As an entrepreneur, you know that starting out means spending hours marketing your product or service. You invest time going after investors and building a name for yourself. In the beginning, the amount of actual money-earning work you do lags behind these other activities.
Then, one day, it happens. You get a call for 1,000 widgets to be shipped right away. A new client has a ton of work for you but the deadline is stiff. An opportunity to do a major presentation to a potential investor just opened: can you be there this afternoon?
Before you know it, the process of building your business has gone from steady to overwhelming before you have even have your morning coffee.
It comes down to one piece of advice: Be very clear in your vision for your small business and don’t allow anyone or anything else to pull you away from it.
That’s it. That’s all you need to do.
Sounds easy, right?
At first it’s not but the more you put the concept into practice, the easier it is to stay focused.
Learn How to Say No.
Debbie Foley was a corporate-working wife and mother of a baby when she founded San Clemente Website Design in 2009. Her reasons for branching out on her own were clear. She wanted to spend more time with her growing family and less time sitting in endless business meetings or writing reports on her work. She also wanted to pursue her passion for helping small businesses and fill a gaping hole she saw in the market for affordable, quality website design.
However, as word got out about Debbie and her services, her phone quickly started ringing nonstop. Everyone from entrepreneurs to large, established corporations wanting a piece of Debbie’s time – and they wanted it immediately.
All that business was hard to say no to, at first.
“It seemed as though I was achieving success but I wasn’t. I wasn’t spending the time I wanted to with my son and the small businesses I dreamed of helping were getting pushed aside for better-paying large companies. I was still under corporate-job-level stress.” – Debbie Foley
Debbie took a step back to refocus herself on her original vision. Through that, she figured out another key aspect of time management: say no to clients and situations that weren’t serving her vision.
Yes, saying no can mean turning down lucrative jobs in the short term, it also frees up your time to take on the kinds of jobs you do want. More importantly, it frees up your sanity so that you can live the kind life you want.
“It is so easy to jump at everything that can lead to a new opportunity. We do ourselves a disservice when we forget our end goal and what it is we really want.” – Debbie Foley
Set Clear Goals.
How do you put this into practice for your own small business?
Develop a solid vision of your personal and professional reasons for opening your own business.
- How much do you want to work?
- How much money do you want to make?
- With what types of people do you want to work?
- What do you want more of in your life?
- What do you want less of?
- What drives you?
- What are your priorities?
Also examine your talents and background. Ask yourself how those can help you narrow your focus.
Write It Down.
Write these things down and post them in your office. Create a vision board if that’s your thing. The key is to make sure your vision is the center of every business decision you make. This way you focus your limited time on what really matters, instead of getting stressed out chasing everything that blows your way.
Then, when something comes your way that doesn’t fit your vision, you can politely decline it, pass it along to a colleague or ask for a later deadline.
Remember, you are not limiting yourself; you are simply building a foundation for the type of business you want. Later on, as your business grows, you can decide if you want to expand your reach and, if so, you can hire staff to help you do so.
For further reading on time management, check out Getting Things Done by David Allen.