We’ve had a lot of rain in Northern California in the past week, about 7-8 inches in Sonoma, where I live. As I look out at our garden, new shoots are popping up, but there’s a lot of run off, dead leaves and debris that needs to be cleared away. It got me thinking about how this may mirror what is going on in your business.
A Flood of Business
Solopreneurs often experience a flood of work and while they are busy fulfilling the needs of their clients, things like planning, returning phone calls and developing new business piles up and creates stuck energy. Running your business is more like a marathon than it is a sprint. Doing a little bit of customer relationship maintenance every day is a healthy practice. It will keep you alert to subtle shifts and potential challenges before they become emergencies.
What’s Cluttering Up Your Business and Dragging You Down?
I was reading the current issue of Cooking Light when I came across an article that hit me like a flash of the obvious. The author suggested that by cleaning up my environment, I would find an abundance of energy and reduce my level of stress. All I needed was a few simple and very doable action steps. I have worked with several professional organizers, but I have a propensity for collecting printed matter. I love and crave information, books and other physical manifestations of information and beauty. When I came across the handy workbook suggested in the article, I immediately downloaded it to my iPad. It’s a free pdf, or Microsoft Word document. You can get your copy at http://www.throwoutfiftythings.com. The official title is “The Big Letting-Go Workbook.” Gail Blank created the workbook as a companion to her book, Throw Out Fifty Things.
My husband and I both enjoy working with fiber. We have tried our hands at weaving and have three full sized and one portable loom. We purchased one loom many years ago from a friend. Her husband, an engineer, built this loom. It is beautiful, but doesn’t suit either of us. We talked about selling it many times, but never took any action. Yesterday, my husband agreed to take a picture of the loom and post it for sale on Craig’s list. He got an email today and we have a buyer. Not bad for a few minutes of effort, which is motivating us to keep looking at what we have that is not working for us and finding new homes for the items that we no longer want or use. We only have 49 more items to go!
I’m evaluating my business as I prepare to launch my new brand. I am measuring and examining what is working well, what is in need of repair and what I need to discard or retool.
I have some clients who are wonderful, a joy to work with, they pay me well and they give me referrals. It makes sense for me to give them the bulk of my attention, to nourish our relationships and cultivate them with care. What really seems to happen when I am not paying careful attention: the clients who demand the most for the least compensation suck up a disproportionate amount of my time, energy and resources. When I observe this from a 500 foot perspective, it is easy to see that there is an imbalance in this situation. I may choose to renegotiate my working relationship with the “difficult and less profitable” clients, or I may decide to stop working with them to free up my time for the clients who are providing joy, profits and their referrals.
Look at your numbers, how do you feel, what is the quality of the work you are able to generate when you feel valued. If you are like me, it becomes easier to structure my time and energy in a productive and profitable way. I may initially have a few conversations that are difficult when I “fire” the clients that are not the best match for my new vision. In the long run, we will all be happier. They will get what they need for the price they can afford. My services are not a commodity, and the clients who recognize this receive so much more as a result.
In gardening, it is important and necessary to prune away and deadwood, clean out debris, and give attention to plants that may need a little more encouragement to thrive. Keeping a vision of my business as a garden it helps me to be more objective. I have physical reminders in my home and on our property. My husband raises orchids. We started with one plant, a phaleonopsis, about 30 years ago. Today, we have approximately 400-500 plants.
Last year, we had a pest problem that required strong action. All of the surviving plants had to be disinfected and repotted. The entire greenhouse had to be scrubbed and disinfected. We lost about 40 percent of the plants that were in the greenhouse. After cleaning it out, it was very clear that we had an opportunity to encourage the survivors. They are the plants that are best suited for our environment, they are the healthiest plants and they ones that adapted to our growing methods. We are being careful about introducing new plants to our collection, least we have a repeat of this devastation.
Look at your list of business as objectively as possible. If you’ve got clients who are not adding positively to your business, if they’re taking a lot of your time but not contributing an equal amount to your profits, its time to prune them or restructure your relationship.
After my husband, Garry, cleaned up the greenhouse, it was obvious that the plants that survived were the right ones for us. We used to try to grow lots of varieties of orchids that need more light, less light, cooler temperatures, more moisture, than we could provide. Over time, they were lost to attrition and we got smarter about which plants we could grow well and enjoy.
What is in your business that is taking up more time, energy and attention without producing the enjoyment and profits that you deserve?
Because of our experience with a persistent pest, this year we are enjoying more blooms and stronger, healthier plants that we have in many years. And, we are more selective about where our time, money and energy go.
Eliminating those weaker plants gave us space to see what we had, and make conscious decisions about what we want to add and revealed the hidden gems that were crowded by too many plants.
Take a good, clear look at your client list. Go through your book of business to see which clients are taking lots of time but not producing income for you, which clients are producing income and giving you joy. It will make it easier for you to turn your attention to where it will be the most rewarding. This analysis will illuminate what or who is dragging you down.
You can have a healthy business if you behave like a gardener. Watch where you spend your time and attention. When you align your intentions with the reality of who is generating your income, you can enjoy a beautiful, blooming business.
I’m Judy Baker. I’m Completely Creative. I help speakers, authors and coaches cultivate clients and grow profits.
Watch this short video clip for more about how to clear out the clutter and prepare your business to bloom.