This three-article series is a Think and Grow Rich-type exposé that draws from the experiences of entrepreneurs in the "expert arena" (coaches, consultants, authors, speakers, online marketers) who have successfully grown their businesses to 6 figures or 7 figures in income. After several months of interviewing a select group of such entrepreneurs, I have teased out some threads regarding productivity that are important to note and emulate if you desire to achieve a similar level of revenue generation.
The following business owners (most of whom are solopreneurs) graciously consented to be interviewed for this series:
Christine Gallagher - She's Got Clients
Alzay Calhoun - Coveted Consultant
Rhonda Hess - Prosperous Coach
Kim Clausen - Ready2Go Marketing Solutions
Tim Paulson - Tim Paulson
Julie Flippin - Make Your Success Real
Mara Glazer - Mara Glazer
Jeanna Gabellini - MasterPeace Coaching
Pamela Bruner - Make Your Success Real
They have shared their definitions of productivity, their self-assessment of their personal level of productivity, their current greatest productivity challenge and its importance, their sources of inspiration and training regarding productivity, and more.
In this article, participants look back at how their view of productivity has changed and how their actions changed to maintain or increase their productivity as their businesses have evolved.
From Start-up to High 5 Figures
Most interviewees indicated that the Number 1 focus for start-up entrepreneurs is getting clients and generating revenue. Many reached five figures fairly quickly but struggled to get to high five figures. Productivity concerns at this stage of business revolve around this goal. Among the challenges that the participants faced in their businesses were:
Making sure not to spend too much time on non-revenue generating activities
Not knowing what's important and taking on too much as a consequence
Not knowing what you want to do in your business or what you're good at
Having your hands in too many tasks because you don't have anyone to help you
Taking too long to do things - allowing tasks to fill up the time available rather than restricting them to a time that you assign
Attending to tasks haphazardly - working without a plan
One participant stressed that during the start-up phase of his business, he was convinced that he needed to know more and do more to be productive. As he became more experienced, he saw that he needed to shift his mindset. Viewing his company as an entity separate from himself, he began to "talk to it" and see it as having the capacity to know and do things on its own. He could then package up his knowledge and his approaches to things and hand them to the company to do.
From High 5 figures to 6 Figures and Beyond
Many entrepreneurs who are able to reach the level of high five figures in income have grown confident in their businesses (one interviewee described this as being more certain of what he wanted to do and liked to do). Money is coming in, which definitely boosts confidence. At this point, many turn their eyes toward the threshold of $100,000 in revenue. And once this threshold is crossed, then multi-six figures and even seven figures in income become possibilities rather than "pie in the sky" fantasies.
To reach the "magic" number of $100,000, the entrepreneur can begin to incorporate or build on the concept of leverage in business - serving many clients with a single offering as opposed to working strictly one-on-one with them. This requires creating offers such as telesummits and Webinars, group coaching programs and live events that are suited for multiple clients or potential clients. One interviewee said that she does this because she has become increasing concerned with improving her quality of life - she wants to work less and enjoy life more.
To do this alone is virtually impossible. Therefore, it is not surprising that many participants interviewed for this article indicated that the single most important factor in reaching, maintaining, and moving past $100,000 in revenue is the creation of a team.
One interviewee stressed that you must delegate activities to keep your business growing, even if you are not making as much money as you'd like. These are words of wisdom for the entrepreneur who is hesitant to bring on help beyond a single virtual assistant or who only sporadically engages the services of a consultant. Incorporate the cost of outsourcing in your budget as soon as possible and use the money that you allocate for that purpose.
Building the right team takes time and effort - two participants said that they had to "kiss a lot of frogs" before finding the people who could support their businesses. To minimize mistakes and keep productivity for the entire business on track, it is worth taking the time to learn how to hire.
Hiring is "out of the comfort zone" for many, but at this stage in your business, it is one of the few things that only you can do! Learning to do it and do it well can save weeks to months of time that you may spend dealing with a bad contractor or employee.
Technology plays a huge roll in productivity at all stages of the life of a business but it takes on added significance when aiming for a 6-figure income. If used judiciously, it can provide a tremendous boost. If used indiscriminately, it can seriously hamper your productivity.
One participant spoke at length about the importance of technology in conducting the joint venture promotions she viewed as important for growing her business and her need for assistance in selecting and successfully utilizing the online tools required. Her business had evolved to the point where she needed a project manager and technology provided the means to keep tasks and communications organized so that her projects remained on track.
This situation posed two critical challenges - finding the person(s) to operate the technology and creating the systems to support its use. She eventually found the perfect OBM to manage her projects and relied on her team to create the systems required. She selected Basecamp and Dropbox as project management tools and uses Optimize Press for creating online sales pages.
The participant also spoke of the fact that technology can be costly, particularly if you are using programs for which access requires the payment of monthly fees. So it is important to be sure that the benefits derived from using a given program justify the expense.
Another interviewee is striving to build a company that improves upon what he puts into it and becomes a creative force of its own. When he achieves this, he believes his business will be well on its way to generating seven figures in revenue. Ultimately, he wants more freedom and spontaneity in his life and he expects that moving his business in this direction will allow him to achieve it.
Actions Taken to Be More Productive
Many participants shared something that they did in the past or something that they do now to maintain or boost their productivity.
Four interviewees mentioned that developing better e-mail management skills was a huge productivity booster. One of them shared that she had the huge realization that there was almost never an emergency in the business that required the frequent checking that she had engaged in.
Other actions taken by participants include the following:
Shifting from the mindset that "everything is important and needs to be done now" to working from a predetermined list of priorities
Shifting from being "always available" through social media and Skype to vigorously controlling external access
Leaving the office to work elsewhere
Responding to phone messages instead of answering the phone in real time
Using a to-do list
Limiting multi-tasking to low energy/low concentration activities such as paying bills and printing documents
Hiring a coach for every aspect of her life
Avoiding overcommitment; only saying "yes" to things that generate revenue, give more joy, or give more time
In concluding the interview, I asked participants if they had any final thoughts to share on the topic of productivity. Here are some of them:
The concept of intention is important. What are you trying to do and how does that differ from what you are doing? If you are trying to be more productive, why are you trying to do that?
A lot of what productivity means for a business depends on the business model that you choose. My productivity has not evolved because my business model remains the same - it is streamlined with plenty of systems. It has not become more complicated over time.
It is impossible to be productive without systems! Delegation is what makes you productive and you cannot delegate without systems.
All of your crap comes up when you start a business. You need to deal with it to be productive. Your chosen methods for productivity must be conducive to your lifestyle.
How you feel while you are working is more important that what you are doing and how much you are getting done. Even with the best systems, if your head is not in the right place, you're going to have a bumpy ride during your work day.
For anyone struggling with productivity, consider hiring an expert along with any other options that you may think about when trying to resolve your issues.
To read additional articles in the "Six-Figure to Seven-Figure Entrepreneur Productivity Evolution" series and other articles by Monique, click here.