Offering advice to entrepreneurs is tricky. No one knows the inner-workings of your business like you do. At the same time, no two companies are the same, so what worked for me may (or may not!) be applicable for you. That said, I want to be helpful to other people looking to get their businesses off the ground. Going forward, when business owners ask for advice, I’m trying to adhere to the “no advice, only experiences” concept. In short, the lack of knowledge I have about your company means I’m not in a position to give solid advice. But, I can share my experiences in hopes that you can learn from them and apply the appropriate parts to your particular situation.
A friend of mine recently asked for some advice as he works on growing his communication business. How do you balance client work, prospecting and business development, speaking, writing, PR for your own business, plus all the administrative tasks (taxes, expense tracking, invoicing, etc.)? Not to mention still being a good mom/dad and friend, while trying to carve out some time for yourself?
Put it like that, and it can seem a little overwhelming. But, it can be done. However, knowing that “growth stage” means something different for every entrepreneur, it’s impossible to provide a concrete list of the three things you should do. Instead, here’s what worked for me:
- Take your own advice. When I started Geben, I didn’t really see the point in writing a business plan. I had no idea how things would shake out, so writing a plan based on assumptions that I couldn’t accurately predict seemed like a waste of time. Instead, I wrote a PR plan for my company. Since the beginning, I’ve tried to treat Geben like a “client.” The plan included everything from key messages and target audiences … to tactics, like speaking, thought-leadership, community relations, and events. By working the plan, I was invited to write for Mashable and speak at highly respected events like BlogWorld and PRSA International, both of which were critical to helping develop new business opportunities. I truly believe the reason I was able to start and grow a business from scratch is because I treated us like a client from the get-go. That’s also why we decided to launch A Fresh Ap[PR]oach, our weekly enewsletter. We counsel clients to be smart about email marketing, so we should do the same. (Not subscribed? Let’s fix that right now!)
- Understand the value of your time. How is your time best spent? Do that and outsource the rest. For me, my time is best spent on business development, building and strengthening client relationships, coaching my team, and trend monitoring and spotting. Business development is necessary for us to grow. Strong client relationships are critical because I know we do our best work when we’re seen as an extension of their team … as a true partner. Coaching my team helps them grow, helps them troubleshoot and helps them exceed client expectations. Trend monitoring/spotting is important because our ability to take a fresh approach to PR and our commitment to innovating best practices is why clients work with us. That means I either need to delegate or outsource everything else — or I’m not prioritizing my time appropriately. Sometimes this is easier said than done — it’s a work in progress — but, it’s why from almost Day 1, I’ve paid someone else to send my invoices, track expenses, book travel and manage the “admin” aspects of the business. When you find yourself about to do a task, ask yourself if that’s the best use of your time. If it’s not, weigh your options: Can you outsource or delegate it? If not, why not? Is there a way to create a process so it takes as little of your time as possible? An entrepreneurs, our time is incredibly valuable and finite. Be smart with how you use it.
- Take one step back to take two steps forward. Paraphrasing, but this snippet of guidance came from business strategist Carol Roth. I heard her speak at a conference when Geben was still in its infancy. I hadn’t even hired my first person, but I’d been contemplating the idea. I just wasn’t sure. It was like Carol was speaking to me with this idea! I took it to mean that I should hire my first person, even if I didn’t quite have the revenue to justify a full-time employee. What I quickly learned was that that full-time employee freed up more of my time so I could focus on business development and the other tasks critical for business growth. Once I took that step back and hired my first person, the growth really kicked in. Now, when I hire, I tend to hire a little before we really need another person. I’ve found that enables me to get the person in and trained before we’re ready to load them up with clients. Hiring is just one example. The advice is applicable to a wide range of decisions facing every entrepreneur.
Hopefully, something from my personal experience resonates and you can try to apply it to your business. Or, maybe you’ll read something that sparks a new idea for yourself.
What business-growth experiences can you share that will help another entrepreneur take her/his business to the next stage?
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