This story is available exclusively on Business Insider Prime.
Join BI Prime and start reading now.
- Dorie Clark is a communication coach, marketing strategist, keynote speaker, and author of several books on leadership and entrepreneurial strategy.
- In her experience coaching both budding entrepreneurs and high-level execs, Clark has identified three important questions that businesspeople should use to decide how to prioritize their time.
- The key is to determine which activities drive revenue, build industry credibility, and develop an online following.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
One of the most pressing questions for professionals is where to spend their time. There are innumerable ways they could be promoting their business — writing articles, giving speeches, posting online, seeking referrals, and more. But which will actually generate meaningful results?
Having coached hundreds of high-caliber executives and entrepreneurs, I’ve identified three key questions to help them sort through the many possibilities and determine — quickly — which activities are worth their time, and which should be deprioritized.
Options trading 1. Does this activity drive revenue?
Generating revenue is always important, but especially during economic turmoil, it’s mandatory. So one simple way to triage your activities is to determine which ones have the potential to put money in your pocket. It may feel gratifying to tweak your website or brainstorm a tagline for your business, but those are irrelevant if you can’t keep yourself afloat.
Instead, as I describe in my book “Entrepreneurial You,” a powerful approach that many professionals shy away from is simply reaching out to one’s network and asking for business. That’s what Michael Parrish DuDell, author of “Shark Tank Jump Start Your Business,” did when he launched his consulting practice. He gave himself a 30-day deadline in which to close his first client. He knew he thrived under pressure, and he kept focused. “I woke up every day with a single thought: ‘You have to close, you have to close.’ By the end of the first month, I had closed three big clients.”
His approach wasn’t magic: “I reached out to my network and told them what I was doing,” he says. But many professionals, unsure of their skills or their focus area, don’t want to risk embarrassing themselves in front of their friends and colleagues, so they hesitate. But that’s the only way to get business initially.
Options trading 2. Which other metrics are crucial, given the phase that my business is in?
Revenue is essential, but it’s not the only metric that matters. At each phase of your business, other areas will also come to the forefront. For instance, when I first launched my consulting and executive coaching practice 13 years ago, I came out of a background in politics, journalism, and nonprofit management. That was great training, but I utterly lacked the corporate connections my business needed.
I therefore spent several years over-indexing on networking, including attending a variety of high-end conferences, so that I could expand my social and professional circle. Now that I have a wide variety of corporate contacts, I can afford to deprioritized networking — but at the time, I needed to make it a primary focus.
Similarly, Michael Parrish DuDell recognized that in addition to making calls and acquiring clients, he also needed to build his profile. He thinks of it as balancing a “market share play” — i.e., the behind-the-scenes consulting work he does to bring in money — and a “mind share play,” which includes unpaid activities like media interviews, which probably won’t bring in clients tomorrow, but reinforce his credibility and enable him to attract bigger and better clients over the long term.
Options trading 3. How directly does this activity contribute to my goals?
When she launched her business more than a decade ago, Natalie Sisson, author of “The Suitcase Entrepreneur,” became fascinated by the nascent social media scene. “Because I had no business model and no earnings or income, I was spending eight hours a day just communicating with people [online] and being in forums, looking at blogs, commenting on other blogs, and all those things that you do,” she says.
Today, she’s a very successful entrepreneur — but when she looks back on the amount of time she spent online during her early days, “That would be the only thing I’d do over. I would have liked to have funneled more of [that energy] into an email list and an offering.”
Sisson learned that being active online gives the appearance of doing the right thing for your business — and indeed, growing a following and building goodwill are important. But they’re indirect sources of income which won’t pay the bills today, and they can consume an inordinate amount of time — so it’s important to weigh them accordingly.
Real Life. Real News. Real Voices
Help us tell more of the stories that matterBecome a founding member
Professionals who seek to grow their businesses today face innumerable options, which can quickly become paralyzing. By determining which activities generate revenue, which advance other key goals, and which are direct versus indirect conduits to those objectives, we can break the logjam and take the necessary actions to succeed.
Dorie Clark is a communication coach, marketing strategist, keynote speaker, and author of several books on leadership and entrepreneurial strategy. Learn more on her website and connect with her on Twitter.
Subscribe to the newsletter news
We hate SPAM and promise to keep your email address safe