22 Jan Taking Stock of Your Small Business: Not Just a New Year’s Resolution
I’ve never been a big believer in making New Year’s resolutions. I don’t really think that I’ll ever be. But, the last few months of 2015 were a bit of a whirlwind. My partner, Tifani, unexpectedly left our firm to accept a position as in-house counsel at a local government agency (congratulations to her and, as expected, she is continuing to do great things in the City!), I moved, and I completed my first marathon all within three weeks time.
Coming into the holidays, the administrative transitioning of the firm caught up to me. I felt worn down and had lost some of the excitement that I felt when starting out on my own. Momentum carried me through to the holidays, and happily, I was able to take some much needed time over the holidays to reflect on my own small business. It was time to gain some perspective that I had lost over the course of the last couple of months.
It doesn’t require a major change like a partner leaving for the difficulties of running your own small business to rear their ugly head. Any entrepreneur has experienced the sensation of being pulled in a million different directions at any given moment. With all of the responsibilities a small business owner has, it’s normal to get swept up in the momentum and not take time out to assess where your business is and where it’s going and how.
While I may never change my stance on New Year’s resolutions, I do believe that taking stock of how your business is doing and how it can improve – at least once a year – is imperative.
For me, with the whirlwind of the last few months, taking stock of my small business meant recomitting to these important principles:
Remember the Why.
Remembering the “why” (Why did you leave your job to start your own business? Why you thought this would have an impact? Why….?) can be difficult at times. Getting from point A to point B takes a lot of energy regardless of what type of business you are in. A small business owner wears so many different hats and has so many different responsibilities that it is easy to lose sight of why you chose to open your small business in the first place. Stopping to reflect and remember the reason that you chose the path of more resistance is important. For me, I was excited about the possibility of helping a small business achieve its goals and become more successful. I enjoy the planning and the “strategery” involved in helping small businesses identify and avoid potential obstacles. I left a position at a large law firm so that I could work with smaller clients, become a part of their team, and have more of an impact. In the stressful conclusion of 2015, it was that feeling that sustained me. I took over being a Build Institute facilitator through Tifani’s departure and that, of all the things, reminded me of how exciting it is to build your own business and to plan. It was an instant and sorely needed dose of good energy, which I am tremendously grateful for.
Do the “Ugly” First.
Shortly before the holidays, I came across an article about the habits of successful entrepreneurs (shocking, I know). One of the “habits” identified in the article was to take care of the things that seem most difficult first thing in the morning. I don’t care what kind of business you operate, there are certain tasks that are more stressful than others, uncomfortable, difficult, time-consuming and even emotionally draining. Even if you don’t realize it, that one thing that you are putting off because it’s unpleasant carries with you all day, occupying your thoughts (no matter how hard you try to push it away). I committed to doing that “ugly” thing, whatever it was, first thing in the morning and, while it makes the “ugly” thing no less ugly, I have noticed that it helps make the rest of the day more enjoyable. I am not going through most of day with that feeling of dread. The dread is over early and I can focus on the more enjoyable tasks of the day.
When you’re building your business it’s easy to want to accommodate everyone, particularly when you are in the service industry. You want to build your client or customer base. You’re reluctant to turn away clients or customers. You may not have an interest in a particular area, but you agree to take on a client project anyway. You may be inclined to substantially discount your prices. You may be tempted to cut your fees. All of it makes sense because you’re in the process of building your business, but, it’s important to remember that boundaries for small businesses are important. They help a client or customer appreciate what you offer and respect that it has value. If you don’t value your product’s worth or your own time, it’s difficult to ask others to do so.
Focus On What You Do Best.
Every entrepreneur knows that when you are first starting up saving money is key! You are the accountant, the marketing department, the administrative assistant, the graphic design team, the public relations department and the lawyer (well, let’s hope not….) in order to save money. Starting out, it is understandable and, often necessary, to cut costs wherever possible until you start bringing in revenue. But, it’s important for you to remember that your time has worth too that is often not considered. What if you could skip the administrative tasks in order to spend more time on your product or your service? What if you could hand over the accounting work to someone else so that you could spend more time on client development? Knowing what you do and don’t do best is important in determining what help you need. There is no shortage of qualified service providers in Detroit that specialize in working with small businesses and offer affordable rates. With a little administrative assistance or an improved social media presence, you will have so much more time to focus on your own skill set.
Surround Yourself With Good Energy.
There is no shortage of good energy to be had in the City. There are so many people working hard to support small businesses and entrepreneurs (like the Build Institute, Bamboo, The Grand River WorkPlace in Grandmont Rosedale, and TechTown, to name a few). There are a growing number of small business owners who collaborate and who, importantly, understand what it is like to try to grow a successful business. Each and everyone of these people and organizations bring a certain energy to the often lonely world of small business. Everytime I leave an event at one of these organizations or speak to another entrepreneur about their own business, I walk away energized and inspired. It’s nice to know that others understand the highs and lows of operating your own business. It’s also great to get insight from others on ways to improve, organize and grow.
Scheduling Company “Retreats”.
It does not matter if you are the sole owner of your business or if you have a partner, a company “retreat” is a way to ensure that you commit time periodically throughout the year to take stock of your business (as opposed to waiting until the end of the year to look back at how things went). A “retreat” does not mean going to a hotel and holding all day long meetings like you think of in the corporate setting (unless, business is going really well and that hotel is in Hawaii!). A retreat may simply mean putting aside one day a month or one day every couple of months where you don’t accept any other commitments and instead, focus on planning, reviewing your financials, your marketing plan, identifying opportunities to grow and opportunities to improve. Scheduling that time out in advance makes it easier to commit to and will help ensure that your business is and remains on track.