Today we’re talking with Shaneh Woods from E3 Business Services.  Shaneh runs a great bookkeeping and consulting business.  She and her team provide smaller businesses with a full range of services they need to keep track of what’s going on in their business.  In this episode Shaneh has made a generous offer that will help you figure out your why.  To get this free document, click here.

In today’s episode we’ll be talking about how structure actually adds creativity as well as discovering your why and how both of those fit together in creating a sustainable business.

Some of the things you’ll learn in today’s episode are:

    • Why multitasking is a lie.
    • How structure and process provide more room for creative freedom.
    • How getting up a little earlier and spending time on yourself lead to more personal satisfaction.
    • How being strategic makes for a better business and how it helps you have more fun.


Narrator:         Welcome to The Sustainable Business Radio Show podcast where you’ll learn not only how to create a sustainable business but you’ll also learn the secrets of creating extraordinary value within your business and your life. In The Sustainable Business, we focus on what it’s going to take for you to take your successful business and make it economically and personally successful.

Your host, Josh Patrick, is going to help us through finding great thought leaders as well as providing insights he’s learned through his 40 years of owning, running, planning and thinking about what it takes to make a successful business sustainable.

Josh:                Hey, how are you today? This is Josh Patrick. You’re at The Sustainable Business podcast.

Today, we have Shaneh Woods with us. Shaneh is the owner of E3 Business Services. Her business consulting firm. They also provide bookkeeping services. In fact, she provides bookkeeping services for us. Well, Shaneh is way, way, way, way more than just your average old bookkeeper. She is one of the most curious people I’ve met. She has some really interesting things she comes up with and is always out there looking for how she can help her clients get better outcomes.

Today, we’re going to start off with structure and we’ll see where we go from there. So, let’s bring Shaneh in.

Hey, Shaneh. How are you today?

Shaneh:           Hi, Josh. I’m doing great. Thank you so much for having me on your show.

Josh:                It’s a pleasure. And you’re one of the more interesting people I know so I’m expecting we’re going to have a nice, interesting conversation today.

Shaneh:           Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Because I’m never sure when somebody says I’m interesting.

Josh:                Well, in my world, it’s always a good thing because my personal mission is to do interesting things with interesting people, so there you are.

Shaneh:           Well, perfect. I’m glad I fit in, right away.

Josh:                Yes. So that fits in with my personal mission, so you’re doing just fine there.

Shaneh:           Excellent.

Josh:                So, anyway, let’s talk about structure. I mean, you say that structure and process allow for more creative freedom. That doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, so how does that work?

Shaneh:           Well, I find that most people are, you know, when you use the word structure, process, organize that they feel that it just completely stifles their creativity. And that it just means you’re going to have to a robot. What I find is that, by giving myself some structure and adding processes to what I do, that I get to have creative freedom within boundaries. I think boundaries are important. You need to know how far you can go and then explore all the infinite possibilities within those boundaries.

Josh:                What kind of boundaries might we be talking about?

Shaneh:           Setting up a routine for yourself to get things done. I have a pretty strict structured morning routine that consists of obviously getting up, but journaling – I have a gratitude journal. I do some meditation. I do all of these things before I start my day.

Some people would feel like, “Uhh, I just can’t do that (1) getting up early. It’s no fun. I don’t need that kind of structure.” And what I found is when I started doing that, is when I started having some of my best ideas. It’s like I was cleaning the mental palate and opening myself up to the possibilities of whatever the universe has to offer me. I’ve read amazing books during that timeframe – books that I haven’t necessarily been open to before. I’ve had thoughts that just randomly pop in my head that have really struck a chord and have helped me take my business in new directions.

Josh:                So what you’re saying, or at least what I’m hearing anyhow, is that by putting structure in your life and doing things, you’re basically setting yourself up to be able to think about things that you would not normally set up if you didn’t have that structures. Is that correct?

Shaneh:           That’s correct.

Josh:                And I’m also, from what I’m hearing, so things that you’re actually thinking about are strategic and not tactical in nature?

Shaneh:           Correct.

Josh:                So, why is thinking strategically such an important activity and one that so many business owners just don’t make time for?

Shaneh:           Well, when we get stuck in the tactical, we’re only really dealing with the day‑to‑day issues that are in front of us, we miss out on the big picture. The strategy is the big picture. It’s the future of your company and the direction you want to go as opposed to the direction you are going because of circumstance.

I think, taking that time to think strategically is immeasurably valuable. We actually, using a process and structure, in our company, we do it every single quarter as a structured process. We have what we call Strategic Thinking Day that personally and as a team, we go through our strategies. “Where do we want to be? How do we want to get there?” Because of all the lovely books that I read, you know, “What is the one thing I need to be working on right now to make those things happen?”And by taking some time, and I always do this outside of my office, get out of my space, I find that it keeps my business fresh. It keeps me excited about it. And it keeps new ideas so we’re not stagnating.

Josh:                So, on your Strategic Thinking Day, can you give us a little bit of an outline of what it might look like and what outcomes generally come out of it?

Shaneh:           Sure. I always start off by kind of doing a review of where I am at for the year, both financially and in my goal-setting process. You know, “Have I achieved goals I was aiming for? Are they still the right goals, if I haven’t achieved them?” You know, because things change. What I’m wanting might have changed as well. I know you don’t like the word but I have to pivot, so I look and see, “Am I on the path that I need to be on to reach my ultimate personal goals?” So, we take a look at where we are. Then, we go back through and do some visioning on “What do we want our business and our lives to look like in, say, five years?” So, we have a lot of fun with that. I know you have kids or at least one daughter, correct?

Josh:                I have two of them.

Shaneh:           You have two. Okay—

Josh:                Not daughters, but two children.

Shaneh:           I knew there was at least one.

                        So, do you remember when they were five years old and they’d constantly ask “why”? Why – and you give them an answer. Well, why is that? Why? Why? So, we actually take ourselves through that same process.

And sometimes, I can sound like a whiny, little five year old when I’m asking myself this question. But it’s really to boil down to the importance of why I want something. You know, do I want it just because everybody else has it? Or do I want it because it will keep me on the path to what is my ultimate purpose? So we’d go through the why process and it’s just to make sure that I am still in alignment with my why.

Then we, using the one-thing process, we back out. “Okay, so what is the one thing I need to do this year to be on track for that five-year goal?” And we back it out even further. You know, “What do I need to do this quarter, to be on track for that one year goal?” And we boil it all the way down to “What is the next best thing I need to be doing?”

Josh:                Who’s at the strategic planning meeting?

Shaneh:           Well, for my company, it’s my entire staff. But because it’s become such a valuable tool for myself, we actually started opening it up to the public and I guide any small business owner or professional that wants to come through the whole process.

Josh:                So you work on the strategic planning process with people outside your company and inside your company?

Shaneh:           I work, specifically on my company, with my employees and staff. But when we opened it up to the public, they’re working on their stuff while we’re working on our stuff. We do it—it’s a large room but in small groups, so there is six to eight people at a table. And they get feedback, you know, “Here’s what I’m thinking. Well, do you guys have any thoughts?” And it’s really neat to get an outside perspective sometimes.

Josh:                Well, that’s a really interesting idea. I mean, I love the idea of what I call client advisory boards.

Shaneh:           Mm-hmm.

Josh:                And this is not exactly the same but it seems to be kind of similar where you’re having somebody who’s outside your business, looking at your business from the outside. Do you make time for everybody to give feedback about this?

Shaneh:           Yeah. We go around to each table and talk and ask questions. And then some people aren’t as comfortable talking in a group setting so we always make ourselves available for the next couple of weeks afterwards to walk through them, any parts that they struggled with. One of the things that we’re implementing this quarter is a kind of an accountability mastermind to go along with it. So, for all the participants, we’ll separate them up into groups of no more than six that, every week, we have an accountability call. This is where I am working towards those goals. So we get a continuous feedback.

Josh:                So do you have just business owners on these calls? Or are there employees also?

Shaneh:           It’s both. Generally, it’s business owners. That’s the majority of my clientele. But if they have a key employee that they want to participate, they bring them in with them. And then occasionally, I have like business professionals. So, you’ve got your high level sales professionals, some managers and those that have some goals that they want to set for their career that have joined in. Those have been the little different and so we’ve had to tweak some of the questions for them but it’s been as effective.

Josh:                Cool. So we’ve gone through a strategic planning process. We have an accountability group. So, how do you create a process for self accountability?

Shaneh:           Well, it’s taken me years. But what we’ve done–we’ve actually designed an entire annual planner around our strategic thinking. So, every quarter, there’s all those steps that we had already talked about. But at the end of a quarter, there’s a reviewing your past quarter’s performance. And then the next step is planning your next quarter. And we do that for each month and each week.

So we’ve bookend each major timeframe. So, at the beginning of the month, we plan our month. These are the things we want to accomplish. At the end of our month, we grade ourselves. “How did we do?”

We’re all really good at being busy but this is being busy at the right things. So we ask ourselves, “Did we spend our time on the right things?” But we also ask ourselves, “What are the lessons learned? What are some relationships that we can strengthen?” So it’s more than just “Did I work on my goals?” And we do that each week. We plan our week and we review our week.

Josh:                So, what do you do – and this happens with everybody, especially in the beginning of a program like this. I tend to way over think what I can do and I end up accomplishing 10% of my goals – get to the quarter and that’s what I find, I’ve only got 10% done.

Shaneh:           Right.

Josh:                What do you do then?

Shaneh:           Well, hopefully, in the teaching process, I’ve thoroughly helped the participants understand not to over reach. We are really good at using the one-thing principle here in my offices. And so, we teach it at our strategic thinking event. Have you read The One Thing by Gary Keller?

Josh:                I have not.

Shaneh:           Okay.

Josh:                Or maybe I have? I might have.

Shaneh:           It is an awesome book and it goes along really well with some other things that we’ve implemented in the business. His main premise is that you can only truly focus on one big goal at a time. And to figure out what that goal is, because it’s so easy to set the wrong goal, right? And there’s nothing worse than not setting a goal than setting the wrong goal and accomplishing that instead. That’s a Zig Ziglar quote, paraphrased a little bit there. So, his question, his premise is “What is the one thing such that by doing, everything else is easier and necessary.

Josh:                Aha, that’s a great question to ask.

Shaneh:           It’s a great question to ask.

Josh:                It sounds to me like this is similar to what Stephen Covey would call a big rock.

Shaneh:           Yes. Mm-hmm. Absolutely.

Josh:                So, if you’ve read, you know, Stephen Covey stuff, he talks about rocks a lot. His being – and it also kind of goes into one of my favorite things to debunk which is multi-tasking.

Shaneh:           Oh, evil word.

Josh:                It is an evil word. So when you run across somebody who says, “You know I’ve got to work on more than one thing. I’m a good multitasker.” What do you say to him?

Shaneh:           Well, I tell them that multitasking is lie. It’s a fantasy. It is not possible. And then I steal a page out of Darren Hardy’s book and I make the group do an exercise. So, I don’t know if you’ve seen this. The exercise is to tell people to pair up and tell one group that they’re going to – knowing their ABC’s. And the other group is just going to need to count to ten. So, the first person starts and you say, “Okay, say your ABCs as fast as possible.” And they do and it takes three seconds. And then the other group is, “1 to 10 as fast as possible”. All right, now for first person, go A1, B2, 3C – numbers and letters are stored in different parts of your brain. And it’s funny because they can’t get through F without having to like re‑think the entire alphabet. “Ah, what comes next?” And you get the whole crowd laughing but it is so obvious that you cannot do both of those things at the same time.

Josh:                I just tried to do it in my head. I think I got stuck at E so.

Shaneh:           Yeah, exactly. And it quickly demonstrates how poorly we multitask.

Josh:                I have another one for you, too. Just tell somebody to watch TV at night, either any of those news channels or ESPN and try to listen to what’s going on the show while you’re reading the crawler below it.

Shaneh:           Yeah, you’re not going to be able to do it.

Josh:                I’ve yet to be able to do both.

So, I re-prove to myself every day that I can’t multitask by trying to do that. And I don’t think I’m going to be a success, so I don’t think anybody else is either.

So you talk about separating your job title from your identity.

Shaneh:           Yup.

Josh:                I often talk about integrating your personal and business life. So, those things kind of sound like they’re at odds with each other. What do you mean by separating your job title from your identity?

Shaneh:           Well, whenever somebody asks me, you know, when they’re meeting me for this first time, “Oh, what do you do?” The easiest and most habitual answer is, “Oh, I’m an accountant.” That is what I do, that is not who I am.

Josh:                Yup.

Shaneh:           I am so much more than just an accountant and I think when we get stuck in our job title, we close ourselves off to the possibilities of who with truly we are.

Howard Partridge, I don’t know if you know, he is another author that I like. He has a quote that “The only reason your business exists is to help you reach your life goals.” And I feel that when I say, “I’m just an accountant” I’m missing the point of that. I also think we get stuck in “If I’m just an accountant then I’m just a technician. I’m just the data entry person who can create a financial statement. I’m not the person that’s going to sit down and explore the possibilities. “What are the numbers telling you and how can you use them to make a good business decision?”

Josh:                It makes sense to me. I mean, I would say I’m not an accountant. I would say, “I do accounting and I’m a human being.”

Shaneh:           Mm-hmm. Right.

But too often, we don’t do that.

Josh:                I’m a wise guy also, so that will be my—

Josh:                My thing so. You talked a little bit about pivoting. When do you decide that you have to do that?

Shaneh:           I think it goes to—I’m not sure who’s quote this is, “When the pain of staying the same is worse than the pain of change, hopefully you’re smart enough to do it before that.” But that’s really when people will do it.

For me, it’s when I go through my why process and I realize that what I’m doing is not in alignment with my why. That’s when I need to change gears.

Josh:                And why do you believe you need to change gears at that point? [inaudible 00:16:08] who you are?

Shaneh:           Because you can’t act in a manner inconsistent with how you view yourself.

Josh:                That makes perfectly good sense to me and it’s something that a lot of business owners have a real problem with. I think it’s one of the reasons they get stuck is they say they believe they need to do the same thing over and over and over again, stuff they’ve done for 20 years. And frankly, they’re just sick of it.

Shaneh:           Right. I think you start to hate what you do, you know, because you’re not in alignment with your purpose in life. I know, for quite a while, I hated what I did and I’m great at it. But it became a job and I used that with that sarcastic sneer in my voice on purpose.

Josh:                Yup.

Shaneh:           You know? And I didn’t have any boss that I could blame for my situation. It was all on me. When I figured out my why which was an entire process. And again, I think you can learn everything from books, so Simon Sinek’s Start With Why. When I figured out my why and stopped identifying as just a technician and being stuck in that tactical versus strategic, that’s when my business changed.

And it’s funny because it’s not just about my business. My marriage has gotten better because I’m more satisfied professionally. Of course, my bottom line has gotten better and that’s great but my health has gotten better because I’m dealing with less stress in a more productive way. It’s been a life-changing event.

Josh:                That’s great. So we have time for one more topic and we’re out of time unfortunately.

Shaneh:           Okay.

Josh:                But you talk about the importance of gratitude. And I’m also a big believer in gratitude. I really like positive focus. Why do you believe gratitude is so important for a business owner?

Shaneh:           I don’t think it’s important just for business owners. I think it’s important for everybody. But for business owners, specifically, I think we tend to focus on the negative. “Uh, bad economy. Employees aren’t doing what they said they’re going to do. This client’s angry. This vendor’s not fulfilling their promises.” And we forget about all the significant things that are going right. You know, the quite employee who’s doing exactly what they should be doing and more.

And when we focus on the negative I think we attract more negative. And I don’t mean to be that we get all The Secret or Love, whatever’s on you. But I do think we tend to attract more of what we’re looking for. So, if we’re focusing on the negative, we’re going to bring more of that into our life. And if we’re focusing on the positive, we will find and attract more positive things and positive people.

Josh:                That fits in with how to counteract one of the principles of behavioral economics which is we focus on bad at about 100 times more than we focus on the good. And if we force ourselves to focus on good, we sometimes realize that about 95% to 98% of our life is good and very little is challenging.

                        So, at any rate, Shaneh, unfortunately we are out of time. And I’m going to bet that there are some of our listeners who might want to get in touch with you. So, if you they wanted to, how would they go about doing that?

Shaneh:           The best way would probably be to call our toll-free number. It’s 866-456-1995 and I’m available 9 to 5, Monday through Friday, Eastern Time.

Now, I would like, if possible, I’ve got a small pdf that I put together, that has our attitude of gratitude sheet that we go through and our self-accountability sheet for our weekly review and planning. I was wondering if I could give that to you and you could give that to your listeners.

Josh:                We will put that in the show notes. So, when you’re listening to this, go to the show notes which are right below the podcast recorder and click on the link that’ll be there and it’ll take you to Shaneh’s information that she would like you to have. By the way, that information will be free.

Shaneh, thanks so much for your time today. I really appreciate it. I know we’ll be speaking soon.

Shaneh:           Thanks a lot.

Josh:                And for those of who are interested in one of my little pieces I put together. It’s a Periodic Table of Business Planning Elements. It’s about 56 different items that you can do that are strategic in your business. All you have to do is take out your cellphone and text PERIODIC to 44222. That’s PERIODIC (P-E-R-I-O-D-I-C) to 44222 and we’ll have our periodic table sent to you.

Again, Shaneh, thanks so much for your time today. I really appreciate it. And there’s a lot of good information here. So, you folks who are listening, you may want to listen to this podcast episode more than once.

Thanks so much. You’re at the Sustainable Business. This is Josh Patrick and I hope to see you back here soon.

Narrator:         You’ve been listening to The Sustainable Business podcast where we ask the question, “What would it take for your business to still be around 100 years from now?” If you like what you’ve heard and want more information, please contact Josh Patrick at 802‑846‑1264 ext 2, or visit us on our website at, or you can send Josh an e-mail at

Thanks for listening. We hope to see you at The Sustainable Business in the near future.

Topics: sustainable business podcast, Sustainable Business, multi-tasking, Business structure

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