Starting a business can be the most exciting, frustrating, challenging and rewarding undertaking we ever do. Like so many we dive the business full of ideas, dreams and ambition. But sometimes all the planning doesn’t give is the dose of reality that hits us once we get started.
Some entrepreneurs hire a business coach but many go it alone… and as someone who didn’t hire a business coach, I discovered very quickly that I at least needed to get involved with like minded groups and online coaches that offered training, coaching and more importantly accountability. It’s easy to focus on the wrong things and “not see the forest for the trees”. So having gone through many challenges and at times still going through the growing pains I thought it might be of some value to share what I’ve learned.
- Identify your weaknesses early – Entrepreneurs wear many hats (especially when we are getting started), we can be everything from the janitor to the CFO when our businesses are young. This is the time to identify the things we may not be very good at, the things we really don’t like to do and the things we love about our business.
- Hire a coach or join a group – Get help with the things that you may not be very good at. This could be marketing, managing finances, managing employees or some other aspect of the business. There are a great number of groups that can be a voice of reason when we need it, offer guidance and information to help overcome the challenges.
- Find an accountability partner – There are some tasks in our business that we don’t enjoy doing and these tend to get pushed to the bottom of our to do list. An accountability partner is someone you meet with bi-weekly, monthly or quarterly depending on your needs. You help by holding them accountable for tasks and goals in their business and they will do the same for you. There is no greater motivation than realizing you have an accountability meeting next week and you haven’t completed the task you were committed to doing before the next meeting.
These 3 items are really foundational components of your business. Develop processes, structure and time frames for all the tasks needed to keep your business running and over time these will become daily, weekly and monthly habits.
- Spend 70% of your time growing your business – 70% sounds like a lot of time but sales are the life blood of every business. Without a steady stream of sales your business will become stagnant and the slightest shift in your market could be devastating.
- Track all your marketing – If you spend time or dollars on a marketing strategy you need to be able to analyze it 30 days out. Keep the marketing strategies that deliver the highest ROI. Dump the ones with a low ROI or negative ROI and keep trying new things.
- Develop inbound and outbound marketing strategies – Inbound is most beneficial for service based businesses. Outbound tends to work better for eCommerce, insurance and the health care niche but there is no hard fast rule; every market and niche is a little different.
- 80/20 rule – Invest 80% of your efforts on the marketing tactics that are bringing you the greatest return. Spend 20% of your time trying new marketing tactics, testing and learning. Technologies are changing so fast that it is nearly impossible to keep up with the newest big thing… this is where you will be really glad you joined a group of entrepreneurs, marketers and like minded individuals.
- Stay focused – For me this was the hardest thing to do. I’m like a sponge that gathers all types of information from the internet, conversations and my groups. I love to test new marketing concepts. And this can quickly send me down a rabbit hole and way outside of my wheelhouse. My accountability partner has played a major role in keeping me on task. This doesn’t mean that I can’t test new concepts – I just ask myself these two questions; “is this project going to benefit the current business goals?” and “will this enhance the business financially?”. If I can answer yes to these two questions, I can spend less than 20% of my time testing (or “playing” as I call it).
In summary, there are many rewards to having your own business. Developing a strong foundation, hiring great employees and having a good marketing strategy will set you on the right path to success. I want to leave you with one important thing if you take nothing else from this article; Seriously, spend 70% of your time on sales. All of the other work will get done… it really will. You’ll have the finances to hire more employees and if you really don’t enjoy sales, hire a sales rep or a marketing company to deliver exclusive leads… just focus on growing!