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How To Stop Being Busy

I walked into a Starbucks the other day to meet a friend. All the holiday swag was displayed in red boxes and holiday menus were up featuring gingerbread and peppermint everything. It was 2:00 in the afternoon, and it wasn’t too busy, so I was a little surprised by all the commotion behind the counter.

There were 7 people bustling around looking busy. Two were handling the drive-through, it looked like a couple were being trained, others were cleaning, stocking, and organizing.

The strange part was that it took a really long time to get my chai latte. There were several people waiting by the pick-up counter for their drinks, and it wasn’t clear for a while if anyone was even making them.

My friend ended up waiting by the cash register for a long time before anyone even came to take her order.

Something was off here.

A lot of stuff was happening, but not the one thing the business is actually supposed to do – serve coffee drinks to its customers!

All the Starbucks employees were busy, but none of them were paying attention to the bigger picture.

Busy As A Way Of Being

In our culture, we talk about being busy a lot. It’s often part of our answer to the question, “How are you?”

“Oh, good but busy. I have a lot of stuff going on.”

Right? You hear it all the time. Maybe you even say it yourself.

I have a problem with this.

First of all, busy isn’t how you ARE. When you say “I’m busy,” it doesn’t actually say anything about you. Rather it focuses on the stuff you are DOing. It’s actually a sort of cover-up for being stressed, or tired, or overwhelmed, or out of balance.

The thing is, we all know that!

It’s like “busy” is a code word that draws empathy from another person, because we’ve all been there. BEING busy means you are so wrapped up in the stuff you are doing, that you aren’t really being anything.

Busy As An Excuse

People also use it as an excuse.

When asked, “Did you do X?” People will say, “No, I’ve been really busy.”

In my world, one of the most common reasons that people don’t keep up with creating content is because they are busy.

But does that mean you chose to accomplish something else? Do you have something to show for the things you’ve been doing? Or have you just been busy?

Being busy doesn’t necessarily mean that you are accomplishing anything. In fact, it seems more like you are running in circles without really getting anywhere. It conjures an image of chaos and disorganization – like the scene behind the Starbucks counter.

What Else Can You Be?

We all have a lot going on. And with the holidays coming up, it’s even more prevalent. There are about to be a bunch of things added to your calendar and your list of things to do.

A lot of people complain about being busy at this time of year. Is that really how you want to experience your holidays?

Now, I can’t magically shrink your to-do list. But just because you have a lot going on, doesn’t mean you have to BE BUSY.

You could choose to be something else… like present, or focused, or connected to people rather than to your to-dos.

Even in the midst of a lot of things going on, you don’t have to be busy. In fact I recommend that you try to banish that word from your vocabulary. And ask yourself, “What do I really want to BE?”

That choice is yours.

What do you think? Are you a “busy” person? How will you shift your way of being or the words you use in the midst of a “busy” world? Let me know in a comment below.

Buying Software Solutions Means Adapting Business Processes

CRM, SCM, FAS, ESS, ECM and BPA are just a few of the endless stream of acronyms and buzzwords that confront small business owners searching for good software solutions to automate key business functions. The promises of many cloud-based software solutions to automate key functions of a business are impressive. The ability of the technology sales rep to speak an entirely different language using English words injected with acronyms, jargon and unique expressions is equally impressive.

This creates an air of superiority as apparently only special people can know all of this stuff and make any meaning from it in business terms. Many small businesses readily adopt these solutions, believing they will accrue the compelling list of benefits.

The challenges for the business owner go far beyond learning an entirely new befuddling language. More importantly, they must learn to adapt their business processes, people, policies, practices and all of the information and work that must flow through the business functions served by this software. Ironically, many very large businesses cite this failure to execute this adaptation process as the reason many such systems fail to meet their expectations. This despite the hordes of information technology resources and business consultants applied to manage the process.

Small business don’t have access to the same array of experts to help them manage the transition. Instead, they tend to rely more heavily on the supplier of the software solution. Unfortunately, most of these software suppliers do not provide services to help their customers redefine their business processes and work flows. The software supplier is focused on installing the product, providing training on the best practices in the usage of the product, providing basic technical support for the software and then moving on to the next prospect.

After a short period, the frustration mounts as the existing processes and work practices of employees in the business clash with the way the software operates by design. Attempts to adapt the software to the existing workflow or to develop workarounds to seemingly inappropriate or missing functionality invariably produce more frustration. All the while, the business never fully realizes the full benefits of the software as sold by the sales person. The truth is that the business never fully adopts the software so the benefits will only match the degree of its utilization.

Acquiring the software license and turning on the first user name and password is the easy part. To achieve the real value of this purchase requires an accurate and comprehensive assessment of the actual business processes in place in the business compared with those provided in the software solution is required to determine the work required to implement it successfully. This assessment must include process mapping, change management plan for each process, system and workflow integration, user training, and real-world testing and overall project plan to manage the transition to the new mode of operating. A competent project manager with business operations, business process analysis and software deployment expertise can be an invaluable asset to enabling long-term profitable deployments of software solutions for small businesses.

Expand Your Business With A Quality Team

It can take a while to reach the point where your business is booming and you’ve got oodles and oodles of work to be distributed.

But once you reach that point, you’ll want to be ready to hire quality team members who are as passionate about your business as you are and whose knowledge can help take your business to the next level.

So it’s never too early to begin thinking about the steps involved in expanding your business beyond “solopreneur” status. The earlier you begin contemplating this process, the more successful you’ll be in hiring a quality team that you’ll be happy with.

Take it Slow

Here’s my first tip: Proceed with caution!

It can be costly to leap before you’ve done your research.

And, yes, it can be overwhelming to get started. You’ll likely be contemplating such questions as – What type of help should I hire first? What type of person should I look for? Where do I find qualified candidates?

The Basics

Here are a few essentials to start with. Keep these front and center as you take action to hire a quality team.

Identify what types of tasks you want to delegate and which tasks you would like to keep under your personal control. This can help you determine whether you need someone who is good with numbers, someone who is creative at determining ways to get your business into the news, someone who can provide outstanding client service… or all of the above and more!

Look for someone who has the ability to add to your business, not just keep it running at its current pace. There are many skilled individuals out there who can complement or supplement your expertise. Look to add team members who can have strengths that your business will benefit from.

Be realistic! You won’t be able to pay someone a CEO’s salary, so you can’t expect to find someone with CEO experience who is willing to work for a clerical wage. You aren’t likely to find someone who will commit nearly the hours per week to your business that you do. Don’t set yourself up for disappointment and disillusionment. Be realistic about your expectations for team members.

Initiative is priceless. The last thing you need is the added stress of having to hold someone’s hand throughout everyday simple tasks. Make sure you are selecting team members who can function independently from you and who understand your needs, your style, and your goals.

Interpersonal skills are not optional. To develop the highest quality team for your business you need to be able to communicate easily with one another. There is nothing worse than feeling like you should have just done a task yourself. That defeats the purpose of delegating. So be sure that your team members have excellent interpersonal skills and that your communication styles mesh with one another. Communication is key to building a team that will support you and your business well into the future.

Where to Start

Get out there and talk to others you know who have hired help with running their business. Ask your peers as well as other professional colleagues, such as your accountant, attorney, board members and members of organizations you belong to. They can often provide referrals for good support personnel. By tapping into trusted resources, you’ll learn about options you might not have otherwise know about and you’ll likely shorten your screening process.

Check out popular blogs and websites with an eye for recommendations.

Set up some complimentary consultations with potential support staff. Get to know the people you’re considering hiring. What are their strengths? What is their turnaround time on tasks? How do they like to communicate and how often? What’s their current client load? Etc.

Last but not least, you might explore using an employment agency. A recruiter (for a fee) can eliminate the headache of searching for and selecting candidates to hire.

Explore Your Options

You’ll find that most tasks you need help with can be outsourced or done by free-lance contractors. Tasks such as accounting, website design, marketing and public relations or even customer service and administrative duties can be handled on a “virtual” basis online via a virtual assistant (VA). VAs are either paid by the hour or the project.

You could very well end up hiring more than one person. There are VAs specializing in different types of projects – and you might eventually need the services of several of them. Or you might prefer to hire one assistant (as a manager) to work directly your other contractors and then let that person delegate your tasks and projects.

There are many different options. Be sure to explore them – sooner rather than later – before you’re ready to hire.

Business Growth Requires Support

Hiring a quality team is a ‘must’ if you want to grow your business.

It’s well worth the effort to get it right. And the sooner you begin exploring your options, the happier you’ll be when it comes time to hire.