Wanting your business to operate like a well oiled machine is like thinking you’ll ever be done your website. Such dreams are rarely actually reached. Opportunities to improve continually pop up. Even if you have arrived for a brief moment, something will change. A program will crash, personnel will move on, or the marketplace will shift. And you will need to adapt, adjusting your business activities on the fly.
Instead of striving for idyllic pastures that will be out of reach, try focussing on doing your best to maximize your business productivity. Systematizing the misfit entrepreneur’s business is a big deal. Eventually you might reach a place where you will need a business prototype. But you want to have proof in the concept before you invest your limited resources in such endeavors. For many of us, that means getting more organized to start.
- How do your key activities align with what you need to do to create and deliver value to customers?
- In what ways could you optimize your business systems to reduce your workload?
- How do you prioritize where to spend your limited resources (time, money, energy, focus)?
Getting More Organized
I have said this myself and I hear it from other entrepreneurs time and time again, “I need to get more organized.” In a world that is constantly throwing more information, junk mail and MeetUp groups your way it is easy to feel like you are swimming in chaos. There is no way any of us can keep track of everything going on in our lives, let alone our businesses, in our brains.
And yet, many a misfit entrepreneur gets stuck being the repository of information for our businesses. If we are not careful we run the risk of having all our business ideas, processes, plans and strategies largely in our brains. And when you are choosing how to spend your time based on what you remember it is highly likely you will make some unwise choices.
In the event that you have documented your business ideas, processes, plans and strategies, you have to be able to reference them with ease. Not knowing where something is when you need it is incredibly frustrating. Whether you choose to look for it or reinvent the wheel, it feels like a huge waste of time, energy and ultimately money.
Only you know the ways in which you need to get more organized. Are you scrambling looking for things or struggling teasing things from your mind? In what ways do you need to be more organized so that you can achieve a state where your mind is like water, neither over nor under reacting to situations?
Investing in Organizational Tools
Having a mobile office has it’s advantages, like working in the park at a picnic table on a sunny spring afternoon. It also has it’s disadvantages, like carrying everything around with you everywhere you go can give one an achey back. Ups and downs aside, being on the forced me to closely evaluate and improve my organizational tools.
Your organizational tools do not all have to be technical. Pen and paper are two of my most important tools I take with me everywhere. I also carry a folio where I have Thank You cards, business cards, active client/project files, and my weekly planner.
I learned how to drastically improve my filing system from reading Getting Things Done by David Allen. He recommends making a file for anything worth keeping around, organizing your files alphabetically and using a label maker. Seems simple. It is, sometimes we complicate our organizational systems so much so we can’t find anything, I know I did.
Digital tools are also necessary for having a mobile office. There are two major decisions to consider here. What tools do you need to invest in to be more organized and how can you use them better?
One simple digital tool every misfit entrepreneur uses is email. But do you use it properly? Email can be a huge time sink if you are disorganized. Your email offers easy organizational methods that can allow you to get and keep your inbox to zero. It might seem impossible to you right now, but you can have zero emails in your inbox.
This is another trick I learned from David Allen’s book. Process emails in your inbox and chose one of these three options:
Reply – if it takes less then two minutes, reply to the email and archive it
@Action – if you need to do something, move it to this folder for future reference
Archive – there are a slew of emails I decide to archive after reading the subject line, I don’t even open them
Allen also suggests using a @Read and Review folder as well as a @Waiting folder. I don’t use those myself, but I know they can be handy for some people.
Some other technical tools I use to keep organized include Evernote, Capsule CRM, MailChimp, Google Calendar, and Co-Schedule. These meet my needs because my primary business activities are around communication, business development, and project management. A misfit entrepreneur that does skilled labor will need different organizational tools, like a tool belt. The important thing is to find the right tools for yourself and your business.
Systematizing your Business
One of the things I like about the Business Model Canvas is that it provides an opportunity for misfit entrepreneurs to document and evaluate their key business activities. There are a bunch of different business activities you could invest in systematizing. But which ones will help you create and deliver value to your customers? And what proof do you have that there is a business case for systematizing your business activities?
There is getting yourself organized and maximizing your tools to improve your workflow process. And then there is systematizing your business activities. Both of these help to maximize your productivity. But when it comes to systematizing you want to test and iterate on your business model before you invest too much in your solution.
The things you want to systematize first are repeatable processes. Many elements of my business, like client acquisition and delivery, were not repeatable early on. One of my first repeatable processes was invoicing. I update a formatted excel spreadsheet to generate my invoices, save them as PDF’s and email them off to clients. It is nothing fancy, I did not have to setup quickbooks or spend lots of money and it works, I get paid.
Beware of people that say you should automate your marketing or systematize your business development activities to save time. That only works if you have a repeatable process. Investing in such efforts before you have proven your business model is a waste of time, energy and money. It is better to start by doing things manually first. In the meantime you can use your organizational tools to document your procedures so that when you do get proof in concept you can systematize your business activities with more ease.
Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen
According to David Allen’s book, a successful workflow system helps you achieve a state of mind like water. The steps to creating a good system are: 1) document every single activity, project, task, etc. EVERYTHING. 2) Process everything through an inbox. 3) Determine what the next physical action is for each item. 4) Organize everything into different categories that are visually, physically and psychologically separate. 5) Put action triggers for each category where you’ll see them.