Entrepreneurs often miss an important aspect of managing growth-Productivity. Adopting new practices to remain productive is immensely important for sustainable growth.
What is the first word that comes to your mind when I say growth?
Workload? Revenue? Schedule? Productivity?
If productivity wasn’t in the title of this article, I bet it won’t be in your top ten. Because productivity although important sometimes, takes a backseat when growth hits us.
In the humdrum of managing the day to day operations, entrepreneurs often don’t realize that their business has started growing. Suddenly, the number of inquiries have increased, clients are coming back with repeat requests, there are a lot more appointments to be met.
A dead giveaway of starting of this phase is missing deadlines or an inability to find time for that very important task because most of the day is spent on other important tasks.
Even if we are able to identify the growth phase, many times we fail to realize that these new developments need new practices to remain productive. Adopting these new practices may need new tools or a new process or a completely different routine.
This leads to a series of questions.
Where do we start? How do we know whether we need a new tool or a process? Which tasks and activities need my attention more?
Here are 5 tips to help you start managing your productivity during the growth phase of your business.
When you are in the initial stage of your business, you are able to do everything by yourself. Maintaining the list of cold calls made, content writing, image editing, payments etc.
However, as your business grows, it may not be productive to spend time on tasks which require a lot of effort but don’t add as much value.
If you are a designer, it may be worthwhile to spend your time on conceptualization than on invoices. Identify these non-core tasks in your routine and outsource them to an expert.
An easy way to start is, by analyzing your weekly routine of last one month.
Use a spreadsheet to list down all your activities. Classify your activities by area for e.g. customer relations, operations, designing, invoicing etc.
Estimate time spent on each of these activities and sort them in descending order. Now, mark those tasks which are not your strengths or core business area. Find an expert to help you take them off your plate.
Pro tip: Don’t expect results on day 1. Keep one or two days for orientation with the person you hire. Share your objective, expectations, working style, previous work to acquaint them with your business.
As your business starts to grow - defining your process flows is beneficial.
Don’t get concerned with the word ‘process flows’. Use the list of tasks you created above as your base document. Add another column called ‘sequence’.
Insert the order in which the task is performed in the column ‘sequence’. For e.g. a blogger has to complete conceptualization and keyword research on the topic before writing the piece.
These process flow documents can be used as quick checklists to see if you are not missing anything important. They can help you identify redundant tasks. They can be also used to onboard an intern or an assistant.
And if you ever have to write a book on your journey as an entrepreneur or give a TED talk, they will give you the history of how you started.
Pro tip: Whenever you make a change to the process, create a new version of the process flow document. This way you would know why you made the change and won’t repeat the same mistakes.
According to Harvard, acquiring a new customer is anywhere from five to 25 times more expensive than retaining an existing one. This calculation may not have factored a lot of entrepreneurs, but it sure gives us an idea that once a business starts growing, it is smarter and cheaper to focus on existing clients.
So, maintain a customer database. It can be a sophisticated tool or something as simple as a spreadsheet with names, email addresses, phone numbers. If possible, also add last interaction details along with the business value in terms of dollars. If your customer happens to be organizations with multiple teams, then information about key contacts of that place as well.
Pro Tip: Keep in touch with your old customers with the help of this list. Don’t spam them but send season’s greetings or share any latest achievement like an award or customer success story.
If you are thinking that all this is too much and I don’t have the bandwidth to do any of it, it’s time you start looking for an assistant.
You might think that training a new person will take more time. But, in long-term, this investment will pay off. Remember, your business has just started to grow, you still don’t know what has hit you and in such cases, it is wiser and productive to focus on what matters the most.
If you don’t know where to begin, the list of activities that you prepared will be a good starting point.
Make a plan for first few weeks to onboard the person. Fix a daily meeting to guide and review progress initially. Once things streamline, make it weekly or need basis. If office space is a concern, you can try virtual assistants.
Pro Tip: If your business is seasonal, hire someone for that particular time frame.
As your business grows, so does the volume of tasks and process associated with it. Be it sending emails, or tracking progress, or onboarding clients, etc.
If you continue to do these tasks manually, you’re wasting time and talent that could otherwise be used to capitalize on growth.
In such cases, it’s best to invest money and automate tasks/processes that are crucial to your business.
For example, if you do content marketing, you can automate a part of your social media marketing. Or if you work with many clients, you can automate the process of creating and sending invoices to them.
Pro Tip - Start with any of the Marketing activities like drip campaigns or social media posting etc.
Sustainable growth is largely dependent on entrepreneur’s capability to manage it well. Make sure yours is not thwarted by productivity challenges.