Last year, I focused on tracking the key things that made a big difference in my clients’ business growth. Not a fan of get-rich quick/grind-until-you-drop/hustle culture, I studied decisions and behaviors that not only led to financial growth, but also increased emotional well being, reduced stress and saved time.
While there were many things that I worked on with clients, these three things made the biggest difference in their business, leading to doubling and tripling of monthly revenue, reducing uncertainty in cash flow, delivering better quality programs, and increasing impact and visibility.
1. Get your money house in order with Profit First
I met Mike Michalowicz at an event many years ago and thought he was a really nice guy. I even was a guest on his podcast. I knew he was the author of a book called Profit First, but embarrassingly, I had never read it, not being inherently interested to financial books.
Then on a whim I got the audio book, and became obsessed with the method.
I had never heard anyone describe the money management part of being an entrepreneur with such accuracy. Mike’s system seemed to be a really smart way to get people out of the bliss/panic cycle of juggling cash flow.
I started working with my clients to implement Profit First in their businesses and was amazed at the results. We saw things like:
- Huge clarity into the actual profit the business was making (or not making) which led to much smarter financial decisions
- Huge reduction in anxiety over cash flow, tax planning and sales forecasting
- BIG increases in revenue
- BIG decreases in around-the-clock working — as financial clarity led to better decisions about where to spend time, on the most profitable products and services
- Increased leadership swag, eliminating money shame, and reducing fear of an angry letter from the IRS.
This is important: Implementing Profit First takes some work, planning and organizing. Based on what I have seen this last year, it could be the single best decision you make for the financial health of your business.
Mike has some free resources to get started here.
Coincidently, I am not an official advisor or affiliate of this method, I am just a super fan.
2. Streamline your systems
When you are getting your business off the ground, speed and agility are critical. It doesn’t make much sense to invest in building complex systems, since your main goal is to get comfortable selling and delivering your services.
After a couple of years, half-baked systems start to strain under the growth of the business.
If your business really picks up steam, you may find yourself putting out systems fires every day.
To get ahead of this curve, set some time aside for systems streamlining. Here are the places to start:
Clean, clear and organize
Before digging into more detailed systems changes, get a quick win by organizing your physical environment.
Spend an afternoon shredding paper, filing documents, putting books back on your bookshelf and cleaning your desk.
When you can see more clearly, reward yourself with some fresh flowers or a nice plant.
This quick win will put you in the mood to do the next step in streamlining your systems:
Triage your problems
Evaluate what are the biggest holes in your business systems.
- Is your business development chaotic and scattered?
- Are you great at getting customers in, then you bungle delivery?
- Do you spend far too much time creating proposals?
- Can you never find the documents you need?
Choose the problem with the biggest payoff and set aside time to work on it.
Work one system at a time
You will get overwhelmed if you try to fix all your broken systems at once.
Choose a small but significant system to streamline (one you could fix in 2 hours or less) and don’t stop until it is done.
Celebrate, then tackle the next.
Important: Not everyone is systems oriented. You may need to hire some expert help like Process Mavens (an amazing client who is a genius).
3. Implement Tiny Marketing Actions
I have been advising clients on marketing for a really long time.
Back in the early 00s, the hot thing was blogging. You could gain real traction and influence by writing a blog.
The strategy was to generate huge volumes of well-written content that solved your clients’ problems. When this content was shared, your authority shot quickly up Google rankings (that is how I got started with Escape from Cubicle Nation).
The last few years, the hot thing has been podcasts. It seems like everyone and their sister is starting a show.
(There will always be a place for new shows, some from people who have been in the game of business long and late to start a podcast — my favorite business podcasts at the moment are Brian Clark’s 7 Figure Small and Guy Kawasaki’s Remarkable People.)
While it is essential to have long-term marketing strategies that include activities like creating podcasts or vlogs that take longer to produce, the behavior I have seen grind revenue growth to a halt is that business owners wait to generate a giant tidal wave of marketing activities (a huge launch! a new podcast show with 10 interviews in the can! an entire YouTube channel!), and forget a basic premise of marketing:
Always be seeding.
We can never, ever forget the importance of small, consistent actions each day that maintain strong connections, and move prospects through the sales cycle.
I call them Tiny Marketing Actions or TMAs.
They are things like:
- Reach out to a past favorite client and ask if they know others like them who could benefit from your services
- Add language asking for referrals into your client off-boarding process
- Pitch a talk at a local organization
- Pitch a podcast host for a guest spot on their show
- Do a Facebook Live for a few minutes while you are traveling, and share a tip/new insight
- Turn to a parent next to you on the sports field where you spend hours each week (just me?) and say “I don’t think I ever asked you, what is your work?”
- PowerTMA: Reach out to someone who provides a highly complementary service to yours (I call them the “jelly to your peanut butter.” ) and invite them to a 15 minute Zoom call where you can learn more about what they do, and vice versa
The tasks should be so small as to almost be insulting.
The key is to make the process of TMAs as normal as brushing your teeth.
Implementing a regular Tiny Marketing Action system in my clients’ businesses, regardless if business was slow as molasses or booked to the hilt, was the catalyst for hundreds of thousands of dollars in new revenue for them last year.
Scaling a business takes a lot of leadership capacity building, planning, focus and action.
Implementing Profit First, streamlining your systems and activating Tiny Marketing Actions will not only accelerate your success, they will support sustainable business practices that make you enjoy the process of running your business.
That’s the main reason we got into this entrepreneurship thing, right?