Business owners can get stuck in the area of Revenue Generating activities. This initially seems like a good thing, however, it’s important to devote time to other aspects of running a business to enable you and your business to grow and prosper and the cycle of Revenue Generating activities to continue. Business Development is one of those areas.
Here is a guide to help you know where to focus your attention during the time you make for Business Development. I have broken it down into 3 main areas with a definition, suggested activities and time frame for each:
1) Marketing – selling of products or services: the business activity of presenting products or services in such a way as to make them desirable*
Suggested activities: Spend time working on your website and marketing materials. They are your ’store front’ so to speak and a reflection of you and your business. Check that all your information is current including contact details and upcoming events. Ensure website links work. Keep content fresh and regularly post new articles to your blog. Ensure your business cards and logo match your website. They may be in need of a fresh new look. Have an email marketing plan in place or send out a newsletter on a regular basis. These materials leave a lasting impression about your company.
Time Frame: Marketing activities can either be scheduled in amongst Revenue Generating tasks throughout the week (for example, 1 hour twice per week). Or you may prefer to include these in a day entirely devoted to Business Development.
2) Networking – practice of gathering of contacts: the process or practice of building up or maintaining informal relationships, especially with people whose friendship could bring advantages such as job or business opportunities*
Suggested activities: Network regularly in person, via Social Media and Forums. Build relationships with fellow business owners in your industry and those in your target market. Meet regularly both online and in your community. Attend trade shows. Become actively involved in Social Media and Forums providing useful information to your contacts and group members.
Time Frame: Schedule in 30 minutes or less each morning to spend on Social Media sites and in Forums. This doesn’t seem like a lot of time but by being consistent you maintain an ongoing presence and build relationships. The same goes for networking events that you attend in person on a regular basis.
3) Training – acquiring of skill: the process of teaching or learning a skill or job*
Suggested activities: Are you keeping up with the latest technologies? Let’s face it, technology is changing on an ongoing basis and it’s not possible to know it all. Listen to your target market in your networking activities and find out what their needs are. Learn something new that provides a solution to their needs. Attend informational teleclasses to discover new trends that will help you serve your clients better. There are many resources to learn just about anything online (live or self-paced) or in a classroom setting. This applies to almost any industry. Even my hairstylist keeps up with new trends in her industry through teleseminars.
Time Frame: I have found it best to focus on training during my weekly Business Development day where I have longer stretches of time to concentrate without interruption.
Remember, when you devote time to Business Development you ensure the constant flow of business to your company. Keep current clients and attract new ones by allocating time in your schedule to maintain a professional image through your marketing efforts, cultivate your business relationships and add to your skill set. These all translate into opportunities to generate more revenue and live the life you love.
*source: Encarta dictionary
A maze puzzle is symbolic to taking our businesses on the path to reaching goals. From start (building), there is no direct route (growing) to finish (your goals) but rather twists and turns and some backtracking along the way. Your schedule is like your plan through that maze. When you take the time to contemplate your route and map it out, you get through your ‘maze’ with less backtracking. It’s easier to stay on course and reach your goals with that plan.
To help you apply this approach you must divide up your time into 5 main areas when organizing your schedule. Here is the list and some of the items that fall under each category:
1. Client Work – or the area in which you perform your revenue generating activities. If yours is not a service business, this area may be Product Sales for example.
2. Business Development - time spent working on your website, preparing marketing materials, proposals, making phone calls, correspondence, attending networking events, planning, meetings, reading/audio/video (resources for business/training), writing (articles, submissions, ezine, blog), social media activity, participating in forums.
3. Home Office – tracking business expenses, filing, invoicing, record keeping, managing emails, scheduling.
4. Personal – build this into your day to remind you to break away from work, to eat lunch or go for a walk with friends.
5. Family – spending time with kids, pets and family activities. This usually comes only at the beginning or end of my work day, but I like to have it showing on my schedule.
How you divide up your time will vary from person to person, but it’s important to assign time to each category throughout the week and work with it until you find a good balance. If you neglect one area the others will suffer. Revenue generating activities have to be consistent obviously, as well as Personal and Family time, but don’t neglect Business Development and Home Office time. You have to incorporate these areas into your week in order to effectively grow your business and prosper.
And if you don’t want to make the time because you dislike these tasks and would rather be doing what you’re good at or taking some more personal and family time, then outsource. Most of the tasks that fall under Business Development and Home Office can be managed by a Virtual Assistant (VA). You don’t have to do it all yourself. Like the saying goes, “Do what you do best, then hire out the rest”.
September is about new beginnings – back to school, back to work and new routines. In North America, September always seems to be the unofficial new year. As we leave behind the fun and frolic of summer and refocus on our businesses, it’s likely time to revise our schedules as well. So here’s to fresh starts as we talk about how to set up a weekly plan and make the best use of our time.
You may refer to a schedule as an agenda, timetable, calendar, plan or to-do list. Whatever you call it, if you don’t have one, I encourage you to create and follow one. Why?
• with a schedule you have a place to put your to-do’s. Rather than having a loose idea in your mind of what needs to be done, a schedule gets your list out of your head and gives you a solid guide to follow.
• your schedule organizes your work day so that one task flows into the next almost effortlessly. No more scattered thinking, scrambling to make sure you get everything done before running out of time or forgetting something.
• it is an effective planning tool. Once you have your tasks plotted you will have a visual of what your week looks like. For example, you may see that you have a block of time available each week that will allow you to take on another client. Or perhaps you will realize that you’ve taken on too much and will have to scale back in one area.
Having your days planned out is so important to your business. It has a positive effect on your state of mind, your productivity and in turn your bottom line. Since I started using a schedule it has made a huge difference in my workdays. It is a simple system to get your office back on track. It is easy to set up and maintain and no costly equipment or supplies are needed.
So let’s get started! Grab a pen and paper or create a document on your computer.
Here are the 5 simple steps:
1. Determine your hours and days of work and draw a chart in the form of a table with days of the week across the top and hours of the day down the left side. It’s important to set boundaries as to when you’re available and to let your clients know how and when they can contact you. If this is your own business, you get to make up whatever works for you and makes sense for your industry. If you’re just starting out it’s tempting to announce that you are available 24/7 in order to get clients. That can actually be bad for business. Only promise what you can deliver. You probably don’t want be ‘on call’ when you’re sleeping or with family!
2. Divide your activities into any number of manageable categories. For example, as a home-based service business my main categories are Client Work, Business Development, Home Office, Personal and Family. For easy reference, colour-code each category.
3. List what items fall under each category. For instance, under Client Work list who your clients are, under Business Development list what networking events you attend and for Home Office list tasks such as tracking business expenses.
4. Block off times for each category. It has been said that we overestimate what we can do in a day. Remember that your daily tasks will typically take longer than expected so be generous with the time you assign to each category and each task. (The good news is that we underestimate what we can do in a year so plan big for that!)
5. Now you have your template. Fill in the blanks with your to-do’s and you’re off to the races.
Modify your schedule as needed. It can take many tries and tweaks before you find what works for you and it will change as your business evolves. I challenge you to create a schedule and use it for a month and see the positive difference it makes in your business. I’d love to hear what you come up with!
Designated home office and business development time are essential for the small business owner. This is the time you can concentrate on your business – plan for the week ahead, learn new skills or software and in effect allow you to serve your clients better and run your business more efficiently and profitably.
If you’re feeling stuck in your business then this may just be the solution to help you build or expand your business and prosper.
Try blocking out a half-an-hour a day, consistently, and focus that time only on home office and business development tasks. If you work better with larger chunks of time, then dedicate one afternoon a week to this purpose instead. Or if you can, do both!
Can’t afford the time? You can’t afford not to. We spend most of our time serving clients and often forget that our business needs us too in order to thrive and grow.
Here are 3 reasons why you need this time and suggestions of things you can do in the allotted time to achieve the benefits:
1. Accomplish more. To enable you to run your business more efficiently, plan for the week ahead. Clear your head of your tasks by putting them all down on paper where you can examine them. Create a daily schedule by marking off blocks of time in your day planner or create your own calendar and customize as you go. Tasks always take longer than expected so plan for this. When you have a realistic plan to follow for your day you can focus on the task at hand without being distracted. Remember to schedule in your home office and business development time! Cross things off your list as you go.
2. Enjoy less chaos. Gradually go through your piles of papers and either recycle/shred, file or take action as necessary. Maintain your business expenses on a daily or weekly basis. Whether you use a simple excel spreadsheet or keep track of your records with accounting software, there will be fewer headaches for you and/or your accountant at tax time if your records are well documented. Take inventory and order any office supplies you are low on. Toss out pens that don’t work and sharpen pencils. When things flow in your office, so does your business.
3. Serve your clients better and attract new business. Learn a new skill that will enhance your offerings. By being proactive and optimizing the use of technology you are providing more value to your clients. Utilize new software that will make things easier for you in your business too. Technology is constantly changing and it will keep you up to speed with your competition. There are many web-based training courses that you can attend from the comfort of your home.
This is pretty basic stuff but if you begin doing this in your business, it’s a good start. Often we need to get back on track in order to move ahead. Try it and let me know how it works for you!