When my business was about three years old, I ran into a friend who was determined to start her own business. Every time I talked to her, she told me about her activities regarding starting her business. This particular day, I was at a coffee shop and she was writing her employee handbook (even though she had no empoyees). While I admired her determination regarding her business, I couldn’t help but notice that she spent a lot of time preparing for the type of work her business would do, but not actually doing what the business as about.
Her situation and mine were slightly different. My understanding was that her parents had unfortunately passed away, leaving her an inheritance. This financial cushion gave her the luxury of working on her business at a leisurely pace. At the time, I had two toddlers with a baby on the way. Being self-employed, I had to self-finance my upcoming maternity leave. I kept thinking, “I don’t have the luxury of thinking about my business! I need that paycheck!” (As the adage goes, “When making breakfast, the chicken is involved but the pig is committed.” I was committed!)
I do not relate this story at all to discourage anyone from careful planning and preparation for a business venture, or even from starting their own business. (On the contrary, I hope more people do!) However, at that moment I realized that the necessity of my financial situation meant that I had to figure it out as I went. It actually gave me a gratitude, because I realized that having to do more with less was actually helping me get over my perfectionist tendencies and forcing me to take one step forward at a time, even if I didn’t know what I was doing.
This basic strategy, of “stretching” your existing resources, is at the heart of the book “Stretch: Unlock the Power of Less – and Achieve More Than You Ever Imagined” by Rice University professor Scott Sonenshein. Prof. Sonenshein provides a compelling case for looking for creative ways to see how you can use what’s at your disposal to craft creative new solutions to your problems, rather than defaulting to the mindset of just throwing more money or resources at your problem.
As I’ve already pointed out, doing more with less has often been the story of my business. When I had my first child, I made the decision to work four-day weeks instead of five. While I do work five-day weeks now, I still frequently have to take time out of my day to take kids to doctors’ appointments or after-school activities. Running a business is already taxing when you have 40-50 hours a week to do that, and I have often felt like I didn’t even have that luxury, since my time is at a premium. To be perfectly transparent, there have been many days where I have lamented not having what I perceive to be the same resources as other (usually male) counterparts, who “get” to work more hours on their business ventures. But my limited time has forced me to implement a number of tools to maximize my time.
For example, I use Microsoft To Do to keep track of my tasks and I use an online helpdesk ticketing system with my clients (even though I am the only help desk technician on the other end. This helps me queue messages so I can fix problems efficiently without confusion.) I have started using a virtual assistant who helps me schedule my meetings. While this only requires a few hours a month, my concentration (“flow”) is not disrupted by answering meeting-planning e-mails. I still have my days, but in general, I find I am less frustrated by my reduced hours in the office and more satisfied by the fact that I get to be present in my kids’ lives. By maximizing the impact of every minute I spend doing my job, and using tools at my disposal to extend my impact, I find that in fact I am able to do more with less. This leaves me more time for activities that bring me meaning and fulfillment, like being a present parent and wife.
As a company, we at Savvy Technical Solutions are also trying to help our clients maximize the resources they have, but providing tools that save their employees time, which also preserves monetary resources to use more efficiently than on repetitive tasks. Let us know if we can help you automize your business processes or streamline how the folks in your organization communicate with each other to stretch your existing resources to achieve greater results.
The book Stretch was a compelling read, with lots of anecdotes to solidify the core message of the book. I left feeling less deprived, wishing I had more resources, and was challenged to see my circumstances as a blessing in disguise. I highly recommend this book. You can purchase this book on Amazon.*
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