When Sergey Brin and Larry Page founded Google, they created the original search engine based on a research project that they did at Stanford. Once they thought they had a real idea to work with, they rented out the garage of a house to begin their business and to continue working on their search engine. This was all occurring around 1997 and 1998. Google didn’t start making any money until almost 5 years later. However, the Google co-founders spent most of that time working on their business and not programming their search engine.
The lesson with their story is that they realized that they couldn’t continue building their product – they needed to build their business, even if there was no revenue coming in (there were investors to provide them with cash to survive on). If they continued to work IN the business instead of ON the business, the company would not have been the success it is today.
I’m not sure what specific actions they took to build the business but they had to implement systems and processes so that other people could work in the business (building and improving the search engine) while they could grow the business (getting financing, hiring people, creating systems to generate revenue).
As a small business owner, the only way you can have a truly successful business is by stepping outside of your everyday activities and create a self-sufficient business. It might seem like it will cost you more money but in the end, it is the only way to drastically increase your revenues while decreasing the effort you put into the business:
1. Create a Manual
No matter what task you are doing for your business, write down the steps you take in a manual. It might seem like more work without any direct benefit but this step is probably the most important thing you can do for your new business. The next time you do the activity, it makes it that much easier because you just have to follow the steps that you wrote down. It also makes it easy to hand it off to someone else to do in the future.
2. Outsource as much work as Possible
This doesn’t mean that you have to ship your entire business to India. It just means that you have to find someone to do a lot of the tasks that you do yourself. It could be something as simple as distributing marketing materials, doing weekly bookkeeping activities, or providing support to existing customers. It’s very easy to hire a virtual assistant to get stuff done for you.
If you completed Step #1, you just have to hand it over to someone else to complete. It might seem like a waste to pay someone Kshs 5,000/- to do something that is so easy for you to do but imagine if you can spend that saved time on 1 thing that will increase your revenue by Kshs 20,000? You increase your revenues and there is less work that you have to do.
3. Define a Sales Process
If you don’t have a defined sales process and just wing it with every new lead or visitor to your web site or place of business, you are missing out on a significant amount of business. You are reinventing the wheel each time you get a new prospect so you are spending too much effort on that initial sales effort.
It also means that you are not perfecting your sales process so that you can increase the effectiveness of your sales process. By finding a system that works, you can constantly apply that and make changes to increase the effectiveness of it. It also minimizes the human element so that you are not as reliant on a superstar sales person (whether it’s you or someone else). By having a sales process in place, you will increase your conversions and increase your revenues without any additional work on your end. You are just replicating what has already worked.
4. Automate Your Sales and Operational Processes
This draws on much of the first 3 steps. Once you have created a manual and have systems that are beginning to work, you need to work on automating processes as much as possible. If you’re automating your sales process, maybe you send the same basic e-mail to potential leads through an e-mail auto-responder. If you call to set sales appointments with leads, maybe you can hire someone to do that part of the process for you.
As far as automating your operational processes, software is often the best way to do this. See if you can purchase a product that will automate part of your process. It might even be worth it to hire a developer to build a program to help you automate part of your set-up or service delivery process.
5. Act on Regular Tasks Less Frequently
Start setting aside time each day, or week, or month for specific processes. I used to get in the bad habit of working on accounting tasks every day. Not that it’s so bad to stay on top of that stuff, but by focusing my attention on it once per week instead of each day, saved me a tremendous amount of time. I love checking on the status of some of my marketing efforts but I must force myself to wait until my regular time each week so that I’m not repeating the same thing every day.
Increase Your Revenues and Decrease Your Efforts
Creating a new business requires a tremendous amount of upfront time and effort. Successfully growing your business means creating systems and processes so that other people can work in the business while you grow it by working on the business. This is the only way that you can significantly increase the revenue in your business while decreasing your effort. In fact, it’s the only way to really build a business. Otherwise, you’re basically just a one employee company and you will never get much bigger than that.
Photo courtesy of eneas.