Basic Ground Rules for Growth

A professional business consultant shares her top four tips for success

As a professional, a wifeand a mother of four children, I know first-hand that most of us are constantly in motion. Recently, I was on my way to a client meeting, and the client called to inform me that his son was receiving an unexpected academic award from his high school. He knew our meeting was important, but he also wanted to see his son receive the award.

Did I have to change direction? Yes.

Did I have to rearrange my scheduled meeting with the client? Yes.

Was shifting gears the right thing to do for this situation? Absolutely.

As busy professionals, we all know that change is constant, but how we react to change is our real opportunity. For most of us, our goal is to strategically grow our businesses and enjoy our free time. I’d like to share my four basic ground rules for long-term growth in life and business:

1. Do Something for Yourself Each Day.

About 90 days ago, I decided to give myself 3 to 6 minutes for daily morning meditation. If you know me, you know that I am usually working on overdrive, so this represented a real shift in my routine. For those who don’t know me, let’s just say that I am a “professional perfectionist.” There should be a photo of me in the dictionary next to “type A personality.”

Much to my surprise, this morning routine has absolutely helped me improve my days and prepare for “whatever” happens. Of course, my deadlines still exist, and I feel stress like everyone else: Let’s face it, stress does not go away because you spend a few minutes meditating. What has really changed are my reactions to the world around me. If meditating is not for you, maybe take a walk, take a class, go fishing, or play tennis. Just make sure you carve out some time for yourself outside your business.

2. Know When to Say “No.”

When I share this suggestion, my clients say: “But I need the business. How can I say no?” My answer is simple: A no to others is a yes to your business. So many business owners think they have to sell to everyone. This is absolutely not true. Good strategy calls for businesses to focus on the most profitable clients that fit your business model. If your gut reaction is to say no to a project, then why do you sometimes end up saying yes? Often, we say yes as a favor to others, but is this really a favor to your business?

The best way to implement this suggestion is to create a “no” list. Start by writing a full description of projects or situations that do not fit your business model. What does this do? The “no” list will actually open up opportunities for your business so you can focus on what fits best in your portfolio.

Looking closely at your business’s strengths and your client portfolio is important, but it is equally important to understand your weaknesses. I recommend that you look closely at the profitability of your projects over time and fully understand what is working so you can say “no” with confidence. When all is said and done, a profitable business is composed of a group of people who combine their strengths and use smart strategies.

3. Pause and Prosper to Focus.

Stop checking your emails, texts and voicemails like you are an “on call” emergency room doctor. Yes, we all do this. We obsess over the latest email, text or deadline. I suggest that everyone take a step back every once in a while and live like you are in the 1980s — when you could not be contacted 24/7.

Many of you are probably wondering, “Can I do this?” Yes, you can! Is this difficult for most of us to do? Yes, it is.

The ideal way for my clients to focus on their business strategies is for the senior managers and business owners to pause, focus and reflect without the buzz of technology. I can assure you that the results are best when key decisionmakers take the time to pause and focus on business goals together. The distractions of daily business are often what lead most people to make quick decisions that end up wasting time, money and resources. Slowing down ultimately will help your business reach its long-term growth goals.

Let me share a quick example. I have a business services client who has successfully reached nearly $1 million in sales in a few years. Working with the partners of the firm, we took the time to clearly define the best strategy for growth and to decide which clients were not part of the firm’s future growth plans. Three years later, the partners reached nearly $3.5 million in revenue. This happened because the business paused and focused. You know your business, you just need to give yourself time to step away from it. Once your strategy is in place, you will be able to handle the business emergencies that occur.

4. Delegate and Enjoy the Process.

If you can hire someone to complete a task, hire them. Like most of you, I often want to just “do it myself,” because I sometimes feel it will take longer to explain the task than to complete it myself. Let me share a relevant example about our oldest daughter who is getting married this year. She and I are incredibly efficient, successful women. At first, we thought: “We don’t need a wedding coordinator because we understand the details of how to plan and execute an incredible celebration.” As native New Orleanians, our party-planning genes are strong, and my daughter’s professional job is to plan major events for a national nonprofit.

Even with our combined experience, however, I am thankful that we did end up hiring an event-planning firm. Delegating tasks to them has actually helped our family enjoy the planning of the wedding celebration.

The lesson here is just because you know how to do something does not mean you should always do it yourself.

When you think about your business, what tasks can you successfully delegate to your staff or other paid professionals? Remember that sometimes you should even delegate the items you already know how to do.

Final Thought

We all know that life is one big to-do list and the reality is we cannot get it all done, but we can do most of it when we stop and create a strategy for our personal lives and our businesses. I can confidently recommend that using my four basic ground rules will increase opportunities for growth in your life, with your family and friends, and with your business.

For more than 20 years, Aimee Freeman has helped businesses and nonprofit organizations grow to achieve their goals. Her company, Aimee Freeman Consulting, helps organizational leaders to combine strategic thinking with an always-evolving strategic plan. For more information, visit