TFYW#091: It’s Not That You Don’t Have Time

Jun 14, 2024

I hope this week is a wake-up call you need to make that needle-moving shift in your firm.

 

Tired Body. Clear Mind.

Three weeks ago, I spent 7.5 hours travelling 76 kms (47 miles) by foot, canoe, and bike.

Our group of four was in the advanced men’s group.

We finished fourth in our category.

During the race, there were six transition areas and ample opportunities to get lost.  

These types of races demand you to be physically and mentally focused. 

I was hyper-focused during the race – reviewing maps, discussing routes, adjusting gear, and hydrating and replacing calories. 

I had no space to think about anything other than the task at hand

The day after the race, I was exhausted. 

Heavy legs. Sore shoulders. But my mind was crystal clear.  

My mind gets a hard reset every time I push my body.

There’s plenty of research to show the connection between body movement and brain function.

But that stillness of mind plays a significant role in how I show up in business.  

In those moments, my vision evolves, creativity comes easily, and confidence spikes.  

It pushes me from a tactical to a strategic mindset.

My businesses grow in proportion to how much time I spend in the strategic mindset.

 

Tactical, Systematic and Strategic

We spend time operating and thinking on tactical, systematic and strategic levels.

This is the natural order to get done. 

Tactical – How is this thing done?

Systematic – Who and What do I need to get this done? 

Strategic – Is this the best thing I/we should be doing? 

Unfortunately, each level delivers different types of rewards: 

Thinking and operating tactically rewards you quickly: 

  • responding to a client in 17 seconds → dopamine hit
  • matching all the monthly QBO trans → dopamine hit
  • polishing off a bank rec to the cent → dopamine hit
  • landing a quick personal return over email → dopamine hit

But when you’re operating systematically, the dopamine slows.

  • meeting at 7am to go over more training with your new Filipino VA.
  • sogging through drafting an SOP for your team.
  • responding to countless client emails after raising prices across the board.    

And when we operate strategically, there’s not a drop of cheap dopamine in sight:

  • spending time identifying your niche and listing their problems.
  • crafting and testing a marketing message, only to redo it a few more times. 
  • deciding which service you’ll cut out of your core offerings.

Many of us get addicted to the dopamine of staying on the surface, and that becomes our default operating mode.  

We get buried in the ‘rewarding’ tactical stuff and then complain that we’re too busy to see anything else.

I get it. I was there.

I mistakenly leveraged a fresh mind to crank out some client work. I was super efficient and the ‘completing tasks’ dopamine was off the charts. 

I completed a lot of client work but didn’t move my firm forward.  

It felt safer to stay busy with tactical stuff than to wade into the uncertainty of ‘unbillable’ strategic work.

 

More Vision. Not More Time

When firm owners say they don’t have any time, what I hear is that they can’t plan and execute on a strategic vision.

 

If you don’t remember anything else from this newsletter, remember this:

 

We don’t prevent growth in our firms with our lack of time but our lack of vision. 

 

Planning and executing a strategic vision takes clarity and confidence.

And clarity and confidence come when we slow and focus our minds.

Operating strategically is about achieving a mental state where we can consistently think, commit, and recommit to a bigger plan.

We need to make adjustments to get to that state.

Spend Time Away From Operations

Consistent time away from firm operations is necessary.

A one-and-done’ visioning’ session won’t cut it.

Building and maintaining confidence in a plan takes time and repeated efforts.

A client’s unexpected exit or a team member’s departure can rattle our strategic confidence, making us retreat into ‘trusty’ client work.

When we lose confidence, we lose focus.

We get that focus back with downtime and putting space between us and the firm problems.

It sounds weird, but flushing your brain is a thing.

I’ve spoken to many firm owners who have been too close to their problems for too long to see a way out.

Plan and stick to a schedule to get outside, meditate, walk, or exercise regularly so you can rise above everything.

Bill Everything Upfront

This is a more tactical way to take care of your brain.

Cash flow issues kill strategic thinking because they create a fog of war—we can’t look past our immediate actions.

All activities become reactionary and a matter of conservation.

But collecting as much cash upfront is a cheat code to help alleviate cash flow pressure.

First, you cut the admin burden for the engagement in half.

Second, you free up mental space to think beyond just getting paid.

I remember laying in bed anxious about cash. Worry consumes so much energy with no tangible positive result.

Until you aren’t worrying constantly about money, you won’t be able to operate strategically. Period.

Billing upfront won’t reduce all the cash flow pressures in your firm, but it’s a good start.

Control Client Influence

How clients talk to and treat us either feeds or blocks our vision.   

First, get rid of bad clients. 

I’m a bit of a broken record on this one, but the true cost of crappy clients is immense.

They suck energy and chip away at our confidence.  

For all the other clients, get reviews from as many of them as possible.

Don’t just ask for a review; ask specific questions about their experience.

  • How has working with your firm impacted their business and lives?
  • What is one thing that sticks out in working with your firm?    

Don’t expect all clients to respond or provide insightful feedback.

However, the thoughtful feedback we get is not only social proof, but it builds you and your team up. 

When we stack positive reviews, it’s fuel for our confidence and creates healthy dopamine.    

__________

Don’t get so hyperfocused on tracking and maximizing time that we miss the real needle mover in firm growth: Our focus and energy.

Build the firm you want.

Mark

P.S. Email Mark@FirmNexus.com with something that you want me to talk about. I’ll add it to the list. 

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