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Start With What’s Broken

When meeting new clients, there’s a question I hear over and over: “How can I take my business to the next level?” Some even ask if there is some checklist or template they can use in making this happen.

Unfortunately, there is no universal set of tactics suited for every business. However, there are a few things that every business needs to have right away (a business banking account; a way to track income and expenses; a dedicated place to work, etc.) Once those are in place, I recommend that each business owner make their own checklist of “best next steps” and set off to tackle them one by one.

Here’s where I recommend you start: Consider the problems first (and be honest about what it will take to fix them).

I know this may seem a bit backwards. After all, the business blogs and magazines tend to focus on tools and tactics intended to grow and improve operations or profitability. In my experience, though, until you fix the “messes,” you’re spending time and money in the wrong place.

Problems Slow You Down

As your business grows, your messes will grow right along with it if you don’t fix them. When that happens, you’ll be drowning in new work but unable to do a good job since you’ll be beyond the point where ad hoc fixes and systems can support you.

Here are some examples of messes that escalate as your business grows:

1. Your email inbox. If you’re having trouble keeping up with your inbox now, think about what happens when you reach your dream and your business doubles or triples in size. The volume of email will double or triple, too.

So take the time now and figure out a system to manage your inbox now.

2. Your contact list. You have business cards piled all over your desk, a Gmail account, a business email address, and a ton of LinkedIn and Facebook contacts. Right now, you can kind of, sort of, remember where to go to find a given contact.

But as you grow, particularly if you add new information, it will be too much to keep in your head. It will be a huge chore when you want to announce a new website, promote a webinar, or even send a holiday card.

The solution is to keep all your contacts in one place. Create a system to keep it up to date. Choose a CRM and add everyone once and for all.

3. Your finances. Whether you offer a service or a product, it’s essential to know whether or not you’re making money. When a business is just starting, you might have more time than money and not be too worried about profitability.

But here, too, as you get busier, you’ll want to make sure that you’re not losing money on some (or all?) of your efforts. So either take the time to figure this out or find yourself a capable financial resource who can come in and sort things out for you.

Messes are as individual as the person who made them – but they’re all fixable. List all your messes and prioritise them according to the amount of time (and money) they waste and how much they hold you back.

Then, either hire someone to help you handle them or make a list of actionable steps to get them under control yourself. Get rid of them one by one so you can be bigger, more efficient, work less and make more money (yay)!

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