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Business inspiration isn’t just something that comes from Fast Company or Entrepreneur. Solutions for small business can come from anywhere!

Calvin and Hobbes is a comic strip that ran in the United States in daily and Sunday papers from 1985 to 1995. It remains one of the most beloved comic strips in history. 

Many people find inspiration in this comic when they’re feeling stuck or challenged. There are times when you come up against a problem or challenge that seems like it should be simple. A little distraction and perspective from a comic like this can help. 

We can’t include images of the comics out of respect for copyright, but want to introduce you to some comic strips you don’t get to see every day.

Make Your Brand Inspiring

Branding is complex because it aims to connect someone intimately to a product. At the same time, branding should inspire a shopper to use that product and to connect the product to how they feel about themselves. 

It’s easy to come up with a logo that you think is attractive and to come up with copy that is familiar.  That said, the kind of brand the people keep close to their hearts is one that inspires them. Calvin and Hobbes make fun of this way of thinking about branding. They also question whether it’s healthy, a conversation that is gaining traction

How you approach your branding depends on what your products do and what problems they solve. Either way, you want to show your customers how you understood them well enough to recognize the problem in the first place. A great brand says- I’m a part of your life already and how can we build a better world together? What does that better world look like?

Pay Attention to Procrastination 

This cartoon finds a way to say something most people don’t like to admit. Procrastination is a common challenge and it’s especially prevalent in business. Paying attention to where you procrastinate is one of the most exciting ways to grow as a leader. 

In the organization of your business, take a look at how you procrastinate. Are these tasks things that you hate to do? Are they processes that don’t feel natural to you? These are a couple of common reasons that people procrastinate. 

Instead of trying not to procrastinate, pay attention to why you procrastinate. That may point you to skill sets that you want to develop or who the best person to hire is as you grow your business

Sometimes we get in our own way with best practice advice. In the early days of a business, it’s about growing in a way that’s natural to your business. 

The way you approach your business is unique. Paying attention to how and why you procrastinate can give you an idea of the best ways to grow for your personal business

Small business team laughing and pointing at a computer screen shows how business inspiration can motivate and  make change easier

Powerful Imagery

In this media landscape, we are so saturated with information. Evidence says that humans decide what an article means based on the images, not the text. There are so many pictures in this world that fall flat. If you can find an effective infographic, chart or photograph you’re giving your business a big leg up.

This is why product photography is so important. It’s why having consistent a consistent style and image for your brand is vital. So, if you haven’t already made the investment, original photographs and graphics that should be your number one goal for this year.

Let the World Change

At first glance, this piece of business inspiration is just funny. Calvin is egocentric in the extreme, saying it’s up to the world to change and not him. At the same time, this is also a good approach to take when solving a problem. 

Every small business spends a chunk of the day doing repetitive processes and getting sales. Most of that work is thinking about what other people want and need, and how you can adjust your process and your strategy to fit those outside needs. 

It’s sometimes helpful to look at it from a different perspective. What would you change in your clients or suppliers if you could? What changes would you make to the software that you rely on and how would that change save you time or money? What would you change in your shoppers’ habits, and why?

A hand drawing with a pencil talks about how a comic is made and all the tools that go into it, just like small businesses online need ecommerce and tools like Selz managed advertising to succeed

Business Inspiration at the Bus Stop

For many people starting their own business is a declaration of independence. It’s saying- I want to do something different for myself and for my family and I want to live my life in a different way. 

There are so many Calvin and Hobbes strips at the bus stop. Calvin never wants to go to school because school is a world that doesn’t understand who he is. They seem to don’t value him or what he has to offer. Many of you are online looking for inspirational business quotes because this is how you feel.

In the hustle of meeting your bottom line, it can be easy to forget why you started this process in the first place. Many people fall into habits around what is familiar or what we’ve seen before. This comic is a reminder that we can decide our priorities every day. Great things can come from making a brave decision and sticking to it through the ups and downs.

Vanity Metrics?

KPIs are essential for any business, but you need the right data to know whether you’re successful. 

When your business isn’t meeting the big goals it can be tempting to hold on to less important KPIs, like shares on social media. These kinds of metrics can make it seem like we’re doing better than we are. Some people call these vanity metrics, but it’s really more than vanity. 

Getting on a bestseller list or a major website can be a big boost. It can mean links, publicity and attention for your business. Making it on a ‘best of’ list or a good review can also make it seem like our competitors are doing better than they really are. When a competitor is getting attention that you’re not, it can be easy to feel like you’re doing something wrong. You may even wonder if your business should just step down and let that competitor take the wheel. 

But we never really know what the inner workings of another business look like. Even if they may get a boost in sales from that attention, their business processes could be so inefficient that you have more in the red than they do. 

While competitive analysis and good reviews are important, limit your focus on these things to a quarterly review. Otherwise, you’ll be so focused on your competitors that you won’t be able to get the most out of your business. 

A woman laughing at something on her computer screen, because business inspiration is waht keeps small business owners going when paid ads aren't working

Getting Through the Bad Days

Have you had a rough Tuesday or two? Me too. It feels good to know but you’re not the only one when you’re having a rough day. Sometimes it’s helpful to sit inside it and say- okay it’s a bad day. That can help you accept the bad day and do something else tomorrow. 

But other times a bad day can be a source of business inspiration. Bad days can make you ask what is what can I do that would make things better? Sometimes it’s letting one thing go. A lot of business owners start a business with one incredible product. Maybe you’re great at being part of a community and investing time in conversations. But at the same time, maybe marketing isn’t your thing, or bookkeeping is something you dread. 

Let one thing go

When you’re already dealing with a full manufacturing pipeline, let one thing go. If you are listening to your customers and giving great customer service, let one thing go.

When you increase the volume of your sales, it’s a good idea to look for outside help. We offer managed advertising because we found that the number one challenge our business owners were having wasn’t selling the right product. It wasn’t their website or the checkout process. The challenge was how to get more eyes on their products.

It is tough to learn one more thing that you need to constantly track and measure for optimal results. This service gives you one-on-one contact that you can trust to build your ads and measure their effectiveness. This service will help you get those extra eyes on your products. With the extra time you save, you can use all your other skills to continue to grow your business.

A businessman reading a newspaper from above, because business inspiration can come from the most unexpected sources, in this article from Selz with tools to grow your small business

Live By Your Own Rules

Calvin’s dad is nothing like you’d expect him to be. It can be tempting to think Calvin came out of nowhere and his approach to life is just the whim of a seven-year-old, but when you look at it, his dad likes to play with the rules of the world too. 

Calvin’s dad likes to play with reason and he likes to invent. It reminds me of some of the Selz merchants who are creating digital products. A few years ago, digital products sounded like a trend and traveling while you work sounded like an unreachable dream. 

Instead, digital products are becoming a way for many people to live a different kind of life. It’s not for everyone, but digital tools are something most businesses use every day, and many small businesses can supplement their income selling digital products. A digital tool could be instructions, an eBook or a plugin for Photoshop. 

Digital products offer the opportunity to live in a world where Calvin’s dad really can live by his own rules.

But Don’t Reinvent the Rules Every Day

Calvinball is a game, and another source of business inspiration. Calvin and Hobbes invented it. Calvinball is unlike traditional sports because Calvin and Hobbes improvise the rules and change them as they play the game. The process may feel familiar to anyone starting a business. 

The trick is, when a small business moves from part-time to full-time or from micropreneur to 5, 10, 20+ employees, the rules need to change. Moms get more stressed when they have more kids, and there is less control.

A growing business can feel the same way. Each one of your employees brings their past experience and knowledge and expectations into your business. Things can get complicated fast. The simplest way to create a structure is to have a solid set of business processes

Obviously every business process will need to evolve for different reasons- software changes, tools become obsolete, the market changes. But businesses run the same way as Calvinball can devolve into chaos. It can make an environment far more challenging for your employees too. 

Clear and consistent business processes are the most practical way to create comfortable and confident employees that want to give you their best.

A man reading the newspaper in a restaurant, sometimes you just need to take a break from the grind and get inspired

Distraction, then Organization

Another element of business that comes up more often as a business grows are partnerships and contracts

For each tool you use and each partnership you develop, it’s important to understand the options and limitations. You’ll also want to have a tracking system that organizes your different commitments. This may be a spreadsheet, a database or a CRM, but it should be something that every person involved can access and understand. 

The number one skill to develop in the middle stages of a business is project management, especially as you take on new initiatives.

As partnerships grow, you’ll want to organize and communicate contracts, timelines and deliverables. For long and successful partnerships, you want to put a system in place to ensure that you meet shared expectations. Our team uses Asana and Trello to organize these projects. It’s important to find a tool that works well for you and your team.

AI for Small Business

Every business inspiration article this year mentions AI. The way the world thinks about artificial intelligence has gone from robot takeovers to the hundreds of automations and webhooks that businesses use each day to automate or speed up simple tasks.

AI today means digital tools that you can use to save time for your business. Whether it’s taking advantage of a virtual assistant to organize your email inbox or automations to follow up on an abandoned cart. If you’re not already taking advantage of AI, now is the time to start.

Read more:

42 Essential Google Business Tools for Your Ecommerce Business
100+ (Mostly Free) Resources To Help You Sell Online
11 Tools For Creating Visual Content To Promote Your Products Online

A stack of newspapers for business inspiration, reminds us how the comics pages used to come every Sunday and how inspiring Calvin and Hobbes is

The more things change the more they stay the same

Have you heard that phrase before? Many small businesses have been around for 20+ years, and the idea of change is very difficult. Headlines talk about the closure of huge retail chains that many thought would be around forever. Ecommerce has changed the way people buy products. The ease of daily deliveries has made people’s lives better and easier, with options like two-hour grocery delivery that would have sounded crazy even 10 years ago. 

If a business wants to stick around, they have to change. Change doesn’t have to be hard if you’re starting to sell online. There are many simple and powerful tools that can help you expand your business without losing what is most important to you. 

You can stay connected to your local community as things change. Take advantage of the opportunity that adding an online store can give your small business. Things can change and they can also stay the same.

Listen and Learn

Calvin and Hobbes’ nonsensical machines are another source of business inspiration. They’re not nonsense when you really think about it. What he is saying in this comic is- this is something that I hate doing, this is a waste of time. Not unlike my teenager at home. He avoids things that seem simple to me, but he doesn’t want to waste time doing anything that isn’t important to him.

Every business is in the business of solving problems. Solving problems for people requires living inside their world for a little bit. There are many amazing ways that you can do that online. There are hundreds of online communities on Facebook, LinkedIn and Reddit. In these groups. people are having public conversations that give you a chance to ask questions. They’re also a chance to listen to the challenges that your customers are having every day. 

Some of these challenges aren’t so different from the ones that you had when you were just starting out. You may have found your own way to accept or solve these problems for yourself and you can offer a solution, leading people to trust your perspective and to learn about your products. 

An improv team plays out a marriage proposal in this article about business inspiration from Selz - digital tools to grow your small business

Don’t underestimate the value of improvisation for business inspiration – wing it and see what happens

Have you ever been to an improv show? Comedians trained in improvisation go to open mic nights and the audience offers ideas. Then these comedians move through an invented skit with one primary goal- something called “Yes, and.” 

You may have heard about this principle in Tina Fey’s book, Bossypants. The principle of “Yes, and” means to accept and grow any offer. So, when someone suggests something, no matter how crazy it is, you accept that idea. Then, figure out how to continue in that direction. 

It’s an incredible principle when applied to business. When your team has too much going on it’s easy to say no. It can feel like any change is too much, and it’s easier to come up with objections. But when you’re trying to solve a problem, staying open is key. 

So, the practice of saying yes to any crazy suggestion can offer up solutions that can save time and money in ways that you don’t expect. It’s tempting to look for the most popular solution. But, most of the time what you really want is the most useful solution for your personal business. Approaching any problem with yes is a great place to start.

About the author

Jana Rumberger

Jana is a writer and Content Manager at Selz. She has expertise in ecommerce strategy, selling products online, and small business solutions. Jana combines diverse experience in education, design, and manufacturing to craft engaging content.

In addition to her writing, she is a visual artist and foodie in Portland, Oregon.