When you are building your business, your focus needs to be on gaining clients, providing the best service possible, and getting wins under your belt. You need efficient operations.
You will reach a point when you have moved beyond the client acquisition struggle and your challenge becomes balancing the influx of work, relationships, and the day-to-day of your team, (if you have one).
This is when the struggle really starts. As your business grows, you have to balance the doing with the overseeing and the strategy. And you can’t just control everything yourself, the way you used to.
Constant incoming leads wanting your products and services can be crazy to balance. There can be too much day-to-day work which causes you to lose sight of your own strategy, operations and, business development.
Maybe you bring in an assistant to help?
But often times, if you haven’t set your operations properly, your assistant is knocking at your email every 5 minutes with questions. It almost seems like, having the “help” actually causes more work.
To reduce your workload, you actually created more.
Once you are drowning, it’s hard to be able to take a breath.
But here’s the fact. You need to, you or you will never get out of it. You must maintain a strategic mindset as your business grows and not let it get lost in the shuffle.
Growth Requires Optimization
As Six Sigma Greenbelt and high performing athlete, I know all about the importance of optimization.
When a swimmer wants to swim faster, it has to come from more than just desire or will.
A swimmer gets faster because they fine-tune their technique and create streamlined movement in the water. A swimmer’s optimization in the water enables them to swim with less effort so that they can use their energy to focus on speed or distance.
The same thing goes in business. As you learn, grow, and gain more experience, you learn what works and doesn’t work for you. If you are smart, you double-down on the efforts that work and ditch the ones that don’t.
The more you focus on what is working, the more your business grows. Eventually getting you to the state of steady, consistent work.
Drowning in work
Let’s get back to our story.
When you are at the stage of steady acquisition, and feeling like you’ve got too much to juggle… this is where a couple different things can happen:
You can choose to stay and keep everything as is. This generally means that you are still working around the clock, as you did when you were a start-up (and I know what this feels like), and it’s just going to stay that way.
You can choose to optimize your business which gives you the opportunity to put less effort “in” the business (doing the day-to-day work) so that you can focus “on” the business (which includes strategy, optimization, and expansion).
Most people like yourself, don’t want to stay here… and that’s why you are reading this blog.
You didn’t become an entrepreneur to work all the time. You became an entrepreneur to grow and expand upon your ideas.
In his book, The E-Myth Revisited, Michael Gerber explains why 80% of small businesses fail. Ensure yours isn’t among those by building a company that’s based on systems and not on the work of a single individual.
At this point, you might be asking yourself, “when and how do you set up your business for growth?”
The answer? From the moment something “works.”
As soon as you have something that works… a task, a process, a procedure… it’s time to get it out of your head, and onto paper. Once it’s “on paper” (or mindmap software, or a flow chart, or a Google Doc), you have something to work with.
When you have something to work with and documented, you can systemize it.
Systemize Your Tasks
A task is a single component of work to be done.
A process is a compilation or series of tasks.
A system is a set of processes according to which something is done; an organized scheme or method.
In order to systemize your business… with the ultimate goal of optimizing it, you must:
1. Identify your work tasks. What is currently taking up the most time? What is subject to the most error/problems (specifically in customer support)? Or, by tasks category (such marketing, finance, operations, etc)?
2. Identify the process that enables you to complete those tasks.
Once you have your tasks and processes in place, you can create a system. The system is what brings everything together and identifies the work of your business as a whole.
Your new system may can run by human help, for example, a virtual assistant to execute the process. Leverage technology, like a marketing automation tool such as Active Campaign.
Creating a system allows you to be more efficient, reduce errors amongst you and your team. And, you will improve your customer experience!
Most importantly, systemization allows you to step away from being “in” the business to being “on” the business!
To Tech or Not to Tech?
Trying to find the tools and technology to help you streamline your systems can be a little scary. There are thousands of options. And even if you select one, figuring out how to put your process into action, is just another piece of the puzzle.
But don’t let that stop you; conduct your due diligence and work out it. The time you spend upfront can help you drastically reduce the time you spend in the long run manually working these tasks.
In a study, Genpact Research Institute recently found that, of nearly $600 billion spent on digital projects, almost $400 billion of it was invested in projects that fell short of expectations and returns on investment . In fact, much of what companies invest in technology sustains existing, or “legacy,” systems, rather than new technology, the report found.
There is no right or wrong answer on how and when to leverage technology. It is only when you are able to take yourself out of the work, or “in” the work, and focus instead of “on” the work… will you be able to ease your own efforts allowing you to focus on either having more downtime or, focusing on business growth tactics.
It’s Not About Being Tech Savvy, It’s about Being Tech Smart
If you don’t have a system, we can’t optimize it with technology.
It’s far too common for entrepreneurs to grab a tool that they think will be the golden ticket for their the team. Without the system in place to start with, the tech tool cannot be used properly. This is when the often end up sitting in your queue, underutilized, or completely unused.
We aren’t trying to make our business “tech savvy” but rather “tech smart.” We want the tools that we use to enable us to grow while maintaining the same customer experience we always have.
I don’t want you to end up with a pile of unused technology that you are paying for! (Believe me, even I am totally guilty of purchasing AppSumo deals that I think are going to be the golden ticket and then that I never end up touching them…)
If you have any questions, let me know!