Know your Numbers
We can never say it often enough. If you don’t know your numbers down to a fraction of a penny you will be lucky to ever be profitable. People new to business are often the worst at this because they think 1.5 x minimum wage is reasonable and charge £11/hr while forgetting that not all of their time is spent earning money – there’s marketing to be done as well as developing the business model.
Work out what you want to earn and how much you’ll need to pay out in fuel, incidentals and even paperclips and time spent queuing to send out a package to a customer. Know every element of cost in your business before you begin to quote for jobs.
Smart business owners are knowledgeable not only about their own specialism but those of others. They may not know the nuts and bolts of a topic, but they’ll always understand what they’re being told sufficiently well to hold a conversation and ask intelligent questions.
Broad-based knowledge like this enables business owners to make informed decisions about what they need to take the business forward. It also attracts some respect at networking events, which is never a bad thing in business.
Make the first item on your ‘to-do’ list something you enjoy doing
Some days it’s the getting started that tends to be a problem, particularly when the first ‘thing to do’ is a killer. Starting with something enjoyable gets you off to an ‘accomplishing’ opener and can set your mood for the day. Yes, yes, we know all about eating the frog (getting the big stuff done first) but sometimes a gentle kick start really helps you get in the right frame of mind.
As more businesses are being run from a chair we risk becoming the least fit business community in history. Raising your fitness levels with regular exercise will enable you to keep working when you need to and help you to make better decisions even when you’re close to the end of a tough week (although tough weeks will be fewer and fewer as your fitness improves). This doesn’t require a demanding cardio workout (although that would help if you’re up to it), but a brisk 15-minute walk each day or 10 minutes of dancing (even ‘parent dancing’) to a CD will improve your fitness and elevate your mood.
Break Big Jobs Down
Some tasks look so huge from a distance that they’ll be put off time and again until you have no choice but to tackle them as ‘URGENT’. Take a close look at the big stuff and start to pick it apart into components. Pretty soon you’ll see that it’s really only a big bundle of little stuff all rolled together.
Begin with one essential element at a time and before long you’ll wonder why you made such a fuss about it.
Use the Delete Button
A lot of email, even if you have decent SPAM filters, is trying to persuade you to buy stuff you don’t want or need. You’ll recognise the sender because at some time you’ve bought from them in the past. Delete the mail without opening it. The website will still be there when you want to buy something else. Don’t be drawn into ‘up to 70% off’ offers – the big discounts are on stuff no one else has bought.
6a. Check your email after your first productive task of the morning and once more late in the afternoon. That’s about all the attention it really needs. Any urgency is in your head.
Create some Peace Time
Life can be frantic sometimes and our minds are always on the churn of thought in, thought gone. I sometimes think of the brain as being like the cheese on a pizza because it may look great while it bubbles away, but the magic comes after you let it cool a little and things get stringy.
Give your brain a space to string a few thoughts together by taking a relaxation break. Fifteen minutes sitting comfortably with your eyes closed and concentrating on your breathing can accomplish much more than frantically trying to do seven things at once while thinking about another three.
Develop your Skills
Only the very few are destined for greatness, but those who practice and develop their skills are more likely to make it than those who don’t. Learn more about what you do. Experiment with or read about the software you use – most people use less than 10% of any single commercial office application, such as a spreadsheet or word processing package. For example, you can insert a section of an Excel spreadsheet into a Word document. When you update the spreadsheet your document will automatically update the figures.
Learning how to more effectively use the things you already have will mean that you’ll develop faster ways of working. Faster is more effective and, in turn, more profitable.
Without a plan you’ll never be able to measure whether you’re performing to your own expectations. While it can be comforting not to know, it’s not a recipe for success.
With a plan you’ll always know what needs to be done next and, if a plan fails, you’ll be able to identify where the wheels fell off so that your next plan can be a better one.
Give of Yourself
This may sound like New Age bollocks, but even if your business is in the early growth stage you can amaze other people by giving up a couple of hours of your week to help out. Find a small local charity, group or cause that could use your time or even your skills. You may find yourself painting a wall or weeding a garden, but your efforts will be memorable to the people you help and we really are all connected by weird and circuitous links.
Realistically, you may find your only return is that you helped to improve the life of someone else, which is reward in itself, but there’s always a chance you’ll come to the attention of someone who might otherwise not have found you and benefit your business as a result.
Some of these you’ll want to start straight away because they’re easy and make a lot of sense to you. Others you may want to think about for a while before trying them out. Even if you start with only one of them you’ll see a small improvement in your effectiveness, which is a step in the right direction.