The entrepreneur Nigel Botterill tells the story of the day that his entire approach to building his business changed; he was asked by a local business friend what – in his opinion – was the most important thing to concentrate on to grow his business? He thought about it and said it was probably getting new customers and keeping existing customers.
To his relief his friend said that that was correct. However, his pride at getting this right was short lived, as he was then asked what he had done that day or in the last week to get new customers or keep existing ones? Nothing was his reply – he’d been ‘too busy’ with all the other day to day stuff of running his business.
Business owners are often ‘too busy’ working to find the time to figure out how to grow their business. Nigel Botterill’s solution was to commit to putting time aside every single day to ‘work on his business and not just work in it’. In practical terms that meant he committed to spending the first 90 minute of each day working out how to get more customers and keep the one’s he had – and to find new ways to market and develop his business.
This is not a new idea; this approach was outlined in the classic 1985 business book, ‘The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Business Don’t Work and What to Do about It’ by Michael E. Gerber
The book notes that most business owners build their business on the back of a skill or a passion they have (e.g. jewellery design, art, plumbing, alternative therapies, tailoring, cooking) and that they get so consumed by doing the work that they don’t have the time (or the skills) to run and grow their business, i.e they are ‘technicians’ but to be success they also need to be entrepreneurs and managers.
The solution as far as Michael Gerber was concerned was to run a small business in the same way McDonalds runs their fast food outlets, i.e. document every task carried out in the business so that it could be run by someone other than the owner. This would free them up to think about and develop their business. Michael Gerber could clearly see that unless the business owner could absent themselves from the everyday tasks they wouldn’t be able to do they things required to make the business successful.
It’s time to look up from what you are doing
Not every business is suitable for documentation as described by Michael Gerber; but one thing that every business can take on board is the idea that they need to look up from ‘doing the work’ to spend time thinking about how to develop and grow their business.
TAKE ACTION: Decide from now on you will ‘work on your business not just in it’. In order to find the time to do that you will need to develop a new habit, i.e. the habit of taking time out every morning to work on your plans for getting new customers and keep existing customers.
This won’t be easy, because the everyday work will always be making demands on your time; however you need to find a way to do it and continue to do it. Apparently it takes at least 20 days to create a new habit; but once it does become a habit it will no longer be difficult to fit into your schedule as it will just become another normal part of your working day.
Things to do
At this point you may be thinking, ‘well what are these things I should be thinking about and doing during that ‘time out’ period?’
The truth is that there will never be a shortage of things you can do. This training course is full of ideas you can put into practice; and there are shelves full of business books packed with valuable advice and techniques for developing your business. In fact that is a task in itself; reading inspiring books and biographies of successful business people you admire.
I run a group called CafePreneur which I set up as a support group for small business who run their business from home or from local cafe’s. One of the exercises we do is to decide upon actions to take in our development time. I provide as starter list of things to do – many of which I’ve learned from Nigel’s own list of morning ‘to dos’. You might find the following exercise and list of tasks useful as starting point:
TAKE ACTION: Develop the habit of working on your business every day
Choose one (or more) tasks to do each day for the next twenty one days. You will do this during the time you will set aside each morning specifically to think about and grow your business.
- Contact a person/business/publisher/funder who is a potential client/helper/mentor. Arrange to meet them for a chat.
- Register for a mailing list service (e.g. Mailchimp) and set up an account.
- Create a professional looking newsletter template.
- Import all current customers/clients/contacts into your mailing list database.
- Send a newsletter (always finish every newsletter with a ‘call to action’ and an appealing offer).
- Review all of your customers in terms of how much they make or cost you both in money and time. Think about what to do about the time wasters and how to deepen the relationship with your most valuable customers.
- Arrange to visit your 10 best customers/clients/contacts.
- Write 30 tips to send out automatically each week (to subscribers) for the next 30 weeks. Your newsletter service will provide an ‘autoresponder’ facility to automate the entire process.
- Think about what you need to do to become ‘the expert’ in your market niche.
- Write a book? Write articles for the press? Be a media contact? Get accredited? Win prizes?
- Get your website redesigned so that it acts primarily as a lead generator for your business. If you don’t have a website get one.
- Look at your website and see if it is obvious how visitors get in touch; can you see the phone number and a link to your contact form?
- Add case studies to your website.
- Create a ‘leads funnel’, i.e. a way capture people’s contact details, e.g. a form on your website that people fill in because you are giving them something of value. Use Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook and LinkedIn to feed people into your leads funnel.
- Spend some time thinking about where you want your business to be and look like a year from now. Think about the steps you need to take to get there.
- Decide what niche you are working in and what makes you special. Write it down and build all your marketing materials around it.
- Describe your ideal customer/client (size, budget, sector, culture).
- Ask for testimonials from your customers/clients/publisher/readers.
- Add your testimonials to your website and marketing materials.
- Email or phone current clients and ask them if they would recommend you to their contacts.
- Find a complementary business interested in sharing their/your mailing list and newsletter content. Arrange to meet with them to discuss it.
- Incorporate social media into your website. I.e. widgets for my Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn.
- Learn how to use Google Adwords or find someone who can help you use it.
- Look for a business mentor. Get in touch with them to ask for a meeting.
- Find out how or if you can use Pinterest for your business.
- Add your business to the Google map on home page of Google – via Google’s Places for Business.
- Write positive recommendations for the people you know on LinkedIn.
- Develop a premium product. 20% of your clients/customers will buy your premium product.
- Write a simple guide relating to your area of expertise.
- Update your LinkedIn profile. If you haven’t got a LinkedIn profile, set one up.
- Get a professional profile photo taken.
- Create a signup form on your website and give something of value away to encourage signups.
- Find appropriate out-sourcers to do the things you don’t want to do or can’t do yourself (try Fiverr.com or Elance).
- Use Twitter for marketing. Read about how to do it at http://amzn.to/OmHXwC (an e-book written by myself and Jeremy Webb) -download the free copy from your members area in Best In The West.
- Sign up for Social Oomph or Hootsuite – and schedule appropriate Tweets.
- Arrange a visit to your local Library and request a tour of their business resources. Use their database of businesses to get a list of potential customers.
- Think about ways you can develop services or products that will give you a ‘recurring income’.
- Design a postcard you can use to market your services or product.
- Get it printed and deliver it to potential clients.
- Read a chapter of a business development book.
TAKE ACTION: Decide how long your are going to spend each morning working on your business and commit to it. Start tomorrow morning.