5 Small Business Time Wasters and How to Fix Them
During some interviews for the Secret Sauce Conference back in 2015, I was asked by the press what I would have done differently if I could travel back in time and start over. Some also asked what my biggest mistake was at the beginning of my business.
As Steve Jobs used to say, “You can only join the dots looking back.” I have few answers since hindsight can be biased and regrets have negative impacts.
However, I do understand the nature of the question and how it can help other small business owners, so here are 5 small business time wasters and how to fix them:
1. Traveling to real-life meetings unnecessarily.
This is the biggest time-waster. If I count from the time of Planet Ivy through fairly recently, I’ve wasted multiple weeks’ worth of time each year.
You would be surprised that the amount of time you put into meeting people, even validated leads, which result in minimal reward.
I’m not saying don’t meet with influential people and those with strong networks. Just use Skype, or other virtual communication tools, as much as you can.
For me, I’ve been able to use Skype and still close deals worth thousands…moreover, I didn’t waste time.
Think of it this way – you have a mid-morning meeting. If you meet live, you have to travel to meet them. So, you take 15 minutes to get ready to leave, drive 30-45 minutes to your destination, meet for an hour, drive back 30-45 minutes…and it’s lunchtime.
Basically, you just wasted most of your morning and part of your early afternoon.
Instead, if you meet via Skype, you start up Skype about a minute before the meeting, have the meeting, and within minutes of the call, you’re back to work.
Multiply that by 20-30 meetings a month and discover how much time you could be saving.
2. Skip the In-Person Networking
In-person networking works best when you’re new and learning how to speak and pitch to strangers. Soon after though, this quickly becomes a waste of time unless you are looking to sell your product.
Here’s the downside:
You randomly wander the room hoping to meet potential customers or investors. If you meet someone in an unrelated field, you will politely chat for 15 minutes. Meet twelve more people like this; then it’s time to hit the door and go home.
A better idea is to find out who is going to be at events, use tools like Norbert and Discover.ly to find those you want to meet and reach out to them for a warm intro. Don’t forget the usefulness of Facebook groups in your niche.
Yes, you should be at networking events, with a caveat.
3. Not doing public speaking soon enough
When you attend an event, YOU should be the one speaking – not sitting in the audience. As the speaker, you have everyone’s attention, can show your expertise, and people will be coming to you, not the reverse.
When you are starting out, get on that stage as soon as possible, whether you are selling something, are a contractor, freelancer, or run an agency. Granted, most of your business will come from referrals, but this is how you can get customers who in turn start the referral process.
4. Not getting into America quick enough
If you don’t live in the United States, do what it takes to get into this market. You’ll find more investors, customers, big budgets, bigger markets, and a more advance start-up ecosystem. Need I say more?
Forgive me if I get this quote a little wrong, but Y-Combinator’s Paul Graham said something like:
“If you wanted to get into the fashion industry, you wouldn’t say, ‘Hey, I’m going to move to the 6th biggest fashion city in America!’ You would move to New York, LA, or maybe Chicago…anything else would be ridiculous.”
5. Not working fast enough
This falls into the ‘no one thinks they’re doing it, but most founders are’ category.
You discuss much in meetings, then fear steps in and holds you back, so you keep doing what you’re already doing…which doesn’t work well.
This often happens when you have investors and a team depending on you. You feel you cannot start over from scratch – but you can, of course.
Just try three experiments each week as a good number to aim for. (Sean Ellis gave this idea.)
I’ve used this model for a month to try out three new growth-hack techniques and have benefitted from some fantastic breakthroughs.
There you have it – 5 time wasters you need to avoid as a small business owner.
What about you? What time wasters have you dealt with?
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