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What are your Priorities
As a small business owner you are regularly juggling everything life has to throw at you, so how do you determine what needs to be done right away versus being able to put something on hold? Understanding what your priorities are, and how they play a part in running your business, could be what results in your success or failure!
Let's take a look at why you pursued starting your own business. Were you driven by providing something you believed couldn't be found anywhere else? Or maybe you are able to perform a job more thoroughly and successfully than anyone you've worked with in the past and you wanted to share that success with others. Whatever your reason for tackling such an invigorating task, you are most likely faced with figuring out every second of every day; and you must have a clear understanding of your priorities every step of the way in order to fulfill that purpose and dream.
I've mentioned in a previous blog post [Being Organized] that one of the best ways to remove the stress of trying to keep everything organized is to give the responsibility of maintaining record of your to-do list to someone (or something) else. Think about it: How can you possibly keep up with everything you need to do if you're not able to actually see and understand what that is? This might seem a bit daunting at first, but it will become much easier once you find a tool that fits your needs. Whether you opt to use some kind of online platform that syncs to your mobile devices or you choose to go with an old school planner, you will find relief in knowing that you can see and organize your daily to-do list a bit easier once it's out of your head and in front of your eyes. Personally, I'm a proponent of an online option as it can sync with all of my devices for access wherever I am, while giving me the easy ability to adjust (and readjust) tasks as things change throughout the day.
Once you have a starting point, focus on what your end goal is. More specifically, what do you absolutely need to have completed by the end of the day...possibly even by the end of the hour. By adding a time frame to you list of things to do, it become more clear what items on your list are a top priority. The key to this step is to never lose sight of your Bigger Picture. Knowing where you want to end as a result will provide you with the direction and understanding you need to comb through your list and weed out what's not 100% necessary. This approach will give you the base you need to focus on the task that will drive the growth and success of your business.
This next step might seem like a huge undertaking, especially when you have so much to do: Make a day of it! Let's assume that you will work a regular 8 hour shift on a lighter day at work as a small business owner (a person can dream, right?). Pick a day on your planner and designate and dedicate that day to an 8 hour shift of organizing and planning your next month. Focus on Big Picture items such as launching a social media campaign, organizing a fundraiser for your non-profit startup, or locking down three new investors for you up-and-coming mobile development company. As you hone in on the Bigger Picture items (end results) you are able to start developing a plan of action to accomplish them. Take these items and break them down into daily actions that you can plan and actively understand how each step supports the next (similar to a planning wall). If the proposed task doesn't support your more prominent efforts, then it shouldn't be included in the process (or at the very least, the task should be delegated so you can focus your attention to those Bigger Picture items.
Lastly, you will want to implement a personal and proper approach to your planning and prioritizing. Take on the tasks that you will personally find the most enjoyable and fulfilling. Make sure that you aren't only working as you plan your day-to-day calendar. Block of time for yourself to do something that allows you to break away from being the hungry business owner that you are, but make sure that it's listed on your calendar and that you make yourself as realistically unavailable as possible (this will help keep you away from burning out). It's easy to get caught up in the "work, work, work" mantra of running a successful small business; but if you expend all your energy during the first day, how can you possibly expect to be successful for the next 10, 20, or even 30+ years?
Knowing what matters most and supports your Bigger Picture will help to focus your energy instead of diverting it on tasks that won't amount to much at the end of the day. Take the time to organize your thoughts and objectives, and definitely make it a point to find a tool that you can use every day to keep those ideas organized and in front of you at all times. Always remember to remain flexible with daily changes, and utilize and exhaust all of your resources before you exhaust yourself. It takes a little practice and fine tuning, but once you have your prioritizing processes in place everything becomes crystal clear and a world of possibility opens to you!
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In-action is still Action
I've heard this statement a few times in my life: "Doing nothing is still doing something"; and it wasn't until recently that I started to understand what that meant to me. Have you ever been off work on a beautiful Saturday with a list of projects in mind, but at the end of the day you've somehow managed to finish none of them? That is my personal definition of inaction is still action.
We need to be mindful of the times when we could be accomplishing so much, yet doing nothing instead. This is one of the key points of procrastinating and avoiding tasks at hand. I've narrowed this down to two reason we might choose to do nothing during those times: Either we feel overwhelmed by the list of projects in our head, or the projects simply aren't important to us. The good news is that both of these can be managed so that we turn unnecessary down time into a productive part of our day.
Let's start with feeling overwhelmed by what we want to do. A typical obstacle that people tend to put in from of themselves is attempting to keep everything they need or want to do in their lives organized in their heads. I realized this about myself when I lived in Kansas City. During that time, I worked two full-time jobs, was going to college, my mother was living with me after a car accident, and I was interested in starting a relationship; and that's not including day-to-day responsibilities. I learned then that I needed to remove the responsibility of remembering all of this from myself, and give it to someone (or something) else. It's take a number of years to evolve, but I've gone from a color-coded dry-erase board to keeping all of my appointments and to-do lists online through a platform I can access on any of my electronic devices. I'm able to set notifications and reminders of events, and can keep myself moving forward with a list of daily projects I need or want to accomplish. Now, instead of using a boat load of energy to remember everything I'm suppose to do, I can use that energy to actually do them!
Next is what I believe to be the bigger obstacle of the two: the task or project that you could be working on simply isn't important to you. There's an easy way of dealing with this; however, it may not be the best way: If it's not important to you, don't do it! To say, "Don't go to work if it's not important to you, " could result in your electric bill not getting paid and your electric being turned off. Before you get to that point of not doing the task, start by looking to understand the actual importance of what you could be doing.
Could waking up early and writing for 45 minutes be important to establishing a routine in your day? Maybe putting new shelves in your bathroom is important to your spouse to help organize all the clutter on the counter. I could even be that going outside to clean up trash that has blown into your flower garden might be important to lifting the spirits of someone who happens to walk by. There's a list of ways for our daily tasks and projects to become important enough for us to actually work on them.
This isn't to say that 100% of the projects will need you to complete them, even if they are important. Instead, we need to be able to prioritize what needs to be done today versus what can wait for another day. Again, trying to do this mentally will most likely lead to inaction. Us an organization tool as suggested before, and plan your day in advance so that you know what needs done simply by looking at your list. If there is a project that absolutely needs completed today, but is tipping the scales at whether or not it can be done, re-prioritize your list as your list could change many times throughout the day. Lastly, assess your resources to see if you might be able to delegate or ask for help (look into utilizing the 10-80-10 rule...it's quite helpful).
At the end of the day, your level of accomplishment is entirely up to you. Find a method to help organize your thoughts so that you can use that energy for something more contributing to you life or the lives of others; and remember to take the time to think about why a project could be important before taking the easy path of not doing it at all. When you end your day before going to sleep, isn't it nicer to think about all the items you've checked off your list than to stress about everything you should have been doing instead of sitting on the couch?
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I've heard that organization is the key to success, so I'm starting today with a new approach to that understanding. Will things get better? I honestly don't know, but they definitely couldn't get any worse...right?
So, what am I wanting to accomplish from this? To have a pretty calendar in my email? To have bragging rights about how "organized" I am? As I work to organized my life a bit better, I sit in front of news headlines that read of nothing short of chaos. There's fear and concern throughout every city in the US, right now, due to the Coronavirus pandemic; and I'm sure it's very similar around the world. What will organizing daily tasks and projects do to help with all of this? Well, my primary hope is that this will provide a strong habit of changing behavior...that it will not so much "force" me to change my approach to my life, but instead provide me with the knowledge that (with a bit of focused energy) I do, in fact, have the time to do the things I want while accomplishing the goals I've set for myself.
If I had to write a list of 10 line items that I look to achieve through being better orgnized, they would focus on the following growth:
- Personal - Spiritual
- Professional - Mental
- Creative - Communal
- Educational - Environmental
- Interpersonal - Physiological
With these 10 areas in mind, below are ten points of interest (possibly more like objectives) I look to achieve through becoming better organized.
- I want to give myself the opportunity to focus on a happier, healthier "Me"
- Organizing my professional affairs will put myself, the team I'm on, and the company where I work in a better position of success
- Being better organized will also better direct my time so I am able to learn more creative skills that will support other aspects found in the these 10 items
- It's said that you never stop learning...I just want to make sure that's correct
- Chaos in being organized removes patience from personal interactions, and I want to be as patient and calm with others as I can be
- An organized life will objectively provide me with a peace of mind I'd otherwise not have
- Instead of focusing on what is on my to-do list, I want to be able to focus on the task at hand with a clear mind that is not being interrupted by things that shouldn't be given a ton of energy
- A lot of time is devoted to myself, and I want to be more active with my family, friends, coworkers, and community
- I mean, can't we all do with a little more focused attention dedicated to our environment in which we live
- As I grow older, I obviously move further away from my youth; and while my mind does well with growing and maturing, I think the "treat your body as a temple" approach will help me hold on to my youth for just a little while longer...and what's so bad about that?
Being organized goes beyond making things look pretty on a board or calendar. The ripple effects have the potential to stretch beyond ourselves; and during a time when our behavior has the strength to impact the masses, shouldn't we take this time to figure out how we can do that more positively than what we were doing prior to 2020?
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Strength in trying Times
It's been a little over one month since the world of small business came to a screeching halt; and while the COVID-19 situation is definitely more impacting than anything we've ever seen before, it's not the first time small business has gone through difficult times. We've seen the rise and fall of the stock market; we've gone through tragedies such as 9/11 and the Boston Marathon Bombing; and we are now experiencing a worldwide pandemic. What, then, can be done to maintain small business strength during these hard times?
Below is a list of 5 insights to staying the course and succeeding with strength during unexpected difficult times for your small business.
Things aren't always easy in the world of business, especially the world of small business. If you are able to implement the 5 insights when you encounter a difficult time, then you have set the base of your future success. Utilize your accessible resources, communicate regularly and effectively, and remember that it will be okay, no matter what.
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How to get Started
"Do not wait until the conditions are perfect to begin. Beginning makes the conditions perfect." - Alan Cohen
Have you ever been in a situation when you weren't completely sure which option was the best? Or maybe the comfort you were experiencing was just so comfortable you never wanted to leave it! These feelings can be very similar to what you might feel when starting your own business.
The first step is always the most difficult. How do I start? Who can I turn to for help? Where can I find the answers? Thankfully, we live in an age when a lot of our questions can be answered through a simple Internet search. However, even with the guidance of the all-knowing Internet, the process can still be overwhelming; and can leave you feeling like you're standing on the edge of a cliff. So, how do you overcome those fears and move away from that doozy effect? Listed below are 5 steps to overcoming the fears of starting your own business.
1) Embrace your Fears
2) Make your Company a Priority
3) Take Baby Steps
4) Start at the Beginning
5) Patience Really is a Virtue
When the time comes, you'll understand how to apply each of these steps. Keep them in mind, take them into consideration, and apply them as necessary for you and your business. These approaches have been tested and proven to assist small business owners in making effective decisions for their companies, while continuing to drive their businesses toward growth and success.
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Resolve to be Better
"Let us make our future now and let us make today's dreams tomorrow's reality"
In the spirit of New Year's traditions, let's talk about resolutions...but not in the usual sense.
Merriam-Webster offers a simple definition of resolution as being "the act of finding an answer or solution to a conflict, problem, etc..." (Merriam-Webster, Incorporated, 2015). What is the conflict or problem being referenced? I think it's the lack of follow-through some small business owners experience at different stages in their development. So, how does a business owner overcome this lack of follow-through?
Let's start by focusing on the reason opened your business in the beginning. While the list of reasons can be quite expansive, five common reasons include Pursuing a Personal Passion, Finding a Healthier Work/Life Balance, Building Something from the Ground up, Making More Money, and Offering a Desired Service. Whether the reason comes from this list, or is found elsewhere, the connecting point is that no matter the reason it's always personal to the business owner.
Being a small business owner means that every detail and task is mostly likely being monitored by you. This can be stressful and overwhelming, at times; and this stress can distract business owners from the mission of their companies which results in either forgetting about planned objectives, or even losing interest in completing them at all. A common phrase heard from business owners (and I'm sure most of us are guilty of saying it), "I just don't have the time".
I want to challenge anyone who reads this to never again make that statement! How can you do this? It's simple: Change the Wording.
Instead of saying, "I don't have the time" change the wording to "It's not a priority", and see how daily tasks take on a different light. Once you've mastered this challenge, you will be able to more clearly define what needs to be accomplished from day to day, and your time management skills will begin to emerge.
Here's an example:
You don't need to have the dream of becoming an international business owner in order to be successful. In fact, I've seen a number of businesses succeed with only opening one location. What made them successful? They stayed committed to their founding principles. These companies are dedicated to providing a quality product/service, and offering a personal connection to each of their clients. The owners of these businesses are firm in their understanding of why they are in operation, and they have remained flexible to the needs and demands of their market.
Remember why you started your company, and what motivated you to take that first step. It wasn't easy, but you did it. Not many people can say that! You've taken an unspoken oath to do what is necessary for your company to be a success...don't you think your business is worth taking the time and committing to making it a priority?
Now that the New Year is underway, it's time for us to take a look at what we are doing to improve ourselves and our lives. The same effort and energy we put into self-improvement should be offered to our businesses, our employees, and our clients. In the end, it's up to us how we choose to be the resolution our companies need.
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Setting yourself Apart
"Branding demands commitment; commitment to continual re-invention; striking chords with people to stir their emotions; and commitment to imagination. It is easy to be cynical about such things, much harder to be successful." - Sir Richard Branson, CEO Virgin Group
Your brand is what will lead your company to success. Without a proper strategy in place, your market will not be able to connect with you and your service. This means you could be overlooked, or even completely forgotten.
So, how can your company maintain and update its brand in order to keep the interest of your clients? These 4 steps will help to keep your brand unique and interesting to your markets demands and desires, while setting your company apart from your competition.
1) Tell Your Story
2) Be Memorable
3) Be Consistent
4) Stay Flexible
Branding is the perceived image you put in place for yourself and your business. This image to be a representation of what your guests and market can expect of you. With a strong brand that tells your story, is memorable and consistent, and remains flexible to market fluctuations, your small business will continue to be a competitor in your industry.
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Empowering your Team
"Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much." - Helen Keller
Team building has grown to be a very direct source of success over the past decade, or so. The focus of business leaders has been acquired by the understanding that without a strong team in place, the number of clients the company has becomes almost negligible. In fact, customers have taken a backseat to the roles employees have for a company. Does this mean that your customers are no longer important to you? Of course, not. Instead, this business approach indicates that you have learned the value of having a strong team that has been empowered by their leader.
When you think about the word empowerment, what comes to mind? Does this word indicate a sense of responsibility? Maybe empowerment represents a distinction between roles and positions within your business. No matter the definition given to the word, the result usually falls somewhere in the realm of providing employees with the ability to take initiative, while providing them with the opportunity to improve their service, productivity, and themselves.
When you provide your team with the ability to make their own decisions, you provide yourself with a time-management tool that is difficult to match. By encouraging your team to use the training they have received, and offering them with the opportunity to make their own decisions, you are providing them with the flexibility to implement their own ideas and creativity. In turn, the team members become more productive, while feeling as though they are part of the big picture. Through a combination of flexibility and direction, your team will see a level of growth and success they may have never experienced, which could directly impact the growth and development of your business.
The strength behind empowering your team is showing them that their decisions can be trusted, while stepping in when necessary. By supporting their ideas and decisions, you build their confidence, as well as their critical thinking and decision making skills. In the end, you will be able to more effectively define goals for your team, set workable parameters for your team, and develop skills within your team members that may have otherwise been overlooked.
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Patience Really is a Virtue
"Our patience will achieve more than our force." - Edmund Burke
We have all heard that patience is a virtue, but what does that mean when it comes to the world of small business ownership? Should we just sit back and wait for opportunities to come our way? What if we wait too long and miss the opportunities all together? This article will help to clear the air and provide you with an understanding of what being a patient business owner is really means. Read over the information carefully and understand that these details apply to us all on some level. If we take into consideration that we must be patient when operating our businesses we will become more successful than if we pursue each of our goals like a bull in a room full of crystals.
Over time human beings form habits that can have both positive and negative influence in our lives. While we logically understand this, we may find it difficult to replace the negative with the positive. So, what can we expect from a lack of patience in our daily routines and responsibilities? To begin, we fuel our desire to quit. Impatience is one of the driving forces that leads to frustration, stemming from delaying our fulfillment of immediate gratification. As this feeling builds, we lose interest in the things we are doing, and eventually stop pursuing the things that once motivated us to excel in life.
How, then, can we maintain our focus to become a successful business owner? This takes commitment to changing our habits. As business owners, we must focus our attention on the entire picture while devoting our time to multiple tasks at once. As we do this, it is very easy to fall into a pattern of frustration resulting in losing sight of our goals. The positive in this, however, is that it can be easily noticed with a little self-reflection, and altered by appreciating the milestones achieved as we continue toward our final goals.
By appreciating our smaller accomplishments as business owners, we begin to understand that every action we put into our businesses results in some level of progress. More importantly, these actions put us closer to achieving our goals. Most times, when striving to achieve our goals, we become so overly focused on what we have to do that we lose sight of what we are actually doing. One way to overcome this mindset of, "I have to do this, now", and the stress that comes with it, is to have a very clear understanding of what you want as an end result.
Starting from the end and working your way back helps to lay a firm path that connects you to your goals. You'll begin to understand what actions will need to take place in order for you to take the next step. Additionally, you may want to write down the ideas you have along the way. Doing this will help alleviate the stress associated with trying to remember all the details of your action plan. As with anything, trying the shoot from the hip method usually results in overlooking important details that influence the success of your plan. Instead, invest in an organization tool that bests suits you as an individual.
Organizing your plans and goals will help with practice of being patient while reducing the feeling of being overwhelmed by all the projects you have in place. Using online calendars, smartphone applications, or even a classic daily planner will ease the mind and organize the steps you must take toward your business goals. Be specific regarding your actions for the day, and focus only on the current day. Take time in the morning to refine your objectives, and provide yourself with padding on either side of your scheduled events. Additionally, only schedule a practical number of events throughout the day that you will actually be able to complete. Being overly ambitious about what you think you can achieve during the day can leave you feeling unfulfilled and focused on the items you didn't actually complete.
This leads directly into the approach of practicing patience as a business owner. Patience provides you with the ability to be consistent with what you are doing. Approaching your goals with the same level of effort and energy will keep you motivated and driven to accomplish your next set of goals, and will allow you to remain dedicated and focused on the task at hand. The process becomes full-circle in that being patient will result in lower levels of stress, higher levels of productivity, and a greater return in sales and customer satisfaction. By simply being more patient, your future can become much more successful.
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Building your Client Base
"Whether you are big or small, you cannot give good customer service if your employees don’t feel good about coming to work." - Martin Oliver
When you think about growing your client base, what is the first thing that comes to mind? Do you think about putting together some kind of elaborate marketing campaign; or maybe even offering some kind of discount so more people visit your business? What if I suggested that you can sustain and grow your client base using just five methods practiced daily, instead of performing some sort of parlor act that only attracts your market's attention for a brief moment?
1) Present Value to your Clients
2) Create an Inviting Atmosphere
3) Have a Plan
4) Get out of your Comfort Zone
5) Maintain your Brand Identity
Ultimately, the manner in which one business interacts with clients compared to another is a varied as the types of business owners in existence. With these basic methods that can be practiced every day from within the doors of your own company, however, you will be able to maintain a stable structure from within your business while also maintaining a level of respect and standard that might not be seen from your competitors. Always remember to be true to yourself and be honest with your clients, and the growth and success you seek will come to you sooner than you might expect!