On a trip to Charleston a few years ago to shoot our friends Tara & Morgan’s engagement session, we took a short detour to Boone Hall for a little sightseeing. While there, we walked through the towering avenue of beautiful southern live oaks.
Caption: One of my favorite photos from Tara & Morgan’s engagement session at Legare Waring House. Another beautiful location filled with live southern oaks.
Struck by the beauty and strength of these trees, I had to do a little research when I returned home. According to an article from the University of Florida, “The southern live oak has a deep tap-root that anchors it when young and eventually develops into an extensive and widespread root system. This, along with its low center of gravity and other factors, makes the southern live oak extremely resistant to strong sustained winds, such as those seen in hurricanes.” Source
That got me thinking about our businesses. Have you taken the time to set up a solid root system for your business? A foundation, that even when hit by storms and fire will withstand time?
Or, is your business currently set up with a root system that’s a little more like a Cottonwood Tree? These trees are known for their beauty, but have a shallow and soft root system, making them unstable during storms.
I don’t know about you, but I want my business to be a live oak. I want my roots to spread deep and wide and withstand the storms and the winds and the fires and time.
I want a business built to last. And in order to do that, I had to set up solid systems and foundations that meant long term success and growth.
Inspired by the live oak, I’ve created a list of the core building blocks that would allow me to strengthen the foundation of my business so I could grow and THRIVE. That is what I want to share with you here. I want to explain FIVE of these core building blocks that are essential to managing client work, daily tasks, finances and more!
A client relationship management (CRM) system is a tool business owners use to manage communications between current and potential new clients. You can think of this as your hub for any and all contact you make with a client – including contracts, invoices, collecting/sending payments, emails, questionnaires, tasks related to their project, etc.
All of your client management should ideally be done in ONE place. That way, you are never searching for an old email in your inbox or forgetting to send a contract. Not only does a CRM, like Honeybook, allow you to house your client information in one place, it also gives you the ability to automate your client workflow. In my opinion, this is one of the most important parts of your business foundation. A solid foundation includes an efficient and consistent way to manage client work and communication. It allows you to organize, streamline and never forget another client deliverable again. Hello, amazing client experience!
Check out these blogs to learn more about why & how I use Honeybook for my client management system.
Task and Project Management
In addition to the many tasks, emails, questionnaires, and upkeep that we need to do with our clients, we also have hundreds of internal business tasks that we do every year to keep our businesses running!
From managing finances and doing regular bookkeeping, to paying taxes, to marketing projects, passion projects, internal business development, personal development, or continuing education – there are so many things we do as entrepreneurs that don’t relate to client work.
And this is exactly why every business owner should have some form of task and project management software. Ideally one that isn’t a notebook or post it notes (but you can totally use this in conjunction with it!!). Almost all of the available platforms out there have free versions that have most the features you’d need as a small business owner.
Here’s are a few great options to consider:
Related post: Why You Need a Better Task Management System
I know we’re all creatives and we LOVE what we do, but the primary purpose and definition of a BUSINESS is to make MONEY. And with that comes the need to manage our money as business owners – be it with budgeting, cash flow, expenses, profit and loss, etc.
While the financial aspects of running a business is a much longer conversation…know that having a pulse on your numbers (no matter how much you hate numbers!) is a VITAL part of running a business. The last thing you want is coming up to tax season thinking you killed it in business that year and finding out you’re deep in a hole because you spent way more than you thought on operating expenses. This is something that happens all the time to business owners across the board, but having a system in place to stay on top of finances, cash flow, and profits, is KEY to not panicking at the end of the year.
Of course, this is one of the key pillars of your business, because marketing is literally defined as: the action or business of promoting and selling products or services! So MARKETING is the only way you can HAVE a business!
But do you want to know something crazy?
Most of my wedding photography business does NOT come from ads or social media or really anything that involves PAID marketing strategies.
It comes from word-of-mouth referrals! Yes, those FREE little conversations between two friends where a past client of yours gives a rave review of their experience with you and sends their friend directly to your website.
Client referrals are one of the most powerful (and free!) marketing tools out there. And having a solid workflow and system in place to give every client a 5-star experience is going to be what markets your business FOR you without even knowing you’re “marketing”.
Check out this blog where I outline some specifics about client experience and how it is the first place you should focus your marketing efforts. Before you spend hundreds (or thousands) on other marketing tactics like ads, website placements, etc.
Related post: 3 Simple Ways to Improve Your Client Experience
Because at the end of the day, marketing is really about getting people to know, like and trust you so much that they tell a friend!
The last building block is arguably the one of the most important. It is your mindset. This concept is something that can be unpacked for YEARS (and should be). But, here’s a few prompts I want to leave you with:
Your mindset is going to be what makes or breaks your business success in the long run.
Your Results in Business are Determined by Your Beliefs
- Beliefs cause our actions which cause our results
- The results we achieve are a direct result and byproduct of our actions.
- These are a direct byproduct of our thinking
Your beliefs must align with what you WANT
- That you can charge the prices you’re worth
- That people will book you
- That your clients want albums
- That phone calls in your inquiry process aren’t annoying
- That you have to get out of your comfort zone and fail a little bit to learn what works and what doesn’t work in your business
- You need the same perspective and beliefs of the person you want to become
Flirt with your comfort zone (thanks, Peloton instructor 😉
- How are you going to get outside your comfort zone this week?
- You need a compelling personal vision that aligns with your business vision that is stronger than your excuses
- Important actions are often the uncomfortable ones
- You need to value the important over comfort
- Easy tasks don’t push your business forward
For more resources on mindset practices to help your business get to the next level, I highly recommend following James Wedmore and Melyssa Griffin! Both offer great inspiration content that aligns with these notes above and has inspired ME in my own personal journey to unpack these tough questions and push myself outside of my comfort zone so I can GROW and THRIVE. Just like our southern live oaks 😉
Alright so just to recap, a solid business foundation is built by a number of core building blocks that make up one large, strong root system. This root system supports everything you do in your business and gives you the strength (and organization) needed to grow and take your business to the next level. By investing the time in building these systems, your business will be able to weather any storm and stand the test of time!