The reading level for this article is All Levels
While on a recent trip, I got a call from my pet sitter. Apparently we had a bit of a tragedy in my salt water aquarium.
All my fish died. Actually nearly everything in the tank died.
It all started with the death of one of my sea urchins. While sad as that was, what made it a tragedy was that sometimes sea urchins release a toxin when they die. And this toxin is toxic enough to kill everything in the tank.
My starfish. My crabs. My fish.
Everything, that is, except bristle worms. (For purposes of this article, it’s enough to know bristle worms are terrible pests in salt water environments and they sneak in from other necessary items you add to the tank.)
My pet sitter worked for years at a pet store, and completely cleaned out the tank — changed the water, cleaned the filter, etc.
And what she discovered was that my tank was basically a walking time bomb. My filter was about two steps away from failing completely. The bristle worm population was so bad it was about to take over my tank (and probably harass and kill the creatures I WANTED in the tank), plus the salt concentration was out of whack.
So, basically, my salt water aquarium would have crashed and burned whether that sea urchin died or not.
The worst part was there WERE signs. My starfish was coming out in the day more, which it doesn’t typically do. My snail and other sea urchin had died a few weeks before. My fish were looking stressed. The ammonia in my tank had gone up.
But, even worse then that, I had been telling myself for MONTHS that I really needed to find someone to take care of the tank for me.
You see, there are 3 things I like to do with my aquarium — buy fish, watch the fish and feed the fish. Notice what’s NOT on my list — check filter, change water, repair pieces of equipment that I’m not even sure what they do much less figure out if they’re working properly, etc.
But my fish (and other critters) were fine. They had been fine for years. I fed them, bought a new friend every now and then, and watched them. So even though I KNEW I should be doing those “other, not-so-fun” tasks, the aquarium appeared to be fine on the surface. Therefore, I told myself I could wait to do those other tasks. No hurry, I said. I’ll get around to it next month.
Well, next month never happened. And I paid a high price for that.
So what, I can hear you asking, does any of this have to do with your business? Well, let me explain.
Perhaps, for the most part, your business is doing okay. Maybe even better then okay. You’re making money, enough to pay the bills and maybe a little more, plus you’re building your reputation and your customer base little by little.
But there are a few glitches. Perhaps you still do your own books, so your invoices are always going out late and your cash flow is erratic. Perhaps you do all your own customer service, so you don’t always contact your customers in a timely fashion (and have probably lost potential clients because of it). Perhaps you do your own product fulfillment, and find that you fall behind getting products out the door.
Or maybe you do have some help, maybe you’ve hired a virtual assistant. But it’s not a good fit and each month feels like a struggle to get things done. (Plus you don’t have any time to find a new assistant.)
Or maybe you know you need a more aggressive marketing strategy to get new clients in the door, but you can never find the time to actually start implementing.
But whatever it is (or, more likely than not, multiple small things) they’re on your “next month’s” to-do list.
After all, everything is running fine. You’re making money, granted not as much as you could be, but you’re paying the bills. You have clients coming in the door. You’re getting things done.
Well, sure. Until all the fish die that is.
Now I’m not trying to overwhelm or panic you because you aren’t doing enough, but, well, there ARE some things you need to be doing (or not be doing). You need to regularly market your business. You needn’t be trying to do everything yourself. And when you do decide to hire someone, you need to get the right people on your team.
Because, if you don’t, well, you know what could happen.
For instance, don’t market your business regularly, and you’ll never have a steady stream of clients coming in the door. Insist on doing everything yourself (such as your bookkeeping and product fulfillment) and what happens when you get busy? Things start falling through the cracks and when that starts to happen, money invariably falls through the cracks as well.
Hire the wrong people and not only can they screw up your business, but they can cost you both time AND money.
Let it go on long enough, and you could wake up one day with a business so in trouble you don’t even know where to turn.
Or, worse yet, no business at all.
I’m not saying you have to tackle everything at once. But what I AM saying is those little things you keep ignoring (and you know the ones — they nag you constantly because you know if you took care of them, they would make a huge difference in your business and/or life) you ignore at your own peril.
A better strategy would be to deal with one issue at a time. Starting TODAY. Then, move to the next issue. And the next.
Chances are, not only will you keep all your fish alive, but you’ll probably find yourself making more money and growing your business faster then you ever thought possible.
(And, to finish my fish story, what am I doing differently? I’m hiring my pet sitter to come in once a month and do all those unpleasant maintenance tasks. My only regret is I didn’t think to do this months ago. All my fish would probably still be alive.)