6 Ways Structure Can Help You Achieve Peak Creative Performance

As a business coach for freelancers and creative professionals, I specialize in working with people who are in a place of transition in their career or creative business. While their unique circumstances vary, more often than not they share one key challenge; they’re not fulfilling their creative and commercial potential.I’ve come to believe that a successful creative business is a blend of four things: (1) a great product or service (2) good strategy (3) hard work and (4) a willingness to be out of our comfort zone more often that not. Hey, if it were easy, everyone would do it, right?But the creative business is a unique and sensitive animal. If it’s all about strategy and objectives, we lose the creative magic and if it’s all about creativity, nothing gets done. So, how can we find and maintain balance?After working with creative professionals for 15 years, being business owner myself for eight and benefitting from the wisdom of mentors and coaches, I’ve come to the conclusion that success comes down to one thing:Creating a solid structure, within which there is a lot of freedom.If you’re in that place of transition and don’t know how to balance structure and freedom, I’d like to share 6 strategies that have worked for me:1) Know what you want from your business
If we don’t know where we want to go, we can’t create a plan to get there. Set aside some uninterrupted time to really think about what you want from your business. When we’re honest with ourselves, the answer is sometimes very different from what we think we want. For example:- Are you starting a business and want to build a roster of ideal clients?
– Are you happy with your business and clients, but would like a few more?
– Do you want to build a business that is flexible enough to work around your family’s schedule?
– Do you want to be known as a thought-leader in your industry?You can see how the strategy would be vastly different for each of these businesses, so it’s important to get clear from the outset.2) Write down everything you need to do to achieve your goal
Doing a brain dump is a great way to get all of your ideas out of your head and into one place. I love the mind-map method. It’s simple, effective and perfect for visual types. Here’s how you do it:Take a piece of paper and put your main topic, e.g. your business name, at the center. As thoughts come to mind, draw branches from the main topic and write down that thought or objective (use as few words as possible). You can create sub-branches for additional thoughts or action steps.I love Coggle for creating mind maps that look pretty too!3) Prioritize and calendarize (I know it’s not a word, but it should be!)
Take your mind map and number your goals by priority. Start with number one, let’s use Networking as the example, and list action steps you need to take. They night be:(a) Research BNI and visit one chapter this month
(b) Become a member of Freelancer’s Union and attend one event this month
(c) Research local AIGA chapterNow enter those action steps into your calendar. Once it’s in the calendar it moves from a “should” to a done deal. Now you’re free to do something else.4) Bundle your to-do’s
Have you ever ended your day feeling exhausted and frustrated because you ran around like a headless chicken, without much to show for it? I have and it sucks.
I now bundle similar tasks together and take care of them in one sitting. I set Friday aside for book keeping and general admin. Monday is dedicated to content development and marketing and I cluster my coaching sessions on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday so that I can stay in the zone and be as present as I can. Clustering your efforts also helps you balance “doing” and “creating”.5) Work with your natural rhythms
It’s no coincidence that my writing/content work is slated for Monday when I’m fresh and my boring admin is on Friday, when I’m spent. I go for an early morning run on one of my coaching days, knowing that I will benefit the most from the boost of energy and clarity it provides.6) Make time to play and create
Do you deny yourself downtime because you feel guilty that you’re not being “productive?” I struggle with this and, while we may think of it as a noble trait, it’s really not. The fact is, we need time to dream, play and create. It’s what gives us the magic, the inspiration and energy we need to do all of the above steps. Down time should be as much of a priority as everything else. So put THAT in your calendar and stick to it!

You’ll Never Sell Your Real Estate Business, So You Might As Well Automate It

Businesses, like real estate, can be planned, built, finished, and sold for a profit. But what if you own a business that buys and sells real estate? It’s not the same. The best you can do is sell the real estate that you’ve bought, and that’s the end of it. No one will buy your business and pay you several times your current yearly profits, as they would other businesses. Stinks, doesn’t it? I’ll go into the details of why this is, but also offer this self-coined truism as a consolation prize:”You’ll never sell your real estate business, so you might as well automate it.”I. Other Businesses’ Options and Exit StrategiesOther industries have it good, or at least some of them. If you were to start a company that, for example, sells chairs, you would make your initial investment and get to work. You’d test ways to find people who buy your chairs, and you’d develop relationships with retailers who buy from you in bulk and resell your chairs to the public. Once you make enough money to survive, you grow the business by reinvesting profits, borrowing, or raising capital.Then you get bigger, sell more, make more, and before you know it, you have a track record of several years. You could now sell your business to someone else. But, of course, the more profitable your company is, the more someone will pay for it. Each industry has its own rules of thumb, but for the most part a buyer will offer you a multiple of your company’s yearly earnings (hopefully several times).Other things besides earnings can increase your company’s sales price, such as systemizing it. If you can show a buyer how your company runs itself without you (the owner) having to do anything, you can imagine how much more attractive it will appear to them. Who wouldn’t want to own business that spits out money year after year without much work? It’s worth paying more for.People and companies who buy businesses also want to buy something that is scalable. This means that they should be able to grow it without having to hire a ton of people. Law firms can’t do this, because each attorney can only bill so many hours, and in order for the firm to make more money, they will have to hire more attorneys. Compare this to a software business where people can download the products from a website-you could potentially sell hundreds or thousands more copies per year before you have to hire someone new.So, selling it gives you a lump sum of money that you can use to start a new business, invest somewhere and retire on, or whatever. Most businesses don’t sell because they wouldn’t sell for a substantial amount, but it’s still many entrepreneurs’ dream to build a business, sell it for a huge amount, and get the heck out of Dodge. I know a few people who have done this, and I am insanely jealous.II. Why Real Estate Investment Companies Are DifferentThe reason I’m jealous is because not all business types are able to do this. Some businesses rely so much on the owner and their specialized expertise, that it would be hard for a new owner without that same expertise to jump in and make it work. Like a law firm. Or a doctor. Or, regrettably, a real estate investment company that flips and/or holds property.The best that we can hope for is to sell whatever assets we’ve accumulated. For doctors and law firms, those assets are customer lists, supplies, and maybe the building they are in. For us investors, it’s our properties and that’s it. Our companies are only (perceived to be) worth whatever we can sell our properties for.I think that an investment company is scalable. I can picture a company that buys and sells 100 houses per year and only has a tiny office of staff. But when is the last time you’ve heard of a real estate investor selling their business? I haven’t. It just doesn’t happen. Instead, we’re just looked upon as individuals with real assets that we could sell off, and I doubt any investor would pay market value for them.III. But at Least You Can Automate ItYou can even write systems for your real estate company and get it to the point where it practically runs itself without you. But no one cares. So, if you can’t sell your company, you might as well make life as easy as possible and systemize it for your own benefit. Map out who does what, write the systems, and hire the right people to run them for you and give you reports.And, if it’s creating cash and equity profits year after year anyway, this may not be such a bad thing. You just need to know what you’re getting into. So while individual houses have multiple exit strategies, your investment business as a whole has two:1) Sell off all of your properties and liquidate the company.2) Own the business forever-keeping your properties, maybe buying more, maybe selling some.I opt for #2, but encourage you to make your business as easy as possible to manage for your own sake.

Home Business Tips – Why Understanding the Root Cause of a Problem is Important

Understanding the customer’s problem and then offering a service that can solve that problem is very important when you are thinking about starting a business. Some entrepreneurs will stop at this level. However, if you use the “5 Whys” analysis technique, you can find the root of the problem, which can lead you to rather unique ideas and a competitive advantage over other companies.The “5 Whys” technique was created by Toyota back in the 1980s. This is how it works (example taken from Wikipedia):My car will not start. (the problem)
1. Why? The battery is dead. (first why)
2. Why? The alternator is not functioning. (second why)
3. Why? The alternator belt has broken. (third why)
4. Why? The alternator belt was well beyond useful service and has never been replaced. (fourth why)
5. Why? I have not been maintaining my car according to recommended service schedule (fifth why)Not only car manufacturers, but also small businesses and entrepreneurs can apply this technique. All you have to do is ask several customers of yours why they have the problem they need to solve? There is no need to follow the “5 Whys” technique rigidly: you may find the root of the problem after 3 or 30 questions. The point of this exercise is to find the root cause.You have the root cause. What next? Consider the following example: let’s say you are a book-keeper for small businesses in your town. If you try to find the root cause of your customers’ problem, probably you will find out that they consider book-keeping rather complicated, and they are afraid that they will make mistakes.An average business will address this problem by providing book-keeping services. However, if you choose to look at the root cause, you might have another idea. You know that book-keeping is not at all that complicated, all you need to know is several rules, a bit of a jargon and conventions. So maybe you could consider offering training for people who would prefer to learn book-keeping and do it themselves.This way your service could be different from those companies that address only the problem, not the root cause. This way, you could be unique, and have competitive advantage over other firms.