What’s your thing?
You know—that thing that helps you be at your best.
It helps you be more productive. It makes completing your workload feel easier. It’s that little trick up your sleeve for managing tasks and getting things done.
Mine is making lists. I can’t start a task without a good, solid, pen-and-paper to-do list (no apps for me, thanks—this is one thing I go old-school for).
Most entrepreneurs have one—or several.
Hear more about being your own boss with Peter and Jonathan on the fourteenth episode of The Bcast, Bplan’s official podcast:
Click here to subscribe to The Bcast on iTunes »
It’s that little trick or tip that helps them manage their business better, makes things run more smoothly and efficiently, and just generally makes them an exceptional entrepreneur.
What is one thing that is absolutely essential for running your business?
I asked the members of the Young Entrepreneur Council for one thing that they find invaluable when running their business.
Creative suggestions were welcomed; after all, we all know that having a business plan helps you run your business, and that tracking your cash flow matters.
But I wanted more than that. I wanted to know what really makes these entrepreneurs tick.
The best part?
These ideas are totally stealable.
So, go ahead—check out what these entrepreneurs say is invaluable when it comes to running their business, and try them out for yourself.
Do you do any of these things? Did trying them out help you run your business better? Let me know what you think.
1. Taking input from your employees
Your employees are your greatest resource.
They see a side of the business that you might miss. They are around your product day in and day out, and might have a great idea for its improvement.
So, are you taking advantage of this resource—or taking it for granted?
Mark Daoust of Quiet Light Brokerage, Inc., says that his employee input is “the most valuable asset” he has in his company.
“Even though I am 100 percent owner of my company, I don’t make any significant decisions without consulting multiple people within my company,” he says.
He adds: “They see the business from a completely different perspective, which I simply can’t get.”
2. Scheduling time for your personal life
When you’re starting out, it makes sense that your personal life takes a back seat.
In that mad rush to get your business up and running, you might have slacked when it came to time with friends, date night with your partner, or just time for yourself.
However, once you’ve achieved a little more routine, it’s important to schedule in time for your life outside of work.
“Personal appointments have to be considered just as important (or even more important) than the work meetings you have on your book,” says Cassie Petrey of Crowd Surf.
“When I block off a dinner with friends, a movie date with my boyfriend, a dentist appointment, attending a wedding, or anything else in my calendar, those times are completely unavailable for meetings.”
While it might be hard to follow at first, it’s great advice.
Not only will it make your life feel more balanced, but you’ll look forward to tackling work projects, instead of seeing them as a chore.
3. Using Trello
I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again—we love Trello.
It’s a convenient, easy-to-use project management system—what’s not to love?
We’re not alone; Marcela DeVivo of National Debt Relief recommends it, and it’s a valuable tool in her business arsenal.
“We use Trello to track and prioritize all projects,” she says. “It provides an overview of what everyone on each team is working on and which tasks are pending.”
Not only that, you can keep track of your tasks on the go. “Trello has a smartphone app, so we can always stay up to date,” says Marcela. “And integration with Gmail enables us to send tasks from email straight to Trello.”
4. Having a watch
If I asked you what time it was, would you check your watch?
Not your smartphone—an actual watch.
I’ll be the first to admit, I haven’t worn a watch since I was a kid (and even then it was the colorful, gel kind—hardly a professional, polished look).
While watches are no longer a fixture on everyone’s wrists, Kim Kaupe of ZinePak suggests we get back into the habit of wearing one.
“It sounds basic, but owning a watch and referencing it is key,” she says. “The life of an entrepreneur is busy and being able to adhere to a strict schedule is important.”
Not only does a watch help you stick to your schedule, being timely may help your business relationships. “I have seen more business meetings go sour before they even start because someone was 20 minutes late or ‘forgot’ a conference call,” says Kim. “Respecting others’ time and managing yours is essential in running a successful business.”
5. Using Google Doc agendas for meetings
We’ve all sat through a meeting that seemingly wouldn’t ever end.
While your team meetings were probably designed to keep everyone on the same page, it’s easy for them to become a weekly waste of time.
Zach Robbins of Leadnomics recommends Google Doc agendas to help keep meetings on track. “It sounds silly, but our Google Doc agendas are not for the sake of having a memo to circulate later,” he says. “They serve as a framework to ensure some level of meeting efficacy, and they introduce a proper balance of rigor to guarantee we’re executing the highest priorities.”
Not only that, but they allow his team to have a record of important things to come back to later. “They are a great a way to store action items that will prevent ideas, tactics, and goals from getting lost in the everyday,” he adds.
Are you giving your happiness the attention it deserves?
Sohin Shah of IFunding disagrees with the common notion that finding personal happiness is an inconsequential, “when there’s time” pursuit.
“People may scoff at the exploration of happiness as a leisurely pursuit, but it’s the purpose of our lives as humans,” he says. “The pursuit of happiness transcends recreation.”
Not only did meditation help connect Sohin with his happiness, it helped his business.
“In fact, it’s how I became a better entrepreneur,” he says. “Maintaining your composure when you’re uncomfortable—with a genuine smile on your face—is the sign of a great leader.”
7. Maintaining a stable culture
Running your business is infinitely easier when everyone gets along.
Fostering and maintaining a positive company culture is important—not only will your employees enjoy coming to work, but they’re likely to stay longer, and be more invested in the company as a whole.
“I believe a company’s culture starts with the employees who make up the workforce,” says Jayna Cooke of EVENTup.
Jayna encourages entrepreneurs to hire with company culture in mind.
“Before hiring anyone, I ensure that the individual will be a a great addition to the already existing employees. These are the people that you spend most of your time with, so it is important to want to be around them,” she says.
Working with a group of people who enjoy each other’s company helps Jayna run her business more smoothly.
“I want my employees to see their coworkers as friends,” she adds.
8. Reading up-to-date industry news
Level with me—are you guilty of a little too much navel-gazing?
While it’s tempting to think of your business as a microcosm, Kevin Xu of Mebo International recommends broadening your horizons.
“I rely on news and updates on worldwide health-related issues that need to be solved,” he says. “To me, running a business means you have a responsibility to benefit the community.”
At the very least, keeping an eye on your local community can be helpful.
Not only will you be staying informed and aware of how your business can best serve your community, but you might even be able to use your community as a source of further inspiration.
“By knowing what the community needs, you can generate ideas about how to start new projects or initiatives that address the issues and provide company awareness,” says Kevin.
9. Being active
Don’t fall into the trap of feeling too busy to exercise.
Not only is it good for you, but doing physical activity that you enjoy can actually help you be more productive.
“I’m big on waking up at 5 a.m. and hitting the gym before 6 a.m.,” says Mark Samuel of Fitmark. “I can’t remember the last time I didn’t follow this routine.”
His dedication is also mirrored in his approach to business.
“Leading an active and healthy lifestyle takes discipline and commitment, and it creates a synergy between living life and running a business,” says Mark.
“You can’t run a business without discipline, and you’ll never be successful without 100 percent commitment.”
10. Having a good leadership team
Choose your leaders well—they will set the tone for your company culture as well as the structural integrity of your business.
“The right team makes all the difference,” says Tom Alexander of PK4 Media. According to Tom, when it comes to running your business successfully, the people around you are one of the most essential elements.
“Without our management team, I would not be able to scale the business with the same confidence I have now,” he says.
11. Tracking metrics
We’re big on metrics here at Palo Alto Software.
Our own CEO, Sabrina Parsons, did a great webinar on tracking your small business metrics last year.
So, we’re right there with Brandon Strapper from 858 Graphics, who says he has “metrics for everything at my company.”
“These metrics include labor cost, material cost, lead time, sales, etc.,” Brandon says. “Everything is measured and shown in real time throughout the company.”
12. Spending time outside of the office
When all else fails? Go outside.
“Conventional wisdom applauds insane work ethics,” notes Fan Bi of Blank Label. “There are fabled stories of all-nighters, sleeping under desks, and 100-hour work weeks.”
But, does this really lead to great ideas?
Fan doesn’t think so.
“It’s often the time spent outside the office that provides the biggest breakthroughs,” he says. “Whether that’s triggered by reading, meeting with another entrepreneur, or going for a walk.”
He adds: “Being able to zoom out and think deeply is essential for running a business.