Editor’s Note: If you’ve been to our Craftcation: Business & Makers Conference, then you probably already know (and love) our friends at Darice who have been our official craft supply sponsor for the conference for the past four years! We’re usually talking about all the great craft supplies Darice offers but we invited our friend Meighan O’Toole to the blog to share ways you can get your maker business ready for the future and how Darice can help!
Darice caters to small business owners and makers with low minimums and a freight-included program. If you’re not ready to start buying wholesale, at least make sure you’re getting the best retail price possible. Darice has a sister business Consumer Crafts that has excellent prices.
By: Meighan O’Toole
In a recent blog post here on Dear Handmade Life, I shared how the summer is a good time to prepare, to focus on things you can do now to get ready for the future. In today’s post, I want to use this same time frame (or really any slow period in your business) to encourage you to start thinking about foundational changes that you can make to grow your business.
As we all know, our businesses are our babies, and like babies, they grow. So it’s smart to prepare for that growth.
All of the suggestions I’m going to make will help you not only work smarter, but prepare your business to scale when you’re ready – and ensure that your business is ready, too!
There’s a weird, seemingly contradictory reality of how getting out of your business (as in being immersed in the day to day) will actually help you grow it faster. And when you are new to business or have been stuck in a holding pattern, it can be hard to comprehend this.
How can my business grow faster without me involved in every single thing?
But it’s very true. Thinking differently about how you work and how others can help you is the difference between growing and staying stagnant.
It’s the difference between planning for growth or being reactive and going nowhere.
Getting out of the way.
With that in mind, here are some things I want to share with you as you continue to grow your business and think about the possibility of scaling it in the future.
All of these things have one common denominator: they ultimately take you out of the equation. Which might scare you or feel like some weird internet guru promise. But trust me. Every business that grows does all of the following.
Taking you out of the nitty gritty is the key to growing a successful, profitable business. It’s hard to see it at first, but when you run the show it’s really easy to bottleneck things and think you can do everything — when really all you’re doing is treading water and wasting time and resources.
Get out of the weeds
Getting stuck in day to day minutiae is a perfect way to not only bore yourself to death but waste a ton of time.
The first thing I want you to do is look at all of the tasks you do in your business on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.
What is absolutely necessary for you to do? Like, no one else can do it? And what are the things that someone else can do? Look at things like social media posting, newsletter writing, uploading your blogs or podcasts, customer service via email, project management, etc.
Action: List everything you do in your business and then break down what you need to do, what someone else can do, and what you love to do. (Keep reading, all of these things go together.)
Treat: I don’t know about you, but when it comes to organizing my business, one of the things that gets me very excited about getting organized is colored pens. Our friends at Darice have a whole bunch of gel pens to choose from to make this task much more fun (and colorful)!
Start systematizing NOW
In the list of tasks you just made, look at all of the repeatable tasks and figure out what you can do in your sleep or with a blindfold on. These are the things you’re going to hand off eventually, but right now you need to start systematizing things to make it easy.
There are actions you do in your business all of the time: responding to clients, updating your website, social media posting, data gathering, sending emails, creating graphics, etc.
Start to look for patterns. These patterns are the beginning of your systems. Start to figure out when you do these things and how long they take. (Pro-tip: use a timer to time how long it takes, this will help you set up your week and stop thinking things will take 30 minutes when they actually take 3 hours. Sound familiar?)
Action: Create standard operating procedures (SOPs) for all of these systems. Create living documents that will walk someone through how to do these tasks ‘to a T’. These can be as simple as checklists or detailed step-by-step walkthroughs. Keep these documents in your Google Drive, Dropbox, or someplace else that you can access all the time. Keep them up to date, you will need these often.
Treat: Are you the type of person that needs a hard copy of important info at your fingertips? Keep a notebook (or two!) at your desk or a dry erase board where you can jot down ideas for important SOPs that need to be created. And when you finally create them, print out your SOPs and place them into three ring binders or paper portfolios.
Automate, automate, automate
There’s kind of this myth around automation for many small business owners. Like it’s some unattainable secret; some unicorn that’s yet to be discovered and tamed. But all automation comes down to, is taking your regular tasks and creating systems around them that work either completely or mostly on their own.
Look at everything we talked about above and identify where you do the exact same thing, all of the time. Then automate it all as much as you can.
Action: Create workflows, scripts, and schedule everything you can (use those SOPs!) so you’re not reinventing the wheel every time you sit down to work.
An example of this is to look at a process within your business like craft fairs. You most likely do much of the same things pretty much every single time you get ready for an upcoming craft fair. Things like applying for the fair, packing up for the fair, etc. You can create an entire system around this by collecting all of the info you need when you apply (pricing, email address, press clippings, scripts for correspondence, etc.). And when you get accepted? Create a checklist of everything you bring, important details like parking tips, hotel information, the schedule of the fair, etc. Need more help making the most of the craft shows and preparing for them? Check out our online workshop Craft Show Success.
When you start to think about the things you do over and over in your business you will see how there are systems everywhere, and that you can actually automate so much!
Start thinking about building a team
Now it’s time to think about bringing on others to do these jobs for you! Take all of the above, all of the minutiae and give it to someone else who can do just as good a job as you. This will free you up to focus on the money making activities and things you love to do. Things like your products, strategic partnerships, marketing, research and development, making, etc.
Action: Hire a VA (virtual assistant) ASAP. Even if you bring them on for just 2-3 hours a week, get them on board. You can absolutely set aside $150 a month to help you grow your business (and support someone else’s business!). This step is critical to growing your business. All of the above tasks I mentioned, you can hand off to your VA. An awesome, whip smart VA will create SOPs for you and systematize your business. All of these actions are one brick after another to help you grow your business.
This stuff is not sexy, but it PAYS
All of these actions will take time now, and they are not sexy or fun — unless you’re someone like me who thrives off of organization. They will save you time and money in the future and they will set you up to grow your business faster and in a way that’s scalable. And best of all? Allow you to get back to what you love to do in your business. So, it may seem scary now to think about hiring someone or actually scaling your business, but if you don’t start to plan for it now, it will never happen.
Dreaming about vs. getting into action is the difference between a stagnant business or ensuring your business is a success in the long run. You can do this!