As I sat down to write my blog on Tuesday evening before the Easter break, I found a sense of irony hanging over me. Everyone else in the household is fast asleep. It seems the rest of the world is relaxing and resting. Yet here I am, at my desk, getting ready to do some more work. Again.
Was it really such a good idea to name my blog ‘Weekly Wisdom’?
It made me smile, because of course the title itself means that I am committed to writing this blog every single week. That’s a daunting prospect when you run a small business, and it can seem like folly when the hour is late and everyone else has put their work concerns behind them. But what powers my resolve to consistently write my blog is the great feedback I’ve been hearing in recent times.
‘You can’t pay attention when your brain is running on autopilot and you’re just nodding…’
Posting a blog can sometimes seem like putting your heart and soul into a piece, then just throwing it into the void of cyberspace, crossing your fingers and hoping like hell that you’re actually doing something worthwhile, making a difference for people. So it was genuinely inspiring to hear from three small business owners in the past week or so who read and enjoyed my blog regarding ‘how to retain good staff’. The way I see it, if three people went to the trouble of getting in touch with me and discussing the blog, there must be a heap of other small business owners out there who are reading it…after all, I’m not expecting to have everyone who reads the blog instantly down tools and get in touch with me! So I feel like I’m doing something worthwhile. Here’s to hearing from maybe four or five readers this week. Baby steps maybe, but you have to have goals, right?
I’d originally planned to devote this pre-Easter blog to the subject of partnerships in small business, the potential pitfalls involved, and some of my own experiences in this area, but as often happens, things change, life moves forward and other matters pop up and inspire me to go in a different direction. This time around, the inspiration came via a parent teacher interview for my 11 year old son, Harrison, and the two key thoughts I took away from that interview.
The interview in question was what’s known as a ‘three way interview’, so my son was to be part of it. On the day I was cutting things fine and running a bit late, but I got to the school on time after all, eager to hear all the latest regarding my genius son’s academic progress.
Harrison hates Reading, Maths and English, but loves rugby, cricket and talking…so I suppose there was always room for the interview to be less than a shining success, but as it turned out, it was mostly a good thing, in a layered kind of way. Lots of positives, then some negatives, followed by talk of how much potential Harrison has, followed by a few more negatives, topped off with some more positives regarding progress made. Not a disaster by any means, just a few points worthy of future focus.
In wrapping things up, the teacher made an enquiry – which drew a response - that really grabbed my attention. He turned to my son and asked “Now Harry, what are the two things we’ve discussed that you need to concentrate on for the rest of the year?”
Harry drew a blank. He couldn’t remember. And the matters in question were, of course, focus and organisation!
Focus and organisation. Important for 11-year-old kids. Vital for small business. So with my son’s teacher’s words ringing in my head, here, in my opinion, are the four most important disciplines to implement in your small business in order to stay focused and organised.
- Don’t have your mental screen saver on!
I bet you’re nodding, aren’t you? You know what I mean. My wife has busted me doing this far too many times. You can’t pay attention when your brain is running on autopilot and you’re just nodding as you let what’s being said wash over you in a fuzzy wave. Wherever you are, be there. Engage. Actively listen. Listen, after all, is a verb, a doing word! And as for phones…people who answer their phones while in a meeting drive me nuts. It has an ‘off’ button, after all, so learn to use it! Becoming a better listener is the key to gaining a deeper understanding of the situation you currently face.
- Focus on one task at a time
What’s multi-tasking? Doing a half-arsed job of several things at once! To avoid being overwhelmed, focus entirely on the task at hand. I promise you that as I wrote this blog, I gave it all my attention. Getting distracted by the other tasks I had on my plate would have slowed me down, wasted time and dulled my focus.
Don’t stroll into work and make it up as you go along. Make sure you have a very clear idea of what you want to achieve in the coming working week. Make a list! It’s not always easy, but when you clearly identify what you want to achieve, it can keep you focused and stop you from wasting time on trivial things that won’t help build the success of your business. Don’t let seemingly urgent yet unimportant matters eat up your time. Learn to tell the difference between the petty and the genuinely important.
- Put great systems in place
In short, document what you do in business. Procedures and checklists enable delegation, which in turn allows you to get more done, to a higher standard. Systems and procedures are always evolving, so don’t get upset if they need refining and updating on a regular basis – nothing stays the same. But when you put good procedures in place, you become more effective, and the satisfaction that comes with that fuels progress in your business, too. In our business we use system software called TKO that helps us store, publish and keep all our procedures, policies and manuals in one easily accessible area. I wouldn’t be without it, and if you want to know more about it, just email me via Jason.firstname.lastname@example.org
So there you go. What started as a parent teacher interview also became food for small business thought, and I hope there are lessons here that you can use. There’s nothing new about focus and organisation, but when you apply them, they really can take your business to the next level. I’m glad I was organised enough to make it to my son’s parent teacher interview, because I’m sure I was reminded of some important lessons. Mind you…I still only managed to finish writing this blog at midnight!
All the best for a great Easter break,