By Rieva Lesonsky
When you run a small business, most likely you’re not only the CEO, but also the CFO, COO, HR and any other acronym you can think of that means you do it all. One of the toughest challenges I’ve discovered since I started my own business three years ago is how to balance finding new business with trying to run the day-to-day operations. Oh, how I wish there were more hours in a day to get it all done. You can’t ignore operations, but if you’re not constantly pounding the pavement for new business, there won’t be any business to operate.
Now, I know you’re expecting me to come up with the solution to this pressing problem facing all startup entrepreneurs, but unfortunately, I haven’t found a solution. I have, however, learned a few things that work for me. Tell me if any of them ring true for you.
1. I can’t do it alone. There’s no way to constantly bring in new business without some help, no matter who it is. A friend of mine who is a freelance writer finally broke down and hired an agent so she could concentrate on writing instead of having to continually pitch new work. Likewise, in my business I am the designated business development person, while my partners handle the day-to-day management of fulfilling business and completing projects. I learned a long time ago that it doesn’t do an entrepreneur any good to hold onto to all the responsibility. Whether you hire an accountant, salesperson or administrative assistant, there’s got to be at least one person you can delegate some work to so you don’t get completely overwhelmed.
2. I return every phone call and email. OK, I know this may sound counterproductive (and yes, it adds more items on my daily to-do list), but you never know when one returned phone call or email could lead to new business. And believe me when I say, people remember that you took the time to get back to them, and the good word spreads (even faster these days with social media).
3. I listen to the experts. Whether it’s the mentors at SCORE, my business associates, clients or vendors, I believe everyone’s opinion counts and I try to really listen to their advice. Maybe one of my clients has worked with another potential client and knows how to cut through the red tape to get to that person. Perhaps a colleague knows of a new app that can help me simplify a step in my business. Whatever the advice, it makes sense to pay attention. Anything that can save me time, get me business and make running operations easier, I want to know about.
When it comes to balancing business development and operations, what tactics work for you?