Have you ever noticed that when you get things right in your business, other opportunities start arriving, with almost no effort on your part?
It’s all about momentum. Other people—potential employees, prospects, vendors—naturally want to be part of a good thing, so they flock when your business is growing.
In interviewing many successful entrepreneurs over the years, I’ve noticed that they often rely on small daily habits and routines—both in business and their personal lives that keep the needle on their business moving in the right direction. These disciplines aren’t complicated but they pay big dividends.
Plan tomorrow’s agenda today
Scott Cullather, CEO of inVNT, a live events agency in New York, meets with his key support team before the close of business to go over what’s coming up the next day. “We review and forecast what tomorrow is going to look like and how we’re going to get through that,” he says. “It gives us an opportunity to re-prioritize. It also allows us to go to bed at night. Your mind does a lot of work for you while you’re sleeping. You get there the next day and are much more efficient and productive.” This focused approach has helped growth, he says. The company expects sales to rise from $20 million last year to at least $25 million this year.
Put your meetings on a diet
Ask entrepreneurs who left corporate America what they don’t miss and they’ll tell you it’s those endless, often unproductive gatherings around the conference room table drawn out by flabby agendas and presentation technology that takes forever to get set up. Many fast-growth companies keep meetings short, so employees have time to get projects done. For instance, Cullather limits his afternoon huddle to about 15 minutes.
Find a way to manage e-mail that works for you
They key is to avoid getting sucked into constantly responding to and sending e-mails, which delays you from finishing projects on time.
Many business owners like the system suggested by David Allen, the well-known author of Getting Things Done. He offers a free PDF full of smart tips, such as putting e-mails you need to act on—and those you don’t—in separate places in your inbox.
Another strategy that many use: Find ways to reduce the number of useless messages you view, so you have more time to work on what matters. OtherInbox, for instance, pulls e-mails from various senders into folders you’ve designated and even unsubscribes you from e-newsletters you no longer want. You can use it for functions such as filing all of your e-mails from a particular client in one folder. It’s available on AOL and Yahoo! mail. Some enterprise systems offer filing systems, too—so if you use one, make sure you set aside an hour to master it.
Never stop selling
You’ll lose productive days if you wait until you’re almost done with your current projects to pitch new business. Projects can get dropped, clients can run short of cash and other things can go wrong in an economy like the one we’re in. The smartest entrepreneurs I know are always cultivating new business, so they can quickly plug holes that open in their schedule. Often, it’s a matter of sending in a project with a quick note saying, “Anything else I can help you with?” at the end. They are, of course, prepared to bring on temporary help in case they get overbooked as a result—even if it’s simply through an arrangement with a reliable freelance colleague.
Cullather puts on his running shoes at 5:30 or 6 a.m. daily, and then hits the streets. “It’s amazing to me how many creative ideas have come to me during these long runs in creative solitude,” he says. “Not only does it give you the physical endurance to work 18 or 20 hours a day and travel around the world but it helps stimulate your mind and your thinking.” When Cullather is traveling, he hits the gym—often a great chance to spend time with clients or network informally. “When we’re working with Fortune 500 companies, their senior executives are there at 5:30 or 6, before the conference begins,” he says.
Shouldn’t you be there, too?
First Published on American Express Open Forum, by Elaine Pofeldt, June 21, 2011