My meaning simply is, that whatever I have tried to do in life, I have tried with all my heart to do well; that whatever I have devoted myself to, I have devoted myself to completely; that in great aims and in small, I have always been thoroughly in earnest……there is no substitute for thorough-going, ardent, and sincere earnestness. Never to put one hand to anything, on which I could throw my whole self; and never to affect depreciation of my work, whatever it was; I find, now, to have been my golden rules.
— David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

In the second part of my blog “Do one thing well”, I thought I would pull out all the stops and start with a quote from one of my favorite authors Charles Dickens.

I wanted to share it because it encapsulates one of the main issues I work with in my coaching practice; that is, doing too many things and having too many projects, and/or, what I touched upon in Part One of this blog, trying to be all things to all people.

Regular readers of my blog may already know that I started my consulting career working with budding social enterprises. They were incredibly passionate about how their business idea could tackle some kind of social issue, but sometimes their enthusiasm and passion got in the way of how to ensure their venture was financially viable.

In other words, they were clear about how they could address a problem in society, but they hadn’t found a way of making their core business sustainable so it wasn’t able to support the social enterprise arm of their venture.

I see many businesses moving on to new projects and new strands of their business before they have really consolidated their core business and so are not working from a sustainable base.

Not only does this not make for great business strategy, but it’s also a one-way ticket to burnout, which again is not sustainable for the business owner, or for their clients.

Why is this so common in businesses? And what can we do about it?

Creativity and entrepreneurship go hand in hand. Highly creative individuals tend to have high energy levels and are used to, and moreover enjoy, getting out of their comfort zone in some way. They are often brimming with ideas, and don’t have enough the hours in the day to execute them. So far these all sound like excellent emotional traits to have for business owners.

However, the problem is that being an entrepreneur and running your own business, also requires huge amounts of self-discipline and self-reflection (Interestingly, one of the main tenets of Emotional Intelligence.) and this can be an issue for people who might also have a low boredom threshold, and the apparent inability to say no. Is this sounding at all familiar?

Saying ‘no’ is a tough one. As all self-employed people know, income can be erratic, so the desire to take on every piece of work you are offered, can be tempting, but without looking at the bigger picture, or having the infrastructure and systems to support the work that is coming in, it can often be detrimental to the business.

So how do we move our businesses forward in a sustainable way?

Take these three steps:

  1. Strategize

  2. Consolidate

  3. Deliver and review

Step one: Strategize

Business owners often come to see me at a point where their business is ready to grow, but they don’t have a strategy in place to support that growth so they end up firefighting. If you have been in this position, you will know how exhausting firefighting is, not to mention boring as it takes you away from creativity and the things you are good at.

Having a strategy that allows you to see the bigger picture is the way to avoid getting in to the firefighting cycle. Your strategy underpins all the decisions that you need to make on a day-to-day basis for your business and therefore takes the anxiety out of taking your business to the next level.

Strategies are the steps you take in manifesting the vision you have for your business. Like any plan your strategy needs to be flexible and change according to the needs of your business, so when you business changes, make sure you re-assess your strategy.

Once you have a clear strategy for your business and are clear about your main objectives, you can start to…….

Step two: Consolidate

Before you start to diversify and develop new projects, you need to ensure that you are working from a firm foundation. This means establishing what your main business is and communicating that clearly to clients and prospects. You also need to ensure that you are delivering your product/service to the highest standard, and have feedback mechanisms in place with your clients in order to continually improve their buying experience.

Let’s break this down in to three simple elements:

1. Clarity – Are you clients and customers really clear about what you offer and how you differ from your competitors? Have a look at Part One of this blog here and think about whether you are communicating your USP in a clear, succinct way, speaking to customer about the problem they have and how your business solves it.

2. Systems – Before you start thinking about new projects, be really sure that you have all the appropriate systems in place to deal with your current business and workload. One of the ways small businesses in particular come unstuck is in launching before they are ready, or growing really quickly and not having the infrastructure to support that growth.

This can then have a disastrous affect on customer experience, stock control, cash flow, and ultimately whether the business will survive and thrive long term.

A simple way of monitoring your current systems is to put yourself in your client’s shoes from the moment they are starting to look at your product, all the way through to the final transaction and ask yourself at every step if all the systems are in place to support that process.

If they aren’t, and you are struggling to manage all of those elements on your own, you might need to……

3. Delegate – Right now I want you to make a list of everything that needs to be done in order to run your business. Once you have written it, look at each task and see how much time it takes each week/month, and whether you need to be doing it, or whether it could be delegated to someone else with the appropriate skill set.

If you think it can be delegated, then work out how much this would cost. I meet many business owners (and I have been guilty of this myself in the past) that spend more time than they need on certain elements of running their businesses. Bookkeeping and credit control are the classic examples.

It is really important, and indeed a legal requirement of running your business, that you keep good financial records, but unless you are already a bookkeeper or accountant, or really like working with figures, are you making the best use of your time doing your own books and VAT returns? Likewise, if you are spending a lot of time chasing debtors (people who owe you money), is this really an efficient way of running your business?

You may be surprised how little it costs you to hire a good bookkeeper each month, giving you the time to focus on other elements of your business that only you can do.

Or alternatively look at whether there is an app out there that you save you time.

And lastly…..

Step three: Deliver and review

Now you have systems in place and are working to a clear strategy, you can concentrate on the fun stuff delivering your product/service. Let the strategy run for a couple of months and take the time to review it and see if it is still working for you, your business and your customers.

Because you understand your business better, and have the overview of how all the different elements of your business fit together, you are clear about what you need to do each day. You have confidence in your business and brand because you are focusing on doing ‘one thing well’.

If you are feeling overwhelmed by choices and lost sight of the bigger picture, find out how business coaching can help you. Book a 30 minute phone chat here

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