Every January, business owners take time to review their past years’ financials, marketing & other expenditures and percentages of growth or loss from the year before. In each area of review, each business owner asks, “How can I improve this year?” We are always looking for ways to fine tune, save money, improve on services and products and increase profit margins.
There are some business owners who are not only focused on the financial profit but also looking for the quality of life payoff of running their own business. So this is also the time to ask such questions as: How can I save time without comprising my business? How can I improve on the work-life balance? How can I decrease stress of running my own business? How can I increase joy in building relationships, serving my clients’ needs, and marketing my business?
Small business owners do not start their own business primarily to make lots of money, in fact, most realize that the first few years, they may even take a loss financially. Many of us make somewhat risky decisions to see our dreams realized, taking second mortgages, racking up personal credit cards and cashing in 401Ks for startup costs. Why do we make all these sacrifices? We love what we do and we have a passion for our specific product or service. So as we review our past year’s accomplishments and plan for the upcoming year, let’s focus on emotional payoff and rediscover the reasons we started our business in the first place.
How to Rediscover the Joy of Running your Business
I. Delegate, delegate, delegate. I say this three times for emphasis. SBO’s are usually A-type personalities, control-freaks and overachievers so we want to manage ALL aspects of our business ourselves. We may not trust others taking over certain responsibilities or we may even feel we are failing in some way by handing over the reigns a bit. Actually nothing is farther from the truth, the more we let others in, the more our businesses can grow, the more we may learn, and the more we support our community by providing job growth. If you are not ready to take on the commitment of hiring an employee, try using a subcontractor to fill certain positions.*
Another trend these days is Personal Assistance companies or Virtual Assistants who provide temporary or long-term services for administrative duties, running errands or help accomplish your professional or even personal to-do list. You can hire by the project, by the week or month or on as-needed basis.
II. Learn to say no. Again, entrepreneurs want to do it all, but unfortunately we learn very quickly we can’t or we burn out and our work suffers. So learn to say no without excuses. “The word ‘no’ is a complete sentence, it does not require justification or an explanation.” There are so many things to say yes to: volunteering for your community, networking events and professional development workshops … and all of these can greatly be beneficial for your business. But you have to determine which charities you are most passionate about and which groups or classes will provide the greatest asset to your brand. Go through all the committees, groups and boards you currently serve on and list the pros and cons of participating for each. Then decide the value it will bring your business in comparison to time away for your business.
III. Get out of your rut. After years of running your business, you have your routine set, your elevator pitch memorized and the process of delivering your service or product is firmly established. You might discover that you’re in a rut, as you may be feeling bored, restless or uninspired. So bring life back into your business by researching new products or services you could offer, try new marketing avenues like blogging, or learn a new skill that will enhance your business. Take an online course or look into college courses or degree programs that may interest you.
IV. Start planning for the future. It’s never to early to start making plans for your retirement by setting aside funds each month towards your 401K or IRA account. Make an appointment with a trusted financial advisor to get started. As you start planning and saving for your retirement, start asking yourself where you will live and what you want to do in the next stage of your life. Making plans for your future may reinvigorate your enthusiasm for growing your business in the here and now.
V. Find an inspirational outlet outside of your business to relieve some of the stress and monotony of running your business. Love reading? Join a book club. Feeling artistic? Take an art class or a wine & paint class with friends. Love to eat? Learn to cook healthy or ethnic dishes. Love to entertain? Host a dinner party. Have a wild imagination? Write a fiction novel even if no one else sees it beside you. Love music? Take piano or guitar lessons. Research shows creative outlets provide an escape from the endless to do list of running a business.
“A creative outlet can help fill a void in your life as well as distract you from stressful things like work. You’re focused on the thing you’re creating, not the mean comment your boss (or client) said to you yesterday. Research has found that doing something you enjoy can lower blood pressure, the stress hormone cortisol and body mass index. It can also reduce your negative thoughts and levels of depression.” – American Journal of Public Health via A Healthier Michigan
VI. Find your optimum work-life balance. Everyone’s lives and family obligations are unique but whatever your situation, its imperative you set boundaries to make time for family and friends. There will always be one more thing you can get done before you leave the office, and it will be there waiting for you in the morning. Unless it’s urgent, its more important to build equity in your personal life with your partner or spouse, children, family, friends and even your pets. Expand your social circle to include positive people who are loyal and trustworthy. Having people in your life to share your joys or support you through your trials can rejuvenate you more than any other outlet. And remember, its just as fulfilling to fill that void in someone else’s life so be a good listener and encourage others with good advice, honest compliments or even a hug.
So rather than make a list of unrealistic resolutions that you won’t keep more than a month, focus on improving your personal and professional life, relieve your stress and find joy in running your business. Have a great 2016!
*Independent contractors and employees are not the same, and it’s important to understand the difference. Knowing this distinction will help you determine what your first hiring move will be and affect how you withhold a variety of taxes and avoid costly legal consequences. (more info)