In the small business world, where practically everyone is time-constrained, it’s sometimes difficult to give your best to every customer, every project, every task. This is what I discovered over the years: that giving your best to everything you do is so important that there’s rarely an excuse for not reaching for your highest potential.
The problem seems to come into play with competing values: you value your customers but you also value time with your children; you value creating a great service or product but you also value getting it done and moving onto something new.
I don’t believe multi-tasking is the answer. Instead, study yourself and ask yourself, “What are the things that are the most important to me in my life and business?”
By the way, there is no perfect answer to this question, and the things you value can be a moving target based on goals and events. If your child is in the hospital, then your business may take a back seat for a while. If you’re really excited about a new service or product you’re creating, you may choose to work weekends in order to bring it to fruition. If money is tight you may choose to do some parts of your project or marketing as inexpensively as possible.
Once you consciously decide what’s of most value to you, then go ahead and give it your very, very best. Don’t skimp and cut corners. Push yourself to be excellent in those areas that are important to you. It’s okay to make mistakes in your pursuit of excellence, as long as you attempt to correct them (or at least learn from them!)
As Nora Roberts says, “Flaws are acceptable, even necessary, to make us human and humble. But to serve a guest or a customer less than the best one is capable of, strikes me as arrogant or sloppy. Often both.”
The only trap you need to avoid is the one where you want to give your best to every single person you encounter, to every single task you do. Give yourself a break from perfectionism and make a choice to give your very best only to those things that are high on your “Things I Value” list. Things that are unimportant should be dealt with quickly so that you can focus your time, attention and passion on the things that need your best work.
Your customers deserve your very best efforts and they’ll greatly appreciate it. And when they’re happy, they’re more likely to tell others about your quality products and services.
I figure it this way: a good reputation is something to value highly and work towards. Doing my best brings me joy and satisfaction. Doing better than my best, continually growing and challenging myself, is one of the main reasons I’m self-employed. Is it one of your values, too?
First, I’d like to say, LOVE the Nora Roberts quote! I was browsing small business blogs and stumbled across yours–as soon as I saw the N.R. quote I knew I was in the right place. (I just bought three more books online… they should arrive tomorrow.)
Anyway, regarding your blog, it is very true that you have to prioritize. My mother is self-employed as a Social Worker (and I am self-employed as a private contractor). We both have a “perfectionist” problem — it may be hereditary. However, we have both learned through trial and error that being able to prioritize what, specifically, you want to excel at and maybe letting the rest go a little is not irresponsible, but necessary. Thank you for pointing that out to me, my mom, and the rest of the small business perfectionist world!
Karyn…your blog is spot-on. Entrepreneurs can get pulled in so many disparate directions; it can water down their efforts to the point that they lose sight of the inspiration that led them to go into business for themselves in the first place. When this happens, they really need do need to zero in on not only what’s most important and critical to their success, but also what’s nearest and dearest to their heart.
This is so true. One thing that I’ve done during this last year was to create a mission statement for my business. There are so many things that have to be done with business, but I choose what is most important to focus most of my time on by seeing how it relates back to my mission statement.
I’ve found the same can relate to my whole life, by taking the time to write down the 5 most important things in my life, I can easily look back at that list when I’m feeling overwhelmed to pick out what is most important to focus on.