Things That Keep Us Up At Night (Part 3): The Battle Between Business and Creative Tasks + Small Business Finances

BusinessAndCreative

Each year, I invite my clients to participate in the Lucky Break client survey. I ask you all sorts of things: about your business, small business finances, where you turn for advice, how confident you feel in various aspects of your business, and what’s keeping you awake at night.

 

Several hundred people rose to the occasion this year (thank you!) and I’ve been sharing some of the most common responses. I sifted through hundreds of survey answers to discover that the vast majority of replies fell under one of five main umbrellas. In part one of this blog series, I talked about entrepreneur anxiety and the deep-seated fears of failure that many of us harbor. In part two, I dug deep into the daily entrepreneur overwhelm and our difficulty connecting with ideal customers.

 

Small Business Finances | Balancing Creative and Business Tasks

 

But those aren’t the only things rumbling across our brain waves at 1am. We have a few other things that lay heavy on our minds… the information that appears as bulleted items below represents verbatim responses from the Lucky Break community. In the final installment of this blog series, I’m talking about the worries around small business finances and the constant battle between the left + ride sides of our brains.

 

THE CONSTANT BATTLE BETWEEN OUR BUSINESS + CREATIVE TO DO LISTS

  • Keeping on top of the minutia of running a business while also focusing on the tree top-level creativity and visioning of being a CEO.
  • Balancing production work and creativity.
  • Finding a way to step away from production so that I can grow the business side of things, and design more.
  • Wondering how to pull myself into a more hands-off role as designer so I can do more of what I truly love, which has nothing to do with my business.

 

I think it’s fair to say that 95% of my clients are more drawn to the “creative” side of their business. Things like new product development, production, and packaging design light them up.  But the bookkeeping, taxes, marketing, HR side of the business? Most don’t feel even the tiniest spark of inspiration when servicing those aspects of their company.  Sound familiar?  But the creative brands that have staying power pay as much (if not more) attention to the “business” side of the business. Those that don’t either struggle silently for years- working more than they ever imagined for far less profit than they imagined- or they close up shop in years 2-4 after giving the business a good romp.

 

BusinessAndCreative2

 

The less “sexy” side of the business? The one you’re less excited by and less comfortable with? That’s the area where we need to throw most of our muscle. That’s what self-development is all about… challenging yourself. Getting to the root of what makes you uncomfortable. Learning new skill sets. Reframing your perspective. That’s not just some self-help “woo woo”… that’s the heart of entrepreneurship.

 

By year four of my product-based brand, I had transitioned out of all day-to-day tasks: production, scheduling, material ordering, bookkeeping, customer service. My very first hire was a very part-time assistant to package products. My second? A full-time production manager who I taught to make all of our products.  My third? A full-time office manager to answer emails, man the phone, and package shipments while I focused on new product development, marketing, wholesale outreach, and cultivating key relationships.

 

By year six, I had eight employees, including a wholesale account specialist, production assistants, a shipping helper, and someone who worked full-time washing dishes, mopping floors, breaking down boxes, and checking in incoming materials. I started that company as a single mom on food stamps with less a $500 investment. And by year four, we were grinding out more than a million in revenue.  But I knew early on that I’d never get there if I was primarily focused on product creation. No way, no how. Getting yourself out of the daily grind is a must! Eventually, the role I assumed was creative director with some strategic vision thrown in for good measure… it was everything that I’d wanted, but it took a hell of a lot of hustle to get there.

 

My advice? Outsource first, delegate second, hire third. You have three solid options when it comes to nudging things off your plate…

1. Explore the possibility of hiring service-based businesses who are experts in their field. Think: attorneys to register and police your intellectual property. Graphic designers to create your packaging and marketing materials. Professional photographers to help your up-level your product presentation. Bookkeepers to keep your finances in order.  True experts are mind-blowingly efficient and you have no ongoing commitment to these pros.

 

(more…)

Things That Keep Us Up At Night (Part 2): Connecting with Ideal Customers + Small Business Overwhelm

ConnectingWithIdealCust (1)

Each year, I invite my clients to participate in the Lucky Break client survey. I ask you all sorts of things: about your business, about where you turn for advice, about how confident you feel in various aspects of your business, and about what’s keeping you awake at night.

 

ConnectingWithIdealCust (1)

 

Several hundred people rose to the occasion this year (thank you!) and I’ve been sharing some of the most common responses. I sifted through hundreds of survey answers to discover that the vast majority of replies fell under one of five main “umbrellas.” In part one of this blog series, I talked about the entrepreneur anxiety that many of us harbor. But that’s not the only thing rumbling across our brain waves at 1am. We have a few other things that lay heavy on our minds… the information that appears as bulleted items below represent verbatim responses from the Lucky Break community.

 

THE DAILY OVERWHELM OF RUNNING A SMALL BUSINESS

  • A “to do” list that’s longer than the time I have in the day.
  • Struggling to manage all the facets of my business at the moment… knowing that I’m not able to do it all as well as I need to.
  • How to grow my business and not having enough time in the day as a one- person show.
  • Making the most of my time.
  • I have so many ideas and not enough time to implement them all. If I’m being honest, it’s because I’m trying to do too much myself instead of figuring out how to outsource it.
  • I need more bodies, but yikes that costs serious money! So here I sit trying to do it all myself.
  • Doing too many things and not finishing them until months later.

 

Raise your hand if you’ve felt like you’re treading quicksand with your business at some point in the last week? See friend? You’re in good company. I think we all feel that way… and fairly often.

 

But delegation is the BFF of the the entrepreneur. I understand that it can be terribly difficult, but the good news is that delegation gets easier the more you do it. I have to lock my Inner Control Freak (ICF) in her cage each and every day, but I’ve realized that focus is my friend, and I look terrible in bodysuits + red patent leather boots. I’m no Wonder Woman and I learned long ago to surrender the ideal that I could do it all.

 

Lost your password to the Lucky Break Virtual Classroom? I won’t be the one replying when you send Team Lucky Break an SOS for a password reset. Looking for a transcript after a Wholesale Matchmaker call? My Operations Manager passes the baton to a third party firm that does it faster and cheaper than we ever could. I outsource the payroll and tax preparation for this business. The graphic design. The coding of my website. I delegate the management of my schedule and the coordination of my speaking engagements.

 

Why? Because I can’t outsource the curriculum creation or the client calls. Those need me, but not much else at Lucky Break does. By bringing on a team of independent contractors, third-party services, and employees, I can focus on what I do best, what generates the most income, and what delivers the most joy. But delegating that first task can be brutal.

 

  • Play to your strengths.  Take out a blank sheet of paper and physically list everything that you do for your company, then rate each task on a scale of 1 to 5 for two factors: How competent do you feel in your abilities? (1 being least + 5 being most competent.) How happy does this task make you? (1 being utterly miserable + 5 being most rapturous joy.) Add those two numbers together and you’ll have a score of 2-10 for each line item.

Scan back through and circle the five tasks with the lowest scores… get those things off your plate ASAP. You’re either not very skilled in them or they’re draining your energy. This is your outsource/delegate list and you can keep picking them off one-by-one as the company grows.  Eventually, you’ll retain just the core tasks that you’re fantastically good at really excited about as your daily “to-do” list!

 

(more…)