Most successful business owners have mastered the art of being accountable to others. You deliver on time to your clients, you write regular checks to your team, you never miss an appointment with your mentor or mastermind group. When it comes to being accountable to yourself, are you just as reliable? Or do you let yourself fall short because no one else is on the receiving end of your accountability?
If you want your business to thrive or grow, you need to be just as accountable to yourself as you are to everyone else. Part of this means that every quarter, you set aside the time to do a check-in on your business. You need to know exactly where you stand right now, and also be able to compare your current situation to past performance in order to set goals for the future.
Right now, schedule some time on your calendar to do an accountability check-in with your business this month.
Here’s what you should be checking for:
- Numbers: Look at your key performance indicators, metrics, and financial reports from the past quarter.
- Team: Evaluate the performance of each of your team members over the past quarter.
- Vision: What are your goals for the rest of this year? How about longer than that? How close are you to achieving those goals, based on the information you’ve found today?
For each of the key areas, make a place to document your current status. A spreadsheet or document where you can keep records for each check-in together would be the best option.
As you document your check-in, make sure to record the following information:
- Where am I right now for this indicator? What is the actual performance in this area for the past quarter? (This should be something measurable – dollars, percentages, number of clients, etc.)
- How does this compare with last quarter? How does it compare to this quarter of the previous year? (If you haven’t done a check-in like this before, you may have to save this question for next quarter.)
- How does this compare with where I would like to be at this point in my business? (This is a time to celebrate any successes and reevaluate anything that isn’t working.)
- Are there any outside factors I need to note? (This might include things like natural disasters, a global pandemic, a personal health issue, a loss of a team member, etc.)
At the end of your check-in, take some time to adjust your goals if need be, and then schedule your next check-in for the following quarter right away. Prioritizing this type of assessment is key to the life and success of your business, so you have to find a way to hold yourself accountable for it, no matter how busy life gets.
If you need some help on that accountability piece, I’d love to offer you that. Book a session with me and I will help you break down your current numbers, set manageable goals, and – most importantly – hold you accountable for taking the action required to meet those goals, and to establish a regular habit of checking in on your business.
When you first started your business, you were probably the only person working in that business. You had to learn to be the “Jack of All Trades” in order to get your business off the ground and keep it running. This is a solid way to start a business, but at a certain point if you haven’t transitioned out of this situation, your business isn’t going to grow.
It’s time to start thinking of yourself as the CEO of your business, and acting accordingly.
Get Clear on Your Vision
As the CEO of your business, you need a clear vision: a mission statement that details what your business does, who it serves, and where it’s going. If you don’t have a vision, then you’re just treading water, and you aren’t going to gain any momentum.
If it has been a while since you thought about your vision for your business, it may be time to revisit that. Think about what you really want from your business, and actually write down your big-picture vision. Post it somewhere that you will see it often, but also make sure to share it with your team.
Identify the Roles in Your Business
As part of your vision, think about how many roles your business needs to have in order to function properly and keep moving toward your goals. (It’s important to note that a role isn’t the same as a person; for some roles, you may have several people doing them, and for others you may have one person covering several roles.)
If you have been carrying too many of those roles yourself, it’s time to delegate them to someone else. Get clear about what you want out of your role as the CEO, and put everything else on someone else’s To Do list. As the CEO, you should primarily be your business’s leader, its overseer, and its driving force. You should not be your business’s “muscle,” doing every single task that comes through.
Now is also a good time to evaluate whether you have the right people fulfilling the right roles in your business. If not, it may be time to hire some new folks or let others go.
Communicate with Your Team
Once you have a clear vision and a solid idea of the roles that need to be filled, it’s time to make sure that everyone else on your team understands those things as well. You don’t have to have actual employees for this, though one day that should probably be your goal. For now, if you have independent contractors working for you, make sure they understand the vision you have for your company and their role in bringing that vision to life.
Here are some examples:
- Your accountant probably doesn’t need a deep understanding of your full vision, but they do need to know your financial goals so that they can make recommendations to help you reach them.
- Your assistant needs to have a firm grasp on the vision for your company so that they can help you stay true to that vision in the day-to-day tasks of the business.
- If you have more than one person in an assistant-like role, each one needs to understand the breakdown of tasks they are responsible for and who they report to on a daily basis.
- Your ghost writer or content creator needs a clear idea of the big picture so that they can communicate that with every new piece they create for you.
- Your webmaster needs to understand your goals so that they can make sure that your website is optimized to help you reach those goals.
As you look at your business with an objective lens, are you really doing the work of a CEO, or are you still playing around in “Jack of All Trades” territory? If you need some help getting clear on your vision, your team, and the roles your business probably needs to have, click the link below to book a call with me. Sometimes an outside perspective is all you need to get clear and then start taking action to align your business’s reality with your vision for it.
CLICK HERE TO CHAT WITH ME
Once your business reaches a certain level, two things have to happen:
- Get very clear about what you sell.
- Set up a model that is ready for sustainability or scalability, depending on your goals.
Today I’m going to help you do just that! Sitting around thinking about your business isn’t going to get you where you want to go, so it’s time to take action.
Step 1: Get very clear about what you sell.
If you’ve hit a plateau of growth in your business, chances are it’s because you’ve been trying to make your business a custom fit for every client or customer. You change your offerings to suit everyone’s needs, and you’ve probably gotten very good at doing this, which is why people keep hiring you. The problem is that you will have a hard time maintaining that pace, and you will definitely have trouble growing your business, if you keep offering custom tailored solutions for every client.
So it’s time to narrow it down: what do you ACTUALLY sell in your business? What do you provide for your clients that nobody else provides exactly the same way? Out of everything people have paid you to do in the past, what is the strongest offering you have that also aligns most closely with your area of expertise?
In your business, what is it you REALLY want to offer your clients, with consistent quality, every single time? Going forward, that’s your offer.
Want an example?
When I talked to my business advisor about my own offering, we came to the conclusion that what I provide for my clients is accountability. Other coaches and consultants provide big-picture planning, goal-setting, and idea-generating. What I offer is the accountability for you to take the action your business needs so that you can accomplish those big-picture goals and ideas.
Step 2: Set yourself up for sustainability or scalability.
You may be focused on “growing your business,” but have you ever stopped to ask yourself if you really WANT to grow any more? A successful business does not have to mean that it’s always growing larger – a successful business can be one that is sustainable at a certain level indefinitely. Once you know what you want, you can set your business up to be that for you.
One scenario of a successful business could be that you are able to keep going for years, doing what you’ve been doing. You may change or tweak things here or there, but for the most part you keep consistent income, consistent working time & effort, and you provide consistent results for your clients. In a sustainable model, your business runs smoothly and effectively so that you can afford the time, energy, and finances it requires to keep it running at an even level over a desired length of time.
A lot of business owners find comfort in the routine of a sustainable business, and if that’s your goal, then you just have to make sure that what you’re offering for your clients is something you can keep offering for as long as you have your business. If you’re confident that you can maintain the number of hours you’ve been working, the current pace your workday takes on, the financial situation of your business, and the services you’ve been offering your clients, then you are good to go. If any of these areas doesn’t feel sustainable for the long-term, then that’s where you need to put your focus for improvement and streamlining.
Maybe you do actually want to grow your business larger. What you’re earning isn’t enough for you, or you want to serve more people, or have a larger impact on your industry. Whatever the reason, wanting to grow your business is an admirable goal; however, it has to be one that is backed by a solid structure that can support that growth.
Take a look at your business operations. Are there ways that you can scale up your offering? Are you in a position to hire one or more employees to take on some of the workload? Do you see a path toward being able to take on more clients, serve larger groups of people, or increase the price of your offering? Can you take yourself out of some of the day-to-day operations of your business in order to perform more of the CEO duties, and hire others to replace you in those operations? If so, then great! You’re on your way to growing your business. If not, that’s okay, too – at least now you know what you need to work on. Take stock of the areas of your business that are hindering your growth, and focus your energy on streamlining and strengthening those areas.
Step 3: Get help along the way.
Whether you want a business that sustains itself in the long term or scales to a bigger level, it can help to have another person figuring it out with you. As I said before, my specialty is accountability; you already know your big goals, and my job is to help you figure out the action you need to take to reach them, and then also hold you accountable for taking that action. Your business can absolutely be ready to sustain your income or grow it, but you will need to streamline your operations and take the steps toward reaching the level you want for your business. If you’d like some help to do that, I’d love to help you build a business that suits your needs and meets your goals.
I would love to be the person to help you find your way. Click here to set up a time to talk.
If you’ve been feeling like your business is a little bit chaotic or scattered, it’s time to get some consistency. A significant factor in the success of any business is having consistent processes; not only will this increase productivity, it also improves your relationships with clients or customers and gives you a clear path to growing your business. The regular processes in your business need to be streamlined in order to be efficient and productive.
Here’s how to get there:
1. Figure out what you’re already doing well.
Being more consistent isn’t about finding a whole new way of running your business; it’s about capitalizing on what you’re already doing. You already have a product or service that you offer to every person who comes into contact with your business. Figuring out HOW you deliver that product or service is the first step to consistency. If you’ve been trying different ways of doing this, pick the one that has worked the best for you and your customer and go from there.
For example: Let’s say you have a business that involves 1-on-1 consulting sessions. Some of your former clients have sent you an e-mail, and you’ve gone back and forth with your separate calendars, trying to figure out a time that works to meet. Maybe during that process you’ve even wound up giving away quite a bit of free advice, to the point where some clients have walked away without booking a session. Another time, you tried using a shared calendar app, and booking that appointment was a smooth process that led to a successful consulting appointment. Tha shared calendar app needs to be your process from now on, with every client.
2. Stop making exceptions.
If you want to grow your business, you can’t offer a unique product or service to every customer. You need to reduce the variables between customers so that you can streamline your systems and create consistency. If you have been creating a custom package for every customer, instead try offering some options like add-on packages or a limited number of custom choices. This way you can give your customers a product that feels personalized, but you don’t have to start from scratch every time.
For example: Let’s say you have a business selling t-shirts. When you first started, maybe you would design anything on a shirt that a customer wanted. Now that your business has grown to a certain level, it makes more sense to choose your 10 most popular designs and only offer those, on a limited number of t-shirt colors. You will be able to sell more shirts because you can produce them more efficiently, but having those choices still makes your customers feel like they are getting a unique product when they come to your shop.
3. Refine and perfect your systems over time.
Just because you’re working on consistency doesn’t mean you have to lock yourself into a situation that never changes. As you go through this process of repeating your systems with consistency, you are naturally going to find ways to refine those processes and make them more streamlined. Take note of this, and be willing to adapt your processes over time. This will only add to your overall efficiency.
For example: If you run a business that involves packing and shipping a physical product, your method of shipping may change over time. You may have started with a regular home printer and the USPS website, but over time you may discover that you could outsource your shipping to a third party and free up more of your time to do other tasks. There’s no need to stick to a system that no longer works for you – this is an opportunity to build new consistency into your business.
4. Document your systems as you get comfortable.
If you’re stuck in your business, it’s often that you’re wasting time trying to remember all the things you need to do, or reinventing the wheel every time you do them. Documenting the processes can help you take those tasks off your mental load now, and also assign them to someone else later. Doing this will help you eventually hand off those tasks to someone else, such as an employee or an independent contractor. This is what makes it possible for you to scale, because you have processes that can expand to serve a bigger audience and you can hire employees to do them over time.
For example: A task management app like Trello or Asana can be a good place to document the steps in your processes, but you can also just use a Word or Google doc to accomplish the same thing. The idea is just to get your process down in writing, so that you can eventually hand that To Do List over to someone else, and stop giving it prime real estate in your own head.
5. Get help from an outside source.
It’s often hard to identify your consistent business processes internally – you have gotten so comfortable with doing all the work of your business that you don’t even realize what you’re doing most of the time. Figuring out systems is one of my stronger gifts, and I still struggle with it within my own business. It’s hard to DIY this process, but it’s also hard to hire someone to do it entirely for you. The best solution is to hire someone to work WITH you to identify and create these processes within your business. They can ask questions to get you started, and then also watch what you do as you complete your business tasks. Working together, the two of you can figure out your existing processes as well as ways to streamline them for more consistency.
If you’re wondering whether consistent processes would improve YOUR business, it might be time to get some clarity. I have a free GEARS Assessment, which will walk you through the process of evaluating your business in five key areas in order to determine which areas would benefit from some improved consistency.
Click HERE for the free gears assessment to get clarity in your business and start leveraging the power of consistency.
In my work as a consultant, I talk to my clients about goal-setting all the time. You probably set goals regularly, both formally and informally, but how many of those goals do you actually reach? If you’re having problems in this area, chances are you just need to change your mindset about goal-setting and motivation.
Do any of these scenarios apply to you?
- You set a goal and you feel really excited about it, but only for a short period of time. Eventually, your enthusiasm fizzles out, and you’re left feeling defeated because you couldn’t reach the goal.
- You set a goal but you have no idea how to actually achieve it, so you get overwhelmed and start to think that maybe the goal just isn’t possible for you.
- You feel like you should be setting more goals for your life or business, but you can’t really figure out what those goals should be.
If you saw yourself in any of those scenarios, keep reading, because this post is for you.
Change your WHY
When you set a goal, what is the reason for it? If you can’t think of one, or the reason is because someone else suggested it (you read about it in a blog post, or that’s what “everyone” is doing, or you have seen it work for other people so you assume it will work for you), it may be time to set a new goal. Doing something because that’s what other people expect, or because it seems like the right idea, is rarely going to give you enough motivation to achieve it.
Maybe you DO have a reason for your goal, though. Do you want to earn enough money in your business so you can quit your day job? Do you want to get 100,000 followers on Instagram so you can partner with other brands? Do you want to earn enough money to buy a ski condo for family vacations?
Those are all great goals, and perfectly valid reasons. The problem is, sometimes those reasons just aren’t enough to really motivate you to reach that goal. It’s easy to get comfortable with what you have, which then causes you to lose the motivation to get what you want.
What have you got to lose?
Take the first example – replacing your day job would be great. But that day job, no matter how much you may dislike it, represents a source of security: a regular income and the safety of knowing what to expect every day. When you have that day job, it can be hard to put in the work to build your business to the point where you can replace that income. You might lose the motivation for such a big goal before you actually reach it.
Now think of it this way: what if you suddenly and unexpectedly LOST your day job? In that situation, I bet you’d find a way to grow your business a lot more quickly, wouldn’t you?
To reframe your mindset about motivation, stop thinking of what you want. Instead, think about what you stand to lose if you don’t reach that goal.
Nothing about your circumstances has to change at all, but if you can figure out the stakes in your own situation, it becomes easier to motivate yourself to reach a goal. Find something you don’t want to lose, and you’ll be much more motivated to make a change.
For me, this change came after my dad died. I realized that when he was sick, near the end, it cost my mom a lot of money to provide for his care. I also realized that it would probably cost me even more money in the future to provide for my own medical or elder care needs, because I don’t have children to help support me when I reach that stage in my life. Knowing that I needed to start getting serious about my retirement savings prompted me to make a major change in my business: teaching knitting classes wasn’t going to cut it if I wanted to live out my retirement years in comfort.
Nothing changed about my circumstances when I made this shift in my goals: I have never had (or really wanted) children, so this was not new information. I have always known that my family has given me good genes, so I can expect to live a long time. But it wasn’t until I really thought about these things, and the risk I would take by not making better plans for my retirement, that I really kicked my motivation into high gear.
Think of it this way: most people don’t get serious about their health until they have a medical scare. What’s the “scare” you can give yourself about your business in order to help increase your motivation to grow that business?
The Motivation Equation
Once you’ve got clarity about your goal and the motivation behind it, it’s time to make sure that those two things match up. Here’s an equation I like to use:
M4R > Fe
What this means is that the motivation for your result (M4R) in any goal needs to be greater than the force, energy, or effort (Fe) required to achieve it.
Motivation for the Result (M4R) > Effort to achieve the Result (Fe)
If your goal is too large, and your motivation isn’t enough to help you get there, then you’re going to lose steam and probably fall short of reaching your goal. One way to help with this is to think about what’s at stake if you don’t reach the goal, as I talked about at the beginning of this post. Another option is to make sure you set goals that are manageable, and equal to the amount of motivation you have for them.
Resize Your Goal
If your goal is too large, it can take a lot of time and energy to reach it. Your motivation has to be really strong to reach that kind of goal, and most of us just don’t have that much motivation stored up. If that’s the case for you, then consider breaking your big goal into smaller increments, and set each increment as its own goal. Not only will this help you see progress faster, but it will also give you a chance to take a break along the way, and re-evaluate whether you still want to keep striving toward your initial, larger goal or whether it’s time to go in a different direction.
Instead of earning enough to replace your day job salary for a full year, start by earning enough to replace one month, then three months, six, etc. Instead of earning enough to buy a condo, try saving enough for the down payment, and then see if you can bank the mortgage payment every month for three months. If you don’t have an emergency situation to motivate you, set goals that are more do-able, and then stop to re-evaluate along the way.
Before you set your goals, take a minute to make sure that your motivation matches the amount of work you’re going to have to put in to get there. Reaching a big goal isn’t ever going to be easy, but when you reach those rough patches, remembering your motivation can be a good way to keep yourself on track.
If you’d like some feedback about your goals or some help finding the motivation, click here to book a consultation with me, and I’ll help you figure out how to balance the Motivation Equation for your business.
For as long as I can remember, my productivity has been guided by two things: my task list and my calendar. Depending on my role, one would always be the more dominant over the other. However, over time I have learned that managing them in tandem is almost always the most productive.
There are multiple ways to leverage your calendar to maximize productivity. By understanding the options, the pros and cons of each and your personal work style, you are more likely to select a method that leads to long term productivity.
Breaking your day into chunks of time to increase productivity is not a new concept. Even so, it is not as widely discussed as some other methods of time/task management.
The basic concept is rather simple:
- Break your day into functional chunks of time (usually 30 – 120 minutes).
- Analyze your levels of focus and productivity for each chunk.
- Assign types of activities to each chunk of time in order to best utilize that time slot.
- Only do those activities until they are done or time is up (whichever comes first).
This type of chunking can be particularly helpful when you have lots of tasks to do and certain types never seem to make it to the top of the list. Even if they only get 30 minutes each week, it is probably more than they would get otherwise.
The downside is, this version might be too restrictive for some types of business ventures.
Another variation of chunking time is to look at bigger chunks of time (1/2 day or full day) and assign larger groups of activities to each. For example, to minimize interruptions, appointments are only to be scheduled on Tuesday afternoons or Thursday mornings. Monday mornings are for planning, strategizing and prepping for the week ahead and so on.
This version has more flexibility within the chunks of time, but still has enough structure to create a framework for productivity.
Another upside is if you are working with others, either in-person or virtually, team members can also have a reasonable idea of what to expect and how to work with you effectively.
The challenge is that it can become too restrictive making scheduling challenging or difficult to complete certain tasks.
If your work requires you to participate in a large number of meetings or appointments, it may make better sense to start with getting those in your calendar first. You can still leverage a bit of the chunking concept by limiting the times people can schedule meetings, but this approach assumes that a large percentage of your work calendar is open.
The challenge is this method can make it difficult to get any task work done. However, a way to minimize this challenge is at the end of each week, block chunks of task specific time for the following week so very few additional appointments can be scheduled. This allows your clients and associates to have reasonable and flexible access, while at the same time ensuring you have some time for task work.
Obviously this method is best for roles that require at least as much, if not more, time allocated to meetings as opposed to getting tasks done.
Another method for using your calendar to increase your productivity is to actually make an appointment with yourself. Most of us are pretty good at showing up at the designated time/place for a meeting with another person. The concept is to apply the same rigor to your most important tasks. For some, leaving the office and working in a remote location like a library or coffee shop helps in making the “meeting” happen.
This is a great method for who automatically break projects down into milestones or steps and can easily place them on the calendar weeks and months in advance.
The challenge is to hold firm on your own appointments. It can be easy to convince yourself to “reschedule” when something else comes up, but if you are not careful a task appointment will get regularly rescheduled and never get done.
Block and Tackle
The idea of blocking time and tackling tasks is a method that can be used in combination with some of the previous calendar management concepts or on its own. The idea is first thing in the morning to look at the day ahead, given the appointments, work blocks, etc. on the calendar, assign the remaining time slots (usually smaller slots like 15 – 60 minutes), to very specific tasks.
This method works well in concert with other time management techniques like the Pomodoro method. It is also a great way to ensure you make time for your personal activities, like running errands, or ensuring you get to important but less urgent tasks.
Personally, my favorite is to create a mash-up of several methodologies. I am a firm believer in systems, but I also know that customization is often the key to success. Rarely does one system fulfill all of a person’s needs. But when you combine elements, you get the best of both worlds — systems and customization.
I personally combine the “Meetings First” and “Block and Tackle” methods. Although I loved the concept of chunking time, I could never make it work for myself. As a natural project planner it would seem like scheduling tasks into the future would make sense, but I know that I am not good about honoring appointments with myself. So everything ended up getting moved around anyway. The combination of “Meetings First” and “Block and Tackle” gives me just the balance I need.
The Reality of Managing Your Calendar
The reality is no system is perfect, but systems invariably increase our productivity. We also all have the same number of hours in a day. The difference is seen in how those hours are utilized.
When you realize that your tasks are ultimately part of your calendar, it becomes so much easier to have them work together. And when your calendar and tasks are working together, you will feel less overwhelmed and get so much more accomplished.
As a successful entrepreneur and small business owner/CEO I know a few things about you:
- You are passionate about your business idea and the products and/or services you offer.
- You are most likely a visionary — with lots of ideas and the ability to see the amazing possibilities.
- Marketing and/or sales either comes naturally and has been your primary focus as you have created, developed, and grown your business.
All of these are excellent traits for an entrepreneur to possess and fundamentally are a key component to your success thus far. But in almost every small business there is an inflection point.
This point of inflection is fairly easy to identify for the owner as they start feeling stuck.
Stuck at a particular income level instead of consistently growing.
Stuck doing the same “boring” tasks instead of working in their zone of genius.
Stuck carrying all the burden of the business instead of enjoying the elusive entrepreneurial freedom so often touted.
Feeling stuck is your business trying to tell you that something is wrong (or maybe several somethings).
When most entrepreneurs feel stuck, their go-to solution is marketing. More ads, more posts, more offers. New tactics, new products, new programs. But, it is rare that the business’ marketing is actually the problem. So marketing will rarely help and in some cases will actually make things worse.
Instead it is time to look at the business’ operations.
I use the acronym GEARS for the parts of your business’ operations:
- Goods – Products and services you sell
- Effectiveness – Personal and team productivity, business leadership
- Accountability – Prioritizing what is important and taking consistent action to reach goals
- Resources – People, money, equipment, technology, and similar
- Systems – Processes, routines, and reporting
Most entrepreneurs are not operationally inclined; it is counter to their visionary gifts. So operations get overlooked or put on the back burner until an issue becomes critical. And then it gets addressed quickly, in a “make do” manner without lots of consideration for longer term effectiveness.
At the point of “stuck”, all of the patches, quick-fixes, and band-aids are no longer serving the business and the internal gears of your business are about to break. Your business has hit its operational capacity limit.
Unfortunately, what got you here (stuck), will rarely get you there (unstuck).
If you are feeling stuck and not sure where to start, sign up below to download your GEARS self-assessment, or click here to learn more. In just a few minutes you will identify which GEARS need to be addressed and how to prioritize your efforts for maximum benefit. Optimize your GEARS and you will be unstuck and moving forward before you know it!