This series is the brain-child of Stephanie, and was sparked when she was reading the “Dear Heloise” column regarding weddings: if a one-time event like a wedding has a whole advice column, why shouldn’t the daily grind that is running a business have one?
“Ask Steph” is the article series where business owners can go to get answers for their real-life questions from an award-winning entrepreneur, business developer, and business coach, without the $2,000 consultation fee!
“Steph, I know that I need to be working on my business.
But the problem is, every single time I get to the end of the week I haven’t gotten around to any of the things I know I need to do. How do you balance working on your business verses taking care of the fires that pop up every single day?”
- Kitya A.
Hey, Kitya. First off, don’t feel too bad about this! It’s a challenge that every entrepreneur feels, and one that I struggle with too.
We sit down to work with grand ideas of creating SOPs, working through books, applying strategies, working on exercises, etc. And by 8 AM, our inboxes are full with emails from 6 clients having trouble and other in-business fires that must be put out today.
It took me a long time to figure out how to handle this, but here are the strategies I use to work on my business…
First, recognize it’s a muscle.
Think back to the first time you went to the gym. It was painful, and it took a lot of work to build up those muscles. But once you got there, it was easier to do and you could begin to improve your workouts.
It’s the same thing with working on your business.
The more you work on the business, the easier it gets to work on the business. Partially because the business begins running more smoothly. But that only happens when you start working ON the business as opposed to IN the business.
The key is to prioritize it.
Just like you have to create accountability and prioritize going to the gym to develop physical muscles, you have to prioritize and create accountability to develop working on the business. Start working on it every week, even if it’s only 15 minutes a week at first. Because if you keep adding 15 minutes to it, you’ll hit an hour a week by week 4. The small steps create the habits.
But creating accountability is the most seemingly impossible part for any business owner, so here are my strategies for creating accountability.
1: Go on Business Retreats, and Spend Money on Them
Going on retreats helps you get out of the office, to a place where you’re just focusing on working on the business. But spending a good chunk of money on the retreat is the accountability. When you spend a lot of money on a retreat, you know you need to get a full return on the investment. Which means you’re more likely to go and really focus on what you need to instead of letting business fires distract you.
I did this October 2019. Booked a first class ticket to a city I really wanted to visit, for an event that wasn’t cheap. Because I had chunk of money invested, there wasn’t likely to be a more expensive fire that would pop up to distract me!
This is a great way to create accountability quarterly (or yearly, depending on your funds). Get away and have a huge sit-down to work on the business.
2: Have Regular Coaching and Mastermind Sessions
These are other things that I pay for. But I’ve discovered that once they are regularly on my calendar (E. G., every 3rd Wednesday for coaching), I plan around it. If it is on my calendar on a regular basis and I’m paying for it, I make time to schedule around it. Especially since I now have to take into account that other people have it on their schedules and are expecting me.
3: Get Around People who are Growing
As humans, we become the average of the five people we spend the most time around. So if you want to work on and grow your business, find and spend time with people who are doing the same thing. You’ll eventually grow to be more like them.
Think of it this way: if you’re hanging out with people who are growing their businesses but you aren’t, you’ll start to feel more accountable to build your business in order to not be the one lagging behind. On top of that, you’ll catch business growth ideas off of them the more you hang around them.
4: Have a List of Things You’re Working on
Having a list of your current projects for working on the business helps you focus and relieves the pressure of trying to remember when and where you’re working on what. My company uses Asana for this, but you can keep this list wherever you want it. Some of my clients even use pen and paper.
The key to this accountability strategy is to keep it where you can see it, and make it more granular than you think it needs to be. Instead of writing “work on SOPs”, write “complete SOP for ___”. Writing granularly gives you a good sense of having completed something, and it helps keep you focused and accountable to specific activities.
Hope this helps you, Kitya!
“Stephanie, I know that I need to create a marketing message, target market, and methods of distribution. That's what you teach in marketing. However, I'm continuing to struggle with getting results with my marketing. What tips do you have for me?”
- Aaron C
Great question! First thing I would suggest is to double-check the strength of your 3Ms!
If you have all three Ms (your message, market, and methods) but your marketing still isn’t working, go back and check those three Ms. Make sure they are accurate to your company.
In particular, try a message audit…
Take your marketing message to a few people who are already customers and ask if your message communicates what you’re intending it to.
E. G., show them the message and ask them what it says to them. If it doesn’t match up with what you’re hoping it says, you’ve got a disconnect between your intended message and what’s actually going out.
If you’ve done that and you’re still struggling, my next tip would be to ensure you’re being consistent with your marketing.
As entrepreneurs, we tend to be a bit ADD at times, so consistency is not always our forte. However, marketing requires consistency in order to work; I learned that the hard way.
It’s easy to get discouraged and blame the platform when an entrepreneur doesn’t see immediate results on marketing. But most often I’ve found the real issue is in working on different methods in isolation. Most entrepreneurs flit from working on Social Media one week to Email Marketing the next and then to flyers and then back to Social Media. However, the reality is that all of those marketing methods need to be active together and regularly.
Aim to get 500+ marketing touches out this month and see what that does for your marketing!
Then sit down with an excel spreadsheet and track every marketing touch. Look at what you sent out, what the return on it was, if there was engagement on your social media touches, and what kind of platforms you used. Use that to determine what is effective for you with regard to your marketing.
Ultimately, remember that marketing creates momentum.
Marketing thrives on momentum, and it may be that your business isn’t at a place that needs all that marketing right now. Unless you have a sales pipeline that is moving efficiently and churning out good sales for you, you probably don’t need to be working on marketing yet. Marketing is not the golden arrow that fixes sales, marketing builds on the sales you already have moving.
Hope this helps you, Aaron!
Realizing you need to work on sales but not sure where to start? Check out the Sales Accelerator Workshop running from August 10th-14th. It’s a free workshop run by Stephanie and designed to give B2B Entrepreneurs the tools to create rapid, sustainable sales!