Running a successful business requires more than a good idea. It requires structure and processes to keep things and money flowing.
1. Long-term goals list
If you’ve been following me for any time, you’ll undoubtedly heard me talk about the importance of goals. Goals that stretch beyond today or this week, will help you prioritize your time in the most productive manner possible. They will motivate you and your staff. They will keep on focused on what’s truly important.
2. Daily to-do action items list
Just as important as knowing where you’re going long term, is knowing (and doing) what’s most important RIGHT NOW. Sometimes unforseen emergencies have to be dealt with. But more importantly, you need to decide each day what the most productive use of your time will be.
I always have a to-do list and never get through everything on the list on any given day. I do always decide what the priorities are for the day and then get to work on them. Last week, I lost my list and I was lost without it! Thank God I found it a couple of days later. I remembered some of the critical items, but had forgotten one that needed to be addressed.
3. Prospect list
This is one of the biggest mistakes business owners make. If you don’t have a list of potential prospects, you’re definitely leaving money on the table. If you’re a retail establishment, people make a purchase the very first time they discover you. However, if you don’t and you haven’t captured their contact info, you may never hear from them again.
You’ll increase your chances of doing business with them if you’re able to proactively reach out and remind them that you exist. So if you aren’t already capturing either a physical address or email address from your store or website visitors, start that now! You’ll probably need to give them some sort of incentive (not just an offer for your newsletter) in order for them to part with their contact info. But capturing that valuable data must be your goal.
4. Customer list
Just as important as a prospect list is a list of your customers. These are people who have demonstrated interest in your product or service by making a purchase. It takes more time and energy to make a sale to a stranger or prospect than to someone who has already bought from you and been satisfied. Treat these people well, but don’t neglect offering them the next thing you offer that can help solve their problems.
5. Process list
Every business needs a set of processes that help the business run efficiently. You probably have them even if they aren’t documented. You need to document them.
Start by making a list of all of the “Here’s how we do things around here” topics in a variety of areas such as answering the phone, identifying prospects, converting prospects to clients, taking on a new client, invoicing clients, processing payments, asking for a referral, publishing our newsletter, paying the bills, making minor changes to your website, etc. Then write out the steps involved in each process.
This compilation will be an invaluable tool in defining roles and responsibilities, delegating tasks and training new employees.
6. Resource list
This list includes the tools and systems you use to run your business and make your life easier. It’s slightly different than the Process List which may reference certain resources: things like your accounting system, your website host, tools on your blog, new tools you plan to invest in, an employment agency or temp service, online portals for which you have memberships or accounts.
Having a list in a binder along with a brief description and access (login) or contact info will save you countless hours of trying find the information when you desperately need it.
7. Diversions list
After all of this work, you must take time to relax and enjoy life. It’s challenging for some business owners to ‘work in’ time for play, but this list is essential as well.
Your list should include things you enjoy doing, that bring you peace of mind, that obliterate your stress. Possible candidates are listening to a certain kind of music, playing music, painting, playing with your pets, children, spouse and friends.
Make sure you know which kind of ‘play’ you thirst for. Is it board games, exercise, meditation, video games, outdoor sports, movies, ballet, opera, cards, TV, dancing, vacations, weekend getaways?
Whatever ‘floats you boat’, schedule it. That may sound weird but if these activities aren’t on your calendar or at least on a list you review regularly, they will get trumped by those emergencies and daily tasks.
Creating and using these lists will improve your productivity, keep your business soaring and maintain your sanity.