Growing a business like piloting a hot air balloon. Imagine eight ballasts hanging from the sides of the balloon’s basket, each containing a certain amount of sand. When the ballasts all weigh the same, the balloon can rise at a steady and controlled pace. But when some ballasts weigh heavier than others, the balloon’s flight becomes unpredictable and gaining altitude becomes much more difficult.
The same rule applies to working on a business. There are eight essential components of being a successful business owner: when all eight are taken care of, your flight path will be smooth and seamless. When you’re weighed down by things like poor time management or low energy levels, your growth will stall.
This article will explain each of those essentials in turn, drawing insights from a recent webinar we held with our guests and co-mentors: Natalia Waghorn from Switch Electrical, Peter Vardas from Sydney Range Hoods, and Leigh Martin from Last Drip Plumbing.
If you’re a business owner looking for a more organised way to view the challenges of entrepreneurship, this article is for you.
1. Time and Tasks
Getting caught up in work is one of the most common barriers to growth that we’ve seen among the people who’ve joined our program. Many business owners find it difficult to take time off, or even find enough time to get through the list of tasks they feel they have to perform.
At the end of the day, it’s important for entrepreneurs to overcome this challenge—after all, the only way that a business can grow sustainably is if its owner has the time to take a step back and look at the bigger picture.
Earning back your time can take many different forms, but our coaches agree that there are three life-savers that every tradie business owner should keep handy.
A Default Diary
A default diary is a planning tool used to keep track of your key activities as a business owner. Think of it as a planner to note the appointments and tasks that you (and only you) have to perform to keep your business running and growing. We also recommend using it to keep track of thoughts and ideas that pertain to growing or optimising your business.
Job Management Software
A step closer to the ground-level of your operation is job management, or a system for collecting and monitoring your job orders from step one to completion. Job management software gives your entire organisation a single source of truth for what needs doing and when as far as your service delivery goes.
Task Management Software
Task management involves tracking the day-to-day tasks involved in keeping a business alive, and we strongly recommend business owners to work with a strong task management tool. While it’s good to trust people to keep track of their own schedules and work efficiently, failures can cost you hours of time on problems that can be solved quickly through early intervention.
Today’s technology favours one-stop shops, and so it’s possible to find yourself managing to-do lists within your job management tools. This is perfectly acceptable (maybe even preferred, if such integrations can save you money!) as long as your business can easily manage its job orders and ground-level tasks.
2. Knowing Your Numbers
While we do dive into the technicals of your business’ numbers at Tradiematepro, the first and most fundamental step is to try and approach it without stress. It’s a stressful topic to be sure, but letting that stress run the show will only slow things down.
When working on your business, don’t approach your metrics and cash flow as an indicator of success or failure. Instead, see them for what they are: signposts that tell you what aspects of your business need fixing.
If you’re raking in a ton of revenue but find your bank account growing at a snail’s pace, resist the urge to panic and consider that it might just be high time you started optimising your costs. Slow leads, quotes, or sales aren’t the end of the world, just a sign that your marketing or sales processes need fine-tuning.
Knowing your numbers (not dreading them) is key to getting your house in order. Recognise what they have to tell you about what’s going right or wrong with your business to gain visibility, then really dig in and understand them to deepen your awareness.
Things that use your numbers to grow your numbers (like forecasting) come after you’ve taken a long and safe approach to strengthening your fundamentals. Building healthy routines and growing familiar with your business’ metrics will give you the confidence you need to think and plan more clearly.
If you’re interested to learn more, we have a profit-planning tool and a lot of financial analysis we can provide (ex. knowing your hourly rate).
3. Food and Fuel
Lately we’ve been emphasising the importance of well-being: you have to be at your best to run the best business you can. Being conscious of how you treat your body will go a surprisingly long way towards your success. We advise that you eat well (not necessarily less) and consider some supplements.
During our webinar, Natalie observed that this ties in well with the idea of time management: if you’ve got your time all sorted out, then you’ll have the mental bandwidth to think about healthier eating and healthier choices.
We’ve found that the people who mentored us pay a lot of attention to their diets and health. Habits like setting a clear schedule for lunch or taking a few minutes at the start and end of the day to meditate keep their brains and bodies primed and ready to perform.
4. Physical Activity and Mental Health
It’s been a very challenging time for people in terms of mental health, but self-care is necessary to being a business owner who sets themself up for success. Give yourself the permission to sit still and connect with your needs and disposition–instead of thinking it slows you down, recognise that it puts you in a position of power.
Likewise, give yourself permission to reach out to friends, family, or professional help when you feel you could use a hand. Everyone needs and deserves a strong support network, and we’re proud to belong to a community that lends a hand or ear when called upon.
If this all sounds like general life advice, that’s because it is—entrepreneurs (including ourselves) have a tendency to forget that beneath the bills, meetings, and strategic planning, they’re human beings with needs. Keeping fit both physically and mentally is a
5. Sleep and Rest
The length and quality of your sleep set the pace for how prepared and productive you’ll be the following day. Working yourself to the bone without reprieve is only admirable on paper; in the real world, it means burning out—possibly when your business needs you most.
A minimum seven hours of sleep should be a non-negotiable part of your daily schedule. You wouldn’t shift regular meetings with your managers lightly, and you should demand the same for your sleeping habits.
Note that part of rest is setting time to reflect and recharge mentally: carving some time to wind down at the end of the day and set work-related thoughts aside. Practices like meditation can do wonders for clearing your mind and preparing you to handle the coming day with renewed focus.
6. Family and Friends
Spending time with family and friends is part of being a business owner. Specifically, it’s the part where you get to enjoy the fruits of all your hard labour—sharing the success with the people who give your life meaning.
Following the same vein as the last essential factor, we want to be clear that there’s a difference between being there and being present. Sure you might be physically present for important family milestones, but if you’re stuck in the office mentally, how much value are you really bringing to those events? And how much good are they doing you?
As you should before turning in for bed, shut off the thought processes that keep you tethered to your business while you’re off-hours. You’ll find that this is easiest to do when you’re able to manage your time well, but it pays off the most when you’re in the middle of a heavy week or month.
Likewise, knowing your numbers goes a very long way towards earning the freedom to say no to things like weekend appointments. Working on your schedule can give you either the bandwidth to handle things during the work week or the perspective to turn down extra work.
Finally, while it’s good to unwind with friends and vent your troubles, let’s not overdo it. Going off the rails every Friday sounds like a good idea until you realize that there are other, more constructive ways to spend your downtime that don’t involve straining your liver.
7. Perspective and Stillness
We have a saying at Tradiematepro: an owner should spend most of their time working on their business, not in their business. High-level thinking and strategy is necessary for growth, but often impossible when you insist on diving into the whirl of daily operations.
Moments of stillness allow business owners to look at things from a heightened perspective. At our webinar, Peter shared how he’s won back hours of his life (as well as his wife’s peace of mind) by outsourcing much of his emails and phone calls to an external service. As a result, he can take days off and work on the big picture of his business knowing that everything’s in place.
Think of each hour of your day in terms of ROI. Spending hours fielding inquiry calls and doing menial work generates far less than if you’d spent that time planning for growth or thinking up new ideas to take your business to a higher level of service or efficiency.
Understand your worth to your business: how much are you worth in terms of the revenue to bring by performing high-level tasks, and how much are you worth just answering phone calls. Delegation is the mark of a strong leader—and a ticket to winning back precious time.
8. Mentors, Peers, and Community
Surrounding yourself with the right people is the key to success. People who are passionate and driven infect others with that passion and drive—so keeping a bunch of them around you means you’ll never be short of inspiration or motivation.
One of the reasons why we love what we do at Tradiematepro is the exposure we get to the country’s most motivated entrepreneurs. The community ranges widely in terms of experience, but one thing we all have in common is a desire to see our respective enterprises grow. And if there’s one thing we miss most about our in-person events, it’s the feeling of shared purpose: the air is almost literally buzzing with the exchange of ideas.
It’s great if you can find a group or community of people who share your interest in building better, more efficient businesses and working on their business skills. It’s even better if you can find a mentor with strong credentials and a solid reputation.
Perfection isn’t a destination, but a journey: balancing these eight essentials is a continual work-in-progress and its rewards can take months to accrue. That being said, the most important thing for any business owner to do is to start immediately, and to set yourself up with the tools and support you need to achieve that balance.
We at Tradiematepro offer coaching and mentorship programs for tradies all over the country. We’ve devoted our efforts to perfecting the art of helping aspiring business owners reach their goals and take on all aspects of entrepreneurship—from the hard, technical stuff like math to the even harder stuff like living healthy and knowing when to take breaks.
If you’re having trouble achieving a good balance with your business or simply want to learn how to improve what’s already going well, reach out to us for a conversation about how we can help.