American business has thrived on the belief that an entrepreneur can succeed through hard work and dedication. Historically, if the business could last for at least five years, then chances are good that it will survive and grow.
In the long run, those same business people come to realize there are inherent obstacles that might derail priorities and cause their business—as well as themselves—to suffer.
It’s easy for distractions, disruptions, and day-to-day troubleshooting to prevent the business owner from staying on track. But here’s a tip: If you already keep close track of your time, then you’ll learn a lot by simply analyzing your activities for at least the past month. (If you don’t, try recording a diary for that same period.)
Here five tips that outline what you should be doing on a regular basis:
- Strategizing and goal-setting. You need to spend time evaluating how your business goals are coming along. There should already be a written plan with goals that are measurable. They should be attainable (not pie in the sky), relevant, and time-bound. If you don’t have a written plan, begin by writing down basic goals like number of sales per month, expected revenue per month, number of prospects reached, sales closures. Many of these expectations may already be in your head. Put them on paper and you’ll begin to expand each into practical strategies for achieving them. Remember, you should be working on your business—not in your business. This activity is top priority and unfortunately the one most often postponed or ignored.
- Managing. Often small business owners find themselves balancing sales and marketing with paid client work; finance and product development with the search for financing; accounts receivable with business development. A small business owner needs to be proactive—about these areas of concern. If you’re tracking your time, classify each entry by the nature of the activity to find these imbalances. Then discover solutions to regain your balance.
- Marketing. With a limited marketing budget, it’s hard for a small business to reach new clients. Even with the many forms of free marketing available on the Internet (social networking, blogs, company websites), you still need to spend time planning and executing. I try to spend one day per week working on marketing, reviewing the overall plan and progress to date. I look for new opportunities. I stay on my toes.
- Access to new technology. Although it’s true that often a small business doesn’t have the financial resources to take advantage of new technology, that’s no excuse for hiding from it. I know of larger, well-established companies that are decades behind technologically. They may have been aware of change, but upgrades were postponed to the point where their ability to compete today has been compromised. Don’t go down that road. It leads to extinction. A small business is more flexible, more nimble, and there are solutions that fit their needs, too.
- Learning. If you’re passionate about your business, it’s only natural to keep up with industry trends. Likewise, touching base with your LinkedIn connections or your favorite influencers is good networking. If you like old-fashioned, face-to-face meetings, remember that people are working harder these days and are careful about screening the business events they attend. You can still do reconnaissance and networking very effectively, thanks to social media. And remember: There’s still that instrument on your desk called a telephone you can always use.
Reviewing your daily activities on a regular basis can make a big difference to your success as a business owner. At the end of the day, you will make better use of your time as well as increase your overall productivity.