Who here loves a new year? I know I do. Yes, we can ‘start over’ any time we like. Yes, every single day is a ‘fresh start’ if we allow it to be. But I do find the clock ticking over onto January 1 to be a nice line in the sand, especially from a business point of view because we’ve all taken a bit of a break and are feeling nice and refreshed. January presents a chance to get excited about what the future holds and set some things in place that will have ongoing benefits for our business both over the course of the year and into the future.
With that in mind, I got thinking about the things we can all do to build better businesses in 2016 and I came up with these 10 actions (split into four categories):
Category 1: Carving out more space for doing what you do best
We all spend a lot of time doing things in our businesses that could be done by other people. And doing those things is keeping us from doing:
- The stuff we’re most energised and passionate about; and,
- The important but not urgent stuff our businesses benefit most from us doing.
The thing is, no one is going to come along and gift us the time we crave to be doing more of the stuff we love. We need to carve that time out. There are two main ways to achieve this:
ACTION 1: Create processes
- James Schramko says that every single time you find yourself doing a task you don’t really like doing and/or one that someone else could be doing, write the name of that task on a post-it note and stick it on the wall above your desk.
- Then make it a priority to create a process around one of those tasks each week.
ACTION 2: Schedule it
Chris Ducker doesn’t do to-do lists. If he wants time to work on something, he schedules it into his calendar. In the same way we all set aside time for meetings, exercise and lunch breaks, we also need to set aside specific timeslots in the week to do our best work. Some examples:
- I set aside the hours between 5am and 6.30am for writing because it’s important to me to write every day, and I know that my best writing comes from a quiet environment and a fresh brain (ie I don’t do my best writing at the end of a long day).
- When I’m working on an intensive design job, I will block out a 3-4 hour space in my calendar to do the initial heavy creative lifting.
Category 2: Expand your network
Think about the very best clients you have. Chances are those great clients came to you via a recommendation from other clients, influencers or peers you have excellent relationships with. So what can you do to build better relationships and expand the network of people who are keen to see you succeed?
ACTION 3: Look after yourself better
This one might seem a little from left field but I think we all know when we’re stressed and overwhelmed that it’s very easy to be unnecessarily curt with people (or worse, a bit rude). Generally speaking, people will forgive curtness if it’s a one off. But if that manner of communication becomes your default mode; if you’re always finding yourself reacting with anger and impatience to emails or phone calls; then it’s time to get more exercise, sleep and in general, look after yourself better.
ACTION 4: Pay attention; listen more than you speak
Too often in conversations we’re preparing what we’re going to say next as opposed to actually listening to what the person is saying. We all know what a gift it is to have someone’s genuinely undivided attention. Be the person that gives that gift to others.
ACTION 5: Share people’s stuff
If someone’s written a great blog post or created an awesome infographic that would be helpful to the people who follow you, share those things. This has a two-fold effect: it creates better relationships with the people who follow you, and it creates a relationship with the person who created the thing you’re sharing.
ACTION 6: Reach out and tell people they’ve made a difference
Did someone’s words give you a good laugh or change your life? Did someone’s advice in a podcast help your business? Reach out and tell those people how they’ve helped you. So often we’re quick to let people know when they’ve disappointed us. Let’s start being quicker to tell people when they’ve impacted our lives in a positive manner. Reaching out in this way is a great way to start a relationship with someone (provided it’s done in a genuine manner, with no expectation).
Category 3: Look after your existing clients better
We all spend a lot of time trying to attract new clients into our business while ignoring this proven fact: “The easiest way to increase revenues is to sell more to the people who are already your customers.” But you can’t just suddenly start bombarding your existing clients with sales calls and emails; they’re not going to be too happy about that. Here are a few ways non-salesy ways that you can look after your existing clients better:
ACTION 7: Let them know they’re appreciated
A simple email, or even better, a hand-written thank you card really goes a long way.
ACTION 8: Create content that is helpful to them
Blog posts, infographics, tutorials, how-to videos: anything that addresses and helps with a pain point your clients have. These are all great ways of showing that you’re both listening to your clients when they share their troubles, and value them enough to do something proactive about it.
ACTION 9: Personalise your communications
Were you talking with a client about (say) the current state of the housing market in Australia last week? Have you come across an article on that topic that expands further on that conversation? Send the article to your client. Once again, this will show you were both listening to them … and that they are front of mind for you.
ACTION 10: Create products for them
If your clients know, like and trust you already, then they’ll be keen to use your services over that of others. Is there something people keep asking you for? Is there a way you could incorporate it into your service offering? I’m not advocating that you become a ‘one-stop shop’, but offering a slightly more diverse range of products is beneficial to both you and your clients.
So there you go, ten things that will help you build a better business in 2016. Imagine if you chose to do one of each of the above each week for the next 10 weeks? Imagine the cumulative effect of that!
What are you doing to build a better business in 2016?