This article was written by Slow Business Adventure founder, Torill Bye Wilhelmsen. It originally appeared in her publication, Slow Business Fix.
I run an event called the Slow Business Adventure.
And sometimes, people hear the term Slow Business and think it means being throwing all of the practicalities of business out the window.
That’s a fast way to becoming a former business owner.
Here are five business essentials that wise slow business entrepreneurs pay just as much attention to as their less mindful colleagues.
Sometimes, though, there are a few variations in how they approach them.
#1: Cash flow
Yes, cash flow is still king for a slow business.
A slow business mindset is often very helpful for protecting cash flow.
While sometimes slow business means that you make sales less quickly, you also tend to avoid a lot of unexamined expenses that drain your profitability.
Some slow businesses work with grant money, investors, or small business loans. But many more “bootstrap” — they finance most, or all, of their growth through revenue.
It takes a little more patience, but it puts you at far less risk. When you’re overly leveraged, you tend to make a decision — any decision — that will get you to the fastest paycheck.
It’s much easier to keep a close eye on your cash flow when it’s not moving faster than a Formula One race car.
Be honest with yourself about your financial picture, and make the time to look it over regularly.
Small business coach Pamela Slim wrote an excellent article about cash flow for Microsoft — you can find it here: 8 Keys to Stabilizing Cash Flow.
While we’re on the subject of money …
#2: Profit margins
Yes, ethical businesses still need to make a profit.
Even a not-for-profit organization needs to make sure there’s enough revenue to cover all expenses, including salaries and a savings reserve.
Too often, early-stage ethical entrepreneurs want to serve their customers as inexpensively as possible. They intend to make up for those ultra-skinny profit margins by working hard and keeping costs low.
That’s going to leave you with no margin for error if you have a slow month, no room for a marketing budget, and no cash reserve if you face an unexpected problem.
You can certainly make a plan for how to allocate profit that you collect in excess of what you need. That kind of planning is smart for any business.
Will you distribute it to employees as a bonus? Distribute it to yourself and any partners? Invest in equipment or other infrastructure?
Decide now what you’ll do with unexpected profit that comes into your business. And make sure that at least some of it goes into a cash reserve, so you can weather lean times that may come.
#3: Employee boundaries
Running a business offers no excuse for unethical or nasty behavior toward anyone.
I really hate the expression:
“It’s just business.”
It’s used too often to justify bad behavior toward employees, vendors, customers, or the planet.
But you do need to maintain healthy boundaries, particularly between employees and employer.
- Rules and expectations are clearly communicated. Don’t expect employees to read your mind just because they share your values
- Mistakes are brought into the open quickly, and addressed to keep them from happening again
- Unethical behavior (stealing, lying to customers, abusive treatment of other employees) are normally grounds to terminate employment
- Respectful communication flows in all directions. Your tone with your employees must be respectful at all times, and you have the right to expect the same of them
Whenever possible, test out an employee relationship with a contract project first, to make sure everyone shares the same values and standards. Some people look a lot better in the interview than they do in the workplace.
Finally, be sure you’re making it emotionally safe for employees to let you know when a problem is coming up.
There’s often a front-line or “lower level” employee who sees a business-threatening problem long before you do.
Slow Business Adventure keynote speaker Randi Buckley has a wealth of resources on maintaining healthy boundaries in every aspect of your life.
You can learn more about Randi here: About Randi Buckley
#4: Clear marketing messages
Marketing doesn’t need to be pushy, but it does need to be clear.
Having a clear marketing message might feel aggressive, abrasive, or like calling yourself a big shot.
But I have to tell you:
There needs to be a solid reason someone would buy from you, versus going in a different direction. And your marketing needs to spell that reason out.
You don’t have to be pushy to market your product or service, but you do need to be clear.
Make sure your marketing:
- Describes the unique benefit of using your company over other options
- Indicates if an item or service is a limited offer, and explains the deadline or number available
- Explains why this offer is valuable, including the components that contribute to the value
- Provides clear direction about what the customer should do next to complete a purchase
Copyblogger is still a good resource if your marketing messages needs to get sharper. You can find out more about them here: About Copyblogger.
#5: A mindful growth strategy
Growth that’s too slow or too fast can kill a company.
I like Paul Jarvis’s message in his book Company of One … that we don’t have to blindly accept the idea of growth at any cost.
As the chief adventurer for your business, one of your most pressing jobs is to plan for growth. Aim for a “Goldilocks” approach that avoids extremes — not too fast, and not too slow.
The first key to making a sensible plan for your business’s growth is to understand what enough means for you.
- What kind of organization do you want to run?
- What do you want the impact to be?
- How big a team do you want to manage?
- How much revenue do you need to take home to have a life that works for you?
Trying to get these answers from someone else is like asking another person how many children you should have. You can’t expect another person’s answer to work for you.
When you understand your own personal “Enough” point, you can design marketing and business systems that support that.
Bigger isn’t necessarily better, and small, nimble businesses are often more resilient than big ones.
But if it’s important to you to have a wide impact, a bigger organization could be the right fit for you. That will come with more risk, more work, and more complexity, but that might be a trade-off that you decide to accept.
Make that decision consciously.
For more thoughts on deciding your own “Enough,” here’s what Paul Jarvis had to say about it: Enough
The final word: Decide for yourself
You’re the best judge of your own business.
Part of being a slow business entrepreneur is making your own decisions. You can decide for yourself what values you will live by, and the right guidelines for your enterprise.
If you would like to get on the wait list for our next live event (tentatively scheduled for 2023), you can do that here: Learn more about the Slow Business Adventure.