by: Robert Fukui
If you’re like most business owners, you started this business to achieve greater freedom in life. Sure you want to make a good living but having the freedom to do what you want, when you want is one of the primary motivators for owning a business.
But somehow as the years go on, the busier you get, and the more it seems like you’re a slave to the business. And your family life suffers because of it.
You think to yourself, “Once I achieve (fill in the blank), I’ll gain the freedom desired and enjoy life more.” Question is, how long will it take to reach it? How will your family feel?
But why wait till you reach that elusive milestone? What if you could gain more freedom and enjoy life today? – Achieve work-life balance now.
Stop Being a Slave To Your Business
If you look at the business owners around you and peel back the curtain, you’ll see that even the most seasoned entrepreneurs are still grinding it out decades after they started. But the lack of freedom isn’t always because the business isn’t doing well. Many are so used to working really hard that they just can’t tear themselves away from it. In the meantime, their personal life and family life suffers.
A common quote we hear from business owners as they reflect on the past, “I wish I would have taken more time for me and my relationships.” Unfortunately, it’s time you can’t get back.
You might be asking yourself, “Doesn’t growing your business for greater freedom sounds an oxymoron? I’m so busy now, won’t growing make it worse?
The Answer Is To Scale Your Business
Not if you position your business to scale and be intentional about achieving greater work-life balance between business and marriage. You may have heard this term before but may not fully understand what that means. You’re not alone.
Scaling your business means to put the systems and processes in place in order for your business to grow beyond the owner’s capacity. What this means for you is if you take the time to structure your business appropriately, the growth and health of your business will no longer be dependent on you. – Greater freedom.
Even if you choose not to grow the business, you’ll be more profitable and gain time back to invest into your important relationships at home. But if you do choose to grow, you can do so without having to put in more hours.
So how do you position your business to scale? Here are four tips to help you get there:
1. Get More Work Done In Less Time
You only have so much time in the day and the work seems to pile up. How can you get everything done? Do you need better time management? No. You need to increase your productivity. – Get more done in less time by being more efficient.
How do you do this? For starters, wear less hats. If you’re like the typical small business owner, you do the job of five people, right? That’s extremely inefficient and not good for the health of you or the business. You can’t be great at all things so focus on it’s better to focus on the things you’re great at.
Imagine a chef having to make 50 entrees, appetizers, and desserts in one evening. No way. The dinners would end up being served late, cold and lose their quality. Everyone would be upset and you’ll be exhausted. The chef should concentrate on the big picture stuff like creating the menu, sourcing ingredients, and ensuring the staff is well trained to do the rest of the work.
Focus On Fewer Things
Like a chef, you need to be focused on the big picture activities that will grow the business and make it better. That means you’ll need to identify the 2-3 things that you’re best suited for and figure out what to do with the rest.
How do you identify those 2-3 things? It’s the stuff in the business that you’re best qualified to do and gives you life? If you’ve heard of the book “The Big Leap” by Gay Hendricks, he refers to this area as the “Genius Zone.” This is the type of work that brings great fulfillment to you.
For me, I love being one on one with clients, creating content (like this article), and creating strategy. If I could just do those three, I would love it and the business would be doing much better. But like you, I have other demands in the business to tend to.
Unfortunately, most business owners only dedicate about 35% of their time in this area. You should be dedicating 65% of your time in the “genius zone.” (I’m at about 50% and getting better)
Here’s What To Do With The Rest
So, what do you do with the other stuff that is outside your “genius zone”? Determine what to Automate, Delegate and Eliminate.
Automate – Example: Using a scheduling software system can streamline appointment setting. When scheduling an appointment with a client or interviewing someone for our podcast “Power Up Your Marriage and Business,” I simply send them my calendar and they choose what’s available and they automatically receive a Zoom link. Instead of multiple emails going back and forth, it’s done in one.
Delegate – I’m good to excellent at many marketing activities based on my background but there are some tasks that other people are better at. Plus it takes up a lot of time that prevents me from operating in my “Genius Zone.” So I outsource a lot of our marketing activity. It gets done better and faster while freeing me up to focus on my “genius zone.”
Eliminate – This is a big one. Just because you can do it doesn’t mean you should. Eliminating certain tasks doesn’t mean forever or absolutely. It can be temporary, limiting, or minimizing. For example, I stack all my non-client meetings to Tuesday and Thursdays. This creates healthy limits and prevents me from suffering from death by Zoom meetings. If you know what I mean.
2. Build a Healthy Team
Once you’re identified your “genius zone” and where to focus your time, you’ll know what tasks to delegate. If you’re a solopreneur, you may be thinking, I don’t have the budget to hire help.
If that’s so, you need to either A) Identify the busy work that you can cut out. Or there may be a client that is eating up more time than they’re paying you for. Either increase the price to make it worth the trouble or cut them loose. B) Find the money. In this era of virtual assistants, you could probably scrape up some money to pay an assistant 20 hours/month to offload a lot of administrative work. What would that extra time mean to you? Put to good use, ala focusing on your “genius zone,” it should lead to more sales. This would be a great return on investment of hiring a virtual assistant.
Invest Into Training
If you already have a team and/or outsource work like we do, make sure to spend the time in training and communicating expectations. Don’t take the attitude like a lot of small business owners take, “I don’t have time to train. They should already be skilled to do the work.”
Regardless of how skilled an employee may be, every business has different processes, procedures, and expectations. If these things aren’t communicated on a regular basis, you’ll experience a lot of “failures.”
Taking the time to invest into training on the front end will prevent a lot of heartache on the backend. And on the whole, your business will start running more efficiently and smoothly. It’s a process you don’t want to short cut.
Just like we want you to focus on fewer tasks, have each team member become a “specialist” in an area. Like anyone else, when they routinely do similar tasks over and over, they become more proficient at it and get things done quicker. But if you’re like the typical small business and have everyone wear multiple hats like you do, it creates a lot of inefficiencies. Besides, not everyone is good at every task anyway. So inevitably you’re asking people to do work they’re not good at. They’ll probably be slow at it and make too mistakes. This makes everyone miserable.
Now I realize your staff will need to be cross trained and be called on to do work outside of their job description at times, but minimize this as much as you can.
3. Increase Profit Margins
The typical growth strategy for most business is a focus on increasing sales. Higher sales volume will lead to a growing business and higher profits, right? There’s truth to that but focusing on sales alone can lead a business down the wrong path.
Time after time, we’ve had clients come to us wondering why they’re busier than ever but can’t seem to reach a sustainable level of profitability. More recently we witnessed a business that grew sales by 88% over two years and only saw their net profit margin squeak up from 0.86% to 1.2%. (a healthy net profit margin is 10% – 15%)
Imagine almost doubling your workload and barely moving the needle in profit?
Focus On Margin Not Sales
If this resembles your situation, then you need to start thinking about increasing your profit margin not just sales. Do this and you won’t have to increase sales to boost your bottom line.
How do you do this? There are three ways to increase your profit margins.
- Raise prices
- Decrease cost
The beauty about fixing your profit margins is that it will have an immediate effect on your bottom line. Why? Because you’re not relying on getting more sales. You’re just adjusting the spread between your sales price and expenses. And it’s not as hard as you think. It just takes a little bit of time.
Do not overlook this! This is the simplest and quickest way to increase your bottom line. Every business we’ve worked with has had room to increase their prices somewhere in their portfolio of products and services. Why? Because they were underpriced to begin with.
Take it from me, most small businesses underestimate the value of their product/service and underprice themselves. Which causes them to work on volume and get stressed out.
I was one of them. My mentor challenged me to raise my consulting fees by 100% early on. I had every excuse under the sun why I couldn’t. But when I finally built up the nerve to increase my prices, my value and demand amongst potential clients went up. Instead of feeling like I needed to take every client, I could be more selective because I only needed half the clients as before the price increase. I no longer needed all the clients, I just needed the right ones.
When you increase your price to match the value of your product/service, you attract the right customers. Why? Because we all make value judgments on price. Think about it, if you saw a Rolex watch advertised for sale at $300, what would you be thinking? Or for the ladies, a Louis Vuitton purse for $50.
You’re thinking it’s stolen, fake, or both.
So, if you’re promising great value and with a lower price, you may be scaring away your target customer and attracting the wrong ones. But when you match price and value, your demand goes up.
For a full discussion on proper (value based) price setting, listen to episode 5 of our podcast, “Guaranteed Marketing Strategy That Will Increase Profits” or take our “Priced For Profit” online course.
The second way to increase profit margins is to cut costs. Not by slashing expenses but increasing productivity. Similar to tip #1, “Get More Done In Less Time,” if you increase the efficiency of your business, it will lower your costs and increase profit margins. Here are a few examples:
- Lower labor cost – There was an accounting client we had a while back that developed better systems in order for his team to file an extra tax return or two in the same ten hour day. This lowered his labor cost/tax return, increased sales, and profits in one swoop. Trifecta!
- Increase sales/transaction – We guided another client into creating product bundles or “value meal” packages. Their average customer purchased 1 unit/transaction. We set and reached a goal of 1.2 units/transaction. Once reached, it was a 20% increase in sales. But since the strategy didn’t add any cost, it decreased the cost/transaction and increased the profit margins/transaction. Higher sales, lower cost, higher margins. Another trifecta!
- Increase marketing ROI – An e-commerce client who had a pretty low website conversion rate of 0.8% established increased their conversion rate to 1.2%. Doesn’t sound like a big deal but that’s a 50% sales increase. And with the amount of volume they did, that was a big sales jump. This lowered the acquisition cost/transaction, increasing profit margins, and increased sales at the same time. Can you say, “Trifecta!”?
Hopefully you notice, we’re not just talking about cutting costs but increasing efficiency. And these areas of increased efficiency not only increases profit margins but higher sales happen as an outcome.
4. Invest Into Additional Business Resources
With all this additional time and money you’re gaining, make sure to invest that into the precious resources that will make your business and marriage prosper.
With the additional profits, make sure to invest back into the business to make it even better. Invest into things like software, automation, equipment, staff, and anything else that will increase the quality of your product/service.
Investing into these upgrades will only increase your value to your customers and increase your demand.
With the additional time gained, make sure to invest into yourself (i.e. get some rest and have fun) and your marriage and family. Don’t have the typical entrepreneur regret and make memories now.
Why wait till you reach your destination before you start enjoying life more? Enjoy the journey. You’ll be better for it and your family will love you for it.
As I hope you can see, you can grow your business and gain freedom at the same time. None of this is difficult or rocket science but it will take intention. It’s time to stop making excuses and focus your time on working smarter not harder. If you execute on just one of these tips, you will see an improvement in the operation of your business and gain a little bit of time back in your day.
But if you execute on all these tips, you will create greater work-life balance and obtain the freedom you desired when you first started the business.
Do you have questions? Feel free to book a complimentary discovery call to pick our brain. We’d be happy to help you win in marriage and business.
Robert Fukui received his marketing degree from San Jose State University and experienced 25 successful years in sales/marketing with companies such as Coca-Cola, Novartis Pharmaceutical and Bristol-Myers Squibb. He played instrumental roles in the launch of six major brands, directly responsible for over $150 million in revenue and a recipient of national sales and leadership awards. His business acumen allows him to help family businesses build a more profitable, efficient and sustainable company. To reach Robert, you can email him here or contact him at 626-422-6628.