Listen to the airwaves. It’s a New Year, but the same old drill:
- Did you join a gym?
- Are you getting more sleep?
- Have you stopped checking your email first thing in the morning?
Everywhere you turn, the media is pumping the populace with self-improvement platitudes. And that’s good. New Year’s resolutions are a wonderful thing.
But speaking from experience as a 20-year business owner myself, you face problems totally unlike those of the typical worker. Because you don’t have a job. You run a business.
And being a small business owner, just losing a few pounds or tweaking your morning ritual won’t even begin to conquer the complexities that plague your burgeoning enterprise.
You don’t need resolutions. You need revolutions.
You’ve already made good progress on the personal front, so before January comes to a close, momentarily set aside your New Year’s resolutions and start making some New Year’s revolutions in your business.
There are seven things most business owners know they should be doing… but don’t because these habits are counter-intuitive. They seem scary. ‘Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.
As a consultant, I see this all the time. And although my specialty is production companies, content marketing firms and motion design studios, this pattern is common to all creative service businesses. So these seven practices likely apply to your enterprise, too.
1. Pay Yourself First
Pay yourself first. Let me say it again: pay yourself first. This also means you should never pay anyone at your firm more than you pay yourself.
Pay yourself first. Let me say it again: pay yourself first.
I know this is hard. You appreciate your employees so much. You feel a crushing obligation to pay your rent on time each and every month. And so on. I get it.
Here’s the trick: if you keep putting yourself at the end of the line (paying everyone else before you pay yourself), you will never develop the critical habits required of running a healthy company. You will be underpaid, you will live in fear, and you will be unable to make wise investments in your business.
Step back, make realistic goals and set boundaries for 2016. This revolution will force you to be disciplined in how you charge, how you set aside savings and how you maintain scalability at your firm.
2. Expand Your Bubble Until It Pops
If most all your studio’s work comes from your local market, you will never be viewed as an expert. The answer? Don’t build a better mousetrap and wait for the world. Get out into the world. Expand your bubble… until it pops.
This little gem was of the biggest difference makers when I ran my production company, Impossible Pictures. One year I made a conscious decision to overcome a debilitating fear of flying and travel regularly to New York, D.C., Atlanta and Los Angeles. Within two years, more than half of my studio’s $4 MM in annual revenue was coming from TV networks… outside of my local market of Denver.
Here’s one take on this from marketing agency consultant David C. Baker:
If your expertise practice is located in Des Moines, you won’t last unless you attract national clients… But if, say, you are in Atlanta and most of your clients are in Atlanta, your positioning is too broad. It should be narrowed so that only one-quarter of your clients are within fifty miles. I’ve heard people say that ‘experts travel’ and I agree with them. – David C. Baker
In 2016, your clients and prospects should view you as the expert that you are. Make the revolution to define your firm by what’s possible, not what’s presently visible.
Expand your bubble until it pops.
3. Make Money That You Never Spend
Now that you are paying yourself first, start saving. The best tool a business can have is accumulated cash which gives you leverage.
Use some of your profits to build yourself a savings account – not a payroll savings account, not a “3-month cushion” account – that you never withdraw from. Ever.
Years ago when your business was small, you did the books yourself. Now you’ve grown and your books are a mess. Get an expert accountant to do a one-time clean up of your books. Next, hire an inexpensive contract bookkeeper with expertise in your space. Finally, hire a consultant (like RevThink) or a part-time financial manager to create for you a custom financial dashboard while also overseeing said bookkeeper, accountant and CPA.
Defining what profit is – then consistently earning it and setting some aside – is the revolution.
Define what profit is, earn it, set some aside. Make money that you never spend.
Doing this in 2016 will generate a big return in two ways. One, your ability to focus will skyrocket. Two, your increased peace of mind will enable you to sleep much better at night.
4. Automate Your Marketing
You are convinced your email blasts irritate your followers. You’re wrong. Because you hardly ever send out email blasts. That inconsistency causes your followers to worry that you’ve gone out of business.
You are convinced your email blasts irritate your followers. You’re wrong.
You know your firm should be sending regular emails to thousands of followers. What you might not know is that for every email that gets opened, clicked or shared, you can send a personalized follow-up reply… automatically.
Your goal is to be always moving hundreds of prospects along the sales cycle from unaware, to aware, to interest, to intent, to close. And the majority of that process can be automated, yet highly personal. Note: tools like MailChimp and Constant Contact are just the start. Go further. That’s where the revolution lies.
2016 is the year you can finally ensure your opportunity always exceeds your capacity.
Stay tuned for the second half of this article where we will cover the remaining revolutions: