It’s been a while between posts of late and there’s been one big reason why. I’ve most definitely been doing the juggle. Like all business owners I’ve been trying to wear the multiple hats (and for the most part failing badly at it) and with the overwhelm kicking in been culling back the hats to a bare minimum. And the ones that have taken priority have been client work and family. Really, it’s been my tactic of self preservation which has kept my head above water for the best part but I’m seeing the cracks showing after now having a small glimmer of breathing space (which generally is what comes after the chaos of EOFY subsides). This has got me shifting my focus and looking at ways to avoid having the wheels fall off in my own business and life for the times where I’m putting all of my time and energy into making sure goals are continuing to be kicked for my clients businesses.
In doing this I really don’t work on “plans” because as a Mum I know first hand how swiftly plans can be thrown out the window so I look at it more as a strategy and I thought I would share the areas I place focus and provide some ideas how you can apply the same principles within your business.
Product and Service Delivery
This is generally every business owner’s highest priority (you don’t do the work, you don’t get paid!). This has been a really big area of focus for me being a one person business and it’s even more important that I meet my deliverables for my clients because without that, I don’t earn anything! As a services based business everything is dependent on me so I have been heavily working in this space for the last few months and other areas have been neglected unfortunately. So this is where my biggest area of reflection has been and I’ve been looking into two aspects:
- Reviewing my service offering and my current commitments; and
- Outsourcing / subcontractor options.
The first is a really crucial area and something that I can genuinely do something about straight away – as can any business owner. Taking a look at what you have currently committed to clients in terms of deliverables and time frames as well as taking a look at the services you do offer to potential clients. If there are services you offer that you just offer because you can and not because you genuinely enjoy providing that service then that for me is a flag to potentially scrap that service. If you are delivering services that you genuinely enjoy delivering then you’re going to be more likely to provide an outstanding result and delivery to your client and that’s where the gold is in your business. Another factor in this is are they services that are in high demand from you as a provider? If it’s something that very rarely comes up, then take it off your menu. If you hone in what you offer and keep it clear and simple then you’ll be more likely to have conversions to paying sales.
Second, for me personally is a little harder – and I’m one that goes on about the benefits of outsourcing and subcontracting! However there is a reason for it, because you have to really sit down and be clear about what it is you want to achieve from your subcontractor and how they go about delivering as a face of your business to your clients. For me, my business is all based on my abilities and my standards which I like to ensure I deliver to my clients and therefore I want to find the right subcontractors who are the right fit for me and my clients to ensure that all parties can work together harmoniously in delivering a shared goal. But, when you have this all working well, this is where the true benefits of leverage come into play for you, your business and your clients! There is also the upside here that if you have a service that you aren’t completely proficient in but there’s a demand for it from your customers then partnering with an outsourced resource or subcontractor who can deliver this on your behalf can open up even more possibilities for your business.
Sales and Marketing
Sales and Marketing is an area that every business should put time into so that you are visible in the marketplace and are communicating what you are offering to the world. And this is an area where a lot of should be doings are thrown around (guilty right here). This is also an area that you will sit and see what competitors / other businesses are doing and you’ll say to yourself oh that is a really good concept I need to implement that in my business (think big scale marketing funnels and automation software) and so you head on out and spend a whole lot of money doing it. This is sometimes where businesses come undone because they throw a bucketload of money at systems that sometimes aren’t the best fit for their product/service/business/customers.
In fact, here’s a fantastic article via Flying Solo “Tying the knot between sales and marketing” which gives a great overview of what sales and marketing are and how they work together in small business.
There’s three key areas that I look at for my business because I have limited funds and limited time (getting heaps of clients is great but I want to be make sure I am able to confidently deliver my services to everyone):
- Social media – content planning and scheduling
There’s so much social media envy to be had, and so many you should be doing posts every hour of every day. Well, this is where I step back and realise I am going to do what suits me and suits my clients and my business. And also looking at what social media platforms are right for my business. And this applies to every business. Facebook is really a go-to for everyone however for me Instagram doesn’t have a great conversion, it’s more of a fun brand building visual medium, and I know I need to look more into LinkedIn as my clients will more likely be working in the LinkedIn space. This is true for any business, really look at the client you are targeting and ask yourself if they would be found on the social media spaces that you’re spending time on. If the answer is no, then stop wasting your time, but if the answer is yes or yes that would be in another social media space then spend the time on developing it.
- Outsource tasks
And here’s where if social media gives you a massive headache just thinking about it – outsource it! There are soooo many Virtual Assistants out there who absolutely knock it out of the park in the social media space that when the means allow it I will definitely be looking to outsource a chunk of this to someone else on my behalf. Coming up with images and content and scheduling can take up a huge amount of time if you’re not that way inclined so this space is a really great one where you can utilise the expertise of an awesome social media expert.
- Systems and Processes
Being an admin person, I’m a systematic person. I look at my sales process in a series of steps and building all of the templates and steps into an easily flowing process whereby I can do it with my eyes falling out of my head almost asleep (which in honesty is how it is sometimes) because when it comes to paperwork most people don’t want to think about it – however it’s a huge part of my sales process, ensuring that I provide my clients with everything both myself and they need in signing up to my services and knowing what they can expect. This also applies to my marketing – ensuring there’s consistency and full templates of everything I will need when a marketing opportunity arises so that I can efficiently provide something which will help show off my business and my brand.
Any business can do this by putting in place low costs step by step processes by looking at their sales process and ask themselves how can we do this better or what can be tweaked to make things smoother and straightforward for customers.
Finance (eg budgets, invoicing, forecasting, tax time – urgh!) is not one of my most favourite things to spend my time but it’s a necessary evil in business unfortunately! My biggest way I keep on top of these areas is by ensuring my processes are extremely easy to follow, easy to do once a week and run smoothly. There’s always areas where I spot a step or a task that I can streamlining the process even further so when I do I implement it straight away so that it doesn’t get pushed to the bottom of the to-do-list. Keeping on top of financial data and records very closely ties back to making sure you get paid. When it gets to the point where my business finances allow I will very much look toward outsourcing this area but in the meantime keeping on top of it and having it run super smoothly allows me to be all over my numbers and this allows me to take an objective look at the other areas such as service offerings, sales and marketing and whether I can afford to pay for the extra learning and development that I want to do. This is a crucial cog in the business machine that you need to keep on top of and not let drop!
Learning and Development
One area that tends to fall off the radar completely in small business. You get busy, attending courses and spending time at seminars aren’t billable time to clients. I get it, but definitely keep this on your radar – map out areas from your service/product delivery that you would like to strengthen or begin to offer clients. Look at groups where you’d like to join to do some networking for your business. In the hustle and bustle of business it’s very easy to let this fall to the side but these are activities that will give you an opportunity to upskill or refresh your thinking about how you operate and can bring some of the most profitable ideas and services to your business. Not to mention the potential to meet your next client or a new contact that you can partner with to enhance your offerings to your customers. Spending a little time out of the business and learning new things is a mini holiday without taking a full blown holiday from your business.
The day to day grind, admin tasks and the overall general everyday running of your business. As a solo operator like me there are days where I would just love to not have to deal with it (and I am the one doing it for my clients). Within my business my day to day has been pretty heavily streamlined so that I can spend more of my time working on my clients day to day. The thing is I can still see areas where I can improve and streamline things further within my own business and it’s taking the time to sit down and map out what that looks like and how I can implement it. Taking this step back also allows me to do research on software and offerings that are out in the marketplace that can do this for me as well as potential options for my clients in helping them streamline their business.
One example of this is one of my clients what drowning in emails, and I mean drowning. I love using Gmail’s functionalities and that’s how I manage my inbox successfully so I implemented the same principles into their inbox. And after letting this run for a week or so they weren’t getting on top of it which made me rethink how can I help them get it under control without having me to hold their hand all the way (because they wanted to learn to be self sufficient themselves). So I did some digging around because I knew they are a visual learner and I came across an add-on called Sortd and installed it for them. The moment I did, everything changed, and their emails have been well and truly under control and nothing has been getting lost from their to do lists and they are all over it! So not only am I not spending a huge amount of time managing their emails (wasn’t an income generating smart move for me) but neither are they and they’re able to utilise my time and services for their bigger fish to fry tasks!
Hopefully this has given you some areas to look at for your business and some ideas in how to implement them. If you have any queries or would like to know some of the software and systems I utilise in doing such tasks in my business feel free to drop me an email or message via Facebook.
Korryn Haines is an administration ninja with over 10 years of administrative experience in a wide range of industries. Based in Brisbane and founder of Encore Admin Consulting, she provides virtual assistant services to small businesses and solopreneurs. She loves a nice big pot of tea, smashing out a BodyPump class and spending time with her young children, husband and lovable Cocker Spaniel. Connect with her on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram.
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