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93% of small business focus on the wrong priority. It’s a pretty big mistake to make if you want to take your business up to the next level, but the vast majority of small businesses are making it today. So was I.
I’ve been making this mistake for the past 25 years. At first, I felt pretty bad about that, but then I wanted to see if other small businesses are making the same mistake. So I created a poll on OwnIt and asked other entrepreneurs to rate their business priorities. The pie chart on the right shows the answer over 200 small businesses. Surprisingly less than 10% got this right.
I’ve been thinking about the UX (User Experience) I create for my clients all year. And I really got challenged by Horst Schulze, when I was fortunate enough to film the former CEO of Ritz-Carlton at a keynote speech a few weeks ago.
(You can read a bit more about that talk on my last blog post: What I learned about service from a wise hotelier).
Mr. Schulze talked about the 4 priorities that every successful company needs to have in the right order to excel. Here they are in no particular order:
When I looked at my company’s priorities, I was surprised to learn that I’ve focused on the wrong priority for over 20+ years. Don’t get me wrong all four are vital to a company, but one is more essential than the other three.
You can take the poll “What’s the number One priority of your business” here and see how you stack up against other small businesses. Then let me know – are you in the 94% that get it wrong or in the 7% that are doing it right?
I for one intend to shift my company to focus on the one most important priority and that change will take place over the course of the next few months.
UPDATE: I edited the post three weeks after publishing the initial numbers, to reflect the new responses. The change is less than one percentage point with twice as many surveys answered as in the original post.
For the past 25 years, I’ve done it wrong. Thankfully I heard an expert talk about service and I’m going to course correct my small business focus starting today.
12 years ago, I started using a CRM (Customer Relationship Management system) to efficiently combine all client data in one place. Their contact info, calendar, tasks, documents and the process lives in the cloud and is easily accessible.
One of the aspects that I love about my job as a cinematographer and photographer is that I’m often in interesting places that are not accessible to everyone. I had the same honor last week, although I did not know that this video shoot would have such a profound impact on my business.
It started out simple enough, I got hired as a Director of Photography to oversee the filming of a leadership conference for a local medical company. It’s always fun to work with a group of skilled operators, and the company itself was fascinating, but it was the keynote that hit me between the eyes.
The speaker was former Ritz-Carlton President Horst Schulze, who is known for creating hotels with impeccable service and customer loyalty. If you haven’t heard about Mr. Schulze and you run a service company (like I do), you need to check out what he’s accomplished at Ritz-Carlton and now is doing at the Capella Hotel Group.
Schulze says “Great companies do four things: They keep their current customers, they find new ones, hopefully through the recommendation of existing customers, they make as much money as they can, and they are efficient.”
OK, granted it’s not rocket science, but this CEO is vehemently fixated on service. And that’s where I had my epiphany. I haphazardly focus on these 4 core principles as well:
Did you catch the mistake I’m making? It’s subtle – read the two lists again and see if you can spot it. Don’t feel bad if you can’t – I’ve done it wrong for a quarter century.
Let me walk through the four things every great company does
I’m good at that. Number one on page one in the organic search on Google for years. Many of my new customers find me online. Others find me through the local creative community, events and workshops I put on, etc. (Here’s how I get clients).
Last year was my best year that my business ever had. This year is on that track as well. I keep my overhead low and run a tight ship when it comes to the business framework I need to produce visual content.
Check. From the integration of my website and my CRM to automation of my business processes, efficiency and productivity are the names of the game. Not wasting resources in the creation of the video and photography productions I work on, goes right back into #2.
For crying out loud, I’m the guy that takes a picture of a Post-It note and have it create a bunch of digital assets as if by magic.
The majority of my client love the final product I create for them. The secret is simple: under promise and over deliver. Charge a fair price. Come in on budget and on time. And give something unexpected. Check out this video testimonial from Armpocket – a local company who found me online:
It’s so simple (actually that’s another quote from Horst Schulze) I have all the parts right.
But I’ve gotten it backward and that’s where listening to Horst Schulze by accident, made all the difference in my world. Here’s the way he sees these priorities:
He puts current costumers first (and probably second, third, fourth and fifth). Schulze is fanatic when it comes to serving his current customers. He says that service begins with the correct greeting, then it’s complying to your customer’s wishes and does not end until you say farewell. Where do I have my current clients? Dead last. Please don’t misunderstand me, I don’t ignore my current clients, and I have many that do repeat business with me, but I can learn a lot from the gentleman who builds the most luxurious hotel brand in the world. I’m just often taking them for granted (If you’re one of my current clients, let me say this: “I’m sorry for not putting you first and I promise you that I will do better. Starting now.)
Then I’m focused on making money – granted an incredibly important part of any business, since without running a profitable company, you’re gonna be out of business. What Schulze’s second focus? New clients. More accurately making your current customers so fiercely loyal, that his current customers will recommend his hotels to new customers.
Money is Mr. Schulze’s third point, which makes sense since your clients are the people who are paying you for, your service. Naturally, they should come before the money portion. However, he takes it a (big) step further. The former CEO of Ritz-Carlton said:
“Make as much money as you can. People see it as a contradiction between being a caring organization with integrity and making money. That’s ludicrous. Why should that be a contradiction? I wouldn’t be able to be that company that cares and has integrity if I wouldn’t make any profit. The two go together.“
So often I see creative professionals and small business owners, who have no idea of what they need to charge to run a profitable shop, because they don’t know the cost of doing business.
Last but not least comes efficiency. That’s the framework you need to run a prosperous business. Efficiency is the ability to create a product or provide a service, without wasting your resources. Being the freelance that talks a lot about how he uses efficiency, I am currently revamping my business system.
I have followed the workflow that my CRM has in place: people find me online (searchers), they find my website, like my work and contact me (leads). We start talking about the potential collaborations (opportunities), I get hired to do the job and deliver my videos and/or photos to my clients (deliverables). If you read my blog post on Post-It notes, you know that pink notes are leads, yellow notes are opportunities, green notes are jobs and blue notes are my deliverables.
Here’s where that system is going to shift to:
My primary focus will swing to serving my current clients, becoming the main focus of my business and pushing the current focus of generating new customers into second place. I love leads, really I get a kick out of the notifications I get on my phone, that let me know someone new has just filled out my contact form, but I need to realign my strategy with making my current clients the heroes of my company. Fortunately, Mr. Schulze spoke about the way to make your current clients fiercely loyal. He says it’s really easy, and if you do this one little thing, you own your industry.
All you have to do is to care a little more than the other guys.
As a freelancer, we trade time for money. Plain and simple: I have the talent to produce the visual content, my clients need for their business, and they have the money to pay me for my time and skill. Figuring out what to charge for a project then largely depends on your cost of doing business and how much your time is worth. ZEIº can help.
Time is the great equalizer – everybody gets 24 hours in a day. Doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor, male or female, young or old. You get 1,440 minutes in a day – that’s it. So how do you know how much your time is worth? I think you’d first have to figure out where your spending your time, but keeping track of your day seems like a waste of time, because – well it takes too long to log your hours. Freelancers resort to estimating how long they’ve been working on or you guess at whatever task of your small business you’re working on – so most of us don’t bother.
We’ll just go ahead and guess. I’ve dived into productivity and efficiency lately. You can define efficiency as the ability to successfully use resources without wasting them and the most critical and limited resource we have is time.
Wouldn’t it be great to get an accurate account of how you spend your time, without wasting time to record the time you spend? I mean that would be great not just for yourself to see where your time ends up going, but especially for entrepreneurs who bill by the hour.
Enter ZEIº – a little device that keeps your time in check. It’s an eight-sided cube that links to your phone or computer via Bluetooth. ZEIº by Timeular keeps track of your time effortlessly, once you’ve set it up. Then all you have to do is rotate the ZEIº to the activity, or client, or project you want to track – you get to define as many ZEI activities as you want in the software, and the time tracker can handle 8 activities, which are easily interchangeable.
ZEIº even integrates with Toggl and Jirra at this time, and there are more in the works. Imagine what you could do with a Zapier or IFTTT integration …
ZEIº is a blank slate (literally, it comes in white) and you can write on its surface or use the enclosed stickers to define which each tracked activity. ZEIº looks like two four-sided pyramids stacked on top of each other.
I got my ZEIº today, but I’m currently tracking the following activities:
In my case, the first three activities correlate with my workflow and will have the same color coded sides as the Post-It note system I’m already using. The other ones pertain to all the hats we wear to run out small businesses that make it possible for me create as a visual content creator and for you to sell your freelance skill.
ZEIº tracks all activities and reported in real-time and sync to all your devices. I’m hoping the guys at Timeular integrate tags so that one could keep track of all activities related to a specific job number, but you’ll always be able to extract that out of the reports to get a summary of all the time ZEIº tracks on client X or project Y.
You can play with the app or software, it’s a free download from Timeular.
To stop tracking time, just stand the ZEIº in its cradle. To record, flip it onto the relevant side. Add a note, so you know what this particular activity was about and voilá! You’ve just tracked time.
You’ve just tracked time.
How would you use an automatic time tracking device like ZEIº?
Do you see a need in your small business for Timulars time tracking tool.
Which 8 activities would you pick on your ZEIº?
There are tools, apps, gadgets that make our life easier, more productive and better organized. Let me share 9 gadgets that are (almost) always on me:
I love both worlds – the break neck pace of digital, with all the productivity it offers and the old school analog world of notebooks and knives. What are the gadgets you can’t live without?