by Lisette Sutherland
If you would have told me five years ago that I would be running a global business, I would have laughed. I know some entrepreneurs who love building companies. They love all the scheming and risk taking. My becoming an entrepreneur was entirely out of necessity.
I used to work for a company that built an online project management tool. Because we could work from anywhere, I chose to take advantage of it and move from California to the Netherlands. The picture on the right is me at the airport with all of my belongings.
Two months after moving, disaster struck. In an epic tale too long for this blog post, the company went out of business overnight. I had 1,000€ in my bank account and a choice to make: do I use the 1,000€ to buy a ticket back to the US, or do I try and find work in a new country?
With encouragement from my grandmother (once again, thank you Oma), I made the decision to stay.
My first priority was making money. A grand was not going to get me very far. So I went online and created an account on eLance (now Upwork) and started applying for jobs. At first, the gigs paid insultingly low wages. But 6€/hour was better than 0€/hour, so I took it. Over time I built up a profile and a reputation and started charging more and more. Eventually I found steady, well-paying clients and worked on building up a savings account.
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Once I had some breathing room, I realized that I didn’t have much insight into how much profit I was making. I am admittedly a finance dunce. And no, I’m not just saying that. I’m good at math, but for some reason, I just have a mental block as soon as it comes to profit and loss statements and revenue generation. As long as I had money in my account, I assumed I was doing OK. But as the business grew, I realized that it wasn’t wise to continue in the dark.
I want to share with you the systems I’ve put in place as a finance dunce that have helped me align my revenue and business goals and allowed me to run a successful global company.
One of my virtual coworking colleagues reviewed her finances every week. She coined the term “Money Monday” and for some reason, the idea took hold and I decided to join her. We both created a checklist of things that would help keep our minds at ease about how good we were doing financially. This checklist helps make sure that nothing falls through the cracks.
Sales Tip Tuesday
Something else I had to learn was how to sell. I’m someone who hates to talk on the phone. Video call? Sign me up! But there’s something about the telephone that makes me shy away. For years, I tried to sell without picking up the phone. And it kind of worked. But I knew I could do better so I reached out to a sales manager friend for a few tips. His advice was:
- Listen! Let people do 80 percent of the talking. They don’t care about what you’re selling. They want to know if you can solve their problem.
- Until you close the deal, call them. Email can be used for logistics once the deal is closed, but until that time, focus on building a relationship.
I hated hearing that as I hoped there was something else I could do to compensate for my irrational fear of the phone. But, alas, if you want to run a business, you have to put on your big girl pants and do the hard things.
Somewhere along the way, my colleague Sam recommended I read The Revenue Growth Habit and it changed everything for me. I was spending a lot of energy on things that were not helping me get my product in front of my audience. The Revenue Growth Habit is all about doing 15 minutes of focused and targeted work every day to bring in revenue. This made me laser focused with my marketing activities. Every Money Monday, I write down what my daily habits will be for the week and then I review which ones were successful from the previous week.
Earlier this year, I attended the Management 3.0 facilitator retreat where Lean and Agile Coach Andrea Darabos gave a workshop on the Toyota Kata method. She showed us a way of defining experiments, running tests, and then revising those experiments until we reach our goals. This process of focused experimentation, in combination with the revenue growth habits and the Money Monday checklist, has been a game changer.
Fridays I rest
On Fridays I rest. I tie up loose ends, clean my desktop, respond to the emails I didn’t get to during the week, and get ready for the weekend.
Having natural finance and business savvy is incredibly useful for operating as a global solopreneur, but I’ve learned that setting up simple checklists, putting on my big girl pants, focusing my energy, and running experiments can also be a great substitute for those of us who are motivated, yet finance-business-challenged.
What are your tricks for managing your microbusiness? Tell us below!