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How do you eat an elephant?

How do you eat an elephant?

One bite at a time.

 

A friend of mine opened a new business this week.  She posted her new Facebook page almost with an apology — she had thought about not releasing the news about her new venture yet, because she wasn’t “all professional” yet, with a completed website and business cards and everything.

The thing is — most new ventures are a work in progress.  And even if you do start off with it all “together”, it is highly likely your vision for your business will evolve after your first dozen customers… and you’ll have to redo something in there.

Here’s what I tell my clients — about the whole marketing persona – and about the legal things you need to have in place:

Take it one step at a time.

You don’t need much more than a Facebook page and a PayPal account to make your first sales in many businesses.

And honestly, you don’t always need your LLC set up before you make that sale.

Many of my clients who are just starting out ask this question: What do I need?

This is the short list:

  • Limited Liability Company or S-Corp
  • Services Contract
  • Vendor Contract
  • Independent Contractor Agreement
  • Media Release
  • Waiver
  • Trademark(s)
  • Copyright(s)
  • Nondisclosure Agreement

But in that, you don’t have to do them all at once. And depending on your business, you may want to do some things before you do others.  For example, if you have a highly creative business, you may want to copyright a design or trademark a logo before you move too far forward.  If you are an IT business creating custom solutions, a non-disclosure agreement may be the first thing you need. If you offer professional services, you may want your client contract first.

The point is that it is often difficult, possibly overwhelming and maybe even impossible, to get everything done perfectly all at once.  It’s much more manageable to handle the project one step at a time.

Storm Update

The same principle holds true for overcoming storm damage.  Tropical Storm Irma came in on Monday — and while it knocked us down for a day or two, we are back – one step at a time.  We have all of the limbs up, power was restored a day later and internet service a few hours later.

Others weren’t so lucky and it will take weeks, if not months to fully recover.  But if we take it one step at a time, the problem can be resolved and overcome.

 

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Preparing Your Business for the Things You Can’t Control

You may have heard, there’s a hurricane headed this way.  The news is full of multi-case scenarios, with the only solid information being to “prepare.”  All of this preparation has now led to gas and water outages, more than four days before the storm is even scheduled to hit.

 

The drama, the panic, the what-if scenarios.  The Plan A or Plan B or Plan C.  It’s all extremely distracting.  There was already work to be done.

 

Clearly, a category 5 hurricane that is 400 miles wide coming our way is something so far outside of my control that there is not much I can do to stop it from happening. But there are definitely things I (and all business owners) can do to make sure I am ready for the storm.

 

  1. Finances and Insurance: Gather up the important information for my business: business license, bar card, access information for business accounts, business check book, business insurance… anything that has to do with the banking and insurance part of my business.
  2. Taxes: Find that big envelope of receipts. No matter what, I need to keep that safe and dry so that come tax time I have the information handy.
  3. Mail and Packages. We had a significant mail delay after the storm last year.  I know there are a few things that could be mailed to me in the coming days.  I’m going to proactively ask the senders of those items to hang on to them until the storm has passed.  Same thing for UPS  — I will be putting a hold on our location through my “MY UPS” account so that packages aren’t delivered or attempted to be delivered right before or right after the storm.
  4. Use the cloud. Don’t risk losing the all important flash drive or document on your hard drive.  Save your data to the cloud (iCloud or Google Drive or DropBox).  You can access it later, even if your location or equipment is damaged or lost.
  5. Electronics and Equipment. If you can, take your computer or other vital equipment with you. If you can’t secure it – keep it up off the floor.  Unplug monitors and computers in case of power surges.  While insurance can replace these things, the process can take time and keep your business from being operable longer than necessary.
  6. Information Security: Secure the important private information of others that I have in my possession. In my case, it’s birth certificates and a few social security numbers that are in my files.  But you may have credit card information or something similar.  Even if there is a disaster, even if your office is looted, you still carry some liability if that information is taken from you and used to harm your clients or customers.
  7. Work In Progress: Even in the middle of the chaos, I am still responsible for making sure deadlines are met. I am still responsible for completing things in a timely fashion – or for communicating any delays.  I will be taking some time today to touch base on a few ongoing projects to make sure any major milestones are met.  I will also be letting my clients know that I may be out of touch for several days at the beginning of the week.
  8. Pipeline: To keep the cash flow going, the work must go on. Don’t use the hurricane – or any event you can’t control – as an excuse not to follow up on future work.  It will likely only take a few minutes, and honestly, your future self will thank you.

 

I know some of these things are common sense.  But it can be all too easy to be sucked in to watching the news and Facebook all day, and focus on only taking care of yourself, your family and your property.  If you own a business, you need to remember to handle a few details for it as well.

 

Stay safe out there!

 

 

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How Urgent Is It?

A long time ago, one of my bosses was a fan of the 5 minute morning meeting.  The idea was that at 9 am, the whole team would gather for a 5 minute pow-wow to see what we were all working on and how we could help each other.

While it was sometimes a stretch getting back from by coffee run in time to make the meeting, it was overall a really good idea.  It helped keep the team focused  — and in a world where we all spent most of the day in our individual offices, handling our individual workloads, it reminded us that we were all a part of a team, and encouraged us to work together on certain things.

One of the most memorable of these meetings for me was when my boss introduced the quadrant.  He read about this in a book – basically that all tasks fall into one of four categories: Urgent / Important; Urgent / Not Important; Not Urgent / Important and Not Urgent / Not Important.  The goal, of course, was to focus the majority of your time on Not Urgent / Important tasks – like outlining the brief that isn’t due for two weeks, and not on things that aren’t important, like finishing the crossword puzzle or things that really should be delegated – like replacing the toner in the printer.

This came to mind this week in particular. My long-time assistant left at the end of July to pursue a full time position.  I have found her replacement, but she hasn’t started yet.  Three weeks into this situation, I am reminded why I need an assistant in the first place: without one, I am constantly living in “Urgent” land – and my stress level, and eventually my level of fatigue, really can’t stay there for too long.

Organizing your thoughts and tasks so that you spend less time on urgent matters and more time on not urgent matters ultimately makes you more productive because you are spending less mental energy on the stress of the deadline or the urgency – giving you more brainpower to address the task itself.