Whether your business is up and running or you’re still deciding if you should take the entrepreneurial plunge, you first have to believe you’ve got what it takes to make it work (see “It Starts with Belief”). Thankfully, vision is one thing entrepreneurs have in spades! So, you know you can make this happen, you see yourself on the other side, successfully helping others through the products or services you offer. What’s next?
In a word, activity. If you do nothing, you get nothing. However, you need effective activity. Why the distinction? Because it’s easy to confuse being busy with being effective.
It’s not simply what you do (although that’s definitely a factor). The purpose behind what you do helps to determine effectiveness. For example, let’s take two guys in sales. Both of them start work at the same time. Both log into their social networks, check email, and make phone calls for the first two hours. Are they equally effective? Before you answer, let me give some more details. The first of the two logs into his Facebook and LinkedIn accounts to see what his friends are up to. He checks Pinterest to see if anyone has posted some cool information about places he can go this weekend, and he makes some phone calls in response to email from people selling a bike (motorcycle) he really wants. The other checks his Facebook and LinkedIn accounts to see if he’s received invitations to upcoming networking events and connected with professionals with whom he hopes to develop professional relationships, he checks his Pinterest Analytics to see where he can best focus his attention this week to better reach his target audience, and makes phone calls in response to emails requesting further information about or to set appointments to demonstrate the products or services he offers. They do the same things, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out which of the two is more effective in terms of building his business.
There’s a lot written about engaging in effective activity. For example, the Gwinnett Network wrote this handy piece: Develop Your Business Networking Skills. It links to other articles that break down how to network at events, connect with people, and get referrals among other things. Or consider Debbie Bailey’s advice on effectively communicating during a presentation. I’m going to simplify it down to two simple points (as often stated by Nick Serba, LegalShield’s former National Director for Small Business Plans): Doing the right things in the right way, and doing them often enough.
Doing the Right Things (in the Right Way)
Sure, the part in parentheses is overkill. After all, if you’re doing the right things in the wrong way, they’re no longer right. Yet, given the example I used above, I want to make my point absolutely clear. To be effective, you must first identify the right activities. This means knowing what to do and having a purpose for doing them. Naturally, they’ll vary from industry to industry, and even among specialties within an industry. So, the question to ask is: How do I know if an activity is right?! One of the best ways is to find people who are successful at doing what you want to do, and learn what helped them succeed. If you examine enough successful people in your chosen area, a pattern will emerge. What if you’re branching off into uncharted territory? This is a little more challenging in that you may not find someone who paved the way to mirror-match. However, you can match yourself to accomplished people in the same industry or who are doing things somewhat similar to your proposed business model and model what they’ve done. Though you’ll have to allow room for adjustment, such modeling should give you a basis for developing a strategy of effective activity.
This often involves growth, especially if you have a big dream. You may find that you don’t have all the skills necessary to fully bring your dream to life and accomplish your goals. That’s okay, because you can either learn those skills or, if it’s more effective, outsource certain activities to persons with the needed skills (either a consultant or an employee you hire). The fundamental thing is you now know the effective activities needed to hit your target. (Question: Have you identified the effective activities necessary for your success? If yes, what are they? If not, how do you plan to pinpoint them?)
Doing the Right Things Often Enough
There’s an old saying that you can do something just enough to hate it. For entrepreneurs, this is often what holds them back from enjoying real success. You may do the right things, but don’t engage in them consistently over a long enough period of time. Both are important. If you engage in the right activity only one hour of one day in a week, you’ll get poor results. You need to do more, and do it more frequently. On the other hand, you can do the right things five hours a day five days a week – but only do that for a month. You certainly had consistency during that month, but do you really expect to build a successful business in only one month’s time? You see where I’m going with this. So both consistency and persistency are necessary.
Make no mistake; although doing the right things is often a simple endeavor, it’s rarely easy. As business owners/entrepreneurs, we fight market conditions, popular misconceptions, and (perhaps the greatest challenge of all) our own emotions. It’s especially hard to keep going when you suffer setbacks and loss. Yet, if you have a definite plan of action based on proven activities, you know it’s simply a matter of “toughing it out” until you have the success you want. To help you keep on the right track and ensure that you do what’s needed, surround yourself with supportive people who can encourage you to keep moving forward. Good candidates for this support are those very people you mirror when engaging in the right activities. You may get support from a trusted friend or understanding and empathetic family members (not “sympathetic;” you want someone who will push you when you don’t feel like doing the do). Whoever it is, make sure they know what you’re trying to accomplish and the schedule you set. Then give them permission to hold you accountable. (Question: What schedule will give you maximum success in your business? How long must you stick to it in order to achieve your short and long-term goals?)
We all have a vision for our business, and we know we have to work to make it real. By engaging in effective actions consistently and persistently, we’ll achieve our goals and take our visions out of our imaginations and put them where they belong – in society, where we can help others by what we do.
Let me know about your effective actions, how often you engage in them, and how long it took (or will take) you to reach your goals in the Comments below.
- 6 Things You Should Know About Small Businesses in 2012 [New Research] (blogs.constantcontact.com)
- Social Media Strategy for Small Business 2013: A Totally Honest Look at Social Networks (amsterdamprinting.com)
- Liking LinkedIn (jillkennington.wordpress.com)