According to Stephen Murphy, the mark of a successful business is one that can run smoothly without you. But how do you get there when your business becomes all-consuming?
Running a business that is experiencing enormous growth is often like going down the Alice in Wonderland rabbit hole: you never know where any day may lead you! Daily challenges can throw the most well-oiled machine into a scene out of Fawlty Towers. Amusing as that may be for onlookers, it’s unlikely good old Basil Fawlty was running a profitable establishment.
The keys to keeping on top of a business and managing family obligations are essentially time management, organization, employing intelligent people, and focusing on what you excel at while allowing for criticism (constructive and otherwise). On paper, this sounds logical but in my experience, it always seems as though everyone else is more disciplined than me. During my day, I am often distracted by something like an interesting RSS (really simple syndication) feed or an article that may send me up a garden path for hours. Before I know it, I am well behind schedule.
My company specializes in demystifying the processes involved in both search engine optimization (SEO) and paid search advertising (PPC). Both these categories are continually growing and changing, and our business must be nimble and able to absorb new information.
To stay on top of things, I’ve found that prioritizing and creating daily to-do lists, managed through programs like ACT or Maximizer, have proven to be effective methods for staying focused and getting through workloads. I am surprisingly fond of my daily task list and even fonder of firmly scratching out achieved tasks. When life unexpectedly runs smoothly, these lists or daily agendas are often best mapped out during a morning walk or over coffee in a beachside cafè (my preferred choice by far).
“Over the years, I have realised that strategic planning for your business is crucial to ongoing success”
I also like to keep a dictaphone on hand, as I often have some of my best thoughts at random parts of the day or evening when taking notes is inconvenient or plain impossible.
Tackling the most urgent tasks imperative to business outcomes first is another habit that works very effectively. Often, closing my email program is the most effective way of actually getting work done. I find the relentless pop-up of emails is an incessant distraction when trying to accomplish a task. Sometimes you just need to turn off your distractions, whether they arrive via email, the mobile, or a noisy staff member, to get where you really want to be: on the golf course!
Over the years, I have also realized that strategic planning for a business is not just hard work, it is crucial to ongoing success. The continual refining and reworking of your processes, models, and staff to ensure your business continues to grow and be profitable are essential.
Doing this can often depend on another core element vital for small business owners: ensuring enough leisure or relaxation in your downtime. Without it, you’re in danger of becoming a clichéd lyric from a Cat Stevens song. I myself have no problem finding time and excuses to shorten work hours, and I am a big fan of the old 1980s catchcry ‘work smarter not harder.
Despite my best intentions, however, too often the business of life can disrupt the most well-plotted day and one must also be flexible to the demands and responsibilities of being a husband and father. With my partner expecting a baby, I find there are more requirements to supporting a pregnant woman than preparing for an IPO (Initial Public Offering). But that’s another story.
For me, the sign of an effective business is one that runs smoothly without the owner having to be ‘at work’ all the time. Although I’m not there yet, I fantasize about running my business from a sailing ship (thank God for mobile broadband) and I’m researching golf memberships in confident anticipation of early retirement. #Stephen Murphy is head of the search at payperclick.net.au
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