Have you ever heard, “make sure you’re working ON your business instead of just IN it?” Let me start by saying there’s a reason people say this… it’s true! As business owners, we often start our businesses with BIG goals and this dream big picture in mind. Then things get busy and our unending to-do lists cause us to lose sight of that a little while we just try and stay caught up on work. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with working IN your business, but if you want to keep working toward those big goals then you also need to make time to work ON it too.
Can you guess what is often the biggest reason business owners say they don’t get around to working on their businesses? You guessed it… time! That finite resource that feels like we never have enough of. Something I’ve learned in the almost 5 years of being an entrepreneur though is it’s alllll about priorities and planning ahead! It’s amazing how much time you didn’t think you had can appear when you add something to your schedule as a non-negotiable, must-get-done item. When I first heard the idea I thought it was silly… but once I started doing it I saw firsthand how planning ahead could help me prioritize tasks and be more productive so I could have that time for our business.
That being said, this summer we held our first Co-founders retreat and it was focused on justttt this topic — working on our business. So the concept is fresh on the brain! We already do quite a bit of planning and goal setting in our business but during our retreat we wanted to take a step back from our typical metrics and look at things a little differently. So in today’s post I’m breaking down our process and some things that you may want to consider when you spend time working on your business.
Having a Plan
First things, first. Make a plan! If you want to make the most of your time, having an outline of things you definitely want to cover will make the process so much more efficient. During the course of business, Mallory and I randomly will come up with different ideas — some of which we talk through the basics and others we add notes about in Asana and shelf it for later. In fact, we have a few Asana boards dedicated to these ideas. So when we were planning our retreat, we checked in with those lists and prioritized talking points from most to least important to us. We gave ourselves almost a full day during our retreat for planning but the reality is this type of stuff takes a lot of brain power. So try to focus on what’s most important first and if you don’t get to everything you can cover the next topics in your next session. For things like this, you really want to be at your best and not skim over on things so having a plan will really help.
Break Down the Big Picture
Like I talked about above, I’m sure most of you have a big picture in mind when it comes to your business. It’s probably part of what inspired you to start your business in the first place, and the thing you daydream about while you’re working your booty off. Over time though, your dreams and big goals may change which is why it’s important to have check ins! Are the things you set out to work towards 3 years, 1 year or 6 months ago still serving you? Now is the time to think about it! And guess what, if things have changed, you make the rules so now is the time to think about those things and see where any adjustments need to be made.
Something we did on our retreat was break down our big picture goals by things we wanted to accomplish by the end of the year, the next year and then 3 years down the road. Sure, some of those are still somewhat current, but the key was identifying tasks we needed to accomplish that will keep us on the path we are headed on. We did this by getting a posterboard and then using sticky notes in different sections to write our goals on. The stickies were great too because we could color-code (because you know me and organization) as well as move things around.
This exercise was SO eye-opening for us, especially because we were able to not only talk about our business goals together but also our personal goals and passions and how those could impact the path of our business. One of the reasons Mallory and I work so well together I think is that our big picture has always been somewhat similar, even through ALL of the changes we’ve both gone through during that time. Which is a miracle in itself considering we both live in completely different states and are in different parts of our life than we were when we started our business. This also allowed us to step out of having metrics tied to all of our goals and just talk things out a little more too which led to some reallyyyy great brainstorming and ideas we didn’t see coming too. Some of our best ideas have come from impromptu brainstorm sessions and by giving ourselves time to actually run through our ideas, we are able to really strike some gold!
Think About the Work that Brings you the Most Joy
This one also piggybacks off the point above about your big picture. During your time, I recommend taking some time to reflect on what type of work brings you the most joy (or lack thereof). Is there one of your services you look forward to doing more than others? Or are there some things you just dread doing these days? Now is your time to think about those things. You’re the boss lady so if you hate doing something… don’t do it anymore or at least make a plan to phase it out. This was really eye-opening exercise for us too because it allowed us to take a look at the work we’re doing now and evaluate what we’d like to do more or less of in the coming years and what we’d need to do that. Not only that, but we also discovered through our previous exercise that we both have some individual passions that would be awesomeeee additions to our offerings in the future. So take some time to reflect and Marie Kondo your biz offerings if needed!
Evaluate your Systems
Beyond looking at the work you’re doing and where you’re headed. Look at your systems. Are they serving you the best they can? Could your onboarding use some improvements? Would you be more productive if you outsourced some of your work? How about your client experience? This is the perfect time to take a good hard look. We’re all about making consistent adjustments to improve systems in our business and to do so you need to do regular audits.. Some of our big decisions in this section have been hiring our accountant (shout-out to Countless — Brittany is the BOMB!), adjusting our client experience for design projects, tightening our design contracts, and signing up for Asana. All of which at the time seemed like big scary decisions buttt have ultimately been some of the BEST decisions we’ve made in our business.
Planning to Scale
Last but definitely not least… another subject of convo should be on planning to scale. This should go hand-in-hand with the other steps but you actually need to figure out what you need to do to hit the next level! This includes figuring out what those things are, sorting out any research you need to do in the meantime (if software or new tools are involved) and coming up with a tentative timeline for when you want to take those next steps. For us, this included looking ahead to some new services we want to offer in the future as well as talking about when we will be increasing our prices. Our goal both as individuals and a business is to continue to grow and serve our clients the best we can so having these conversations is key to making sure our efforts are consistently supporting that path!
I hope you’ve found these tips helpful and are inspired to make some time to work on your own business! Even if it’s just a little time here or there, it all adds up and I promise it will have a big impact on your business in the long-run. As always, if you have any q’s hit us up in the comments or send us an email!