In her first column of 2013, Elite Business’s diarist tells us how a self-help book helped her focus on plans for the year ahead
I picked up a book called The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin in the airport a couple of weeks ago. I thought it would be a light-hearted work of non-fiction but it’s actually a self-help book of the sort I’m secretly quite partial to. Normally, I’d have bought it as an ebook to hide it from my husband, who’s disapproved of these books since he discovered The Little Book of Power and How to Make Anyone Fall In Love with You on my shelves.
This book started out as a guilty pleasure but gradually I’ve realised that it’s quite a useful tool for both my home and business life. It explores a year in the life of the author who road tests different research and philosophies on how to be happier. So far, it has reminded me that it’s probably not a good idea to bark at my children to get ready for school in the morning and has helped me to focus more on my goals at work. One idea that’s proved particularly useful is to mentally ‘put myself in jail’ to force me to tackle a task until it’s done.
It’s also inspired me to think about some of my own business resolutions for 2013, which I would like to share with you.
When I worked on the research desk for TV programme Tomorrow’s World, a certain proportion of my time was spent dealing with would-be inventors claiming they’d first come up with an idea we had featured. I quickly learned that it’s not having an idea that’s key, it’s how you execute that idea and follow it through. I think I’m often guilty of not following through on my plans for the business, be it scheduling a new workshop or developing a retail line. This year will be devoted less to talking and more to doing – this column notwithstanding, of course.
I have a tendency to worry about the minutiae of all my business decisions, even down to answering the most simple email enquiry. Like a really vivid dream, sometimes I answer enquiries in my head in so much detail that I forget I’ve not done so in reality.
I have a tendency to look for the potential negatives to every situation, which, while beneficial in many ways, can prove unnecessarily stressful and time consuming.
When I look at my confident, opinionated seven-year-old, it’s hard to imagine that just a few years ago he was crawling around on the carpet. These are fun and exciting times and I need to remember that more.
This year I plan to lighten up a little, which should also help me with resolution number one.
Set up better systems
I get a real buzz from being creative, which is why I set up Homemade London in the first place. Yet I’m not so good at admin or methodical pursuits. Luckily, I have an excellent memory so I’m usually on top of everything, but I’m all too aware that this is not an ideal way to exist. Recently I spent several hours of a precious day off tracking down a cheque book stub for my book-keeper. Along with the other exasperated but more organised members of my team, she’s helping me implement more efficient systems, which will hopefully save time and money, not to mention stress, in the long-run.
Be a better boss
As the business grows, it’s less about you and more about the people you surround yourself with. I’m sometimes so preoccupied with my own to-do list, I forget to spend time with the rest of the team, ensuring that they’re properly briefed and are happy in their jobs.
Generosity is a great strategy. In my local neighbourhood, it’s been shown that the small businesses that tend to be the most popular with other local traders also tend to be the most successful ones. They will happily refer custom, buy each other’s goods and services and generally help each other out, by letting other businesses use their spare storage or lending equipment to one another. I think it’s an attitude that reflects a confident business and spreads positive word of mouth.
Yesterday, I received a really nice thank-you email from another events company I’d recommended to one of our regular corporate clients. There wasn’t anything in it for us directly, but I managed to help out a client and a possible supplier in one go at little cost on my part. Relationships are so important when you’re a small business and ‘paying it forward’ is one of the best ways to build them.
So those are my resolutions. I’d love to hear yours. Tell me about them on Twitter @homemadelondon and I promise to be generous with my retweets. Wishing you all the very best of luck for 2013.