As a small business owner and entrepreneur, it can sometimes become easy to get bogged down in the everyday running of your business or to become side tracked by non-essential issues. There’s so much to think about when you have to do most things on your own that developing your business can fall to the bottom of your priority list.
This is a dangerous habit to get into because if you don’t keep investing your time, ideas and energy (not to mention your capital) into growing your business, you’ll find yourself being quickly overtaken by newer, keener kids on the block.
So, I’ve come up with five ideas below to keep your thinking fresh and to help you get focused when you’re finding yourself overwhelmed by the minutiae of the day-to-day.
1. Check out of your technology for one whole morning – ideally a whole day. I never check emails first thing because I find that’s the time when I’m most productive and creative; I always try to use that period to get my writing and thinking out of the way. So why not take a technology holiday; a one-man or one-woman “away day”, if you like? If a whole day is too long to be offline, a morning of focused work should still be enough to achieve some good results. Go to a different space where you can think clearly and dedicate yourself to coming up with ways to develop and grow your business. Switch off your phone, disconnect your email (putting my technology into flight safe mode always works for me) and concentrate entirely on the job in hand.
2. Start afresh. One way to approach your away morning/day is to review your business as if you were looking at it from an outsider’s perspective. So: question everything. Why do we do things this way? Is there a better way of doing it? Are we just sticking with familiar behaviours because we’ve always done it like this, and if so, how can we change or improve them? Put the stupid questions to yourself because sometimes they provoke the cleverest answers.
3. Educate yourself. Another thing to do in this planning /thinking session is to take along all the business magazines, industry publications, podcasts, newspaper and website clippings etc. that you’ve been planning to read and listen to for as long as you can remember. Skim through them all and make notes on what’s going on outside your world (without checking your email if you need to go online to access information!) What are your competitors doing? What’s best practice in other industries? What can you learn and emulate in your business that will take you that next step forward? Is there a course you could take that would help you develop your business or books you could read? Note all of this down and order the three books that you think will most impact your personal or professional development as soon as you finish your away day session. And then read them.
4. Think holistically. Taking your business forward does not always mean creating the next big thing. There are lots of other areas you can improve in your business to make you more profitable, efficient and focused. Think about how you invoice, how you interact with clients, how you present your work, what technologies you are using, how you manage your staff (if you have them), where you source your product, whether there are other markets you could enter etc. Again, look at other industries to see what you could learn from their processes and activities.
5. Don’t try to do it all at once. Once you’ve had a good look over the parapet at the landscape beyond your office walls, then step back and choose your top three priorities for the next six months. Once you’ve identified these, come up with a strategy and supporting tactics to make these priorities become a reality. Set targets along the way which will help you to see that you are gaining traction in these areas – small, incremental wins achieved every single day amount to huge wins over the long term, as the Japanese “kaizen” approach teaches us. Take it slow and steady but most importantly make sure you get on with it straightaway.
So once you’ve had your strategy session, head back to the office, switch your technology back on and get on with the job of making it happen. The key thing now is to crack on and see if it works: you should have done enough research by going through this process to justify your priorities for the next six months instead of flailing around in the dark wondering where to go next, so feel confident in what you’re doing. And hopefully by taking time out to undertake this exercise, you should feel refreshed and invigorated, knowing broadly where you’re going for the next six months and feeling that you’re back on top of your game, developing your business with clear, justified priorities and regular achievable targets in place.