When entrepreneurs branch out on their own and start a small business, most tend to focus on the big things.
At first, a small-business owner needs to tackle handling a new workload, getting established, bringing in clients, and looking for start-up financing. In general, it’s an overwhelming period, and because small-business owners need to focus on the big picture, it’s easy to let common-but-vital business practices fall to the wayside. Once you’ve gotten your feet wet and made it past the uneasy phase, however, it’s time to dig into the every day practices of running a business.
These daily tasks don’t have to take up hours each day. In fact, there are a few things a small-business owner can do each day that will help improve business practices. While there’s no precise way to measure how much time each of these activities will take, if you’re struggling to get used to the daily ins and outs of running a business, start by tackling these activities for 10 minutes every day at work.
1. Communicate with Clients. Client relationship management is essential to small-business success, even for busy creative professionals. Any small-business owner will tell you that ignoring client emails doesn’t solve anything; unanswered messages pile up, clients become frustrated, and opening an inbox can quickly become a source of stress every morning.
Rather than letting emails become the bane of your business existence, set aside 10 minutes each day to get back to customers. Yes, just 10 minutes. You may not be able to answer everyone with in-depth responses, but that’s okay. Whether you’re an interior designer waiting on materials to get going on a project or an animator who needs to check on the progress of a piece you’re working on for a high-stress client, there’s no need to put off communication.
2. Check Industry Trends. Ever wonder how some entrepreneurs always seem so ahead of their competitors? Well, it’s likely not an accident. As a small-business owner in a globally competitive market, it’s important to stay on top of industry trends. Of course, setting out each day to find out what’s new in architecture or civil engineering as a whole can lead you far down the Google rabbit hole, so stay aware of the amount of time you spend digging into new trends.
Instead of aimlessly meandering from one article to the next, set up a Google alert for “small-business trends,” or something more industry specific such as “structural engineering trends.” These alerts will help you stay current with industry news and allow you to keep an eye out for what your competitors are up to. You can also subscribe to creative online magazines and bookmark sites filled with content relevant to your field.
3. Plan for the Future. Once you’ve gotten into the full swing of running your business each day, it can be easy to lose sight of anything but the daily ins and outs of your work. However, to ensure business success for years to come, it’s important to think about the long-term state of operations for a few minutes every day. What would happen if you lost your biggest client tomorrow? How would you move forward to recover and maintain your company? If this doesn’t sound like too much fun, remember that it’s important to prepare not only for the worst, but also for the best.
When planning ahead for the future, allow yourself to dream up ideal projects. Think about designs you would love to incorporate into your daily life and where you would like to see your business in the next year or even five years. Thinking long-term will give you some much-needed perspective, so allow yourself to get think creatively and ambitiously a few minutes each day, and remind yourself why you began working as a small-business owner in the first place.
Of course, you could easily spend hours on this task each day, as it’s especially easy to get swept up in and overwhelmed by goals that have not yet been reached. However, as many small-business owners inevitably learn, it’s vital to set boundaries and learn how to reign yourself in. So instead of letting brilliant ideas flounder until your next large-scale planning session, jot down a few ideas for marketing, design, management, or anything that concerns or inspires you about your business.
4. Assess Finances. Check your business bank accounts, credit-card expenses, and receipts every single day. Similar to delaying checking email, many small-business owners fear looking at their bank accounts if they haven’t done so in a week, afraid of what they may find.
CPA Practice Advisor recommends avoiding the fear and regularly examining your finances. This will let you in on where you can save, where you should spend, and remind you that you’re still waiting on a payment from a certain customer.
5. Organize and Clean. People rarely set out to work at a cluttered, messy desk; these things simply tend to…happen. Unfortunately, the longer you put off cleaning, the more daunting the task can become. Toward the end of the day, take a few minutes to clear your desk of papers, contracts, food wrappers, and other extraneous items that may be floating around. Empty the trash when it becomes full, and instead of piling up all those papers, take a minute to place them in proper file cabinets or drawers.
Similarly, take a few minutes to make sure your computer desktop and digital files are organized. You’ll thank yourself later when you’re able to easily locate the electronic copy of a contract without getting frustrated.