I have the memory of a flip flop (that’s a thong for my Aussie readers but a thong in British English is an item of underwear so stand by for maximum confusion). I remember preparing for interview questions “What’s your worst point?” “I have a terrible memory … which is why I take excellent notes and ensure that everything is properly documented.”
I talk a lot about having systems in your business to improve efficiency and the simplest system is often a checklist. These were great when I was trying to run my first business around two small children as I was always able to pick up again reasonably quickly after interruptions “Mum, J’s dangling from the blind cord” (fortunately it was by his ankle and not his neck!).
I recently stayed at a Premier Inn. I’m happy to mention them by name as their service is usually excellent. But on this occasion the bin in my room had not been emptied before I arrived. A simple checklist before the cleaners left the room would have avoided this oversight.
Checklists are also good for having a replicable process to save reinventing the wheel each time. Especially for things in your business that don’t happen all the time. We have detailed processes for completing accounts and tax returns, for onboarding clients, and for regular marketing work. In an ideal world we’d have a written process for everything but I run a small business with limited resources. For less frequent work we just rely on a quick checklist
I recommend Michael Gerber’s E-Myth revisited for ideas on how to systemise your business (and of course, our own course and coaching 😉)
It can be lonely running your own business.
You are expected to present a positive (but not dishonest) image to your clients, prospects, and even to your team. It is important that everybody feels confident in you and the business prospects.
But what is the private truth behind the public image?
It may be serious mental health issues but, more commonly, it could be the 80 hour week that you’re working just to break even. The award you’ve just won could be your “reward” for never getting home for bedtime with your kids. The constant anxiety about whether there will be enough cash to pay the team and your own mortgage.
As a fellow business owner I really get this.
It’s why I write my books, and these tips, and the regular webinars for those who can’t afford our group or individual coaching. Obviously investing in the latter will help you to make any necessary changes faster and more effectively but I appreciate that they may not suit your budget right now so help yourself to the cheap and free stuff until you’re ready to invest in yourself.
For now I just want you to know that you’re not alone. We all have a pile of laundry to do, an overflowing inbox and an interminable to do list. That’s just the reality of life as an entrepreneur.
Don’t beat yourself up for being normal. Enjoy the highlights and work your way through the rest making one tiny improvement to your business each week.
Lots of triathlon and sports metaphors to come. Triathlons, like running a business, are an endurance event. We’ve seen the Brownlee brothers and others helped across the finish line (there’s another message there about needing support, even in individual sports). Speed alone is no good if you can’t make it to the final goal.
Working long hours just won’t crack it as many folk are finding out after working through stressful lockdowns without a break.
Personally I like my 25 hours working week spread over 5 days. I can feel my brain slowing down throughout the day so better to go and do something nice with family or friends, or a bit of alone time rather than push on through (unless there’s an exceptional deadline).
Whatever hours you choose to work you want every one of them to count and that’s why we focus so much on efficiency on the online courses and couching sessions.
Look for one thing you can do more efficiently this week; perhaps by automating or delegating it or just improving the system.
Are they helpful or salesy?
Charlie runs my local garage. As it’s just 15 minutes walk away it’s a convenient place to get my MOT done each year. And every year Charlie, or one of his team, sends me a reminder a month before my MOT is due.
I know that it’s now possible to get an email reminder via the .gov.uk website but Charlie has been doing this for years.
That reminder is true customer service because it helps me to ensure that my car is safe and compliant.
That reminder is good marketing because Charlie knows that I will pick up the phone and book my MOT with him. And, whilst doing the MOT, he may pick up additional work. And, as I see him as my regular garage he’s the first person I think about when the Service light goes on in my car.
What can you do to genuinely help your clients that will also lead to a sale?
Small business owners usually do a mixture of working on and in their business. It’s very easy to get sucked into working IN your business to generate profits and income today but it is also essential to work ON your business to grow and generate future profits.
So how do we get the balance right?
I use a default diary to try and ensure that I get a good balance at the planning stage.
Monday: ON catch up on admin, clear my inbox, follow up leads.
Tuesday: IN Write, rehearse and record webinars and talks for the speaking and training parts of my business.
Wednesday: IN Minerva Accountants work.
Thursday: ON/IN Marketing and content writing for myself and third parties as I write content and articles for fintechs and accountants.
Friday: IN/ON Individual and group coaching for my various online programmes and then my own business development time, implementing ideas from books, webinars and conferences that I have attended.
Of course, in the real world, it isn’t easy to stick to this but having it in my diary in the first place means that I am more likely to move my work slots around than to cancel them completely.
On a Friday afternoon I like to plan out any remaining work in my diary so that I can hit the ground running on a Monday morning.
How do you structure your week?
Decision fatigue is the exhaustion that comes with making constant decisions. My tip this week is to remove some of the smaller decisions in your life so here are some ideas for deciding what to wear.
I’d like to think that I simplified my wardrobe long before Steve Jobs or Barack Obama but I don’t know when they started to wear their ‘uniform’ rather than spending time deciding what to wear each day.
- The simplest thing is to limit your wardrobe to one main colour so that you need fewer changes to match outfits. You may have noticed that I’m almost always wearing blue with black footwear.
- I also wear branded polo shirts and jeans for normal work days. They’re as comfortable as a t-shirt so can be worn when working from home but the collar makes them slightly smarter. Choose something that matches your business image.
- These days I follow a 333 clothes system where I choose 33 items of clothing (excluding underwear and sports kit) to last me 3 months. Any seasonal clothes get stored in a box in the loft. I’m pleasantly surprised that I haven’t needed to cheat yet but you set your own rules.
Give it a try and let me know how you get on.
Have you read the book ‘The 4-hour work week’ by Timothy Ferris?
I read it a few years ago thinking that it would help me to run my business more efficiently in just 4 hours a week. Whilst it does have lots of efficiency tips for any business, it was built around the idea of building a business purely to earn money to finance a lifestyle. While this may be your objective too I was disappointed that there was no thought of creating enjoyable work or focus on serving a client’s needs.
If you haven’t read the book then I can recommend it as it certainly gave me a few ideas that helped me to run a business I loved in a 25-hour work week, and I believe we helped our clients and their businesses too.