Business Fundamentals: Manifest BIGGER for your Business
“I wish I’d known then what I know now…”
Consider this blog post then, and your future thriving business to be the proverbial now.
Go beyond just starting your business by laying a strong foundation. To grow, a business needs vision, consistency, and structure–as the business owner, you have the luxury and burden of designing it all. I’ve been working as a freelance business growth consultant for the past 4 years, helping businesses of all sizes, from Forbes-mentioned to local favorites, to recognize their potential and think bigger. Creating systems for solutions to common problems is easy; anticipating future pain points will save you time and give you better results. Use my system as a guide to build your own.
Start by defining your vision.
Seeing the future more clearly helps you realize it. Ask yourself questions like:
- What does my ideal life as the owner of this business look like?
- How long do I imagine running my business as it is now? What other aspirations outside of business will run tandem to my work?
- Where will this business take me?
- Where do I need to make intentional effort to achieve my vision?
Write your answers in a journal, or in a note on your phone. Don’t be afraid to discuss them with someone you trust. Get clear on your vision and keep it handy; your lighthouse drawing you back to shore.
Your vision doesn’t need to include a big, performative impact statement. However you organize your vision, it must address your current needs and show a life to aspire to.
Next, you need to translate your vision into actionable steps and measurable milestones.
- What is it that you enjoy about running your business?
- How can you organize your business so you spend more time doing these activities?
- How much time do you want to spend on your business?
- What does having a good income look like?
- What is more important to you than money–what else do you need for this to be as good or better than any other job?
To bring your vision to life, adopt a planning process.
I’m not recommending a specific planning methodology or routine so much as adopting a planning process. FInd a system that functions within your existing work style.
Planning looks different to everyone – and is terrifying to many. Plans can feel constrictive, uninspiring, or nerve-wracking. What will you do to bring your vision to life? Are you worried about what people will think if you quit or don’t finish?
Reclaim planning in a way that motivates you. Your process might look different from any you’ve seen before; it might feel made-up or not worth sharing with anyone. Which is perfectly fine because plans are personal.
Keep track of your timelines and appointments with a calendar, schedule launches with the trends of your industry, and create maps that chart the course to bring your vision to life.
Your vision, goals, and plan become your entrepreneurial job description.
Even in a one-person business, it’s important to have a record of your job functions. As the business owner, that likely includes bookkeeping, marketing, inventory management, etc. To create your job description:
- Create a list of every job you perform and what your responsibilities are for each role.
- Search online for job descriptions related to the hats you wear in your business.
- Copy & paste line items that resonate with what you do.
Then, compile the list into an actual job description for yourself. Do this as objectively as possible and be honest with yourself about the work you’ve taken on.
Once it’s complete, step back and look at the record of your business operations. Having an overview arms you with the necessary information required to hire or contract the help you need as you grow.
On tough days, it’ll also be a reminder of your capacity and awesome work ethic!
Integrate your job description into a working rhythm that fits your schedule.
If setting specific work hours gives youthe squirms, just put forth some intentions and a timeline to follow for your week. It may be helpful to discover your most productive times and balance these hot zones with your non-negotiables, like time with family and scheduled appointments.
You could start with a planner or a planning method, but I recommend you build an intentional scheduling practice; a formula that works for you. Here are the areas I focus on:
- Plot your time boundaries (when are you not working) & repeating events (incl. work).
- Plug in appointments non-negotiables.
- Review your due dates and deadlines and schedule the final steps to get those across the finish line.
- Outline time to work on specific projects, products or services where you won’t be interrupted.
- Add in approximate time commitments for important tasks (what must be done by you, within a finite period).
- Step back and review to make sure you have enough time for: breaks, meals, daily routines, decompression, and a little flexibility for the inevitable unknown! This should be the ultimate advantage of being your own boss.
Structure is a skill – it takes practice and the result is never as perfect as written, but the act of consciously trying will help you expand your bandwidth.
Your productivity produces; create a proactive organizational structure to keep on top of it all.
Build a business information system and process library. The easiest way is to subscribe to a cloud service like Google Drive, Dropbox, or OneDrive. From there, organize your new “Business Drive” into categories to keep track of your growing enterprise. Here are some folders you might consider:
- Products and Services
- Clients / Customers
Build out your client or customer organization early; implement a customer database, email list, or CRM (customer relationship management) system. Start collecting this information for free using your website’s record-keeping software or an email client (Mailchimp, Zoho, etc.) Select a program with the features necessary to support your growing small business.
As you grow, keep track of the processes and workflows you complete each time you do something new. These might include:
- New inventory and acquisitions
- Month-end bookkeeping
- Product or service launch
- Sales process
- Creation of marketing content
- Production or project process
These are especially useful when onboarding new hires. Processes are also one of the most valuable assets a business for sale can have, aside from a profitable client book. Keeping track of this data is keeping track of what makes your business unique, special, and functional.
Construct a financial architecture that feels aligned with your existing money relationship.
Business finances are steeped in mystery (hello: accounting) and can be an easy afterthought until tax season. Each of us handles money differently and, despite what you may have heard, there is no one right way.
In Profit First, by Mike Michalowicz, we’re introduced to the reality of our human nature interacting with money. I highly recommend this book; the way the author approaches money from a common sense perspective, rather than a shame-based perspective, helped me overcome my misconceptions that I was “bad at money.”
We all just need a system that works for us. The best systems answer our questions before we ask them. Questions like:
How much comes in? How profitable are you? How much goes out? What’s our ROI? If questions like these make your head spin, don’t despair. Business finances do not have to be complicated and financial services might not be as expensive as you think. Meeting quarterly with an accountant, having your financial system setup by a bookkeeper, and paying a professional to do your taxes can be less than $500 per year.
If that’s not in the cards right now, that’s ok. These are the six main categories to set up before you bring on extra help.
- Bookkeeping / Inventory
Profit is the most important category: in the words of Mike Michalowicz, author of a book I highly recommend, Profit First, “profit is the hot air balloon carrying the others in its basket.” Profit is not what you pay yourself. It is proof you are doing business, not losing money on a hobby. Profit is what the business gets paid before you take your income. All businesses can turn a profit and pay their proprietors, it just takes some thoughtful planning.
The most nitty-gritty of all, curate your datascape to make the data you already make work for you.
How you reconcile and interpret your data is your datascape. Data includes information and analytics from different categories like marketing, sales, and product performance.
Plain and simple, data is intimidating and out of most people’s comfort zone. My philosophy is this:
- Get clear on what questions you regularly ask in pursuit of your business’s mission: How are our marketing efforts performing? How much money is in the bank? Which offering is most popular?
- Work backwards to determine the data you need to inform those decisions, like: Instagram performance, website traffic, profit & loss report, profitability by product/service report.
- Design a system of aggregating and interpreting data that works for your business. That could mean hopping into Instagram and looking at “Insights” or setting up an integrated marketing and CRM like HubSpot. Whatever it is, it has to be something you’ll look at and actually use.
Many successful people in the history of entrepreneurship didn’t have access to the abundance of data and tools we do today. Don’t waste your time and energy getting too bogged down in the minuta–adapt what works to your process, focus on what you will use and what will be the most useful to you!
Even the best businesses have room to grow. Don’t put off developing foundations until you need them desperately; it’s easier to revise and revisit than start from scratch.