It’s a universal truth among small business owners: There are only twenty-four hours in the day – but a million and one things to do.
Business chaos is commonplace among entrepreneurs, but there are ways to overcome it if you recognize its causes and think creatively about its solutions.
Having spent several chaotic years getting Infusionsoft off the ground, I’ve learned five major causes of business chaos and how to overcome each one for continued growth.
Chaos Cause No. 1: You’re Wearing All the Hats
I see entrepreneurs dig themselves into this hole most often, and it’s not hard to understand why. When you start your business, there is often no one else to depend on other than yourself. So, you take charge of everything to ensure the work gets done.
However, if you keep this approach as you start to grow, you’ll never be able to dig out. Take a step back to understand what you’re best at and get some help with everything else.
For example, maybe accounting isn’t your strong suit and it eats up more and more of your time each month. If that’s the case, you’ll actually be saving yourself money if you get help that may seem pricey up front. The time you’ll save focusing on what you do best will be worth it.
Chaos Cause No. 2: You Don’t Know How to Grow Your Business
While entrepreneurship has been increasingly glamorized in recent years, don’t ever forget that it’s a day-in, day-out fight for customers that will pay the bills.
Learning how to grow your business means truly putting (paying) customers first. The way to do this is to set specific priorities on how you spend your time. If you aren’t serving your paying customers to the best of your ability, you better be working hard to find new ones.
Chaos Cause No. 3: You’re Growing the Wrong Way
Closing new sales and adding new customers is great, but don’t forget that with growth comes increased fulfillment needs, more transactions to track and more complications from every angle.
To make sure you are growing the right way, get systems in place that help you manage the growth. This can be something as simple as tracking repeat orders or knowing how many more sales will support another employee. The key is addressing these challenges as they come up and not letting the chaos of the unknown snowball.
Chaos Cause No. 4: You’re Drowning in Technology
The same technology that helped many people become entrepreneurs in the first place can also be counterproductive when not leveraged correctly. Data overload can result in too many potential ideas, and that can take your focus off your core challenges and how to overcome them.
To avoid being drowned in technology, keep your customers top of mind. There are countless software solutions for seemingly every business function, but if they’re not helping you better serve your existing customers or attract new ones, that technology probably isn’t worth it.
Chaos Cause No. 5: You Have No Central Focus
I often hear small business owners say, “I’ll just take it a day at a time.” That philosophy can work in many aspects of life, but if you’re trying to launch a business and you don’t have a bigger vision in mind, you’re in for unending business chaos.
To get a central focus, it’s critical to set aside time to reflect and strategize. First, formalize your business goals and vision and get them down on paper. Then, don’t forget to track your progress. Finally, keep working toward your vision – even when times are tough.
If you’re able to commit to a central focus and concentrate on overcoming the other common creators of business chaos above, you’ll soon find it melting away.
Pick-up Sticks Photo via Shutterstock
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Love the picture of Pick Up Sticks for the article. Very appropriate.
This is one of the great challenges of entrepreneurship; the ability to focus on the main goal and keep things as simple as possible moving toward that goal.
Robert: I say the same thing! 😉 The game is called “PlockePin” in Swedish.
For me, focus is the hardest. With all the things you have to do, you end up forgetting what you really needed to do. So what I do now is that I set up a day in a week to organize the most important tasks that I need to finish then I dedicate a day (not an hour) for it. This way, it gets my full attention and I get to do quality work.
Aira: I have been struggling with this issue too. The long range solution for me is to evolve my daily routine regarding my sleeping cycle and go to bed earlier in the evening and wake up earlier in the morning.
I think the point of the article is that it’s extremely difficult to run a “business” that has just 1-3 people. At that size, you have a “job” doing the core service the business provides most of the time, and scrambling to wear the many hats of a CEO in every spare moment between serving customers and filling orders. When you grow past this difficult size, you can have a team (employees plus outsourced services) wearing many of those “hats” and doing those tasks/skills you don’t excel at. You then focus on being the leader, and doing whatever you are great at in your “spare time”. At this level, you can also take a vacation for a week or two and the business keeps running. Grow some more, and you’ll have to pick-either hire a CEO, or have somebody else do that special skill you enjoy doing!
I agreed on all points. Business is not a one- man band, so wearing too many hats, you lose focus and organizations of your work. Too much technology and you lose sight of what’s required of that physical interactions. Before long, you lelied on Mr. Techno more than yourself.