A question we always ask our guest on the Paycheck to Passion podcast, is “if you were to travel back in time and tell your past self something that would help them, what would it be?” The answer 90% of the time is “chill out – it will all be OK” sometimes it is “don’t wait to get a coach”. My answer is a bit different. I would tell myself to start documenting my systems from day one and create a “field manual” for my business.
A field manual is basically an operations manual for your business. It is a document that lays out what you do in your business and how it is done. Theoretically, if something happened to you, they could pick up the manual and run the business. They wouldn’t be tweaking or improving, but they could get the basic day to day work done.
The primary reason to create a field manual is to save yourself time. Instead of trying to figure out how to do the same task again and again, you can simply pull out your checklist and get it done. A good field manual will also make it easier for you to delegate since you already have written out the steps that need to be taken. Your training time will be cut in half with a good set of directions. You will get better results because your team won’t have to read your mind. Finally, having your procedures laid out in a checklist gives you something to improve upon. If you do a task a different way each time, there is no way to tweak it to make it work better.
A field manual is simply a set of checklists for your business. Here are the steps for easily creating each process document:
Have your Team Help
If you have a team, they can help you create procedures for your business. The person writing the initial procedure should always be the person who does the task on a regular basis.
Keeping the procedures fresh
Creating a field manual is not a “one and done” task. For it to be useful, it needs to be updated as you try more experiments and find out what works on your business. Put a date on your calendar to review the procedures quarterly. Also, each team member should be responsible for suggesting improvements to all processes.
You’ve decided to become a solo biz hacker! Congratulations. The next step is deciding which overall goals to measure. The temptation is to start measuring everything all at once. The problem is that is it very easy to get overwhelmed with all the measuring and give up on your hacking all together.
The trick is to find the goals that matter and to keep breaking them down until you get to the experiments that are going to give you the most traction in your business.
We’ve found that there are three main levers for making change in your business:
Everything that you do in your business can fall under one of these three main levers.
Traffic is simply how many people are aware of your offer. For a brick and mortar store – traffic is simply how many people are walking past. For online businesses, traffic is how many people are seeing your website, your offers, your social media posts. Traffic is also where most people think they should start. The problem is that traffic by itself doesn’t really help your business. You need to make sales. If you have a terrible offer (conversion) or you aren’t making a big enough profit on each sale (money), traffic isn’t going to help you overly much. So, traffic is the last of the three levers to work with when you hack your business.
Conversion is what percentage of your traffic actually opts in for your offer or buys your product. This is an important number because even very small increases in conversion can make huge differences in your revenue. Going from a 2% to a 4% conversion rate is actually a big deal. It means that your sales have doubled! Conversion goals are good for beginning solo biz hackers because they are easy experiments to set up and test. Does headline A get more conversions than headline B. Does video work better for my audience or text? The key here is to always be testing – but also to only test one variable at a time. Too many tests and you won’t be able to tell which result is working.
Money is about how much money you are actually making per customer at the end of the day. A lot of solo entrepreneurs get very hung up on pricing. “Is my product worth XX?” The truth is that your product is worth whatever the customer will pay and it often takes some experimentation (both up and down) to get to the sweet spot of the maximum number of buyers paying the maximum price.
The biggest mistake i see solopreneurs make is pricing based on perceived value rather than charging based on what makes sense for the business. How much do you need to make to pay your bills? How much do you think you can sell each month. The intersection between these two items is the price you should be charging. Pricing is a great place to start your solo biz hacking because if you are not making money with one customer – you will likely continue to lose more money as you sell more products.
The easiest way to come up with experiments to try in your business is to take each of the big three and create an outline of your goals for each one. Keep getting narrower until you find a “task-sized” goal to measure.
GOAL: I want to increase my revenue by 10% next year
Experiment: Increase price on signature product by 10% for 90 days.
Hypothesis: price increase will not affect sales and revenue will increase
How many goals to start?
Resist the temptation to measure dozens of goals at once. Pick two or three small things that you think will make the biggest difference. Run the experiments, make the changes, and watch your business grow.
Are you ready to ESCAPE to a life where you are making money doing what you love? Here is your ESCAPE Plan…
As co-hosts for the Paycheck to Passion podcast, we have listened as dozens of entrepreneurs share their stories on how they make money through their passions. We noticed that many common themes running through all their success stories. Although their businesses were vastly different from each other’s, they all followed similar steps on the path to success.
We also noticed that creating your business at the 40,000 foot level, making day to day tweaks is easier because instead of being random they will be moving you in the direction of success.
E = Explore
The very first step in our process is exploration. You need to decide (in general) what you would like to do as a business. At this point, you can be as impractical as you like. Just think about, and write down, EVERYTHING you think you would like to do. From Aerobic Hula Hooping Coach to Zoo Animal Therapist – anything is fair game.
S = Serve
The next step in the ESCAPE plan is to pay attention to what customers are actually willing to pay for. (Note: You may need to re-think that Aerobic Hula Hooping Coaching idea).
Imagine a diagram with two circles that slightly overlap – on one side is your zone of brilliance – on the other side is what the market really wants. Where the two zones intersect is where you need to focus your service or product. So how do you find that?
You find it through market research and through finding a community to help you create your products. By seeking other people’s input early and often, not only will you create a better product, you will have a built-in group of raving fans to become your early adopters.
C = Create
When you have done that, the next part of the plan is the actual creation of your products. This is the first phase in the construction of your platform. This includes the writing of your manifesto – here are the things that we believe in, and here’s how we can help you. At first you might not even have a pay product. You might just have an opt-in to build your mailing list. You might have a free e-book or free video, or something that people can sign up to get – something that will help people get to know you better.
Whether you are offering a product or a service you need to create a signature system that is totally yours – a step by step process that people go through to get the offering you provide. For example, our signature system is the ESCAPE Plan. But even if you own a restaurant you still have your own way that you like to serve your customers – you have a vibe, or a particular atmosphere or ambiance that you want your restaurant to be known for. Finding out what all those elements are is all part of the creation phase.
The creation phase is also getting the infrastructure in place to start making money. This includes creating your website, hooking up to PayPal or a merchant account so you can take money, setting up your e-mail autoresponder, etc. It is the equivalent of opening up your brick and mortar store.
A = Amplify
The ‘Amplify’ phase starts just as soon as you start letting the world know about you and the services you offer. You can have the most beautiful website in the world, but unless people can find you, you won’t have any customers or make any money.
The Amplify chapter is all about building that megaphone (we call it a platform). The good news is that, if you follow the advice we give in the chapter, you can reduce the time you spend on marketing by reusing and recycling the content that you have already created.
P = Perfect
A lot of businesses achieve early success only to find that they can’t handle any more than three clients. You should think about perfecting your processes and systems from the very beginning as it will make it easier for you to move your business up to the next level later on.
In order to perfect your processes and systems you need to know what to measure in terms of the success of your marketing and amplification efforts, how to measure what kind of results you are getting for your clients, and how to tell whether or not your signature system is working. How much money are you making? Are you making money with this system? And if you scale it, will it make more money as a percentage or less? What are your margins? Although Solo Biz Hacking takes place during all phases of the ESCAPE plan – it is especially important during the perfect phase.
In order to create, monitor and improve your systems you need to use project management tools. You need to have processes in place so that when you add people to your team they don’t have to read your mind to know what to do, it’s all laid out for them.
The other part is in getting feedback and referrals from your customers. From the very beginning you need to build into your system a method of customer evaluation of your offerings, and a way to obtain referrals. Every time your client takes a class you need to send out an evaluation questionnaire – How was it? What can we change? What was its worth? What would you have liked us to cover that we didn’t cover? And – Do you have you any friends who you think might benefit from this?
Testimonials are especially important in online marketing because they act as social proof. People are much more likely to hire someone that somebody recommended to them by someone they know.
E = Expand
The final phase of our ESCAPE Plan is expansion. Expansion is all about exponentially increasing your business through the adding of more team members, the adding of more products, the refining of systems, the creation of partnerships and joint ventures, and so on. If you don’t have the system ready to handle that increase in volume then it cannot take place. You need to think about where you want to take your business right from the very beginning.
Want more? Buy our book The ESCAPE Plan: 6 Steps to Leaving the Job You Hate by Creating a Business You Love
Want to achieve growth like a big start up – even if you are a solopreneur?
While we can’t promise you billions, we can promise growth in your business if you take a page from the “unicorns” (super successful tech start ups) and hack your business.
Goal setting is the first step to almost anything worthwhile in life. And, it is the foundational step to the biz hacking process. You need to know where you are going in order to get there. The key to setting a good goal is that it needs to be measurable and actionable. Just saying – “I want to be more successful” is a terrible goal statement. Even – “I want to grow my e-mail list” lacks specificity. You want to set a goal with a quantity and a deadline attached.
You also want to make sure that your goal is narrow enough to complete. “Grow e-mail list” is something that will never be completed. “Grow e-mail list by 2% might be completed – but it isn’t in your control. How are you going to grow your e-mail list?
Here’s an appropriately bite-sized goal: look at the co-schedule report to see what the most popular content on my blog was for the previous week and promote that content to social media.
To know whether or not your new strategy will be successful, you need to create an experiment. In order to do that, you need to have a baseline to measure improvement from. This is why it is important to know what your numbers are before you start to make any changes. Once you know your baseline, make a guess about how much of an effect your change will have.
For the example I gave about promoting blog content, my experiment statement would be:
For 4 weeks, I am going to promote my 3 most popular blog posts from the past month on Facebook, Twitter and Linked In. I am going to promote the post daily on Twitter and twice on the other social media channels. I think that this change will result in a 10% increase in traffic to my website.
To know whether or not the experiment worked, you would need to look at the traffic data for the website. For an experiment like this, I would track weekly and end the experiment in a month.
Once you have run the experiment, examine the results. Were they what you thought they would be? What will your next tweak be?
Most businesses are 6 or 7 tweaks away from being profitable. Keep tweaking and you’ll keep growing.
Do your eyes start to glaze over when somebody starts to talk to you about having an organizational chart for your business? Or, do you just sort say to yourself – “that would be nice… but since right now, my name would be in every single square, what would be the point?” Before you stop reading, I want you to pay attention.
Creating your organizational chart helps you to visualize the different parts of your business and start to create accountability systems for each of those areas. Here’s why that is helpful:
Here’s how to get started creating your organizational chart:
As you create new systems for your business, you can put them under the appropriate sub category in your new organizational chart. That way, when you hire someone you’ll have a training plan ready to go.
Even if you never plan to hire anyone, you can use the org chart as a punch list for a quarterly review. Go through each of the different functions on the chart and ask yourself what is working? What could use improvement. By using your org chart as a review guide, you’ll be sure to review the whole business and not miss out on tweaks that could make you additional profit.
One of the first pieces of advice you’ll hear as an entrepreneur is “you need a team”. While I am a big advocate of operating in your zone of brilliance right from the start, battling your overwhelm with more team members is not always the answer. Adding people to your team costs money (and time). You want to make sure that you are getting the most from your investment.
Staffing is one of the biggest expenses of a solo business. If you can get this right, you can get more done, decrease your overwhelm and increase your profits.
Is solo biz hacking only for geeks? No, in fact, making business decisions based on data and experimentation is actually just plain good management. At it’s core, solo biz hacking is systematically looking at each part of your business and planning, small incremental improvements based on results.
At first, that might seem like a lot of work. And, it may seem pretty far removed from your mission, but the time invested up front will be returned multiple times with better systems and increased profits for your business.
Here are three reasons why you should start solo-hacking your business:
Imagine what your business will be like when you make systematic changes to your business based on results not just intuition (which, by the way, it almost always wrong). You’ll grow and make more money. What are you waiting for? Get started today.
Every day there seems to be a new story of a startup gone big. A bright young coder has an idea, goes to an “incubator”, becomes a “unicorn”, and has a company worth $1 billion. That story has become the modern American Dream.
Of course, even in the startup world where there are plenty of investors and resources for emerging tech companies, your chances of becoming a unicorn are about 1.28%
Still, if you look at what the unicorns have in common, you’ll see that they are very focused on data and growth. This is called growth hacking. Even aspiring unicorn tech companies use the growth hacking framework to make data driven decisions to help them make more profit quickly.
A hacker is someone who is more concerned with achieving an objective than following a prescribed process. In other words, hackers care more about what needs to get done than how it should get done. As a result, hackers often come up with innovative ways to get things done.
Solo Biz Hacking goes beyond just doing things “differently”, it focuses you on measuring the success of your experiments and doing what works. As a slow biz hacker you’ll know what’s working in your business and what isn’t. Because you’ll be tweaking based on data, your business will be growing.
Instead of spending hours each day wondering what to do next and wallowing in the what-if’s and overwhelmed with choices, you’ll be clear. And, clarity is the enemy of overwhelm. You don’t need to be a tech start up to make this happen. You just need to have a commitment to the three tenets of Solo Biz Hacking
The three steps to the solo business hacking process are:
Do – simply get out there and try something. Don’t wait for it to be perfect. Ship.
Measure – figure out what success would be for you. Is it number of sales? An increased open rate?
Learn – take the lessons you’ve learned, tweak your process and start over.
Most solo business owners do not do these three things on a regular basis. if you incorporate them into your business, you’ll start to see growth – because you’ll be planning for it.