Self-Discipline and the CEO’s Hat

How do you spell solopreneur?

I — N — S — A — N — I — T — Y

It’s touted as the passive income or nomadic lifestyle.

That might be true for some . . .

For the vast majority, passive income is a dribble and the nomadic lifestyle means sleepless nights.

In the corporate world we had Quarterly Status Reviews with the boss.

Self-disciple wasn’t a prerequisite. You were required to show up and present your PowerPoint charts for your project or the status of your group in front of your peers and management.

It was a system of checks and balances to keep everything running smoothly toward a common goal. Of course, there were “hits and misses,” schedule slips and such.

But, it was a great way to get accountability, guidance, input, and insights.

When you’re a solopreneur, do you have the self-disciple to conduct your own Status Review? How to you deal with:

  • Accountability?
  • Guidance?
  • Input and Insights?

The business you’re building is behind schedule and you’re not sure it’s even feasible. You need a 3rd party’s objective opinion.

But, you’re too busy to slow down and think about the big picture.

You’re buried in details about the changes to the newest version of Premier Pro or learning the best practices of AdWords or SEO strategies or Facebook’s latest changes.

Even if you take a moment to breathe, could you be objective?

Some solopreneurs have mentors or masterminds. That’s helpful.

But, ultimately, it comes down to YOU.

How do you make objective and wise choices? The right choice.

This is where self-discipline is required.

Take a day to pause and give yourself a review.

You’re already wearing the hats of product developer, marketer, sales, bookkeeper, designer, web dev, technical support and customer service.

So, why not wear the hat of the freaking hardass CEO.

I call this the CEO Review and here’s how it works.

Divide your business into the major components, projects or functional areas. Such as:

  • Product Development
  • Traffic Generation
  • Conversion
  • Operations
  • Customer Relationships
  • Prospect Relationships
  • Financials

For each area, make an objective assessment of 4 aspects.

  • Status
  • Results
  • Analysis
  • Plan

I could write 500 words on each aspect, but it’s much faster to just show an example from my recent review.

The following is one of the small projects under the heading of Conversions. Since it’s in that category, the purpose is obvious — to convert traffic into a client.

14-Day Challenge via Email

Status

  • All Emails Complete and Tested with Email Manager

Results

  • Less than 10 people have gone through the challenge
  • Feedback is good, a few typos noted
  • No conversions

Analysis

  • Not enough traffic to judge the effectiveness for converting
  • Is the traffic low because the challenge isn’t enticing, not sure, the problem is probably due to the lack of high quality traffic to the invitation

Plan

  • Keep the challenge in place for now
  • Drive traffic by improving the traffic generation projects (see those plans)
  • Review again after 150 people have completed the challenge
  • Look at completion rates
  • Evaluate the source and quality of the traffic

END of REVIEW

That’s all you need to do. Depending on the stage of your business and functional areas it may take an hour to prepare or all day.

When you do this type of review, it’s critical to be objective. Which means . . .

  • You can’t get hung-up on the fact that you’ve spent 500 hrs on a task and refuse to admit it’s a dead end.
  • You must admit when you suck at certain things and need to outsource them to a VA, Fiverr, barter services with friends . . .
  • You must be a firm but compassionate CEO. It’s not productive to tell yourself that you’re incompetent and failing at everything. It’s not like you can fire yourself. (Well, I guess you could toss-in-the-towel and go back to corporate.)
  • Share your CEO Review with someone. It could be a friend, mentor, mastermind group or even a spouse if you’re a risk taker.
  • Just make sure they have a background that enables them to provide useful feedback, not platitudes.

Too Much to Do

One of the chronic challenges of the solopreneur is Too Much to Do.

The CEO Review is an opportunity to shine a light on this problem and decide where to scale back.

In the corporate world, you could reprioritize, put projects on hold or kill them entirely, shift or add resources.

In solopreneur world, we can only reprioritize or put projects on hold (which typically kills them).

How do you reprioritize? There needs to be a method or logic. Here’s my method.

  • Identify the most urgent higher level objective or problem to be solved. It could be revenue, product development, quality, customer service, cost reduction, or an operations issue.
  • You can’t say “all of the above.” If you say that, how are you fooling?
  • If the project moves you toward this higher level goal, it stays active. If it doesn’t move toward this goal, it’s put on hold.
  • When you have several projects that all contribute toward the goal, you need to rank them in urgency. This happens 99% of the time.
  • Maybe there are dependencies, one project can’t start until another is complete. That makes the choice easier. Let’s assume that is not the case. How do you choose?
  • Can one task be completed fast — for a quick win? This can create momentum. It’s hard to argue with momentum.
  • All things being equal, is there one that you’re more motivated to work on? Don’t fight it, take the motivation and run with it.
  • Is there one whose success could make the others less urgent? Do that one.
  • Is there one that your gut just tells you must be done. Sometimes our instincts are accurate.

Asking these questions helps you get clarity.

My solopreneur gig is about journaling and clarity.

This CEO Review fits well into that paradigm well.

It’s similar to journaling, but with a very specific format. And, it’s sure as hell about clarity.

The example above looks nice and clean. The original was a mess. Several versions were required to make it intelligible. Clarity is an iterative process.

The CEO Review takes a little time, but it can be a crucial step to keeping you on track (or at least within eyesight of the tracks)

And it creates a little peace of mind when it’s in short supply.

If you’re interested in learning more about my approach to daily journaling, start with my email based habit challenge I mentioned above.

Or, you may want to checkout my post on the superpower of habits, what I discovered first hand.

Journaling and daily habits are my top self-discipline tips.