My advice isn't any better than anyone else's advice. But I'm rarely alone in the advice I give. From the earliest days of writing, coaching, and speaking in the SMB / Managed Services arena, I've frequently been part of the chorus giving very similar advice.
There are a handful of things that stand out, though. Here are five pieces of advice that have always worked out well for those who have taken the advice and implemented it. Four of them are very familiar to you. One is probably not.
First: Get Paid in Advance for Everything.
This single piece of advice can dramatically improve any business. Really. It is powerful and profound. It can eliminate cash flow problems. It is easy to implement and you really won't get any push-back.
The main reason people do not attempt to get paid in advance is fear. They fear clients won't like it, won't put up with it, won't change their ways, etc. In reality, clients say, "Oh. Okay." And that's it. Virtually everyone I've talk to who moved to getting paid in advance had zero push-back from clients.
Just do it.
Second: Raise Your Rates
The easiest thing you can do to make more money is to raise your rates. Simple, right? So why haven't you done it?
Again, fear is the big culprit here. I recently announced that we are raising our rates in January. Not one word from any clients. No arguments. No defections. No one is going to run down the street over a $10/hr increase. Especially those on managed services who buy very few hours.
You should get in the habit of raising your rates every year. January 1 is a very convenient time. If you want to go with inflation, then 1-2% is enough. I like nice round amounts, so I raise $5 or $10/hr. If you haven't raised raised in awhile, make it at least $10/hr.
Just do it.
Third: Hire an Administrative Assistant
I think I will always have an admin no matter what I do or how long I live. AA's make work disappear. They make time magically appear. And they do a great deal of work for a small amount of money.
You should do the work to determine your actual cost per hour. If you pay yourself $50,000 in salary, that's about $25/hr. Your overhead for the business is probably in the range of $20-25/hr. So the actual cost for you to sit around doing something is around $50/hr. When you spend lots of time on low-priority work that has to be done, you increase the cost of your billable time significantly.
Hire an admin. Make a list of all the things then can do, and spend your time on high-importance items instead.
Just do it.
Fourth: Spend Quiet Time Every Day
You need time to sit quietly - alone - and work ON your business. Whether it's meditation, prayer, or just sitting quietly and organizing your day, this time is more valuable than anything you do on a regular basis.
We have a tendency to "plug in" first thing in the morning and stay plugged in all day. Un-plugging and taking time to relax while you're still awake and alert can do wonders for your business and your life.
I challenge you to meditate for five minutes every day for a month. Just sit quietly and try to clear your mind. I know it sounds strange if you haven't done it, but it really works wonders. The reason is simple: Our brains are constantly working. Even if we're not aware of it, they are working to solve our problems. When we shut up and listen, we discover that our brains have been working hard to put things in perspective and make connections we're not aware of.
Again, whenever I talk to someone who has tried this, they have become hooked. It doesn't take time, it gives time because the rest of your day is more organized and focused.
Just do it.
Fifth: Drop Out and Get a Job
Unlike the other four, I don't give this advice to everyone. But I have given it. And it is most often ignored for obvious reasons.
Sometimes you need to face the hard reality that this thing you call your business is not working out. Maybe you don't want to pay attention to money. Maybe you are bad at sales. Maybe you just aren't willing to make the changes that will make the difference.
Sometimes businesses just don't thrive. Some thing is not configured right. Some people do not have the "owner's" mentality. Some people can't make decisions. Some people don't want to change.
Realizing that your business isn't working can be heartbreaking. It can be embarrassing and demoralizing. After all, as entrepreneurs we thrive on challenge. It is very difficult to admit that you're not up to it. And the more you've defined yourself in terms of the business, the harder it is.
Giving up your business can feel like giving up on a dream. It can literally be like a death in the family. I don't take that lightly. And I don't give the advice to quit lightly. But not quitting when you should can lead to all kinds of other problems - mostly financial.
In talking to business owners all over the world, I believe about 90% of them can take the first four pieces of advice and create a great, profitable business for themselves. Ninety per cent of businesses that are going downhill can turn around.
But that also means that ten per cent can't. Ten per cent have the wrong combination of personality, circumstances, and willingness to change. And for them, the best advice is to close the business and find something else. A certain number of people go into business when they really never should. They will be happier working for someone else, doing something else, and not worrying about all the details of running a business.
I hope you're not in the ten per cent. But if you are, I hope you realize it and are brave enough to make the decision to move on.
This is probably not the cheery message you expect at the end of the year. But some people need to hear this truth.