My parents 45th wedding anniversary was coming up and my children and I were invited to travel to St. Maarten for the celebrations.
I was certainly looking forward to it. Even better, as I worked from home there was no need for me to worry about closing my business. All I needed was my laptop. However, it soon became clear that it didn’t matter that I had changed location, I was still a slave to my business. Taking a day off to go snorkeling or hanging out with friends was fraught with anxiety.
The reality was I did not have a business, I was the business.
If I didn’t turn on my computer and check emails and send out proposals and do client work, there was no money coming in. For a very long time, I believed this was how business was handled, at least for island folk. However, if you look up long enough you will see that there are small businesses where the owner can step away, take a holiday or tend to personal matters without having to put up a closed sign.
What separates someone from having a business to being the business are the systems they implement. If you were to step away could someone find a manual with clear instructions of how to continue serving a customer, how to make your product, how to write a proposal?
Fear is often one of the driving forces for why many Caribbean entrepreneurs do not have their systems written down. However, you become the greatest risk to your business if it cannot continue without your every input.
When You Are the Business
- You must be physically in the store to make sales
- You must personally create the product for sale
- You must make the sales calls
- You must handle all the marketing
- You handle all the invoicing and bill collection
- You alone pay bills and can access accounts
- People always want to speak to you
- People will only do business with you
- You don’t make any money when you have an emergency or need to take a break
When You Have a Business
- You have a documented system which others can access
- You have a team which can deliver without you in the building or keeping close watch
- Your processes are automated
- You have products which can be sold and delivered without you physically having to do the work
- You outsource services that are not the best use of your time
- Customers are happy to do business with your company even if you are not in office
- You can take a holiday or pursue other dreams and your salary continues to show up
How to Have a Business
While in some instances it may mean hiring additional help, consider using technology as the first team member you hire to create better systems which can free you from the proverbial workshop or laptop.
Your website needs to be your virtual office which provides resources for your customers to understand your services, how you can help them and give access to products which will solve their problem.
Software applications can manage your billing, payment collection and report tabulations. They are also helpful for creating marketing funnels which help customers discover you as well as sell them pre-packaged digital products. A booking system can help you manage your time more efficiently.
It is important to develop at least two digital solutions which can assist your customer. If you create tangible products such as agricultural goods, hair and beauty supplies, or clothing, use technology to automate the ordering, payment and delivery process.
Transitioning your business from being all about you to one which works for you will change your life and open new opportunities for increasing your revenue. You owe it to yourself to create a business that allows you to live the life you want.
Discover how young entrepreneur Kyle Matthews learns to do this in his Johnny Cake business in my book Start, Grow, Thrive: Build a Business to Last.
Nerissa Golden is the Founder of Truly Caribbean Academy and CEO of Goldenmedia. She is a storyteller and business strategist focused on helping Caribbean people tell their stories and build businesses with impact. She is the author of eight books, including Start, Grow, Thrive: Build a Business to Last. Follow her on LinkedIn. Follow Truly Caribbean Academy on LinkedIn.