Being always in the market for advice that might net me a million, I read Robert Craven’s digest of what separates the successful business from the also-ran avidly. I really liked the tip for business owners to “work ON and not IN” the business. It’s something I’ve said myself to people I’ve worked with when they’re getting bogged down in day to day delivery when they should be focusing on business strategy and development.
The problem is that for really small businesses – like sole traders – like me – the advice is hard to apply. I have to do the day to day delivery else there’s nothing to bill people for. And I have to do the business development, else there’s no need to worry about the day to day because there’s nothing to deliver. (And I have to do the wrangling with the accountant, sorting out the printer, paying the bills and (occasionally) patting myself on my own back too, but that’s another issue).
What happens (and I bet I’m not alone in this) is that business development gets thought about in fits and starts, gets put on hold when it generates actual business and then fires up again in between contracts. There must be a smoother, less nerve-jangling and more productive way of doing things. And yes I’ve heard the advice about consistently dedicating one day a week to business development no matter what; but try telling a client with a deadline that you can’t finish their report because you need to think about prospecting for new work and see how long you last.
Fortunately I’ve been doing this for long enough that I now have a large enough network of good clients to ensure that there’s a pretty constant stream of work coming my way, so this is less of an issue than it was in the beginning. But even with years of experience to go on, it’s still a tricky balancing act.