Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Stop, Look, and Listen – Advice for Small Business Owners

Small business owners often find themselves in a constant state of emergency. Emergencies can occur through no fault of your own, however; putting out fires on a daily basis is a sign that your business systems, processes and practices are not functioning properly and are ineffective.

It is imperative that small business owners (especially those without staff and limited resources) have streamlined and organized systems and practices. This includes the way you process your clients’ information, marketing techniques, sales scripts and invoices/ bookkeeping. And let’s not forget hours of operation. There is nothing wrong with setting your own hours, but are you adhering to them? Are you spending the appropriate amount of time with your family? How and when are you honing your skills and increasing your business knowledge? Do you set aside time to perform the menial administrative duties? Do you plan your work? There needs to be a clear, well-defined and functional manner in which you operate your business.

When you are overwhelmed, frustrated and lost you should stop, think and listen. Stop doing what you are doing. Just like in a real emergency, STOP. Don’t panic. Our stress and anxiety levels immediately increase when we are flying by the seat of our pants. We are naturally concerned about revenue, clients and the direction of our business. This is okay. However, it is also easy to add to this concern unnecessarily when we operate our business without proper planning and a functional work system. So again, when you find yourself panicked, overwhelmed or simply unproductive, stop. When you are in quicksand, it is the flailing around that will cause you to sink even faster. Don’t move forward or backward. Just be still.

Think. Reflection and introspect is critical for small business owners. We have to be able to step back and survey the land to see clearly. Be realistic about where you are and what has taken place so far. Assess your business condition. What are you doing right? What are you doing wrong? What are your resources? What are your strengths? If you are not sure, don’t be afraid to ask for help. The knowledge and wisdom from wise counsel and a fresh pair of eyes could be the jolt you need to redirect your energy in the right direction.

Once you have come out of survival mode and have taken some time to really think about and assess your position, you must be open-minded and prepared to listen. Open-minded enough to accept the reality of your condition in whatever state it is in. Denial is destructive to you and your business. Listen to your intuition. We all have that small voice inside that gives us a heads up when we are going in the wrong direction or if something doesn’t feel right. Listen to that voice and give it the power and credit it deserves. If you have sought wise counsel, listen to what it is they are telling you. They should be telling you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear.

The next time you find yourself overwhelmed, lost, frustrated or in a constant state of emergency, stop, think and listen.

A.  Michelle Blakeley is the Founder and CEO of Simplicity, Inc.; a progressive small business development firm. She manages her clients’ business expectations and prevents information overload via Micro Business Therapy™ and Micro Business Action Plans. She is featured in Forbes.com and the Financial Post as one of 30 Women Entrepreneurs to Follow on Twitter and the host of Simple Truths for Women Entrepreneurs on BlogTalkRadio.com.

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