As an entrepreneur, it’s easy to leave money on the table just by being too busy to check on the processes to which you’ve taken a set it and forget it approach. And who wants that?
Take some time each quarter to evaluate what’s working for your business and not. The gains won’t just be monetary – they’ll also leave you feeling freer mentally knowing that you’ve proactively optimized your outlook.
1. Check in on your relationships.
Creating a proper retention strategy for your customers will provide more net value in the long-run: Consider the gains in not having to chase new business, knowing you have a predictable revenue stream, and building a positive rapport that will allow you to generate strong referrals all mean more revenue long-term.
Each quarter, set aside a day to send check-in emails to those in your book of business. These notes don’t have to be elaborate. Simply taking the time to ask customers what’s new in their lives will open the door to conversation and show that you care. Invite your network to let you know if they could use a brainstorm or conversation to check in – you could even consider setting aside three to four hours a quarter to offer free drop-in office hours for clients to ask you questions or troubleshoot an issue. These kinds of personal touches pay dividends.
2. Build your lead list.
Even if your goal isn’t to scale your business beyond its current capacity, you should always look ahead to know that you would be protected if a client had to end their working relationship with you for any reason.
With that in mind, keep a running spreadsheet of potential leads with whom you can foster relationships. My list includes other vendors and consultants in my network with whom I could partner; past clients who might have new needs; and prospective clients I don’t know well but with whom I might be able to connect through a friend of a friend. Keeping this list in one spot helps me easily run through it a few times per quarter to ensure I’m staying in touch.
Similarly, think about the lead generation activities you’re pursuing each quarterly. Is there a webinar or event you could host with a likeminded vendor or partner to grow your email list? Is there a special offer you could push out to those who already follow you? Staying in your lead list’s email inbox or LinkedIn feed will keep you top-of-mind.
3. Consider your support team.
Not everyone has the luxury of being able to hire a staff, but it’s important to know when you’ve hit the point at which you’re actually losing money by not being willing to outsource.
For example, I found several years ago that going the “cheaper” route in doing my taxes was actually costing me money because I hadn’t structured my S corporation in the most effective way possible. Being willing to pay the one-time expense for a lawyer to evaluate my structure and handle the paperwork in optimizing it saved me thousands of dollars. Similarly, working with the same accountant each year has helped me realize efficiencies: Because the team knows my business so well, it takes them less time to handle my taxes, making my bill much smaller and my return larger because they know which questions to ask.
Take the time to get honest with yourself about your core strengths. Quantify the hours you spend on tasks you dread and what that number of hours would cost a client if they were paying for your services. Once you have that number, you’ll know how much you can afford to pay an outside support service to help so you can reinvest that time in your business.
4. Get into the weeds of administration.
Once per quarter, take the time to look at how your tools are working for you – and make sure you’re setting your future self up for success.
I like to run through this checklist:
Change your passwords and set up two-step verification to reduce the risk of fraud and headaches later.
Evaluate your health insurance and 401k portfolio. Are there changes you want to make based on how often you went to the doctor this year? Is your 401k performing the way you’d like it to be? Take some time to optimize based on what you find.
Look at the ways the money you already spend could be working harder for you. You might consider a new credit card that gains more points; consider a high-yield savings account to support growth for money in your account; or look at a loyalty program with an airline or hotel if you’re traveling frequently. I also like to make a call to my internet and cell service providers at least one time annually to make sure I have the ideal package for my needs.
Update your profit-and-loss outlook to know where you’re planning on landing revenue-wise for the year. This will help you determine if you need to plan ahead for possible customer attrition or, conversely, slow your business development if you’re going to be crunched for time later.
Last and most importantly, take time each quarter to check in on you. Take stock of how your focus has been and whether you might need to mix up your working environment. Schedule time away from screens. And block off a long weekend at least once per quarter. These small steps aren’t luxuries. They’re needs that will pay you back immensely in the long run.