Ahh, the restive feeling of a man who just left a business retreat. The team-building exercises, the delicious food, the “re-charged batteries of my soul.”
Ok, so it wasn’t exactly like that. I did have a business retreat this weekend–as i explained in my prior post on the importance of business systems–but my company is just me. It really made that team-building exercise where you fall back and learn to trust (when the other person catches you) quite difficult.
And instead of catered food, I had Boston Market. And instead of relaxing the whole weekend, I pretty much worked 16 hour days trying to improve my business. But I still feel oddly satisfied. I can’t say my whole business has been “turned around,” but I do think there have been some improvements. Let’s review some of the work I accomplished this weekend (along with, perhaps, an overview of my descent into madness (j/k)):
Drafting a Written Business Plan
When I left the professional group where I was working, I had a great plan: for starting my own business. The startup phase is something I’ve thought about for years. I’ve always wanted to have my own business. People were even amazed at how quickly my business “came together.” You know how sometimes a person will have their whole wedding planned out even before they’re even been proposed to. Yeah, that was me.
The furniture was delivered as the business cards were hot off the press. The website was up and it looked like my business had been around for decades. I had everything, everything I tell you! Everything…..but clients. Clients and any idea of how to actually run the business after the startup phase was over.
The next six months were a whirlwind of trying to learn the technology, customer service, accounting, and other practices that would keep my doors open. It was, well….exhausting. Totally exhausting. I never took the time to write out an actual business plan. Or to brainstorm the specific systems I should have in place within my business to make it run smoothly.
This weekend I wrote out my business plan. I brainstormed. I ate Boston Market cornbread and I envisioned where my business is and where I want it to be.
In full disclosure, I must admit that I also did some soft and cuddly things like designing a “Firm Mission Statement.” Then I called my wife who was out of town this weekend and she said she liked it (but probably cracked up as soon as she hung up the telephone). But I also did some of the difficult strategic thinking my business has so long needed. I decided upon what types of clients I would take versus which ones I would refer out. I created the profile of my “ideal client.” I mapped out short-term and long-term goals, and systems I would have to improve to make my business into something bigger than me.
Drafting a Written Marketing Plan
I also focused on how I can consistently generate new clients. How does my website fit into the overall structure of my business’s marketing plan? How can I ensure more referrals? What systems should I put in place to create a larger sense of customer satisfaction?
Then I started really going crazy. I worked my Keurig machine so hard that it asked for a transfer. I put M83’s “Midnight Children” on permanent repeat and I dug deep into the inner recesses of my own entrepreneurial fetishism. I sat down at my computer and in a caffein addled state of delirium had my Jerry Maguire moment. (“even the cover, looked like the Catcher in the Rye.”) What did I do? I wrote out a fifteen page company handbook.
It described everything about how my business should be run. It even listed my vacation schedule for my employees. And yes, I know I don’t have any employees. But dammit! I want to have employees! That’s part of my business plan. Yeah….it was kind of sad, in a way. (in every way).
I outlined the telephone procedures for my business. I created intake forms for the areas of my business. I chastised non-existent employees for being rude to customers. I almost cried with joy when I learned how to “hyperlink” within Word documents. I redesigned my entire conflict list system. I made a sheet outlining my pricing policies for different types of matters. I set written standards and/or redesigned my systems of ordering supplies, backing up data, billing and invoicing, storing new contact information, filing, opening and closing business matters, and calendaring meetings and other documentation.
It was one wild ride, baby…one wild ride indeed.
Then I designed pamphlets providing some information about my business and the areas of my business.
I even spent some time reading The Essential Drucker, because I am nothing if not addicted to reading. Then I woke up this morning and bought some more Boston Market. And I’m not even sure I like their food. But dammit that rotisserie chicken tasted different this morning. It tasted like…..victory.