How to achieve your long-term small business goals despite your never-ending to-do list.
Emails. Staff meetings. Customer questions. Before you know it, the day is over.
Sound familiar? If you let it, executing the everyday tasks of running a company can easily consume the whole day, leaving no time for planning future growth. How can you stay focused on long-term goals? Check out these five tips.
Standardize and Streamline
There will always be day-to-day tasks that keep the business functioning. Standardizing and streamlining these work processes will free up time and eliminate the stress of constantly putting out fires, says Dawn Roberts, whose consulting firm focuses on business and personal efficiency.
Look for tasks you can start simultaneously. “Don’t look at your timeline linearly, building one task at a time,” she says. “Figure out which tasks are dependent on one another and which aren’t. You can really optimize your schedule this way.”
Then identify tasks that are repeatable from job to job, figure out the optimal approach, and standardize them.
Steve Benson, founder and CEO of sales routing app Badger Maps, tackles important tasks by keeping half of his day unscheduled and blocking out time to work either early in the morning or late at night, when there aren’t other distractions.
He says productivity apps like Evernote, Slack, Google Drive, and Asana help maintain team organization and keep project updates organized.
Kari Warberg Block, founder and CEO of EarthKind, a manufacturer of all-natural pest repellant products, uses a one-page strategic document that lists areas of growth. On the left side of the page, she lists these items in rows: establishing systems and scaling processes; getting equipment to scale; opening a new plant; and attracting, retaining, and rewarding talent. A column that lists several upcoming years runs along the top of the page. She focuses on one growth area each year.
“It’s a constant reminder to stay laser-focused on the right things at the right time to execute my long-term vision for the company,” she says. It’s worked, too: From its founding in 2007, EarthKind has become a multimillion-dollar brand, with products sold at major retailers like Lowe’s, Ace Hardware, John Deere, and Target.
Connect Tasks to Vision
“One thing our team likes to do every week is have a meeting discussing the tasks we’ve each been working on and defining exactly how those tasks are meant to help share our growth,” says Ari Banayan, co-founder of lifestyle blog Habit Nest. “It gives us a new perspective on how we should be focusing our attention to conform to our overall vision rather than just blowing through everything that falls on our plates.”
Trust Your Team
Lisa Schiffman is director and founder of the EY Entrepreneurial Winning Women program, which coaches women founders on how to work “on” their businesses rather than “in” them. She says doing so means stepping away from a lot of operational responsibilities to get strategic about plotting a path for growth.
“The first step toward adopting a more strategic role is building a leadership team you can trust to fulfill significant operational responsibilities,” she says. “This may require disconnecting emotionally. Entrepreneurs can become so attached to their companies that they want to be involved in every part, but if growth is your goal, you have to be prepared to find and trust others who share your values and have the skills and experience to help you run the day to day.”