Every entrepreneur fills multiple roles in running his or her company — one day you’re raising money, the next day you’re head of sales or creative director, and the next day you’re speaking at a conference or doing much needed admin work. The challenge is prioritizing the most important parts of the business rather than the day alone.
My coaching clients all have multiple projects on their to-do list whether they work solo or oversee a team. Stephen Covey offers a wonderful piece of advice in this quote, “the key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” Many people look at their schedule and then decide what are the top priorities. I encourage my clients to figure out what your top priorities are first, and then design your schedule. Otherwise key personal or professional priorities, such as carving out 90 minutes to focus on your marketing strategy, prepare a presentation, workout or spend time with family or friends, may get left off the schedule.
What Are YOUR Key Priorities?
You will find your priorities shift depending on the different phases of your business and life. Often, what’s important to you last year will change from what’s essential to you today or in the next three years. Here are three factors to consider as you identify your top priorities.
1. Bottom line: Do your top priorities align with your bottom line?
Each entrepreneur has to decide what drives his or her bottom line. How do you define your bottom line? Depending on your answer you will set different priorities. What’s most important for your business now — is it gaining visibility, hiring the right team, shifting or developing your marketing strategy, contributing to your community, doing research on a product or securing another major account? Your priorities will shift as your business grows and matures so you need to continually revise your priorities.
Right now there is a global initiative happening to redefine success and the bottom line of companies. It’s called the The B Team and is a not-for-profit co-founded by Richard Branson to create a future where the purpose of business is to be a driving force for social, environmental and economic benefit. Its mission is to deliver a ‘Plan B’ that puts people and planet alongside profit since the original Plan A — where companies are driven by profits alone — is no longer acceptable.
2. Time Frame: What’s your key short-term and long-term project goal?
Our priorities will also shift depending on the time period we are focusing on. Often we have competing projects, which require company resources, that happen in different time periods. It’s possible you may have to focus on hiring employees today while finding office space solutions for the longer term. You’ll have to figure out what part of each short and long-term project needs to get done today so you can continue to grow your business. Again, this is not easy but these decisions will ultimately have to align with your bottom line.
3. Follow Your Heart: What’s your heart telling you?
Often we make decisions based on what we think we should be doing which makes it difficult to hear what our heart is saying. As you move away from all the shoulds and what others think you should be doing, you step into a new world of possibilities.
There will always be external and internal pressures that arise and try to derail you. For example, one of my clients who lives on the East Coach wants to buy a business on the West Coast and relocate but she’s in a relationship and her partner does not want to move. She’s conflicted because she feels she should start a family but her heart is encouraging her to be fulfilled in her career right now. Another client feels he should take a consulting project for the money but in his heart knows the project is disorganized and it’s not the right company. Both clients are following their heart. When you make heart-based decisions and follow your truth, you have greater clarity to take action (yes, the impact of the decisions may still be difficult).
Your heart will offer answers. Your work will be to decide what you are willing to do and what feels authentic.
Top 1% Bottom Line
Being an entrepreneur requires that you wear multiple hats. You have to understand the needs of various projects and continually evaluate your opportunities. As you grow your business, have the courage to listen to your heart and honor your priorities so they are aligned with a bottom line that hopefully makes a positive impact on our world. The choice is yours.
Alissa Finerman is an Executive Coach and Gallup Certified Strengths Coach, speaker and author of Living in YOUR Top 1%. She works with managers, C-suite executives and teams to leverage strengths, shift beliefs and achieve meaningful goals. Alissa has an MBA from the Wharton School and a BA from the University of California, Berkeley. She has worked with Ross Stores, Petco, BNP Paribas, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, Brookfield Property Partners, Neutrogena and Bristol-Myers Squibb. To learn more about coaching with Alissa, please visit her website and follow her on Facebook