It's been a very eventful 8 months since the first article of this series. I moved cross-country, took on my first reasonably-sized contract, bought my first house, ran deep into debt, paid all the debt off, then went way back into debt, started my first e-commerce site, worked on a book and saw it get published, developed & marketed a new software product and recently hired a full time contract developer and 2 sales roles. When I write it all out like that, it seems a little ridiculous. I like to think that everything I'm doing is making perfect sense, but if you haven't noticed, my blog updates have become extremely sparse since I became self-employed and there is a good reason for that: I never seem to have enough time anymore! So what does a person do in this sort of position?
1) When in deep debt, spend more.
No, don't buy a car. Skip the sushi nights - all that fish will still be around when you've got money again. What I meant when I said spend more is hire some help! Since I started offering consulting services for Battery Powered Games, I found that I had far less time to do the things I originally set out to do. This meant that I now had to choose between making good money consulting at an hourly rate or developing the things I really loved - video games. In the last few months, I was foolishly turning down work because I just didn't have the bandwidth to do it. It may seem obvious to hire help in that situation, but believe me, paying another person is usually not your first priority when you're just trying to stay afloat.
2) The Business Epiphany
It took me a long time to realize that by simply hiring someone else to do the work I was going to have to do, even with the overhead of training and communication, I can free myself up and make the money I need. Of course, you need a valuable product or service in order to justify a hire... Or do you? I'm almost at the point now where I can really see business for what it is - An organization or automation of people, products and services, working together to charge a price for a product or service in which another person or company is willing to pay which is higher than the cost of the organization. It seems so abstract when I say it like that, but I'm feeling so much more confident now about organizing people to provide services that even if BPG doesn't grow the way I'm trying to make it grow, I wouldn't hesitate to try again immediately with another business in another market and perhaps hit success right away.
3) Training takes time
I'll just say it like this: You have no idea how much you know until you try to quickly teach it to someone else. I believe this can apply to anything, but it's painfully obvious when you're trying to get a new hire up to speed. I'm trying to get things moving quickly at BPG now so I brought on 3 new people in the same week and since then, everything but helping them has stopped. I just didn't realize how much knowledge I was going to have to transfer and how much effort it was going to take to transfer it. Had I made that realization, I would have spent more time preparing our wiki (which we use to share info) with pertinent information that everyone can learn and benefit from. I also would have brought on one person at a time instead of everyone all together.
4) I am the bottleneck.
This is painfully obvious. Every decision, every question, every contact, every old lead, every bit of technical knowledge, every email... you get the point - all goes through me right now. This hurts everyone and it's something I'm working so hard to alleviate. I know I can be a bit of a control-freak by nature but I think it's super important to delegate away as much responsibility as possible and I'm trying so hard to do it. I've read several books where successful business owners claimed that policy-based business works better because it removes the executive bottleneck and I completely see why right now. More policies are coming and less will be required to run through me because everyone will simply know what to do. I can't wait!
5) Task juggling
I like to think in an ideal world, a successful small business owner is so organized that he/she is able to focus on all of the important stuff and not just try to keep the plates spinning. I'm working my way there, as I mentioned in the last paragraph, but for now I feel like a professional ball handler. Have you ever seen one of those people? They spin a basketball on each of their feet, knees, hands and even on a little holder that they grip with their teeth. They have the audience count down from 60 to see that they can have all of the balls stay spinning for a full minute. For me the minute is about a year. Can I keep everyone going, keep the client relationships good, keep the current big game moving, keep BatteryTech up-to-date, keep my blog up-to-date, keep my relationship with my wife good, keep us afloat and out of trouble, keep myself happy, grow the business and meet everyone's needs for the next year? It seems insane, but I'm doing my best and I'm learning better how to schedule out small portions of work to keep everything and everyone moving.
Falling in and out of debt, having very little free time and generally always being under a lot of stress can really take its toll on someone. What's really amazing, though, is that most of that is mere perception of your situation. You can take two different people doing the exact same thing in the exact same situation and read two totally different results from them. One person will claim that they are tired, exhausted, frustrated, etc. The other will say that the work is hard but they are chipping away at it and can see the light at the end of the tunnel. The difference between the two people is proper motivation, and I'm no exception. Motivation is a bigger topic than just "do this one thing to be happy and hard-working" so I'll leave it to a favorite book of mine - The Success Principles by Jack Canfield. My wife picked up a CD version of it and has been listening to it in the car. I read the book a couple of years ago and really was motivated by it and hearing it again significantly helped me feel good about what I'm doing. Never underestimate motivation. It's the difference between making a major breakthrough and falling just tragically short.