Before 2017 ends, don’t let the negative appraisal or negative opinion of your supervisor or superior or manager or boss or employer of your competence or skills define your sense of self-worth. Let it not cause you to doubt the dreams you have, or dilute the aspirations you have for the future.
Instead of allowing the negative comments and negative appraisals to kill your ambitions, rather, let them fuel your passion to improve your skills and abilities and inspire you to rise far above the limits and barriers their negative opinions create for you.
It is just a matter of time before these same people/organisations who despised, disrespected and denigrated your competence and talents will sing your praises.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year…time to think about your business ideas and personal ideas for 2018.
This is a great time of year to work on your business, strengths, weaknesses and all other prevailing issues, as December is usually a slower time of year for most small businesses (except retailers, of course!). It’s also the time of year we personally pause and reflect on the past year and set our personal and professional goals for the new year.
For business entities, mark this checklist and use it for your New Year planning.
What should you think about?
First, gather your facts from the current year.
- What was your total revenue?
- What were your total expenses?
- How much did you spend on marketing?
- Did sales result from the different marketing techniques you tried?
- Which techniques worked best for you?
- How many new customers did you get?
- How many visitors did you get to your website? Is that number increasing each month?
Next, think about your business goals for next year.
- How much revenue would you like to make?
- Will there be any new one-time expenses?
- Will there be any new recurring expenses (like hiring an assistant, or new employees due to new projects)?
- Are there any expenses that you will drop (like that service you subscribed to but never benefitted from)?
- How many customers would you like to have?
In addition, think about all those ideas you had for new products and services for the new year.
- Which projects would you like to start next year?
- Are there any projects you started in the current year that just haven’t panned out, and you’d like to drop them in the new year?
- What have your customers been asking for? (And do you want to supply this to them?)
- Do you want to add new services, classes, workshops etc. to your business offerings? Is this the year you create a podcast or online marketing strategies or develop new ways or business plans?
Finally, write new versions of your business and marketing plans for next year, incorporating all of the above, plus:
- Will you be going after any new clients in the new year?
- Will you be dropping any clients that didn’t pan out?
- Has the vision or mission of your business changed?
- Has your competition changed?
I recommend the below descriptive models to boost your personal growth, work on your weaknesses, enhance your strength, and take up the challenges and opportunities set in 2018.
There is a new way of looking at small business that challenges the notion that all growth is desirable. So, I asked Mr. Ansah – a successful entrepreneur in pork business – and I was astonished with his response. Though reputable, he said: “I didn’t create a business in order to create a franchiseable model of it whereby someone else did the work. I created a business to be great at what I do, offering the best service and products possible. For me, the only way to do this is to remain small and connected intimately with my customers. This allows me to listen to their needs and create solutions quickly. It gives me a kind of independence and joy that I never found in corporate life”.
Small is the new big, because small gives you the flexibility to change the business model. Small means you can tell the truth on your business. Small means that you will outsource the boring, low-impact stuff like manufacturing and shipping and billing and packing to others, while you keep the power because you invent the remarkable.
Loving What You Do
While your business can be a means to an end (a lifestyle you want, or maybe to send your kids to proficient universities in Ghana), why can’t your business also be enjoyable in and of itself?
If you love farming and probably want to win a farmers’ award coming December 2018, you don’t just work ‘on’ your farm plan: you work ‘in’ the farm every chance you get. You don’t try to figure out ways to delegate all the work, just so you can sit back and get the rewards of a pretty farm. Instead, you need to get your fingers in the dirt and do it yourself; because the very act of working in the farm is enjoyable to you. And sometimes that means you have a smaller farm, so that you can find joy and fulfillment in doing it all yourself.
Many self-employed people don’t want to be an absentee owner: “I don’t want to lose touch with my customers or the reason I do this work. I don’t want to manage employees; instead, I’d rather work with people who love what they do. I don’t want to create a big business model that any low-skilled employee can implement just for some extra cash”.
Thinking Big is about dreaming and strategic design; it answers the question, “What do I want?”
Thinking Small is about tactical planning; it answers the question, “How do I accomplish it?”
Great things are accomplished through thinking in small steps. Anyone who has tried to stop smoking or lose weight knows you do it one day (one hour, one moment) at a time. I signed up to do the three peaks challenge on 9th and 10th September 2016. This was to climb the three highest peaks in Ghana in 24 hours. The peaks were Mount Afadjato, Mount Abuadu and Mount Djebobo. The climb was around 34 kilometres, and as mentioned was to be completed in 24 hours – so some of the climb was actually in the dark (probably 40% of it). Anyone who has ever attempted this will know it’s simply a case of one foot in front of the other.
People with big business dreams often forget these well-known truths about how to tackle big things. Louis, a good friend, became frustrated because things weren’t moving fast enough. He was ready to give up his dream because there was too much to do and he didn’t know which task to do first. When he did start a task, he abandoned it if it took longer or was more complicated than he thought it should be.
No matter how much you try, you can only really do one thing at a time. You may think that multi-tasking makes you more productive, but studies show that multi-tasking actually reduces your ability to accomplish tasks. So, instead of trying to do five tasks simultaneously, I’m advocating this approach: put exquisite, conscious effort into one task at a time; complete it, and move on to the next.
How do you know which small step to take first? You have been gifted with four pillars of life since the day you were born: your intellect, your emotions, your intuition – and other human beings. Start by asking yourself, “What one small thing can I do, right now, that will move me toward my big goal?” Don’t give up if the answer doesn’t come to you immediately; have patience and allow the answer to bubble up to the surface.
When you’re self-employed (or thinking about becoming self-employed), one of the more important decisions you’ll need to make is whether you want to do this work full-time or part-time. That’s a difficult question for many people, and here are some things to consider when making that decision.
- You can have a career that you love, which also brings you enough money for your needs
- You can devote yourself to skill-building
- You will be available to your clients more often
- You can spend more time with your family and friends
- You can have another job at the same time, either full-time or part-time
- You can ‘test the waters’ to see if you really want to go into this career
- You can go to school to complete your training, and earn money on the side to pay for it
Whether you choose full-time or part-time, you need to consider your personality (do you want to do this work full-time?), your skill level (are you still in school or just learning the skills?), how much you need to make (do you have enough clients to do this full-time?), and whether full-time work offers you the best balance in your lifestyle.
You may find that you want to keep your regular full-time job and do this work on a part-time basis until you’re sure of yourself and your ability to get enough clients. This is often a ‘best of both worlds’ scenario, though it requires a lot of time and commitment.
If you do this work part-time, there is likely to come a time when there is simply too much opportunity and you have to make a decision to go full-time. Until then, part-time may be the answer for you.
If you choose to continue working your regular job and doing your business on the side, you will need to decide whether your regular job co-workers should know about your other work or not. In some companies, having your own part-time business is not seen as “acceptable”, and it may hurt your chances of being promoted or put on special projects.
I have heard of cases where people were fired from their job when their boss found out they had their own business on the side. Only you can know your company’s work culture; if you’re unsure, it might be best to say nothing.
“No” and “Yes” are the fundamental decision words in our language.
Life presents us with many demands and opportunities. When we say “no” to one thing, we usually create a space for us to say “yes” to something else. To take control of our time and our lives, we should probably say “no” ten times for each “yes”.
For example, you may be offered an executive position that requires extensive travel. If you took the job, you would not be able to have a family life. If you value your relationships in your family, you should either renegotiate the requirements of the job or say “no”. No reward can justify losing your family.
Sometimes an opportunity presents itself that will be enormously time-consuming but has a small payoff. It’s smart time management to say “no” in this situation.
When you are first starting your career, it’s natural to want to demonstrate a positive mental attitude by saying “yes” to everything your employer asks of you. This can be a mistake. You may be surrendering your life to accomplish someone else’s agenda.
Instead, start by identifying your own values, mission in life and goals. This is what Steven Covey calls “beginning with the end in mind”. Then find common ground with your employer so you can both accomplish your goals. Your employer should respect you more for taking this approach. If not, it may be best for you to seek another opportunity.
So be proactive and assertive. Take control of your time and your life by wisely saying “no!”
During the past few months, we have been seeing unthinkable things happening in our economy. Major banks have collapsed – the case of UT and Capital Bank. Major banks are struggling with strategies as to how to meet the Bank of Ghana minimum capital requirements.
In an economic downturn, focus on the fundamentals. Clean up sloppy areas that you let go in the easy times. Lay off “deadwood” employees that are not contributing their share or are spreading negative-attitude poison in the organisation.
Give special attention to managing cash flow. With the tightening credit situation, cash is especially precious. It is also a leveraging point to take advantage of opportunities, including buying desirable assets at bargain prices.
Carefully manage your inventory levels. You need to have enough to provide good service to your customers, but avoid excess levels. Inventory is tied-up cash. Also, excess inventory has to be stored somewhere, which adds to overheads.
The worst thing you can do is stop selling and marketing efforts. Now is the time to focus on being more persuasive and to give your customers reasons why what you offer is desirable. Now may be a good time to invest in sales and marketing training. Work on creating or improving sales scripts and marketing pieces. But be smart in your marketing. Be sure it pays for itself. For small businesses, this is not the time for “image” marketing but for smart direct response marketing and publicity.
Add back-end products and services that will appeal to your existing customers. Seek joint-venture partners for mutual benefit, including joint marketing campaigns.
With some luck, your competitors are now having a “pity party”, “waiting the recession out” and not aggressively pursuing business. If you double your efforts, you may capture market share and not only grow now, but position yourself for long-term dominance.
The writer is the Bus. Dev. Manager & Analyst @ DNB Ghana. Author | Columnist | Activist