I hate making decisions. I once spent 10 minutes choosing the color of my undershirt, even though I wasn't planning to leave the house. Sometimes it takes me a week to re-make a decision that I have already made. For me, decisions are to be avoided. Business decisions? They are the worst. At best, they result in positive, transformative change; at worst, they cost me money, and I feel like an idiot. I know that I am not the only decision-challenged person out there, so I would like to share two realizations that I have come to recently:
1. Most of my decisions, as tortuous as they have felt at the time, have actually been pretty good. My business has had strong, positive growth every year since we started. I have tested, added, and eliminated many different teaching services. Each was a painful decision. In the end, almost all of the decisions moved us forward. Takeaway: I may suck at the decision-making process, but that doesn't mean my decisions suck. Look at your results before you are too hard on yourself.
2. Most decisions don't matter -- at least not as much as you think they do. Probably 9 out of 10 of my decisions are like my undershirt choice: They feel important at the time, but in the end, they don't matter to anyone but me. In business, it is easy to imagine (or expect) consequences that will never, ever materialize. Even if they do, you can usually fix them. Whether you have just launched an unfortunate new logo or just told your beloved customers that your product will be a little less good going forward, bad business decisions can almost always be reversed. Takeaway: Next time you are making a decision, make sure you see it for what it is, not what it might possibly turnout to be 3 years from now when your worst fears possibly come true. They won't. Just make the decision. You can always reconsider it next week.
Don't be your worst enemy. Don't let your feelings get in the way of real progress on your business.
Like many things in life, our business reality and the way we "feel" about our business are often not the same thing. I remember being particularly frustrated one month because I felt that my business was stuck. We hadn't had any new customers for a few weeks, and my to-do list was looking increasingly irrelevant. Then I checked the numbers. Contrary to my assumptions, we were actually making more money than ever before. I had also forgotten about the three clients who were up for contract renewal in the coming week. I was so focused on my mood that I had completely overlooked my success.
To avoid letting your emotions control your business, follow this 3-step plan:
1. Check yourself. Next time you are frustrated, double check to see if your feelings are valid. Feeling like your revenue is down? Check your numbers. Chances are that you have forgotten about a recent success.
2. Review your progress. Dig out an old email or to-do list from when you first started your business. Reread the content and compare it with your current situation. Marvel at your own progress.
3. Get something done. Sometimes just completing a simple task on your to-do list, cold-calling a potential customer, writing a blog post, or just cleaning up your office can alleviate feelings of frustration or sluggishness.
How do you keep your emotions in check?
As you build your tutoring business, create a system for everything that matters. By creating a system, you eliminate the "brain space" needed to track the hundreds of details that keep your business running smoothly. Good systems mean less time spent worrying about scheduling, receipts, invoices, cancellations, and planning and more time spent on teaching quality lessons and growing your student base.
Below are several systems you should have in place followed by a quick description of the system that we use. You need systems for:
Tracking payments received -- We use a plastic inbox to file our copy of the receipts from student payments. Once a month, we enter these payments into our bookkeeping system. Initially, this was an Excel spreadsheet. Now we use Quickbooks.
Recording your expenses and filing your expense receipts -- We use a plastic inbox to file copies of any receipts from purchases or payments. Once a month, we print any receipts we have received by email for Web hosting and other Online services and then enter all expenses into our bookkeeping system. We paste loose cash-register receipts onto blank, letter-sized pages. These are organized by date, hole-punched, and added to a 3-ring binder. This makes reconciling bank and credit card statements really simple. Also, these letter-sized pages can be easily scanned and electronically archived at the end of the year.
Processing student cancellation requests -- We require students to send cancellations by email, so we have written proof of their cancellation request. We record the cancellation request date, the reschedule date (if appropriate), and whether the student was given a credit for the cancellation on a cancellation tracking sheet. There is an "added to calendar?" checkbox on the sheet. When we update our calendar/schedule to reflect the cancellation, we check this box.
Tracking and reporting student progress -- We keep a file on each student. Each student file has an "instructor notes" page. We make notes on the student following each lesson. This helps with planning and allows us to informally track learning progress.
Logging credits for paid lessons not yet taught -- We have found that the easiest way to track lesson credits is to have the student sign and date a log sheet at the end of each lesson. If a student buys a package of lessons and pays in advance, we mark the payment date on the log sheet and highlight the number of lessons purchased. As the student completes and signs for the lessons, the highlighted portion of the log is filled up. When there are no more highlighted lessons without signatures, we know that the student needs to pay again.
Scheduling regular marketing activities, such as email newsletters, blog postings, etc. -- We track all of this using an Online calendar system. Many Online calendar systems allow you to set alerts and reminders for upcoming tasks.
Archiving materials from former students -- We scan, electronically archive, and then shred all former student materials. Using a high-speed scanner can make this easy to do. Also, many office supply stores offer bulk shredding. It is inexpensive and much, much easier than shredding documents one at a time.
Organizing instructional materials -- This may be as simple as buying a bookshelf or a file cabinet. We create almost all of our own materials, so (in my spare time...) I built an Online system for organizing our lesson content.
Tell me about your systems. What have you tried? What worked and what didn't?
A friend once told me that losing weight is easy: Make sure more (calories) are going out than coming in.
Business is easy too: Make sure more (money) is coming in than going out.
Of course, understanding how to lose weight is not the problem for most people. Similarly, understanding business is not difficult either. The problem is in the execution, not the concept. Business and dieting both require discipline.
Before you make any business decision, ask yourself these two simple questions: 1) Will this decision increase the amount of money coming into my business? and 2) Will this decision decrease the amount of money going out of my business? If the answer to both of these questions is "No," it is a bad decision. Don't do it.
- People Matter
- Making Decisions
- What will you teach?
- Don’t Let Your Feelings Run Your Business
- Create Systems
- Getting Started (4)
- Marketing (3)
- Operating Your Business (4)
- Pricing (2)
- Sales (1)
- Uncategorized (1)