In Module #2 we will discuss time management skills, what resources you will need, different options for funding, and strategic planning.
Let's talk about realistic expectations. If you want your business to take off, you need to set expectations.
Most importantly, you need to set realistic ones. By not setting realistic expectations, you set yourself up for failure from day one. Not only will you get frustrated, but you will also burn out fast!
I have personally proven how unrealistic plans can affect your life; just ask my wife. Lol
With that said, there is not a one size fits all approach to this; it's going to take time to work at it. If there is one thing you need to know, it's how your strengths and weaknesses translate to others.
I'm not entirely sure where this quote came from, but my dad always said it to me. Make a plan, work a plan, which is a statement I have lived by my whole life in business. Let's get started with my least favorite subject, time management!
I want to go over my top tricks that might help you also!
Keep in mind you need to find your own way to manage your time. I'm not trying to make you a robot. I'm just aiming to make you aware of blind spots and maybe some things you need to think about.
Create a daily schedule that works for you.
If you start with this, things will fall into place after time. If you are doing the same type of things simultaneously, it creates what they call muscle memory. Or what others call a routine.
Let me give you an example: I come to work on Monday, and the first thing I do is check my email. I do not have any appointments until 11 AM on Monday unless it's an emergency!
This will make you get things done, and in my case, delegated faster. Then the rest of your week, you can get things done. I know things can come up, sickness, kids, and even a holiday on a Monday. If you miss the first day of the week's tasks, start the next day as the first day of your week. There might be other things on the schedule. Just keep moving forward.
Figure out how you're currently spending your time.
It would be safe to say most people spend 20+ hours per week on their phones, TV, and even video games. I know in some cases, this will be a lot more!
Once you have identified what you spend your time on and when you spend that time, all you have to do is shift a few hours of that time each week, and you have a plan.
That was too easy, right.
Maybe you need a bit more help. I know some people work all week and just do not have any more time during the week. When I started my first company, I needed to work 3 jobs, so planning started early in the morning or late at night.
On Saturdays, I woke up 2 hours earlier than my wife, and on Sundays, I had a few hours to work on my business between church. I only had 5 extra hours a week that was devoted to my business. It only took 3 months to be more of a part-time job, and by six months, it was my full-time gig.
Once you decide what works for you, stick with it to create good habits and a routine that works for your lifestyle. Try different things to see what works for you. Please don't overdo it right away, or you might get burned out.
Create a daily schedule and stick with it.
I have said it a few times now; don't overthink it or overdo it. It will take time to get into the groove if you are just starting.
Let's talk about an effective schedule. Take out a blank sheet of paper and draw a line down the center of the page. On the left side, write down five things you know you can get done today. On the right side, write down everything bothering you or maybe think of what you need to get done in the future. On the right side, you have created a list of things that need to be scheduled. Begin by writing down every task that needs to be done.
Please don't feel like it needs to be done today; by limiting yourself to a handful of things each day, you will be able to get more done each week. You can also start adding these tasks to your calendar to get moving.
Start grouping similar tasks together that might have overlapping requirements. Look at these tasks as things you need to make money, and you will get them done. If you look at the tasks as burdens, they will always frustrate you, just like taking out the trash. It needs to be done, and things start to stink BAD if you put it off!
Prioritize your time as most people have very limited time in their workweek. For example, talking to everyone about your ideas might take a while but asking a few people you trust will help move things along. You can also consider sending group emails for a targeted approach.
Avoid the urge to multitask when you are on a deadline or trying to get something done. You can't focus on two things at once and get them both done right. It's essential to assign time limits to tasks, so they get done. If you don't have a timeline, what's the point of finishing!
Have a buffer; if you can't get something done in the morning, allow time in the afternoon or evening to finish it up. Most entrepreneurs work 3x over a person that punches a clock; keep that in mind when you think about planning your day.
Lastly, above all, this is the hardest thing to learn, and I have yet to learn it. Learn to say NO. You don't have to say yes to every opportunity. There might be things you say yes to but consider them well before saying yes.
Consider all of the requirements. You might find yourself in a time-sucking task by saying yes when the answer should have been no!
My thinking on this may come as a shock to some people!
Starting in business myself, in the beginning, was very hard, and times were different than they are now. I had no money, no education, and was a high school dropout.
I wanted to succeed in the worst way possible by showing myself and my family that I could do it. I learned through the school of Hard Knocks, which I am grateful for because it taught me that I couldn't go it alone. Though I have spent years making up for the lost time when it comes to education, you need smart people!
Let's assess; who do you have that can help? Family and friends can be a great way to start with free and low-cost labor sometimes! There are four categories I want you to think about when it comes to your resources.
We will skip Financial Resources for now as we will cover that in the next part.
As I touched on before, who can help you? Use the Resource Contact List to help you manage who you know and what they know. Maybe you know a graphic designer, CPA, writer, or someone with skills that could benefit you.
Asking for help might seem complicated or easy, depending on your personality, but you can't be afraid to do it if you want to build a business!
Once you have a solid list, you are in good shape; don't worry if you can't find people to fill the list; it will come if you're truly driven. I almost gave up several times, but I kept going! Anything worth doing takes time and effort.
How education matters; I have learned over the years it takes a bit of balance between what you know and who you know. Having the knowledge of a field or a topic doesn't make you an expert. It takes a team of people sometimes to come up with the best outcome.
What knowledge does your business require? If you are building a solid business, you need educated people that know the job you need them to do.
Look at what you need. For example, if you need a designer for your packaging and don't know anyone, look to a service like Fiverr or Upwork to get you going.
Ask around, use the power of social media and find someone great to help you do what you need. Take your time interviewing them, look at their work, and ask questions.
These are just a few quick and honest questions that will tell you if this person is the right fit. It may take some time to find the right people, and the good ones might not stay with you forever but keep at it; don't give up. Look for ways to educate yourself. Also, when working with new people, you can learn a lot by asking questions.
What Physical Resources do you need?
Let me tell you; inventory can be a nightmare if you don't have a solid plan. The physical inventory we are going to cover in MOD #4, but to simplify it, you need to have a good plan to sell physical products online.
Now, if your house can't support your business, you need to find a space that fits your needs. Search for an excellent broker to help navigate the process. The world of commercial real estate can be overwhelming with its own language. Triple Net, Escrow, First last + Security: There are many things to think about that you might need help with.
I'm getting ahead of myself here, you might be able to use a fulfillment center to help you ship orders, in fact. You might decide that is the best way forward for your business. Many small businesses use fulfillment centers to manage their inventory; you just need to find out what is best for you.
Think it through and make sound decisions based on actual needs, not projections of what might be. We had to move our building 3 times in 1 year to keep up with the demand of our growth, but we learned a lot in the process! Making decisions based on your feelings about something will get you in trouble 50% of the time.
Money - There are a few things you should know about eCommerce funding. It was hard to find money to get products, but now it's easier than ever but beware!
Unlike a traditional business, eCommerce has its own strange access to financial resources and funding.
I always suggest you start with hello Alice to see if there is a grant opportunity https://helloalice.com/
You can always check back our signup for their email list.
Here is a list of types of funding:
Starting a business comes with risks; you might consider bootstrapping to start or if you have the possibility of a smaller loan from your family. You want to be sure you don't get too far in debt initially, as this can crash your business before you get started.
You need to evaluate your financial situation before you launch your business. Put together a solid budget and plan for three months of working capital when you start.
We have talked about people to help you build your business a little bit but let's talk about planning how to put together a strategy.
If this is new, you might want to consider a mentor or find someone to soundboard ideas with. Starting to build a strategy is simple, but putting the pieces together is the hard part. Your mission statement is a great way to start your vision for the future and will drive your strategy.
Define competitive advantage and how you will be more competitive in the market. Look at all of the ways you can build your company better.
Define your targets and think long-term about how you will implement these ideas.
Make fact-based decisions and ask questions of people you trust before implementing your plans. Their feedback and thoughts can be some of the best things to help your strategy and help your business grow in the future.
Be nimble; things happen fast in business, so consider how you can take advantage of it when you see an opportunity. Great opportunities do not come around a lot so keep that in mind.
Planning is the key to success, but as they say, the fortune is in the follow-up. Following through, then evaluating how things went will be your key to success.
Identifying where your business is headed (and how you’ll get there) is critical to business growth. The strategic planning process can fuel long-term success.
These are five simplified steps I use to drive my business:
Step 1 - Vision
Some people like vision boards; others like to write it out, but what works best for me is thinking it through and asking others.
It's pretty simple. I need to have a direction. For example, if I have a baseball card store, and Red Sox players sell better, does that mean I stop selling every other team's cards?
No, it means that Red Sox cards will be the focus of my vision here.
Step 2 - Ideas
Using the example of baseball cards, I start talking to my team, friends, family, and business partners about ideas.
You need to make actionable ideas or, as they call it in selling online, calls to action! There is no right or wrong answer here; it's simply trial and error.
Step 3 - Planning
Now that you have a few ideas, let's plan one out.
I'm going to say we Run Red Sox ads. You might need to get team permission, or we might just name them in the text.
The season has arrived for your favorite Red Sox players to show off their stuff! We have your favorite players in stock and only autographed copies for a limited time!
Get them before it's too late!
Ok, now you can see the vision, right! Did I make you a Red Sox fan?
If you weren't already, you might be getting closer.
Step 4 - Design and Creation
Now that we have the text covered, what did you learn from planning?
Everything you came up with, from the excitement to the look and feel, needs to be delivered over to the creative side. Have a graphic designer help you, or become one; you decide!
There are a few great ways to bring your ideas to life without paying a lot. In the case of the baseball card company, go to a Red Sox game and take photos. Take your own photos in your store, get creative and have fun. Getting the rights to use the photos might be required, so keep that in mind.
There are a lot of great royalty-free stock photo sites also you can use. We use Depositphotos and Unsplash a lot, but there are so many other free resources out there!
Please make sure you are happy with the outcome and track what you did in the process to make it easier for the next time. Keeping track of what and how you did something from the start will help you get better and faster.
Step 5 - Selling
Now it's time to sell! Once you launch the ad, you're on the right track, but you now need to learn from what your results are. ROI, ROAS, and whatever metrics fit your business best. Don't worry; I cover this in MOD #5.
Once you see what works, you're ready to take it to the next level and try new creative ideas. There is one big step we did not cover in these 5 steps, and that is Target Market. Who is your target customer and how do they affect your planning?
Take a quick break before starting MOD #3 as we are going to take a deep dive into the thought process of your target audience.