Last week we met Ron and Sharon, the couple who started a little side hustle, watched it boom into a profitable business, and then lamented how this “blessing” of a company had completely overtaken their lives.
I described three stages many business owners go through.
- The consuming passion of those early “startup” days, followed by …
- The complex sophistication of business growth. Here’s where so many get stuck. Only a rare few realize that by trying to be all things to all people, they’ve fallen into a trap of their own making. These are the ones who decide to say “No!” to a business that dominates their lives. They decide to move to…
- The healthier third stage I call contented simplicity.
I argued that the essence of contented simplicity is saying “yes” to the sweet-spot of both your life and your business…and saying “no” to everything else.
Productivity consultant Wayne Cotton suggests five P’s can lead us to contented simplicity:
- Purpose. What do you want? Ask 100 people what they want out of life, or out of their business, and most will have a difficult time telling you. How can you get somewhere if you don’t even know where you want to go?
Spend some time writing down exactly what you want out of your life and your business. Be specific. Knowing what you want to say “yes” to makes it easier to say “no” to everything else.
- Profile. By this I mean “customer profile.” Do you have a clear sense of who you are trying to help? What’s the target audience that will benefit most from your product(s) and/or service(s)? Remember: You can’t be all things to all people, so stop trying. A clear profile (aka a customer avatar) can help your business grow wider.
It seems counter-intuitive, but businesses that “niche” down tend to grow, not shrink. That’s because when you are known for doing one or two things really well, people are able to find you more easily. There’s truth in the old saying that “the riches are in the niches.”
- Product. What is the solution you deliver to your target audience? This is your product/service that helps customers overcome their problem. Make sure that product (and/or service) is excellent. By staying laser-focused on these two things—a quality product delivered to the exact right audience—your business will grow deeper.
- Process. Look at all your business systems and internal processes: accounting, technology, hiring, promotions, training, marketing, sales, quality control.
Pay special attention to the “journey” you want to take customers on. Is it confusing and frustrating for them—or clear and pleasant? Think through the steps people would have to take to move from being curious to becoming customers to becoming loyal customers to becoming raving fans of your business.
Ask: Are there expensive redundancies in our processes? Huge gaps? Is there wasted effort or unnecessary overlap? Are we constantly reinventing the wheel in some of these areas?
Do all you can to eliminate ineffective methods and suboptimal processes. Aim for constant improvement. And if you realize you are trying to do everything yourself, delegate! If you don’t know how to create seamless systems, find someone who does! If you’re not a good at marketing, find someone who is. Delegating is a key to freedom.
- Performance. It’s critical to evaluate and measure. Constantly.
Someone has wisely observed, “Your systems are perfectly designed to deliver the results you’re getting.” This means, if you don’t like the results you’re seeing, it’s time to go back and assess the pieces and parts of your various business processes. Find any breakdowns and fix them. Measure key performance indicators constantly, always seeking to improve. As the old saying goes, “inspect what you expect.”
And for a real breakthrough, eliminate products or services that aren’t profitable. Identify the ones that consistently deliver outsized results and focus there.
Bottom-line: If you are feeling trapped by the success of your own business, the answer isn’t more of the same formula that got you there. Opting to work even harder and stay on the job even longer will only make your life more miserable.
The answer is saying “no” to everything that doesn’t fit your core life and business purpose. You have to say “no” to unproductive complexity.
Then you have to say “yes” to contented simplicity.
This—and only this—is the way to a simpler business and more satisfying life.
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