My husband – who is a physician – said to me once: “You have to create room for ‘walk-ins’ in your day.”

It was a time when my life felt like it was spinning out of control. I was being all things to all people.

Doing too much.

Always go-go-go.

Exhausted.

I remember looking at him with this incredulous look – how could I possibly make MORE room in my day? It was already completely packed.

How could I just create space when I needed to fill every possible minute with my endless “to-do” list?

I asked him this – I’m sure while sputtering with complete disbelief, as it was clear he couldn’t possibly understand how very busy I was.

He said that he always tries to make room in his clinic schedule for unexpected “walk-ins.”

“You never know when someone will need you urgently,” he said, “This way if someone walks in the door with an urgent request you have time to help them.”

While I was nodding and agreeing this made sense in a doctor-patient world, how did it apply to my busy – small business – running the house – raising children and being-all-things-to-all-people world?

Which got me to thinking… what more lessons could I learn from other, seemingly unrelated small business owners, and how do they apply to my service-based business?

Of course, there are many.

Here are the Top Three Things I Learned from a Doctor, a Hairdresser and a Waiter About Running my Business:

  1. What I learned from a doctor: Make Room for Walk-ins

    So now you’ve heard a bit of the preamble. But how does it apply? In the context of running a business, it means creating more time in your day for unexpected events.

    A client urgently needs a news release written to respond to a crisis; another has an urgent situation that needs immediate attention; your neighbour’s Dad has to go to the hospital and needs you to pick up her kids from school.

    Make room for 'walk-ins' like a Doctor's office to give you free time for urgent business requestsClick To Tweet

    It doesn’t matter where the request or unplanned event comes from, they are there. There are unplanned events that show up in our days… almost every day. And if your day is overloaded, it will really push your limits to fit them in.

    But how can you physically make more room in your day? I did it by:

    • Adding more support than I thought I needed – What are you doing in your business or your life now that you could hire someone else to do?
    • Creating more space in between meetings – What would it take to make more room in between appointments? To plan in desk time to actually get things done?
    • being more realistic with how much time I actually have in a day – What do you see when you do a self-expectation check.  Are you trying to do too much?
  2. What I learned from a hairdresser: Set Your Working Hours

    Whenever I’m about to take on one more client, even though I may not really have room in my schedule to serve them, I remind myself of my hairdresser.

    Her appointment calendar is usually full about two months in advance. She typically works 11-7 and now takes weekends off, which is revolutionary in the hairdresser world.

    She has decided what works for her, how much time she is going to work, and fills that time. If she is fully booked within her set appointment hours, she has to decline your request for an appointment.

    Seems simple enough, but why wasn’t I applying this in my own business? Because the reality was that if I said “yes” to a client when I was really full, that would be like me cutting hair at midnight – because that’s when I would do the work, when I could fit it in – probably close to midnight.

    Doesn’t that seem ridiculous when you think about it in the context of a hairdresser? I wouldn’t dream of expecting my lovely hairdresser to cut my hair in the middle of the night when she should be sleeping.

    Yet this is what we so often do… whether it’s in our business or in our life, we “make room” for requests to our own personal sacrifice.

    Having set business hours prevents you from over-committing yourself at a personal sacrificeClick To Tweet
  3. What I learned from a waiter: Make Your Clients Feel Special

    Have you ever been to a restaurant where your waiter made you feel as though you were the only one in the restaurant? He was clearly serving many tables, managing many requests, yet he remembers every attention to detail about your dinner.

    He remembers what you’re eating, the special way you’d like it cooked, the wine you are drinking and where you sat in the restaurant last time you were there.

    He makes you feel like you are his only dinner guest and yet clearly, he has many others right in this moment, and many more before you and more to come after you are gone. Yet he makes you feel special; like you are the most important one.

    Do you make your clients and the people in your life feel that way? If you do, I bet they will keep coming back to you, time and time again.

    Make clients feel they are the only person you're dealing with and they will keep returningClick To Tweet

So, there you have the top three things I learned from a doctor, a hairdresser and a waiter about running my business.

What other business tips have you learned from unexpected places? I’d love to hear about them.

I invite you to put them in the comments below or send me an email. We all have inspiration to share. What’s yours?

With gratitude,
Susan Elford

Personal Balance Equation Workbook ABOUT SUSAN ELFORD

Susan Elford is a PR Strategist & Leadership Coach who especially loves to work with people who want it all: a fulfilling career or business while living a balanced life. Susan helps her clients get real about their strengths and celebrate and promote them so they get more of what they want: success at work; success in business & success in life.

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