Small business owners are full of initiative, motivation and drive (if you’re not, check in on that – you may need a re-boot, which is a different story). So why do I hear so often “I’m stuck” or “I’m not making any headway”? There are a couple of reasons I hear over and over; let me share those and give you some solutions.
- It won’t be good enough, or I don’t know how to do it well. Business owners love knowledge, so many
turn to self-help books or “expert” websites to find the answer. The catch here is that these experts don’t know your situation, what you want to accomplish, and can’t answer your specific questions – what’s really standing in your way. I have two solutions:
Don’t get tied up in knots – learn how to be effective and take the next step!
- Decide just how “good” you need to do the task. Is a “B” good enough? If so, define how much time you will spend to accomplish the task and stick to it. For short term tasks, set a timer.
- Hire the task out. There are people out there that are better at almost every business task that needs to be completed. Not only will they get it done more quickly, but they will also do it better than you can. Think: newsletters, bookkeeping, website creation and upkeep, order fulfillment. Zero in on your unique abilities and spend your time using those abilities; the rest – find someone else to do it.
If budget concerns prevent you from hiring out, determine what amount you can afford and start with that. Any step forward is better than standing still.
2. “I just can’t get myself to sit down and do it.”Small business owners are creative; ideas often run rampant through their minds. When it comes time to mundane tasks, well… there’s always tomorrow, right? Call it ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) or just plain ants in your pants, repetitive, routine tasks are often downright painful for many small business owners. Chances are your need for flexibility and a varied schedule are part of why you chose to own your own business. You know they need to get done but you struggle to get them done. I’ve seen clients repeatedly postpone billing every month until it becomes a cash crisis. Here are some quick tips:
- Break these mundane tasks into small pieces.
- Identify your best “mundane task” time of day and week. Stick to that schedule; if it is ADD, you will thrive with routine (although you will go there kicking and dragging your feet, you will love it once you get there).
- You’re great at the big-picture, right? Hand off the detailed stuff to someone who loves the details. As hard as it is for you to believe, there are people out there who love it.
Look at the tasks that stay on your desk, the “To-Do’s” that you repeatedly postpone. It honestly breaks my heart to see small business owners struggle and stagnate; if you’re on the struggle bus, make a decision today to get off for good.
Even when we feel we’re stuck between a rock and a hard place, we still have to move forward!
All too often, we set goals at the beginning of a new year and then about mid-March, we realize that we are nowhere close to reaching those goals. We’ve thought a lot about those goals, debated them, thought about what the next step should be, and wondered if we really have what it takes to succeed. I’ve been thinking a lot about simply moving forward (see last week’s post). I’m here to tell you that yes, you do have what it takes, and it’s simpler than you think: all you have to do is take the next logical step.
I’ve been meeting with some prospective clients recently who were so excited about their new 2014 goals and the plans to reach them; I could hear the possibility in their voices. When I ask them about the progress they’ve made, I’ve seen surprise as two things happen:
- It sinks in that they haven’t been keeping track of their progress, and;
- They realize that they have made very little, if any, progress and it’s almost 25% through the year.
Before I give you my tried and true strategy of getting out of this position, let me just state some assumptions:
- The goal is their own goal, not their spouse’s, a parent, or a goal declared by an “expert”;
- The goal is big enough. We hear about “big bodacious” goals; that’s a nice catchy phrase, but if it’s so big that it paralyzes you, it’s not much of a goal;
- The goal is small enough. I love big goals, but if we can’t see any path from where we are to our stated goal, it might need to be downsized. As Goldilocks famously said, “This one is just right.” Personally, goals ought to teeter right on the line of scary and exciting. Reaching those goals is a rush for motivated small business owners.
If those assumptions are true, the strategy is simple:
Just take the next logical step.
When I’m feeling stuck, or just not sure what to do with the next hour, I ask myself that simple question, “What’s the next logical step?” It’s usually asking a question, sending an inquiry, writing a first draft of something – all simple, doable actions. If the next logical step requires some research, give yourself a time limit or it’s easy to get lost in the infamous “Internet research”. 20 minutes is plenty. If you find yourself fast-forwarding to possible outcomes of that one single action, bring yourself back to present and remind yourself that you are only focused on that one action.
Find a goal that’s right and true for you and focus on just that one next logical step. We’ve heard the message many times, but it’s true: every journey does begin with a step. All you have to do is keep going.
Don’t let snow days keep you down. Stay productive and positive with these four tips!
Another snowy day. Schools, government offices, and businesses are shut down here and throughout as much as a third of the country. I’m having a hard time focusing with my kids and husband home, and the front walkway is beckoning to me to clean it off. Shoveling is gratifying to me because I have a goal, I can watch my progress and see what is still in front of me. On a day like today, my desk cannot compete. I’m going to have to pull out all the stops to accomplish something today. Here’s what I do to stay on task:
- I’ve made a short list of four actions I want to complete today, plus a “bonus”. I could try to tackle five times that and probably feel frustrated when I don’t complete it all; instead, I’ll be happy with these four important tasks well-done. I’ve chosen these four because they all move my business forward. I am especially excited about one of them because I think it will surprise a client and help them move forward quickly.
- I’ve accepted that interruptions will occur and have planned for them. There is solid research that backs up the value of taking breaks every 90 to 120 minutes. While I often struggle to take breaks, today I am embracing them.
- Set up a reward system. As soon as I finish this post, I know that I get to go shovel. I can’t wait!
- As part of my four action items, I’ve outlined with which I want help from my team members, my in-house IT department (aka my dear husband), and even my children. Sure, I could do most of them more quickly myself, but my work gets completed more quickly and we feel like a team.
Tackle your work like you would shoveling; set a goal, monitor your progress, and enjoy the accomplishment. Now I’m off to the front walkway!
How would you congratulate your biggest competitor on a big win, especially when it was directly against you? We can all learn something from how Team USA Snowboarder Shaun White congratulated Iouri Podladtchikov on his half-pipe win. Even in losing, he showed the best of the Olympic spirit by being a good competitor and an even bigger sport. Nicely done.
Do you know what you are really selling? Here’s a hint: it’s not the widgets on your inventory shelves, it’s not the thing that you do to or for your customers. It’s something more: it’s the change that results in your customers’ lives because of their interaction with you.
We know that our marketing materials need to talk more about benefits than features. But all too often, we define the benefits we provide for use in our marketing materials and then forget about them – we go back to our widgets and “that thing that we do”. What’s the big deal, you might say; if they’re already a customer, isn’t that all that matters?
Consumers (including businesses, if you are a B2B business) have an infinite number of choices to fill their needs. Your customers have a choice to work with you or…with someone else. They make the choice based upon the benefits received. On first pass, customer benefits look something like this:
- Ease of use
Dig a little deeper, and you’ll discover more intrinsic benefits like:
- Peace of mind
- Personal Pride
- Family Protection
If you want your customers to recognize the benefits that you bring to them, you need to do more than tell them. The benefits of doing business with you need to be part of every step you take in serving your customers and clients.
- Define the benefits you provide and narrow them down so that you can fit them on a notecard. Post that note card and focus on those 5-7 words every morning for 2-3 minutes. Let those benefits guide your day.
- Talk with staff members about the benefits that you provide to your customers. The benefits need to be in the front of their minds as well as yours.
What it boils down to are the same wants every one of us had in elementary school; we want to feel included, we want to be confident, we want to know that we are doing well. Fill those wants for your customers and clients, and they’ll come back to you over and over.