Owners work diligently to make their businesses a success, but sometimes, they end up getting in their own way. This is true for everything from small, fledgling businesses to Fortune 100 companies.
Perhaps no one knows this better than Nancy Gaines, the CEO and Founder of Gain Advantages Inc. She’s been advising those small businesses and Fortune 100 companies for almost two decades on how to increase revenue with proven systems, and is both a best-selling author and keynote speaker. Named one of the Top 100 Productivity Experts to follow on Twitter and host of a podcast downloaded in more than 75 countries, she’s demonstrated excellent knowledge of her passion subject: decompressing the time it takes for businesses and entrepreneurs to get profitable while weeding out inefficiency.
We wanted to get some of her thoughts on some of these systems, and how small businesses can benefit more from changing their systems and delegating more.
What do you think is the challenge holding most small businesses back and keeping them from growing?
Control. At some point, every entrepreneur has to make an important choice – growth or control. It’s impossible to have both. If a business owner wants to do everything himself, his growth will be limited by his available time (and energy). If they are willing to release things to other people, the growth of their company, and the number of people they can positively impact, is unlimited. To really grow, business owners must trust their team to carry some of the workload to get the company to the next level.
A lot of business owners struggle to delegate, whether to their own employees or to a contractor or agency. Any advice for how to overcome this?
Start small. Delegating is a habit that can be successfully mastered over time. Release something simple to a resource on Fiverr or Elance—like typing a letter or entering a few business cards into a contact management system. For your personal life, hire someone to clean your home or have groceries delivered from Amazon instead of shopping yourself. Little by little you will LOVE how much time you save by having other people take some work off your plate. As you delegate more complex activities, you’ll find it’s actually very freeing.
Not sure what to delegate? Determine your hourly rate and delegate everything LESS THAN that number. This allows you to focus on activities that are truly worth your valuable time.
How do you recommend business owners choose which systems to automate or outsource?
That’s easy. Anything you do twice needs a system. Anything you do three or more times should be automated. Pay attention to what you do over and over in your business. Those are perfect candidates for a system. Remember, S.Y.S.T.E.M. is just an acronym – Save Yourself Some Time, Energy, & Money. Systems make your business do the heavy lifting – instead of you. Implement systems in five main business categories: Sales, Marketing, Operations, Team, and Money.
Nancy has a free guide available here: The Top 5 Systems that Create Massive Productivity in your Business.
What if automation seems to not work as well? Is it possible to troubleshoot?
There’s a saying: Systems work, people fail. If there’s an automation issue in your business, it’s probably due to setting up the system incorrectly—or someone skipped a step to shortcut a process. Take a moment to re-trace the procedure to identify what’s broken, and make it right. I recommend a Quarterly Systems Audit which simply means reviewing what’s in place to ensure it’s still relevant and working. Sometimes what worked when you first start a company doesn’t work once you grow. Don’t be so rigid with systems that they hinder—instead of enhance—your business.
Do you have any advice about how to financially invest in a business in a way that will yield big returns?
Most people under-invest in their company (and themselves), and therefore get mediocre results. They try to go solo and figure it out on their own—which is slow, wasteful, and frustrating. My advice—invest in help from a business advisor right from the start. The biggest expense in your business is not consulting fees, website development, or automation tools. The biggest expense in your business is not making money.
What do you wish you knew before you started your business about growing and scaling?
Like many people, I had more time than money in the early days of my business. Looking back, I wish I treated systems like compound interest—putting the time in at the start to get them in place so that I could experience the benefits later. Once a business picks up steam, it’s really hard to systemize and scale simultaneously. My advice to new business owners—take advantage of your available time early on to create the systems and process foundation in your company. You will be really glad you did.
Can you share the one most significant mistake that you see businesses making that’s costing them way too much money?
Lack of measurements. Everything you do in business must be measured so you can track what is working and what’s not. For example, how much new revenue did you gain from an investment at a trade show? What was the average new revenue per client? If the income was below the cost of having a booth, perhaps that show is not a good use of your marketing budget in the future.
Each dollar invested should have a positive ROI. How long can a business owner throw money at something, hoping it will work, before he runs out of cash? Simple measurements will quickly indicate when to continue a strategy, and when to move on to something else. I believe business should be simple, easy, fun, and profitable. By adding just a few simple measurement systems to your company, you can save yourself from wasting your hard earned money.
Our businesses are our babies and our livelihoods, and it can be difficult to see them objectively without an expert stepping in to help. If you’ve hit stagnation (and even if you haven’t!), take a close look at Nancy’s advice. Are there tasks you do over and over again that you can systemize? Do you have work that you should be delegating or outsourcing, or both? Are you too afraid to spend money to actually make money?
Businesses are an investment, and if we want growth, we need to be able to take a step away from the control and welcome in some outside help, from coaches and service providers alike.
What do you think? Which piece of advice from Nancy resonates most with you? What will you be implementing in your own business?
Jamie is the Channel Relations Manager for PATLive. PATLive is a 24/7 live answering service that answers calls for thousands of businesses nationwide using its proprietary software and top-notch agents.
The information and tips shared on this blog are meant to be used as learning and personal development tools as you launch, run and grow your business. While a good place to start, these articles should not take the place of personalized advice from professionals. As our lawyers would say: “All content on Wave’s blog is intended for informational purposes only. It should not be considered legal or financial advice.” Additionally, Wave is the legal copyright holder of all materials on the blog, and others cannot re-use or publish it without our written consent.