I'm not responsible for everything
I started out in business with an eagerness to please my clients — no matter what — and I put more stress on myself than I needed to.
Sometimes I'd work on a project that required someone else to give me information before I could move forward. They didn't always feel the same sense of responsibility to meet deadlines, which means they gave me what I needed to complete the project at the last minute, and then I had to work really late to get everything finished on time.
Over the years, I learned to set boundaries and I realized that I'm not responsible for people outside my organization who are running behind. Instead of stressing out and trying to pick up the slack, I give clients regular progress reports and I warn them when someone has not lived up to an agreement to deliver on time. I've found that, in general, clients are very understanding and this strategy reduces the burden tremendously.
Packaging leads to success — or failure
One of my biggest joys as an entrepreneur is having a ton of flexibility in my life and variety in my work. When I began my business, I actually preferred contract work that didn't tie me down on a long-term basis. I saw it as giving me more freedom.
But after almost six years of full-time entrepreneurship, I've found that offering "retainer" contracts, where my company is paid on a monthly basis, and larger three- to six-month programs is a huge key to success. When you have larger contracts, you even out your cash flow, reduce your sales and marketing time and build a long-term, value-packed relationship with your clients.
Sales is fun. Really
I've always enjoyed marketing: strong networking and communications skills have come naturally to me from the time I started toddling around. But I used to detest the thought of sales. I thought it was enough to tell people what I did and they would hire me if they needed me.
Once I got into the coaching business, where I help people who have struggled with time management for years, I realized that marketing was not enough. I needed to know how to sell to get chronic procrastinators into a coaching program that would transform their lives. I invested in sales training so I could learn the art and science of sales, and I found I loved it. Selling done well provides the right people with the right solutions to overcome their challenges.
Special to The Globe and Mail
Elizabeth Grace Saunders is the founder and CEO of Real Life E , a time-management life coaching and training company that empowers individuals who feel guilty, overwhelmed and frustrated to accomplish more with peace and confidence.
She is also a member of the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only, non-profit organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. The YEC promotes entrepreneurship as a solution to unemployment and underemployment and provides entrepreneurs with access to tools, mentorship, and resources that support each stage of a company's development and growth.