Entrepreneurship can be daunting. Whilst often the most exciting adventure one has ever undertaken; it can also be the most complex and frustrating. Sadly no-one taught you to be an entrepreneur either. In those moments of desperation, when you lack the clarity of where to turn, the memories of the sale of cupcakes at your school’s entrepreneurship day now seem to have been insufficient preparation for what you now face.
Fortunately whilst never easy, business can be relatively simple. As we continue to acknowledge and celebrate women in August, and in particular women entrepreneurs, let’s make it simpler for you and your business.
1. Know your Numbers
There are two absolutes in business. The first is that you will have to market and sell. The second is that you will have to manage money and your finances. Both require more math than anything else. Track your critical marketing, sales and finance numbers daily. Know them off the top of your head and make sure your staff do too. That way you know they’re top of mind and getting the required attention. Peter Drucker said, “What gets measured, gets managed” and equally famous Tom Peters said, “What gets measured, gets done”. Live by these principles.
2. Have a Clear Vision
Speaking to an entrepreneur the other day they said they find it strange how few people know where their business is going. I’d tend to agree but it’s often not that they don’t know; more that they’ve forgotten. What is your vision? Think back to when you started the business in the first place? Think about what gets you out of bed and what keeps you going? Imagine what your business will look like when it’s finished! Now hold that clear picture in your mind and share it openly and often. Everyone around you needs to know that vision. ‘Rinse and repeat regularly’. Think of it as the destination you enter on your GPS or Google Maps. If you have the final destination before you get going you’re much more likely to actually get to the right place.
3. Hold Staff Accountable
Entrepreneurs often employ staff, only to have those same staff become spectators as they watch the entrepreneurs work themselves to death. Business is a team sport and everyone needs to bring their part. The fantasy though that the right team will be self-motivated, 100% committed, innovative, pro-active and always take ownership is sadly just that – a fantasy. Generally people that are wired that way end up going into business for themselves anyway. Make sure everyone knows what to do and then make even more sure you hold them accountable to deliver. They’re being paid monthly to do what you want and need them to do. If they don’t like it they’re welcome to leave. The right team is out there but will always still need to be held accountable.
4. Make Decisions
Businesses hardly ever fail because the business owner makes the wrong decision. They most often fail because the necessary decisions were not made in time or not even made at all. As a leader, which as a business owner you by definition already are, you need to make decisions regularly. Balance the right amount of necessary information with your experience and gut instinct. Then make a call. Make it quickly and decisively. The beauty about making a ‘wrong’ decision is that you often get immediate feedback. That way you get to decide on corrective actions quickly and perhaps even discard the initial decision and move onto something better. The converse however is also true. When you don’t make decisions you don’t get any feedback. That’s a much bigger problem and exactly where fear and procrastination live. Make a point of making decisions regularly. Your business depends on it.
5. Under Sell and Over Deliver
Whilst probably good advice for life in general, the ability to under sell and over deliver is critical in business. The minute you exceed expectations you’ve made a happy customer. The minute you routinely exceed expectations you’ve made not only a happy customer but a raving fan for life. Always temper your enthusiasm to please the customer and to help out with your ability to exceed all promises and create a ‘wow’ factor. The more the customer, or even potential customer, is pleasantly surprised the better. Have that same philosophy with your suppliers, your service providers and even your staff. Give more than expected and you will be rewarded. That being said, you will have to continually raise your standards because yesterday’s ‘wow-factor’ becomes today’s boringly average. Brainstorm with your team at least once every six months and you’ll be amazed how easy it is to do unexpectedly great things.
6. Balance of Life is a Myth
Balance of life, the way most people chase it, will never ever be possible. Just add up the universally accepted hours per day you NEED to do everything and you’ll quickly realize there aren’t enough hours in the day. Between working, sleeping sufficiently, focusing on your health and fitness, personal growth, ablutions, commuting, social responsibilities, family commitments, passions, service and contribution, downtime and entertainment you will never ever get everything into 24 hours. Even over the duration of a week or even a month you’re going to find it almost impossible. Rather work on scheduling your balance of life over a quarter (90 days). Balance all the critical areas—as you determine them—and ensure everything gets their due focus over the course of the quarter. That may mean long hours at the office whilst on a deadline but a long weekend with the family at the end of the month. It could be sacrificing daily fitness routines but catching up on weekends and committing to a sporting event at the end of the quarter. Extend the range you’re trying to balance and you’ll be amazed the pressure it relieves and how much easier it becomes for sanity to prevail.
7. You Cannot Do it Alone
Women Entrepreneurs truly tend to be ‘Wonder Woman’. As if the task of entrepreneurship wasn’t enough they often bear the brunt of family responsibilities, still volunteer for causes they’re passionate about, are the ‘go-to’ person in their families and friendship circles to offer a compassionate ear with some good advice and … the list truly does go on and no. Irrespective of the fantastic superpowers you do possess as ‘Wonder Woman’ you cannot do this alone. You need to lean on people and that ‘leaning’ needs to be across a variety of categories. Ask for help from friends and family and in particular your loved ones (read husbands, boyfriends, partners, children). Sadly we don’t always remember to offer first so please remember to ask. Also remember to lean on staff, suppliers and service providers. They’re in your inner business circle for a reason. Make use of them. The last is to get a professional in your corner. Search for a business coach. Business is a lot more complex and dynamic than any sport yet they’re the ones with teams of coaches. It constantly amazes me how entrepreneurs try and do it alone. Don’t!
Your business is a vehicle to serve you and ensure you’re able to chase your dreams and realise your goals. Take a step back, create some time and make sure you implement these simple steps to make your life and your business easier. Then go Thrive!
Harry Welby-Cooke, Country Partner for ActionCOACH Southern Africa