Small Biz Advice: Changing How You Do Your Work



Dear Holly,

With the New Year here, I’m really committed to working on my design business. I feel like there are a few areas that could use focus—like my marketing strategies and general organization. The problem is, I don’t know where to start, and I usually just dive in and try to do it all at once. The next thing I know, I’m completely burned out and nothing ever changes.

Do you have any advice on how to approach making change in the New Year? I really want this to be the year I turn things around in my business.

Big Change

Dear Big Change,

Thank you for this great question because I’m sure there are literally thousands of business owners who face the same predicament. We get so hyped up this time of year to transform our business, but it’s hard to make those changes stick if we don’t know the best way to approach it.

The thing about change is that it’s quite simple; we just tend to really complicate it. We over achieve and try to change too much at once. In addition, we set unrealistic expectations about how quickly we should change. It’s all a recipe for failure.

When you’re trying to change your business, you really want to avoid the “quick fix.” You probably have a long-term vision for your business, and you’re hoping that it will be around for years to come. So, if you start patching your problems with quick fixes, eventually they’ll all fall apart again, and you’ll be back at square one.

You want to approach this from the mindset of making long-lasting change, and first and foremost that takes time. For instance, you mentioned that you want to change your marketing strategies. To really see whether or not your marketing strategies are making an impact, I recommend you give them at least six months to catch on. We often try things three or four times and when we don’t see results, we assume they’re not working so we become less consistent with our actions and eventually just give up. The problem is that we didn’t give them enough time to catch on because we feel like everything should happen “right now”.

Second, don’t try to change things all at once. This is why having goals and a clear plan can be so beneficial. The key to change is to not overwhelm yourself with too much. So, map out your year and be honest. Do you need to spend the first three months just focusing on getting organized and then approach your marketing?

For each month, pick one thing you will focus on and commit to doing daily. Real lasting change is not about the big, dramatic shifts. It’s about the small, consistent steps. I know, it seems less glamorous than what we’re usually told, but it’s the truth.

If you really want to commit to improving things in 2014, map it out by month, take consistent action daily, and be patient. If you stick to this plan, you’ll end the year in a completely different place.

Holly Howard runs Ask Holly How, a small business consulting company based out of Williamsburg, Brooklyn that works with a wide variety of businesses from restaurants to retail to art studios and pretty much everything in between. Her clients report increased income and profit, decreased expenses and a significantly better quality of life. Holly heads up the Small Business Book Club at McNally Jackson Books.

Want valuable insights into how to grow your business? Email Holly to set up a time to talk at or to ask a question for the next Ask Holly How. You can also enroll in her Business Growth program.

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