There is a lot to be said for big business, they’ve got systems, professionalism and efficiencies we can learn from. Of course, big business has many downfalls too, but today I want to focus on some things we can replicate in our small or micro-enterprises.
Let me start with a little context: I worked in big business for years after university, I’m talking multinational, offices all over the world and thousands of employees. Although it turned out that full-time corporate life wasn’t for me, I don’t regret my time there one bit. In fact, since I’ve left I’ve been hired back as a consultant/contractor on some exciting projects!
Something that my time at this company equipped me with was a working knowledge of big business processes, which can be equal parts red tape and, on the flip side, bloody genius. So now, as a micro business owner, I am in a position to cherry pick my favourite big business ideas/process/efficiencies and leave what doesn’t work behind. And, today I’ll be sharing some of my favourites with you.
Monthly or weekly check-in meetings
This is something that you would be doing weekly or monthly in big business, but especially in a micro biz, can get left behind. We’re so busy doing, doing, doing, that it’s so easy to forget to celebrate the wins, reflect and plan.
Choose a date monthly or work with your menstrual cycle – ‘winter’ WIP meeting anyone?
Metrics to track (you don’t have to call them metrics). Pick and choose what works for you and add more if you want! Just make sure you’re not going to overwhelm yourself or your team, focus on what is most important in your business.
- New clients
- Engagement (social media, blog, newsletter)
- Learning and development
- Core desired feelings
Lesson: It can be easy to get stuck in the day to day of your business, but it’s important to make time to take a step back and get a little more strategic. Checking in is an important task, and you get to choose what you check in on – these are YOUR metrics of success!
Something that I sometimes miss about a ‘regular’ job is the certainty of office hours. You go to work at time X, and you clock off at time X. When you’re at home you’re at home, and when you’re at work, you’re at work, no wishy-washy grey areas. While I wouldn’t have it any other way, the flexibility of working from home (or anywhere for that matter!) tends to sit uncomfortably with me at times. And it’s really taught me how I respond to different working conditions. So while I’m not going to go back to a regular 9-5, what I have done is implemented scheduling to my week.
As I teach yoga out of regular business hours, I make sure I take time to myself during the typical working day. I’m totally okay running errands through the day, and I do include time for completing life admin tasks like cleaning, cooking and all that fun stuff. How do I fit comms work in? I schedule blocks of time for work tasks – some are big and some a just a few hours. I save big projects and deep work for the more significant blocks of time and do quick or administrative tasks in the smaller chunks of time. I also block out a day a week where I work at a shared space for the whole day – this is where I’m most ‘productive’ with my communications work. Aside from my yoga classes and scheduled comms work blocks of time, I also include things like client meetings and working from clients’ premises into my weekly schedule.
Giving myself structure is a big business idea I needed to implement in my micro business, but it’s taken years to get to where I am now, and I’m confident things will evolve more as my business matures further.
Lesson: Try different scheduling and structuring systems. Pick and choose what works for you. Ditch the things that don’t work. And don’t be afraid of doing things differently.
For the first few years of my business, I didn’t take more than a couple of days off. Yes, I went away on trips, but I always made sure there was wifi for checking in, doing client work and answering email. The first proper holiday that I took, sans wifi, wasn’t until about three years in. I went to Fraser Island off the Queensland coast for a week. There is no phone signal on the most of the island, and the house we stayed was run on solar power – you couldn’t even use a hairdryer! So I was forced to switch off, and it was the best thing ever! Guess what? My business didn’t fall apart! My clients were fine! My yoga students were just dandy! And I came back feeling super stress-free and relaxed.
Lesson: While there isn’t necessarily ‘annual leave’ when you work for yourself, it’s important we take this notion and make it a reality. I highly suggest travelling somewhere without wifi!
A wellness programme
Meditation on your lunch break, yoga after work and fruit in the office kitchen – these are the hallmarks of a corporate wellness programme. Thought up to make employees happier and healthier. Whether they work or not isn’t an answer I know, but I think anything designed for a wellness boost is a goer.
If you’re like many micro or small business owners, you’ve probably met ‘burn out’ and possibly have been introduced to ‘workaholism’, but at what cost? So why not include your own wellness programme. Schedule things like lunchtime yoga class, if you can’t make it to a studio just pull up a class on YouTube. Stock the fridge with healthy snacks like fresh fruit and veggie sticks with hummus, it’s worth the investment. If you work alone, why not gather other solo biz owners in your area for a pre-work walk or run? Your options are endless, so get creative.
Lesson: Putting your health and wellbeing first is ALWAYS a good idea. Make the time and monetary commitment to being the best you possible, your business will thank you for it.
Learning and development planning
In my corporate job, we would create a learning and development plan every year. The plan I made at the beginning of the year would be printed and pinned to my cubicle wall (I know, gack!), front and centre. It was officially revisted twice a year and action steps were taken. Over the years I did short courses in different software packages, travelled out of state to training days, and studied a new language.
When was the last time, as a micro or small business owner, that you planned for your learning and development? I feel you! It’s shameful ain’t it? I’m not great at this either, but it’s an area I’m leaning into further.
The times I have invested the time and money into my development have been critical to my success. For example, I spent thousands on B-School – no regrets there, I wouldn’t have my business if I hadn’t of honoured the pull to take the course. The other big one was yoga teacher training – more thousands! A trillion percent worth it though.
Lesson: When we invest in ourselves, we invest in our business. As owners we are the captain of these micro or small biz ships, so we must take charge and set a course. Where can you invest in your learning and development?
Do you remember a time when you received a bonus for a hard year’s work? The memory is a bit misty for me too. But how nice did it feel, to be appreciated and paid more than your salary!
If I’m honest, this isn’t something I’ve implemented in my business (yet?). But it popped up in my head when I was writing the outline for this post so I thought I’d drop it in. I’m still to work out the details on this one – what metrics is my ‘bonus’ linked to? – but I’ll be sure to update this post if I do put this in to play.
In the meantime, if you have an incentive process in your small or micro business I’d love to hear about it in the comments. And I’m specifically talking about an owner bonus, not for any employees you might have.
Lesson: Reward yourself when you’ve done an excellent job!
Invest in you
I’ve touched on this already, but I want to hammer it home. INVEST in YOURSELF. And your business.
This investment will come in many different flavours. You can start with your learning and development, but also think about investing in professional photos, a new website, a copywriter, good bookkeeping software (I can personally attest to this one, it’s fucking life changing) or admin support.
These are just some ideas, and by no means do you need to have all these things. Start by aiming high and writing down everything you would invest in if money were no object. Then look at your budget and decide on one or two things. Or if it turns out you can do all of them, do it!
Lesson: Going pro means acting pro. This might mean you’re being pushed a little out of your comfort zone, but that’s a sign you’re going in the right direction.
A note on investment: When you’re a small or micro business, and especially when you’re just starting out, it’s likely you won’t have a huge budget. When you’re looking to invest, think about what areas are going to get you the most bang for your buck. And also think about where your talents and skills are best used. Don’t invest in something because I’ve told you to, or someone else did it. Be pragmatic and efficient. And make decisions that feel good right down to your gut.
I’d be thrilled if you had more ideas to add to my list or thoughts on the ideas I’ve shared. Bang out a comment below.