I run a small business.
That means I do a lot of things. I don’t have any one role. Production, sales, marketing, accounting – I do a bit of all of it. Not all of it of course. Micah handles most of our marketing efforts, as well as our investments and new projects, and Chris is my man on sales. Last year we finally hired an accountant, so I have clean books once and for all.
But, at some point in any given week, I do all of these things to varying degrees.
It’s a necessity, not just because it needs to be done, but because I created the business. There’s no way to know what will work until I get in there and test things.
It’s a strange place to be.
I fundamentally prefer there to be order. I want systems and checklists in place that tell what to do and when to do it. I want to know that, when I hand something off to a contractor, they know exactly what to do and that I can close my eyes at night knowing that the gears and mechanisms of my business are turning as they should.
But, when you’re the only one there – or one of two or three – sometimes, order can hold you back.
My Attempt at Organization
Three years ago, when I created the current LLC, I was on something of a high. So, I started looking for other ways to make my business more “real”.
I outsourced some projects, ordered business cards, and signed up for Basecamp for the first time.
I say first time because it only lasted two months. You see, Basecamp is expensive for a small business with zero profit.
It starts at $50 (might have been $40 back then) and when you have few contractors and no employees, it’s kind of unnecessary. I was creating MORE work for myself by building an organizational system that overshot my needs.
More importantly, I was quitting on the chaotic flexibility that made me such a good freelancer.
I went through this cycle three more times in the next three years until I finally actually NEEDED a system like Basecamp – of course by then I needed something different and we now use Podio.
The Need for Chaos
Chaos is a good thing when you’re a small business. It’s the one advantage you have over the big guys.
They’re inflexible, slow to react and offer limited options to their customers.
You, as a small guy, can do anything you have the resources for. If someone wants a highly researched white paper, even if you’ve never written one before, it’s easy to say yes. You don’t have to worry about training a contractor, managing a new project type or finding a price point that works.
You simply do it, add it to your portfolio and when someone asks in the future, you can say “yup, I do that!”
This has always been hard for me, solely because my brain wants things to be in a line.
But, I recognize the benefits of being messy and taking chances. I call it the Spaghetti Method because more often than not you’re throwing things at the wall to see what sticks. Eventually, something will stick and you can start creating a system around it.
Balance Between Them
Of course, eventually you want your chaotic, wall-plastering methods to work. So there needs to be balance in all that chaos.
When you find something that DOES work, even if it makes no sense in a traditional business, write it down. Make a system out of it and document it so you can easily replicate it later.
As I’m finding, the secret to rapid growth in a business (of any size) is the ability to find the things that work, document them, replicate them and then press the autopilot button.
If you can do that, pulling pieces out of the chaos bit by bit, you’ll be well on your way to successfully growing to the next level.