7 Ways to Simplify Your Business For Success
When asked about the type of business my clients want, most of them tell me they would love a sustainable business...
When asked about the type of business my clients want, most of them tell me they would love a sustainable business that makes money but that also flows and feels easy. Yet most of them, just like many other entrepreneurs and business owners I know, never seem to get it quite right. The majority are often overwhelmed, stressed out, and chronically overworked. With only a percentage of them actually achieving the financial success they’re working so hard for.
For a long time, I used to be like that too.
I would work 12-hour days for weeks on end and not see the needle move an inch. Every time someone would ask me how business was, I’d reply with the all to familiar “busy”. In the end, I can’t say business was bad. I made money, and my business grew. But – and this is a big one – the way I was doing it was unsustainable, and if I consider all the hours, efforts, and energy I put in I have to admit the ugly truth: I did it for peanuts.
When we’re starting out on our own, it’s difficult to resist the urge to try out things, to build as we go, to want to do a million things at once. In a way, and to a certain extend, we absolutely have to. After all, we’re learning how to build our business. The problem is that, as we’re learning, we’re also adding layer upon layer of things we think we need to do. If we’re not careful – and this is what happens in most cases – soon enough we’ll end up overwhelmed by all those to-dos, of which we usually don’t even question the validity.
Finally, because of the inherited dreams of hard work and relentless productivity that our culture has so generously passed down to us, we think being tired from always being “busy” is a sign we’re doing well, and moving forward in the right direction.
I used to believe this. I don’t believe it anymore. A successful business shouldn’t be hard, it should flow and feel easy.
One way to achieve this (perhaps the single most important way) is to simplify as much as you can. This means looking at all those layers of to-dos you’ve piled up over time and for each of them decide if you actually need to do it, and if you do how you can do it better.
In what follows I share 7 ways you can simplify your business for success. I’ve added success in there on purpose because I believe that simplification will bring you more flow and ease but will also keep you energized and happy. This in turn will keep you focused on the important stuff which will bring in more money. See where I’m getting at here?
#1 Focus on the essential
In every business there are a few key things that yield the most results. In order to make your business work it’s important to focus on these essential components. Basically it comes down to identifying what works well in your business, and doing more of that! What follows is that everything that isn’t essential should come second, or be eliminated altogether.
Essentialism is the disciplined pursuit of less, based on the core question: “Will this activity or effort make the highest possible contribution towards my goal?”. The Pareto principle states that, for many events, about 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. Translated into business speak: 20% of the things we do in our business produce about 80% of our results. So the trick is to figure out what those 20% are and do as much if it as we can.
#2 Automate as much as possible
Business automation is one of the areas in my business I was most reluctant to look at. If you’re in business today, especially online business, chances are you use a multitude of apps on a daily basis.
The problem here again, at least for me, is the stockpiling of apps. Before you know it, one app has led you to another, and another, and so on. My reluctance to look at what I was using for my business, and the way I was using it came from the fact that I knew there would be a learning curve. I needed to first check all the apps I was using to make sure I actually needed them, then figure out how I could use them better.
Once I did the work I realized I was spending more than €5000 a year on apps, most of which I hardly used. My first step was to cancel everything I didn’t need. This left me with about €1000 a year worth of app subscriptions.
Here’s a list of the ones I use most, and the time saved by using them effectively (affiliate links):
For appointment scheduling. When someone signs up for a free coaching session they’re automatically redirected to my online calendar through Acuity. This saves me and the client time by avoiding the back and forth to find a moment that works for both of us.
Time saved letting acuity deal with my calendar: 2 hours a week
I use zoom for video conferencing with my coaching clients. The one tweak I did that saves me massive amounts of time is a build-in integration with Acuity Scheduling mentioned above. Acuity lets you connect with Zoom so that every time a new appointment is created, it included a link to a zoom video conference room. Before this I used to create and send out zoom links to my clients before every session. I know, right!
Time saved letting zoom create its own links: 2 hours a week
I’m not sure how to define Zapier. A workflow or task manager? A way to connect apps? In any case what I do know is that I think of Zapier when I imagine how great it would be if new tasks could magically appear in Asana (see point #3) when I create new Google Calendar events for instance, or how awesome it would be that WordPress post drafts would be created automatically from all the newsletters I send out. In fact, that – and so much more – is exactly what Zapier does for me.
Time saved letting Zapier prep content for me: 4 hours a week
I believe in the power of the “important admin stuff” you have to do for your business. I know many entrepreneurs see this as a necessary evil but I’m convinced the success of any business is in part due to the way administration tasks are done. There are a gazillion apps out there that can help you streamline your admin processes. For invoicing I love using Wave Accounting. It’s easy to use and offers great features like recurring billing via email and automatic payment notifications.
Time saved letting Wave Accounting worry about my invoices and payments: 2 hours a week
#3 Structure and create routines
Structure is another one of those things that can save you a bucket load of time. Working without a plan is never a good idea, I’m sure you’ll agree. Why then are so many entrepreneurs working without a defined and thought out structure or set of routines? It’s exactly the same thing!
I have routines for how I write, how I work with clients, how I plan out my goals. Routine is part of almost everything I do in my business.
When it comes to structure, I have a lot of that too. I plan things on specific days, do them in a specific way, and have a lot of templates and workflows (see below point #6 and #7) that I’ve created over the years. To help me stay on track I use a project management tool called Asana. All the essential tasks I have to do are organized in projects, with repeat times for recurring tasks. I give every task an “energy value” of low, medium, high or epic. When I plan my days I use a fixed set of each type of task. This way I don’t plan too many things in a day, while I still move towards my goals quickly, and with ease.
#4 Get organized and schedule ahead of time
To have a business that flows and feels easy it’s important to be proactive instead of reactive. Unfortunately a lot of entrepreneurs I know are part of the latter group rather of the former. Every day they fight with their business, and react to what comes at them. It’s not their fault. They’re entangled in this way of working because it’s the most common way there is. One way to escape it is to get organized and schedule work ahead of time.
I make sure I schedule in enough time every week to write blog posts and newsletters, and even to work on new products and launches well head of time.
For social media I love to use Smarterqueue. This intuitive social media scheduling tool is easy to use, and let’s you put a schedule for your social media together! Once you’ve done this once the only thing you need to do is add content regularly, and the app does the rest.
#5 Set boundaries and say “no” more often
When I first started out in business my boundaries where non-existent. “Yes” was the only thing I knew how to say. In fact, I even put a tagline on my business cards and website that reflected this belief. I’d seen it on the name tag of a hotel manager and found it so on point that I decided to use it for my business. It read: “The answer is YES. What is the question?” I still think it’s a great tagline. Unfortunately what works for hospitality management doesn’t automatically work for other businesses.
By adopting this attitude of “yes” I quickly found myself overworked, overwhelmed, and incredibly unhappy. Saying yes to anything that came my way resulted in a portfolio of not so fun clients, big projects that I wasn’t being paid nearly enough for, and late night and weekend phone calls from clients who wanted to share “one more important thing” with me.
It was unsustainable. Eventually I had to grow up, and shift gears. That’s when I learned the power of boundaries, and saying “no”.
Today I assess every request I get based on the list of things that contribute most to my business. If the request is in line with my long-term goals I might say yes – if I have the time to do it – if not it’s a “no”.
#6 Create templates
One day I was typing an email to a client when I realized I had typed that same email at least 10 times before. I’m sure you know the feeling 🙂 That’s when I decided to create a vault with templates for emails and other communication I deal with in my business.
It wasn’t a difficult process at all. I didn’t sit down with myself and force myself to come up with a list of emails I needed templates for (although this could have worked). I simply decided that whenever I wrote an email from then on I would save it as a template first. By being consistent at this for a few months I put together a rich and extensive library of templates that now save me time and effort daily.
#7 Map out workflows (SOPs) for the different parts of your business
When I realized how easy it was to create a library of email templates I decided to do the same with my business workflows. I mapped out the entire process of the different parts of my business from start to finish, with an overview of all the steps that it takes to complete something.
When I create a new product, put together a new coaching package, or start out with a new client I have a workflow that I can follow. The processes are streamlined in an almost done-for-me way. In Asana I have project templates that I can copy easily. Once created the new project already holds all the tasks I need to do for a particular project. How awesome!
I set out to write a small post about simplifying your business for success and it turned out to be more than 2000 words long. I guess I’m not a true minimalist yet 🙂 If you’ve still here though, kudos to you! While you’re add it, why not drop a line in the comments below and tell me how you simplify your business. I’d really love to know.
Hi, I’m Murielle. I created the online course Soulful Productivity™, a 6-week program to redefine productivity and help you get from overwhelm to flow, and I have a private coaching practice where I help ambitious, multi-passionate creatives and entrepreneurs start, grow & scale businesses, and create their freedom lifestyle. PS: I love Instagram. Let’s connect!