Tribe it Up

The other day I had lunch with my friend and fellow entrepreneur. We spoke candidly about some of the challenges in our respective businesses, and as we were getting ready to leave the restaurant she said to me, “I’m so relieved that I’m not the only one who goes through this stuff.”

That statement struck a cord with me because so often as entrepreneurs and small business owners we do feel like we have to figure everything out on our own, and that can be a very lonely position to take. The truth of the matter is, we have more in common than we realize. Even though we may be running businesses in different industries with our own very specific challenges, on a slightly higher level we are all the same.

We face issues and questions around cash flow, sales, employee recruitment and retention. We have to pay attention to marketing, advertising, culture and reputation. As our companies grow we most likely have a team in place to assist with many of these items, but ultimately, as a small business owner, the buck does stop with us.

But that doesn’t mean we have to go it alone.

Taking the time to intentionally seek out and build a support network for yourself is, I believe, key for the success of a business. At a minimum you may want to consider hiring a business coach or a mentor, but beyond that setting up a “mastermind” group of trusted peers will help you to keep challenges – and successes – in perspective.

Elin Barton is the President of White Knight Productions and the host of the podcast, Ready, Set, Grit.  Her first book, Ready, Set, Grit: How to Turn Your Daydream Into a Phenomenal Success, will be released in the Fall of 2017.

Time Troubles? Here’s How to Break Free

 

Do you ever find yourself wishing for a clone? Or for an additional 24 hours per day so that you could get done half the things that are on your list? Well, what I’m about to tell you may not immediately fill you with glee, but stay with me because if you’re a small business owner or entrepreneur I’m going to tell you how to make a really big shift in your business.

Different people have different time management skills, with someone like Warren Buffet being a grand master. I’m going to assume that this article is not going to find its way into Buffet’s inbox, and I’m going to also go with the idea that most readers are “average” time managers. That means people who ultimately finish much of what has to get done, but not without stress or the underlying feeling that if they had had more time they could have done a better job.

The other assumption – the one that is true in 99% of all cases – is that most of us are not spending the majority of our precious time on the tasks with the highest rewards. This is a common problem but it’s also not a hard one to fix if you’re willing to make some changes in the way you’re doing things (and remember that not to be willing to change, yet to expect a different result, is akin to insanity….)

Because so many small business owners get caught up in the “weeds” of running their businesses – they end up spending most of their time doing operational tasks, putting out fires and working IN the business. When they’re able to shift how their time is spent so that for even just an hour or two per day they can focus  ON the ways that the business can exponentially grow and scale, that’s what makes all the difference.

But how do you find that extra hour or two a day? Here is where the growth opportunity lies (and yes, growth can be slightly uncomfortable, but that’s how meaningful change happens).

First, you need to start tracking how you’re spending your time. Log it all during the next two weeks (yes, I know it’s a pain, but it’s the only way you’re doing to see your patterns). After the two weeks has passed you’ll probably already naturally be better at time management simply because of your raised awareness around the topic, but then here is the rub: you’re going to need to look at all the things you’re doing on a daily basis and decide which of those things could be delegated. That’s one way you’re going to free up more of your time for meaningful work around strategy and growth.

When you make that shift you start to see BIG results.

But it’s one that requires a leap of faith. Hiring help is often a difficult decision for solopreneurs and small business owners, but it’s also the only way to grow and scale. You’ve simply got to free yourself, as the business owner or leader, from some of those tasks that are bogging you down.

And there are many ways to do this – Virtual Assistants can take a lot of administrative tasks off your plate, and usually very cost effectively. There are other freelance and full and part time options, too. Sometimes you can come to an agreement with a local college that is looking for places where their students (and graduates) can get work experience. Many cities also have programs that subsidize wages for hiring unemployed veterans or other subgroups.

Once you decide to get some help and start doing a little research you’ll find plenty of ways to fill your staffing support needs. The first, and possibly, hardest, step is making the decision to shift your focus to getting the meetings, partnerships and contracts that will grow your business to 10X or more. Because, ultimately, doesn’t that make a lot more sense than continuing on the path of being a slave to time and letting your business run you?

You Ain’t No Superman

b935a986-d68a-4a8d-ae87-f053d6983a3d
Don’t be Superman… delegate.

We work with a lot of small and medium size businesses that are run by founders and management that cares deeply about what’s going to happen with their company. These are frequently type-A perfectionists, but by structuring the company so that they have to sign off on every detail they are not doing their employees, shareholders or themselves any kind of service in the long term.

It’s true that the intentions are good and they want to do what’s best for the company, but without learning how to delegate – and trust – other staff and team members, the company can only ever grow so far. Projects inevitably become stalled, and the prospect of the founder or CEO ever exiting is impossible and the company ends up enduring the ramifications of your classic dysfunctional relationship.

The truth is, if you are running a business where the whole structure will collapse without leadership being hands-on with every detail it is time to build a new system. You know you have a well-oiled machine and a healthy business when no one notices when upper management is out of the picture for a day, a week or a month. And when you have strong systems in place that’s when your business begins to have more market value and when you’re likely to identify tasks that can be automated and outsourced, thereby driving up profits.

The need for systemization applies to start ups as well as to established, multi-million dollar companies. The more quickly you’re able to get those systems in place the better you’ll be in the long run.

Protecting Your Peace

shutterstock_108947444

There is a thief that has robbed me repeatedly over the past 20 years, both in my personal and professional lives. I have never recovered anything that this thief has taken from me, but I have found ways to protect myself against being violated again in the future.

This thief has a name, and its name is Worry, and it’s taken from me two of the most precious things we have on this earth – peace of mind and the sweet gift of time.

And Worry is a practiced burglar. It sneaks in, quietly at first, innocuous and small, like a speck of dust or a tiny seed. And then the seed sprouts, grows and takes over, like a cancer. Before you know it, that thing – whatever it is that’s causing you worry and stress – becomes the only thing you can think about, making it impossible to do anything else. Your mind becomes polluted, and you get to the point where you can’t even function. You lose any joy in the present moment, sleeping is out of the question, and your entire personality can be changed.

The funny thing is, the thief isn’t even real. All of this happens in your own mind as it spins a fictional tale of what might happen “if” or “when”. For it turns out when Worry comes in we become extremely skilled at telling dark and twisted stories about our impending doom.

I remember one time when Worry blindsided me on what should have been a fun night out. My future husband and I had moved to Los Angeles with a handful of possessions and little money. Although we were both working, paychecks were sporadic at best, and they never came in as fast as the bills did. We were working hard to build a life for ourselves but at that time all of the unknowns felt like a mountain that was exhausting to look at, let alone climb.

Somehow in the midst of all of that we had managed to scrape together enough money to go and see a Joan Baez concert at the Greek Theater, but unfortunately, Worry followed us there too. No sooner had we sat down than it hit me full force. I felt the panic taking over, uncontrollable. “Oh, my goodness,” I said, wringing my hands. “What are we going to do? We don’t have any money. We are never going to be able to figure this out. We have no backup plan!”

My tirade went on and on, as John tried to talk me down and back into the present moment. It helped a little but the feeling of panic never really went away, and the night that should have been so pleasant was absolutely stolen away by my soon familiar companion, Worry.

Worry became a regular visitor during the ensuing years and took from me many beautiful days, and countless nights that could have been spent in rejuvenating slumber. I recognized that Worry never served me well. It never helped to solve any actual problems, or do anything constructive, but it wasn’t until years later that I finally figured out how to protect myself from its unwanted presence.

After living with this thief for too many years, I highly recommend the following techniques to protect your inner peace:

  1. Be very protective of the messages you allow into your consciousness. Newscasts, violent or disturbing TV shows and films, and negative “scare-mongering” people have no place in your life. If you can’t eliminate them completely, you at least need to tune them out.
  2. Worry is a form of fear, and fear and love cannot cohabitate. It’s either one or the other, so when you feel Worry seeping in, consciously choose love. One helpful technique is to practice writing down a list of things you’re grateful for, right here, right now. No matter how bad things seem, everyone has good things to acknowledge, and the more you do this the easier it gets.
  3. Really come to understand that Worry is all about a future myth that hasn’t happened yet and may never happen. Focus instead on the present, taking one second, one minute at a time. You’re okay right now in this moment, so accept that, breathe, and practice being present. Practices like meditation can help to center you if you find this difficult.
  4. First, accept that you need to let go of any outcome of your situation, and trust that whatever happens is for your higher good. Once you fully accept that, try taking baby steps towards making a positive impact on whatever Worry is trying to taunt you with. If it’s a money issue, figure out what tiny step you can take to begin to move your finances in the right direction. If it’s a relationship issue try making a little effort to improve things. Then let go of having to control how the whole thing turns out. It is exactly as it should be.
  5. Help someone else. One of the quickest way to inner peace, and one of the fastest way to squash Worry is to get the focus off of yourself. Volunteer, call a friend and offer to help around their home or business, begin performing random acts of kindness with total strangers, always expecting nothing in return. Worry can’t handle this kind of altruism and will soon be a distant memory.

I have found that Worry still shows up from time to time, and even occasionally gets a temporary foothold, but it doesn’t stay long. I am deeply protective of my inner peace and the more I stand my ground on the matter the easier it gets. In fact, these days I can even fight it off in my sleep.

Elin Barton is the CEO and President of White Knight Productions, Inc, and is the co-founder of Ready, Set, Grit, a place for business-minded individuals with a spiritual consciousness to join forces for real, honest and supportive conversations around the issues that matter. Elin would love to hear from readers who have questions, comments, or who are interested in finding our more about Ready, Set, Grit: elin@whiteknightpro.com.