What made you decide to become an entrepreneur? How did your crazy journey to Kickstarter and beyond first start?
So often when grinding on a business day-in and day-out we lose sight of that original spark, that original motivation that got us started in the first place. We take lives and companies in directions we’d never imagined or spin our wheels in pursuit of unestablished or unimportant goals.
This is detrimental not only to your business but your own state of mind and psyche. Like it or not, our businesses become a part of us. So how do we control rather than be consumed by them?
Getting Smart with Goals
Goals are tremendously tricky to set and stick to. We delude ourselves by operating in the vague. We want bigger businesses, more profit, less work…
But what does any of that actually mean? Immeasurable goals are meaningless comparisons to which we may never amount. You can always be bigger, badder, more successful…there is no end in sight. This is why comparing to others is so detrimental.
And most of us have heard of SMART goals – goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time driven. Unfortunately they’re practiced less than they’re preached.
But even in the best cases, most miss the crucial piece – the driver of self-destruction:
Why are your goals worth pursuing? We jump quickly to push ourselves without ever considering the consequences. What happens after a million dollar business? Really want to run a 100 person organization?
Goals NEED to align with your own happiness and lifestyle. Goals that fail here fail you. They can ruin your life, degrade your marriage and devastate the direction of your business.
Step One to Salvation
Before writing a business plan, build a life plan. Examine who you are, what makes you happy and how you want to live your life. This is the foundation for any sustained success. Only after examining the future can you begin to consciously create the path.
“Success is a journey, not a destination.” -Arthur Ashe
Action Step: Start planning your path to a fulfilled life. Build a dreamline or bucket list and begin crossing off the crazy adventures and experiences which are the essence of life itself.
Envisioning your Business
Want to be the next Richard Branson, a part time da Vinci or living a passive income fueled lifestyle? Brainstorm what you’d like your startup and life to be like one, three, five, ten etc years down the road. Simply contemplating these questions will being to normalize the levels of success and make achieving of your goals even easier as you go. The exercise also forces you to consider both personal and business dreams and find a way to commingle the completion of both.
“Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.” – Tony Robbins
Decision Time: Write out detailed goals for your business. Start at “the end” and work backwards. For every milestone create concrete, time bound metrics and envision yourself living the life…is it worth it? If so, start setting the stepping stones to success.
What are you tracking in your business? That that is measured is improved, but what if you’re measuring or focused on lesser things…
How is progress measured week over week, month over month, year over year? What numbers or stats matter and tell the tale of your company’s success?
“Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” -George Santayana
Counting What Counts: Figure out the focus of your business. Is it new customers, larger sales, a better conversion rate, increased engagement…what tells the story of your startup? Figure out the metrics worth tracking and begin compiling now. For post-Kickstarters, a good place to start is profit, profit/revenue, # of customers, cost of acquisition and repeat buyers(or lifetime value of a customer). (At odds with these or other helpful tips, would love to hear thoughts in comments below!)
But even after establishing importance, the thing most rarely speak of is applying this. Understanding the system is important, but it is worthless without action.
Success metrics only record the battle, you still need to plan the attack. For that the Pareto Principle, the law of 80/20 inputs, results and just about everything else is rather valuable. For those unfamiliar, the concept is that about 20% of your customers contribute 80% of revenues, 20% of products make up 80% of sales, 20% of marketing brings in 80% of new business, 20% of people own 80% of wealth and so on and so forth…
Small forces applied effectively create massive results. So back to the business metrics, what are your drivers of profitability, sustainability, success….? These should be the focus of every action you take, every move you make – a lense to analyze opportunities and where you spend time and resources.
“When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals, adjust the action steps.” -Confucius
And as an upstart entrepreneur, you NEED sales. Nothing kills a company faster than failing to sell. And hopefully you’ve had a sale or two, you need data to make informed decisions(for more on analytics and data driven decisions in your business, check out this post). Find what works, focus on that and scale success – it CAN be that simple.
An example in my businesses, Amazon. Amazon’s algorithms as we talked about are driven by sales and reviews. Those two metrics move the needle and are the focus of everything I’m doing to grow. Not on Amazon, Kickstarter’s all about conversion rates, early exposure and fast funding – find your 80/20 and attack it(Ps. If you’re on Amazon, check out Amazooka, the Amazon seller software I’m building to take sales and business to new heights!)!
Strategy Session: Start working smarter and do what works. Cut the crap and your lean business machine will start revving its engine.
Eliminating or Outsourcing Distractions
Certain processes are priceless, others ancillary in your business. Allot your time accordingly, avoid the mundane and meaningless at all cost.
And whether I’m writing this for you or for me is entirely up for debate at this point. As a workaholic I suffer from these faults, I’m certain many of you do as well. There are infinite areas of improvement, always something to be doing. Unfortunately this is a trap, a timesuck and a creativity killer in the long run. We’re all guilty of working for work’s sake at some point. We dedicate untold hours to email, waste time task switching and find ourselves in Photoshop or AutoCAD when outsourcing is obviously a better choice.
“Work is hard. Distractions are plentiful. And time is short.” -Adam Hochschild
Take Away: My challenge for you and myself is to stop or set limits on the 80% responsible for a mere 20% of success. Avoiding the small and setting your sights higher takes discipline. I’ve been batching emails, updates and checking in on the business as best I can. Limiting tasks to certain times and frequencies does wonders and forget Facebook and email for a little while.
What could you accomplish with “extra hours” in the day? Betcha it’s more than just working “more.”
So what are you working on today, and more importantly WHY???