According to Clate Mask and Scott Martineau in their recently-published book, Conquer the Chaos: How to grow a successful small business without going crazy, chaos is an inherent part of small business life. The question, they suggest, is how you will deal with it – accept it, fight it, or conquer it.
Conquering it sounds best of course. The book offers six ways a small business can be less chaotic and more effective, profitable, and enjoyable. The first three are mental and emotional, the last three are physical and pragmatic, and combined, they offer a smart plan of action:
1. Build your emotional capital: In the beginning of your entrepreneurial venture, it is easy to have passion and excitement for your business, after all it is a new (ad)venture. But the trick is to keep that passion alive down the road when bills and employees and products and vendors take turns giving you problems.
That is where emotional capital comes in.
“Emotional capital is the currency you use to wake up and fight the battle every day,” say the authors. It is that positive outlook, the balancing of work and home life, and the caring for oneself physically and emotionally. Building your emotional capital gives you the strength to handle and conquer the chaos.
2. Practice disciplined optimism: To make your business run efficiently and with a minimum of frenzy, you must be willing to take a good, long look at the reality of your business, confront and deal with any lingering issues that give you problems, and then remain strong in your belief that you can foster and achieve the success you have long envisioned.
3. Assert your independence: The authors suggest that one reason too many small businesses are overwhelmed is that they lack direction. As a result, the owners seek out too many opinions, and in turn that leads to disorganization and a lack of purpose and focus. What Mask and Martineau propose instead is that small business owners have the courage of their convictions and navigate their business course accordingly.
Trust your feelings, Luke!
4. Organize your stuff: To run an organized business means that you must organize your business. You cannot very well have some of your files at home, others in the car, others at the office, and others in your computer and expect to not have a chaotic business life. If you centralize and organize your business, you begin to tame the chaos monster.
5. Follow up, follow up, follow up: The authors say that the epiphany in their own business, the moment they moved from chaos into a multi-million dollar business (they are the co-founders of Infusionsoft) was when they realized the power of follow-up. Failing to follow up means lost opportunities, never-ending to-do lists, frustration, and yes, continued chaos.
6. Burn the to-do list: To-do lists are lists of things that never got done. Instead, the authors suggest that small businesses automate whatever possible. This saves times and creates order.