When you’re busy fighting the good fight of small business survival, it’s incredibly easy to lose perspective. Faced with a terrifying daily list of minor yet urgent tasks to complete, it’s far from simple to carve out the time to analyze your growth strategy.
There comes a time in every small business owner's life when they suddenly realize they’re working many different jobs to keep their ship afloat. It’s an uncomfortable realization when faced with the reality of a self-created system that has no chance of scaling upward.
In this piece, we’ll look at how to spot when you're becoming overwhelmed, and how to gracefully disentangle yourself from the problem when resources are limited. It all starts with asking yourself one simple question: what does your day consist of?
Growth strategy starts by defining your workday
The first step toward any sort of clarity is simply committing to writing down every task you carry out for a week. We’re not talking about what you’d like to do or what you plan on doing — we mean tasks you actually perform.
Every time you start a task, write down what you’re doing and track the time it took to complete it. You don’t need fancy software or tools for this — just a pen and piece of paper. By the end of your week, two things will hopefully have happened:
- You’ll understand the massive productivity and focus gains that come from simply recording what you’re doing as you do it.
- You’ll have a much clearer picture of how many disparate tasks and roles you’re performing.
With a better idea of where the problems actually lie, you can formulate a growth strategy to manage your projects.
No matter how you’re fixed in terms of available time and money, there are basically three things you can do with a task: do it, delegate it, or automate it.
Let’s look at each of them in turn.
Perform your core tasks better
Core tasks fall very much under the heading of “do it.” These are jobs where you’re either clearly the best person to carry them out, or you have literally no choice in the matter. In the early stages of your business, both things are likely to be true.
Regardless of what it takes, you need to carve out a portion of your weekly time that’s purely devoted to process improvement. The exact percentage here doesn’t matter — anything greater than zero will do. Finding that time is the hard bit. You then use it to make some aspect of the task under consideration simpler in order to refine your growth strategy.
This could mean practicing a key skill, buying better equipment, committing to documenting a tricky process, or something else entirely — as long as it’s verifiably making you better at your job, it’s worth doing.
Automate all the things
Along with process improvements, you should also be looking to work as much automation into the mix as possible. Again, you don’t need to commit to moonshot projects to really impact your workweek. For example, something as simple as a couple of hours with a spreadsheet could be enough to start automating all sorts of small business reporting.
Start with a clean sweep across all of your weekly tasks to identify possible targets for automation. Then pick one place to begin, like email marketing automation, and see that project through to the bitter end.
Move in clearly defined stages to avoid stagnation and overwhelming yourself.
With limited resources at your disposal, taking on multiple projects of this nature is a recipe for disaster — slow and steady is the way to go.
Get good at delegating
Let’s not beat around the bush — learning how to delegate is one of the single most important growth strategy skills you’ll ever need as a small business owner. The survival of your firm will end up resting on whether you commit to learning it or not.
A shocking amount of entrepreneurs never really master this core competency, and they’re not hard to recognize out there in the wild — they’re the ones flailing around in one-person shows watching their dreams of freedom go up in smoke. This is not a cohort you want to be in.
In some cases, you might be looking for on-demand help. In others, you’ll be looking to outsource entire areas of expertise. There’s no one magic way of tackling this, but there are a couple of key points to bear in mind as you go:
- Documentation is your friend. It’s unreasonable to expect people to match your standards or define their own processes from scratch. Give them a clear framework to operate within, and encourage them to make it better.
- Treat every item delegated as a learning opportunity. This is an area where you will make mistakes. Accept that early on, and commit to iteratively learning from them.
Even if you’re a solopreneur, you don’t always have to navigate your business ventures alone. Delegating is a great way to elevate your growth strategy.
There’s a realistic limit to how many jobs you can perform with any degree of success as a small business owner. Though you’ll inevitably have to step into many a breach early on, your long-term success hinges on learning how to get out of your own way and intelligently scale your offering to the public.
If you’re currently struggling with scaling and need to ramp up your growth strategy, our four-step system offers a simple route toward clarity:
- Document what you’re actually doing every day.
- Make process improvements an obligatory part of your week.
- Identify automation targets and pick them off one by one.
- Start delegating non-core tasks to trusted helpers.
It’ll be an uphill road at the start, but this simple sequence will bear fruit over time.
Are you currently struggling with many roles, or do you have any tips to share? Get in touch via the comments section below and share your thoughts!