When you are running a business, it is easy to fall into the trap of wanting to do everything yourself. Your business is your pride, your joy and your livelihood.
So, why pay a stranger to take control of your marketing or finances when you know you can rely on yourself?
As most of us have been ‘battening down the hatches’ during a year of great uncertainty, our need for control has become more deeply entrenched in the way we operate.
But the more you try to control every facet and function of your business, the less likely you are to move forward.
And you didn’t go into business to go backwards, did you?
For many years, I have been a consultant helping my clients with unique business problems. But I seldom tell my clients to ditch their specialists to take on more responsibilities themselves.
Yet we tend to ignore this when it comes to our own business. We strive to be our own Board, CEO, finance manager, admin assistant, marketing executive, salesperson and operations manager. And then we wonder why we can’t grow, expand and scale-up.
I’ve learned this lesson the hard way this year, but I was able to flip a downturn into an advantage. So, here are a few tried and tested tips to help ease your workload without losing control of your business.
1. Get a business coach
I’ve never been one for mentoring or coaching. I’m a quiet person, not prone to sharing my struggles or achievements with others. I’ve also been fairly self-assured in my approach to work and have generally been successful.
So, it may seem counter-intuitive for me to encourage you to consider engaging a business coach.
But running a business is not just work. Or more precisely, work isn’t just functional—it’s also strategic. It is not enough that you have a product or service that others want and are willing to pay for. Running a business means looking at growth, risks, strategy, scenarios, motivation and talent.
Business is as much about the future as it is the present.
How are you going to think about all that when you are also flat-out taking care of daily operations?
A good business coach can help you in a variety of ways:
- Business coaches have your back. A good coach will be supportive and stay on your side, no matter what happens. It can be lonely running a business, so it’s great to know there is someone you can count on for a gentle, encouraging word.
- Your coach will not be afraid to challenge your point of view and present alternatives. Your coach should be able to see things differently with a unique field of experience. Use that to your advantage but remember it may be (and should be) uncomfortable. Don’t choose a coach who is a friend or a relative! Be prepared to get out of your comfort zone and take on honest, constructive feedback.
- Your coach will hold you accountable. Most of us have plans and goals that we don’t achieve because we find it exceptionally difficult to hold ourselves accountable. There is always an excuse. Coaching helps you achieve realistic goals by holding you accountable for what you say you are going to do.
- Coaches are well connected and help you expand your network. Before going into any agreements, check out what type of clients and businesses your coach likes to work with. A coach who likes to work with start-ups may not be a good fit for an ageing family business, for example. Your coach will open the door to a whole new network, so make sure it’s a network you want to be a part of.
2. Create a marketing strategy (with a professional)
Marketing is a vital investment for your business, but it is something we tend to neglect, particularly when we are busy. And that is probably because a lot of trial and error is involved if you are not a marketing expert. Creating a marketing strategy with an expert will help you remove the guesswork and initiate the outcomes you are looking for. They will know when it’s appropriate to use a Google AdWords campaign, recommend which social media platforms to use and will help you measure the success of your marketing campaigns over a reasonable timeframe.
3. Have consistent and professional branding
It may seem like a basic consideration, but how consistent are your communications?
Ask yourself these questions:
- Is your tone of voice the same across your websites, proposals, presentations, letters and marketing campaigns?
- Do you use the same version of a logo in every document in the header or footer?
- Do you have a high-resolution photograph of yourself to use in promotional material?
- Do you have a neat tagline that encapsulates what you do?
All of these are one-percenters that really leverage your professional edge to impress clients and prospects alike.
4. Get help with content
The content you show to the rest of the world is a vital asset to you and your business. You may have a website, you may write blogs, manage a profile on LinkedIn or on Google’s ‘My Business’. Running a modern business requires attention to all of this and more—but you can’t do it alone. Seek help from a specialist who loves helping businesses with their content (yes, such people exist). You can still be in control, but navigating the maze of all the various content channels out there requires expert assistance
5. Read, read and… did I say read?
One thing you don’t need other people for is reading.
Reading about your industry, other industries, general business or even things totally unrelated will help you learn, give you ideas and spur your creativity. It is also a peaceful and quiet practice, which is vitally important if you work in a busy and noisy environment.
If you are the sort of person who feels like they have to be moving constantly to be ‘doing’ something, set aside 30 minutes and go into a meeting room away from everybody (or if you are at home away from your work desk and phone). Read an article or two of interest. Make yourself a cup of tea or coffee. And just read in peace. Doing so will help your body, mind and soul, believe me!
These five tips are not certainties to change your business in the short term, but they are fundamentals that need attention for long-term success. Though they will take time and investment, continuing to do everything by yourself is not only ineffective, but also too exhausting!
By putting these strategies into action, you can make a fresh start in 2021 and reduce some of the burdens of business ownership.