By Cherie Pepe

It seems that many small businesses today are in a constant fight to stay above water, stay ahead of competition, and be on top of changing trends and technologies. It is often glamorized, to own your own business, work for yourself, make your own schedule, be the boss. But when there aren’t enough hours in the day to accomplish all you set out to do, it becomes overwhelming and can be frightening when your income depends on it. 

I am here to tell you that I understand. As someone who has tried to do it all, and failed a bunch of times, I feel the frustration. We all want to make our dreams a reality, but chasing these dreams only leads to chasing bigger dreams once we reach our goals. Which is not a bad thing! But remember, it is about the journey, not the destination. Building a business takes care and nurturing, as well as a focus on building sustainable processes that support success.

As you continue to build your business, keep these things in mind. And don’t forget to celebrate the small successes along the way. Here are three things you can do each week that will help you stay on track, and keep your business thriving.

1. Reflect

Take time for thinking and planning. At least once a week, take a break from the chaos. It can be difficult as a business owner to disconnect for even a moment, but trust me, the health of your business depends on it. Schedule this time as you would any other meeting and treat it as sacred.

Phone off! I mean it! 🙂

Depending on the type of business you are in, different days and times might be ideal. For example, if you are a restaurant owner, often Mondays are the best days for reflection because you can focus on your numbers from the weekend, typically your busiest times. Other businesses might warrant Friday afternoon reflection. No matter when you plan this time, ensure that you do it on a regular basis. Don’t allow your business to suffer because you’re too busy to see what is right in front of you.

Your numbers can tell you a lot about the health of your business. Accurate record keeping is the prerequisite for good quality reflection time. You will start to recognize trends and strengthen your intuition for when things are off. When you notice changes in your sales numbers or profit margin, use your reflection time to consider things that happened during the past week that may have contributed to these changes. Simply take note of them.

2. Analyze

The next step is to analyze what you’ve reflected on. If you own a retail shop, did you notice that sales unexpectedly spiked on a certain day, or that you didn’t sell any of a certain item that you were sure would be a hit? A well-structured and current income statement will tell you this data, but what do you do with it? This is where you begin to make connections about what happened and why. Why did your sales unexpectedly spike one day? Was it due to a new promotion you are running? Was there an event going on in your city that brought new traffic? Could you have anticipated this spike to be better prepared? 

The analysis step doesn’t have to happen immediately after your reflection time. In fact, it should be at least one day after. This allows you time to really gather the information that you think is important. Your reflection time allowed you the opportunity to open your eyes to what is happening around you, and your new awareness should help you see things a little bit differently afterwards. 

3. Decide

Decision-making is a key responsibility of leadership, and perhaps the most important responsibility of a business owner. Rushing into decisions after a quick glance at the numbers can literally kill your business. If you decide to buy significantly more inventory because your sales increased for a certain product without understanding why the sales increased you could be sitting on a lot of unmovable product. This move can deplete your cash and lead you down a path of more rushed decisions aimed at simply putting cash in the bank in the short term. You don’t want to go down this road. If you find that you are already in it though, taking the time to start a practice of reflecting and analyzing can help you solve your cash problems by offering solutions you would never have thought of without allowing yourself the space to discover them.

The decision phase should occur when you are confident that you understand your current position, but typically should not take more than a day or two after you analyze the numbers. Because making the decision is so important, you cannot allow your business to operate without your intentional decisions on how it will run. Business owners who let the business “run itself” will find that this approach doesn’t eliminate the decisions from being made, it simply leaves the decision making to someone else, either an employee, a client, or the competition. 

Some discoveries in your reflection of your income statement and sales numbers will warrant swift action that forces you to reach a decision on something much faster than the process allows for. This is okay in situations where something is clearly urgent. Just remember that the process should still be the same even if the timeline is much shorter. As you practice conscious and mindful decision making, your intuition and experience may help you when you are forced to act quickly.

Practicing these three steps on a regular basis and building them into your routine will help you strengthen your decision making muscle and give you confidence that you are leading your business in the right direction. 

Cherie Pepe is the Director of Finance and Operations at LaunchHouse. She is focused on building a strong community and providing valuable resources to the entrepreneurs, freelancers, and remote workers who rely on LaunchHouse. Cherie received her bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and will be graduating from Ohio University with a Finance MBA in December of 2019. Cherie is the co-founder of Body Chef, a Cleveland-based natural soap company, and provides bookkeeping and consulting services to small business owners.