder’s Ink in Kirkland, Holder also has carved out a niche as a sort of small-business motivator, with a book and an approach that suggests business owners need, at least once or twice a year, to take a step back and carefully consider their work and their relationship to it.

Holder refers to those deliberate, contemplative sessions as business retreats and suggests 31 specific questions to which business owners need to find and list the answers.

As a designer working on logos and similar products for various enterprises, Holder said she has had the opportunity to interact with numerous types of businesses. She said she was “shocked” to discover how many business owners didn’t seem to understand their own enterprise, didn’t know where it was going or how to get there.

“You’ve got to pull back and look at your business,” Holder said in a simple statement of her approach to running any company.

As for those 31 questions (and 31 resulting lists), they run the gamut from figuring out your income and expenses to identifying the client or clients you most covet. Holder admitted flatly that some of the questions might seem “innocuous and obvious.”

“But there is a reason for each one,” she added, stating at one point that a specific goal of her approach is to get business leaders to look at the basics. Some questions clearly are aimed at inspiring business owners.

For example, Holder suggests recalling and creating a list of compliments you have received related to your work.

“It’s so important to remember complimentary things people have said because that’s motivating,” Holder said.

At least some of the suggested questions seem to go well beyond any basics and call for deeper self-examination.

Holder wants business owners to consider how they want both their lives and their businesses to look. Another asks how you have improved yourself as a business owner. Holder said those answers can be used as a basis for deciding what you like and don’t like about your business and, of course, coming up with ways to change or strengthen those things appropriately.

“Business should be fun,” Holder insisted, implying owners shouldn’t be afraid to make their work day enjoyable. She said a few years ago she simply made the decision she wasn’t going to work with difficult people.

Holder put a special emphasis on creating partnerships and contacts within your line of work.

“Partnerships are what make us work and make us grow,” she said, saying contact with like-minded people can provide important feedback and ideas.

One final suggestion was one Holder said is used by management at major companies and calls for ranking changes you want to make in yourself, in your business or in your approach to business. Holder added that in her case, the rankings led her to realize she had a real weakness when it came to simply asking for a sale.

“You’re so down into the daily grind, you don’t see these things … If I can change, you can change. You can always be improving.”