You Can’t Reap What You Don’t Sow

Every Friday, my daughter and I have our “Friday Family Movie Night” where we order pizza, pop some popcorn, and watch a new movie that we bought that week. Some of the movies that we have watched recently includes Wall-E, Aladdin, and Beauty & The Beast. The other week, we watched the movie The Lorax which is an adorable movie about greed and the environment. Towards the end of the movie, there was a song, “Let It Grow” which included this line:

You can’t reap what you don’t sow!

Normally, a random line from a song in a movie doesn’t usually catch my attention. However, I had a similar conversation earlier in the day that also had a similar subject.

Start Sowing

Over the years, I have met countless people looking to start or grow their businesses. Almost every person I’ve met has had a dream or goal of where they can see themselves. The issue is that a lot of these people spend so much time thinking about how they want things to be that they forget to actually start. The person I was speaking with earlier in the day before watching The Lorax was someone who had a great idea. The issue was that he was wasting a lot of time on thinking and not enough time on actually doing.

One of the biggest hurdles in accomplishing your dreams is actually starting. A recent study from Bentley University found that 66% of people wanted to start a business. 66% is a lot of people that are interested in starting businesses. However, Global Entrepreneurship Monitor reported that only 12% of people in the United States were involved with entrepreneurial activity in 2015.

66% of people want to start a business but only 12% actually do. What's stopping you from starting? Click To Tweet

Why is there a massive difference between people who want to start their own business and people who are actually running businesses? While there are many reasons that people give for not starting, a lot of the reasons can be summed up in the fear of the unknown. The issue is that you can’t achieve your dreams when you don’t event start.

What’s Stopping You

Naturally, there are good reasons to be hesitant in starting a new project or new business. What if something goes wrong and the project or business doesn’t work out? What if your project results in a lawsuit? How does starting a new project affect your life and family?

These questions are perfectly normal to have. I had many similar questions when I first started back in 2009. I wanted to start my agency My Local Webstop but didn’t know anything about the legal, accounting, or marketing. What if it didn’t work out? I couldn’t tell my electric company to wait until my business took off.

When I was discussing my worries with a friend of mine, he asked me “What is really the worst that could happen?”. I pondered that over. At the end of the day, even if my business drastically failed and I was months behind in bills, I could still get back on my feet eventually. It may take a few years, but I could recover. I knew what my dreams and goals were. Even if this business failed, I could recover and then try again.

So, my next question was “What obstacles were in my way?”.

Removing Obstacles

Everyone is going to have obstacles in their way when they get started. The great thing about the time we live in is that almost any project or business that you want to start has ways that you can reduce the obstacles in easy ways. For most businesses, you can start the business in a very part-time setting around a full-time job. For example, you can start a photography studio by scheduling photo sessions around your day job.

Some businesses will require some money upfront such as a lawn care company or eCommerce businesses. You can find ways to reduce these costs by borrowing equipment or purchasing used equipment to get you started. For your Ecommerce business, you can only order or make a very small amount of your products until you start getting customers instead of bulk ordering anything.

If you aren’t sure if anyone will even need your product or service, you can even try to validate the idea before you start.

Instead of jumping completely in with your time and money, look for ways that you can reduce the amount of cost and risk that will come with starting your project or business. Even if your business doesn’t have much risk, doing this exercise will help you feel even more confident in being able to start.

Reap Your Reward

Something to remember is that you will gain something from whatever you decide to start even if it fails. You may become successful but you will also learn a lot of valuable lessons and strategies as you go. You may learn the basics of marketing, handling customers, email and time management, and lots more.

I have met so many entrepreneurs who have said something like “If only I knew what I know now 5 years ago when I started”. If you keep delaying when you start, you are also delaying when you will start learning. Take the leap today and start sowing the seeds of your future!

Core Values Help Guide Your Team in the Right Direction

Like people, most businesses have certain ideas and views that they highly value. These core values are part of every decision and action you take in your business. If you value freedom from an office, you will grow your business in a way that is different than someone who values having teams working in an office with them. However, most founders and entrepreneurs never take the time to pull the values out of their mind and present them to their teams.

What are core values?

A while ago, I wrote about having a clear vision for your business. Creating your company values and explaining them to your team helps immensely in this process. By knowing exactly what the company values are, your team is more likely to make decisions and take actions in the ways that your business needs them to. For example, if one of your core values is “Have Fun” and it is regularly talked about, it is more likely that your team will evolve into embracing that value.

This also helps as you grow your team. You can use the company’s core values to find potential candidates that fit in with the company’s values to ensure that they are a good fit for your company and your company is a good fit for them. For example, if your company has a value of “Full Transparency” and you can tell that to your potential candidates for positions that you are hiring for, you may find people who feel that your company is not a good fit for their values. This helps identify culture conflicts before you even hire anyone.

Some examples of core values

So, what does some core values look like? One of Zappos’s core values is “Deliver WOW Through Service”. Some of your core values can be longer such as one of Whole Foods core values which is “Promoting the health of our stakeholders through healthy eating education”. Here are Aweber’s core values:

  1. Foster Respect and Cooperation.
  2. Listen to What People Say About Us. Invite Feedback.
  3. Learn. Educate. Innovate.
  4. Don’t Take Ourselves Too Seriously; Have Fun.
  5. Create Remarkable Experiences.

Another example would be Salesforce’s values:

  1. Technology – Offering donated and discounted technologies to higher education organizations and nonprofits
  2. People – Promoting a culture of caring and helping employees give back
  3. Resources – Providing grants inspired by our employees, technologies, and communities

Now, compare those with Barnes & Noble Booksellers‘s core values:

  1. Customer Service
  2. Quality
  3. Empathy
  4. Respect
  5. Integrity
  6. Responsibility
  7. Teamwork

They then further explain each core value depending on where they are using the core values. For example, their Quality value has additional explanation:

Our actions and personal standards reflect our mission of being the best specialty retailer in America. We focus on delivering desired results within established timeframes.

As you can see, core values can be formed in all different ways. They could be one word values that you can explain further. Or, they could be lengthy phrases. Core values are unique to your business and can be worded in any way that feels right for your business.

How to decide on your own core values

Now that we have looked at a few example values and discussed why they are useful, you may be wondering where to start in creating your own. I was first introduced to core values when I read Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business and I highly recommend you checking that out. After looking at many different businesses and their values, I have found that they usually decide upon about 5 values. These values range from 1 word to 15 words.

When I started working on core values for Quiz And Survey Master, I first started pondering what sort of values do I have and which of them heavily influence the business. From there, I started crafting a few ideas that I could write down. Then, I put that list away and stepped away from it for a few days. This gave me time to look at them with fresh thoughts when I visited the idea again.

Once I narrowed down the ideas to around 5, I started trying to come up with different ways to phrase them that may make it easier to explain or convey the value itself. Finally, I presented my current ideas to my team and asked for feedback and their ideas.

Eventually, we crafted these 5 core values:

  1. Our Team – We treat our team like family
  2. Customer Success – We strive to ensure our customers are successful
  3. Respect – We respect every person
  4. Curiosity – We are always curious about learning new things and self improving
  5. Transparency – We always have honest, open, and transparent communication

From here, I created a document to keep these values listed in that I can include in various content such as communication with team members, new hires, content packets with new clients, etc…

What’s next?

I have found it very helpful to refer back to these core values to re-iterate what we stand for. For example, when a support person is trying to help a particularly difficult user, we ask “how can I ensure this customer is successful?”. This is a useful exercise to keep the core values a part of the team.

So, once you finish creating your core values, what should you do next? The first thing to do is to communicate your core values with everyone on your team.

This first thing you should do with your core values are share them with your team! Click To Tweet

This can be a simple team meeting or a company-wide keynote speech. The goal is to not only tell your team what your core values are but also why those are the core value and how is the team benefiting from having core values.

Finally, tell everyone else about them. Make it a part of your “get to know you” campaign and your onboading process for new clients and users. Your users want to know about you and who you are. Telling them about your core values is a great way to connect and share a little about your business with them.

If you are trying to figure out what your core values are, take your time. This will not be something you whip up one afternoon. I have created a set of questions that you can download that will help you in the brainstorming part of the process. Check it out below:

Several of the example core values came from a post on YFS Magazine.

Reach Success This Year By Creating Smart Resolutions

Rainer Maria Rilke, the poet, once said “And now we welcome the new year, full of things that have never been”. I have always like that particular quote about the new year. The new year brings unknown adventures, exciting new challenges, and potential successes. Most people create goals that they want to achieve during the year. This could be anything from wanting to lose weight to wanting to grow their business. However, many people create their goals without much thought or any accountability to reach them. I encourage you to create SMART goals this year.

Many people create their goals without much thought or any accountability to reach them. Click To Tweet

What are SMART goals?

SMART is an acronym that stands for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Timely

The SMART system has been around for many years and helps guides us to creating objectives and goals in various settings from project management to personal development. Let’s take a look at each part of the SMART system to see how using it can improve our goals.

Specific

The SMART system encourages you to create a specific goal rather than a vague or general goal. This helps us reflect back on our goals and see our progress. Some questions that you want to ask about your goal to get specific include:

  • What do I want to accomplish?
  • Who is involved?
  • How will I accomplish this goal?

Measurable

In your goal, you should establish criteria for measuring your progress towards accomplishing your goal. This is useful to reflect back on and determine how far along you are on your goal. Ask yourself questions such as:

  • How will I know that I am successful?
  • How much?
  • How many?

Achievable

When setting your goals, you want to make sure that these goals are actually possible in the time-frame you want. For example, setting a goal of growing your business by 1000x is a great goal to want but it probably isn’t achievable within a year.

Relevant

With your goals, you want to make sure that they are relevant to your long-term goals. For example, you can set a specific, measurable, and achievable goal such as “painting 100 houses in 2 months”. However, if you are a cupcake shop owner, then that really wouldn’t help you in the long term. Be sure to ask yourself questions such as:

  • Does this help me achieve my long-term goals?
  • Is this a worthwhile goal?
  • Does this align with my company’s vision?

Timely

Lastly, you want to attach a time-frame to each of your goals. For example, you can say that you want to lose 50 pounds, but by when? In a month? In 6 months? When setting your goal, plan your time-frame so you can measure your progress more effectively.

What are examples of SMART goals?

Now, let’s take a look at some of your possible goals and see how we would create SMART goals for them. First, if your goal was “to lose weight”, you could turn that into:

“I want to lose 50 pounds in 6 months.”

If your goal was “to grow my business”, you could turn that into:

“I want to grow my company’s revenue by 300% by the end of the year.”

If your goal was “to write more”, try something like:

“I want to write at least 500 words per week in blog posts and email marketing” or “I want to write at least 2 blog posts a month”.

Now, go create your goals!

Now that you have a framework for creating your goals, take some time to think about what you want to achieve this year. Always try to at least have one personal and one business or work-related goal. Also, try not to have any more than 5 goals for the year. These should be big and focused goals, so you may not have time to achieve as many as you think you might. So, what are your goals for this year? Comment below and let everyone know what your goals are!

Clear vision is valuable to a growing business

There are many things you need to know when you are starting or growing your business. One thing that I feel is crucial to the success of your business is the vision that you have for it. Where do you see your business in a month? How about 3 months? A year? 5 years? Running a business is hard and sometimes you need to focus everything on getting through the day. Sometimes, you have to make many decisions quickly to satisfy your users and customers. However, you do need to take time to create your vision and reflect on it.

Why you need vision

Without an overall vision, how do you know if you are making the right decision for long term success? When making short term decisions and plans, it is easy to only focus on what you are currently working on. However, you can steer the business the wrong way if you are not making those plans and decisions while keeping the vision in mind. For example, what if you have created a small time tracking service? You may be receiving hundreds of requests from your customers and users. In addition, you may be facing several problems and reported issues.

Without an overall vision, how do you know if you are making the right decision for long term success? Click To Tweet

If you only base your plans on what is immediately requested, you may work on projects that you will have to re-create or throw away later on as you introduce new features. Another example would be if you are running a service business and you are considering adding a new plan or new offering. You should reflect on your vision to see how this will fit into your vision of the business a few years from now. You may discover that this new plan does not align with your goals for the business.

Things to consider when outlining your vision

Now that I discussed why you should have a vision, you may be wondering what your vision should be like and how detailed it should be. The vision isn’t meant to be an exact plan. This is because things may come up later that changes your business model, structure, or plans. However, the vision should be a guiding principle. For example, if you started a nutrition blog, your long-term vision may be to have a large community of people sharing nutrition ideas. This vision will help you make decisions and plans. If you see another nutrition blog start offering a paid service for designing meal plans, you may consider doing the same. However, you will want to consider if this service will help you grow your site into the large community of nutrition sharing people. So, when outlining your vision, keep it simple but consider items such as the size of your business, the size of your audience, and the channels you want to use to acquire and communicate with your audience.

Changing your vision of the business

There will be times when you may consider changing the overall vision of the business. You may see another business offering services that you think will be beneficial to your customers. Or, a user may make a feature request that you feel many of your users will greatly benefit from. After validating your feature or service idea, this is the time to reflect on your vision. It may be beneficial to some of your users, but will it be beneficial to most of them? Will it help you move towards your vision of the business? If so, that’s great. If not, you may want to consider not going that way. However, you can decide to shift your vision in order to begin offering that service or creating that feature. That’s okay. It’s your business and you can shift the vision to suite what you want. However, do not fall for the “shiny object syndrome” where you are constantly chasing the next shiny object. Reflecting on your current vision to see if you should shift is crucial to ensure that you continue down the right path for you and your business.

I would love to hear about the vision for your business! Comment below to share it with everyone.

Why And How You Should Validate Your Business Ideas

There are many times that we come up with great product ideas or even new features. Then, we spend time and money to create them only to have no one want it or want to pay for it when we are ready to start selling our new product. Many people will tell you that you should validate your ideas. Why should we validate them? What if we want to validate the idea but we don’t know how to even begin? In this post, I am going to walk you through the why’s, the what’s, and the how’s so you can validate your ideas before wasting time and money.

Why Should You Validate Your Ideas?

There are a variety of reasons that you should validate your ideas before creating the product. If you are creating your product yourself, it could take you hundreds of hours to create the product. What if, after all those hours, you finish the product and no one wants to buy it? Or, maybe you hired someone to create the product. Now, you would have wasted thousands of dollars or more. Another benefit to validating your idea is that you can talk to potential customers and begin marketing your product before you even build it. When it comes to your product idea, there are three things that you should validate.

Validating The Market

The first thing that you need to do is to validate the market itself. Is there a market for this type of product? You want to make sure that there is not only a market but a market that can scale as well. If you only quickly validate your idea with a few potential users, you may not realize that there isn’t enough of a market to grow your product. Are there competitors in the market? Are they successful?

Validate The Problem

Once you ensure that there is a market and it can scale, you need to validate the problem that you are trying to solve. Is this an actual problem? Do other people have this problem? For example, if you dislike the way a social network handles displaying friend’s posts, you would want to make sure other people have those same dislikes as you before you create the new social network. Similarly, if you have a problem keeping track of time spent on projects and that current time-tracking tools are too complicated, then you want to make sure there are other people that also have that problem before proceeding with creating your product.

Validate That People Will Pay

The last thing that you must validate is that people will actually pay for your product. There may be people out there interested in your product. They may have the same exact problem as you think they do. However, if they do not want to pay for your product, it doesn’t matter. The best way to validate a product is to ask for a potential customer’s money. Knowing that you potential customer would be willing to pay for this product ensures that you will have customers willing to pay when the product launches. Not doing this final step could lead to a product launch that has people interested but not enough wanting to pay for it.

The best way to validate a product is to ask for a potential customer's money. Click To Tweet

Now that we know what we want to validate, how do we actually validate this? Where do we even begin. Follow the next 4 steps to validate your idea and get you going down the right path to a successful launch.

Step 1 – Look For Competitors

First, we want to validate that there is a market. To do this, we want to search for similar products to our ideas. A few places that you want to search includes Google, YouTube, iOS app store, and Google Play. If your product is inside of a niche like WordPress plugins or Drupal modules, then you would also look into niche repositories or marketplaces as well. You want to check to see if other people have already been able to successfully build products. If so, this proves that there is a market out there for these products. Try to reach out to the creators of existing products or creators of failed products. Check to see what may have been difficult for them. If you can’t find any similar products, it may mean that it is either a difficult problem to solve or that people aren’t willing to spend money to solve the problem. Don’t be discouraged at the findings of this step but keep in mind the results of your findings in the next few steps.

Step 2 – Talk To Potential Customers

Now that we have looked into the market, it is time to validate the problem that we want to solve. To do so, we need to go out and talk to actual people who would be potential customers. I like to find 30 to 50 people for this step depending on the type of product and market. These should not be friends and family as they will usually side more on the positive side than normal. You can get good results from friends and family and validate their feedback with the next step, but I find it is better to look elsewhere for the majority of this feedback. So, where can we find people to talk to? Depending on your following, you may be able to just post on social media or post on your website that you are looking to talk to people that has a certain type of problem. For example, you may tweet something like “Anyone have issues finding a good time tracking app? I would love to talk to you about your experience.” If you don’t have a following, you can look through blogs, Quora, Facebook, and various places for people who have commented about having a problem similar to the one you are trying to solve. For example, if I were creating a time tracking tool, I may search through a freelancing blog for people leaving comments asking for a good time tracking tool.

So, what should you talk about? You want to focus on the problem itself. Don’t try to sell your product or anything much about it. You also don’t want to persuade them to feel like they have the problem the way you describe it. So, the first step is to build some rapport with the person. From there, you want to ask several open ended questions about what there problem is, what have they tried to solve the problem, and how did they feel about those solutions. For example, for the example time tracking tool, I may ask things like

  • “Why do you want to track your time?”
  • “What have you used to track your time?”
  • “How did you feel about the experience of using _____(product they have used)?”

I created a guide for talking to customers with more example questions which you can find at the end of this post. This process helps you validate that other people have the problem that you are attempting to solve. Ideally, you will have over half the people you speak to have the problem that you are looking for and describe their situation in a way that fits with the product you want to create. If less than a quarter of people have similar problems as what you are trying to solve, it may be time to pivot your product’s goals.

Step 3 – Ask For Money

Now that you understand and tested your theory of the problem, you should have an idea of the exact problem that you are solving. However, if you jumped straight to creating your product and launching it now, you may find that no one buys it even though it solves a problem. This is because not all problems are ones people are willing to pay to solve. For our example time tracking tool, people may need to track their time and find their existing tools are difficult to use, but they may not be willing to pay for a new product to learn and use. So, now is a great time to reach out to the ideal customers out of the group of potential customers that you spoke to and ask for a payment. You can do this in a variety of ways. You can create a simple landing page with a simple payment option. Or you could even use a newer crowdfund platform such as Kickstarter or Indiegogo. I like to just ask a few ideal customers to make a payment just to ensure that there are people willing to pay for my product once it launches.

Step 4 – Create An MVP And Test

The final step is to create a minimal version of the product. Ideally, it would only be 10% of the product. For our example time tracking tool, maybe we go and create the overall design and layout. Alternatively, it could be a single main feature. Then, we want to go back to our potential customers and show them this minimum version. Ask for feedback, suggestions, and concerns. Now, if they like the direction that you are headed, you know that you are on the right path. If you had validated the problem and created the entire product, you may have found that your idea of the solution may have been different than most of your potential customers. So, we want to test a minimum version to ensure that we are going down the right path. From here, you can start building out the product and preparing for your product’s launch.

Now that you have a good vision of what you should validate and how to do it, it is time to get out there and start validating your ideas. Below, you can claim a free guide that I created for talking to potential customers and some more example questions to ask them.

Everyone Should Attend A WordCamp And Here’s Why

When it comes to WordPress, few events can have as much as an impact as a WordCamp. If you are unfamiliar with WordCamps, they are conferences built around WordPress. WordCamps are usually casual and are completely community created. All the organizers, speakers, and staff are volunteers. You usually have a great mixture of users ranging from a complete beginner to developers to business owners.

WordCamps usually have 2 or 3 tracks which means there are 2 or 3 talks happening at the same time. Most of them are over the weekend though some also have a Friday event as well. So, this usually adds up to 20 to 40 different talks that you can choose form to attend over the weekend. So, why should you go to them? I have 3 reasons why everyone that uses WordPress should attend WordCamps.

WordCamps Are Affordable

The entire staff of a WordCamps are volunteers. WordCamps are meant to be low cost and affordable to everyone. Since they do not pay any speakers or staff and they also have a variety of sponsors, most WordCamps cost less then $40 for the weekend. This tickets cost usually includes the admission to all the talks over the weekend, lunch, and some swag items such as a t-shirt and stickers. Sometimes, this ticket will also include admission into an after party with free food and drinks. Other times, the ticket may include a breakfast one day. At such an affordable price and such great content, they are accessible to everyone.

They Are Packed With Information

I had already mentioned there are quite a few talks happening during the course of the WordCamp. Some of the larger WordCamps could have over 50 possible talks, panels, and workshops for you to choose from. These topics can range from begginer topics such as learning how to organize your site’s content all the way to developer topics such as plugin development. Some recent talks that I have attended include:

  • Choose the Right Theme
  • So You Want to Build a Plugin
  • Building a Community of Loyal Buyers and Raving Fans
  • Advanced Development Workflows
  • SEO for Business Owners: Understanding the complex world of Google search results
  • Zen and the Art of WordPress Maintenance
  • How to Build a WordPress Membership Site

As you can see, there are all types of talks. Anyone can find talks that are beneficial to their journey with WordPress.

Amazing Networking Opportunities

One of the reasons that I love WordCamps so much is the networking. Most WordCamps have a few hundred people attend. Some are even larger with over 500 attendees. With these numbers, you can almost always find users who are in similar situations as you. The WordPress community is always so friendly and open that you can always start conversations with a variety of people. I always make many new friends and many more connections at every WordCamp that I attend.

So, now that you know some more about WordCamps and the reasons why I feel that everyone should attend one, you may be wondering how to find them. Luckily, WordPress has a site that lists all upcoming, past, and planned WordCamps across the world. There are usually always a WordCamp near you. I have 3 within reasonable distance from where I live. To find a WordCamp near you, check out the WordCamp Central page.

Have you attended a WordCamp before? Please leave a comment about your most memorable experience below!

Should you grow your business?

Have you heard the phrase “If your business isn’t growing, it’s dying” before? You probably have heard it many times from many different people. The truth is that this is simply not true. You can effectively keep your business the same size if you want to. Think of the mom and pop shops that have been open for decades. Most are still a single location and offer the same products or services. Of course, their prices and strategies may change with the changing markets and economies but their size can remain the same if they choose to.

Reasons To Grow Your Business

Naturally, there are many reasons why you would want to grow your business. However, there are several reasons why you may also want to not grow your business. When you are considering growing your business, it is important to analyze the different pros and cons. Lets go over a few reasons why you may want to grow your business.

Increasing Financial Needs

As an owner of a business, you probably want financial freedom. However, it is completely natural to want to earn more money as time goes on. In order to pay yourself more, you will have to grow your business to accommodate your income as well as any new staff that you may bring hire.

Stability

As businesses grow, they tend to become more stable. If you are running a one person business with limited streams of revenue, your business is much less stable than a business with multiple locations and dozens of people on staff. Many people want to grow their business so that it can be more stable in the ever changing market.

Freedom

If you are running a smaller business, it is very likely that the business depends on you. If you were to be out for a week due to sickness, it may drastically effect the business. However, if you were to grow your team so that the business doesn’t rely on you, this enables you to have the freedom to step away when needed or when wanted.

Limited Personnel

What if your business is needed so much that you have to turn away potential customers simply because you do not have the time to assist them. This would be a good reason to hire help and grow the business.

Reasons Not To Grow Your Business

I have just went over several reasons to want to grow your business. Naturally, there may be many other reasons that you want to grow your business. However, before doing so, take a moment to consider reasons why you may not want to grow the business. Lets go over a few of the main ones.

Stress

Any time that you grow a business, it is going to be stressful. What if you hire extra help but then revenue doesn’t increase as much as you needed it to? What if you have trouble scaling? Even under the best conditions, growth can be stressful.

Risk

On top of the extra stress, there may be risk associated with your growth. You may have to hire people before you are sure the revenue will be there or you may consider a loan to have the finances to grow the business. You also have more financial obligations to your business and team.

Managing

In order to grow your business, it usually requires hiring new people. This will require you to worry about training, taxes, insurance, accountability, and more. It is acceptable to not grow your business because you do not want this extra layer to deal with.

Cost Of Growth

Depending on your type of business, it may cost you time and money to grow the business. For example, you may have to rent or build a second location to grow the business. Your business may not have the finances to consider growing the business. If this is the case, you may have to look externally for investments or loans. In some cases, you may decide that it is more beneficial to not grow.

So, before you being your journey of growing your business, consider the pros and cons for your business. It may be helpful to ask yourself some questions such as:

  1. Why should the business grow?
  2. How will the business grow?
  3. How much should the business grow?
  4. Am I prepared to take on the extra risk and stress?
  5. Do I have the processes in place to hire and grow my team?
  6. Do I have the finances to grow?

There are no right or wrong answers when it comes to whether you should grow your business or not. Each of these reasons and answers will be different with each business. However, taking the time now to thoroughly consider and discuss why you may or may not want to grow the business will help you tremendously as you move forward. I would love to hear your thoughts. So please leave a comment with your reasons of why you want to grow or not grow your business.

 

Why I Take Breaks And You Should Too

I previously spoke about managing your time in which I said to take breaks. A few people raised their eyebrow when reading that. When you have a million things on your to-do list with more being added throughout the day, the last thing you think you have time for is a break. However, there are actually reasons why taking a break on days like this are good for you. A study from University of Illinois shows that prolonged attention on a single task actually reduces performance. Professor Alejandro Lleras, who led the new study, said “Brief mental breaks will actually help you stay focused on your task!” Several studies including this one suggest that by taking small breaks you can increase your productivity and focus.

Another article concludes that by taking a 30 second to 5 minute break, referred to as “Microbreaks”, can improve mental acuity by an average of 13%. The study also states that taking regular 2 minute breaks can increase productivity by an average of 11.15%. It turns out that taking breaks are essential for high productivity and energy.

So, when should you take a break? There are many different practices and techniques. Here are a few that you can try.

Breaks every 90 minutes

Tony Schwartz concluded that taking a break every 90 minutes is sufficient to keeping fresh and energized.  This is based on the ultradiun rhythm. This rhythm is a recurrent cycle which is present in both our sleeping and waking lives. This cycle usually has 90 minutes of high activety and 20 minutes of low activety. Therefore, the study suggests to take a 20 minute break after 90 minutes of concentrated work.

pomodoro technique breaks
Photo by lucamascaro

Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro Technique is a time management technique from Francesco Cirillo. This method breaks down your time into chunks of 25 minutes of work that are separated by short breaks. This system is designed to help people learn to work with time and not against it. It is great to help avoid the “running on fumes” experiece that you would feel over worked. An easy timer for tracking this can be found at tomato-timer.com

17 minute breaks every 52 minutes

The Draugiem Group used a time-tracking app to study the habits of their most productive employees. They found that the most productive employees took, on average, a 17 minute break every 52 minutes. In fact, they found that the most productive don’t even work eight-hour days. They believe that the secret to highest productivity is working smarter with frequent breaks.

So, what should you do during your short break? Anything that is not what you are focused on. I use my quick breaks for checking in with social media, refilling my drink, and, most importantly, doing some stretches. However, your break could include everything from taking a walk to reading a chapter in a book.

Comment below on how often you take breaks and what you do with your breaks!

6 Tips For Managing Your Time Better

Running a business is time consuming. Add taking care of the children, spending time with your spouse, shopping, house work, and all the other tasks you do during the week and you may start feeling like you don’t have enough time to do it all. We all have that feeling from time to time. What can we do to get more done?  The first step is to manage your time to be the most productive. The following techniques will help you get the most out of your time.

Use a Calendar

Having and using a calendar is fundamental to managing your time. Taking the time to schedule in when you are meeting with clients, when you are having dinner with the in-laws, time you are working on your mailing list, and all other aspects of your week will greatly assist you in visualizing the amount of time you have. This will make it easier to schedule in time for doing other tasks that you want to get to that you do not feel you have the time for. I use Google Calendar for scheduling everything. Be sure to also enter in your deadlines as well as setting up reminders.

Turn off Distractions

What distracts you while you work? Does Facebook notifying you about a comment distract you from work and causes you to open Facebook? If so, turn off the notifications while you plan on working. How about email, instant messaging, or text messages? Mute your phone while working to help cut these out. One notification may not take up too much time but when you have 20 or 30 notifications throughout the afternoon, you could easily lose most of the day.

Do the Most Important Thing First

Distractions and complications tend to multiply as the day goes on. Not to mention, you also lose your motivation and energy throughout the day as well. You should always start your day with the most important task to ensure that it gets done and gets done right. More importantly, you will have accomplished something important every day since you did at least this one thing.

Batch Similar Tasks Together

Switching between different tasks and thoughts can hinder your productivity. Try grouping different tasks together when you are scheduling your time. For example, I try to schedule all my calls together in a time slot. This way, I am really focused on calls during that time. Same thing with writing or emails.

time photo

 

Track Your Time

Take a week and track the time for everything you do. Tracking every single task during the week will help you see where your time is going and where you can make improvements. You may notice that you are spending much more time on particular tasks than what you should be spending time on. I use Tracking Time to keep track of my time.

Take A Break

I know what you are thinking. Frank, how is taking a break going to give me more time? Well, many people have realized that taking a break actually improves your productivity. Why? In a different post, I talked about how taking breaks allows your brain to relax. This helps you stay focused, alert, and motivated. I usually have two breaks a day. One mid-morning and one mid-afternoon. These are perfect times to get up, check in with the family, and refill my drink. After the break, I am usually ready to get things done.

Now that you have a few techniques to help you get more done, be sure to remember to still take some time for you. Take an longer lunch or leave early every now and then. Getting fresh air away from work helps you keep your mind fresh and ready to tackle the challenges of work. Have any good techniques for managing time? Be sure to comment below!

 

The Challenge of Staying Motivated

Staying motivated to accomplish your goals is hard. There are difficult days. Heck, there are difficult weeks and even difficult months. Your team can miss a deadline, your product may not be taking off as fast as you would like, you could be having trouble balancing your personal life and work life, and your computer can break. How can you continue to be motivated when, at times, nothing seems to be going right?

Some people say to write yourself a check for $1 million and tape it to your computer monitor but that isn’t going to make you feel better when you are having a rough month. In fact, that would make me feel worse thinking that I was failing at achieving my dream of writing that check. Instead, I have come up with a list of 6 smaller and more attainable ways of staying motivated.

Make a list of why you want to achieve your goals

Many people will tell you to make a list of your goals to stay motivated. This is useful to stay on track but when you need motivation, a list of things that you are not achieving isn’t going to make you feel better. This is why I recommend making a list of the reasons why you want to achieve those goals. When you make lists like these, you tend to spend a bit of time thinking about the reasons you want to achieve your goals. Thinking over these reasons gives you a boost of momentum to get things done. I keep a list of my reasons in my desk drawer. When things start looking dire and rough, I pull out the list and remember the reasons why I put in all these hours and why I take on all this stress. For me, my first reason on the list is because I want to provide a better life for my daughter than I ever had. Thinking of things like that tends to get me pumped and ready to take on my challenges.

Break down your goals into attainable chunks

Sometimes you lose motivation because you just do not feel that you are accomplishing anything. When you have goals like “Build my company website”, that is quite a large thing to accomplish. Halfway through, you may start to lose motivation because you feel like you haven’t achieved your goal yet. However, if you break it down to things like “Find and purchase a domain” and “Find and purchase hosting” and “Install WordPress”, you will see a list of smaller goals. So now, halfway through the project, instead of seeing one goal on your to-do that isn’t finished, you see a list of goals many of which are already checked off.

Talk to someone in a similar situation

Getting out and meeting people in similar situations as you is critical for coming up with ideas and solutions to challenges. However, it also is very important to help you stay motivated. When you go out to a Meetup or have lunch with a few friends in similar situations, you talk about your accomplishments and challenges. Knowing other people have encountered the same struggles that you have and they have survived them is always helpful for getting motivated again.

Write these lists down

If you are keeping your lists of reasons and lists of goals in your head, it isn’t having too much of an impact on your morale. When you write down (or type) your lists, you have a way to check them off. You now have a way to look them over and see all the things you have achieved. A way to stumble upon your list of reasons and read them over during the day. Being able to physically see your reasons and goals helps immensely when you begin to struggle with motivation.

Celebrate the little things

Once you have broken your goals down into attainable chunks, you should reward yourself when you accomplish your goals. Even something small like “Find and purchase hosting” should be rewarded. It may be something small like patting yourself on the back or eating a piece of candy. Doing something positive when you achieve goals and complete tasks reinforces the fact that you are accomplishing things. Celebrating these little accomplishments will keep you motivated to get to the next goal.

Stop worrying about things you cannot control

This is the hardest thing on this list but is one of the most important. In the life of an entrepreneur, you are juggling dozens of things each day. There will be successes each day but there will also be failures. If you stress about every little detail, you will get burnt out. You cannot let the things that are not in your control become your focus. Doing so will only add to your stress. Just let these things go and move forward.

motivated photo
Photo by burrows.nichole28

Staying motivated

Things will get challenging. There will be days that are stressful. However, doing small things to keep your motivation going can improve the way you take on those challenges. Remember, you are never in this alone. If you are ever truly down and unmotivated, go out and talk to someone. It could be your spouse, your mother, your neighbor, colleague, or even your barber. Be sure to comment on what ways you keep motivated!