Successful Entrepreneurs are Resilient People

Successful entrepreneurs and Resilience

Prepare for the bad stuff in your business and back yourself to get through it.

resilience tree in business

Nervous Entrepreneurs and Bouncebackability

Famous entrepreneur Richard Branson wrote an international bestseller with the title: Screw it, let’s do it. It’s a great book and I am a fan of Sir Branson. I wish more of the giga entrepreneurs were like him (as opposed to some whose name shall not be mentioned in this blog, but whose new office has no corners). But the title of the book has done much to confirm the myth that successful entrepreneurs are wild risk takers. I think that’s a shame, entrepreneurs actually take as little risk as they possibly can, and from what I’ve seen in 30-odd years in and around business, it’s all about mental strength instead.

Business owners who do well are resilient people (more on resilience here), they have mental fortitude, they have the ability to bounce back from adversity and set backs.

When growing a business, adversity is part of the package, it gets thrown in for free. Being a business owner is not for the faint hearted. The highs and the lows can follow each other in quick succession. I always think getting a business off the ground, is a journey out past the horizon of an unexplored ocean, and I have yet to meet a business owner for whom it’s been smooth sailing. Sometimes we’ll receive favourable winds and sometimes we suddenly find ourselves in the midst of an unexpected storm.

I’m reminded of the joke we used to make in the early days of the PC revolution: “You can divide the world in two camps: Those who have experienced a catastrophic hard drive failure, and those who are about to.” The business owners of the world can be divided in two camps as well: Those who’ve had a significant setback and those who are about to have one. And so it follows: entrepreneurs who have achieved a measure of success, have bounced back at least once after facing setbacks; Successful entrepreneurs are resilient people.

The two principles of resilience

There are two principles of resilience that are characterised by the following two quotes:

Accepting that anything could happen, good stuff as well as bad stuff, doesn’t make one a pessimist. There is a big difference between pessimism and being an optimistic realist. Pessimists will imagine the worst and not be able to see a positive way out. Optimistic realists on the other hand, acknowledge that bad stuff will likely come their way. They simply accept that it is part of the adventure, but they back themselves to be able to manage their way out.

Successful entrepreneurs and Resilience Nervous Nellies

Successful entrepreneurs do not walk around with their fingers crossed, hoping it will all be ok, somehow. They know that anything can happen, and they prepare for it. Great small business owners are generally ‘Nervous Nellies’ with active imaginations. But that doesn’t make them pessimists, far from it. They’re constantly on the lookout for what may go wrong and they plan for those eventualities. They ask themselves: If XYZ were to happen, how could I respond to minimize the impact of it? And they trust themselves to be able to get out from under the hammer when it falls. (More about planning here).

I cannot stress enough how important it is in business to look all possibilities straight in the eye. Positive thinkers, personal and business development gurus alike, often beseech us not to visualise the bad stuff in life. Instead, they say, we must focus on the positive things we want to manifest and we’re assured that because of the universal “Law of Attraction” and our “Abundance Mindset”, it will all fall into place, and if not, we’ve somehow not thought positively enough.

Positive Thinking is Nonsense

Successful entrepreneurs and Resilience Believe me: Positive Thinking is nonsense. Instead, accept that the bad stuff will hit you at some point, as it undoubtedly will, plan for it, learn to trust yourself that you’ll have what it takes to weather the storm, remind yourself that the storm is not caused by an intrinsic shortcoming in your personality and finally, take the quote from Ms Grotberg above to heart.

Why I like Edith Grotberg’s quote so much is that it reminds me that we can all become more resilient. If resilience were a character trait that only special people like Steve Jobs, Larry Page and Warren Buffet are born with, there is no hope for the rest of us. But just like we can learn to manage our anger better, become more assertive, or teach ourselves to become better listeners, we can also learn to become more resilient.

These are some of the steps that will lead to improving your resilience over time:

First of all, it’s really important to understand that Resilience is not about being unaffected by the storms;

Resilience is About How You Recharge, Not How You Endure

You will be knocked sideways when the bad stuff happens. That’s ok, what matters is what you do next. Ms Grotberg suggests three statements to repeat to yourself and to remind yourself off often:

  • I Have: strong relationships, community and structures; these are external supports I can rely on;
  • I Am: a person who has hope and faith, cares about others, is capable and proud of myself; these are inner strengths that can be developed;
  • I Can: communicate, solve problems, gauge the temperament of others, seek good relationships—all interpersonal and problem-solving skills that I have acquired.

These statements are what are often referred to in various psychology disciplines, as a “Reframe”. While simply reading them here won’t turn you into a resilient rock overnight, they are powerful nevertheless. I suggest printing those three statements out and hanging them above your desk and read them out to yourself regularly. If you do, you will slowly start to strengthen your optimistic realism and change your self-belief, especially when combined with a focus on self-compassion, being kinder to yourself (more about kindness in business here).

Optimistic realism, reminding yourself of the “I Have, I Am, I Can” statements combined with practicing Kindness to yourself will mean you’ll recover from the bad stuff, quickly, and continue build a Great Small Business… I promise you.

Further reading

More about Personal Development and Leadership here

#BusinessResilience #startup #entrepreneurmindset #realtalk #motivateyourself #NeverGiveUp #Resilience #FunInBusiness

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Small Business

What Does A Typical Business Owner Look Like?

business acumen

Business acumen, what is it and how do you know you have it?

Business acumen

In the end it’s all about stupidity

Are business owners born or made? Or rather, what does it take to become a business owner, Do you have business acumen? What does business acumen look like? How can you tell if you are a budding business owner or not?

I find it a really interesting question, I’ve thought about it many times, especially since becoming a business coach, helping small business owners turn their dreams into reality. I have also written about the Entrepreneurial types here and I have created a survey to help you determine what type of entrepreneur you are here.

To answer the question, we need to dispel one myth first of all, and that’s the myth that there is an “entrepreneurial type”. There may indeed be such a type, but it’s not just those types that become successful business owners. I think business owners are as varied in their types as there are people on the planet. Having said that, I do believe that there is one character trait that stands out as something unique to most entrepreneurs, and that’s this:

Business owners are people who cannot conceive of having their lives controlled by others.

For a business owner type, the idea of spending her entire working life having to report to others and being part of an organisation that does things, and takes directions that are outside of her control, fills him with dread.

Your most troublesome employee

business acumen I am certainly like that myself. I worked for a large organisation for 5 years in the early part of my working life, and found myself fighting the system every day. Having my boss, or his boss, or the bosses boss make a directive and being informed of such a directive and having to fall into line with the directive, whether or not I agreed with it, would simply make steam come out of my ears.

I was that employee you’d hate to have work for you.

And the thought that my days would be controlled like this for the rest of my life sent shivers down my spine. I was only 25 by the time I knew something had to change and I naively decided it was time to go out on my own. In hindsight, it’s a good thing that I was as naïve as I was. If I’d known then what I know now about becoming a small business owner, I might have held back and attempted to become a better adjusted and happier staff member instead. I say ‘a good thing’, because I am incredibly glad I made the step when I was young and stupid. I don’t regret anything about becoming a business owner and employer rather than an employee.

Standing in the centre of your life

I’ve loved standing in the centre of my life, knowing that I was equally responsible for anything bad that happened in my business (and my life) as well as for the successes. But it does get progressively harder and scarier to take the step to becoming an entrepreneur as you grow older.

People think that business owners are somehow braver than non-business owners, because they get out there and face the world on their own. I don’t think it’s courage so much; I don’t consider myself more courageous than the average person. Most people who start their own business, get to a point in their lives where they simply feel they can’t do anything else, they’re compelled. The mark of courage is not how fearless you are, rather it is in how you overcome your fears. I don’t remember feeling fear so much when I decided to become my own boss. I simply had to do this thing, there was no other option.

And hence, to answer the question: What is business acumen and what does it look like? Maybe the common characteristic of business owners is … Stupidity.

#StupidInBusiness #EntrepreneursAreBorn #FunInBusiness #BusinessAcumen

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A rose by any other name… Is Your Business Coach Really A Consultant?

Business Coach Australia

The difference between business coaching, life coaching, mentoring, consulting and training

Business Coach Australia

As always, in the end it’s about people

I’m often asked about the difference between business coaching, life coaching, business consulting, business mentoring, business advising and business training. I tend to confuse people with my answer. So let me see if I can make more sense of it all for you here.

First of all you need to understand that there are actually no accepted definitions of the terms coaching and mentoring. Many people call themselves coaches who would have called themselves consultants, advisers or counselors prior to 2005 when coaching became a very trendy idea.

I myself trained in various coaching and counselling disciplines and was a member of one of the private coaching bodies called the ICF, the International Coaches Federation. It was and is one of the most serious bodies trying to regulate the coaching world, but I would hazard a guess that not even 10% of professionals that refer to themselves as coaches are members of the ICF or any of the other professional coaching bodies.

Business coaching is even less defined as a specific profession and most business coaching companies have simply created a set of programs that they believe will help their clients get ahead in business. They use the “business coach” label because it seems like the best descriptor. I refer to myself as a business – life coach and to be honest I’ve never come across another business – life coach and so, what I do is anybody’s guess 🙂 (But my clients all tell me it works incredibly well, so I’ll just keep doing it).

More about the various forms of business support, guidance and advice that are available to small business owners here

Coaching is one of the tools

To be fair, that’s not all that different for me either. I gave up my ICF membership more than 5 years ago, because I concluded that I don’t ascribe to the coaching model that the ICF tries to regulate anymore. Coaching, in the ICF certified way, is just one of the many tools I use to support my clients.

I refer to myself as a business coach and mentor. But to be more accurate, I should really call myself a business coach, mentor, adviser, hand-holder, sounding board and backside kicker. At different times, I step into all those roles. Besides, the way I work with my clients is entirely different to how most other business coaches work with their clients. Many of the business coaches are part of larger organisations such as ActionCoach or Shirlaws, or Fish Coaching. Those organisations have specific business development programs that the coach or consultant helps the business implement. The programs might include training and workshops and group coaching and are based on specific philosophies of business. They are the same for all clients.

It’s all about the relationship

Business Coach Australia Over the past 12 years, doing what I do with my clients, I’ve seen that an engagement with a coach, mentor or adviser is only as good as the relationship that develops between the coach and the client. When I realised that it wasn’t whether I applied a certain coaching technique or followed a certain program that changed my client’s business and life, but that it was all about my relationship with the client, I gave up my ICF membership and decided to totally customise my approach for every client.

So last week I might have been a counselor and offered nothing but deep empathy for the client’s challenges, this week I might tell the same client to pull his finger out and get his overdue admin up to date and next week I might help him understand the vagaries of the balance sheet or start writing a social media marketing plan with him.

These days, when someone asks me what the difference is between coaching and mentoring, consulting and training, I tell him that it’s the wrong question to ask. The only question to ask is: Do I think I can Do Great Work in my business with the support of this person.

Nothing else matters… I promise you.

More about the various forms of business support, guidance and advice that are available to small business owners here

#entrepreneurship #BusinessCoach #FunInBusiness #Leadership

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Time Management, Procrastination and Laziness

Procrastination, Business Coach

Procrastinating My Life Away

Procrastination, Business Coach

The nonsense in my head and what I do about it

Today, I’m writing about procrastination, laziness and time management. Well, I say “today”, but that’s a relative concept, isn’t it. “Today” was meant to be last Monday, it’s now Thursday. And in unrelated news, my desk is as tidy as it’s been for weeks, my email inbox is empty and I just pulled a magic looking sourdough from the oven an hour ago.

Your business coach wonders: “Am I really the right person to write about procrastination? It’s clearly not one of my strength areas.”

Procrastination, time management and laziness… Tricky topic. On the one hand I’ve written before (here for example), that laziness doesn’t actually exist as a character trait. On the other hand however, some people just seem to get so much done and they’re disciplined and they get their heads down and don’t come up for air until the job is done and then they jump straight into the next thing and get that done too. I even know people who are so disciplined, they consistently don’t look at Facebook until after dinner and every day turn their email off for large blocks of time. Those people are on the Marvel Super Heroes Team in my book: Doctor Discipline or somesuch…

Time to get some nibbles

Procrastination, Business Coach Hang on, I’m about 200 words into this article… Time to jump up and get some nibbles from the kitchen.

Hi there, I’m back, 2 hrs later, but still.

You see in this case, part of the problem I’m having is that even as a business coach, I’m not sure yet exactly what I’m going to write. I’m searching for inspiration. I’m waiting for the Muse to strike me. One of my heroes, Oliver Burkeman from the Guardian, however, says in this interview  that waiting for the Muse is futile. Just do the thing, sit down and write, and see what happens, says Oliver.

It’s a technique I’ve used, with some success, in the past… But today… Not so much.

Procrastination and perfectionism

Procrastination makes me feel inadequate. There are some fascinating thoughts on procrastination, in this article by Costica Bradatan in the New York Times. According to Costica, procrastination is all about perfectionism. Our Vision is more perfect than the reality can ever be. We fear that the thing we want to create, build or write is going to be a disappointment compared to our vision of it and so we resist creating it. I can sort of understand that, but I don’t think I am a perfectionist. “Close Enough is Good Enough” has generally been my motto in life and consequently I “Get Shit Done”… Not as well done as some others might Get Their Shit Done maybe, but Done nevertheless. I pride myself on my ability to make things happen.

But some things don’t get done that way. The difficult stuff is always the stuff you can’t get done by rolling up your sleeves. The stuff we procrastinate over is the stuff that requires us to be courageous, the stuff that requires us to expose some of our weaknesses and vulnerabilities.

Young Grasshopper gets a kick up the backside

Procrastination, Business Coach So what’s difficult for me about writing this article and why I think I’ve been procrastinating over it for such a long time, is that I don’t feel qualified to talk about procrastination, because I do so much of it myself. Me writing about procrastination, inefficiency and wasting time is like a junkie writing about heroin addiction.

But hang on… Stop right there young grasshopper. By that logic we should not be allowed to talk about anything we haven’t gained a PHD in. Nonsense, clearly. Maybe being a procrastinator is precisely what qualifies me to write about it. Let’s face it, who wants to get weight loss advice from a supermodel? I’d much rather listen to someone who’s struggled with weight loss as much as I do, and who may have found something that’s helped him. One of the things that makes AA so effective is being with a group of people who “get it”.

So let’s start this whole thing again:

At the AA meeting

Hi my name is Roland and I am a procrastinator…

Here’s what has helped me sometimes, and sometimes not (and then at least I end up with a clean desk)

I’ve learnt is that procrastination is always, a sign for me that there is something else, something unexamined, in the way.

It’s either:

  1. I don’t know what the actual thing is I’m supposed to be doing
  2. I’m not sure how to actually go about doing this thing
  3. The prospect of doing this thing doesn’t excite me
  4. The consequences of not doing this thing at this moment are not all that bad.
  5. I don’t have enough confidence in my own abilities, or skill or experience.

(In the case of the procrastination I went through over writing this article it came down to numbers 1 and 5.)

Knowing that that’s how it works for me, I’ve learned that I first need to become aware that I am procrastinating, because sometimes I am avoiding the thing so much I don’t even realise I am procrastinating. And then, once I’ve realised I am procrastinating, ask myself which of those 5 hurdles is getting in my way. In nearly all cases, once I clearly verbalise what is getting in the way of doing the thing I’m supposed to be doing, it disappears. The moment I verbalised my fear of not being credible, because I am procrastinator myself, I realised how silly that fear actually was, the hurdle disappeared, and I could sit down and finish the article into the form you are reading now.

Most procrastination hurdles we throw up for ourselves fade when brought out into the light… I promise you

#TimeManagement #Procrastination #FunInBusiness

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How to Make a Family Business Work

Family Business

Family business the godfather

The pitfalls and the secrets of hiring family members in your business

Business and family don’t mix, is the old adage. And I’ve certainly seen the mixture blow up in a bunch of instances, but what about the many many family businesses out there that have done very well and been around a long time. Say what you will, but the Murdochs, Packers and Trumps are nothing if not succesful business families. So why are we so concerned about introducing family members into our businesses, and how can we avoid the worst of the pitfalls?

First of all, I think the problem with family and business, or for that matter friends and business, is not so much that it is more likely to fail than a normal business, but that if it fails it can cause so much collateral damage. Whole families can be ripped apart over a family partnership that disintegrates. If the manager of department X turns out to be an incompetent idiot, you as his direct report can simply leave. It may be inconvenient, but you’ll find another job and life moves on. But if that same manager is uncle Jimmy and the company was started by your father, and you have to sit at the same Christmas lunch table with Uncle Jimmy next month, then the situation becomes much more complicated.

The business owner’s dream

Family Business I’m not going to sit here and tell you never to hire a family member into your business. Most business owners dream of having their children join the business and have the thing they created be a vehicle for bringing the family closer and making life more comfortable for the family. In my days as a builder I often imagined that it would be really nice to have one or all of my kids become involved in my business. It’s how we roll as business owners, and it’s one of the reasons, I believe business owners on average are happier people as a group (more about business and happiness here) .

So how do we minimise the inherent risks of causing major family dramas when getting the clan involved in The Business.

4 Secrets

From everything I’ve seen over the years I think there are four principles to managing family business well:

    • Acknowledge that it isn’t always going to be easy. Allow for the fact that just because we are family, doesn’t mean we all have the same values and beliefs or the same work ethic or for that matter the same priorities in life. Sure, family is important for most of us, but my own kids are still more important to me than uncle Jimmy’s kids.
    • Depending on the size of the organisation, ensure you have regular meetings (monthly ideally) in which issues can be tabled and resolved. The format of the meetings is dependent on circumstances. If there are two family members in a large organisation, it’s probably a good idea for those two people to go and have a drink every month and compare notes. But if a significant number of the employees of a business are all part of your family, organise a once a month family meeting, in which irritations and grievances are aired and worked through.
    • Take the time to set up job-role-descriptions and expectations for all employees in the business, but especially for the family members. There is nothing so destructive as a family member in a business who doesn’t actually know what is expected from him or her. Job descriptions, clarity about what constitutes “great work”, clarity on deliverables and KPIs… Take the trouble to set them up and hold people, family members especially, accountable to them.
    • Ensure that there is great clarity about how people move up the ladder in the company. Family members especially must know that there is a quid pro quo: Not unless you deliver XYZ and you have proven to be good at your current role, will you be considered for promotion: Just because you are my son, doesn’t mean you will be promoted beyond what you proven yourself capable of.

I’ve written various other articles about the highs and lows of being in a family business here, as well as my own experiences in family business here, and there is a page with resources about family business on my website here, and finally I have a page about the services I offer husband and wife family businesses here.

Involving your family in your business can destroy your family just as much as it can bring your family closer together and be an incredibly rewarding experience. Follow the four principles above and you give yourself the best opportunity to create the latter… I promise you.

#FunInBusiness #Happiness #FamilyBusiness #ClarityInBusiness

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When Buying a Business is a Bad Idea

Escaping the rat race and buying a business

The safest route out of the rat race

Escaping the rat race and buying a business

Business is all about managing risk, it’s not about keeping your fingers crossed

A friend of a friend (let’s call him John) asked me for my advice the other day. John has a job in a marketing department of a big city corporate. John is good at his job, but he can’t see himself ever getting to the top of the ladder and in the mean time he just hates not being in control of his career and his life.

So John wants to become his own boss and he is considering buying a small business on Sydney’s North Shore. The business he is looking at is healthy, it has good established, profitable contracts and solid trading history, happy customers, and John can afford the purchase price of about $500,000 by borrowing against his house.

Disappointing advice

John is keen as mustard, he’s chomping at the bit to become corporate rat race escapee and take control of his own future. If you’ve read some of my previous articles about happiness and being in control of your own life (here for example), you might be surprised to hear that I strongly advised John against buying the business.

John was surprised too. Given I am a business coach, he’d assumed I would have told him to go for it. And let’s be clear about this: I do think it is a great idea for John to get out of the rat race. I do think that John is going to become increasingly frustrated in his current career. I do think John is the kind of guy who will do really well as a small business owner, and I do think the business John is looking at buying is healthy.

Business is about managing risk

But my advice to John was all about managing risk.

Business is about managing risk. Smart business owners are masters of managing their risk; They know you can’t do it risk free, but they look for every opportunity to postpone it, spread it or lower it.

The risks for John in buying the business are immediate and significant. These are some of them:

  • After a few months of being a business owner and after the first gloss has rubbed off, John might realise he actually hates his new life. John hasn’t run a small business before and he may well have an unrealistic notion of what it is like.
  • Currently happy clients may leave as soon as the previous owner leaves (In fact that nearly always happens after a change of ownership).
  • John may find it tough going to renegotiate some of the regular contracts when they come up for renewal.
  • Either or both key employees simply decide to leave, taking all their business knowledge with them, leaving John in a pickle because he isn’t trained in the actual work of the business, himself.

No compelling reason to buy a business

Escaping the rat race and buying a business Most problematic of all though, is that in a business purchase such as this, there is little or no connection between the Purpose of the business and the values, beliefs, and passions of John himself. In effect, John would be getting into this business for no other reason than that it happens to be for sale and that he believes he can make money from it. In my book, that is one of the least compelling reasons to be in any business. Great Small Businesses, businesses that stand the test of time and create sustainable value, have a compelling reason for existing that connects deeply with the personal values and beliefs of the owner.

If you were to ask the owner of such a business: Why does your business exist and why would anybody care? You would get an immediate, succinct and clear answer. John doesn’t have this clarity and without it, I believe the risk that the business is going to flounder is too great for John.

John was deflated when I advised him to steer clear, he was all set to finalise things with the bank and move ahead. He knew it was time for him to become his own boss, and he’d figured that buying an established business was the least risky option.

Investing in himself

So I asked him to run a thought experiment with me: “You told me that you’re prepared to invest $500,000 into buying an existing business. Now imagine that, instead of buying an established business, you’d start your own business and that you go to your bank and borrow half that money, $250,000, against your house and on day 1 of the launch of your business you deposit all of that money into it’s brand new bank account.”

“Now, suddenly you are the owner of a business with significant assets and cashflow is not going to be the first thing you need to worry about. With that money you can employ an assistant and pay a rental bond on an office and you can pay yourself a salary for a year and as you’ll start to generate some income during that year, you’ll have money left over to subsidise your salary into the second year. That would give you two full years at least to get the business to a breakeven point.”

As I said before, John’s a smart guy and I have no doubt that if John started a Marketing agency for example, he could get to breakeven, long before the money ran out.

A lot less risk after the rat race escape

Comparatively, the risks are small. John will know if it’s going to come together for him after 6 months, and if it doesn’t, he can wind the whole thing down and get a job again. If so, he will have lost only a fraction of his money. And if it all goes well, he’ll have more money available to invest in his business over time.

Not every business can be started with little or no investment, if you want to get into the restaurant business for example, you have to pay for fitouts and commercial kitchens and all that stuff, and it may actually be more economic to buy a going concern, but most small business can be started small and slow (Read my article “Slow and Steady Wins the Race in Small Business”).

Taking risks you don’t need to take is called “Managing by Keeping your Fingers Crossed”… Not a technique I suggest you master in your journey to being a Great Small Business Owner. (I spoke to John last week and I am happy to report he hasn’t bought the business and is considering what kind of business he may start up and how to go about it)

#FunInBusiness #BuyingABusiness #ControlOfYourLife #LeavingTheRatRace

 

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How to Raise a Healthy Bouncy Business

 

How Becoming a Corporate Refugee Is Good For You

Business owner, Corporate Refugee

Business owners are happier people

Business Owner, Corporate Refugee

Why scraping nasty chemicals from the bottom of boats beats working for a living

In 1984 I arrived in Sydney as a corporate refugee with my wife and daughter. Until that time, I’d trained and worked as a journalist on various newspapers in Holland. But it was time to change the corporate Smoke-filled, Alcohol-fuelled offices of a daily newspaper in Holland for the Sun-filled, Wholesome Great Outdoors of Australia. Specifically, I wanted to work on and around sailing boats on Sydney Harbour.

We had very little money when we got here (The Dutch money we brought with us, converted to Australian dollars, was precisely enough to buy an old Ford Cortina and pay the rental bond on a grotty little terrace house in Redfern, and that was just about it) and I needed to make sure I got a job quickly. So I jumped on the first thing I could and got a job at the old Dairy Farmers Factory in Ultimo, packing yoghurt beakers into cartons.

I worked there for a couple of months, and some of the gloss had started to come off our big immigration adventure, when I met up with an old friend at a typical Sydney backyard barbeque. I’ll never forget his words, he said: What are you doing working in that factory? Right now, while you’re not fully settled in yet, is the best opportunity you’ll ever have to create the future you’ve been dreaming of and the longer you keep working in that factory, the harder you’ll find it to get moving.

Walking on the dock of the Bay

He was right, the next day I walked out of the factory. I went down to the big yacht-marina in Rushcutters Bay, and simply asked anyone I saw around the docks if there was any work going.

I’ve not worked regular hours, taken home a regular wage, or been told what to do by a boss since.

Business Owner, Corporate Refugee

I won’t sit here and tell you it’s all been plain sailing (!!). Far from it. I’ve had to do some pretty unpleasant work from time to time (Scraping old antifoul paint (nasty chemical stuff that stops algae from growing on the bottom of boats) from the hulls of old trawlers in 40 degree Sydney heat is not one of my fondest memories), and I’ve stuffed up various contracts in those early years (The look of horror on the face of the owner of a boat I’d painted in entirely the wrong colour, still comes to mind from time to time), and I’ve naively been taken to the cleaners by unscrupulous customers at other times, but I’ve somehow managed to make a living, pay various mortgages and send the kids to school from 1984 to now.

Wild rollercoaster rides

Slowly but surely my work became a business and the business evolved away from boats to houses, it grew steadily and 20 years later I sold the building business to a junior partner. And in 2004 I started this thing I do now called business coaching and mentoring. And I feel good about myself and my life to date. It’s been a wild rollercoaster ride at times, but I am forever grateful to my old friend who shook me up at that barbeque in 1984. I am basically a happy chap.

Why am I telling you this?

Well, you see, I meet all kinds of people, those who work for The Man and those who work for themselves. And it’s become clear to me that people who work for themselves are nearly always happier than those who are employees, especially those who work for big companies. I believe this is because people are happiest when they feel they have agency, when they feel they are in control of their own lives.

As a business owner. when things go well you can pat yourself on the back for making that happen and when things go badly you know that the buck stops with you just as much, and that they have it in their hands to turn things around again. Business owners know they are largely responsible for the outcomes of their lives.

Dogs and electric shocks

Business owner, corporate refugee I read a book by Prof Martin Seligman a few years ago. Prof Seligman is the father of “Positive Psychology”. In the book Seligman describes a set of experiments run with dogs in the sixties. In the experiments dog A is given a light electrical shock every time a bell rings. The dog learns to associate the bell with the electrical shock, and knows the shocks cannot be escaped, it’s a fact of life. Then the dog is placed in a large crate that is divided in half. Half the floor is electrified and the bell is rung and the shock is applied. The dog could easily move to the other half of the floor to get away from the shock, but doesn’t and lies down on the floor shivering in fear.

Dog B is not conditioned beforehand and is also placed in the crate. The floor is electrified and the dog immediately moves to escape the shock.

The second dog has a sense of control over his life that the first one doesn’t anymore. Dog A has become depressed (if there is such a thing in dogs) and Dog B is full of vitality. Seligman referred to the condition of Dog A as “Learned Helplessness”.

I believe as humans working for large organisations we are also prone to “Learned Helplessness”. I am not saying that all people working for all companies have learned that they are helpless and are all depressed or that all depression comes as a result of having a job for a company. Obviously not. There are many different circumstances and many different strategies that people employ to maintain their vitality and sense of agency at work and in life.

The choice that changes everything

What I am saying, though, is that being a corporate refugee and starting your own business can absolutely be one of those strategies.

There is an enormous sense of reward and satisfaction that flows from building something you created yourself and that you are entirely responsible for. There is a wonderful sense of freedom in knowing that you can simply take the rest of today off if you choose to do so, but that you may actually choose not to do so, for whatever reason. You might be tired and grumpy and overworked and you’d love nothing better than go to the beach and veg out for the rest of the day, but you choose not to, because something else is at this moment more important to you.

That choice changes everything, because now you are at work, because you choose to be at work, not because your boss or your organisation has told you to be.

Business owners have agency

Clearly I am biased, I’ve worked for myself for more than 30 years and for the last 12 years supported those who do work for themselves. I can’t even remember anymore what it was like to be a journalist working for an editor in the hierarchy of a big corporate office. But I do know for a fact that none of the small business owners I’ve ever met show any of the symptoms of Learned Helplessness.

So, if you sometimes feel your job is draining your vitality, consider leaving the rat race, escape the corporate world and take control of your own life… The adventure is worth all the heartaches and frustrations … I promise you.

#FunInBusiness #Happiness #ControlOfYourLife #LeavingTheRatRace

Btw, If you’d like to know more about what it takes to get a business off the ground, you can download my first book: The Ten Truths for Raising a Healthy Bouncy Business for free!

FREE Download: The 10 Truths for Raising a Healthy, Bouncy Business

How to Raise a Healthy Bouncy Business

 

The 7 Secrets to Building a Fun Business

Small Business Growth Strategy

Why some business grow, hum along and make money and others don’t

Small Business Growth Strategy

The most successful growth strategy for your small business is found between your ears.

Owning your own business can be a lot of fun and it can be rewarding at many levels. But for many small business owners, the experience is one of frustration and confusion. You’re the first one in the door in the morning and the last one out the door at night, often you’re back at it after the kids have gone to bed and most weekends there is some admin or quoting that needs to be caught up on. The kids are growing up and not getting the attention you want to give them and money remains as tight as ever.

I know the feeling. I’ve been a small business owner for over 30 years now and since 2004 I’ve been a business coach supporting business owners to build Great Small Businesses, what I refer to as a Fun Business (with a capital “F”), you can read more about what a Fun Business is in my books and also in a number of articles on my blog such as this one here.

Also have a look at my page on business growth, including many resources on all the different aspects of business growth here

Breaking through

But some business owners break through that stage and actually build Fun Businesses. Their growth strategy works, they make money, their staff are engaged and motivated, their customers love them and they find the kind of balance in their lives that is important to them.

What’s their secret?

Over the years, I’ve met those who have broken through and those who don’t, and I’ve learnt to spot what sets them apart.

The Big 7

The business owners I’ve met who do break through and do build Fun Small Businesses, all have these 7 things in common:

1. They’ve come to understand that their own time is the most precious resource of their business. They constantly ask themselves: Is what I am about to spend time doing, the most important thing for me to be doing right now, or should I be looking for someone else to be doing it instead of me?

2. They’ve learnt that being a great plumber/ architect/ florist/ software developer/ shopkeeper is only a very small part of what it takes to build a great business based on those professions. It can help and smooth the path in the early days, but to build a Great Small Business, the owner must learn to focus on the work of the business owner, rather than the work of the business. (Business development work in other words)

3. They have found the answer to the question: Why does your business exist, what is it on this earth for and why would anybody care? And then they are 100% committed to the answer; it drives their decisions and actions every day.

4. They’ve learnt to understand and even love their numbers. If you don’t understand and love your numbers as a business owner, you’re managing your business by keeping your fingers crossed, and that is not one of the recognised management techniques. (When I talk about The Numbers, I refer to many other numbers besides the financial numbers alone. There are sales numbers and productivity numbers and quality numbers and customer satisfaction numbers, etc. The trick is to find the key numbers of the health of your business and learn to manage your business by those numbers).

5. They hire the best people they can possibly afford and they learn how to give those people every opportunity to love coming to work and to get ever better at doing their work. There is not much as silly as penny-pinching on staff. The only thing sillier is not making it your absolute focus to ensure that your people love coming to work and do great work every day.

6. They constantly ask themselves where the opportunities are for systemisation. Whatever can be systemised, is… That doesn’t mean every restaurant must aim to be a McDonalds, but if something can be systemised… Do so.

7. They know they can’t do it on their own. They find great advisers and they ask them for help. Just because you are a business owner doesn’t mean you will be an expert at all aspects of business. You can find great consultants, advisers, coaches and mentors to help you in tax and financial management, leadership, marketing, HR, IT, staff management, sales and every other aspect of business you are not 100% confident with. Great sports people all have great coaches on board.

Those are “The 7 Secrets”, that all business owners who build a Great Small Business have come to understand and strive to apply in their lives every day.

Salvation wears running shoes

Small Business Growth Strategy Now, just so we understand each other. Accepting these statements as true, doesn’t mean you will somehow automatically build a Great Small Business yourself.

To quote a religious friend of mine: “Salvation wears running shoes.”

In other words, it’s all about what we do with our insights.

But if you do print out those 7 Secrets as your growth strategy, laminate them, hang them above your desk and make it your mission to apply them to your life as a business owner, every day, you will start to build a Great Small Business, that sustains you for years to come…

I promise you.

For more information about to how to step out of overwhelm, get unstuck and start having Fun in Business again, click here

#funinbusiness, #smallbusinessgrowth, #smallbusinessdevelopment, #SecretsOfGreatLeaders

Are there lies holding your growth strategy back? Download The 10 Truths for Making Your Business Grow, it’s FREE.

Small Business

What I learned about business and myself in 2016

Careful what you wish for, Business

Careful what you wish for in your business, you might just get it

Careful what you wish for, Business

The weary traveler makes a wish

December has come around and we’re officially in the silly season, end of 2016 in sight. I think it’s time to do some reflecting.

I learned a couple of big lessons this year about myself and business.

First, I learned that Kindness is a key success factor in small business. I published a whole newsletter on the topic of Kindness in October. It’s a nice collection of articles and videos from some great writers, as well as some of my own musings on the matter. Learning to be more Kind to myself and everyone else is one of my projects now, maybe for the rest of my life.

And second I learned the value of the old warning: “Careful what you wish for, because you might just get it.”

Here’s what that’s about:

Three and a half years ago, I decided I wanted to spend a lot more time with my family in Holland every year. Until then I’d do the regular family visits, but those were expensive, and exhausting, and you don’t really get to develop your relationships on those kind of annual flyin – flyout trips.

Reorganising my business and my life

I decided that what I wanted to do, was to reorganise my business and life in such a way that would allow me to travel to Holland and live and work from there for 3 months every year. It’s been my project over the past 3.5 years to make that come together, and I did it.

This year I’ve been in Holland for a total of 4 months, in two trips, and my business hasn’t suffered… If anything it’s healthier now than it’s been for years.

I have a really great marketing assistant in the Philippines now who continuously improves my findability. I have created lots of useful articles, videos, webinars, newsletters and my three books. I have implemented two sophisticated Marketing Automation Systems to connect with and build relationships with my audience. My clients are entirely happy to work with me via Skype and because of VOIP telephony I can simply make phonecalls to Australia from anywhere in the world.

It’s taken a lot of effort, time and money, and I wasn’t always sure if it would work out in the end, but it did, and now it simply doesn’t matter where in the world I am anymore.

I have so little to do

And that’s what is such a strange experience for me, because suddenly, I have so little to do. I stopped nearly all of my previous marketing activities. I resigned from the business referral group I was a committed member of for 10 years. I stopped going to networking events, I’m not doing “coffees” anymore and my online activities are nearly all automated. All I do, in terms of business development, is that I write articles and read interesting blogs in order to offer my audience useful Food-for-Thought, but that’s it. And as a consequence I have all this time available; time to do with as I please.

It’s a mighty weird experience, because I haven’t had time like that for such a long time. I’ve always had work to do, business to generate, quotes to complete, networking, sales follow up, proposals to write, admin to carry out… Never enough time in a day to get everything done as a matter of fact.

But now, I’ve found myself considering what kind of hobbies I might take up, or if I might volunteer somewhere. I didn’t truly appreciate what was going on most of this year; I struggled with myself a lot this year. I felt I was procrastinating and lazy and ill-disciplined and distracted most days. I’d sit down behind my computer determined to do some work, but I’d waste whole days doing nothing much at all.

Stuck in the procrastination swamp

Careful what you wish for, Business I’ve written about procrastination before and I said in the article, that one of the reasons we procrastinate is that we aren’t clear on what it is we are meant to be doing. I suddenly realised a few months ago, that I was stuck in the middle of exactly that kind of procrastination swamp. I didn’t know what I was meant to be doing, because there was nothing to do.

Since that realisation I feel great about myself. I actually achieved what I set out to do in 2013 and now I have to learn how to live in this new reality.

Have you ever set yourself a challenge and then when you’ve achieved it, made it work, you suddenly find yourself wondering: So What’s Next?”

And so we go from challenge to challenge in life, but I tell you what, I’m up for this challenge!

#FuninBusiness #dreamscometrue #YourWishInBusiness #feelgood #secretstosuccess #Coaching #Smallbiz #Entrepreneur

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I publish a weekly “One-Minute-Business-Tips” newsletter which is designed to help small business owners take these very small simple steps every week… Each tip I send out on Friday morning, is designed to take less than 15 minutes, but taking those little steps every week will start to change your life… I promise you.

One Minute Business Tips

Slow and Steady Wins the Race in Small Business

Small Business Competition

Get the boring stuff right in your business and make the competition irrelevant

Small Business Competition

It’s not hard to sell more, what’s hard is to deliver on your promises, week in week out

Early in my days as a business coach I read a book by Jason Jennings: “It’s not the Big that eat the Small, it’s the Fast that eat the Slow.”

Besides the unwieldy nature of the title, it became one of my bibles. There are various chapters in the book that I have re-read several times and I often find myself quoting from the book to my clients.

But I’ve decided that Jason Jennings and I part company on one specific idea about business. The premise of the book is that in the modern world, small fast business always outcompetes big slow business. Mr Jennings uses a number of examples to illustrate that every time a big powerful Goliath of a business comes up against a nimble little David, the Goliath gets defeated time and again, and hence the book encourages small business to grow fast and stay nimble.

I’ve stopped believing in fast growth as a strategy. These days, I believe in the “Slow and Steady Wins the Race” principle.

Growth is the easy part

As I have written previously on Smallville, growing your business is the easy part. If you do what you say you’re going to do, for the price you say you’ll charge, by the time you say you’ll do it, your customers will find you and flock to your door… guaranteed. The hard part is doing those three things… under-promise and over-deliver… every time, and make a profit… every time.

It’s relatively easy to deliver on your promises, and control your costs and your income, when it’s just you and a really small team, but once you’re not actually doing the work of the business yourself anymore and you don’t meet every client and see every job and you don’t know how your staff are doing the work every moment of the day anymore, that’s when it becomes challenging to continue to deliver your three promises and remain profitable.

Jane’s worried about the competition

Small Business Competition I’ve written before about my client Jane whose business sells flowers online in little bunches (Read about Jane here). Jane’s has a unique business model and when I first started working with Jane, she was nervous, because she thought others might, steal her business model. She was keen to grow really quickly, expand into other markets around Australia and move to the UK, Europe and the USA in the shortest possible time.

I helped her to stop worrying and to slow down. When we started working, the business wasn’t profitable yet. A lot of details in the business needed ironing out yet, nearly all of them in operations and cost control.

Boring stuff, like finding new couriers and negotiating better rates, working with her staff to increase their productivity, improving the work environment, developing better online systems, implementing better financial control systems, simplifying the admin.

Doing the boring stuff

None of it was very exciting, none of it got Jane’s creative juices flowing, none of it seemed important when seen against the threat of armies of competitors flooding in and taking away her markets.

And a bunch of different competitors did come into the Sydney market and at last count there have been three different competitors trying to get something similar off the ground in Melbourne.

But now, two years later, Jane’s business is consistently making close to $10K net profit every month (That’s after paying Jan and everyone else in the business a proper wage of course).

Because Jane knuckled down and dotted the I’s and crossed the T’s, all the boring stuff, and now the business is humming like a well-oiled machine. Everything that can be systemised is, from going to the flower markets, to making the bunches, to marketing, ordering, delivery and payment.

Jane’s customers love her business, the staff love working there, it’s growing steadily and the bank account is building steadily.

Read all about Money, Profit, cash flow and keeping your fingers on the pulse here

Making the competition irrelevant

The competition is irrelevant. Most of them started up and fell over again, or in any case are not heard from again. The ones that are still there are barely hanging in it seems. They haven’t dotted the I’s and crossed the T’s. If anything the competitors have prepared the other markets for the arrival of Jane’s business.

Jane will expand to Melbourne, and then she’ll make sure Melbourne runs like a well-oiled machine and making money, before she opens in Brisbane, and so on.

That’s how you build a Fun Business that sustains you for years to come… Slow and steady… I promise you.

For more resources, and reading on strategies for growing your business follow this link to the first of The 7 Big Questions that all small business owners want answered

#smallbusiness #coaching #funinbusiness #businesspassion #secretstosuccess #CompetitionIrrelevant

Sign Up to Receive My Weekly Tips Email!

I publish a weekly “One-Minute-Business-Tips” newsletter which is designed to help small business owners take these very small simple steps every week… Each tip I send out on Friday morning, is designed to take less than half an hour, but taking those little 10 minute steps every week will start to change your life… I promise you.

One Minute Business Tips