There are a million and one platitudes about learning lessons from running a business. And with good reason. Building a successful business never happens in a straight line – there are many, many twists and turns along the way.
The thing about those twists and turns is that some of them are necessary, unavoidable lessons, and others are us simply making things so much harder than they need to be.
How do we know the difference? Good question!
Maggie and I have a running list of things that fall into this category, most of which are there because we’ve had to learn these lessons the hard way. (In many cases, multiple times to make the lesson really stick.)
This list isn’t meant to be negative, but more to give you a realistic idea of things that you may be doing that are actually holding you back from success in your services business. By knowing what they are, it’s much easier to identify them when you’re doing them or they sneak up on you.
Here are five things you may be doing that are slowing you down (or stopping you entirely) on your road to success:
Everything is Important
Running a business means you wear a lot of hats, and you’re constantly switching back and forth between working with clients, operations, marketing and everything else you need to do.
That lack of focus takes a toll on us and can actually result in us feeling like we’re doing everything we are supposed to, but we’re actually accomplishing very little related to our biggest priorities.
This is where the 80/20 rule comes in. This says 20% of the work we do drives 80% of the results, which means we do a lot of things that simply don’t matter.
The key is clearly identifying what matters the most for you to reach your goals and letting the rest go. When you work with clients, your priorities for performance should be related to finding/booking more clients, serving your clients and things along those lines as those are what will drive growth.
(For more ideas on getting focused, you’ll want to read this post on the key strategies you need for your services business.)
Being Paralyzed by Indecision
The average adult makes 35,000 remotely conscious decisions each day. Everything from what to wear to what to eat to which way to drive takes up our brainpower.
Interestingly, the more responsibility you have means the more decisions you make, and as a business owner that’s a whole level of responsibility!
If you tend to be indecisive, making all those decisions can become a burden, or even worse, a bottleneck in your business. So many times we agonize over decisions that don’t really matter and waste days, or even weeks on something that could have been decided in minutes.
Indecision comes at a cost. All that energy would have been better spent on executing instead of weighing out all the options. Especially as few business decisions are truly irreversible or catastrophic if you make the wrong decision.
If you struggle with making decisions, find ways to smooth the way to making decisions faster. For example, if you need to decide on an investment, you should have a checklist where you assess the ROI of that investment or the potential risks/reward. Having this in place helps to save you from overthinking it.
Letting Your Ego Run the Show
One of the most powerful things I did in 2016 was open up my mind to the idea of looking at things with fresh eyes.
When we set up Scoop, it was an opportunity to approach things with a beginner’s mindset and open my mind to new ideas.
Once we have been in business for a while, we get set in our ways and downright stubborn about what we already know. We literally become consciously incompetent as we repeat the same actions over and over, and we don’t stop to look at how we could do things differently.
I’ve seen so many business owners who because of pride, ego or stubbornness, refuse to embrace a different perspective, or try a new way of doing things. Or worse yet, they get this idea they are “above” certain things that would actually help them.
By getting over ourselves (even a little bit) and being willing to start fresh, we can seize opportunities we wouldn’t see otherwise.
Lack of a Firm Foundation
For most of us when we start a business, we’re really good at what we do and have a specific set of skills as a professional. But many times what’s lacking is a firm understanding of business fundamentals.
You may be the most amazing consultant/creative/coach in the world, but if you don’t know how to book clients, it’s going to be a long, hard road to growing your business. The same goes for pretty much everything from creating systems to managing your money.
Expecting your magical skills to be enough to build a business is downright delusional. To succeed, you need to master business basics and take the time to put systems in place even if you’re a team of one.
Not Having a Grip on Your Money
We go into business for a lot of reasons, one of which is to make money. Your ability to manage money in your business (and in your life) can make or break your business, and not in the ways you may think.
The first thing you need to know in your business is your budget basics. How much are for your expenses? How much do you need to bring in each month? Without those numbers it’s nearly impossible to make fact-based decisions for your business.
With that information, you can figure out things like:
- Do I need to spend less money or make more money?
- Am I overinvesting in my business?
- Does the money I’m spending deliver a return on investment?
When you see those numbers in black and white, you have the facts and you can make decisions that are realistic and practical, not just ones that rely on a unicorn to ride into town.
Sometimes this is going to require you to dig deep and know when you may need to take action to ensure that your basic needs are met (there’s nothing wrong with a bridge job to bring in cash), where you may need to do things differently or where you see a clear opportunity for growth.
Speaking of growth, notice I’m not saying you should launch a course. Over the past two years, I’ve watched many, many services business owners run themselves ragged to try to launch a course and get very little in return.
That energy would have yielded much bigger business results if they’d focused on finding and booking more services clients. (Hey, it’s not glamorous I know, but you know what’s extra sparkly and glitzy? Getting paid and making more money!)