Not Good at Details? Too Bad!

by Susan on January 12, 2012

coffee stain notebook art

I was recently asked to answer the question, “If you are not good with details, how can you gather information when starting your own business?

My answer is this: I don’t believe that people are “not good with details.”

As a creative person who prefers big-picture thinking and strategy, I hate getting mired in the details and minutiae of day-to-day operations.  I do not like dealing with that stuff one bit, and I have a secret for you – no one does!  But, as a business owner, I have no choice.  It takes discipline, and you make need to pay someone to help you, but when you are starting your own business, you can’t afford to let yourself off the hook on managing details.

Here are some tips for staying organized while researching, planning, running, and starting your own business:

1.  Keep all of your notes in one place.  Whether that place is your iPhone, Microsoft Outlook, or an old fashioned composition notebook, don’t give yourself the option of having a million Post-It notes fluttering around your house.  I use composition notebooks, and if I have to take notes on something else (i.e., jotting a number down on the back of a business card, etc.), I tape them into the notebook.  When they are full, I label with the month(s) and year and store on a shelf in my home office.

2.  Don’t outsmart yourself.  I used to create file folders – paper, computer, and email – for every possible topic under the sun.  I fooled myself into thinking this was organization, when in fact, it made it even harder to find things.  Was that email filed under “Website, Domains;” “Website, Passwords;” or “Website, Admin?”  Now, I make files in the broadest possible categories so I can find what I’ve put in them.

3.  Limit your choices.  My father always said that too many choices were worse than too few, because you could be paralyzed by indecision.  This has never been truer than in the Internet age, when countless pieces of information are available at your fingertips.  When you can, limit yourself to a few trusted resources so that you don’t get overwhelmed.  For instance, when I want to research anything about social media, I go straight to Mashable.  I trust their data, and searching within that site is much quicker than reading 30 search results and trying to figure out which one is best.  This applies to all aspects of your life.  I limit myself to one department store when shopping for suits; one grocery store when buying food; and one very small group of advisors when asking for advice.

4.  Use the Cliffs Notes version whenever possible.  There are no bonus points for reading 12 articles when one Wikipedia entry would have been enough.  Don’t be afraid to buy the Dummies books.  In most cases, the simple version is enough.

5.  Outsource what you can.  When I started my company, I was lucky if I could afford a cup of coffee, much less an assistant, so I realize outsourcing isn’t always an option.  But if it is, do it!  I have used a variety of virtual assistant services, and being able to give someone else a dreaded task is well worth the money.  Not only do I get to avoid something boring or painful, but I can make sure the job gets done.

6.  This final suggestion is only in case of emergency.  I love the expression, “There are two ships I will avoid at any cost: a sinking ship and a partnership.”  I am a one-woman show, and I like it that way.  However, for some entrepreneurs, it makes sense to find a business partner whose strengths can complement your own.  If you truly believe you can’t get your act together, or you just refuse to try, you might consider finding a co-captain with whom to share the burden.

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