I was recently asked by a colleague how I provide simple solutions for my clients. His theory is that the best services don’t bog clients down with complexity; they provide clear, effective solutions that are easy to understand and implement. I couldn’t agree more; it’s why I’ve been talking about freeing yourself from your business this year. What the vast majority of people I talk to want is to simplify their work and their lives so they can enjoy their time on this earth more.
There are so many books and blogs and coaches out there, selling so many different ways to build a successful business, but what it all boils down to is this: All businesses eventually run up against the same challenges.
If you know what particular challenge your business is facing—if you know what’s standing in your way—you can take the actions required to work through it and clear your path to success. I believe those challenges can be expressed in three simple questions: Are you making enough money? Do you have the right people? Do things keep running while you’re away? In fact, these challenges usually arise in this order. Let’s look at them one by one.
Are You Making Enough Money?
I hope you didn’t go into business just to make money. I hope you have a purpose and a passion that drives you. I hope you have things you want to do with your life and for your family and community. I hope you feel like your business makes a positive difference in your customers’ lives. Those are the things that get us out of bed on those cold, dark mornings. Those are the things that keep us going when everything feels like it’s going wrong. (If you don’t feel like you have that purpose and passion, take a look at my blog article How to Start Dreaming Again.)
So it’s those things, not money, that keep us going, but it is money that keeps our business going. If you’re not making enough money to keep your doors open, you certainly aren’t making enough money to do the things you want to do with your life and for your family and community.
Since making money is the first and primary function of a business, it’s no wonder that making enough of it is the first challenge most business owners face. How much is enough, though? When I work with a client, we usually talk about setting three levels of revenue goals: need, want and desire.
- Your Need Revenue Goal is that keeping-your-doors-open amount. It’s the least revenue you can bring in and keep your business going.
- Your Want Revenue Goal is need revenue, plus a little bit of cushion. When you hit your Want Revenue Goal, your business is growing and you have some extra money to invest in your life outside the business.
- Your Desire Revenue Goal is the game changer. When you hit your Desire Revenue Goal, you’re able to run your business, grow and expand your business, and have enough money to do all those things you’ve always wanted to: travel, buy that second home, cut back your hours so you can spend more time with your family, give back to your community.
Thinking about revenue in these three different levels brings purpose to your goal setting: Those numbers aren’t just numbers anymore; they represent what you can attain by achieving them, and so you are tied to them emotionally and you’re more likely to be inspired and motivated to meet them.
Once you’ve thought about how much money is enough money, you will probably start thinking about how you are actually going to bring in that money. I’ve found that what is ideal is having eight to 10 strategies that you use regularly and consistently to bring in business. Those strategies can encompass marketing, networking and selling, but they need to meet three requirements:
- They are a good fit for you personally. If you don’t enjoy implementing the strategy, you probably won’t.
- They are a good fit for your business and industry. If a strategy doesn’t make sense for your business or industry, it won’t bring in revenue.
- You implement them on a regular and consistent basis. By focusing on bringing in a steady stream of work, you’re much less likely to get those dry spells with little or no work.
I personally think a lot of people neglect networking strategies, including tapping into their current clients. When done right, networking can bring in up to 80 percent of your business. That’s an incredible return! I’ll be writing more about networking soon.
Do You Have the Right People?
Bringing in the amount of revenue that grows your business and enables you to live the life you dream means that you’re bringing in more work. That leads to the second challenge most businesses face: getting the work done.
Except in rare cases, serving an increased number of clients while maintaining exceptional service means hiring people to help you. You don’t want just extra bodies, though; you want the right people in the right positions. Employees who are in a good-fit job—meaning they have the skills to do the work and are interested in and enjoy the work—are employees who perform. They are invested in their work and seek solutions. They knock it out of the park for your customers, every time. These are the kind of employees who don’t just get done all the extra work you’re bringing in; they create raving fans of your customers who are eager to give you great reviews, refer you and bring in even more business for you.
How do you build a team of this kind of employee? By having strong employment practices that:
- Attract the right talent for your business. Have a clear picture of the roles and responsibilities for a position before you post it. Communicate the vision and mission of your business during the interviewing process. Use behavioral questions and case studies to get a better picture of how a candidate would handle the job.
- Prepare a new hire for success. Have and actually use an orientation process that includes all the training the new hire needs, as well as introduces the new hire to the physical space of the office and their new coworkers. Build in checkpoints during the first and second weeks and the first 30 and 60 days to provide feedback, evaluate level of learning and answer questions.
- Create an environment for great things to happen by providing guidance, holding regularly scheduled meetings, making sure your employees are motivated, adding value for your clients and fostering teamwork. Read more about GREAT environments here.
Do Things Keep Running While You’re Away?
Once you’re bringing in high quality business consistently and you have an effective, empowered team of employees providing outstanding service to your clients every time, you’re done right? You can take that vacation, shop for vacation homes, duck out early to catch your daughter’s play.
Not quite. You can, of course, do those things, but you’re likely to come back to some fires. That’s because the third challenge that small businesses come up against is being too dependent on the owner or manager. If you want to free yourself up from the business, you need to ensure that things will run smoothly when you’re away doing all those things you can now afford to do.
You already have an great team doing a great job. What else do you need?
- Processes and procedures. A system of processes and procedures provides predictability and control. It simplifies and standardizes all the work you do, so employees know what is expected of them and new hires can be trained quickly and effectively. Processes and procedures also anticipate problems, so that when something goes wrong, or just in a way that was unexpected, employees can troubleshoot, adapt and fix—all without having to call you on vacation.
- A #2 who thinks like #1. Every team needs a coach, but what we don’t always think about is that a coach usually has an assistant coach. That’s someone who knows how to do everything the coach does, who knows the strengths and opportunities for every member of the team and who knows how the business works. If you haven’t already, identify someone in your business who is ready for a greater leadership role. Start developing and empowering them so that you and your team have the confidence that things are in capable of hands when you’re out of the office.
- A shared vision. This takes us back to the beginning, where I was saying that I hope you have a purpose and a passion for your business beyond just making money. When you share that vision with your employees and inspire them to embrace it as well, you can have the confidence that they will protect, nurture and serve your business just as you would.
So, What’s Standing Your Way?
Is it money? People problems? Are you still shackled to your business despite having a steady profit and a strong team of people? If you’re not sure, reach out to someone who has been there, done that, like a mentor. You can also pick your employees’ brains on potential solutions.
Once you identify the challenge that’s bogging you down, it’s easier to narrow in on the solutions. Consider some of the tips I’ve offered here, but also engage your employees, mentors and support groups. Your employees are on the frontlines, and they often have solutions that may surprise you. Your mentors and members of your network and support groups have probably been where you are and can talk about what worked for them.
Finally, know what you want out of 2020. How do you want to free yourself up from your business this year? What changes can you make to ensure you get a chance to treat yourself? Make a plan, and get it done. Break through what’s standing in your way, and have a great 2020.