Small business owners have a lot to get done; my tasks so far this week have included replacing my office chair, invoicing, initiating a new targeted-market marketing campaign, filling the bird feeders outside my office windows, client meetings, and, well…you get the picture. Some tasks are urgent, others not urgent but important, and some – not urgent and not important. Facebook and filling the bird feeders fall into that last category. Stephen Covey, in his landmark book First Things First, popularized an idea presented by President Eisenhower; we have tasks which are urgent, and rarely important and tasks which are important, but rarely urgent. In small business terms, it looks like this:
- Urgent and important tasks: Correcting errors, fighting fires, deadline-driven projects, employee crises. In Covey terms, these are Quadrant I tasks. A clear business vision and effective business systems will eliminate time spent on these tasks.
- Not urgent but important tasks: Ahhh, The Lovely Quadrant II, my favorite place to spend time. Strategic work, tasks in line with a business vision, chosen to move a business forward. I once created a “Q2” group when I was in corporate, an employee group who focused on long-term strategy and systems. These are the tasks that are often postponed because they are not urgent and there is sometimes some fear around accomplishing them.
- Urgent but not important tasks: These tasks often help someone else, or we have taken them on to be “nice”, or if we’re not clear about our own business vision. Incoming phone calls and emails can be seen as urgent, but very few are important to our business. Other examples might include networking that’s not in line with our business model.
- Not urgent and not important tasks: Most of our time on social networks falls into this category, fantasy football, Candy Crush,as does filling my bird feeders. If you’re not sure, ask yourself what the consequence would be if you did not spend time on the task.
If you want to know how you’re spending your time, use the template here.
Use this winter weather to plan ahead for your small business!
Much of the East Coast is STILL snowed in. (!) Schools and businesses are closed, highway speeds have been lowered. Days like this are asking for reflection and strategic planning, so consider this your nudge. To help you along, use the template I’ve provided here; not only will it help you update your 2015 goals but it well keep you on track during the year. Download it today! 2015 business planning worksheet
What “undesirable difficulties” have you not only overcome, but succeeded because of them? Why were they ultimately advantageous to you?
Read full story here.
Source: Inc, November 12, 2014
What can you learn from a veteran about your small business? Turns out, quite a bit.
A former US Marine turned entrepreneur and I have been working on growing his small business. He is smart, driven, and has built a successful business in a relatively short period of time. And he wants more (sound familiar?). As we chatted about growth strategies and prospecting in particular, it struck me: fighting in the Armed Services and successfully growing a small business have two things in common:
- A clearly defined purpose
- Repetitive training
What they don’t share is the same driver for success: a gun pointed at you.
Many of my clients have heard me remind them that “this is your livelihood.” This is what sustains you and your family. This is often when a business owner is going soft about letting an employee get away with sloppy work, bailing out on prospecting efforts, or something that requires a little more push. That push is needed when we’re faced with a fear so strong that it feels like we have a gun pointed at us, but of course we don’t…and we let it slide. We tell ourselves that we can clean up when an employee doesn’t quite meet our standards or that we have “enough” business. Those things are true, but we don’t end up with a business that brings us joy. Instead, we end up frustrated, tired, and a little defeated. And that’s where the US Marines come in.
I honestly can’t imagine what it’s like to be in combat, but I can imagine the overwhelming desire for success that our Armed Services personnel feel. That desire, coupled with a clearly defined purpose and repetitive training, becomes success again and again. So how does this translate into success for small business owners?
- Know your purpose for each mission. Speaking engagement? Define exactly what the purpose and your desired results are – market exposure, perhaps, and follow-up meetings with complimentary professionals, on-site newsletter sign-ups, requests for more speaking. Prospecting? Be specific and define your success path: in some industries, if you want 5 new clients, you’ll need 8 meetings, and you’ll need to speak with 40 prospects.
- Practice. If it’s important, and most things are, practice again and again. Whether it’s an employee meeting, customer open house, or prospect phone call or meeting your confidence will grow with practice. Clearly define your purpose (see #1) so that the words you choose will help you reach your goal. My former US Marine and I ran through several practice prospecting calls until he reached that “I’ve got this” point.
- Reflect for a few moments on the bigger picture of your business – your “Big Why”, your dreams, your definition of success. All of that rolled up together is why you do what you do – it’s not a job, most entrepreneurs wouldn’t even call it a career. It’s your livelihood. When you connect with all of that, you will be driven to succeed in a way a gun to your head never would.
Today, thank a veteran or an active service member for their service. And, take a page from their book and remember that your business is your livelihood, and it deserves to succeed.
When you’re trying to reach your goals, start with “the end in mind”!
Now that you’ve set a goal for 2014, declared a New Year’s Resolution, have you taken your first step? You see, there are results goals (the outcome that we want), and then there are action goals (the action we will take to reach our desired outcome). And that’s where the rubber meets the road. It’s one thing to declare “I want to double my sales”, or “I am going to be more productive”, but when we define what action steps we will take to reach those outcomes we begin to see results (for more about results and action goals see here).
But knowing what those steps are can befuddle even the best in business. When a client is struggling to define the steps to reach their goal, I walk them through the process I’m about to share here.
Entrepreneurs are big thinkers – great at knowing where they want to end up. Defining the steps to reach that destination can feel mundane, cumbersome, and well…boring. Small business owners are fond of the expression “make it happen!” but without a large staff to “make it happen” those details often fall on your shoulders, the small business owner.
To easily define those action steps, and to take the most efficient path, here’s my remedy for detail-offended entrepreneurs:
- Begin with the end result – feel it, believe it, know it.
- Once you can envision reaching that goal, ask what step you would have taken right before you reached the goal?
- What action would you have taken immediately before that?
- And before that?
- Continue backing up until you reach an action step that you can, and will, take today.
By starting at your goal, you include only those actions that produce results and that are the most effective and efficient. The best part is that once you’ve walked backwards to where you are today, you’ve defined a comprehensive action plan designed by you, in full detail, to your desired goal.