I am fascinated by HGTV and shows about remodeling. I love watching what looks like a rundown property being transformed into a beautiful and stylish home. As I watch “Property Brothers” and “Income Property”, two of my favorites, one lesson I have learned is if there are problems with the foundation, it can spell disaster. The house can ever fall down, and the problems, although costly require the right fix and must be done first. This is true in a business as well. If your foundation is not solid, you stand a good chance of a crash and burn business. And if you are doing well in your business, in other words, you are making money and growing — if you do not evaluate and fix any foundational issues, you will get into more cost trouble later. The support structure, the foundation, must be solid for long term success.
If you are like most business owners, you have a brilliant mind that produces great ideas, makes decisions, creates new products and solutions, allows you to work and be productive and makes you a living. Sometimes it is like a machine bouncing ideas, thoughts and activities off one post then another which then has you bounce from thing to thing. You might get some things done, but there are often unfinished projects or an experience of too busy or never get anything done. This is worse for some people than others, but there is probably a bit of it for all of us. And those of us who own our own business, especially if it is a small business or an early stage of its growth, may have this issue in spades. Small business owners, especially in the start up or early growth stage wear many hats and handle every little and big thing.
Success and creativity in business are built on that solid foundation. To ensure a solid foundation, you must create and use good structures. Let's talk about some structures which will support you in having that foundation.
Lacy is a small business owner in an early stage of growth. (Her company has revenues over 1 million, a couple of employees and they are growing steadily). When we met, she was operating like she was on a bungee cord- jumping from one activity to another, exhausted at the end of the day, taking no time for enjoying life and experiencing overwhelhelm.
Lacy and I sat down and examined her schedule and structures and support. What we discovered is she has a calendar, but was not actually scheduling her day appropriately and not using the calendar to her advantage. We also discovered she had little in the way of structure or support. It was like she was at the base of this mountain, trying to climb and getting rocks thrown at her every time she made any headway! When we went over this, just listening, I was exhausted !!! So together we created some structures which are the solution to support her success.
I know a lot of people, especially those who consider themselves 'creatives' resist structure as confining or suppressive. However, I found that most people, even 'creative' people, when they actually incorporated structures, found it to be quite the opposite. When you do not have to worry that something you need to get done will not get done or try to remember everything you are supposed to do or promised someone to do, your mind is actually freed up to create.
What kind of structures can you create to support you? The structures you create must be something you embrace or you will simply not do them.
Calendars- calendars are great if you use them and if you use them appropriately to support you. Now, I am not going to go into all the many different programs or ways in which you can use them (Franklin Covey and others have create fabulous systems if you want to find and use those). I simply want to address a few points:
- Schedule everything. Schedule time for email, calls, breaks, lunch, dates, meetings, research. Do not simply try to fit it all in-that is like fire-fighting and it is never productive or satisfying.
- Schedule blocks of time and if there is something that interrupts you (necessarily, like an urgent matter), move that time around.
- Have a start and end time. Seriously, for a business owner, if you do not end your work, your life becomes your work. Exhausting! Not why you are in business. (And have a dedicated space that has your work- not all over your living space!)
- Schedule time off- you must enjoy life, or why be in business?
- Schedule 'breakdown' time — this alone has revolutionized many people's lives. If you schedule time (30 minute minimum a day) for breakdowns, you can move other things around and you will not feel the pressure of you have to keep working! If you do not use it, it is a bonus time for you to do as you wish.
- And the most important thing: USE THE CALENDAR you create! Honor it. Honor yourself by honoring your structure to support your success.
Some other structures to support you:
- Accounting programs: If you are still doing all of your own banking and accounting, do yourself a favor and get one of the many programs (Quickbooks, Wave, FreshBooks, etc.) that coordinate with your bank on line and schedule in regularly spaced times to keep your accounting up to date. Or … hire a bookkeeper or have your assistant do your books.
- Know your numbers. Your numbers, your profit, loss, expenses give you a picture of what is happening in your company. I can not tell you the number of business owners I have worked with who are not on top of their numbers. Their experience is almost always some version of having to drive themselves because they do not have enough money. Then when they do their numbers, mostly they get surprised with how much money they do or where they are wasting money and could be more profitable. It is impossible to grow anything without a clear understanding of what is so. If find that when Lacy really understands her businesses money, she began to get more creative and was able to get more profitable through new income streams and better use of her financial resources. My Success Money Mindset program also supported her to shift her view of money so that she could use her businesses finances as a tool for her success.
- Goals, plans and task list: You must know where you are going, what will get you there and have easy ways of measuring your success and adjusting as needed. I know that may sound obvious, but what I find is that many, many new business owners shoot from the hip. Make sure you include dates in this plan. Plans with no when when are simply fantasies!
This is far from a comprehensives list of all the structure you need to support your success. However, if you take a little time to put in the foundation you can really build your dream business and enjoy the fruits of your labor!