This week I am at a retreat with some other creative artists. We each brought our own creative work, and we are offering support or advice – business or art – as needed. For some, the time is to sew needed samples for shops or classes; for others, it is to do personal sewing or reading. I brought a mix of some reading and plan to make a quilt top. What struck me is that these are women who are doing good work and striving to get it out in the world. They are also good business women who know where their efforts pay off. My question is, do you know where the return is in your business?We are quickly approaching the end of the year, and it is a good time to take a look at how your revenue looks compared to the goals you set early in the year. Are you on track or will you have a shortfall? Are your expenses in line? Have you looked at where the money comes in and where it goes out? For example, you may think that your fabric line sells a great deal, only when you go back and look at the royalty earned compared to your total revenues, you may be surprised it was not as high as you expected. Likewise you may have an activity that happens infrequently and it brings in more than you remember. You cannot make decisions based on something you do not know, so you need to look at your books.You still have time to make a difference in how the bottom line turns out in your business for 2013, plus you will have a better start on 2014. Take time to review what is working in your business and do more of it. And, if you have questions, set up a time to chat with an accountant to see what you can do to get better control on the financial end of your business.
Archive for the ‘Goals’ Category
Before the fall starts, show season is in full force and you start thinking about the holidays, try to set aside some time in the next week or two to work “on” your business. I think the business retreat is a great way to do this.
All of us find it really easy to work in our businesses but do you work “on” our businesses? I’d always heard about this concept, but didn’t really understand it as much in the early days of my business. Well, that was because I was spending all my time working “in” my business. Much of what I learned about this concept came from the E-Myth people, particularly Michael Gerber’s book The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It. The premise is that we can’t grow our business if we spend all our time doing the work in the business; i.e., being the technicians or doers. We have to learn and utilize management and entrepreneurial skills to build the business. Your goal should be to have your business work for you, not you working for it.
So, is all your time spent “doing” the business?
Here are four ways to strive toward working on your business:
- Develop a clear vision about the path your company will take. This clarity is critical for you and for any people that you hire, whether full-time or on a project basis.
- Take time to work on your business. I’ve heard from numerous quilters in business – longarm quilters to commission art quilters – that you need to spend two-to three hours marketing your business for every hour you spend fabricating your art. The best approach here is to set aside the time that works for you to do this. It could be three hours every morning or it could be every Monday and Tuesday. Sometimes you need to try working on your business in a different surrounding. I have a friend who goes to the local café each week to work on her business. The goal is set a time consistently to do this.
- Look for ways to create systems in your business. This could be anything from a system to contact potential buyers to a system to process orders. Systems make a difference in how much time you don’t spend as a technician or doer. I’m continually looking at what I do to see if a system could be initiated.
- Work on yourself. In addition to spending time working on your business, you need to work on yourself. The late Jim Rohn said, “Work harder on yourself than you do on your job. The major value in life is not what you get. The major value in life is what you become.” And, who you become as a person spills over into your business.
I’ve blocked a couple days for this and am thinking about going somewhere outside my home. It’s easier to do this without distractions. Good luck with your retreat and the plans you come up with.
Please share your best business lesson on the blog.
As a creative entrepreneur you probably struggle with a large to-do list. I know I do. Even as your business grows and you have assistance, it can still seem overwhelming to get everything done in the allotted time you have.
The key is to put money generating activities (MGAs) at the top of the list. If you look at the last five things you did in your business, how many were related to sales or marketing in your business? You need to prioritize those activities if you are going to bring income into your business. Here are some tips to do that.
- Capture all the things that you need to get done in one place. No more sticky notes or little pieces of paper. You can create one master to-do list or one for each project. Just the act of getting the tasks out of your head frees up thinking and working energy. I like to use a sheet of paper in a three-ring binder.
- Go back and decide what you need to do today. You will probably have other tasks to add each day that may not be on your master list. Rank the activities so you can see how many are really money-generating activities. You can use A1, A2, A3, B1, B2, C, etc., ranking system to prioritize them. “A” tasks are those which will make you money.
- Get going and finish your A1 task before moving to your A2 task. It will take disciple to stay focused on those A tasks, and that’s what you need to do to generate an income.
- Look at the tasks you are doing with the thought that maybe someone else can do them. Consider taking one of these and train someone else to do it. You’ll be able to spend your time on MGAs while your team can handle other work. You’ll actually be happier and more productive.
- Watch getting sidetracked by little tasks. It’s easy to look at the list and think you can winnow the list down by doing some quick items, e.g., the phone call, answering email, checking your Pinterest page. I’ve tried that and what happens is that I don’t get to the big stuff because I did the little stuff.
- At the end of the day, look at what you accomplished. Ta-da!
Please share your tips about how you stay focused on MGAs below.
With traveling so much in May, the weeds got ahead of me. Way ahead of me! Weeding is not a chore I enjoy. I’d much rather sit outside and enjoy the fresh air and read or take a walk. About this time I found a note from a young man in my neighborhood looking for work so I gave him a call. He was off from college and wanted to earn extra money. He had a big goal. He was the recipient of a 1977 Granada, a classic car. Only problem was the car needed some cosmetic work that he and his dad could do and he needed to buy insurance.
What did I learn from this young man?
- Knowing your why is huge. Tim, that’s the young man’s name, said he needed the car because it would make the right impression. It was an impression that he wouldn’t get with the family’s old pick-up truck.
- Create a plan and work the plan. Tim showed up at my house with calendar pages for May through August printed out. He knows how much money he needs to make to maintain the car. He has the calendar filled in with odd jobs ranging from yard work to dog walking so he can accomplish that.
- Set deadlines so you can work toward your goals. Tim plans to take a “lovely young woman” out on on June 16th, so he’s got a deadline. He wants that good impression. He has other deadlines along the way, but that’s the first one.
- Look for options and ask for help. Tim has outlined how much money he needs to make, only it will take the summer to make enough to pay the insurance. (That’s not counting on the money for gas!) To meet his goal, he had to look at other options. His older brother, after reviewing the plan, is loaning Tim the money for the insurance. The older brother considers it a good risk.
- Don’t forget yourself. When Tim was setting his calendar, he put in the fun activities he had planned so that working toward his goal didn’t consume all his time. It’s easy for those of us who work for ourselves to finish one task and then jump right into the next.
While I could see all the specifics of a good business plan here, what was most fun for me was the joy that Tim had in telling me about the car, how he was fixing it up, and the impression he knew it would make. It was a good reminder for me about looking for the joy in my goals.
Now I’ve got to keep a lookout on the 16th to see the car tooling up the road.
Please share your thoughts below.
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I had a conversation with a friend last week about growing our respective businesses. It was about how big we wanted to get. The conversation centered not on making lots and lots more money, not to say that making a good income should be ignored. It centered on how many people we could impact, whether that was the initial person we worked with, or the people that person influenced, or further down the line. You know, the ripple effect.
So, I ask you, are you thinking beyond the person you are helping right now? Are you thinking about how big of an impact you have beyond that?
If not, go back and look at those goals you wrote. They are written, right? Look at how you can reach more people and create more value. And when you do this, you change the lives of those people and the people in their lives.
I start each day with a list of questions for myself, and, yes, some are revenue based. Beyond that is, “What is your stretch goal for today?”
Funny thing, once I started thinking about my impact in a broader sense, my business was more challenging, more fun and more rewarding.
Here are a couple of favorite quotes about human potential:
new continent unexplored, a world of possibilities waiting to be
released and channeled toward some great good.”
“If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is – infinite.”
I know we always hear we should do this; yet, how many really do? I know I hear people say, “Wait, I’ll take extra out at the end of the month.” This is particularly true for those who are just starting their business and who aren’t relying on their business to support the household. The thought is to wait until you get some experience and cash flowing in.
So what’s wrong with leaving all the money in your business checking account to build the business? I think it says you don’t value yourself or your business the way you should. If you stick with that approach, it’s also easy to get to burnout. Again, I think it’s related to not truly valuing yourself as a business person. It’s so easy to decide you don’t need to pay yourself.
What should you do? Set aside a certain amount each month to pay yourself. It doesn’t matter how much. Perhaps you decide to pay yourself 10%. If you make $100, then you pay yourself $10; if you make $1,000; you pay yourself $100; if you make $10,000, you pay yourself, $1,000. It really doesn’t matter if you pick 10% or $100. It just matters that you do.
Make it easy on yourself and set up a savings account attached to your checking account and have the funds automatically transferred once a month. I think you’ll be surprised that you’ll always be able to pay yourself.
My question is, do you pay yourself first?
Over the past few years I’ve talked with several clients about a lack of support or encouragement from their friends and even family members. Actually, it’s more that their friends don’t really understand why they want to have a business when they can just quilt or make art. Or, why they should expect to make a living from something others can share. Or, why they don’t just enjoy retirement instead of starting up that new business.
It’s a difficult place to be. We want our friends and family to support us. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen. I read a quote from the late motivational speaker Jim Rohn: “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” If the five people we spend the most time with are those that don’t support us, what does that do to our business? It certainly doesn’t help us grow our business easily.
What can you do to change the situation? First, identify who is not in your camp, support-wise. Then make a decision that you need to remove them from your life or limit the time you spend with them. I get that this is not always easy, particularly if it’s a family member. Hopefully, some of these people will get on board when they experience your passion at what you are doing. Next, look for people you can add to your circle that will be supportive. Of course, you may first need to identify what you actually need from people. Look for ways that you can be around these supportive people.
If we really are the average of those five people, don’t you want to be average with people who support you?
Here’s another quote to remember if you struggle with this,
Please share your thoughts on support systems below.
I’m sure many of you have purchased from Zappos? They have great customer service, free shipping, 365-day return policy, someone to answer your questions 24/7/365. Plus all those shoes! What’s not to like?
Have you looked at the service you offer your customers? Shoes aside, how does it stack up to Zappos?
One of my private coaching clients has set an intention for the year to Zappos! She is aiming for 100% customer satisfaction. To do that she is going back over all her processes, and she is creating written standards and checklists to be sure that every product she offers can be a 100% satisfaction for her customers.
Is this one of your goals? Here are some tips:
1. Customer satisfaction begins from the first time someone is aware of your existence. People will draw conclusions about you and your product from the first time they are aware you exist. They also draw conclusions based on anything and everything. For example, if you fly on an airplane and the trays are dirty, you might think that if the company doesn’t care about the cleanliness of the plane, they aren’t maintaining the engines. That could be extreme, but look at it in relation to your business. If you consistently have mistakes in your pattern directions, that leaves a negative impression on your customers.
2. Take time to write what your standards are and communicate them to your team and your customers. You can include on your website, if appropriate.
3. How do you let your customers know that you value them? It could be extra help on a project, following up personally on their experience, or offering a special gift with a purchase.
4. While your goal is 100%, you may not get there right away. You need to have a process for measuring your results and making adjustments.
What are your customer service standards? How do you measure your results and make adjustments? Please share your thoughts below.
Step off the achievement bandwagon for just a moment. You know that I am all about action. Nothing happens unless you take action.
I know last week I shared about the intention I set for my year ahead. Last week we had our annual goal-setting call in which we talked about making stretch goals and all that you could accomplish in 2013.
For those of you who haven’t listened to the call, I also shared an assignment that I gave to a number of my private coaching clients. I asked them to list 100 accomplishments from 2012. “Whoa,” you say. “One hundred! How could someone come up with that many? And, what’s the point?”
The point is that as creative entrepreneurs many of us are onto the next big thing on our list. We check off each item on the list. Ta-da – that’s done. What’s next? We rarely take the time to look back at what we accomplished. Some of also think we didn’t accomplish enough or we missed the mark on the really big thing on our list. Not so. I bet everyone of you accomplished more than you think, so don’t let that inner critic out.
So, go back and write down those accomplishments. Writing it down is key and the list is much bigger when you get it out of your head. I promise. You can aim for 100. After all, it’s just two accomplishments a week, and nobody said they had to be monumental accomplishments. When you get done, go back and look at that list. It will be a good confidence booster. And, as you go through the year and feel like you’ve hit a stumbling block, whip out that list and looked at what you managed to do.
I’d love for you to share some of your favorites over on the blog.