Each business is different. Not just because they sell different services or because they have different strategies, but because each business owner has their own unique vision for their life. Their hopes and dreams vary considerably and each one requires a nuanced business to fulfil them. That’s why they can’t just read a book about how to be wildly successful, and it’s why my job as a business coach is so interesting.
However, there are common themes I’ve seen over the last 10 years. Partly these are my bias because they’re what I enjoy helping people with, and partly it’s because there’s a significant gap in learning these areas of their business. Most programs and people will focus on marketing and sales, which are of course important, but they’re not typically where my clients need the most help. Today I’m going to outline the 6 key areas I help every small business owner with.
Of course there are other things I work with clients on, and you can see a post about those topics here, but these are my favourite because they make such a huge impact. They’re bigger picture and they pay off over time. They’re not the flashiest, and they’re not usually the reason someone hires me (they don’t think), but when given their due focus, you can free up time and energy and resources that you might not have thought possible before.
Before I dive in, let me clarify about the type of business owners I’m talking about here. They typically run the business by themselves with minimal staff. They may have an assistant or someone who supports them to serve clients. They have a real skill like design or healing and are providing a service typically in a local community (though now so much is online even for them). They’d like to make enough money to live comfortably and go on vacation or make upgrades to their home, but they’re not dreaming of private jets or being waited on hand and foot. They’re hard-working people who would like to serve their clients without completely burning out. They want to do amazing work for their clients, but they’d like it to stop costing them so much personally.
The 6 key areas are in no particular order because we work on them in whatever order makes the most sense for the business owner. Some need only a little support in each area, and some we spend months on. As you read through them, notice if you’ve overlooked any of these areas in your business or if you need to revisit some.
1 — Client Work
I’m not talking about the special skill you have, but it’s everything that surrounds that. What agreements do you set with your clients? How do you establish your scope of work or client expectations? How does a new client get onboarded? What happens when you stop working with a client? It’s about managing your boundaries with clients, being careful about overdelivering, meeting deadlines, and getting great results. Often there are parts of your client work that are repeatable and can be turned into systems or even delegated. This does not mean you treat all clients exactly the same, but rather it allows you to channel your creativity and attention into the things that are most important rather than draining your energy on admin.
2 — Finances
Some people have an inclination or interest in the numbers, but for most business owners this area is a bit of a mess. They fly by the seat of their pants, and they make decisions without having a clear idea of what they’re working with financially. Even the businesses that do pay attention to numbers still have some room for improvement. I recommend that all business owners use the Profit First system for their finances, and I encourage them to set it up right away. I also spend a good amount of time with clients making sure they’re clear on their financial goals and what it will take to reach them.
3 — Vision and Planning
I’m cheating a little bit with this one because it’s a bit of a combo. I’ve written before about how I start every client relationship with an exploration of their values and desires. It’s so important to me that I understand a client’s vision (or help them understand it for themselves) so we know the direction we’re moving in together. After we’ve looked at the big picture, then we can narrow down into more specific planning for various timeframes. We figure out what they should be focusing on now and what can wait until later. Another important part of planning, though, is making sure you have a business model that works for your lifestyle AND is profitable.
4 — Efficiency
I use the word efficiency here because it’s the result of having great systems, but really what we’re talking about here is making sure you have systems in your business. I’ve written extensively about business systems here, but the bottom line is that without systems you’ll be spending way too much attention on the wrong things. Systems help free up your brain, time, and money so you can focus on the things only you can do. Once you free up that time you can use it however you like. Some people choose to work more, but many of my clients finally enjoy some much-anticipated time off for the first time.
5 — Time Management
This could be categorized under efficiency, but it’s so dominant in my work with clients I had to pull it out as a separate point. I have written about managing time before here, but it doesn’t mean that every client does this exactly the same way. Everyone has a different business, lifestyle, and learning style, so everyone manages their time differently. Together we figure out what will work for them (and their team if they have one) and experiment with it. Often it takes lots of testing to find something they can stick to.
6 — Self-Trust
This is the thread that holds everything together. If the business owner is facing any self-doubt it will prevent them from moving ahead in many ways. I help clients build their confidence, they learn to say no with grace, they set healthy boundaries, and they start keeping promises to themselves. They learn to serve without sacrificing their needs, and they begin to model it for their sphere of influence as well. They begin to notice their own patterns of working that hold them back so they can catch them before they become a problem. You can read more about self-doubt coaching here, but this is the piece that gets missed when the focus stays on strategy and productivity. Without this piece it’s very difficult for anything to stick long-term.
So there you have it. The 6 key areas I help every small business owner with. Did any of them surprise you? Do you think I missed any?
And most importantly, what did you learn about yourself and your own business as you were reading this?
If you haven’t experienced coaching before, or even if you have and want to see what my style is like, you’re welcome to book a call with me, my gift to you. These 6 key areas make great topics for these calls! These gift sessions are completely pitch and obligation-free, and are truly my way of serving more generously. You can read more about these sessions and how to book one here.