Another 90 Days in Business in the Books. Best Practices Learned.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m in a peer coaching group where we do 90-day visioning rounds. We wrapped up one round and are starting a new round this week. So, I want to share what I learned including best practices as I reviewed the last few months.

I’m sharing not only because much of what I learned is applicable to everyone, but also because reflecting on what we do is in many ways more important than what we do. Of course, we have to act to get things accomplished and paralysis by analysis is a real thing, especially when you’re new to business. But I can’t overstate the value of reflecting on what’s going well so you can do more and reflecting on what didn’t go so well so you can correct for the future. And reflecting is more productive when you follow a process.

What the heck does all of that mean? Well, grab your favorite beverage, have a seat, and let’s chat about how to learn what you’re learning through awareness. It’s not easy to learn what there is to learn without paying attention!

Best Practices

So looking back and reflecting on the previous 90 days, I’m happy to share some really positive best practices:

1. Don’t trip over dollars to get to pennies.

I borrowed this one from my dad (Thanks Dad!). It’s something all business owners do from time to time. We have clients that take too much of our time. We chase after prospective clients thinking eventually our time and effort will pay off, when it never does. We read the room incorrectly and waste time on what becomes a missed opportunity. We neglect a really great prospective client in favor of being on the phone with a long-time client who really should call a therapist instead. We get sucked into tasks that are either above or below us and we do them anyway because we feel obligated.

But how exactly do we learn these lessons?

It’s really easy to go through all of this (over and over) and not learn from any of it. There are plenty of folks out there who spend their entire careers doing obligatory tasks and managing other people whose primary tasks are to entertain obligation. This is the pomp and circumstance in the business world. The “I have to” conundrum.

But in the world of small business ownership, there is no obligatory anything because the only person giving you your task list is you. Let me repeat that: YOU are the only one giving yourself your task list. And so the only reason why you’d do something is because you believe it’s important. Until you realize that you just lost X amount of billable hours attending a function or talking to a client that was a waste of your time.

What’s worse though is not realizing that what you just did was a waste of your time. Business 101: don’t waste time; cut the weak links in your client list and in your schedule. We probably know these best practices in our heads, but to know it as a real practice can be a challenge for the most experienced of business people.

It is the outside-the-box thinking that allows for this kind of awareness to be had. And it might seem elementary to some, but to many, this is something that has to be learned over and over again. The innovators of the world are constantly working to be more efficient, and that means getting the ego out of the way long enough to see that it might be wasting time tooting its own horn.

But one day, especially when it comes down to said billable hours and accounts receivable, it is easy to know when things are helping the bottom line and when things are just a solid pain in the ass. All you have to do is look.

Lesson learned! No more client coddling, no more missed opportunities. More billable hours, less ass pain! Hooray!

2. Strategic networking is important.

When you first learn about networking, or when you’re new to an area, you think that big fancy events where there are going to be a ton of business people is a good idea. To a point, it is, and it is important to do a little bit of canvassing type efforts in order to touch as many people as you can…until it’s not a good idea anymore.

Once you get going with some solid momentum, continued efforts in the way of canvassing and attending large business networking functions become a heavy job for anyone to do. There’s a reason why big community marketing events often are attended by low-level salespeople and eloquent marketing interns.

They are filled with people who either don’t have money or are there only to sell their widget, not to buy yours. They are time- and labor-intensive and though I’m glad I’ve attended a few of them, I’ve realized that it is too large a demographic to be a solid use of my marketing time.

We’ve got to learn these best practices through experience and while every profession and area of expertise is different, at some point, enough’s enough. At some point, focusing on networking events where you know you’ll run into great prospects and only great prospects is the best way to go.

For me, I know better now what types of professionals I’m looking to network with and spending time one-on-one is almost always more fruitful than attending large local events. As always, social media has some great answers for making and keeping up with contacts. My primary focus with networking continues to be LinkedIn and it likely will become my sole networking venue going forward. LinkedIn offers access to millions of professionals worldwide and over 44% of LinkedIn users have incomes over $75,000. And the best part is I don’t have to waste time driving around to attend meetings!

Again, it is important to continue to dive into the stages of experience and how we learn. Advertisers measure their ROI in a very meaningful way, ensuring that they have little to no wasted impressions when they’re making a big ad buy. Just the same, networking has to be approached with the understanding that time is as valuable as money and time has to offer something in return as well.

Lesson learned! Less time trying to sell services to the unsellable! And yes, the unsellable DO exist. Ask any experienced salesperson and they’ll tell you not to waste your time on them.

3. There are times to push the envelope and times to accept where we are.

If I decided to floor it in a traffic jam, I surely wouldn’t be doing myself any favors. Just the same, if I preferred to take a nap rather than meeting with my best client about a cool new project, surely you’d be justified in thinking I don’t care enough about my work.

These past 90 days offered some great experiences that allowed me to see this with even more clarity. Often, I try to push or force something that is either already moving along swimmingly or can be hindered by forcing it too much. Many successful go-getters can err on this side and for good reason!

But finding the delicate balance between pushing further, pulling back or staying the course, and trusting momentum is an experiential process. There’s so much to understanding the value of trusting your gut, reading the room, and knowing when to relax a little (but not too much!).

When you run your own show, best practices concern the balance of the amount of work you can take on at any given time as well. Saying “no” too often will get clients to turn elsewhere, but saying “no” just enough will keep them coming back at just the right time.

Learning how to say “yes” to the right clients at the right time for the right projects is the other side of the coin. A lot of it is in the psychology of pushing forward, pulling back, or coasting with momentum. It’s all a very delicate balance that takes awareness and diligence to feel out.

No doubt, B-School can’t teach anyone how to read a room, or how to say “yes” to something by saying “no” to something else, or saying “no” to something by saying “yes” to its opposite. Only experiential awareness through falling on your face and getting up a few (hundred) times can get you there.

It can also really help to read some honest accounts of others’ experiences to learn from without falling on your face so many times. What a concept!

It’s exciting to work from this round of lessons and to move on from here. I’m looking forward to my next 90-day contemplation and to sharing all the goods.

How about you? Got some best practices, learned through very recent experiences to share? Hit me up, I’m sure we’ll have plenty to discuss!

Photo credit: atic12 / 123RF Stock Photo