If you can believe it, 2015 is almost over and the holidays are upon us once again. This is a great time of year to connect with those you love, to spoil your family, friends and employees, and show them how much you care for and appreciate them.
But you and your business also need spoiling. If you’re the type that likes the idea of a gift that keeps on giving, then it’s time to start thinking about giving back to your business, too.
Here are five gifts that will help you build a healthy, thriving business in the new year.
The Gift of Focus and Planning
Small business owners get so wrapped up in daily operations they often don’t take time to strategize and dream. This is a big mistake. If you’re not dreaming about the future goals of your company, you’ll stagnate, burnout, and get buried by competition.
Don’t feel like you can get away from the day-to-day operations? You can. For one, you can automate many tasks (which I’ll talk about more below). But, if you have employees, you can also delegate much of what you do to others. No employees? Consider finding some trustworthy contractors.
Taking your hands off the wheel of the company can feel scary—I’ve been there. But it’s something you have to do in order to continue growing and maturing.
The Gift of (Your) Health
Working on your own personal health is one of the most important—but often overlooked—gifts you can give your business.
If you’re unhealthy and sick, you’re missing opportunities to grow personally and professionally. Poor eating habits, pulling all-nighters, and sitting at your desk all day can take a toll on your body and mind. It’s common sense, really. You need to get your heart rate up on a regular basis so you have energy and focus to make wise decisions. And when you get into regular rhythms of exercise, your mood will improve, which your employees will appreciate.
You don’t have to commit to becoming a bodybuilder tomorrow. Start simple, but get moving, and commit to doing it regularly.
Not sure where to start? Ask yourself a few questions:
- What type of physical exercise do I enjoy? (Lifting, running, biking)
- What regular life rhythms can you tweak to provide opportunities for exercise? (Regular walks to the store instead of driving, biking, or running to work)
- What are some simple physical goals you can set for the next few months? (commit to losing five pounds, exercise 40 minutes three times a week, reach a weight lifting goal).
The Gift of a Coach
When you’ve got your nose to the grindstone day in and day out, you don’t always see what’s obvious to others. I put a very high value on having a personal coach and have had one for years. This could be a professional paid life coach, or even just a wise, trustworthy friend that will shoot straight with you.
Most of all, you need someone from outside your organization to help you see above the weeds so you can make wise decisions. From speaking to the quality of your professional relationships and decisions to someone who’s not afraid to ask you reality-check questions to keep you on track, a great coach is invaluable. If you don’t already have this trusted coach, here are some things to think through when looking for one:
- Will this person tell me the truth, even when it’s hard for me to hear?
- Does this person care about my success personally and professionally?
- Does this person have the kind of background to understand what I regularly face as a leader?
The Gift of Automation
As I mentioned earlier, you can automate many of your day-to-day tasks. When you do this, you’re able to work on what you do best, or the things that only you have the skills or knowledge to perform. This is one of the reasons I started Infusionsoft. So that automation could free up small business owners’ time—as well as help them drive more revenue!
Beyond your core duties, there are many tasks that can be automated such as marketing and sales automation. We’ve written about this at length before, but here are a few highlights to consider:
Leads: Avoid phone tag by automating the process for returning calls. Instead of just leaving another voicemail, you can also trigger an email response in your system to your customer that you just reached out to, and give yourself a future reminder to call back.
Sales: Create a framework for your sales pipeline. Help your sales reps guide a customer through the sales process. This provides a consistent experience for the customer, and gives visibility to the next phase of the customer journey.
E-commerce: Don’t wait for customers to realize they need to replenish their stock of your product—remind them. If a customer buys a 30-day supply of something, put them on a clock and remind them when they’re running low.
Customer service engagement: Send appointment reminders. If you need to meet in person with customers, you can automate sending reminders for your future meeting. You can also include prompts that allow the customer to change your meeting time if necessary.
Events: If you plan an event, you can quickly get overwhelmed with a gigantic to-do list. Instead, you can automate many of the time consuming tasks of event planning like sign ups, confirmations and reminders.
Office management: Make routine tasks easy. Some things require a personal touch and not everything should be automated. Sending a personal handwritten note can’t and shouldn’t be automated. But, maybe you’ve hired freelancers that need to fill out a W-9 form. Automate the process with reminders, and create a system when you know their tasks are completed.
The Gift of Knowledge (and 3 Books to Read)
One of the best ways to stay engaged with ongoing learning as a leader is to listen to those who have gone before us. And one of the easiest ways to do this is to read great books. If you don’t enjoy reading or if you struggle to find a slot in your day, figure out ways to redeem your time. Listen to audiobooks on your commute or during lunchtime. Instead of unwinding in front of the TV at night, commit to a few minutes of reading, and skip the mind-numbing show (admit it it’s not very good anyway). Twenty minutes of book time every day can go a long way.
If you don’t know where to start, here are three books I’ve been inspired by, and the big takeaways from each.
“The E-Myth” by Michael Gerber
In “The E-Myth”, small business guru Michael Gerber will walk you through the growing pains of a budding business from the entrepreneurial beginnings, to the growing pains of adolescence to a mature business. Gerber takes issue with the wrong headed assumption that entrepreneurs are good business people. Often times they are not—they are most often ideas people. This undoubtedly causes problems down the road as a company grows, so Gerber gives step-by-step instructions on how to continue working on the business, instead of working in the business. When entrepreneurs learn to work on the business, they’re freed up to keep on task with what they’re best at and what will get their business to the next level: ideas.
“Beyond Entrepreneurship: Turning Your Business into an Enduring Great Company” by Jim Collins
In this lesser-known work, Jim Collins goes beyond the basics of starting a company. He outlines how to make a company great with four distinctions. They are:
- Performance: A great company generates cash flow and consistently meets business objectives. When times get tough (and they always do), a great company rises above and will continue to perform.
- Impact: A great company doesn’t have to be big in order to influence, it can still lead the way in its respective field by innovating and leaving a mark on the target market.
- Reputation: A great company is admired by others outside of the organization and is seen as a role model.
- Longevity: A great company survives for generations because it lives beyond a single leader and continues to adapts.
“The Power of Positive Thinking” by Norman Vincent Peale
There’s a reason Norman Vincent Peale’s “The Power of Positive Thinking” is an enduring classic. To put it simply: A positive attitude opens up possibilities in life, while negative thinking limits them. When possibilities are available to us, we have an opportunity for growth. Of course bad things happen in life that are outside our control, and we can’t always think positively out of every life circumstance. But I’m convinced from my own experience that committing to a positive outlook makes me happier, more productive, and grateful for all the good things in my life.
Spoil your business in the years to come by giving back to it. During this season of giving, take some time to think through how you can give it a gift that keeps on giving. Ultimately, when you give back to your business, you give a gift not only to yourself, but to your employees and your customers. Give your company the opportunity to grow, mature, and become the company you know it can be. Give your customers the gift of consistently good service and great products. When we give with the future health of our company in mind, everybody wins.