As the mother of five kids, I spend a lot of time — a lot! — talking about lessons learned and how to apply them to better our lives and ourselves. It’s the same with my business as it is with my family: What hard-won lessons I’ve learned can I pass on to other solo entrepreneurs to try to make their own paths forward a little easier?
With so many entrepreneurs venturing out on their own these days (and yet with about 50% of them failing in the first handful of years), business owners and leaders need to take full advantage of highly strategic steps they can take to increase their chances of beating the odds.
Top 5 MVPs (most valuable processes) to promote business growth
I recently wrote about the five biggest mistakes I made in successful business ownership. Still, now it’s time for the flip side of that: the five most positive and profitable lessons I learned along the way to ensure growth instead of stagnation. I call these lessons my “MVPs” (most valuable processes) because they’re all actionable steps that any-size business can embrace and implement from the very outset of their enterprise. Each is “little” in terms of cost outlay, yet they all yield maximal ROI in terms of the smart and savvy application of immediately available resources.
MVP #1: Network, network, network!
This was, by far, the most influential skill I possessed when it came to growing my business. I didn’t start off understanding P/L statements, balance sheets, and tax codes, but I knew how to talk to and connect with people. To make them feel heard. To make them feel like they matter.
This translates to virtually any industry: Start by creating a circle of contacts around you (strength matters more than size here), then watch it feed off itself and auto-expand as people tell other people about your service and your expertise. It’s people who create business, not the other way around. So pick up the phone. Attend events. Join professional associations. Seek out a mentor. When you arm yourself with an aptitude for networking, half the battle is won.
Related: Effective Networking Requires Mastering These 5 Skills
MVP #2: Have an inspired idea and a clear vision.
If you don’t wake up every morning bubbling with exuberance about your foundational idea — what you’re contributing to your market — why should anyone else get excited about it? Be original and inventive. Narrow your focus. Clarify your vision. Craft a service menu or product line that speaks for itself.
Do people read mission statements on websites anymore? Maybe not. But write one anyway — more for yourself, to serve as your North Star. Get really clear on what makes your business exceptional and what makes it the right choice. Only when you’ve locked down your intention and are motivated by it daily will you be able to communicate it to others effectually. When they can see your vision, they can help you materialize it.
MVP #3: Find the right people with the right skills.
People are everywhere. Skills are everywhere. But zeroing in on the right people with the right skills at the right time? That’s the difference between having a talented staff and having the precise kind of talent that will best serve your clientele by achieving their definitive goals.
Don’t underestimate the passion factor here, either. When you find employees or contractors who are passionate about what you do, they’re open to you teaching them the art of your profession. As their proficiencies grow, so too will your business. It’s a constant give-and-take between leading your people effectively to fulfill company objectives while allowing them to shine in their own areas of mastery.
As in your relationship, don’t settle. Hold out for as long as you can for just the right person for the role you have to fill. In the end, it’ll save you tons of disappointment and aggravation.
Related: 6 Steps for Hiring the Right People to Build Effective Teams
MVP #4: Focus on the goal, not the process.
We’ve all heard of not seeing the forest for the trees, of getting lost in the details. The weeds will always be there, just waiting to trip you up, so one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself is the daily reminder to concentrate on the big picture — that vision you mapped out as your business’ guiding star.
When it’s your own business, you are in complete control of your final destination. You are the captain of your own ship. There are likely myriad and sometimes uncertain routes to get there, but if you keep your gaze intently fixed on the horizon you’ve marked as your end goal, which sea lanes you’re in as you travel, there are rather insignificant. Pick the right product you excel in and pick the right people to bring it to market, and you’ll stay on point.
MVP #5: Clearly outline your scope of work.
Perhaps nothing will save you more time and energy than specifying exactly what you’re expected to do and deliver to your clients — in writing. The business contract is the least fun, but it’s vital nonetheless.
If you can afford to consult a contract lawyer on the appropriate verbiage and terms, it’s worth it. If not, compose your own streamlined, transparent document template in plain English that you can tweak appropriately for each client. Either way, you need to protect both you and your client by ensuring rights on both sides; on your side, the point is not to allow a project’s parameters to slowly balloon to the point of bursting and ensuring you get paid for your work.
Make no mistake: Scope creep is only too real. And it’ll eventually burn you. Stay away from the fire by enacting a contract to keep you and your staff on task, on time and on budget.
Networking. Clarifying your vision. Assembling the right team. Staying committed to your prime objective. Avoiding scope creep. Not one of them costs a thing, and yet each of them is an invaluable asset that will fill the treasure chest of your business … Next to you, of course. Never forget that you’re the real treasure of your own solo entrepreneurship!
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