Successful and Sane  {or, What Happens After You're Officially Successful}  

Exclusively For Wholesale Brands And Retailers


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by Mita Patnaik

Successful and Sane  {or, What Happens After You're Officially Successful}  


You're finally there.

You not only defined success for your indie  business, you went ahead and worked for it and yes, reached it. 

 Now that you’ve reached the first milestone, what’s next? How do you sustain the momentum, keep yourself challenged to get to the next level without getting burnt out?


There is no point at which you can say, "Well, I'm successful now.  I might as well take a nap." ~Carrie Fisher


 Getting to the first milestone was a whole lot of blood, sweat and tears. There were parts that you didn’t enjoy doing but it was necessary to keep the business running. You had to bootstrap your business and did not have the resources to get outside help.

But with success comes more responsibilities. It could be in the form of building a brand, scaling production, serving more customers, managing more employees or chasing more sales.


How do you deal with all the additional demands on your time (your most precious asset) that comes with success and increased responsibilities?


How do you keep your sanity by doing less of the not-so-fun parts so you can focus your energies on taking your business to the next level?


Being successful means NOT being a slave to your work.



Stop doing list


I’m sure you already have a long “to-do” list for 2012.  Every year we make resolutions to do more. Have you ever thought about doing less? Jim Collins (author of Good to Great and Built to Last , two of my fav business books) has a great post on why  a "stop-doing" list is as important as a “start-doing” list.


Stop-doing could mean saying no more often


No to customers that give you the least business but demand the most service or never pay you on time.


Stop-doing could also mean re-assessing your priorities.


Does your current business look like something that you would enjoy running for the next 5-10 years? Abby Kerr, was a successful indie retailer when she decided to close shop (not sell) as she was burnt out. It takes a lot of courage to make such decisions, especially when your business is on the up and up. It freed her up to focus on her writing and working with entrepreneurs, which was more meaningful to her.  


What will you stop doing today (what weighs you down), so you can start doing something that is more fulfilling?



Makers vs Managers Schedule


For most entrepreneurs like you that juggle family, a successful business and wear multiple hats, the big question is how to be effective given the multiple demands on your time?


You might schedule your day in terms of “urgent and important” tasks, with the goal to pack the most into your day.  While that works well for managers, that may not work well for creative makers. 


Efficiency does not equal effectiveness.


Paul Graham has an interesting take on the difference between a maker and manager schedule.


In the real world, creatives are both managers and makers. The optimal solution is a blended schedule, where meetings and administrative tasks need to be batched and scheduled into the calendar leaving large chunks of uninterrupted time for “making”. Having certain days dedicated to long term planning or writing or creating where you truly focus on the process and not the outcome, where there are no interruptions – might be when you feel the most satisfied. {Some additional pointers on getting things done and staying inspired can be found here and here}.


What frustrates you most about your schedule? Can delegating tasks instead of doing it yourself help? Will re-arranging the same tasks make you more productive?


Automate the Repeatable


Whether you are an indie retailer or wholesaler, there are moments when you’ve wished that you didn’t have to deal with the mind-numbing administrivia that comes with the deluge of customer orders. This is especially true if you don’t have systems in place to handle the unexpected demand.


Having to re-key all orders faxed/emailed by sales reps, confirming orders based on ship-by dates, tracking fulfillment, invoices & payment, sales rep commissions, product launch calendars etc using spreadsheets and post-it notes especially if your products are made-to-order can be overwhelming.


The more successful your product line or boutique, the more administrivia you have to deal with. Running a successful business is about doing more of the same in a repeatable way.


Automating the repeatable non-creative parts of your business lies at the heart of successfully scaling your business and taking it to the next level. Leveraging technology purpose built for small businesses is the only way to keep your sanity and not get mired in the minutiae of running the business.


What parts of your business can you put on auto-pilot that will save you time and money?



Spend Money to Make Money


Getting organized and increasing productivity by doing less helps keep your sanity but to truly stay successful, you need to invest in people and processes. Starting out as a DIY enthusiast, spending money on getting external help might seem optional. But as you are successful, it is imperative to pay for help and not try and wing it.


From book-keeping to getting a professional website to getting packaging designed for your products to creating your marketing brochures – might all seem like “I can figure it out”. But not only  it might take way more time than you originally thought, it might cost you more in the long run. Being honest about your strengths and building a support system to fill-in-the-gaps in the areas you are not-so-good-at is the winning combination.


What do you enjoy the least about your business? Can you get part time help to take it over?


Having a great product line might have gotten you the initial success. However being successful and staying successful need separate strategies. Staying successful is like running a marathon. 


Putting out great products season after season, that’s profitable and desired by your customers tests your endurance, motivation and creativity.


How do you handle success in your small business without getting burnt out? Share your tips in the comment!


Photo Credits :: Sam IIic


This is the ninth installment of our ongoing  Indie Business101 series. If you’ve missed one, find it here: