When you have a small business, it’s easy to get stuck in the chronic issues you face, to feel alone in your frustration and unable to see the problems in a different way—and often for what they really are. The truth is, finding solutions and innovating often takes escaping your own limited point of view. You need to find ways to look at your business with a new perspective, whether it comes from a third party like a friend or coach or from challenging yourself to see things from a whole new viewpoint.
How do I change my mindset as an entrepreneur?
We asked our coaches their #1 tip for finding new ways to look at your business and your role in it. Here’s what they shared.
1. Take an honest look at your day-to-day work
It’s impossible to really understand where you spend your time and what percentage of time you’re giving to certain areas of the business until you document it. That’s how doing a minute-to-minute time log of your day can change everything about how you see your work. This solution may sound simple, but it’s truly eye-opening.
Log your work for a week and note every action, even small breaks and interruptions. You’ll see where you’re spending your time—and what it’s costing the business for you to be the one executing those tasks. Your time log will show you which technical tasks you’re holding onto that you could delegate to team members, and you’ll see how you can improve your own time management practices and productivity.
And here’s the greatest benefit: When you get a handle on where your time is spent and how to better prioritize, systematize and delegate, you free up time for the strategic work that will help you grow and improve your business.
2. Envision your dream business
Picture your business in five years—but not as it is now. Instead, imagine your business existing exactly how it would if everything were to go exactly as you’d dreamed. What do you see?
If you can begin to dream of how it could be, you can determine what needs to happen based on today’s reality to make that vision come true. What frustrations are you dealing with now that would be resolved in your dream business? Make a list. Include why these things frustrate you, and think about the impact they have on your company and what they’re costing you.
Seeing the true cost and impact of the problems you’re facing will help guide you toward different actions that will get you closer to owning the business you want.
3. Interview yourself
Imagine you’re looking to hire someone to replace you as the leader in the business, but the candidate is a mirror image of yourself. What questions would you ask, and how would you respond to those questions in the most honest way possible?
The interview might look something like this:
Q: How do you approach financial decisions?
A: I make all financial decisions without really knowing the financial state of the business because I’m too caught up in the day-to-day work.
Q: How do you delegate tasks?
A: I don’t trust my employees to complete work to my standards, so I don’t bother delegating. I just do all the work myself.
You wouldn’t hire someone like this to lead your company. So think about what you would want to hear from a candidate, and ask yourself how you can shift your mindset to become the type of leader you’d make an offer to on the spot.
4. Get out of your bubble
When you’ve spent years working in one business or one industry, it’s easy to get stuck. So try spending some time outside of your own world. Visit a couple of local businesses in different industries and stay awhile just to watch how things are done. If you’re really feeling adventurous, find businesses in different towns or states that you can tour or observe. You can even shadow a business owner in another state where you’re not competitors.
This requires a time commitment—and one of the last things you have is time, we know—but it can be one of the most effective ways to get yourself unstuck. Without the stress and emotional attachment you feel when working at your own company, you’ll be able to observe another business from a purely entrepreneurial perspective.
After your visit, record your observations somewhere safe, asking yourself:
1. If the business doesn't seem to be dependent upon the owner, what gives me that impression? What do I think the business owner has done to achieve this?
2. If the business does seem to be dependent upon the owner or isn't functioning at a high level, what gives me that impression? What do I think the owner could do differently?
5. Go undercover
You’ve probably heard of mystery shoppers—people who visit businesses and shop or dine just like normal customers but secretly report back about their experiences. If your company is large enough that staff wouldn’t recognize you, try playing mystery shopper at your own business.
While the experience is still fresh in your mind, write up a report just as if you’d been hired as a mystery shopper. Here are some questions you might include:
- What did I experience?
- Was the experience what I expected?
- Would I return to the business?
- Would I recommend the business to a friend?
- How would I describe the experience to a friend?
- What did I love?
- What do I wish had been different?
- How would I change the experience?
If that’s not an option, or if you’re just looking for as much insight as possible, pose as a competitor’s customer, calling or visiting the business to get a feel for how you’re treated.
6. Take a walk in your customers' or employees' shoes
Make a list of your frustrations in your business, then separate them into two categories: customer-facing and internal. If a frustration is customer-facing, step into their shoes and ask yourself:
- What do I experience during a phone call?
- What do I see when visiting the company website?
- What does the messaging do for me?
- What do I see, smell and feel in the place of business?
- How do I feel in my relationship to the business?
- How many of my questions are going unanswered?
If a frustration is internal, step into the shoes of your employees and ask:
- Do I understand what's expected of me?
- Do I know how to get help or who to talk to if I feel unsafe or need support?
- Do I trust the leadership?
- What frustrates me in my daily work?
- When I talk to clients, am I proud of the work I'm doing? Why or why not?
- Do I feel like my leaders are aligned and talking to each other?
- Do I have what I need to do my job?
7. Find your why
Why do you do what you do? It seems like such a simple question, but answering it may be harder than you think.
It’s easy to get caught up in the business of doing business and lose track of the reason you started the business in the first place. And if you lose your why, you’ll struggle to steer the company in the direction you want—and your sense of happiness, fulfillment and purpose will almost definitely suffer.
So take some time to figure out why you chose to do this out of all the countless other avenues you could have gone down. If the business you have today doesn’t align with the reason that you started it, consider where you got off track and what you can do to get back to your true purpose.
8. Prepare for a handover
Imagine you have two weeks to prepare for a six-month absence. How would you get the business ready to hand over to your temporary replacement? Think through every step you’d need to take to ensure the business wouldn’t just run—it would run even better than when you started it.
You might start by asking:
- Who would I need to coordinate with to ensure my customers get the experience I want them to have?
- Who would I need to talk to make sure my employees get the working experience I want them to have?
- How would I make sure the financial health of the business flourishes?
- Who else would I involve in the process of getting these systems in place before my departure?
- What information would I want to receive in a report that keeps me updated on how the business is doing?
- How could I make the best use of the two weeks leading up to my absence? What would be most important to me and why?
9. Play detective
If you want to see different results in your business, you need to take an honest look at what is and isn’t working in your business today. So create two high-level lists: one for what’s working and one for what’s not. Now take a look at each thing that’s not working and decide if it’s something:
- you're willing to learn but simply haven't have the time;
- you're unwilling or unable to learn; or
- you simply haven't taken the time to understand.
The key here is to isolate the areas that aren’t working and understand where and how those things have broken down. If you don’t know where the breakdown is, schedule a time to shadow someone doing the job and get into detective mode.
Write down what would be different in the business if this one thing were solved. Switch into action mode, either by developing a system solution yourself or identifying a person to delegate to.
Perspective shifts come from seeing something from a different vantage point or with greater clarity. What starts as vague frustration over unsatisfactory business results can shift to a clear understanding of the breakdown when you get honest with yourself and focus on getting to the bottom of things.
If you're not getting the results you want, a change in perspective may be all it takes to takes to help you find creative solutions. And if you need more support, reach out to us for help.