To develop a business from scratch or to help an established one grow it’s vitally important that owners keep their time, effort, resources and own personal energy in balance. It’s so easy to get carried away as and when you get a significant order for your products or a big contract for your services. It’s right to get excited by these positive events and to celebrate them but you mustn’t get carried away and focus everything onto those successes at the expense of everything else.
Sounds mad? Well, it shouldn’t do really. Think about it. You’ve got the big order and you have to go all out to meet that client’s expectations, even better if you can exceed them of course. But that’s only a part of what you do in your business, whatever business you happen to be in. You need to carry on doing all those things that were successful in getting you that order in the first place, the marketing, advertising, networking – these three words alone probably describe 25-40% of your effort in any given week or month. And you have to keep the business itself ticking over as an entity.
If you can keep the following three areas in balance your business has the best chance it can to succeed and grow and you have the best chance of keeping a balance in you own life. Balance will mean something different to each and every business, it’s not a straight third on each area – only you can know what the best mix is for you.
Whether you are delivering large quantities of small electrical items or one off specialised engineering equipment for the oil and gas industry it’s obvious that this is what your business is known for and critically, is paid for. The same goes for service industries, be it HR consultancy or legal services, it’s the provision of those services to clients as and when they need them and to their satisfaction that brings in the revenue. And here’s the tricky bit. Chances are that it’s doing these particular activities that made you want to set up in business in the first place – it’s what you are good at and want to do more of.
But, in order to do more and more of what it is you enjoy you need to ensure you have the buyers in place and in order for that to happen they have to know that you exist.
One way of operating is to get the large contract, carry it out to the satisfaction of the client and then start looking for the next piece of work. Sounds wrong of course but it’s a very easy trap to get into (for start-ups in particular) even for established businesses that become over reliant on major customers. What needs to happen is that in parallel with delivering your products or services you are starting to create a pipeline of work for now and into the future. Referrals, testimonials, advertising, marketing, networking, public relations – the list is endless but they all have the one thing in common – to ensure those people or companies out there that you want to become customers know that you exist and that you can meet their needs.
Unless you came from a background in marketing, PR or advertising it’s highly likely that you would rather spend more of your time in the ‘doing’ side of your business than in keeping the pipeline full. You might be able to employ specialists in sales etc. (when your business is large enough) but always remember that even for the largest companies in the world potential customers always want to hear from the head of the company about what it is they do.
If keeping the pipeline full isn’t something that business owners usually find attractive then undertaking the administrative tasks or book-keeping, accounts, taxation, IT, dealing with premises and all the other non-revenue delivering tasks is probably right at the bottom of the list of things to do. Many of these tasks can be outsourced to specialists and often are for even the smallest of businesses but it’s surprising just how much time, effort and energy these take. It might sound odd but making sure you are paid for the work you have done really has to be at the top of your tasks – it’s poor cash-flow that kills businesses far too often.
So, keep a running check on your balance of Delivery | Pipelining | Administration perhaps looking at it critically at the start of each month. Only you will know what the right balance is for your business in your industry and in your location but none of these items should ever be 100% or 0%, you do have to keep working at all of them whether you like it or not.