First off, may we wish a Happy New Year to all our readers! 2015 has been consigned to the historians – they will certainly have plenty to puzzle over….2016 is upon us. The fresh scent of a new year, bursting with limitless possibilities, fills the air. Who is going to be bold enough to venture out and explore the full potential it holds for them?
All around the world, from tiny country villages to sprawling metropolises, entrepreneurs, and business owners are waking up to a new dawn. The Internet allows them to source and sell their product anywhere in the world. Not only that, but in this increasingly connected world, talent is more accessible than ever before, meaning that a coffee farmer in Africa can retain the services of a marketing agency in the USA – all without leaving his own office – and massively scale up his marketing activities without having to sacrifice huge amounts of time or put on any extra in-house staff.
Old barriers to progress are being broken down. Powerful technology is at the fingertips of a new generation of pioneers, bringing global opportunities to everyone’s doorstep. I’m excited about the potential of the year ahead, and the growing team at LeapGo are positively radiating enthusiasm and positivity! Anyway, I’m getting a bit ahead of myself here, so let’s get back to the subject of this article – three simple things that any business owner can do to make his or her life easier in 2016.
How would you like a bit less stress and a bit more income this year?
How would you like to be able to look back with satisfaction and a sense of real progress in 2016 when the year draws to a close?
If those words sound like music in your ear, come with me. I want to take you to meet these three ideas, the concepts that have the power to transform your business into a lean, mean, profit generating machine.
Simple Life Business Strategy Number One:
Get Your Most Important Business Activity Systemized and Supported
What is the most important business activity you should be doing in 2016? Many would say it is sales, because without sales, you have no business. Fair point. However, I always argue that Marketing is the “Numero Uno” business activity in terms of long-term importance – it comes before sales, it makes the salesperson’s job easier and more effective, and in today’s digital age, it is more important than ever before!
Now, I’m preaching to the converted here of course, if you are a regular reader of the LeapGo blog you already know the strategic importance of marketing to your business, and the need to ensure that marketing activities take place regardless of what else is going on. (Some clients liken their marketing plan to an income insurance policy – as long as you are getting all the essential activities completed on a regular basis, you know you will have a steady stream of new enquiries coming in and new customers coming on board, so you won’t need to panic if a regular income stream suddenly drops out for some reason!)
However, where I’ve seen the most impressive results is with business owners that create a system and support structure for marketing so that it can take place regardless of whether or not they are present and able to engage in the creation of content. A structure like this takes the pressure off the business owner and makes it much more delegable. You can split jobs up between team members so that it doesn’t form too much of a burden for any one member, and you can assign responsibilities for the various tasks.
I know of some clients that have an office “junior” who (believe it or not) follows up senior partners on marketing action points each week. This is a simple way to ensure that marketing takes place as planned – it is so tempting to postpone or procrastinate over tasks that might not seem to have an immediate negative impact if they are not done, but by creating accountability and spreading the responsibility around, you can lift a load off your mind and your shoulders.
This is emphatically not the same as “dumping” responsibility onto other team members – anyone can do that – it is about breaking tasks you are already doing down into their component parts so that they can be more easily delegated. You will find that team members appreciate the chance to participate in an area of business that they have not done previously and maybe have a bit of a change from their regular tasks.
There is no need for a degree in marketing to be able to carry out many of the tasks – e.g. researching a market, compiling a report on competitor activity, writing a quick news update, adding some new names to a customer email marketing database….get others involved, create a system and support structure behind it, and get a 2016 marketing plan up on a wall or on a shared workspace online so that everyone can see the vision, see the progress, make suggestions, participate, and perhaps get rewarded for helping achieve milestone targets!
Simple Life Business Strategy Number Two:
Consider Which Administrative and Marketing Tasks Can Be Outsourced
Stay with me here. What follows is not a pitch for business – I’m speaking from experience of the benefits of outsourcing for business owners. We’ve already mentioned the increased access to talent you now have via the internet. This gives you unprecedented opportunities to save time and increase your output by outsourcing. I’m seeing more and more examples of successful outsourcing projects that are enabling business owners to take a step back from the day-to-day running of the business and look at the big picture. I can almost hear the objections scrolling through your head, so let’s tackle them one by one, shall we?!
“It will be an extra expense. I can do it more cheaply myself.”
Have you considered the true value of your time? How much is your time really worth per hour? What are the highest-value activities that you carry out in your business? These questions will help you to see the value of outsourcing. Even if you figure the cost of outsourcing a task would be the same as doing it by yourself, consider that by outsourcing it, you are freeing yourself up to concentrate on higher-value activities – in time, this will result in exponential progress!
Also, you should consider that fact that with less external distractions, and a focus on the task in hand, a dedicated outsourcer may be able to complete certain tasks in less time than it currently takes you to do it while also running a busy commercial enterprise!
“I don’t know what tasks I could outsource”
Refer back to Strategy One! By breaking bigger tasks into their component parts, you can more easily identify tasks that can efficiently be done by an outsourcer. If you’re unsure, consider sending a list of tasks to your agency and asking which ones they already have expertise in doing.
From a marketing perspective, here is a handful of commonly outsourced tasks that we undertake on behalf of our clients to spark your imagination:
- Content Creation (blog posts, whitepapers, eBooks, presentations, infographics)
- Social Media Management
- Advertising Campaign Management (online and offline)
- User Testing (checking that online stores are functioning correctly using different browsers and devices)
- Email Marketing
- Customer and Media Communications (notifications, press releases, company statements)
- Market Research
As I say, this is a small selection of what we undertake for clients – far from an exhaustive list. Hopefully, it helps to demonstrate what is possible!
“No one else can do it like I can/like we can”
This is a very understandable reaction, especially for tasks that you take particular pride in doing yourself or in-house by your own team. If you feel that by outsourcing a particular task, there will be an impact on the customer experience, then it may well be best to keep that task in-house. Be prepared to challenge the assumption, all the same. Depending on the task in question, there are some remarkably talented workers who can study your company, study material you have already produced, study your target market, and produce work of a quality that takes your breath away!
“I’m worried I would spend more time showing the outsourcer how to do the job than it would take to do it myself”
This is another very common objection to outsourcing, mainly because it is often the case that for the first time or two that a task is outsourced, it may actually be the case that you lose more time than you gain. To correctly assess this concern, you need to make an estimate of how many hours per week or per month you currently spend doing the task. Multiply the answer by your own “hourly rate” figure that you calculated your time to be worth. This will give you the real cost of doing the task in-house, and show you whether or not it would be worth spending some hours setting up the task to be done by an outsourcer in the longer term.
Simple Life Business Strategy Number Three:
Dedicate Some Time Each Week to Each Member of your Core Team
Another counter-intuitive strategy that will pay big dividends in the longer run, blocking out some time to spend each week in a one-to-one meeting with each of your team members could be the best decision you make this year! It doesn’t have to be a face to face meeting. If you run with a distributed workforce, like LeapGo, it can be done over the phone or Skype. The most important thing is that each team member understands the value of the contribution they make.
By opening yourself up to feedback from each team member, you are sending a very powerful message to your whole company about how each person in the organization has a part to play. Ask open-ended questions such as “what do you enjoy most about your role here?” and “Is there anything that annoys you about working here?” The responses may surprise you, and they will certainly assist you in decision-making. You can also use these sessions to brainstorm tricky problems with your staff, and to defuse any tensions that might arise.
Each team member should be given the opportunity to discuss any issues they feel relevant with you – it could be something outside of work that they want to get advice from you about, or for you to be aware of, or it could be something related to another department – they need to be confident that they can discuss any subject (within reason!) with you, and that their feelings are important to you.
At first glance, setting aside some time each week to build up your team in this way may seem counter-productive, another meeting or series of meetings to fit into your already packed schedule. I understand. If you have a large team, it may be best to break it down by scheduling the meetings so that everyone gets to meet with you once a month or once every six weeks. You have to do whatever is manageable for you.
It is also true that some team members will require much less input than others. I recommend setting aside 20 minutes, but stressing that the meeting can finish as quickly as they want it to – how much of the 20 minutes they want to use after you have covered any subjects or questions you have is up to them.
However, if you commit to doing this regularly, you will be astonished how productive and self-reliant each team member will become. They will take on more responsibility, make empowered decisions without having to involve you first, and generally display a much more positive attitude to work and to their dealings with one another.
As an organization, you will gain an unbeatable advantage through demonstrating commitment, to ensuring the progress of every team member. Although management practices are beginning to evolve, there are many business owners still stuck in a 20th Century mindset when it comes to leadership. As Stephen Covey once famously remarked, you should treat employees as you would like them to treat your best customer – that way, you can be confident an excellent customer experience and team spirit in your organization!
That concludes our article for today. If you found it thought-provoking, why not share with someone else that might be grateful for a less stressful 2016?