You have been over your checklists multiple times, and everything seems to be in place. It is time to take the big step and open your doors for business. This is when you discover whether you are a real entrepreneur. What do you now do with your time? The choices you make today will set the tone for your business from now on out.
Most folks on that first day find themselves at loose ends. If you are working from home, you may take time to read the newspaper over a second cup of coffee -- or maybe just sleep in. If you have an office to go to or a retail establishment to open, you may arrive there, put out the open sign and start waiting for something to happen. While it is okay to give yourself some down time and establish a more relaxed pace of working, it is important to start working, however trivial the project may seem to be. All you procrastinators know that the first step is the hardest. Take it now.
The two biggest obstacles to getting going and keeping going are motivation and organization. Many people have no problem responding when there is a clear task in front of them. When you are starting a business, however, you do not have someone telling you what to do. You are the one making the lists and making certain things are accomplished. And this does not just mean filling customer orders, but taking care of everything -- keeping the office clean, ordering necessary supplies, paying taxes, all the endless nitty-gritty.
Self-motivation is not something we are born with. As babies, we thought in terms of immediate gratification: I want to eat now, and I am going to cry until I get food. As business owners, we have to learn to think in terms of longer-term rewards. If you are going to stay in business, sometimes you have to tolerate doing things that aren't fun. The trick to pulling this off is to give yourself little rewards along the way. I used to hate handling correspondence. I devised a system of setting a row of candy kisses along the side of my desk. I allowed myself one candy kiss for each letter written, edited, and completed. Food is not always the best reward. It is nice to have a variety of large and small items that are rewards. Rewards can be anything from getting a new pen to purchasing a piece of office equipment that you wanted but didn't feel was an absolute necessity. My favorite rewards now are quiet moments just for me with the phone off the hook and nice music on. Find what works for you. There will definitely be days that you will need them.
Another motivator that many successful business people use is to visualize success. Just like successful athletes use visualization to enhance their performance, you can enhance your performance in business with visualization. There are two ways to accomplish this. One is to find videos of successful business practices in action. You view the videos a number of times and visualize yourself doing the same thing. The other way to use visualization is to simply think through the steps of a task, visualizing yourself completing each in a timely, efficient manner. This is one type of fantasy that is productive and actually pays off. It may be hard to believe, but the success stories reported from using such techniques cannot be denied.
A good way to not get behind and stressed is to institute a good time management system. In order to manage your time well, you need to have a complete list of all that needs to be done. If you have been too busy while setting up the business to list everything that needs to happen, the first day is a good day to get that list together. This is a time to be detailed. We all know checking things off lists is the most fun part, so give yourself plenty to check off.
Start with your space and equipment. List everything that needs to happen from dusting to annual equipment maintenance. Move from there to office operations - filing, ordering supplies, bill paying - what needs to go on the list to keep that functioning. Continue adding items to the list for marketing, production, financial operations. For some people it is easiest to list all the large tasks, then break them into their component parts. If those parts are still large, break them into smaller ones still, until you have a list of tasks that are ones that can be completed in one sitting. If at all possible, tasks should be started and completed in the same session. Otherwise, you waste time keeping track of where you stopped and getting going again.
Once you have all these tasks on one list, put them on a calendar. That will give you a "to-do" list to structure each day. As your business grows, the list will change (and grow!), but it will also give you a sense of what you need to hire someone to do when the time comes for you to hire someone to take over part of the tasks. In fact, the task list can be the basis for a good employee job description.
Set aside a specific time each week to see how you are doing on completing all the tasks needing to be done. Are there some tasks that never get done? Is it time to hire an employee to handle some of the tasks or to outsource some of the business functions? Are there tasks missing from your lists or tasks that really don't need to be done? Get a good overview and revise as needed. You will notice that I prefer a weekly check rather than a daily one. It is the nature of a startup business that unexpected interruptions will change the course of many a day. Rather than be disheartened by all you did not get done that day, rearrange your week. If the tasks for a week are not happening, however, there may be too many unplanned events, and you may need to rethink your task completion timeframes.
What if your business has started on the run, rather than slowly? This happens more often than you might expect. Immediately initiate an activity log. An activity log is a detailed calendar of how you are spending your time each day. While it may seem time-consuming to track your time, it is imperative for you to be aware of the choices you are making with your time. You may be overlooking completing important tasks because of time pressure with clients. Close the door, look at your log, and take time to think through what needs to happen to keep your business functioning. While it is good to keep clients happy in the short term, they are going to be even more unhappy if your business closes its doors because you didn't get other business operations functional.
There is a wide variety of forms, logs and checklists to help you with your planning should you feel the need to have suggestions about how to handle it.
Most importantly, give your health and well-being priority during the stress of opening your doors. Plan time for activities unrelated to the business so you can come to your tasks relaxed and clear-headed. You won't regret it - and you will be amazed at what a difference it can make in the bottom line. Investing in yourself can be the hidden ingredient that adds the touch of quality to what you bring to the marketplace. Put that on your list and make certain it gets done!