Foundational Thinking for Better Results
When starting a new business or even trying to grow an existing one, one of the most important aspects to be mindful of is the mental models we have that guide our actions. Having the right mental models helps us:
One of the biggest challenges we face in our society is our programming from a young age to be told what to do, rather than decide for ourselves what we should do based on our own values and goals. Because of this training, when we strike out to create income 100% on our own it often feels as though there’s a million things to do but no clear priorities. Owning a business means there’s an endless stream of work to be done. Whenever someone asks me if I’m done working towards the end of the day, I almost laugh. “Done? There’s no such thing when you own a business…”
Of course, we can’t all work 24/7/365 on our businesses. So, we need some ways to structure our thinking so we can have better work/life balance - which also means NOT thinking about our businesses constantly during the things we do in our personal lives. Unfortunately, I’ve learned this the hard way in both my relationships and health.
On to the mental models I use today...
Model 1 - Awareness of Action Mindset
It’s easy to get lost in task work, especially tasks that give us the perception we are “getting things done”. We see all the tangible results of our work, and we think “yes, I’m working SO hard, so I’m surely going to be successful!”
But have you ever come to the end of the day and thought, “well, I got a bunch done, but I didn’t do any work on that new project to bring in more clients.” We all have. And the reason for this is our Awareness of Action.
Quite simply, the Awareness of Action mindset is just that...being aware of what actions we are engaging in during said actions. It’s the ability to avoid “going down the rabbit hole” on tasks that don’t really get us closer to goals.
Tools I use to create a stronger Awareness of Action:
Model 2 - Leveraging Time Mindset
As I stated earlier, it’s often difficult for us entrepreneurs to decide what task of the 1,000,000 to do first or place more emphasis on daily. Approaching our task prioritization with a Leveraging Time Mindset helps us with this by identifying what tasks will give us the greatest impact for our time spent. It also helps us identify which tasks are low-value and have a low ratio of impact to time spent (tasks we should delegate or automate if possible). We also need to consider the impact of the task work long term. Is doing this task going to lead to long term positive results? Or will it not really mean much next month/year/years from now?
An example of tasks I often have to do:
So how would I rank them for Leverage of Time?
Reasons for this ranking:
Tim Ferriss calls this sort of prioritization the “Lead Domino Effect”. What item when accomplished will make all my other work more effective? Do that first.
Model 3 - Redundancy Elimination Mindset
Leading from the Leveraging Time Mindset is the Redundancy Elimination Mindset. The goal with this is to reduce the number of repetitive, low-value tasks we spend time on. It can also mean reducing the time spent on the minutiae involved with high-value tasks. Some may call this streamlining their workflow.
For example, whenever I create a new blog post, I have a specific set of actions I follow once it’s written and posted. Part of this is promotional posts on social media to drive traffic to the blog post and my website. Instead of writing a post to each individual social media profile every day for a week, I simply schedule the posts with Hootsuite for a whole week at a time. This process only takes me 15-30 minutes when done in bulk. It’s much easier to do this right after writing the blog post, because my mind is fresh about those concepts and why I’m talking about them to my target audience.
By doing this work in bulk at a specific time, I cut out all the time it takes to think about needing to do that task, opening my browser, logging in to different social profiles, remembering what I’m even trying to say, searching through what pictures to use, finding the link to the blog post, etc. It would be incredibly wasteful of my time if I had to go through all of that every day, which would lead to me doing less of it or not doing it as consistently as I need to.
Reducing repetitive tasks will free up your time for more fruitful tasks that have higher leverage for time spent. Take great care to be aware of tasks you are doing repetitively, and consider any tools that might help you do this work in bulk, eliminate it, or delegate it.
Model 4 - Future is Coming Mindset
Without getting too much into my theories about the future of work and society, I still think it’s worth briefly mentioning here because it’s another consideration that drives how I prioritize the work I do. It also highlights the importance of embracing digital marketing immediately and making it a priority now.
Have you ever noticed how much better a franchise-based business runs compared to a business someone made from scratch? The reason for this is good systems combined with consistent branding and marketing. Just how much of a difference between franchises and independent startups? According to studies by the International Franchise Association and the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics, after 5 years, 95% of franchise businesses were still in operation compared to only 50% for independent startups.
Now consider the trend in the US labor market. How many people are staying in the same job until retirement? How easy is it to start a small business today? The fact is, our economy is shifting to one of self-employment. This means small business owners will only face more competition as the years go by as more people become entrepreneurs after job displacement or even straight out of college.
My point about franchise-based businesses and the state of the US labor market is this: if you want to own a small business, you MUST have solid systems, consistent marketing and branding, and always assume there’s a competitor working on building a business that will crush yours. As time passes, this only becomes more likely.
So, pay attention to what larger companies in your industry and market are doing. Are they doing digital marketing? What does it look like? How does your digital marketing stack up?
Our goal now is to assume we have competitors that are better-funded, smarter, and better organized...and that there will only be more of them in the future. This means it’s time to take digital marketing VERY seriously, because the pace of change is only increasing and digital marketing is one of the few ways we can compete against stronger competitors because of the relative low cost.
Model 5 - Solutions First Mindset
One of the biggest pitfalls we encounter as entrepreneurs is the combination of allowing ourselves to get too attached to the products and services we create, and the pressure to generate income. We think, “Man, I really need to sell this widget I created so I can pay my bills, what can I do to make that happen ASAP?!”
But this is all wrong. Trying to push products and services we think are great on potential customers is a recipe for burning tons of cash and being endlessly frustrated.
Instead think about solutions for your target clients. Think about what THEIR struggles are, and how you can make their life better. Maybe your current products and services do that, but you have a hard time selling them. It’s likely because you’re focusing too much on FEATURES instead of BENEFITS. Sell benefits, NOT features. The benefits (solutions) for your clients is really what they care about.
If I say “The Websites I design are fast and easy to use!”, few potential clients will care. But, if I instead say “A fast, easy to use website will greatly improve the response rate of potential clients who visit it”, it’s much more likely my potential clients will think I have a SOLUTION to their PROBLEM of needing more clients.
So, focus on creating VALUE with SOLUTIONS for your potential clients, and then talking about those things. If a current product offering doesn’t offer outstanding value and clear solutions to clear problems your clients are aware of, you should consider modifying your product or scrapping it for a new one that better delivers for your clients.
Instead of getting attached to products/services you think your clients should buy from you, you need to get attached to a desire to create value for clients. Otherwise, you’ll potentially be spending lots of marketing effort for little result. Marketing is only as good as the value you create for the customer.
Model 6 - Make it Easy Mindset
Now that we’ve covered the importance of the Future is Coming and Solutions First Mindsets, it’s time to think about how we can give ourselves the best chance against growing competition by delivering outstanding experiences for the clients we convince of our value.
Simply providing valuable solutions isn’t enough in today’s society of increasingly lower attention spans. We have to make it EASY for potential clients to do business with us. The more resistance along the path to a sale, the less likely it is that someone will become a paying customer. So, the closer we can get to a customer receiving immediate solutions to their problems, the better.
If you want someone to sign up for your email list, don’t make them provide their full name, address, phone number, check boxes about their interests, and fill out comments. Instead, only ask for their first name and email address. Today, people are so burnt out on typing in tiny boxes on their phones that the last thing they want to do is go through all of that extra work just to get a newsletter they maybe will like.
If you want someone to provide their email address, you MUST give them something in return, and give it to them with as close to zero work on their end as possible. So, create a Free Downloadable lead magnet like a eBook, Whitepaper, Checklist, etc., and then have it sent to them immediately after they hit SEND on the email list submission form. Don’t give them a link to another page where they have to log in to download the lead magnet. That’s too much work, as crazy as that sounds.
The fact is, your competitors are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of making things easy for the potential clients you’re both trying to sell. By always seeking to make the process easier for your clients, you can stay one step ahead.
Model 7 - Test & Iterate Mindset
If you’re going to give in to complacency, you might as well not even be in business. Complacency is the kiss of death for a business because it creates a huge target for competitors to focus on. And as I mentioned already, competition for us entrepreneurs is only going to get more fierce with each passing day.
So how do we avoid complacency and resting on our laurels when we have something that’s working “good enough” to pay the bills? By testing everything we can measure, and changing what’s producing mediocre results.
The beauty about digital marketing is that nearly every aspect of it is measurable. We can test whether or not a blue Submit button works better than an orange one. We can test whether one email subject line has a higher open rate than another. The possibilities are nearly limitless in this regard.
And now, the tools to do this measuring are becoming ever-cheaper (if not free) and easier to use. For example, Google Optimize, a tool for A/B testing on your website, was just made free earlier this year, and it is pretty darn easy to implement. You can test all kinds of elements on your site without changing the site itself other than placing a little code snippet in your header or footer in the backend.
With the ease of testing today, there’s really zero excuse to not be doing it constantly. The challenge is really in organizing, creating a testing schedule, and committing to it. Fortunately, we will be covering some of the ways to do just that in the next module on the Google Suite.
Conclusion - Being a Business Owner, not a Job Owner
As entrepreneurs, we have a crucial decision to make that will determine the potential for our business and our personal lives. Are we a Business Owner, or are we a Job Owner?
Differences between a Business Owner and Self-Employed Job Owner
Job Owner (self-employed)
Which one are you now? Which do you want to be? If you start to work on the mental models you operate from on a daily basis, you'll find it becomes easier to be a business owner and get out of the trap of job ownership.
Author - Justin Smith
I owned a small service business from 2006-2016, and you could say I'm totally obsessed with automation and business systems. I believe the need to be physically present is the single biggest challenge small business owners like myself face.