As business owners and entrepreneurs, we’re often too busy working “IN the business” to work “ON the business.”
But every so often, we need to be able to take some time to tuneup the overarching way you do business.
This is one of the facets of our business I love the most … taking a step back and looking at the business as a system to be finetuned, improved, tweaked and optimized for higher output.
And yes, even if you’re that super swamped freelance designer who has a waiting line, or a founder who has 24+ people on your team, you need to do a tuneup every so often! So whether you decide to do it monthly, quarterly, or annually, it’s an absolute must for the health and future of you and your business.
But today, if you haven’t done this in a long time … take 45 minutes to go through the questions, reflect on you and your business and see what oozes out in the answers. (And at some point soon, I’ll be scheduling a webinar on this subject at the Entrepreneurship Lab.)
Here are some questions to review that I often ask myself with some brief explainer notes to get you going:
Quick Starter Questions
To get started, let’s just think about the overall business. Take a step back from it. Put your phone on mute. Shut down your email and chat and notifications you get and ask yourself:
- What’s working? What’s not?
- What’s holding you back?
- What’s keeping you up at night?
- Who or what is giving you heartburn? This is a key question for me … if something or someone is causing you consistent grief, you need to part ways, or eliminate it. Heartburn like this affects you and your business in so many ways. And honestly, life is too short to be consistently miserable.
- What is exciting you?
- What is energizing you?
Goals and Dreams
Now let’s move on to WHY you started your business and what you hope to achieve through it. This hit more about you, the entrepreneur, and what you want out of life. So …
- What are you trying to do and accomplish? This is vocationally, financially, lifestyle, family goals, all of it. You and your goals and dreams should be at the center of why you started your business and be a vital key to accomplishing it.
- Are you making progress on it? How much?
- What’s the biggest things holding you back from making good progress?
- Does your work still align with your dreams?
- Is it still the best way to accomplish them? I hate asking this, but it’s also imperative. If entrepreneurship is not the best way to achieve your dreams or keep you on the path toward it, I believe you need to seriously evaluate it all. And yes, there have been numerous times when I’ve wondered it was for me too.
- Is your significant other still supportive of you and your business? Your significant other is your biggest, strong ally and partner you can have.
Finances and Cashflow
Money is oxygen for your business. If you aren’t minding your finances and cashflow, you’re going to suffocate it and be out of business.
- How’s it going financially? Is the business engine producing money?
- Is it steady and consistent? Or rocky?
- Are you getting paid on time? How long does it take you to get paid?
- Are there leaks in your finances you’re aware of? For product businesses, i.e. refunds, inflating costs for materials, supplies, services.
- Are you meeting regularly with an accountant or solid financial advisor? Is that person helping you identify problems, strengths?
- Do you have diverse revenue streams? Or are you at least working on them? Don’t get down if you’re a freelancer and don’t have any diverse revenue streams. It takes a lot of time to build a business, needless to say side revenue areas.
- Are you paying your taxes? Quarterly in U.S., but as they say, there are two certainties in life, death and … yeah, taxes. If you aren’t paying your taxes, you’re both legally and financially in jeopardy.
Customers and Clients
In order for business to work you must exchange something of value to someone else. Let’s take a look at who you are serving.
- Who (what types of clients) are you currently serving? Look back and just start listing all the people and organizations you’ve billed or received money from in the last 6 months to a year.
- Who are your best and ideal customers and clients? The ones you can’t wait for their next project.
- Who are the worst (nightmare) clients? The ones who pay late, gripe about everything, including your fee, and who are never satisified or happy.
- Which ones do you make the most money with? Specifically net profit. But also which ones do you gross the most.
- Are they happy and satisfied with your work?
- Are they referring work to you? FYI, happy and satisfied customers refer work to you.
Marketing is simply getting the message and benefits of what you do to your ideal customers. Often, this is an area where technicians and craftsmen do poorly in because you simply like “doing the work” and not “selling the work.” But without effective markting, getting a steady flow of customers coming in through the door your business will struggle. So …
- Is your marketing pipeline working? The path that people have to walk to get to your door.
- Are you getting a steady flow of new clients?
- Are you getting a steady flow of return clients? It’s said we spend a lot of money simply GETTING clients. So once you get a client, are you serving them in other ways?
- How are best clients finding you? What’s working well? It is one particular word of mouth referral person, or speaking at conferences, or ???
- Are you selling outcomes, results & benefits instead of the technical specs of the work?
- How’s your sales pitch? Is it effective in educating and persuading people to give you money for your work?
- How’s your website look? Does it need a refresher? Copy changes, updated graphics and photos, or better flow?
- Is your website helping you generate leads and customers to your business effectively?
By process, I mean the “series of actions or steps” it takes to fulfill the work your customers pay you for.
- What are the pain points, frustrations, irritations, bottlenecks in your entire process?
- What could you do faster, easier, better that would have most impact?
- How are you spending your time?
- What is most & least productive use of your time, focus & energy?
Your Health & Happiness
This actually should be your FIRST priority. I only list it here last because I want you to fully explore the other aspects of the business first and to not cloud them with these answers. Your personal health and happiness is paramount. After all, if you aren’t healthy and happy, your business will inevitably suffer. So …
- Are you happy?
- When was the last time you saw your counselor? I take mental health seriously for myself and others. I’m not ashamed, but rather proud to admit that I regularly seek the advice, open ear and counsel of a mental health professional, and advocate for others to do the same.
- Are you healthy? Bad back? Blurry vision, excessive coughing?
- When was the last time you got a physical or even went to your doctor for an appointment?
- Are your loved ones happy and healthy?
- Particularly, is your Significant Other happy and healthy?
- Are you resting and recharging?
- When was your last real vacation?
- Are you spending quality time with your loved ones?
- Are you learning and growing?
- Are you enjoying what you’re doing?
- And who you’re serving?
- Finally, are you giving back? Helping someone else get started, or take the next step is often the most fulfilling part of being an entrepreneur for me.
Once you’ve reflected on these questions, written down some answers and thoughts and even ideas … now it’s time to act on this. I prefer simple, practical, realistic action. It’s always good to have long-term goals and vision. But you need a win after such reflection. So …
- What’s the ONE big thing you see now that would make the most impact on your success?
- What are THREE little things you can do this week to tuneup your biz and see some impact from this time?
Hopefully, those answers get you started … until next month or quarter when you go through this again.
Now … get your wrench out and make some tuneups to your business and life! And if you feel inclined to share your thoughts, results publicly, please post them in the comments below!