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 stay profitable. People new to business often struggle most with this because they think 1.5 ish x their previous wage is reasonable and charge £25 or so per hour 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. That’s where the wheels come off the bus, as the hours you think you will bill never pan out that way. Over the years you get better at adjusting the prices but in the early days when every penny really counts don’t attract loads of low payers into your business, it will slow down your growth faster than most other things.
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. Get the basics in place before you make your first offer.
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. It hones your bull shitometer too! Knowledge is power and even a little on a subject will help you weed out the good stuff from the snake oil and nonsense.
Make the first item on your ‘to-do’ list something you enjoy doing
Some days it’s the getting started that is the problem, particularly when the first ‘thing to do’ is a killer thing you really have no desire for. Starting with something enjoyable gets you off to an ‘accomplishing’ opener and can set your mood for the day. You can sandwich in the stuff you don’t enjoy between little wins and bouts of happiness this way and keep your mood up. Eating the frog and eating the elephant thinking is great but no one says you need to start with their bums first is our view on how this needs to work.
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. For us its a walk with the dogs in open fields in all weathers, which is why we look like wrecks but keep our fitness and steps up each day.
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. As you are doing it think about how you can delete it for good from your list (if its a continual job that needs doing) and push it into a delegation list so as cash and work increases you know which bits you can ditch first. If you have a process for doing this then document it so its easy to hand over.
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 few have 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 almost always in your head unless you are part of a trauma team or on call then rely on instant communication via text or direct call, not email.
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 (but even 5 breathing properly will help) 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. I love a good planner but a fat calendar where there is space to plan and see what is in there works brilliantly for those less about writing stuff down. Smart phones and AI on digital devices also works for some, for me its about writing down stuff that makes it happen, work out what works best for you.
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.