Recently I had to face some uncomfortable facts. As someone who is working hard on creating a Personal Transformation System with my pal Nick, part of my goal is to help others be organized, focused, happy, successful, and motivated. But ironically, I suddenly found myself disorganized, unfocused, unhappy, and not feeling especially successful. At least I was still motivated! But what had happened?
Being Organized – The Map is not the Road
One of the little dangers of having a lot of organizational tools is that if you’re not careful, you spend more time working on planning than actually DOING things. I’ve always been alert to this; I’ve seen people spend weeks setting up software like ACT! and then using it for nothing more than storing contacts. Or setting up QuickBooks, and using it primarily as an invoice generator. Or loading up their smartphone with email functionality, and then never being able to find a message or attachment on their phone OR their computer.
Another thing you may run into once you do a lot of elaborate planning is that you probably have lots of deadlines – some of which affect each other, some of which don’t relate to others at all! Your head can quickly become a spaghetti bowl of overlapping timelines and goals, and leave you feeling more disorganized and plan-less than if you had never organized a plan! It’s like driving down the freeway with a bunch of maps on your lap, but not knowing what town you’re in.
Scope Creep and Product vs. Process – The Destination is not the Road Either!
If you have a “one widget business”, I envy you. Sometimes I’m tempted to chuck all my activities, and open a chocolate chip cookie shop. I know there’s a demand, I make a pretty mean chocolate chip cookie, and what could be more fun than baking cookies all day! Plus, you could make employee performance jokes with your staff constantly, like “whaddya want, a COOKIE?” But alas, I am gifted/cursed with a brain that explodes with pretty decent ideas on a regular basis, and my real challenge is filtering things down to the achievable ones and focusing on them.
Most of what I’m about to say would be different if my ventures were well-capitalized, but like many of us, my business is about 80% sweat equity at the moment. So the problem arises when I take one of my product ideas and walk it through the logical steps. I’m going to reference some basic items here that you may have to work through to roll out a product. They may overlap, they may not ALL be necessary as discrete steps, but they all are necessary in ONE way or another. And the list is by no means all-inclusive:
Creating the Product:
Ideation & Conceptualization
Setting up production
Taking it to Market:
Identifying place in market
Okay, that’s already a lot of stuff. I’m lucky in a way, in that I have the skills and knowledge to execute almost all of those tasks. But that can also quickly devour me. Walking a single product or service through this is not rocket science, it’s just work and persistence. But what if it’s necessary to create two or three products at the same time? Or if – as is often the case these days – the product is sort of a marketing piece in itself, and is interdependent with other products, services, or marketing strategies that have to be rolled out at the same time? Like social media, websites, seminars, and an actual retail product? Where do the product and business end, and the marketing and sales begin?
This is where I personally got derailed recently; as well as trying to wrap up some other projects, I was creating a book with Nick. After completing the writing and distribution arrangements for the book, we got so focused on marketing the thing that we kind of forgot that it wasn’t our magnum opus, or even a “core product”. It was originally meant to be a vehicle for building out our production and sales channels, and creating a standard product development process. In this case for a book. It should be simple – write the book, find a way to publish and distribute it (we did, it’s on Amazon now), and then do some promotion. But several things then came into play. They can be summarized with a just a few concepts:
Robot-Brained Marketing Strategies
Be thorough, but use some common sense or simple analysis before you roll out that multi-platform marketing campaign! Just because we have hundreds of marketing channels at our disposal doesn’t mean we have to utilize them ALL. There’s a strong tendency at present to put a lot of effort into “social”, i.e. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, etc. Facebook in particular is a possible paper tiger and time-sink rolled into one. Yes, there are a HALF BILLION USERS. But how can you really connect? Sharing in your own network? Maybe, but that’s likely to come across as spam. Advertising? Sure. So you place an ad. It better have lots of cha though, or you’re wasting your time. And assuming you DO get users to click, where do you take them? To a page to buy a product? Why would they do THAT? Is it remarkably unique? Is it REALLY CHEAP? Is there some other reward? I’m focusing on Facebook here, because it’s still so popular right now, but I could do the same with any channel that one might think is of value as a marketing tool. CHOOSE YOUR CHANNELS INTELLIGENTLY.
There are 168 Hours in a Week
I learned that with my very first business, a small 24/7 telecom company. Most people sleep at least 56 of those hours. That leaves 116. Subtract about 21 hours for eating-related activities, and you have 91 left. If all you want to do with your life is eat, sleep, and work (like me, apparently) then you’re all set. But seriously. When do you plan to execute all these crazy marketing ideas? Assuming you already have a product, how long does it take to create a good campaign, with decent images and copy? How long does it take to actually place the ads? If the marketing ideas are meant to generate user-engagement, how much of that can be fully automated? Do you have time for the parts that can’t if you get a good conversion rate? Have you scripted all the nice responses for your registration thank you emails? After you’ve laid out all these plans and executed them, ask yourself – could you have sold more copies of your book by standing on a street corner for the same amount of time? BE REAL ABOUT TIME AND USE IT WELL.
Are You Happy?
Oh yeah. Isn’t that why we started a business in the first place? Of course, there’s that whole “making money” thing, but let’s face it. Unless you’re fueling a business with outside capital (an entirely different game) you’d probably make a lot more money with a high-paying job than by starting your own business. So you might as well be ENJOYING things, right? And that, to me, is the number one priority. It’s just that my passion for keeping things moving, doing things in the smartest way possible, and being as thorough as possible can all work at cross purposes. If you ever find yourself in the same boat, step back and ask yourself some reasonable questions:
Am I doing too many things at once?
If so, thin things out, and extend deadlines if necessary. Give things the attention they deserve.
Who made these deadlines, anyway?
Oh yeah. That was me. And I’m a FREAK. Let’s just revise those a bit when needed!
Is this task even in the right bucket?
Don’t confuse advertising with marketing, or marketing with sales, even though they overlap.
Don’t confuse website development with product development. Unless of course the website IS the product.
Am I thinking like a businessperson?
This gets me a LOT. I love some of the creative work I do so much that I often forget that time equals money.
Can I outsource this?
Just because you have the skills to do something doesn’t mean you’re the best person to do it.
Could someone do it just as well, and a lot faster?
Can you AFFORD to outsource it? If you’re not prepared to pay to have it done, ponder its value in the first place.
Are you enjoying your work?
Because no-one is MAKING you do it.
Take a break and hit a lot of reset buttons if you need to.
Get back to the things that launched you on the journey in the first place.
When you find the right path, you’ll know it, because success, happiness, and wealth will simply be happening.