Right now are you working in your business or on your business? If you don't know the difference let me explain. I equate working in your business as the operations or deliverables; the tasks that immediately bring money into the business. On the other hand I consider working on your business to be tasks that are not billable. Things like networking, online marketing, prospecting and sales are not billable now, but will hopefully lead to billable hours down the road. So are you working on your business or in your business? Which area should be your main focus and why? Here is why I feel you need to consider working on your business to be your main focus.
Grow Or Plateau
As a solopreneur you will hit the crossroads of a tough decision; grow, plateau or die off. As your business grows you will eventually hit the maximum amount of work that you can handle on your own. If you are like most entrepreneurs you won't want to stop growing. The question is how can you grow when you are already maxed out on the amount of work that you can handle on your own? The simple answer is hire some help and keep growing. For many entrepreneurs this is a tough step because they are used to only relying on themselves. One thing you have to realize is that you may need to take a step or two backwards in order to take a step forward.
Work On Your Business Not In Your Business
As you grow you will realize that working on your business is as important if not more important than working in your business. While the operations may seem like the life blood of the business your opinion may sway as time goes on. As you grow nothing is more important than a full pipeline of prospects. One huge mistake I made in the beginning of my business was not working enough on non-billable activities. I had a small book of business and after the operations were completed for that week I didn't continue to work. Tasks such as networking, blogging, asking for referrals and online marketing can all lead to a full pipeline of prospects. Years later I can always find some task that I can complete to add value to my business. As a small business entrepreneur your work is never done.
So where can you find new opportunities for your business? These days the sources of new leads seem endless so you need to figure out what works well for your business and what specific avenues to focus on. I can demonstrate by breaking down our main sources of new business.
Referrals - Referrals are the main source of new leads for many businesses. Referrals come from networking and a good track record of customer service. Referrals also offer high quality leads with a higher close rate because the leads are already qualified. One mistake I made was not asking for referrals. I looked at referrals as a great source of business but one that I had no control over because they came from an outside source. One thing I recently learned was how to effectively ask for referrals. When you read the article I linked to it seems so simple and so obvious, yet very few people actually ask for referrals. Try it out and you may be surprised by how effective this tactic can be.
Networking - Everyone knows how to network but very few people know how to network effectively. Since many people don't know how to network effectively they end up wasting a lot of time and getting poor results. They then tag networking as an ineffective method for gaining new prospects. How can you find good networking groups? You need to ask around and try some out to see which ones are a good fit for you. Certainly in person networking groups like BNI and Chamber of Commerce groups can be a good fit. You may want to look for online networking groups like Inbound Netwokers. If you aren't familiar with LinkedIn you should be and you should learn how to use LinkedIn for business. Twitter and Facebook are also great opportunities for online marketing and creating an online presence for your business.
Here are three rules for networking that I think you should know:
- It's not about you it's about everyone else
- Your main goal should be to pass leads and referrals
- Give with no expectations of getting anything in return
Online marketing - Online marketing is a very broad term. I get really frustrated when someone tells me they are an online marketing expert or guru because I have no idea what that means or what they do. I can tell you that online marketing can work for your business in one form or another. Blogging can be a great way to boost your online presence and also help with SEO. Tools like Hubspot can really help you create a solid online presence. Online marketing is another avenue that many businesses quickly dismiss as a useless tactic in gaining new prospects and sales. Again, many businesses just have the wrong strategy and expectations. Online marketing is a long-term strategy to gaining new prospects, it doesn't happen overnight.
Understanding how important it is to work on growing your business takes time for an entrepreneur. It is tough to find that balance between growing and maintaining customer satisfaction. It is also difficult to work on your business if you don't know what specific tasks you should be focusing on. However, I wish I had spent more time working on my business a long time ago because as you grow it becomes harder to find the time.