Is overwhelm choking your business? If you’re struggling to take your business to the next level, or if you can’t afford to take a day (or night) off, you’ve come to the right place. Before implementing any operational or project management strategies, it’s essential to take a closer look at the underlying issues that brought you here.
My dad has been a small business owner for over 50 years. He’s also given me some of the best business advice. He told me, “You’ve made it professionally when you don’t do anything; you just set the tone for your business.” As a small business owner, that’s the goal. You go out on your own because you’re good at your craft. You have an entrepreneurial spirit. And most importantly, you want something different or more fulfilling than what you were getting in the corporate world. Finally, freedom!
The Entrepreneur Trap
As a small business owner myself, I know that starting a business doesn’t always go as smoothly as you may have imagined. And “freedom” can be anything but. Before you know it, you’re drowning in paperwork. You’re wondering what to do next or what you forgot. “Which client is mad at me now?” “Where’s my virtual team member?” “What’s going on with my projects?” And, “where is all the money?”
Suddenly, the business you set out to control is now controlling you. Approximately 20 percent of small businesses fail within the first year. By the end of the second year, 30 percent of companies will have failed. By the end of the fifth year, about half will have failed. And by the end of a decade, only 30 percent of businesses will remain — a 70 percent failure rate. Yikes!
But behind many of those failures is overwhelm.
What is Overwhelm?
I usually describe it as a chaotic work environment that can wreak havoc on deadlines, efficiencies, productivity, and profitability. It is reactive rather than proactive. Responding to emergencies becomes the norm. It can present itself as a feeling or situation (one that should be happening or should not be happening). Many describe it as disorganized. Unfortunately, it can hold you back from growing the business dream you set out to achieve.
Signs that Overwhelm is Choking Your Business
- Clients, leads, and/or tasks fall through the cracks.
- It’s hard to remember how to do something you’ve done before. Onboarding, billing, QA. These are repeatable processes. If you don’t know how to repeat it, you have a lack of process.
- You are struggling to grow your business past 2–3 people. People keep leaving, or you don’t know how to keep the ones you have busy.
- You’ve said your current sales and project management tools “don’t work,” but you keep using them anyway, but only sporadically.
- Worse, you don’t have any sales or project management tools.
- There is always scope creep — the same can be said for deadline creep.
- Sales and payments are inconsistent.
- The squeakiest wheel gets the grease, rather than focus being on the actual highest priority.
- And the worst… you are working weekends, evenings, and every free second in between. You miss your family and friends, and they miss you too.
End Overwhelm and Regain Control of Your Business
When you feel out of control, think of all the things you can control. You can control what you focus on, your calendar, your schedule, your projects. You can manage your clients. There are ways to do that so that you’re not continually operating in emergency mode.
A Quickstart System
A quick way to get started on tackling the overwhelm is this: at the end of every day, figure out your top three priorities for the next day. Then, make sure that you have time on your calendar to do them. Blocking your calendar helps prevent interruptions so you can accomplish the priorities you set. Congratulations, you just made your first system!
To get out of the day-to-day chaos and focus on growing your business, you have to create systems. At Beyond the Chaos, we approach overwhelm three ways.
- The first thing we do is get all the day-to-day details out of the small business owner’s head. Then we put the information where it can be shared and delegated to a team member. Start with an assistant or bookkeeper. Or start with whatever task you hate doing the most.
- The second is to dig into your project management. You’re probably running projects for clients. If so, you need to be using appropriate software. It’s common to see small business owners using email as a project management tool, but email leads to more overwhelm, as it can’t track timelines or manage workflow and resources.
- The third thing we tackle is how to prevent interruptions in your day so you can take control of your schedule. Now you’ve freed yourself up from the day-to-day and have given yourself space to take care of your clients and develop new business relationships.
You also don’t have to do it alone. An operations and project management consultancy firm like Beyond the Chaos can come in and remove the overwhelm for you. So you can focus on what you do best.
Regain Control of Your Life
Imagine growing your business and changing your personal life for the better. No more business details that are constantly nagging and being able to relax with your family. That’s literally life-changing. When you’re happier, your employees are more satisfied, and your clients are content. That’s when growth happens.
Keep reading for more help on how to eradicate the chaos from your small business and successfully manage your team, your operations, your clients, and your projects.
Originally published at Beyond the Chaos: Small Business Project Management and Operations Consulting.