In my last guest blog post I talked about understanding what gets in the way of happiness so we can put that to one side more often and stop listening to those negative voices in our head. We wouldn’t choose to be unhappy would we? So we are not choosing, that’s the only conclusion you can draw. Something else is choosing for us whenever we think a negative thought or feel a negative feeling. Something we’ve heard from our parents, teachers, friends, peers or the media. So when we hear that business confidence is down according to an organisation like the Confederation of British Industry or similar, we might worry about our own business.
From a personal perspective, I overheard my father worrying about his business on holiday and I took that worry on board, that and other events in the business led me to fret over the future even when I had a great bank balance and had tripled profit to more than £100,000. Understanding that we’re not always choosing our thoughts helps us spot the negative ones. Once we do that we are in a better place to bounce back and choose a positive thought. Once we do that we’re in a better place to take action in our business to increase profit.
We can look at potential ways to drive sales up and costs down. Being in a better mood more of the time will rub off on our team too, so they’ll be more productive and we can drive the bottom line. Our clients and prospects will also want to do more business with us. Stress is common amongst business owners; it’s one of those negative emotions we wouldn’t choose.
Here’s some tips on the practical actions you can take as a business leader. First the big picture: Concentrate on what you do best and what’s working in the business. As entrepreneurs we love spotting new opportunities. We over-estimate what can be done in the short term and under-estimate what can be done in the long term. I’d urge you not to develop new products, services or markets until the rest of the business is working profitably with minimal input from you, because lack of focus is the number one challenge I see time and time again in small business owners.
If you focus on what you do best and what’s already working, you’re more likely to increase profit. Here’s an example to illustrate the importance of realising your key strength. Steve’s father manufactured kitchens to house-builders who fitted the kitchens themselves. During the last recession, when Steve had taken over from his father, the customers decided they wanted Steve’s company to fit the kitchens too. This wasn’t the company’s area of expertise, so they lost money on every installation. More fundamentally, Steve was a salesman and didn’t really like or understand the intricacies of manufacturing. However, he did start selling kitchens direct to the public and this went well. Eventually, he had to close the manufacturing business but he kept the shop.
It took him five years to realise that his skill was in sales rather than manufacturing, and he lost a lot of money and sleep in those five years. Secondly the small picture: Start your day by writing a list of all the things you have to do for JUST that day. Don’t waste time sequencing or categorising tasks. Just identify the most pressing and important task and do it. Then go back to the list, identify the next top task and do it.
Repeat until you finish the list. Only then should you move onto longer term tasks. Focus on your list by shutting your door and holding all calls. This seemed strange when I first did it. But it transformed my productivity and my profit.