How to Engage in Blue Sky Thinking When It’s Raining

How do we plan in a time of complete turmoil and uncertainty? That’s the question most of us are asking in this year of unprecedented change. One thing we know won’t work is pulling out last year’s plan and updating it. So, what will?


For my hybrid work team, the secret ingredient for 2021 growth planning is Blue Sky Thinking.


What? That’s crazy, right? We need to focus on recovery and crisis management, don’t we?


Of course. Shoring up your defenses is needed for business continuation. But it won’t get you to what’s next. Blue Sky Thinking will. Blue Sky Thinking is that attitude of optimism that looks into the universe and sees endless possibilities.


The “What if? Why Not? Can we? Will we?” questions that drive Blue Sky Thinking can boost creativity and energy for you as the business owner and leader and for your entire team. Now is the time to consider wild and crazy ideas that just might open the door to your next big marketing campaign or new product development.


Optimism! Like laughter, optimism delivers  real health benefits that strengthen teams and bottom lines. Your team needs the confidence right now to look beyond the rain and see the rainbow.


Here are seven steps for engaging in Blue Sky Thinking for your 2021 growth planning.


  1. Review the fundamentals: your core strengths; your solid and enduring successes; your team; your resources and capabilities.
  2. Don’t focus too much on COVID impacts. Focusing on COVID will limit your thinking and likely cause you to miss emerging opportunities. Also, too much is unknown to make predictions about the full impacts meaningful. Instead, use the successes and failures of the past six months as guardrails to future expectations.
  3. Look at COVID as an opportunity that you didn’t see coming six months ago. Evaluate the changes that have happened in your industry. What’s needed now that wasn’t before? How can your business serve that need?
  4. Create a flexible framework rather than a specific action plan for 2021. A framework allows you to adjust your plan within your capabilities and resources and to pivot when necessary.
  5. Reevaluate your mission statement. Your business has changed this year. Does your mission statement reflect where you are going? Re-crafting your mission statement with an eye toward where you are going next will infuse energy and enthusiasm into your 2021 plan.
  6. Consider the big leap. What if you could enter a new market? Completely redesign your product line? Buy out a competitor? What would it take? How would you do it?
  7. Enlarge your world view and include (DEI) diversity, equity, and inclusion steps in your planning efforts. What business practices changes do you need to make to better include people of all ethnicities, gender identities, sexual orientations, religious affiliations, abilities, and ages in your product development, hiring and business operations?

If you need help facilitating a Blue Sky Thinking session for your team, contact me here.


Where do you fit in today’s Remote Economy?

The remote economy, which opened for business full throttle in March, shows no signs of slowing down. Many companies have made remote workers their permanent work force into the foreseeable future. Others are trying the hybrid office-WFH approach.

The move to remote work has had a profound impact on normal business operations, people’s daily lives and, according to Marker is, “Killing the Hidden Trillion-Dollar office economy.” Businesses from catering companies to janitorial services that depend on vibrant offices full of workers are faced with long term shifts to their reliable revenue streams.

What about your company? If you have been hanging on waiting for a return to “normalcy,” it looks like you’ll have a long wait. The reality is the remote economy is here to stay. Use it to your advantage.

Take Stock and Move Forward


It’s fall, the traditional planning season for next year. As a business owner, executive, or entrepreneur you can gain a revenue and competitive advantage by taking stock of exactly where you fit in today’s remote economy with these three questions:


1) What does my remote workforce look like today and what do my employees need to become sustainable high-performance team members? Consider the following:


Leadership – What is your ability and comfort level leading remote workers for the long term? How well are you sustaining your foundational cultural values?Communication – How seamlessly does your team work together day in and day out? Is communication easy or hard? What’s the level of conflict resolution needed?
Training – Without immediate access to tribal knowledge, new and younger remote workers can struggle. What processes do you have in place to ensure workers know their jobs and their value to corporate operations?Tools – Do your employees have the best in class tools and technology they need to perform at their peak remotely? If not, what do they need? Unsure? Ask them. Then acquire the best of breed tools to gain productivity where it counts.


2) How can I streamline operations to protect my bottom line today and into the future, regardless of economic turmoil? I suggest there is one focus for that: digital transformation: Bring as much of your operations to the cloud as possible. In my book Make Remote Work, I outline seven areas where cloud technology can replace outdated manual or PC-based software. These are: appointment booking, proposal software, ERP systems, order management, marketing automation, sales enablement and customer service.


3)How can I better market, sell or service my products online? The possibilities are almost endless. B2B business owners need to carefully study their consumer/retail-oriented colleagues for strategies that work. Depending on your size and resources, you can take a small step like adding more customer self-service capabilities to your website or invest in a major business model change such as launching a subscription service. In Make Remote Work, I provide an overview of nine subscription service models to choose from.


Where does your organization stand today in the remote economy? Is it where you want to be? If not, what changes are you willing to make now to secure your long-term future in our new remote economy?

Need help with that? Book a consult here. 


Innovation is your Crisis Protection Plan

Crisis management gets a bad rap. The phrase conjures up pictures of your management team running around in chaos mode putting out fires, stuck in place, instead of casting a vision, developing a strategic plan and executing to win with a proven process. Crisis management is something every seasoned, successful management team seeks to avoid.


Except today you can’t. The combination of COVID-19 and global political and economic turmoil has created a crisis environment that every business owner, entrepreneur and executive team has to manage in and through. Crisis management is a skillset your team must acquire.


Innovation is the answer. Innovation, finding that new method, product, idea, that opens up new doors and opportunities in a time of turmoil, is your crisis protection plan. Innovation is not an activity. Innovation is a mindset.


It’s a mindset that is willing to look at every component of your business with a new perspective. It’s a mindset that questions everything, especially the tried and true. When innovation works it’s a little scary on its own. Even more so now with all the other upheavals your team is dealing with. At the same time, embracing innovation also got easier because we all know that what we are used to doing won’t work today as it has in the past.


The Octain Growth approach to the innovation mindset with clients is three-fold: identify strengths, develop a mind map and create a blueprint for implementation.


A mature software company was trapped in an aging market space with little growth potential. Several new products were suggested, none was innovative. They were all safe bets. We worked with executive team using our product fuel template and the innovation questions in our mind map to identify the best ROI-based options. With stakeholder agreement, the choice was narrowed to one—launch an upgrade in new market space which opened a new geographic market, changed the company’s competitive position and drove new sales growth of 24% in first the 12 months following the launch.

Assessing your strengths

Ready to innovate? Here’s the first step: A quick checklist for assessing the competitive and market strengths of your product or services. Consider how you can use these strengths to innovate better in the remote worker economy.

Map your possibilities

It’s time to blue sky how you might rethink, reinvent and innovate your products and services for the remote economy. The mind map of What’s Next is the secret sauce. Here’s mine to get you started. This mind map was created in Whimsical.


Note the four categories:

  • Improve – How can you make your product/service easier to use, more affordable or faster to get customer results?
  • Extend – How can you expand your product/service capabilities or customer reach?
  • Reinvent – How can your product/service solve a related problem or serve another customer group?
  • Innovate – What can you do to push the boundaries of your current product/service focus and limitations? What’s the one crazy thing you can do (may seem impossible today) to better serve your market and customers?


Each of these categories requires a new perspective and a willingness to step beyond your current activity. Which one are you willing to step into today?


It’s critical to get all company stakeholders from executive management to customer service involved in the creation on your corporate mind map. Capture all ideas first without debate and then prioritize your wish list according to time, talent and resources available.


Blueprint the implementation

Once your mind map is complete, you’ll need to create a blueprint that takes you from the ideation to the actualization of your goals.


Octain has a proven process for delivering results from innovation especially in today’s remote economy and the global turmoil we are enduring. We’d love to chat with you now.


For more on how your company can Make Remote Work, download the ebook.


How to discover your opportunities in the new normal

Business owners are facing more challenge and change than we have ever faced before. With constant turmoil quickly becoming the new new normal, how can business owners expect to stabilize, let alone grow?

It’s not easy! But . . .

some of the best opportunities can appear in uncertain times.


Take the case of Unleashed. Michael Spinosa and Scott Greenwell started a digital marketing agency called Unleashed Technologies at the start of the 2007 financial crisis.


In a recent Value Builders interview, Spinosa characterized Unleashed as a “very average” digital agency when they first began. Then in 2009, the partners decided to rebrand their solution under their “Growth Package” offering where customers could get digital talent in “dosages” that fit their needs. This packaging allowed Unleashed to differentiate themselves from other digital agencies that billed for their time. This marked the beginning of a great run, which saw Unleashed grow 20% per year with 20% profit margins and 90% client retention.


As we move forward in 2020, we know the reinvention for the remote economy will play a big role in future success. How will you lead a remote workforce; improve operational agility and speed, and innovate your products and services?


Companies like Square, Uber, Credit Karma and Venmo were all started during the 2008-2009  recession. What opportunity is waiting for you?

Find out with our opportunity assessment.

One click now
 starts a brief 5 minute survey of your unique business situation. Following this assessment, I’ll be sending you an analysis of opportunities and some recommendations how to move forward. Ready to give it a try?  Click here now.

Ready to Thrive in the Remote Economy?

We have entered the era of the remote economy. It’s changed everything about the way we do business. As we begin to reopen our doors, we are having to reinvent our jobs, our lives, and our daily routines on the fly.


That’s what happened to my personal trainer Kelle Santin. When her employer California Family Fitness closed due to Shelter in Place rules in Sacramento, Kelle was immediately unemployed. As a personal trainer who works hands on with her clients, Kelle had to figure out what to do next.


Kelle could have stepped back and waited for her gym to reopen. She’d still be waiting! Instead, she decided to reinvent herself. She chose to learn to use the tools now available to her as part of the emerging remote economy. Kelle found new employment as an online, on demand trainer with Flight Live Fitness and launched her remote work career.


“Without Clare’s help and innovative thinking, I would have never considered leaving my ‘big box’ gym to go out on my own. Clare was able to show me a bigger picture of what my business model could be, and with the COVID-19 virus shelter in place order, this has become even more pressing. I have since found success with online training and developed a new growth mindset in the area of my business.”


Kelle is just one of the thousands of independent entrepreneurs and business owners who are grappling with the new economic realities. If that’s you, you are why I wrote my new book, Make Remote Work.


Make Remote Work is for business owners who are looking to reinvent their businesses, products and services for our new remote economy.  It’s for anyone who is figuring out how to be productive as a remote worker and/or who is responsible for leading a team of remote workers.

Make Remote Work is a free 70-page eBook loaded with tips, tools and hacks to navigate this new virtual work world.

What’s inside?

  • Be a happier, more productive remote worker
  • Confidently lead your remote team
  • Tools and tips for virtual teamwork
  • Technology must haves for improving operating efficiencies
  • Transitioning your business to the cloud
  • Keeping customers happy when you’re not around
  • Redefining your marketing engine for online customers
  • Product innovation for a remote world

Click here  for your free copy of Make Remote Work.

Growth in Crisis

Coronavirus. Stock Market plunge. Presidential Elections. It’s a drumbeat of panic that is quickly becoming a self-fulling prophecy. In the here and now it’s tempting to keep your head down, focus on the day to day and wait for the storm to pass. That’s one option.


Another option is to face the turbulence head on, pilot through it and land safely and profitably on the other side. If that’s the course you’ve chosen to take, here are four steps to help you get there.


Be Proactive. Get out in front of any concerns that your customers and employees might be having. Not sure what to say? Gather your leadership team and brainstorm the list and then rather than wait for them to call you reach out and call them. Let customers and employees know you’re on it. The big guys are doing it. I’ve gotten emails from SWA, Lyft and Target among many others sharing their new processes for coronavirus. Small businesses can too. A personal message from the business owner with specifics is a great start.


Be Creative. I don’t know of a better antidote to anxiety and overwhelm than stepping back and letting those creative juices flow. Think about your product or service. What could you do today to make it easier for your customers to buy or use your services? Think about your customers. What could you do today to make their lives easier or better now? We always like things to be easier or faster and never more than when we are under stress.


Be Bold. It’s tempting to go dark now with your marketing or sales activities. You have your hands full. Resist the temptation. Let people know you are out here and working. Be reassuring. Dig deep. Recall and reiterate your corporate values to your customers and your employees. Express them confidently and strongly. Send that message out through your sales team. Remind your people of what you’ve accomplished together and are still focused on to help them and theirs. Get that message out across all your direct and social channels.


Remember life goes on. People still need you and what you have. Consider in this environment who else might need it and reach out to them. Your product or service may be their lifeline.

Turmoil and tumult will test your resolve. It will give you pause for thought and, could if you let it, stunt your company’s growth. But it doesn’t have to. You can grow stronger through the crisis.