One of my father-in-law’s favourite sayings is ‘It’s funny, but the harder I work the luckier I get’ and in so many respects he is absolutely right. There are hundreds of famous quotes linking hard work with success, such as ‘nothing good comes easy’, ‘I learned the value of hard work by working hard’, ‘hard work always wins in the end’, etc. etc. Self-made millionaires write best-selling books telling us we just need to imagine the life we want, be motivated, stay focused and work hard and it will all be ours.
It is true that it is hard to achieve success in business without working hard – but hard work alone is no guarantee of success. What if you find yourself working all hours, spinning plates, continually going above and beyond for clients, and yet your business isn’t growing? Are you just not working hard enough? Did you not imagine your success clearly enough? Do you just not want it enough?
If you feel like your dedication and efforts just aren’t being rewarded by business growth then follow these 3 steps to focus you for success.
#1 – Don’t start a journey without a plan for reaching your destination
Would you head out to a client meeting without knowing where you were going? Would you try cooking a new dish without a recipe? Perhaps you would. Perhaps you are a ‘fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants’ kind of entrepreneur.
However, for your hard work to deliver that dream life that you have envisioned so clearly after reading all those business books, all your efforts need to be channelled and synchronised. Vision and desire is not enough.
Many of you will have spent time on an organisational strategy, but to deliver business growth you also need a clear sales strategy. Who are your target clients? Why? What are you going to do to get in front of them and make them notice you? Equally importantly, but often overlooked – who don’t you want to work with? What kind of work or type of client delivers less profit, or even no profit at all?
Don’t just think about this, write it down. Capture the actions that will turn that strategy into a clear plan. Most importantly if you have a team, make sure you communicate these actions. Everyone needs to pull in the same direction for maximum effect and impact.
#2 – Make sure you are prioritising the right ‘stuff’
Being busy isn’t the same as working hard. Take a really long hard look at your To Do List (I am assuming you all have one – if not step away from this article and start one right now!). Is it just a long list of jumbled tasks with back office tasks peppered through business development activity? If it is, it needs to be organised. Separate out activities into different categories: accounts, sales, marketing/lead generation, team, forward planning, and so on.
Next you need to look at each category in turn and apply the Eisenhower matrix. Those activities you have identified as Urgent and Important need to be prioritised on your list for your immediate attention, Important/Less Urgent tasks should be planned into your schedule to focus on when you have more time. If you have someone you can delegate activities to they should be given the Less Important/Urgent tasks, and if something falls into the Not Important/Not Urgent box then strictly speaking you should ask yourself if those things should be on your list at all.
#3 – Remember you’re not a superhero
So you have your strategy and you have identified those key actions that you need to prioritise. At this stage with stretching ambitions and a long To Do List it can be quite daunting, so give yourself a break and identify some quick wins. These will give you a short-term boost, create momentum and also provide opportunities to celebrate successes along the way. If you only focus on the end game it will feel like a hard slog and you could lose focus.
When you define your strategy you should also set a realistic (but stretching) timescale for achieving your targets. You won’t be able to work on everything at the same time so setting interim goals along the way will help you decide on short-term, mid-term and long-term focus.
You deserve the hard work you put into your business to show in your results, so hold that image of success in your mind, follow the three steps above and reap the rewards!