As an entrepreneur it is easy to get pulled into many directions and projects. Most of the time folks become entrepreneurs because 1) they are fed up with corporate and want to be their own boss and 2) they are good at something (aka have a passion) and want to give a shot at making some cash.
In early days of a startup it's easy to focus on the business plan, the goals, target markets etc. However, it doesn't take long to get pulled into a million different directions. You can attend one Chamber event and get signed up for 10 volunteer committees.
Particularly for those of us with giving, caring hearts who are born to serve it's easy to get pulled in to numerous community projects where we can make a difference.
We can even get distracted by our own employees. Maybe a sales rep who promises you he/she has a long list of leads in a certain niche or segment so you waste time researching, building products only to find the leads didn't pan out, they can't afford your services or the need for your offerings just isn't there yet.
I meet with too many business leaders and entrepreneurs who have lost sight of why they are in business. They are so wrapped up in being part of this committee, sponsoring an event, attending their share of networking events etc. The same can go for social media. It's easy to get wrapped up in the need to know the tools, the lingo, the methods and both the art and science of what we do in business.
The purpose of this post is just a reality check for all of us….. it is OKAY TO MAKE MONEY! Yes, still join the charities, learn to tweet like a tweetstar but do not lose sight of your need to support your family and yourself.
The tweet tools won't matter if you don't keep the customers who gave you a reason to use them.
The key is to be selective in where you spend your time. Every minute of it! Still support the local non-profits based upon your desires. However, stay focused and don't lose sight of your own personal and business objectives. Focusing on one or two versus the whole city will enable you to be more successful in every aspect of life and business.
20 tips to stay focused:
1. Goals and objectives matter! Go back to your original business objectives and goals! If you don't have them, make them! Why are you in business? Why are you doing what you do? Avoid RANDOM ACTS OF MARKETING (RAMS) at all costs. Write your plan and work your plan.
2. Do a sanity check on your vision. Are you still following your vision? If not, is there a validated reason? If you have fallen off track of your vision get back on!
3. Don't be afraid to hit pause. Check out a video I developed on this topic a few weeks ago. In order to stay on track it is often important that we hit pause in some areas of our business. If there is something keeping you up at night then either 1)finish it or 2)put it on pause or even a permanent pause. You can always pick it up later.
4. Do your research. Before you jaunt off on any new market niche, segment, strategy or sales plan do your research! Confirm there is truly a market going after. A market that has a pain and the need to for your services. And don't forget they can afford and are willing to pay for your services at the price points you have available based on your objectives.
5. Don't believe everything you read. There is obviously not a lack of information available to us via the internet, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Television, traditional media etc. Every blog you read is not accurate. Just because you see a research summary on a blog about a market niche being the best since the invention of the iPad do your research before you go running after it.
6. Customers are liars. Don't fall for the new guy on the block who everyone wants to “pick your brain”. Your brain is worth money or you wouldn't and shouldn't be in business. Not every networking contact that tells you they want to learn about your business over a 3 hours lunch (aka pick your brain) will buy or can even afford your services. Learn to qualify early in the sales cycle!
7. Put a value on your time and effort. If you meet everyone for a free lunch then that's what your business will deliver in profits… lots of good lunches. Though they are usually not free for you. Publish your prices. Let folks know you charge a consultation fee. Don't be afraid to ask for it.
8. Don't give away the farm. Instead of spending 3 days a week at free “pick your brain” luncheons that you are paying for, package up your intellectual capital. Suck that knowledge out of your head. Get it into a revenue producing blog, publish it on a DVD series. Connect with your local media, educational organizations and see what you can offer. If you're going to give time away give it away where you can have a positive return. MONETIZATION should become a word you learn, know and LOVE…FAST!
9. Do the same research and due diligence on charities. Dig deep into your heart and determine what most interests you. Based on your passions for serving then pick only 1-2 organizations you can help. Don't try to solve world hunger by yourself. Instead partner with folks who you can team up with or even support organizations that are already serving those needs.
10. Focus on joy! Try your best to work with clients, partners and colleagues who bring you joy and who you can bring joy. If you have to have 3 meetings with a potential client to educate them on why they need your services then unless they are a very strategic company to your business goals you are better off spending your time elsewhere.
11. Tweet about it! Learn social media. But don't just learn how to tweet. Learn how to tweet to bring business. Although social media is free it steals your biggest asset… TIME! So in reality it is NOT free. That cute little blue bird can cost you lots and lots of money if you are not careful! Don't get caught up in the tools, the bits and bytes. Instead get caught up in how you can use it as a strategic weapon to drive your business and help you meet business objectives! Do it right.
12. Have guts to look in the mirror! Have the guts to look in the innards of your company, your employees, your strategies, your execution results, ROI and more to determine what you can improve. Just because you improve it doesn't mean you failed. To make a course correction is a positive and smart business move versus continuing on a path that is bringing you no joy, money or free time!
13. Have guts to say NO! Just because someone wants to be your client and can pay you a lot of money today doesn't mean they should be able to do such. Ensure you are working with clients who are good for business and personal reasons! Sometimes the one NO can lead you to 5 YESs of a more strategic fit client!
14. Do not trade short term revenue for longer term success. This is probably one of the most difficult aspects of being an entrepreneur or business leader in general. Yet, it can be the most risky. Often times this is what causes us to not be able to say “NO” as mentioned in #13 above.
15. Don't let the original team members of your team stay in roles if they aren't a fit. This one is also hard but can make or break your business. If you have a secretary who doesn't like to answer the phone, or a salesrep who refuses to follow-up with clients, a programmer who won't fix bugs… you know what you gotta do. Either put them in a different role or nicely let them know it isn't a fit. Keeping the wrong person in a role that they can't be successful will also in turn guarantee you all are not successful. Every dollar counts and ensure you are getting a positive ROI.
16. Perfection is the enemy of good! Don't let perfection ruin your business. I see this time and time again. There has to be a mentality of get-r-done! Just get it out there! Don't be afraid. Your clients are people too! Be real with them and they will be much more flexible with new products, a campaign that isn't buttoned up 100% etc. Often times they'd rather have it sooner than wait until it's all perfect and tied up in a bow!
17. Be real. In everything you do stay true to yourself, your partners and your customers. Don't be someone you are not. Stay true to your vision, your objectives and let your clients know the real you. This one skill alone can bring you many clients regardless of what your product offering or niche is, promise!
18. Be a sponge for information. Take the time to learn. Even though you may be an expert of whatever it is you do, there is probably a better way you could be doing it. There is probably another company you could learn from. There may even be one of your competitors already doing it better than you. Don't let that scare you. You should always be seeking knowledge. Knowledge brings you credibility and offers value for your clients.
19. Never stop dreaming! Do not get frustrated by one bad week, month, quarter or year of profits. Remember why you started your business in the first place. If you lose sight of the reasons then dig them back out again! Keep your dreams and passions close at heart! Never let them go! They are what will keep you inspired, your customers engaged and happy!
20. Have FUN! Remember you left corporate, took your job at your current company or whatever you are doing for a reason. Whatever the reason is, embrace it. Enjoy it and have a FUN RIDE! If you don't who else will do the same?