When you run your own business, it is vital to know where you are headed. Why? Because lack of clarity about the direction of your business creates havoc.
It is not an absence of ideas that causes problems; in fact, just the opposite. When you do not have clarity, the big challenge is that everything seems like a good idea.
The upside of being crystal clear on your direction is that it becomes easy to say “no” to lots of seemingly good ideas. As Steve Jobs once said: “True innovation is saying no to a thousand things.” The same logic applies to your business.
It might be that saying “no” to certain types of clients means you can say “yes” to those you really want, for example. Let’s be honest, you and your team are a limited resource. There are only so many people you can help.
Or it might be saying “no” to shiny things – ideas that seem like they might be worth pursuing but which are really just a distraction from your main goal.
Take automatic enrolment. I saw lots of firms undertake major projects around it, thinking it was a huge opportunity. However, the truth for most was that auto enrolment was best left to firms already active in the group and corporate pensions space.
It was a “shiny thing” that wasted lots of time, which could have been spent focusing on attracting more of the right types of clients to the core advisory business. Saying “no” seems like such a little thing, but your future success and happiness is determined by these small choices you make every minute of the day.
Clear the clutter
All the literature on achieving your goals starts with the same thing: eliminating projects, aims or other things that you do not really want to do in your life. That said, as anyone who has tried this will know, it is harder than you think.
“It might be that saying “no” to certain types of clients means you can say “yes” to those you really want.”
As blogger and author James Clear says: “Getting rid of wasteful items and decisions is relatively easy. It’s eliminating things you care about that is difficult. It is hard to prevent using your time on things that are easy to rationalise but that have little payoff. The tasks that have the greatest likelihood of derailing your progress are the ones you care about, but that aren’t truly important.”
Questions for clarity
Clarity is key. As you move forward in your business, you can often forget why you set up in the first place. It is easy to get pulled off track or settle into a pattern of winging it and rolling with the punches.
Regardless of what stage of your business career you find yourself in, there are some fundamentals you need to be sure of to get things back on track.
Try some of these questions to uncover your real reasons for being in business. If you can spend time digging around for good-quality answers, you will find it helps tremendously when you move to a more formal business plan.
1: Why are you doing this? Hint: Try to move past reflex answers like “to earn money”. While that might be true, there are often deeper emotional or psychological pulls that have drawn you towards your current business or career.
2: What do you want your life to look like? What is your idea of work/life balance?
3: Why are you sacrificing yourself for this project/business?
4: What is your higher purpose? Try and find a purpose bigger than money.
5: What is worth doing even if you fail?
6: What are your core values?
7: Who do you serve? Who do you love to work with? Why? How can you work with these people more?
8: What is the one business challenge that, if you solved it, would move you forward significantly?
9: What is preventing you dealing with that issue?
10: What would you need to do to overcome that issue?
As the old saying goes: if you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there. It is vital you have a clear direction of travel and you share it with your team. The sharper your vision, the easier it is to say “no” to the plethora of ideas that will try to distract you.
Brett Davidson is founder of FP Advance