Writing a blog post about my own professional New Year’s resolutions is not just a way for me to share it with you, the reader, but a way for me to document my upcoming goals as a business owner for 13 years. Writing down my resolutions creates a checklist that helps me stay accountable to not only my clients but myself. I can refer back to them over the months ahead and gauge how I’m doing and try to stay on track as best I can. As any business owner will tell you, running a business is filled with zigs and zags and rarely do events unfold in a straight line. But to paraphrase, the old adage, if you don’t have road map, you’ll probably wind up somewhere else. So here goes, in no particular order of importance:
Keeping Up With Technology
As someone in the digital marketing space, the reason why clients rely on me and my company is because we have valuable skills and expertise that they don’t. Much of our collective expertise for me and my team, revolves around websites, search engine marketing and social media. But the cornerstone of the entire online universe is the website. We’ve always believed in a hub and spoke approach where everything we do for our clients involves getting as much relevant traffic to their websites as possible. While that may involve social media, email marketing, pay per click advertising and in some cases, even print, everything centers around the website. Our thinking is to get prospects to the website and that will get them to buy your stuff, come to your store, call your office, follow you on social media, download your catalog, fill out your form, come to your event, etc.
The biggest shift on the technology front in 2019 will be the full on rollout of the Gutenberg editor in WordPress. WordPress is the architecture that we use to build all of our client websites. As of December 2018, all WordPress websites will be transitioned to this new way of managing and displaying content. While you may have never heard of this Gutenberg editor, and in some cases, you may never even have heard of WordPress, we’ve been following and learning about this new system for the better part of the year so we’re ready! Bottom line: we’re sweating those details so you won’t have to and we will continue to master this new system as it rolls out.
The first business book I ever read when I started Samson Media in 2006 was Michael Gerber’s The E-Myth Revisited. The book stresses the importance of making a concerted effort to replace yourself at every turn. Create processes that others can follow and empower people working for you to make decisions within the responsibilities of their jobs.
Last year I brought on a project manager and that has been a tremendous help. My job as the owner, though, is to figure out ways to best deploy the daily and weekly tasks for that person in ways that will free me up to “work ON my business, not IN my business” which is a founding principle of the book. It’s a continually evolving process based in the reality that my Project Manager will only be as good and useful as I take the time to train him to be. I’m trying!
More Client Consultations
The benefits of more and better delegation will be my ability to spend more time talking and advising my clients. Let’s face it, there are many, many companies that can build you a website or manage your social media. Maybe not as good as Samson MediaBut seriously, we have many worthy competitors, so what’s our secret sauce? Why hire me and my team? Well, the one thing no other company has is me! As the founder and owner, and let’s face it, head salesperson, it’s me that clients are buying. My knowledge, experience and expertise are unique. So I need to be more pro-active in consulting and interacting with my clients on an on-going basis. My goal for the year ahead is proactive client outreach to at least one client per week.
More Emphasis on Paid Media
Samson Media has always been a marketing company more than a “design” company. While we value and appreciate good design we’ve always viewed it as a means to and end. Not the end unto itself. Over the years we’ve always stressed Search Engine Optimization (SEO) which involves manipulating the website content so it becomes associated with certain keyword phrases so that specific web pages would be returned in the search engines like Google. Better search engine visibility leads to more website traffic which in turn leads to more sales, calls, activity, etc.
But over the years, Google, the 800 pound gorilla when it comes to search, has continued to change the rules of the game making it increasingly difficult to break through to achieve that coveted page one ranking on the first search result page. After all, there are only 10 “organic” or free listings on the first page and millions of similar search results. The competition is fierce. Not that we’re shying away from a fight but there’s no denying that we’re finding it harder and harder to rank. The one bright spot is local search, where results are still achievable. So what’s the answer? Well, clients may not like to hear it but paid search engine marketing such as Google Pay Per Click and Facebook and Instagram advertising are increasingly effective at breaking through. For a price. And as you can see all around you, with print publications closing left and right, many companies are moving their ad budgets from print to online in order to be where there customers and prospects are. And with the mobile – desktop tipping point having been reached and surpassed in 2015, more people now get their news and information on their mobile devices. If you are trying to reach these people you need to be where they are. Bottom line: You need to budget money for advertising. How much? We offer some detailed advice on budgeting here. Because as a business, marketing that business in order to grow and sustain it is not optional. My goal is to sell more of these services in 2019.
I laugh when people think that owning your own business means sitting by the pool and drinking umbrella drinks. Or never having to answer to anyone. While I may not have a single boss, I have 20-30 bosses. My clients! My clients are my clients by choice. And as I mentioned in the More Client Consultations section, the services I offer are not unique. But the way we implement them is. While we are generalists when it it comes to subject matter, we need to constantly educate ourselves about our clients’ businesses, challenges and growth opportunities. As a consultant and advisor, I’m pulled in a dozen different directions each day. Without some types of limits and processes I would burn out and would not have been able to grow and sustain my business for over 13 years. Yes, there are days when I’m frazzled, but it’s the ability to regroup and rebound that are the keys to longevity. I find these habits have helped me answer the bell for the start of the next round:
- Make Time for Myself: That’s why we start at 10am on work days. I use the mornings to work out at the gym, read the newspaper, eat breakfast and think.
- Plan My day: I use a one sheet day planner, yes, paper, where I write down the top 5 tasks to be accomplished that day. Then I prioritize them from 1-5. Then I assign the amount of time I will devote to each one assuming it’s not something that needs to be finished in one sitting. If it does, I assign that first priority since I’m fresher earlier in the day. That’s also why I schedule the harder tasks first. But the key is not just to say I’ll devote two hours to a task, but to enter it into my online calendar so I’ll get alerts when the allotted time is up and a new task is coming up. I try to add 30-45 minute breaks in between to allow for the inevitable fires that crop up and to check emails and leave time for breaks and meals.
- Pause Emails: I use Gmail Pro for my email and it has a feature that allows me to pause my inbox for an hour or two or three. There are many other tools that do this as well. Studies have shown that checking your email kills your productivity. Restricting access throughout the day allows you to remain more focused on the tasks at hand. That probably goes double for constantly checking your social media: Don’t!
- Get Enough Sleep: I try to get at least 7-8 hours a night. But my real secret weapon? Power naps. 15-30 minutes naps in the early afternoon leave me feeling refreshed and ready to go. Any more than 15-30 minutes and I feel sluggish and even more tired so I set an alarm.
- Take Time Off: Going hand in hand with meaningful delegation, I try to take off Fridays in the summer and go to the beach. Take weekly vacations where it’s OK to work a little each day. I can work just as effectively sitting on the deck at Fire Island as I can working in my home office so I try to do that as much as possible and plan to do even more in 2019.
Owning your own business can be lonely at the top. That’s why I joined a TAB Group (The Alternative Board) this year headed by my great coach and facilitator Gene Bohensky. Whether it’s TAB or some other type of Mastermind Group, these are different than networking groups. These are peer advisory groups designed to help you work with your own business issues like employees, funding, cash flow, organization, marketing, etc. The knowledge sharing and camaraderie are invaluable. On a more social and new business level I need to do more networking. While I belong to a Chamber of Commerce I probably should go to more events. And it’s not just meeting prospects that I find valuable but meeting freelance talent, partners and resources for strategic alliances that I find to be the most useful outcome for networking. And the social aspects can be fun, too. Goal in 2019: get out even more!
Be More Thankful
Owning my own business AND working from my home office is really my idea of the American Dream. I commuted into New York city for over 25 years by bus, train, car and even ferry. Talk about a grind! Adding 2-3 hours to an already exhausting day by battling bad weather, break downs, delays, crowding, etc. will grind you down to a nub. So I need to count my blessings more and keep sight of the fact, and APPRECIATE the fact, that I can have lunch on my patio in the backyard, snuggle my dog in between conference calls and work until 7pm and be eating dinner by 7:30. Sometimes I take it for granted but I’m really going to try to be more aware and thankful for having built more than a business. I built a lifestyle.