When I attended the kick-off event for the Entrepreneur Club of the Paris chapter of European Professional Women's Network (EPWN) several weeks ago, I was pleased to meet Samantha Pastour, winner of the 2013 EPWN's Prix Entrepreneure Responsible (Responsible Entrepreneur Prize). Samantha successfully competed to win EPWN's support for the recent launch of her entrepreneurial enterprise, Bill'iz. Bill'iz is an online platform where clients can learn how to maintain, sell, repair, donate or rent their personal property (ex. high tech, household appliance, automotive). Clients can also find repair services and after-sale services on the platform.
The Prix Entrepreneure Responsible (PER) consists of a package of services designed to maximize the winner's chances of successfully launching her business. Among them is a suite of consulting services offered by the EPWN "Dream Team," a group of highly skilled executives and entrepreneurs who will provide up to 80 hours of mentoring in multiple domains (total market value = 20,000 €). Samantha will determine which among these offerings will be most beneficial to her business effort and contact the appropriate team members to arrange for one-on-one sessions with them.
At the kick-off event, I watched and listened intently as the speaker described the members of the Dream Team and their specialties. Strategic planning, management and strategic finance, marketing, business law, trademark registration and intellectual property, accounting, personal image and branding, commercial strategy and sales, and communication were all discussed as part of the package. Then the speaker introduced the next topic on the agenda. No one seemed to notice that not a word was mentioned about productivity!
I approached Samantha after the presentation and asked whether she felt that she could benefit from mentoring in productivity and time management. She immediately and enthusiastically replied "Yes!" and said that she could particularly use advice on prioritization and focusing on individual tasks. So I approached the Dream Team to propose adding my services to the package that it is offering to Samantha and will offer to future PER winners. They readily accepted and productivity mentoring is now part of what the Dream Team offers to PER recipients.
A couple of weeks later, I met several members of the team and asked them why something as critical to business success as productivity was overlooked in putting together the Dream Team package. One member responded that no one volunteered to provide productivity mentoring; in fact, no one even realized that such mentoring exists! Another member said that for her specialty (sales), productivity is part of the process and skill set that good salespeople learn - it's a "given" that is implicitly understood. We all agreed that for most entrepreneurs, productivity is a subliminal goal rather than a hard (read "measurable") skill to be mastered.
In reality, true productivity is absolutely measurable. But for the entrepreneur, it depends much more on clear vision, mindset, and implementation than on strategy and skill sets. Put another way, productivity depends on "knowing what matters and getting it done."
"Knowing what matters" is applicable at all levels of your business, beginning with your company vision and goals. What are they? Why do you want to achieve them? Each and every day, everything you decide to do in your business should be based on your answers to these two questions. They define "what matters" and serve as the compass that points you in the right direction when you are feeling lost or frustrated - as all business owners eventually do.
It is important to periodically revisit these questions to see how your answers to them change. If they change substantially, the strategic plan that you initially created and everything that follows from it may no longer be a basis for productive action.
"Getting it done" is the second, essential part of productivity and it relates primarily to the projects and tasks that we attend to daily. There is no productivity without action. But what many fail to realize is that "getting things done" without "knowing what matters" is rarely productive. Accomplishing multiple tasks every day means little if those tasks do not move us toward achieving our goals and making our business vision a reality. In fact, pursuit of "off target" projects and tasks is counterproductive because it directs time, energy, and money away from our self-declared objectives.
Mindset is a crucial component of "getting it done." We must believe in our ability to accomplish our goals and we must believe that we deserve to accomplish them! We are often our own worst enemies in this regard. If you find that you consistently procrastinate on certain tasks or projects, this could be an indication that your subconscious mind is trying to protect you from "harm" in the form of disappointment or ridicule as a result of failure or that it is trying to maintain a belief system that will not allow you to grow or change. When you are able to work through these challenges, you can banish phrases like "I can't" and "I'm not good enough" from your vocabulary and move forward swiftly and boldly!
Productivity is part of every entrepreneur's dream, whether consciously or subconsciously. Becoming aware of it and keeping it top of mind are the beginning of making this part of the dream a reality. To raise your awareness and to determine how productive you are in your business, take a few minutes to answer the following questions:
When was the last time you thought about your business vision and goals?
How much of what you do every day is moving you toward that vision and those goals?
What can you do to improve the alignment between the two?
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