The way to be both small and strong is to scale influence, not size.
Growing your business by working 20% longer is not growth. That is called working longer and harder.
Identify where you make the biggest impact on your business and spend 80% of your time there. Then your business will grow not by working longer, but by spending more time where you make the biggest impact.
Small ideas are expensive. They keep you busy for little return. Because they never achieve the result you want. So, you have to keep coming up with more ideas. And as you are so busy, they are mostly more small ideas. And so on. And so on.
That is the treadmill small ideas keeps you on.
Conversely, big ideas get attention. They get talked about. They get written about. They build your influence in this busy world. Then, you get to pick and choose which things you say yes to. Because Big Ideas allow you to charge more money, for doing less.
So, you then have more time to think of more big ideas.
Spend more time working on what the 'Big Idea' is because that is the main thing. If you spend more time on the main thing, then you will increase your success.
Does it capture my imagination?
Does it make me intellectually curious?
Does it offer me the opportunity for transformation?
Remember, big ideas are often counter-intuitive, awkward and go against the popular way of doing things.
Trying to do the same as everyone else but a little better than your competition will take you all your hours, all your energy and all the money that you can throw at it. Remember, there is only you. And, to most people, the difference will be subtle. You will have exerted maximum effort for the marginal gain to your customer.
Put all your effort into being different or first or, best of all, combine the two.
For example, The Magic Castle Hotel. LA.
There are 355 hotels listed on Trip Advisor. The fourth on the list is a converted two-story apartment complex from the 1950s painted canary yellow with a tiny swimming pool. To be better than its competition would take millions. Instead, they spent a few hundred dollars.
They created a Popsicle Hotline. Visitors at the hotel's pool could pick up a red phone on a poolside wall to hear, "Hello, Popsicle Hotline." They request an ice-pop in their favourite flavour, and a few minutes later, an employee wearing white gloves delivers it on a silver platter, no charge. The parents might not have loved it, but the kids did.
It made the decision it couldn't be great everywhere, but it could be different somewhere.
Have a small footprint, but stand tall.
Most people try and do too much. Instead of being average across many things, focus. Be amazing in one or two places. Max. But understand that you can pop your head up for a short period of time, but you can't stay there. That's ok.
Do a few great things, not many things ok.
Work in sprints, pop your head up. Even if it's just for a short while.
If you watch an experienced surfer, they will wait for the right wave. An inexperienced surfer will take the next wave, regardless.
The pro won't use their energy up on mediocre waves. When the big wave comes, they can't give it everything. They held back to have more energy when it was most needed.
There is no lack of opportunities out there and if you are not careful, you can spread yourself too thin. Shallow work rarely produces your best work.
You must stay true to your path.
Wait for the right wave.
Say you had four weeks to pull a project off. Most people would spend one week working it out. And three weeks on making it look good.
Spend three weeks working it out; then your thinking will be at a higher level. Making that look good never takes that long.
Learn how to sell instead. Learn how to write. Learn how to tell your story. Learn how to build a community. Have destiny in your hands. The time you will spend trying to raise money could be better spent learning how to sell.
Remember, your independence is important to you. Learn the skills you need to enable you to keep it.
Your job is to separate yourself from others. You are not here to do the same as others. Think of it like getting a seat on the train. If you get there early, you get to choose where you want to sit.
Being early is also important for another reason. It allows you to do more learning, more testing, build more influence before the mainstream arrives.
You get ahead of everyone. Important.
How do you get big on Twitter? How do you get big on Instagram? The answer is to be there before others get there. Just like a train, get there early.
I remember we worked with two maverick web developers. They came back from a conference and they said the future was blogging.‘What's blogging?’ I asked.
Within a couple of days, we had a blog. One of the first brands in the UK to have one. It helped build our community almost more than anything else.
You can't do this alone. You tried that, remember? And look where that got you.
Now, it's time to build a virtual team. And you want to build a long-term relationship with them because they are going to help you build your business.
Working with great people saves time. They know what they are doing. And that makes growing the business more fun.
With each project, you learn to trust each other a little more. And, over time, you seek their opinion on big decisions.
As Real Madrid chairman says, expensive is cheap.
No process defined, no point. Let's admit this: We are the bottleneck in our company. Even in a company of one.
And unless we articulate our process, we always will be.
If we don't define it, each time we do something, we will have to remember what we did last time. That is a remembering business, and that doesn't scale.
The aim of a defined process is to be less busy but more effective.
When you buy a box of Lego, it comes with an instruction manual. That is called defining the process. Unless you define it, you will have to remember it.
That is not the best use case for your brain.
While others are scrolling on Instagram, quietly build your business without distraction.
Turn the WIFI off.
Put the same music on repeat.
And do this each day.
Do it without fail.
This, over time, will build your business.
Block three hours out each day. It's enough. The compounding effect will build your reputation.
“Replace distractions with focus.”
Have you noticed how amazing humans are at adding complexity to their lives? And their businesses too?
Have this simple rule: if I add something to my business, I have to drop something.
Remember, you are here to do great things, not many things.
One way to add stress to your life and your business is to build costs into your business that means you have to do work that pays the bills, not builds a reputation.
Paying the bills is generally done because you have to, not because you want to.
If you were frugal in the first place, you could turn down that work.
And concentrate on work that makes reputation.
The firefly heads to the brightest light. And then when another even brighter light appears, it heads towards that.
This is the opportunistic approach, not a strategic one.
How you stand out is by a relentless focus on the main thing. Keeping the main thing the main thing is the focus.
Ignore the latest opportunities and stick to the plan.
Most people who run a small business are putting in all the hours. They are working harder and longer, but with little to show for it.
Counterintuitively, if you learn to rest, you would be more successful.
Most entrepreneurs are too tired to do their best work, which means they do shallow work, which means they have to keep working.
Work in sprints.
How we work isn't the best for us or our businesses. We tend to work long, hard and keep going even when we are super tired. Then what we achieve is diminishing returns.
The real badge of honour is not to work longer than anyone else, but to achieve what you set out to do in less time than anyone else.
This is from a time and motion study in the 1940s that demonstrates we could achieve more by working in sprints followed by a rest.
"An experiment in the 1940's measured men loading pig iron onto a train-freight car at The Bethlehem Steel Company. Each man didn't stop until they managed 12 tonnes. By noon, they were exhausted and could do no more.
The next day, they were told to load the pig iron for 26 minutes. Then rest for 34 minutes. They rested more than they worked. At the end of the day, they had loaded 47 tonnes. That's almost four times as much as working flat out."
It feels counter-intuitive, but if you want to do more, learn that you work best in sprints, followed by rests. And, have a cut-off point each day. Come in fresh each day, not tired.
“Flowers don't bloom all year for a reason.”
When it's just you, you do everything.
You do sales. Customer service. Putting the bins out. Everything.
The org chart has your name on it. And only yours.
You are C.E.O. - Chief Everything Officer.
That means each day will fly by. Whoosh.
But somehow, you need to build some time to build a community of fellow 'It's Just Me's.
“Don't compare your chapter 1 with someone else's chapter 11.”
It's good to talk. To share. To spur each other on. Sometimes it's a pat on the back that you need. Sometimes it's a kick in the shins. This small community, once you have learned to trust each other, will provide both. Find your Chapter 1's on Instagram or Twitter etc. Keep this community small. 7-12 is a good number.
Have a catch up once a month on Zoom. You will be amazed at how important this becomes to you. And to them.
Role Model Chapter 11's.
Pick out a handful of people who are already living the life you want. Follow everything they do. Read their books, their blogs, attend their events.
They will share with you their secrets to their success.
Be sure to take notes.
When you chase demand, you are a slave to what people want. And people are fickle. Fashions come. And go.
Become a demand creator. Do something people need, even if they didn't know. Create less but create something with more meaning.
You didn't tell me you wanted this manifesto. But I sensed it was needed. Normal times went away. Lots of small businesses became tiny overnight. And I wanted to help.
So, I wrote it. I listened to my gut.
I am not selling anything here. But I am marketing how I think.
“When you teach, you learn twice.”
You have to know the answer to this. And you won't have anything to worry about. But most people have not figured it out. Clarity will get what you want. The lack of clarity will keep you busy.
Good questions to ask.
What unresolved conflict do they have. (Some goal they have not yet achieved etc.?)
Why is that important to them? (Understand their desire.)
And why are you the best person to resolve that conflict? (Social proof)
“It is in beliefs that purchases get made.”
Writing like you talk is a skill. Learn it.
The more you can sound like you, the less you sound like anyone else.
Writing creates connections. Let them hear you. The real you. Warts and all. Be the most you. Emotion is a powerful thing to evoke. That is what you must do.
Bare your soul. Tell your struggle. Tell your pain. Tell your lows. A corporation finds it hard to show its soul as it rarely has one.
Be vulnerable. Be honest. But most of all, be you. Your community is here because you made them feel something.
Your voice, your words, your beliefs, they made another human being feel something.
That keyboard in front of you is a connection device.
All you need to do is to rearrange those 26 letters in the right order.
“What is most personal is most general. What you are most reluctant to share is most powerful.”
Prime yourself each morning.
You want to arrive at your desk ready to do your best work. And that won't happen unless you put yourself into a peak state.
A morning routine is the best way I know how to do that.
That could consist of multiple ways to wake you up, get you ready, get you primed.
That can be a form of HIIT exercise, meditation, breathing.
A cold shower, for the brave.
Or, all of the above.
It depends on what works for you. But don't pick easy. Easy won't help you get primed.
“If you want to have a great day, have a great morning.”
There will be good days. And tough days. But they are all your days.
And, remember, you chose this path. You don't have to do this. You get to do to this.
Oddly, when you get to look back, you will laugh about the tough days. They will be as important as the good days.
Some days need you to do more learning than others.
That's the deal.
“There is no happy destination without a happy journey.”
Most 'company of one's' don't know why they are in business, and it shows.
It shows in their performance. It shows in how much their customers care about them, and it shows in the quality of people they can attract to come work for them.
'A reason to exist' which now goes by the name of purpose, provides one of our human needs - fulfilment. It is not just a bit of marketing. Purpose gives meaning to what we do each day. It multiplies our energy.
The energy required to get to build our company is directly proportional to how much it matters to you.
Only commit to things that matter.
That way, you will protect your energy for what matters most.
“Once upon a time, you were the first of your generation. Ignore everything else that went on before you.”
Everyone is trying to be perfect. Everyone is trying to be something they aren't.
We have reached peak perfect. Phew.
When everyone is doing the same thing, it no longer stands out.
It does the opposite. It blends in. Perfection becomes the status quo. And then being your imperfect self stands out because no one is prepared to show their faults.
The other good news is you know how to be you. You can't fake it. You know your strengths. You know your weaknesses. You got this.
You have the monopoly on being you.
“I don't teach you to be more like me; I teach you to be like you.”