I travel all around this world and speak to thousands and thousands of small business owners about the challenges of growing a business.

get more done

photo credit: magro_kr via photopin cc

If I had to sum all the problems and questions I hear into just two common threads I would say it is this – “I don’t make enough money” and “I don’t have enough time.”

Oh sure, stated other ways it might come out like, “how do I use social media?” or “what should I do about that pain in the rear customer?” but in the end, it’s mostly two things that business owners desire – more money and more control of their lives.

On a flight from Tampa to Tulsa (not really but I’m listening to a song from the Jayhawks by that title) I pondered the things that keep me from moving my business in the right direction, making more money and having more control and I was able to find a pattern that involved a handful of simple things that I know no one does enough.

Of course, none of the things on this list are going to shock you, but the reminder just might help you think about your own habits and routines and traps and, in doing so, rethink a few of the things you already know, but don’t do enough.

Say No enough

This is a tough one for me because I’m a people pleaser. Over the years, I’ve gotten talked into doing things I knew I shouldn’t or, worse still, couldn’t, because I feared saying no would shut off other opportunities. You know what shuts off future opportunities? – saying yes and doing a lousy or unfinished job.

People will respect you when you say no in the right way. Bob Burg’s latest work, Adversaries into Allies, has some great practical advice for this.

The key to saying no is to have a clear picture of what and why you do what you do. Understanding your true value and letting go of constantly considering what others think about you. I think that last point is why saying no causes so much stress for some. I read a great Wayne Dyer quote recently that is such a great reminder of this idea, “what others think about you is none of your business.

Say Yes enough

Okay, I know, I know, now I’m just being mean, but saying yes is not simply the flip side of saying no. Most of what we need to say yes to more often is the stuff that scares us.

In fact, think about that thing in your business right now that you don’t want to do, you fear could be too hard, too risky, too big – that’s what you need to say yes to. That resistance, as Stephen Pressfield calls it in the War of Art, is a big fat call to say yes and you need to charge in eyes wide open, like now!

Ask enough

This is something I struggled with early on as a business owner and I know it to be one of the greatest traps for most business owners – charging too little for what you do or remaining in the vise grip of hourly thinking.

Hourly thinking is rampant in pretty much any service business and it’s a bit like quicksand as it will suck you under faster than any other business dynamic. You can’t make more time, so you’re only option is to fill every minute and charge more by the hour.

As a business owner the value of what you are capable of delivering goes up with each passing day. As you build more experience, more audience, more wins and more results to draw from, your fifteen minutes of brilliance on behalf of a client is worth thousands – so why are you’re still giving it away like it’s oxygen?

Here are some of the things your mind is telling you – I’m not worth that much or if I don’t ask much, they won’t expect much or the worst, worst, worst of all – that’s all they will pay.

My friends at Freshbooks created a wonderful little free eBook on this topic called – Breaking the Time Barrier.

Here’s my advice – double your prices. Now, what would have to do, who would you have to become, what would you have to create and who would you need to start hanging out with to make that move work? That’s all there is to it.

Follow up enough

Back when I started my business, back before we officially had something we called social media, (yes, we somehow managed to have thriving businesses back then) I had a Friday habit that always paid off in a variety of ways.

Each Friday I would go through my Roledex (this is an 80’s reference) and pick out at least five people I had not spoken with or heard from in a few months. Then I would pick up the phone (when I still had one of those in my office) and try to connect. Even if I got voice mail I would leave a message stating I was just checking to see what was up. I continued this practice for years via email as well.

The thing that was always amazing was about 25% of those “reach outs” turned into a “I was just thinking about calling you, I need . . .” Now, I may have gotten that call sometime later, but I wonder.

Today I have a list of close relationships in Nimble CRM and settings that let me know when 30 days have passed since my last contact. We have to stay in touch with and nurture our networks with intention. It’s where the greatest opportunities lie.

Say thank you enough

I don’t think that it’s possible to say thank you enough, but it’s worth a try. (Click to Tweet)

My wife is such a great asset in my life (okay, for many, many reasons) as she holds me accountable for things like gratitude. It’s not that I ever mean to be ungrateful, but sometimes when you build things and do things that work in business you can fall into the trap of thinking you did it all yourself.

I know that I’ve worked my butt off the last few decades, but I owe whatever measure of success I’ve had to people who have both outwardly aided me and those many, many more whom I’ve never met that subscribe, share and promote my efforts.

You know this to be true as well, so make thank you a habit. Take gifts wherever you go. Publicly acknowledge the help you receive. And always remember what it felt like in the beginning before you were one of the cool kids.

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John Jantsch

John Jantsch is a marketing consultant, speaker and author of Duct Tape Marketing, Duct Tape Selling, The Commitment Engine and The Referral Engine and the founder of the Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network.
  • Taking time to actually appreciate where you have gotten and be grateful for what others offered you to get there is a one big problem through out our life. Saying No is a problem for me too and I need to learn more on the subject, quickly.

  • Jenn Mathews

    You might want to add “proofread”.

    • Ironically Jenn proofread is one word not two, but thanks for the reminder – I can always use more of that! 🙂

      • Jenn Mathews

        Thanks for the correction, but I’m not trying to be the expert here. If you are someone that is respected to the point that you are speaking to large audiences then taking the time to go back and make sure your sentences read a bit smoother will bring you even greater respect.

        • Hey Jenn – I said thanks for the reminder! Also, I’ve written over 3000 blog posts and sometimes I do them from 40,000 feet where the oxygen is a little low and I somehow forget to type what I’m thinking.

    • Stacey Herbert

      Ahhh the grammar police are in town. The odd grammar or spelling error rarely detracts from the wisdom or quality of an article. I’m always shocked when someone chooses to call someone out over a tiny error in a sea of quality, rather than send a private email. Feel free to come over to my blog, you’ll find a ton of errors there, and I could always do with some help in the ‘proof reading’ department 😀

      • Jenn Mathews

        I’m am definitely not qualified to be grammar police by any means. The post you read now has been edited after I first read it. There were a lot of sentences that you could tell the backspace didn’t make it all the way and typing continued. I can understand one or maybe two, but there were so many it was very difficult to get through.

        The meat of the piece is very good and I found valuable, but with my learning disabilities alone I have a difficult time comprehending and the run on and mistyped sentences made it very tough.

        One simple pass before posting would have made it that much easier.

        You should try my Blog. I spend days writing something and proofread yet still am notorious for run on sentences and fragments. I’m happy with it as long as someone gets it enough to get value.

        John also claims to be a speaker. I deal with speakers all the time planning my various conferences and expect some level of professionalism from their blogs.

        Seriously… a quick pass of reading his own work just one time before he posted would have caught a lot of it. (and it did)

        It’s not that difficult.

        • Stacey Herbert

          Ok, Jenn. You win. Excellence over manners/etiquette. I get it! John, you do an awesome job, your articles teach me (and no doubt many others) a ton, and personally, I could give a toss about the odd spelling/grammar/formatting error. But hey, that’s just me! *drops mic*

  • Excellent reminders, John. I think we have to say “no” more so we can do the other things you mentioned on this list. Every business owner I know struggles with this. We have to say “no” so we can say “yes” to the things that matter.

    • Thanks Laura – it can seem scary, particularly in the early stages of a business but it’s the only way to get beyond where you are today!

  • Stacey Herbert

    Hi John, so much truth here! My biggest growth lesson last year was learning to have the courage to charge what I’m worth, and learning how to evaluate what the value of what I was being asked to deliver was worth to the client. Not only has growing a pair added much needed revenue to my business, but it’s also helped me dodge a few bullets of the ‘bad client’ kind.

    • Amen to that last point Stacey – when a client comes to you because of your low price they will leave you for the same reason!

  • Alyson Button Stone

    Thanks, John, for including Nimble in this great article! We agree that relationships power business. I love your reminder to say “no” and “yes” where it makes sense for your business. Great advice, as usual.

  • Rohan Ayyar

    Thank you for the much-needed reminders, John! I too fall in the category that needs to say “No” enough. 🙂

    To make it better and easier, I suggest combining #1 & #5 to say “No, (but) thanks!”

  • Rolodex, whats that…lol. I recently spent a weekend tagging all my connections in Linkedin. I need to definitely look into Nimble. Great post!

  • Rick Barnich

    Spot on! Thank You.

  • John – Great reminders. I love them all but can definitely gain the most from the 3rd tip – Ask Enough. Usually the people that are doing enough business development every day can afford to say “no” to the client that wants to undervalue your product/service/expertise because they know they will have more opportunities the next day, week or month. It’s when we stop creating new relationships and have to settle that we lose.

    Thanks for the nudge.

  • tlmaurer

    Great post, John. When I got to item #3, ‘Ask Enough’ my mind didn’t go to the obvious – fees. My mind when to another issue with small business owners working on a budget. That would be not asking enough people – experts – for help when we need it. So many things can happen much faster when we acknowledge our own limitations and turn to those who know what they are doing and can move us past obstacles faster.

  • Julie Harris

    Thanks for sharing this post. 🙂 I really like the last part. I find it more
    interesting than any other. Of course we have to say Yes and NO but
    it’s great to say thank you after saying that. Being appreciative
    will not harm you anyway.

  • Following up enough is where most people fall down I think, great article thanks