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Business Strategy Session with Gill Wilson butteredhost.com

Business Strategy Session with butteredhost.com

Adela Mei
Welcome, Gill from butteredhost.com welcome to my digital strategy hot seat. Thank you for joining me today, I’d like us to just dive straight right in for you to tell me about your business. And let’s talk some strategy.

Gill Wilson
Okay, so I have a small web agency based in the west of Scotland, we are doing reasonably well, in terms of leads and orders coming in. And we have big projects, small projects, we’ve got quite a range of projects, I suppose what the issues are, is that a lot of the things still fall to me. And so it’s really hard to distribute work out that comes in. And also, what’s the other issue? I suppose the thing is that we’re probably not as profitable as we would like to be. So I think there’s, in my head, there’s something not connecting with the way we’re working that is generating enough revenue in order to help us to be profitable.

Adela Mei
Would you say you’d need some clarity with maybe how you’re distributing your tasks? Or how you’re managing the workload? What’s the main thing that’s coming up?

Gill Wilson
Yeah, I think the main thing that I’m wondering is, well, there’s probably two things that are main, and the one is, so we have probably at the opposite extremes of projects, we have ones that are really, really big and big revenue, initially, but then I have to take on people to help fulfill that project, therefore, that eats into the profitability of it.

Or we have a smaller end of the scale, we have a subscription service, which is a very low budget, but it’s very easy to manage. So, you know, once it’s set up and running, it kind of goes on its own. And then we’ve got things in between, but you know, people say to focus on one area or other.

And I just wonder what that looks like, because we have become all things to all people in a sense. And I know that it’s not right to do that. Or, you know, we’ve been advised that you look for your ideal client, and then stick with that. But I think what’s really difficult is when you’re not really having a steady revenue and profitable scenario, what does that look like, the temptation is always ‘Well, actually, I need to pay the bills so I’m going to do this’. And sometimes the project is just really quite interesting, and even though it’s outside what you think that you’re going to take you think, I think I’d like to do that.

So how do you sift that and come up with a good strategy that will work for where we are as a business just now.

Adela Mei
One approach, I mean, I do agree with the concept that we can’t be everything for everyone, because what I feel happens then is we overstretch ourselves. And then we have to jump from task to task, and task to task. So if you actually map out where your time and energy is actually going, although that sounds maybe quite tedious, but if you really drew it out on a very large piece of paper, you know, clients, tasks, and all the things.

I mean, I’m a very visual person so that’s a technique that would work for me. See how it’s not so much the variety in the projects and the clients that might be using so much time, it’s the jumping and switching between the two, or the three, or the four or the five. And I’ve noticed that the time it takes to shift focus from say, one client to another, or one project to another, you have to reset and then go in again. And that actually takes up quite a lot of time.

Does that open anything up for you to think about it from that perspective?

Gill Wilson
Yeah, that makes a whole heap of sense. And yeah, that whole idea of context switching is something that I do know about it in my head, you know, somewhere in the back there, but I guess I haven’t really applied that that’s actually what’s going on right now. And it’s not even just switching customer to customer, which it is as well, but it’s also switching contexts of roles, so I’ll be the business owner and the salesperson, to the manager of the tech guys, to the tech guy myself, you know, so there’s that whole continuity of roles that I’m switching in and out of all day, and somedays I can be in and out of all of those roles.

Adela Mei
I’ve literally started trying to do one day, or one work segment, per client or per task. And if I can be disciplined enough to do that, I do know that I can just completely focus on that. But the key is the distractions, the key is focusing on the tasks that you’re actually doing right now. And before that, choosing, which is the task that you need to do, so prioritising.

So before that, you have to prioritise what are the most important things to do for your business. So all of this happens before you even start doing work. You’re planning, organizing, coming up with your strategy. So it’s almost like taking a step back and look at, I tend to be quite food oriented in my analogies, like you’re looking at a buffet, if you’ve got your Indian curries, and then your Chinese, and then it’s all mixed together, and your Mexican, that might not be such a good mix.

That would be the place I would start is try and map out visually, actually on paper with colored pens, and just really map things out and try and categorize them into, say the subscription clients – What part of that business might that serve? And how much of your time, or energy or business do you want to put into that? Is that actually a completely separate business? Or is it building a foundation for the main business.

So there’s so many different ways you could do it, but from looking at it all I would say you’d get some insights when you actually map it out. And write it down.

Another way to approach it from coming at it from a different angle would be to look at your working day, and map that out into the blocks of time that you have. And just be very honest with yourself and say, Okay, what do I want to be doing with my Monday morning block? What do I actually want to be doing? Do it from that. Maybe do it as a separate exercise from that place. What do you want to be doing on a Monday morning?

Gill Wilson
I want to be in my bed!

Adela Mei
So then don’t work on Monday. I don’t work on Mondays. I realised that I don’t feel productive and happy and good about work on Mondays. So that’s one of my days off and I try and aim for a four day week. And then I look at my work blocks in those four days, and what can I be doing? Some of the smaller tasks or smaller things that maybe I think are productive, they’re actually not.

They’re probably, for me, just distractions away from the main thing. You’re picking the low hanging fruit, I’ll just do this or just do this, I’m a task ticker, I can’t help it. I’ll just task tick. I’ll just email, clean out my inbox. And then feel like I have achieved probably a couple of 100 little things to be honest. But I haven’t done THE thing.

Gill Wilson
Yeah, that actually, that sounds really like me. So what then happens is ‘THE thing’ happens at the weekend when people aren’t emailing me to interrupt me, and things like that. So therefore, I don’t take weekends off. I don’t really take days of much now. And that to me is not why I got into business. And yeah, I’m okay with doing that for a short period of time. But you know, I think sometimes when you’re building your business, you have to put a little bit extra effort in but I think there has to be a point where you can’t, because it’s not such stainable and I know it’s not sustainable.

So I think what’s happened at the moment is all ‘the things’ that’s the main things, I’ve been trying to put them in my day. And then other little, tiny tasks, in the times that I would normally do things like go to the gym, go for a walk, make a meal. That’s when I fill those up. So therefore, there’s no space.

So you’re absolutely right. I mean, you know, really focusing on those big things, getting them done and dusted. Getting them out of the way is just really important.

Adela Mei
If we were to go deeper into the reason you set up your business, you’ve already touched on it, and I’m guessing it’s because you wanted freedom.

Gill Wilson
Exactly, yeah.

Adela Mei
You created for yourself a business that at the moment you’re working seven days a week. That’s not in alignment with the original reason why you set up your business, and are doing what you’re doing. So the strategy is all about coming back, and asking why? why are you doing this? Why are you experimenting with these other types of clients?

If you can find out why you’re doing it, and it may be valid as an exploration because you’re shifting your business trajectory, or you’re growing, so it’s perfectly valid to do that, if that’s why you’re doing it.

Gill Wilson
And that is the case. I mean, we have been growing, we’ve been in a growth spurt, shall we say, for a while, but I think growth spurts are hard to manage, aren’t they?

And I think, particularly when you’re learning so much, and you know, how do you? And so, you know, I think that people have talked to us about using certain marketing methods to get clients. And the thing is, I’m not 100% convinced that that’s the way for our type of business to achieve clients. I think we’ve mostly worked on referrals and word of mouth, so far.

Adela Mei
It’s sounding like a more organic, natural, authentic approach to networking. And with that referral system is much more suited to you because it that feels like a more natural growth, that’s not going to generate this huge influx of work that we’ve seen this, we’ve talked before about this, if you’re onboarding clients, you actually, firstly, you can’t manage the workload, but to me, you’re not serving your clients properly.

Gill Wilson
Yeah, yeah, exactly.

Adela Mei
It’s that balance of not bringing on too much, bringing on enough. It sounds like the question really is – how can you take the next steps to grow your business sustainably?

The initial question of how to choose what it is that you do, I think the underlying question really is okay, this is what I’m aiming for. I’m growing my business is the ‘Why’. How do I take the next step with always imagining like your eyes on the horizon, that’s where you’re going and each step that you take needs to take you there.

Small digressions are okay and natural, but not big ones that can shift the trajectory and end up over there and realise you’ve missed your main business goal. You haven’t got to where you wanted, because you just had a few little shifts that you weren’t paying attention and your business went off down there. Does that make sense?

Gill Wilson
Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. Now that I think that’s, that’s really fair to say. I think you’re right. It’s less about the types of projects and more about whether we’re meeting the goals, or on track towards the goals of the actual business.

Adela Mei
And then ‘what are your business goals’ would be the question we would open if we went into a deeper explanation is to go back into the goals because I’m, I would guess that they’ve changed. So maybe it’s a really good time to just review – Okay, from this point onwards:

  • where do we want the business to go?
  • what do we want it to do?
  • what purpose is it serving, and more importantly,
  • how do you get your freedom back and your weekends back?

Gill Wilson
Yes, that very important. Yeah, I think that’s right.

Adela Mei
Well, we have a couple more minutes on the hot seat. Was there anything else you’d like me to offer expertise on, or have we unpacked a whole package of fun for you to go and look at?

Gill Wilson
I think if there’s anything, I think it’s really about digging into some of the stuff that we’ve talked about already. You’ve definitely unpacked some things and there are some clearly deeper, strategic things that we need to look at and sit down and, I think I like your idea of mapping things out. I can already visualise lots of A4 paper on the floor. And me leaping from paper to paper. So I think that’s going to happen, for sure. So yeah, thanks so much.

Adela Mei
You’re welcome.

Adela Mei is a highly experienced natural strategist.  She understands the digital landscape crucial to today’s businesses and I am convinced she can help any company accelerate beyond what they would be able to achieve without her particular blend of digital strategy, in depth marketing knowledge and web experience.

She is an intuitive, fast thinking, digital business expert and I would highly recommend her to any company leader who wanted to see real results from a no nonsense approach to strategy and execution.

Gill Wilson

Digital Catalyst, Buttered Host

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