“In order to be successful as a business owner, you need a comprehensive strategy that details where you want to go and how you are going to get there.” – Takia Lamb
I have been building an agency model since the very beginning – which means that long before there was anyone else here to help me, I was saying ‘we’. I remember sitting in meetings where the client would say, “Can you and your team help us with this?” and I almost forgot that I was creating a team model without the team. Inside I chuckled to myself and asked, “What team!?” while outside I responded, “Of course.”
This reminds me of a hilarious TikTok trend where small business owners are explaining “when I say ‘we,’ I mean ‘me’,” because typically that’s where things start. Someone has an amazing idea and when it starts to consume them, an entrepreneur is born. But there is a difference between being an entrepreneur and being a small business owner.
I often see the terms used interchangeably, but there is a clear distinction between being a “solopreneur” and a small business owner; the directions to get there are not always super clear. So, as I fumble through this journey, I would like to offer 5 tips that will help your path be a little less bumpy.
1. Build an effective strategy.
Strategy is an essential part of building a successful business and that strategy MUST be comprehensive. Building effective solutions is more than just throwing together a plan. It’s a process. I’ve seen more times than not, where teams are not asking the appropriate questions to build effective strategy. Often strategy is simplified into a few ideas and then implementation.
But there are important steps to this process, starting with some simple questions like: What, Who, When, Where, How? Each of these questions grow more and more complex as we develop strategy. Strategy is not just about what you think and what feels right to you. Strategy should include research and an understanding of the social climate, competitors, and what has worked for your company in the past.
2. Build systems and automate.
Once you have strategy, you need to build systems. As tedious as it may be, your systems need to include EVERY SINGLE STEP in EACH AND EVERY SINLGE process. Our agency has email drafts for several different scenarios, flows to help us navigate through each step of hiring, client intake, process for each individual service offerings, amongst a million other things, etc.
I will say that I owe this all to hiring project managers. It’s actually one of the best things that I’ve ever done for my business.
Project managers focus on getting projects completed from start to finish, which means they need to know every step in the process to ensure the project is completed to satisfaction. They have a way of breaking things down to their simplest form which is exactly how building complicated things work.
For solopreneurs, this is a never-ending process that we often execute but never record and can become challenging when attempting to translate expectations to a team. Processes should be clearly written down and even automated through tools like Podio, Dropbox, and Calendly. Systems will ultimately make or break your company.
3. Focus on brand development.
One of the first things that we request from our clients is information on who they are. I’ve watched people carefully deliver their company in a confident and competent way, while I’ve also watched people stumble through their delivery. Sometimes it’s personality and sometimes it’s uncertainty, but either way, it’s not the best start for your brand.
We say this a lot, but your brand is more than just a logo.
People are hyper-focused on the symbol they choose, thinking that their logo is what will carry them to success, but that’s just not true. Brands are developed with many of the things, we’ve already discussed including understanding your client and how you want them to feel when they encounter your company. Are they excited? Do they feel safe? Do they associate your company name and logo with the services you offer?
Then, the question becomes how is this communicated throughout your marketing strategy and promotional materials? Is it evident on your website? Is it evident through how you interact with people? Are there any hidden messages that you are unintentionally communicating that may potentially hurt your brand?
Spending little time in the brand development stage is one way to slow your journey in developing a successful small business.
4. Creating a healthy company culture is essential.
Moving back to how others experience your brand. This experience is both internal and external. Solopreneurs may spend time developing their client experience, but may fall short when considering company culture internally, which impacts how we treat ourselves and potential employees.
In working with entrepreneurs, I can admit that we have a lot of unhealthy habits. And I get it. Building something is challenging and often requires a level of endurance that most people don’t possess. I often compare it to motherhood, which stretches us, consumes our sleep, and our lives. Our businesses are similar. We push hard and dedicate everything to it, hoping that it will have the best possible outcome.
Putting people first is a sure fire way to build healthy work environments.
5. Evaluate, Rinse, and Repeat.
Lastly, you have to build systems for evaluation. Nine times out of ten, you won’t get it right the first time. I’m sorry to say it, but I have to break the bubble. Anticipate failure. In anticipation for failure, you prepare to evaluate systems regularly. The point of system building is not that there is one right way to do it, but whether or not the system is efficient for those using it. It is possible that one tool works better for one group of people than it works for another.
Ensure that evaluation is an essential part of your business.