How long have you been in business for?
One year? Three? Ten?
No matter how long you’ve been at your particular business game, it’s important to spend a little time at the end of each year reflecting how you might be able to change things up over the coming 12 months. Planning for change, and executing it on your terms, definitely beats having it come at you from left field and being forced to do something you’re not prepared for emotionally or financially.
So let’s get ahead of things in 2019! Here are seven ways you can change the game for your business in 2019.
1. Make a to-don’t list
The list of things we could be doing as business owners is looooooooong. Every article we read, conference we attend and podcast we listen to gives us new ideas. And because every new idea was a game-changer for the person who shared it, we think it will be a game-changer for us too. The reality is, there are very few true game-changers (silver bullets) out there. The people sharing the story of their ‘game-changer’ tend to leave out the parts that explain it was a little bit of luck or perfect timing that was the true game-changer for them.
So, in 2019, make a list of all the things you are not going to expend energy on, no matter how well that strategy or tactic worked for someone else.
For example, if you loathe Facebook, then strike ‘create a social media strategy for my business’ off your list.
If you hate writing, strike ‘blogging’ off your list.
The beauty of deciding all the things you won’t do is it frees up space, time and energy for the things you will do. And one of those could be to …
2. Overservice the right people
Back in the day, I was a chronic over-servicer. I’ve always loved doing more than people expect. I still do. But I’m a bit smarter about it these days as overservicing every single client you have is quite unsustainable and leads to burnout and resentment.
Today, I provide great service to all clients, but I save the overservicing for a select few.
How do you decide who to go above and beyond for? The people who:
- Understand they’re getting more than they’ve paid for and appreciative of that
- Are friends with the type of people you like doing work for
Does this sound a little mercenary? It shouldn’t. So long as you continue to do a great job for all your clients, it’s smart to select only a few to do more than is expected for.
3. Figure out your EHR
One of the most enlightening (and often horrifying) metrics you can use in your business is Effective Hourly Rate (EHR). Here’s how you calculate it:
Divide your monthly profit by the number of hours you worked that month.
So let’s say your profit was $10,000 for the month. Sounds ok.
But what if you were working 10-hour weekdays to make that profit plus doing another 10 hours on the weekends? In a 30-day month, that’s over 250 hours worked.
Which means you’re looking at an EHR of $10,000/250= $40/hr.
All this time you might have been charging an hourly rate of $150/hr and thinking you’re making good money from that. But by the time you do all the unbillable stuff in your business (or pay someone else to do it), that hourly rate’s come down to $40/hr.
EHR is a great metric for giving yourself the permission you need to stop doing things that you’ve long suspected have no impact on your bottom line. As mentioned in point one above, you can start with making a to-don’t list. Then monitor the impact not doing those things has on your EHR. Once you start seeing the positive effects, you might even be motivated to do what we did in 2018 …
4. Ungrow your business
It’s such a common cycle. You start a business doing one thing, and then, as clients ask for them, you add ancillary products and services to compliment that original thing. Before long, you become a ‘one-stop shop’ which is great for your clients, but not great for you. Because now you have to bring in new staff or hire contractors to provide the expertise you don’t have. Then you have to manage all those people and ensure they’re servicing clients the way you would. Meanwhile, costs are escalating and tight fiscal management is required to ensure income is also escalating to match.
Now, if a full-service agency is what you’re aspiring to build – go for it. You’re on the right path. But if this isn’t where you wanted to end up, it’s perfectly ok to decide, ‘Hang on, we’ve tried offering all these things and it’s not working out for us, let’s dial the services we offer right back.’
It’s what we did in 2018 and it worked really well for us.
5. Invest in professional design
Look, I’m not going to pretend this isn’t totally self-serving. We are graphic designers after all. But a distinct trend we’ve noticed in the past few years is people doing their own design using tools like Publisher or Canva. They think it ‘does the job’. Which, it does.
But this has created an opportunity for businesses who are willing to invest in professional design. It’s meant they’re able to differentiate themselves quickly and easily from those who don’t. Humans are highly visual creatures and when presented with two options, they’ll always choose the more aesthetically appealing one.
Great design requires an investment, yes, but it might also be a quick and easy way to differentiate your business from your competitors in 2019.
6. Get some accountability
One of the best things I ever did for my business was sign up for Matthew Kimberley’s Single Malt Mastermind. The premise is simple. Each week Matthew sends you an email with an entrepreneurial kick in the pants, along with three questions:
- What did you do this week?
- What are you going to do next week?
- Anything else on your mind you want to share?
You tell Matthew what you intend to do in the coming week … and then you do the thing because:
- The following week, you know he’s going to ask ‘Did you do that thing you said you’d do.’
- You have skin in the game – you’re paying money to access Matthew so you want to see a return on that investment.
And I guarantee you will. Single Malt Mastermind was responsible for me churning through a whole series of small tasks that added up to big things for my business the year I did it. But here’s the catch, you only get to do it for one year, and Matthew is only running it for one more year (because people shouldn’t really be getting access to him for ~$50/week.) So if you’re keen to do it, you need to sign up soon.
Full disclosure, if you decide it sounds good and use my link to sign up, I’ll get a kickback. Rest assured, I don’t recommend things like this very often. But Matthew’s accountability program is simple, excellent value, and creates genuine results. And I’ve recommended it before when there was no kickback on offer 🙂
7. Book a business holiday
For three years in a row, Anthony and I attended a conference in the Philippines. It was expensive and always had to be booked at least six months in advance. Every time it came around, it felt like a really inappropriate time for both of us to be away from the business for nine days. But, every single time we were so glad we were forced to go away because being away from the business gave us the chance to have conversations we never had the chance to have otherwise. It also gave us the kind of clarity and perspective you just don’t have access to when you’re at home and in the thick of things.
If you only ever wait until things ‘settle down’ in your business before taking time out from it, it’ll never happen. My suggestion is to book (now, not next year!) a four to five-day holiday away from your business – some time in March to May would be good. And accept that when the date for that holiday arrives, it will probably feel like you shouldn’t go because there’s so much happening that needs your specific attention.
But you will go … and you’ll marvel at the space it creates, and the clarity it delivers. Clarity that will benefit your business greatly throughout the remainder of 2019.