My wife, Linda, and I just returned from a five-day trip to Colorado. We were there attending the graduation of my son Jonathan (third in a series; collect them all) from the University of Denver.
We had a great time, and did any number of fun things, including visiting the Pearl Street Farmer’s Market, hiking at nearby Evergreen, and eating at what has become my favorite outdoor restaurant.
As usual, on our visits to Denver, one thing in particular stood out for me: the intensity of the sun.
It was certainly hot while we were there – one day it reached 99 degrees (that’s 1,200 hectares, for those of you on the metric system) – but that’s not what I’m talking about.
The thing I always find striking is the tremendous difference between standing in the sun and standing in the shade. In Denver, a mile above sea level, I spend most of my outdoor time avoiding the former and seeking the latter.
Not that it really makes sense to me. Given that the sun is 93 million miles away, you’d think that being just one mile closer wouldn’t matter (yes, as a matter of fact, I do have a liberal arts degree). But, atmospherically-speaking, small things can make a big difference.
The same goes for your business. We tend to focus on the big pieces (understandably). But some of the less obvious things can have just as large an impact.
Here are three subtle, often overlooked things I recommend in the interest of improving your business…
#1. Fix the small annoyances.
Your office chair is broken, your computer files are disorganized, your printer is in the other room and it only works on Tuesdays. Whatever.
None of these things are terribly inconvenient – that’s why we never bother to fix them. But they slow us down and distract us from whatever it is we are trying to accomplish.
In my case, for example, when I began recording short LinkedIn videos recently, I was propping up my phone on a shelf and I had to crouch to get my head in the picture. It sort of worked, but when I finally bought a $25 thing to hold my phone, the entire process became easier and more enjoyable.
These aren’t deal-breakers, but they are energy-sappers all the same.
#2. Figure out and sell what you are really, really good at.
I don’t mean what you are capable of doing – I mean what you are better at doing than anyone you can think of.
It’s not easy to pinpoint this, since the things we are naturally good at tend to come fairly easily to us.
For starters, try thinking about the kinds of challenges/situations that friends and relatives already turn to you for. Are you exceptionally good at mediating disputes, connecting with children, troubleshooting gadgets, explaining technology?
None of these are business ideas in and of themselves. But if you figure out what your special gift is – and can build a business around it – that’s gold.
It separates you from the pack of people who occupy the same profession, and it leads to work that you enjoy and excel at.
#3. Stop working with people you don’t like.
I don’t have a single client that I don’t like and trust.
Which means that I don’t dread phone calls, I never worry about getting paid, and I spend zero time stressing about what they might be thinking, doing, or plotting. I just enjoy hanging around with them and along the way we do some work.
But I understand, this one can seem hard to accomplish, especially if you feel like you don’t have enough work to begin with.
The thing is, when you remove the people who cause you angst, everything changes. You do better work with less effort, and more of it comes your way.
And, it’s worth noting, it’s very much connected to #2 above.
When you are doing what you are really good at, you are much harder to replace. Clients and prospects come to see you as a one-off with no comparable alternatives, giving you more choice about who you work with.
Here’s the bottom line.
If you want to want to work with people you don’t like, doing things you’re not uniquely good at, in an environment filled with daily annoyances … get a job. They toss all that in at no extra charge.
When you work for yourself, you get to choose everything.
And these small, subtle things – things that may seem secondary to “the work” – have huge implications for how successful and happy you will be.
Of course, I may have just been standing in the sun too long.
- What’s your favorite outdoor restaurant?
- Does your printer work on Tuesdays?
- Have you fixed a small annoyance in your business? Give examples.
Share your answers below…
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1. The country club in the next town over with its patio deck. Love having dinner + a cocktail there on a summer evening.
2. My wifi printer works 24/7.
3. A few years ago, my super smart designer colleague, Rachel, redesigned my quote / contract. Now people can open it in Adobe and — wait for it! — sign it electronically. So no more printing, signing, scanning on their part. All they do is email it back.
Your #3 is a great example of a small thing that took a few minutes to set up but that has saved you and your clients time ever since!
1. Nearly any café in Paris. Enjoy Buttercup in Natick when I can score an outside table, or inside when I can’t.
2. My printer works 24/7, but printing well is another matter. One of the little fixes I perform regularly is cleaning the printer heads. The printer is great when they are clean. When they aren’t, my printouts have little waves sometimes or are unrecognizable others.
3. While it was on my list, at the urging of your newsletter, I toggled off the Malware app “notify me when a new version is available” button, so I don’t have to close that reminder every morning.
I heard it was 100 degrees in Paris yesterday, so eating outside might have been tough! 37.8 celsius at least sounds cooler.
1. Don’t have a favorite outdoor place to eat (and crrtently it is too hot to do so).
2. My printer always works.
3. Earlier this year I got a gig writing for a well known magazine. From the beginning, I was a bit leery, as their compensation was much lower than I normally get and they expected me to perform tasks as part of the work my other clients normally perform for me. After writing five articles , I stopped. What they expected took far more time than it was worth. Not to mention them changing my style so I couldn’t recognize the writing as mine. People were impressed when I said I wrote for them. I have been so much happier not doing it.
Great story, Jean. Nothing like losing the difficult clients!
1. RiverCity Cafe on the beach in Surfside, SC
2. My printer is the hardest worker in my house and if it stopped working it would be out on it’s butt as fast as you can say “You’re Fired”
3. Small annoyance is that while I write everything down in notebooks, (old-school for an old lady, I know), I can never find my entire train of thought on a particular subject. Too many notebooks. I streamlined by now taking down everything in Google Keep. I still have lots of tabs, but at least I can find the list of what I thought about doing yesterday while my printer was running, but hadn’t yet found the notebook containing how to change the toner in the printer.
Kristin, Whenever I can’t remember how to use a techno device (like my fax machine), I do a Google search on how to. Typically instructions appear in a YouTube video. Much faster than finding and interpreting the manual.
Your restaurant and location sound perfect!
1. Sips Bistro (now closed). Thankfully the same owners opened a new restaurant and kept the famous short rib grilled cheese
2. My printer works every day, but most days it only prints half the lines.
3. I don’t have a business (yet – I’m working through some AWAI programs and came across your 3 Minute Marketing program and It Sure Beats Working book and your actionable tips mixed with humor made my day.) Something that’s been annoying me is the copious papers from past years building up in my upstairs home office, so I cleared a big pile for recycling this afternoon!
Short ribbed grill cheese sounds deliciously unhealthy and I want one.
Great timeless post! Thanks for sharing.