What's the single biggest thing that determines success? It's consistency. Consistency in branding, consistency in customer relations, consistency in social media marketing. To stay relevant and at the forefront of your customers' minds, you need to remain consistent. So how do you do that? It all comes down to productivity, and here are some of the ways you can maximise your productivity as a small business owner.
productivity |prɒdʌkˈtɪvɪti| noun [mass noun]
the state or quality of being productive: the long-term productivity of land.
• the effectiveness of productive effort, especially in industry, as measured in terms of the rate of output per unit of input: workers have boosted productivity by 30 per cent.
Oxford Dictionary of English
Looking at the definition above, it's clear that the 'rate of output per unit of input' will be an impact of time management. If you're not spending your time as wisely as you should be, you're probably not going to be very productive.
To achieve your maximum efficiency, you need put time and effort into what you are doing. As a business you can do this in various ways by motivating yourself, developing more convenient filing systems and using digital applications to make tasks faster and more accurate.
You all know how much I love to talk about planning. You can read more about why this time of year is a good time to plan right here, but in terms of productivity it really does set you up for a strong idea of your goals and commitments over the coming months.
Planning gives you the basic starting point, at which you can determine what needs to be done and when. As a small business owner, this could mean preparing a month's worth of blog posts in advance or scheduling a year's worth of product line launches for you to start working on now. If you've planned it, you're expecting it and you've got your eyes on the prize.
Build a business plan
Nobody likes to hear it - not even me. Honestly, if you don't have a business plan, it's you and I in this together (I really need to press on with that). But from business plans I have written in the past, I know it's a useful tool, a 'business bible' if you like, that shows you the way and the words of your enterprise.
When you've got your venture's financial plans, target markets and development strategies set out in one cohesive document, ideas and tasks are a lot easier to follow. Right now I've got my stuff all spread out in separate documents and, given I'm a writer and not a mathematician by any means of the word, I've been particularly avoiding finances, so one of my priorities is to get my business plan done and dusted - in full completion.
Set out your brand guidelines
Business plans might be boring, but developing your brand guidelines is your chance to get more creative. You don't need to start right away with a mammoth presentation written to a corporate standard. Since you're a small business, all you need is the basic components that define your identity. If you have a few employees, dish the brand guidelines out to them too, so there's no confusion and time-wasting.
Once you've got your branding positioned and clear as day, you'll be able to quickly refer back to it when it comes to designing new documents or marketing campaigns.
Wrap your efforts of time management and planning together to determine what you should be focusing on right now. Working on tasks due way in advance is usually a great idea, but there might currently be a lot of things that demand your immediate attention, so prioritise those things now and get to the rest of the to-do's later on.
A key example of this, as a small business or self-employed entity, would be your taxes. If you haven't got somebody managing these for you that makes you solely responsible for getting them in on time. We'd all love to continue work on that hugely exciting project we've been dreaming up for weeks but if duty calls, it's got to be done. Face it: when it comes to rushing to meet the deadline on your self-assessment tax returns, you're not going to be very productive at all!
Take time to rest and retune
Try as you might, you're never going to be productive one-hundred per cent of the time. The irony of it, in fact, is that sometimes you will have to step back and accept things as they are. There are tonnes of variables that can affect your rate of productivity and you needn't burn yourself out trying to keep a grasp of it.
Running a small team or operating as a sole trader can sometimes leave your energy levels and creativity a little dry. In times like this, you should be giving yourself a break. If inspiration or drive isn't coming to you very easily anymore, it's time to let go of that focus and realign yourself with your business. Maybe you could treat productivity as a cycle and start re-considering or renewing your goals?
Hopefully, you learned something from this post and are feeling the urge to put it into practice in your small business. Productivity won't always be around to act as the spearhead for consistency and success but you can make use of these techniques to maximise and rekindle it whenever you need to. For more tips on motivation and productivity, you can take a look at this blog post I wrote for those who have just gone self-employed and work from home but are not earning a lot yet.