5 Practical Essentials for Slow Business Adventurers
It seems like we should be able to just be good people and do the right thing, and success will flow toward us.
That's a fast way to becoming a former business owner.
«Slow» business doesn't mean «foolish» business.
Here are five business essentials that wise Slow Business entrepreneurs pay just as much attention to as their less mindful colleagues. Sometimes, though, there a few variations in how they approach them.
#1: Cash flow
Yes, cash flow is still king for a slow business.
A Slow Business mindset is often very helpful for protecting cash flow. While you may not (necessarily) make a lot of sales quickly, you also tend to avoid a lot of unexamined expenses that drain your profitability.
Some Slow Businesses certainly work with grant money, investors, or small business loans. But many more "bootstrap" — they finance most (or all) of their growth through revenue.
It takes a little more patience, but it puts you at far less risk. When you're leveraged up to your eyeballs, you tend to make a decision — any decision — that will get you to the fastest paycheck.
Put simply, it's much easier to keep a close eye on your cash flow when it's not moving faster than a Formula One race car.
Be honest with yourself about your financial picture, and make the time to look it over regularly.
Small business coach Pamela Slim wrote an excellent article on cash flow for Microsoft -- you can find it here:
While we're on the subject of money ...
#2: Profit margins
Yes, ethical businesses still need to make a profit.
Even a not-for-profit organization needs to make sure there's more than enough revenue to cover all expenses, including salaries and a savings reserve.
That means you're going to collect more than you spend. This does not make you greedy or evil.
Too often, early-stage ethical entrepreneurs want to serve their customers as inexpensively as possible, vowing they'll make up for those ultra-skinny profit margins by working hard and keeping costs low.
That's going to leave you with no margin for error if you have a slow month, no room for a marketing budget, and no cash reserve if you face an unexpected financial challenge.
You can certainly make a plan for how to allocate profit that you collect in excess of what you need. That kind of planning is smart for any business.
Will you distribute it to employees as a bonus? Distribute it to yourself and any partners? Invest in equipment or other infrastructure?
Decide now what you'll do with unexpected profit that comes into your business. And make sure that at least some of it goes into a cash reserve to get your organization through any lean times that may come.
#3: Employee boundaries
If there's one expression I loathe, it's:
"It's just business."
It’s used too often to justify bad behavior toward employees, vendors, customers, or the planet.
Running a business offers no excuse for unethical or nasty behavior toward anyone.
But you do need to maintain healthy boundaries, particularly between employees and employer.
Rules and expectations are clearly communicated. Don't expect employees to read your mind just because they share your values
Genuine mistakes are brought into the open quickly, and addressed to keep them from happening again
Unethical behavior (stealing, lying to customers, abusive treatment of other employees) are normally grounds to terminate employment unless there's an incredibly good reason to keep the person on
Respectful communication flows in all directions. Your tone with your employees must be respectful at all times, and you have the right to expect the same of them
Whenever possible, test out an employee relationship with a contract project first, to make sure everyone shares the same values and standards. Some people look a lot better in the interview than they do in the workplace.
Finally, be sure you're making it emotionally safe for employees to let you know when a problem is coming up.
There's often a front-line or «lower level» employee who sees a business-threatening problem long before you do.
If you lose your temper every time someone brings you bad news, you'll lose the ability to see problems coming while you can still do something about them.
Slow Business Adventure keynote speaker Randi Buckley has a wealth of resources on maintaining healthy boundaries in every aspect of your life.
You can learn more about Randi here: About Randi Buckley
#4: Clear marketing messages
Marketing is one of those tasks that challenges a lot of Slow Business adventurers.
It might feel pushy, or abrasive, or like calling yourself a big shot.
But I have to tell you:
The world is not going to «just find you», no matter how wonderful you are.
You need to communicate your business's value, clearly and effectively.
There needs to be a solid reason someone would buy from you, versus going in a different direction. And your marketing needs to spell that reason out.
You don't have to be pushy to market your product or service, but you do need to be clear.
Make sure your marketing:
Describes the unique benefit of using your company over other options
Indicates if an item or service is a limited offer, and explains the deadline or amount available
Explains, as needed, what goes into making the offer valuable
Provides clear direction about what the customer should do next to make a purchase
My former business, Copyblogger, has excellent free resources to help you if your marketing message needs sharpening up. And we'll have more specific marketing advice for you in further Slow Fix guides!
We’ll be letting you know more about how you can join us there.
#5: A mindful growth strategy
We love Paul Jarvis's message in his book Company of One ... that we don't have to blindly accept the idea of growth at any cost.
The idea isn't to avoid growth, but to plan for it.
Growth that's too slow or too fast can kill a company.
As the chief adventurer for your business, one of your most pressing jobs is to plan for growth. Aim for a "Goldilocks" approach that avoids extremes — not too fast, and not too slow.
The first key to making a sensible plan for your business's growth is to understand what «enough» means for you.
What kind of organization do you want to run?
What do you want the impact to be?
How big a team do you want to manage?
How much revenue do you need to take home to have a life that works for you?
Trying to get these answers from someone else is like asking another person how many kids you should have. You can't expect another person’s answer to work for you.
When you understand your own personal «Enough» point, you can design marketing and business systems that support that.
Bigger isn't necessarily better, and small, nimble businesses are often more resilient than big ones.
But if it's important to you to have a wide impact, a bigger organization could be the right fit for you. That will come with more risk, more work, and more complexity, but that might be a trade-off that you decide to accept.
Make that decision consciously.
For more thoughts on deciding your own «Enough,» here's what Paul Jarvis had to say about it:
How about you?
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