Business owners wear a lot of hats, and it often feels like too many hats. You have to figure out how to manage clients, grow your business, balance your finances and maintain visibility, among other things. All seemingly at the same time.
In the corporate world, each of these “hats” is a separate department, and that’s what makes a larger business more successful: the right people manage the right departments and each department is focused on one main objective.
In our smaller businesses, it’s impossible to focus on everything at once. That’s why I recommend going through a process to identify and prioritize the strategic objectives you need and want to focus on at any given point in your business.
What’s most important for your business right now? What will help you reach your monthly, quarterly and yearly goals?
Sometimes, your goals require a skillset that you just don’t have and you need to hire an expert to help you out. For me, that meant recently hiring someone to redesign my brand… from website to photos to graphics, there was no way I could do it all on my own.
This brand redesign was something I’d had in the back of my mind for months, but it wasn’t until it was a priority in my strategic objectives that I dove in and did the work. Which is to say that I hired someone to handle the work for me.
The 7 Strategic Objectives You Need in Your Business:
This is typically the most important objective in all small businesses, unless you’re independently wealthy. Unfortunately, no one wants to do anything with it. Sure, you want to make money, but are you managing your money the right way?
You’ll never have a sound business without the key components of financial steadiness. This could include regular retirement savings, a quality business structure, a financial planner, an accountant. It’s scary to think about hiring a financial planner and accountant because they often come with negative news and they create work for us. But they’re necessary.
The value of having the right financial pieces in place is that you’ll know you have a business and not a hobby. Your business is so much more than the revenue coming in.
The challenge of this objective is that it can be intimidating. Like life insurance, it’s something that people put off until it’s too late. But know that the more you’re financially savvy, the easier it will get. Just rip off the band-aid and do it.
Financial Steadiness Tip: Understand where your revenue is coming from before you start diving into the scarier part of your finances (taxes, retirement). Small steps will help you get on the right path.
I’ve said before that scaling comes from the people in your business, not added revenue (though additional revenue is usually a pleasant result of team growth). It’s usually the next step for people who want to grow and build a business that they don’t have to be in every day.
For example, someone with a service-based business may hire interns or assistants who they can teach to perform the work in a standardized way. Clients receive the same service, but you don’t have to provide that service; you’ll have team members who can do that for you.
The value of growing a team and scaling your business is that you can duplicate your efforts and offerings by using other people–who you’ve trained. You can also have others manage the day-to-day running of the business so you can work on development and vision casting.
The challenge of team growth is that it’s often difficult to let go of the reigns. You’ll also need to be very clear on where it is you fit into the vision. Where will you be the leader? Be able to define what talent you need so you can hire well. It’s often not that you hire the wrong people; it’s that you don’t know what you need or where your business is going in the long-term and therefore hire the wrong talent for your needs.
Team Growth Tip: Take the time to hire right and don’t make knee-jerk decisions. Hiring is, at minimum, a 4-6 week process and too many people try to do it in 24 hours.
Operations are my love language. They’re all the systems, processes, tools and automations that allow your business to work on your behalf. Even when you’re not sitting at your computer or burning the midnight oil.
How great is it that we can be on a field trip with our kids and our onboarding details still go out to new clients? Or that we don’t have to send six extra emails to team members when a new task is ready for them? While it’s helpful to have all these pieces in place before we start bringing on new team members, this is also something that your team can help you build out.
The value of having your operations set up is that you can delegate more confidently. You have your standard operating procedures set up and your team knows exactly where to go to get the information they need. Plus, the back-end of your business can run more autonomously and you don’t need to constantly be in the weeds.
The biggest challenge of your operations is that your brain probably doesn’t work this way. If you’re a creative, this doesn’t weigh heavily on you until something doesn’t work the way it should. Not only that, setting up operations is tedious work for most and is something that’s best handled by someone who thinks in systems.
Operational Excellence Tip: As you’re doing the thing–whether it’s loading a blog post or developing a new proposal or tweaking your website–capture your screen and talk through how you’re doing it. Then send your video to a team member to create a structure from the video. You’ll have instant SOPs that you can use again and again.
Growth and Development
I fully believe that every business owner wants to grow and improve, both in their craft and personally. I think that’s what drives us to be business owners–the desire to be a better version of wherever we were as corporate employees.
This strategic objective is typically a lower priority than others because it’s innate with entrepreneurs. But as the market changes, it’s necessary to keep up with the times and stay competitive. Development comes in many forms, both free and paid. Books, seminars, workshops, conferences, podcasts, etc. Figure out which method works best for you and run with it.
The value of growth and development is that it allows you to refine your skills and improve in different areas that benefit you and your business–and where you want your business to go.
The challenge of growth and development is that most business owners focus more on the personal side, rather than mastering their craft. They’re more focused on developing boundaries and prioritizing their personal lives and forget to focus on something they need to grow into in their own business.
Growth and Development Tip: Be more aware of where you’re putting your time and efforts. Before you decide to take that course or attend that workshop, ask yourself if it’s something you need right now. If it doesn’t serve your business right now, you don’t need it.
Product Creation and Refinement
It’s always exciting to dream and create new products and services. It’s where business owners, creatives in particular, love to be. The hard part is doing the work to make it ready for your audience.
Business owners who love to deliver to their audience often spend more time (too much time) developing and refining but not enough time validating the idea or marketing it. That can lead to disappointment when the new offering doesn’t sell as expected.
The value of product creation and refinement is that this is the greatest revenue generating component in your business, especially when you land on something that validates well.
The challenge of product creation and refinement is that it’s a lot of work. You have to conceptualize the idea, then productize it, fulfill it and sell it. Visionaries quickly get bored with this stage and would rather spend more time dreaming up the ideas than making them ready to sell.
Product Creation and Refinement Tip: Know your annual calendar and where you have space on it so you can plan out when you’re putting something new to market. You won’t ever be short on ideas but if you don’t plan strategically, you’ll confuse your audience and overwhelm yourself.
Without visibility, no one will know who you are or what you’re selling. It’s the foundational part of your business. In a growing business, the CEO (that’s you!) has to be part of the visibility objective. This is even more important in a personal brand.
It’s possible to outsource some pieces of your visibility, especially if Facebook ads or podcast pitching are part of your plan. But as the face of your business, you need to put yourself out there in a significant way.
The value of visibility is that this is how you attract customers, clients and students to your products and services. It’s how you become a thought leader and become recognized as the go-to expert in your industry.
The challenge of visibility is that it’s a time-consuming long game to stand out, and it’s common to feel like you’re not making any progress. This can be frustrating and it’s easy to quit, especially if you don’t feel like you’re getting the ROI you deserve.
Visibility Tip: Don’t try to tackle all the visibility tasks at one time; choose one to focus on for a quarter. Operationalize the activities so it can work without you before adding another tactic to your toolbox. For example, if you want to be a guest on more podcasts, have someone on your team research the podcasts for you so you can pitch with confidence.
This strategic objective goes hand-in-hand with operational efficiencies. For a small or newer business owner, this shouldn’t be at the top of importance. After all, without revenue, customer experience means nothing. On the other hand, you know in your heart that you need clients to make money so it’s common to sabotage yourself.
Know that your offer needs to be sellable before you wine and dine prospects, so keep your customer experience on the back-burner until you have more predictable revenue coming in.
The value of your customer and client experience is that it creates a journey for customers that continues to generate revenue for you long-term. The more amazing your customer experience, the more likely you are to get referrals.
The challenge of customer and client experience is that people focus on this too early in the life of their business. Again, it’s not necessary until you’re actually making regular revenue. People won’t remember the gift you send them at the beginning of a contract; stop sending them. Focus on doing the work first and making that customer experience exceptional later.
Customer/Client Experience Tip: Make your customer experience more about the journey. Delight your customers with a quick video, a hand-written thank you note and a genuine verbal thank you. This is so much more valuable than any gift you might send.
At the end of the day, strategic objectives are the thing that will help you stay on track in your business. When they’re prioritized, you’ll know exactly what to work on–and when–in each area of your business.
It’s only with focus and tenacity that you’ll get to where you want to go.
Get started by being crystal clear on your mission, vision and values, then grab my business hub below to help you keep track of the back-end of your business. Without a solid back-end, you’re just spinning your wheels.
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