A Look Back and A Plan Ahead
As I look back on 2018, I think of words such as survival, endurance and momentum. This year was a time of change and transition, as I had to wind down and slow down the business a bit for health and personal reasons. At the same time too, I am blessed and grateful to have a business that was still running strong on previous years’ efforts so I still had enough work to continue without strenuously seeking new leads.
Being an entrepreneur offers a certain flexibility that many traditional employees may not experience, as we can work our schedule to fit our lives, our children, our family and our community. As an entrepreneur, we personally experience the residual value of our hard work, effort, networking and advertising, because the marketing you do today has long-term effects. Likewise, as I always tell my clients, the organic SEO strategies they implement have long-lasting effect or higher page ranking on the SERPs (search engine results pages), thus the efforts they make today will pay off tomorrow and for months to come.
So as I look back on 2018, I can look back on all the efforts over the previous years to build, promote and expand my brand and feel grateful of those efforts. Because when it was needed, I could take a moment to sit back, plan and process all that I’ve had to endure this year without having to also juggle marketing and growing my business. It takes years to build trust and credibility with Google, to ensure that your website and online presence are producing relevant, engaging and unique content. Likewise too, it takes years to build trust and credibility within your community and a reputation that instills confidence. As they say, your reputation is your brand, and I’m happy to say I’m very proud of the reputation Startup Production has built, as honest, hard-working and committed to my clients.
Since my business is a B2B company and my target audience are business owners, I’ve worked hard over the years building connections and supporting small business growth and economic development, often volunteering many hours each year to local non-profits and business organizations. I offered my time in past years in presentations, workshops, and trainings (often free) for local organizations. And I continue to offer my time to a limited number of these type organizations and to a limited degree to what I can afford in time, travel and energy.
What I have accomplished …
2018 was a year for Startup Production to sit back, evaluate, plan and just focus on getting work done. I kept busy with various projects as I do each year even though I did less marketing and was more selective of the projects I took on. Still I can look back on a year well spent with the following accomplishments:
- worked with 58 small to medium-sized businesses,
- published 14 new websites, maintaining & updating 40+ others, and currently are working on nearly six other websites that are soon to be up,
- created and customized nearly a dozen new logos and revised several others;
- wrote dozens of blog posts and published hundreds of posts on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Youtube and Google+.
- sent out dozens of email marketing campaigns for clients,
- provided internet marketing services for 12 companies with marketing proposals, analytics, training and on-going content management.
- presented 30 sessions of internet marketing sessions to clients and their staff.
What I’ve learned …
This was a year for me to slow down and evaluate where I have been and where I want to head in the future. I’ve learned so much this year, so much about protecting your business and your brand, about carefully selecting partnerships with people who are honest, dependable and who will enhance your brand, not tear it down. I’ve learned how the people you least expect are there for you in the worst of times.
I have seen the worst in people when they put greed before integrity and fear before values, and have learned much from those who do not have regard for anyone or anything, besides promoting themselves. I have witnessed the irony of some who hide their true character behind social media facades where their insecurities and flaws are disguised behind narcissistic, perfectly-framed highlight reels. They are promoting a lifestyle and brand that is not only disingenuous, but potentially dangerous to our impressionable and often insecure young women, who believe the ‘pretend life’ these influencers promote should be their reality.
As business owners, each year we become a bit more intuitive and wiser, due to various challenges and trials we’ve faced. Hopefully, the lessons we learn can be shared with other small business owners to help them grow and avoid various pitfalls, which in the end gives these obstacles more purpose.
What is ahead …
I like many other entrepreneurs plan to Simplify in 2019. Here’s why and how …
“Simplify so you can have a life as well as a successful business.”
A business owner wears many hats, not just in the week, but each day and even hour, as we multitask to serve our customers, market our business, manage our teams, and organize our financials. In my day, I may switch from Designer to Internet Marketer, Web Developer to Hosting Administrator, Writer to Trainer, Bookkeeper to Secretary, Social Media Marketer to Promoter, IT to Counselor. It’s exhausting. Entrepreneurs constantly run but never catch up on that endless to-do list, so we long to find ways to simplify our business processes.
Here are some steps to simplify so you can begin to enjoy running your business again:
“Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do.”
– Jessica Jackley
I. Evaluate your daily tasks. Make a list of items you need to do on your own versus items that you know you can delegate to your accountant, bookkeeper, office assistant or team members. The less vital tasks can often be accomplished just as well by someone else. So find others that you trust (and have rock solid attorney-reviewed contracts with them) to take on tasks that are not your particular specialties or that you don’t particularly enjoy doing.
“A plan is what, a schedule is when. It takes both a plan and a schedule to get things done.”
– Peter Turla
II. Set a realistic schedule. While most entrepreneurs work over 50 hours a week, studies show workers are more productive working an average of 30 hours per week. So instead of the work scheduling you, you need to take control and set your own schedule. Sit down and write out the number of hours you’d realistically like to work each week, how often you’d like to take vacations and how many hours per day you’ll be in the office. Make a schedule and stick to it. Once you are determined to keep that schedule, you are more likely to delegate tasks or turn away projects that you just don’t have time for.
“The majority of small-business owners say they work at least 50 hours per week, according to a recent poll — far more than the national average of 33.8 hours per week reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.” – Inc.com
“If you want to live a happy life, tie it to a goal, not to people or things.”
– Albert Einstein
III. Keep the purpose as your focus. Why are you trying to simplify? Health problems, stress management, burn-out, work-life balance, a greater focus on family, quality of life or other worthy goals? All of the above are great reasons to slow down and simplify but in the midst of the daily rat race, you begin to lose your focus and again take on more than you should. Have visual reminders as well as daily meditation on why you are making these changes, so you don’t lose your focus and are more likely to achieve those goals. Whether is a framed pictures or quote, a vision board, a desktop or phone background, make sure your goal is front and center in your life.
“Nothing is a waste of time if you use the experience wisely.”
– Auguste Rodin
IV. Be creative and test out new ideas. There are endless suggestions on how to save time, manage tasks, simplify and organize, but not all will work for your particular situation, and not all will fit into your lifestyle, but you won’t know until you try. Experiment with suggestions from time management experts and business consultants, from the endless websites, blogs, podcasts and interviews online. Better yet, you know your work style and workload best, sit down and plan out how you can better use your time. Only you can honestly admit where your faults lie, and what time-wasters lure you away. Experiment on how to control those and find ways to expand your productivity hours. Here some questions you can ask yourself:
- When am I most productive: morning, afternoons or evening? Make sure you schedule the more labor-intensive projects that require focus when you are most productive and the more menial task for the other times.
- What are the various time-wasters that tend to lure you away and how you can put controls on them during your most productive hours? Keep a log of your daily activities, including time on social media, unnecessary texting, phone conversations, online shopping and surfing the internet. When you add up all those minutes, you’ll be surprised how many hours a week are wasted.
- What is the priority of tasks I need to accomplish this week? Writing down your task list from most important and most urgent to least important and least urgent can increase your focus on what needs to get down and delay items that are more distraction than necessary. Besides, there’s no greater joy than crossing one off your list.
- What is my reward when I accomplish my tasks? Time off early, time spent with family, happy clients, increased revenue, enhanced brand? Focus on the reward, not just the task.
- When do I rest? If you don’t find time to rest, exercise, eat right and engage in extracurricular activities that refresh you, you will burn out, sooner than later. Schedule in periods of rest and relaxation throughout your day, week or month. Plan for vacations a few times a year that you can truly unplug from your business and its stressors.
- What are the most energizing tasks of my day? What aspects of your business do you particularly love and reap the greatest satisfaction? Find time to focus your attention on these tasks, as these are usually the root of your product and service production, as well as generate the most income. Creating your products or offering your services were the reason you started your business in the first place, so now it’s time to get back to basics on focus on those, rather than on the other ancillary tasks that can easily be accomplished by others.
I hope 2019 is as productive and enjoyable as we always hope it to be. Get ready, keep your sense of humor, appreciate the little things and brace yourself for the highs and lows that are sure to come your way.