We're conditioned to be reactive in life. If it's too sunny outside, we wear a hat. If it's too cold, we wrap up. As freelancers or small businesses, much of our time is devoted to working in a reactive state. We have clients who require a service, and we react accordingly to provide them with that service. This might seem like a sustainable process for now, but it can't and won't last. Simply existing to be reactive doesn’t make a good business great. You need to be proactive.
Reactions assume 'something' has already happened, and you react accordingly. Waiting for leads to come to you via your website or phone is the definition of being reactive. And it's easy.
From a freelancer or small business' point of view, being proactive is perhaps the single hardest thing to get right. Working alone and wearing the financing, design, sales, marketing and admin hats, it becomes harder and harder to think ahead. It requires a certain lucidity and awareness of what's coming next, and how it might affect your business, and acting (not reacting) accordingly. Continuing to identify and act on ways to make your business grow, can help you stop being reactive and focus more on making things happen.
"Control your destiny or someone else will"
-- Jack Welch
Be proactive through strategy
Your business strategy is always something you intend on doing, but it always seems to be something you’ll focus on after this month’s project. Or next weekend. Or at the end of this quarter. It rarely happens because you’re stuck being reactive. Reacting to client needs equates to income, so that gets top priority.
Fortunately, devising a strategy doesn’t have to be as difficult as it sounds. You wouldn’t be doing what you’re doing if you lacked any sort of strategy.. Going freelance is a strategy (working for yourself, controlling your destiny), as is employing 5, 10, or 15 new people within 2 years or growing revenue by xx% by 2012. All a strategy does is define the ‘who, what, where, when, why and how’ of your current and future business.
Considering a strategy of ‘how you’re going to get there’ is the best way to start thinking proactively. You’ll start to see things that you should and shouldn’t do, and you’ll start thinking of ways to drive your business forward that might not have been clear before. The reality is, if you run a business that services clients, you’ll always be reactive. That’s obvious. But the more you consider ‘the big picture’, the more you’ll start to focus on what gets you to where you want to be. The client services becomes the norm, and the ‘what’s next’ becomes the road in front of you. You’ll focus on elements of your business that will get you to your destination, and move away from those that become obstacles.
Thoughts for the New Year
In an ideal world, this is all very easy. In reality, it’s not - but the more you consider your business, its current situation and its future, the more likely you are to stop reacting (at the drop of a hat!) to client demands just because you have to. Couldn’t we all do with less stress and better business in 2011?