Time management tips for your small business

Time management is about how you organise and plan your day and how long you spend on specific activities. I find there is never enough time in the day, but how is it that some people achieve so much more in just one 24 hour period than others?

The answer is managing your time, working smarter, not harder. But how do you do this?

time-3933688_640

Let’s face it, running a small business is hard work and you have a myriad of things to deal with, especially if you are a one man band. You have to divide your time between admin, marketing, chasing leads, taking care of your existing customers, managing your website and social media, as well as actually doing the work that makes you a living!

So, how can you manage your time so you can get everything done with the least stress? I guess the first port of call is to look at what you currently do. Make a note of all the tasks you do over the period of a few days. Write down how long each task takes and what it entails. Effectively you are auditing your time. When you look at the results, you will be able to see where you spend your time and how you can improve or change what you do to become more effective, or to give yourself some much needed down time.

Identify what tasks are big time wasters

stop-sign-4647545_640These are tasks that take longer than you thought they would, or tasks that have a high risk of procrastination or distraction. Once you can identify these, you can allocate a set amount of time to doing them each day, so you concentrate on just that task and get it done – with a time constraint, there is less chance of being distracted or of taking too long to do it. Tasks could include email, phone calls, meetings and breaks – they are not productive, so give them a limit.

Avoid multi-tasking

It might seem like the best way to do things to save time. But focusing on one task at a time increases productivity and performance. For example, if you’re working on one task, but still answering email and text messages, even phone calls, means you’re not phone-1586198_640giving any one task your full attention. This can lead to having to revisit tasks as you forgot to do something or made a careless error. In turn, this ends up wasting you more time having to revisit. Turn off email and your phone so you can’t receive messages and emails whilst you’re focusing on a particular task. And put your phone onto answer phone with a message that says you’re busy right now but leave a message and you’ll get back to them within a certain amount of time – could be an hour or just half an hour – whilst you concentrate on getting an important task finished.

Delegate or outsource

If you are a small business and find that you are spending too long on tasks that could easily be done by someone else, then delegate or outsource those tasks. That then leaves delegate-1969952_640you time to focus on the important stuff. Hire someone to either do the  mundane stuff that you really don’t have time for, or for the more complicated things that you don’t know how to do, or that you know will take you too long as you’re not experienced in that area. You can also delegate or outsource tasks you absolutely hate doing. There is nothing wrong in delegating or outsourcing; it simply gives you more time to do the things you enjoy or that need to have your undivided attention.

Organise your office space

If your office space is cluttered and untidy, it can actually hamper your efficiency. If the physical space you are working in is organised, neat and tidy, it promotes a more relaxed mental state that is also decluttered, neat and tidy. There are lots of ways to organise your desk space, from buying colour-coded folders and having an in and out box to ensuring that your waste paper bin is emptied regularly. A cluttered workspace serves as a distraction, so aim for a clean and clear space.

The 80/20 rule

pareto-principle-693315_640The US President Dwight Eisenhower once said, “What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.” This is where the 80/20 rule (or Pareto principle) can help…80% of results come from 20% of effort, so it’s important to look at your list of tasks and decide what is actually important and just requires a bit of attention. Spend most of your time on the critical 20% and less on the rest…even if it does seem urgent.

Try the Pomodoro technique

No, I hadn’t heard of this until recently either! Apparently this technique was named tomatoes-1239176_640after a tomato shaped timer (pomodoro is Italian for tomato). You set the timer for 25 minutes, work solidly until the timer sounds, then give yourself a 5 minute break before going back to do another task for 25 minutes. This is a great technique if you struggle with focusing on a task or structuring your time. This is a great method to use if you want to ensure you only devote a certain amount of time to one task or if you have trouble focussing.

Plan in advance  

Planning ahead is always a good way to keep to a schedule. Give yourself a couple of checklist-2077022_640 (1)hours a week to plan what you will achieve the following week – set yourself achievable goals by writing a ‘to do’ list – It’s such a good feeling to tick off the items on the list and to feel you have achieved something. And, make sure that your goals are SMART… Specific/Measurable/Attainable/Realistic and Timely.

Prioritise your tasks

Sort your tasks into one of these categories…

Important and urgent… tasks in this category must be done right away, so focus all your energy on doing these before moving on to others

Important but not urgent…tasks in this category will be those that appear important but on closer inspection, they could be left until a later date if necessary.

Urgent but not important…these are tasks that nag at you, but once done have little or no lasting value to your business. These can be delegated or outsourced.

Not urgent and not important…these are low priority tasks that often give the illusion that you’re really busy. Can be done at a later date, when you’re not so busy.

Add the Important and urgent tasks to your ‘to do’ list and tick them off as you do them, then you can move on to the other categories in a more timely way.

clouds-958961_640

Take time out just for you!

This is often ignored, especially if you work alone on your small business. It’s so important to make sure you have some free time to do the things you love outside of your business. Spend time with family and friends, exercise or spend time in the garden. These down times are especially good for your mental health, can lower your stress levels and leave you feeling energised and ready to tackle those lists again.    

8 reasons why you need a marketing plan

A marketing plan helps you develop your products and services that will meet the needs and wants of your target market. Marketing helps your customers see and understand why your products/services are better than or different from those offered by your competitors.

8 reasons why you need a marketing plan

  1. Why do you need marketing?

Marketing is what builds the relationship between you, your business and your customers. If you are a small business, it is vital to build a sound relationship of trust and understanding with your customer. This makes them loyal to you and your brand and loyal customers will not only give you repeat business, they will have enough confidence in you to try out new products or services. They will also recommend you to their friends and family.

Marketing also massively increases the visibility of your brand, so you are more easily recognisable.

binoculars-100590_640

  1. Identify your target market

How do you identify your target market? Take a look at your existing regular customers. Who are they? What are they interested in? What are their problems that you can solve? What other needs do they have?

For example, if you sell baby products, your target market will be parents, parents to be, grandparents etc. You could also target baby shower events and children’s events; childminders; nurseries; soft-play areas; local Mum and baby groups; exercise classes for Mums to be or Mum and baby classes. The list is endless.

Have a look at your competitors – how do they meet the needs of your target market? How can you do it better?

  1. Conduct a SWOT analysis

SWOT stands for internal Strengths and Weaknesses, and external Opportunities and Threats. Pulling together a SWOT analysis can help you analyse where your business, its products/services, fit within the market and looks at your unique selling position. It can also help you find out how you can improve your business; what you’re really good at and what other businesses do.

Strengths – what do you do well in your business? What do you do better than your competitors?

Weaknesses – What do you need to improve on to remain competitive? What do your competitors do better than you? What is holding you back?

Opportunities – What current trends could lead your business to have increased sales? What can you use to your best advantage?

Threats – What could harm your business? What are the advantages that your competitors have over your business?

I have a FREE worksheet that you can download to help you…Conduct a SWOT Analysis 

race-801940_640

  1. Look at your competitors

List your competitors – who are they? If you analyse your competitors, you can find out how they work, what they do and compare them to your business.

What products or services do they sell?

Do they offer a similar product or service to you?

What do they offer their customers?

What do they do to engage with their customers?

Where are they? What are their strengths and weaknesses?

How do they market their products/services…e.g. social media, advertising etc.

The more information you can get about your competitors, the more chance you have of identifying where you fit into the market place and what opportunities are available to you.

  1. Decide on your goals

Once you know where your business stands in the market place and who your competitors are, you can decide what goals you want to set for your business. What do you want to achieve over the next 12 months?

Make your goals specific – instead of saying, ‘I want to sell more products’, look at your products and decide exactly how much more you want to sell. They might come under different categories. Go back to the baby product scenario…you might sell baby massage products, so a goal could be ‘Increase sales of baby massage products by 20% compared to last year’. You then have a definite goal to aim for…and it’s easier to review every few months because you calculate if you are on track to achieve your goal.

Aim for 4-6 short term goals – things that are fairly easy to achieve. You can always add more throughout the year if you achieve them.

Aim for 2-4 long term goals – things that are a bit more challenging. If you find that one of these goals is too challenging part way through the year, you can always break it down into smaller, more achievable chunks. 

pawns-3467512_640

  1. Set your marketing strategies

Once you have set your goals, you can start looking at the short term goals in more detail. What activity is going to help you achieve that goal? What price or process will help you achieve your goals?

When you are trying to decide on which activities to use, choose those that best suit your business and your customers. For example, an advert in a local magazine or newspaper won’t necessarily reach your target market if they are primarily young adults, who generally don’t read this kind of thing. It’s a good idea to go for a few activities that complement each other. For example if your products/services can be for any age, you might go for an advert in a magazine, but also use social media or maybe local radio. You might sell your products at a market or craft fayre, so advertise the event on social media and do links to your products.

  1. Set your budget

It’s important to know how much you can afford to spend on marketing as not all marketing is free. You need to think hard about how best to spend that budget so you get the maximum benefit. Only spend on your current marketing goals, so that budget is used to help you achieve those goals. Advertising on Facebook, Instagram or in magazines all come at a cost, but if you are reaching your target customers, it will be worth it.     

calendar-925109_640

  1. Ensure your marketing plan is kept up to date

Reviewing your marketing plan on a regular basis is very important so that you not only know if you are on track to achieve your goals, you might also identify new trends in the market that means you have to tweak a particular goal.

It also serves the purpose of scrapping anything that you know isn’t working or changing a goal if you need to.

Looking at your plan helps you to measure how you’re doing against your plan and whether you will be successful.

Now you know why it’s so important to have a marketing plan, it’s time to jump into action!

Click here for your step by step guide to pulling together your marketing plan, You’ll also find a marketing plan template with the guide.

 

10 reasons why you need a business plan!

I’ve had a few people ask me recently, “just why is it so important to have a business plan?”

Well, a business plan serves two crucial core purposes; it provides a financial validation and it also serves as a roadmap to keep you on track all year.

business-3189797_640 (2)

By financial validation, I mean that your plan gives both you and any outside funding institution you may need for loans etc. a strong indication as to whether your business venture will be a success. If you are doing a business plan for this purpose you would add in specific detail regarding how you run your business and whether you will get a return on any investment that, say a bank, will loan you and of course that you are financially viable enough to be able to afford loan repayments.

The second core purpose, the roadmap, is the area I will be looking at in more detail as this is what most small businesses (who don’t necessarily need financial input) think that a plan is not a necessity. And some small businesses manage completely fine without a plan, but I feel it is important as it lays out your action plan; details all the milestones and successes you have established and gives timescales for when you expect to complete certain tasks. It gives you a clear path to follow and keeps you focussed on achieving the goals that you have set for your business.

So, I’m going to focus on what a business plan does for your business and why it’s important.

10 reasons why you need a business plan (2)

 

To demonstrate that you’re serious about your business. This just puts it down in writing that you are committed to building your business and how you’re going to go about making it a success.

goals-2691265_640To ascertain your business goals or milestones. Your business plan will make you think about what you want to achieve with your business and where you see yourself in a year’s time… in five years’ time or more. You can plan not only your long-term goals, but also some quick wins and short term plans. They are significant events that you want to achieve, such as building a website, launching new products/services, producing a brochure and also things like getting your first 100 or 1000 followers on social media.

To understand and know your competition. A business plan forces you to look at your competition – analyse how they work, what they do that makes them stand out in the crowd, look at their products and how they advertise them, package them etc.

customer-563967_640To understand and know your customers. Planning makes you look at your customers; who are they? Why do they buy your products and why do they buy when they do? Do they belong to an average age group or geographic region? An in-depth customer analysis will help you understand what makes your customers tick and how you can better serve them and give them what they want.

To assess the feasibility of your business. Is your business viable? A feasibility study involves researching your target market and your competitors and will let you know if your business venture is likely to be a success.

money-2696228_640To determine your financial needs. Do you need to raise money to buy stock and how are you going to do this? Are there training opportunities for you, so you can learn more about what you do, that incur a cost? How will you factor this in? If you need a big financial injection, you will need to look at loans or investors…your plan will then need to be very specific around how you will be able to afford this kind of investment and what your return will be.

To reduce the risk of looking at the wrong business opportunity. If you do all your research, you will be able to clearly see if a particular business opportunity is going to be feasible, if there is a market for your products/services or whether an alternative route/opportunity might be better for you.

To push you to research your market and really get to know it. Researching your market will help you understand the latest trends in your particular area. Is this market growing or receding? What is the biggest threat to your business/industry? What is the size of your target market and how do you get your products/services in front of them? Your business plan will help you gain a greater understanding of the ‘what, when, where, who and how’ of what your business will face.

stamp-143192_640To pinpoint your brand. Creating a business plan makes you focus on what your brand is; helps you describe your business succinctly and decide how you will position your brand to your customers and target market.

To measure the success of your business. This is the bit that most of us forget about when running a business. It’s important to have measures in place so you know if a particular product or strategy is working. It gives you the option to change your strategy or break it down to make it easier to manage. By writing down the goals you want to achieve, you can look at them every month or quarter to see how you are doing against what you wanted to achieve at the beginning of the year…and adjust things accordingly – this might include removing certain goals, changing them or adding new ones. But if you don’t measure, you don’t know!

Your business plan is about what you want to do. It’s always a work in progress and once you have one and use it, you will wonder why you didn’t do it before!

Find out more about what to include in your business plan in more depth and how to do it …10 essential tips in making a good business plan

And click on this link for your free basic business plan template/instructions Business Plan

If you need any help or advice, please feel free to get in touch.

Pulling together your marketing strategy for 2019

2018 is fast coming to a close…can you believe it? If you haven’t already started to think about it, now is the time to be planning what you’re going to do with your business next year. It’s also a time to look back on what has happened this year – what worked well, what didn’t. So, before Christmas is here, it’s time to take stock, get your thinking cap on and decide what you want your business to achieve next year.

OK, what’s first?

The Seven Ps

If you haven’t already got a mission or vision statement, now is the time to write one. A mission/vision statement is just a couple of sentences stating what your business is, who you’re selling to (your target market), what you’re selling and what makes you stand out from the crowd. Once you have this, you can start working on how to market your business…to help me focus on every aspect of my business, I use the seven Ps…

money-2696234_640

  1. Product(s) – what is it about your product that makes your customers want to buy it? Do you need to change your products in any way to meet your customers’ needs?
  2. Pricing – how do you aim to compete with your competitor’s pricing? Do you want to match it… undercut them… or do you want to charge more for a more quality product and service?
  3. Place– where and how are you going to sell your products? Do you sell them yourself or outsource them to retail outlets?
  4. Promotion– how are you going to let your existing and potential customers know about your products? This includes thinking about advertising, PR, direct mail and personal selling.
  5. People – this refers to who works for your business, including yourself! Do you create the right impression and provide excellent customer service, so your customers have a good customer experience? I’m sure you do, but never forget to keep learning, training yourself and any employees to develop relevant skills to deliver your brand and excellent customer service.
  6. Process – this includes the processes involved in delivering your products to your customers. Are you easy to do business with? Is it easy for customers to find your products? If you have a website, is it easy to navigate? Are your contact details prominent, so you are easy to contact?
  7. present-2891870_640Physical – everything your customers see and feel when interacting with your business. This can be from the physical environment of your shops, office or wherever you provide and showcase your products or services, to meeting you face to face and how you come across to them, how you act and relate to your customers. It also includes your packaging and your branding.

Set your objectives

Now you can plan the future of your business. What objectives do you want to achieve? Get yourself a cup of tea or coffee and sit down with your laptop, tablet or good old pen and paper, so you can write each one down.

Each objective should include a description of what you intend to achieve, a goal if you like, and should include numbers to aim for. For example you might want to sell more of February-Stok-Photoa particular product, but just saying you want to sell more isn’t enough – you need to be specific, so you have something concrete to aim for. For example, say you have a crafting business and you make rag dolls. An objective might be to sell 40% more rag dolls in 2019, than you did in 2018. This gives you a solid and specific objective.

Don’t be tempted to write a long, long list of goals or objectives – aim for a maximum of five to six or you will find it all overwhelming and you won’t achieve any of them. As you achieve each objective throughout the year, you can add more then.

beard-2286440_640Once you have your list of objectives, put them into a timeline – what you want to achieve and by when. This makes it much easier for you to review at a later date. I usually put a date in my diary at the beginning of the year to review my business objectives every three months…of course, I’m not always brilliant at keeping to that date, but by having it in my diary, at least it’s a reminder and I do review things…even if it’s a couple of weeks after the date I originally set!

How will you achieve your objectives?

Now, go through each objective in turn – you already know what you want to achieve and when you want to achieve it by. Next on the list is how you are going to achieve each of those objectives. Let’s go back to that earlier example – you want to sell 40% more rag doll-1043499_640dolls over the next 12 months. You know what you want to do – you know when you want that result. How are you going to sell that extra 40%? These could be some of your options…

  • Get your rag dolls into a retail outlet, café or craft shop
  • Start selling your dolls at a local craft market or at craft fayres
  • Start an online shop on Etsy or Ebay
  • Sell the dolls using party plan – people have an evening at their own home and invite their friends. You show the dolls and potential customers get to see them, touch them and hopefully put in an order

Put all your objectives, what you want to achieve, your timescale and how you’re going to do it into your timeline. This makes it easier for you to see at a glance what your business and marketing plan is for next year for each of your objectives. It also makes it easier for you to review at a later date.

Measure your success

tape-measure-1186496_640The last thing on your list is how will you measure the success of each of your objectives? Sticking with the rag doll example, this is an easy one – each quarter, measure how many more dolls you have sold compared to the same time last year. To achieve your 40% increase over the course of the year, you need to see a steady increase in sales from the new selling strategies you’ve put in place.

I hope this has helped you to start planning your business and marketing strategy for 2019.

If you would like to receive a free Goal Setting Timeline template, please fill in your name and email below and I’ll be happy to send it to you…Happy Planning!

Ten essential tips in making a good business plan

business-idea-1240825_640.jpg
A good business plan is exactly what it says on the tin – a plan for your business; how it’s going to succeed and what you need to do to make it grow.

Having a business plan forces you to look at the feasibility of your business, what will work and what won’t work….and makes you focus on the important and essential parts of your business – your next steps, tactics and strategies.

stickies-2852375_640

Here are a few tips on what to include, making sure you cover the essentials.

  1. Executive Summary – this is a brief overview of the whole plan. Detail what you do, how your business will make money and why customers will want to buy your product or services. This is best done after you have completed the rest of your plan.
  2. Analyse your market – it is worth investing some quality time in researching your market.
    – Look at what your competitors do – how are they successful and what makes them stand out from the rest?
    – Look at the price, quality and customer service that your competitors offer – then you can work out how to compete.
    – Where are the opportunities for your business – why will potential customers choose your products over those of your competitors?
    – Are there any barriers in place that may prevent potential customers from business-plan-2061634_640choosing your products or services?
    – If your business is already up and running, what do your customers like about your products, what do they buy; why do they buy from you and do they give you repeat business?
    The more you know about your customers, your competitors and the business you are in, the more likely you are to be successful.
  3. Business description – what it is, what you do.
    – Include a brief history of how and why you started your business.
    – Include your vision or mission statement – factors which you think will make your business a success
    – What is the current position of your business?
  4. Business goals – what are your business goals. For example, if you’re already in business, by what percentage do you wish to grow by this time next year? How many customers do you expect to have by this time next year?
    Ensure your business goals are SMART. 
  5. Management teams and employees – If you employ others, give details of your management team and employees and what their roles are.
    – How do they work together?
    – Do they all know what is expected of them and how they can help improve the business?
  6. Operations – what is in place now and what do you plan for the future?
    money-2696228_640– Look at premises you currently work from (it might just be from home). What will you do if your business expands – what premises will you need to ensure your business succeeds?
    – Who are your suppliers? What happens if you lose one of your suppliers and do you have others as a back-up?
    – Do you need to have any training in a specific area to help your business move forward? For example, if you’re a hairdresser, how do you keep on top of current styles?
    – Is there any equipment or materials you may need to invest in? For example, wear and tear on your current equipment – or maybe you may need more advanced software in the future.
    – If you run an online shop, what happens if you get overrun with orders – can you keep up with them and get them out on time with packaging and postage?
  7. Financials – keep a record of what you spend and what you receive.
    piggy-bank-2889046_640– Are you likely to have cash flow problem – if so, how will you deal with it?
    – How much does your business currently cost to run and what is it likely to cost in one year – or two years’ time.
  8. Marketing strategy – this is where you define your tactics and strategies to ensure that you are successful – only needs to be brief in the business plan – you can be more specific in your marketing plan.
  9. Risk analysis – what could go wrong – look at best and worst case scenarios.
    – If something goes wrong, how will you deal with it?
    – Include your contingency plan
  10. Measurement – this is a really important aspect in a business or marketing plan, but often something that is overlooked. Measuring everything you do ensures you know what works and what doesn’t. You can then plan a different approach if algebra-1238600_640necessary.
    – List what needs to be measured – such as how many people look at your business Facebook page or Tweets on Twitter. How can you improve on this?
    – How will you measure your success – what does success look like to your particular business?
    – Shout about your success – your customers will feel reassured they are dealing with the right business

Once you have finished your business plan, you can write your Executive Summary.  Then leave it alone for a few days and go back to it with a fresh pair of eyes. You can then make any necessary adjustments.

time-3222267_640 (1)

I can’t tell you how long it will take you to complete your business plan – every plan is different and it will depend on you. Business planning takes time – you need to spend quality time on researching and planning your business and marketing strategies.

Take time out at least once every three months to review your plan. Some things you planned will have gone well, others not so well. A business plan is a working document. It’s never finished…always a ‘work in progress’.  Having a business plan won’t guarantee you success, but it will go a long way to helping!

Business Plan  click on this link to download your free business plan template.

If you need help writing and researching your business plan, please feel free to contact me by email – cindymobey@outlook.com or via my website, www.cindyfreelancewriter.com