Like so many of you, it’s been a challenge as of late. I’ve been trying to put on a strong face with the COVID-19 going on — but, internally, I’m a little anxious. I’m concerned about the health and welfare of my family, friends, employees, and business.
But, recently, I’ve decided to use this time as an opportunity to enhance my business savvy — as opposed to dwelling on the negative. And, here are some of the areas that I’ve been focusing on to improve my business acumen significantly.
Build better habits.
Habits, as Deanna Ritchie explained in a previous Calendar article, “are behaviors or tasks that we without thinking about.” As a whole, “habits can help us become the best possible versions of ourselves.” And when that happens, “we’ll be healthier, happier, and more productive.”
In short, habits are kind of important. Not just for our health and well-being. But also because they can help improve our business savvy. For instance, if you don’t have mental habits like positivity, resilience, and focus, it’s impossible to keep your eyes on the prize.
At the same time, habits can also be detrimental. “Examples would be hitting the snooze button, procrastination, watching too much TV, and smoking,” explains Deanna. “You probably don’t need to be reminded of this, but all are bad for your productivity and well-being.”
How can you perfect the art of better habits? Well, here are some suggestions from Deanna:
- Start incredibly small and work your way up. Use the Fogg Behavior Model (FBM), as a habit recipe template to make this possible: “After I [TRIGGER], I will [TINY HABIT].”
- Don’t be vague. Always create an implementation and make sure that it’s satisfying.
- Stack your habits by tieing a new habit into an existing one.
- Short-circuit the feedback loop to reshape any habit.
- Remove any bias by creating the right environment.
- Overcome possible excuses, like getting that guitar out of the closet and putting it next to your chair.
- Create a habit calendar to track your progress and celebrate wins.
Create a Business Model Canvas.
“The Business Model Canvas (BMC) is a strategic management tool to quickly and easily define and communicate a business idea or concept,” explains Mike Ebinum, Sheda Director, in a Medium post.
It’s just a one-page document that works “through the fundamental elements of a business or product, coherently structuring an idea,” Mike adds. “The right side of the BMC focuses on the customer (external), while the left side of the canvas focuses on the business (internal).”
Both “factors meet around the value proposition, which is the exchange of value between your business and your customer/clients,” continues Mike. The BMC is often used “to quickly draw a picture of what the idea entails,” get a better idea of your business, how customers play a role, and where you want to go.
What’s more, this can help you clarify your value proposition and develop customer personas. It can even guide in which type of content to create and where to share it. And, the BMC will also identify the key activities, resources, partners, expenses, and revenue streams required for you to succeed.
Even if you’ve done this previously, it won’t hurt to give it another try. Maybe your business has changed over the years. Or, perhaps, it will allow you to spot any leaks and potential opportunities.
Listen to your employees, customers, and suppliers.
He may be a divisive figure. But, Steve Jobs had an excellent quote regarding hiring. “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.”
I hate to burst your bubble here. But, you don’t have all of then answers or here capable of running a business on your own. That’s why you brought on a talented team. They’re doing the things that you’re not great at. And, they probably have a pulse on aspects of your business that you aren’t aware of. For example, since they’re frequently interacting with them, your customer service reps can let you know their pain points.
In other words, your team is an untapped reserve of knowledge. Schedule one-one-ones with them and pick their brains so that you can learn as much as you can about their responsibilities so that you know every facet of your business. Besides, this gives you a chance to check-in with them, which builds trust and improves your leadership skills.
In addition to your employees, connect with your customers, suppliers, and vendors. Social media is a great way to interact with your audience to gather feedback on how your business can improve. Chatting with suppliers and vendors can build rapport and change your business for the better. It can also encourage you to make a change. Maybe after doing some digging and speaking with a vendor, you determine that they’re too unreliable.
Keep on learning.
Is there any better time than the present to finally improve your skills, expand your knowledge, or learn something new? In my opinion, this won’t just enhance your business savvy; it’s also a much-needed distraction. And, best of all, you can do this from the comfort of your home.
How can you keep on learning? Well, here are some ideas for you to try out:
- Attend an online business school, training resource, or certificate program. Check out Coursera, Skillshare, or Wharton Online.
- Read as much as possible. I’m talking about books like Getting to Yes by Roger Fisher & William Ury, Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman, Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business by Gino Wickman, Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, and Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap . . . And Others Don’t by Jim Collins. And, don’t rule out leading business blogs and websites. Obviously, there are millions of options out there. So, your best bet would be to search for whatever are you need assistance with. For example, if you want to bulk up your online marketing you might want to follow Copyblogger or Moz (or recommend these to team members, and then discuss them at a later date). To get you started, here’s a list of 100 business blogs compiled by the good folks over at Quickbooks.
- Listen to podcasts. These are great when you’re going for a walk or doing things around the house. Jennifer Spencer put together a solid list of 20 podcasts that will help your business grow on Entrepreneur. But, I would add Entrepreneur on Fire, the Garyvee Audio Experience, and How I Built This.
- Find a mentor, advisor, and coach. A mentor could be a local business owner, professor, someone like Richard Branson. You’ve never met him. But, he’s influenced you via the books he’s written. Advisors are those who you have a deeper relationship with you can help you improve in a specific area. Coaches are people that you hire to assist you in becoming a better business owner.
- Volunteer. On top of giving back, this allows you to network and enhance your existing skillset. Of course, you can’t do this in-person currently. But, there are virtual volunteering opportunities for you to explore.
Pay attention to the latest business news.
I know that the news can be overwhelming and exhausting right now. But don’t completely shelter yourself from the latest business news. I mean, you don’t want to miss out on the recent developments and emerging trends, right? If so, you might be missing out on new business and growth opportunities.
You probably can’t go wrong with the old standbys like CNBC, Fortune, or the Wall Street Journal. Personally, I’m a fan of Morning Brew, SGN, and the Skim. Both are daily email newsletters that you can quickly consume. They’re also smart and witty, so it doesn’t always seem like doom and gloom. And, best of all, they keep me updated first thing in the morning so that I don’t have to watch the news all day.
Join a professional organization or an online community.
Some business owners and entrepreneurs might dismiss this. But, in my opinion, this is one of the best time investments you could make. After all, becoming a part of a professional association or online community expands your network, helps you learn new skills, and exposes you to industry trends. You can also use these organizations for professional growth opportunities, to meet or become a mentor, and getting your name out there.
Right now, unfortunately, you can’t do this in person. Thankfully, most of these groups have gone virtual. For example, the Chamber of Commerce is hosting virtual events and webinars. What’s more, there are more than enough online communities for you to join that can help you in business-related areas you like. Suggestions would be Startup Nation, GrowthHackers, LinkedIn groups like Bright Ideas and Entrepreneurs, The Small Business Bonfire, and Slack channels like Online Geniuses.
Develop (or update) your contingency plan.
“A contingency plan, also referred to as a disaster recovery plan, is a set of steps, written down and communicated to all, that describes how you and your team will respond in case of a future, unforeseen, disaster or hardship,” explains Debbie Madden over on Inc.com. The reason? It can help minimize losses and “continue operations as close to ‘normal’ as possible.”
“The key is to create a contingency plan early, communicate it to the entire company, and update it often (ideally annually),” suggests Debbie. And, to achieve that, it could contain the following four pillars:
- Employee safety. Your people always come first, so make their health and wellness your top priority.
- Communication plan. Determine a way to communicate with each other. It may sound outdated. But, Debbie has a landline just in case there’s no cell service or people can’t charge their devices.
- Data backup and recovery. Purchase insurance, place everything on the cloud, and consider purchasing a generator. I’d also recommend that you step-up your cybersecurity knowledge to prevent attacks.
- Finances. Create a budget and stick to it. And, make sure that you have an emergency fund in place. Debbie also suggests keeping cash-on-hand.
After getting all four pillars in place, “round out your plan by thinking through the specifics of your business,” writes Debbie. “You aren’t going to be able to predict which disasters will hit and when.” However, “if you think through a few worst-case scenarios, as unpleasant as this task is, you’ll be better prepared.”
Also, go through multiple disaster categories to help you prepare for both short-and-long-term events. You could also brainstorm with your team to know how your business is impacted and the steps needed to recover.
Go outside your wheelhouse.
Do something that’s not a part of your regular responsibilities. Maybe write a blog post, develop a social media marketing campaign, answer customer service questions, or do some bookkeeping. If you don’t feel comfortable doing a specific task, then don’t. The idea, though, is to help you learn new skills and how every cog in your business works. You may even empathize with specific team members after walking in their shoes.
And, now is the perfect time to experiment with new tools and strategies. For instance, maybe you’re trying out some time management and productivity techniques now that you’re working from home. Or, to stay in touch with your team, you’ve test-driving various tools that make virtual meetings more accessible and effective. And, you could finally give a new marketing campaign or service a trial run to see what sticks.