Looking Life In the Eye

death life

death life

What I learned from my mother in the last weeks of her life.

My mother died in July last year. I spent the last few weeks of her life with her every day. She knew she was about to die and what’s more she was looking forward to the journey. A couple of months off her 90th birthday, she’d had enough of the medical efforts that were needed to keep her alive and she believed that there was a new adventure waiting for her. As she said a few times to me: “I have packed my backpack, it’s sitting near the front door, all that remains is for me to take off this coat I’m still wearing and then I’m off”.

The last weeks of our lives together were incredible. Many people have come up to me since her death and wished me strength and love in these tough times and offered me their shoulders to cry on. And it’s lovely that people have, but I wish I could explain to them how I don’t feel the need for sympathy. I actually feel relieved, content, satisfied and lucky, grateful even.

Feeling emotional

It’s not that I didn’t love my mother, and that I’m glad she’s gone, far from it, we were very close. No doubt I’ll miss her in the coming years, probably for the rest of my life. I feel emotional from time to time, I feel sad sometimes, and confused maybe, unsure what’s going on, all of that, but none of the emotions I feel are negative.

Nor were the last stages of my mother’s life easy, not at all. There was pain and suffering and in the end my mother died from suffocation. I can assure you there’s nothing fun in that.

But it was all good and it still is.

Death’s cliches

It’s a cliché and it nevertheless bears repeating: We are all going to die.

None of us can avoid it.

And that fact is neither good nor bad, it simply is.

Yet we spend so much of our lives pretending that this fact relates to other people, not us.

We avoid thinking about death and dying and we don’t plan for it and we don’t talk about it and we don’t let the fact of our death and the process of our dying interfere with the pursuits of our lives and our bucket list.

Let’s Organise a Death Shower

death life And then when it does happen to us, we act as if we never saw it coming. We spend 9 months or more preparing for the arrival of a baby, from organizing support during and after the birth, to organizing our work life, to getting the baby’s room ready. How about holding a “Death Shower” to balance out the saccharine sweetness of the “Baby Shower”?

I am in awe of how my mother prepared and planned for her death. Not just in the last few weeks, but over the past 30 years. She looked the facts of life right in the eye and didn’t shy away from them. Her greatest fear was that she’d end up in a hospital bed in a nursing home. And she realised that to avoid the nursing home, she’d need to organise her life differently.

Getting involved in the community

She set about doing exactly that. She sold the house she’d lived in since 1957 and found a house that she’d be able to manage when becoming increasingly decrepit. She also got involved in local neighborhood services and volunteered in the community. Part of her motivation for doing so was to be well connected when the time came for her to need that community herself.

She did these things and various others and she was very clear and open about them. For her it was all part of the process.

And the thing is, she succeeded. She died in July in her own cozy home, looking at her beloved garden, cared for by her local community and with the people that mattered most to her around her.

And she was content, and she felt good and so did we all.

Pain and suffering is part of the process.

It was a truly special experience for me. I actually have a lump in my throat as I write this, not because of any negative sense of sadness, rather because of the beauty of it.

We are all going to die, and pain and suffering will probably be part of the process. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with that. The GP who looked after my mother said at some point in one of our conversations: “You know I often think that we get too fixated about wanting to avoid suffering at the end of life. There is a lot of pain and suffering in child birth and maybe at the other end, it is also rightly part of the process”.

I’m not sure of course, one death hardly makes me an expert. What I do know is that the process of growing old and dying fully scares the Living Daylights out of me, but I am nevertheless going to face the facts of life and think, plan and talk about my death.

Just like my mother did.

#Death #Dying #LifeAndDeath

I’ve zest for life and a passion for all things business. I’ve spent many years consulting, designing and building solutions for small businesses. For more of my thoughts and musings on life and business, subscribe to my blog below:


Business Bedtime Stories: Joan’s Startup Podcast

Joan

Joan Once upon a time, a long long time ago in a country not unlike Australia, Joan started her business

 

 Subscribe in a reader

Itunes

View in Itunes

Joan, her puppy and her startup

Joan took a redundancy and started her own graphic design agency… it was the scariest decision she ever made but after a year she got herself  a puppy… want to know how it all came about?… listen to the story

Business Bedtime stories are real world case histories of clients I have worked with in the past decade or more. Some of the Business Bedtime stories can be found in The Ten Truths Books, others are new to my podcast. I hope you enjoy them, and I’d love to hear if you got something out of them.

Cheers,

Roland Hanekroot

Business Is All About The Numbers

numbers

Business is a numbers game

What does it take to make a success of your small business… how can you avoid adding to those frightening statistics about failure rates of small business.

In this series of articles and associated webinars and workshops, by Roland Hanekroot you will learn the basic concepts and get the knowledge need to become a successful ‘Business-Owner’, as opposed to a struggling ‘Business-Doer’.

Format

The format of each episode in the “First Steps” series is to explain the basics of the topic and then in line with the principles of New Perspectives business development programs, to suggest some “First Steps” you can take straight away to put the knowledge into action.

The Numbers

numbersIn the fifth of these articles we’ll look at the numbers and ask:

How do we do business by the numbers and why?

Doing business without numbers is like playing football without a scoreboard. You simply cannot run any kind of business for any length of time without keeping your eye on the numbers.

This is a fact.

You may not like numbers and you may believe you are no good with numbers and you may want to just “get on” with running your business.

Well I have good news and bad news for you:

  1. Bad news: You’ll simply have to get over your dislike and your hurdles.
  2. Good news: Numbers are a lot simpler than you think, you don’t need all that many of them and you won’t have to find them yourself.

Measurement

Numbers are important because they are the result of measurement and measurement is what allows you to manage and develop a business and stop it from going backwards.

For example you have to know (measure) what is in your bank account if you want to stay alive… No argument there I imagine? Well your bank balance is a number.

You may also want to measure the effectiveness of the money you spend on marketing and again the answers will come in the form of numbers.

You may want to know if you have enough stock on hand to supply your customers in the coming week… The answer is a number.

You may want to measure why your bank balance has been going backwards in the last three months… The answer will be in the numbers.

I trust I’ve convinced you that numbers are key and you just have to get your head around them. But which numbers?

Lets have a look at one of my Business Bedtime Stories.

A Business Bedtime Story

(The ‘Business Bedtime Stories’ are real world case histories that illustrate this months topic in some way)

Once upon a time… a long long time ago in a country not unlike Australia… Michael had a carpet cleaning business …

carpet cleaner Michael owned a carpet cleaning business in Sydney and Michael had ten vans on the road with 16 staff. Michael’s life was full of crises, most of the crises involved his staff not delivering the customer service or quality that Michael’s clients expected.

Michael kept thinking:

“If only I had a simple way to measure “Good Work” and “Good Service” that I can apply across the board and use to manage the performance of the guys ?”

Working with me as his business coach Michael learnt that you can create relative measures for intangible things. For example If you were asked to give a score out of ten for how happy you felt at this moment, where “10” was that you felt delirious and “0” meant that you were at risk of self harming, you might say “6”. If I were to ask the same question again tomorrow you might answer “7”. This would lead us to reach a valid conclusion on your state of happiness tomorrow relative to today.

This same principle can be used to measure all sorts of intangible things in life and lends itself really well to measure quality, service and satisfaction levels.

Self-scoring

Michael and I went to work to create a self scoring system, where a staff-member filled in a small form at the end of each job in which he gave himself and the just completed job a series of scores out of 100 on a number of different measures (for example: “Give yourself a score out of 100 for being punctual”)

The forms would be collated in a spreadsheet and the numbers averaged for each staff member and for the business as a whole. Every week on Monday morning Michael received a report from his admin assistant with the average performance numbers across the company for service and quality in the last week. At the same time Michael had his assistant call 10% of all clients every week and ask them to rate the completed jobs in a similar manner and these ratings were listed side by side with the staff member’s own ratings. The staff members would be given access to the customer ratings as well and as required Michael would sit down with individual staff members, compare notes and generally help the staff improve on their ratings and become more accurate in their self-scores.

This scoring system completely changed the way Michael thought about managing his business and he realised that the way to build a great company and great business value was to step back and create management systems, scoreboards and dashboards.

Five years later Michael sold his business for a price much higher than he could ever have hoped to gain when we first met.

And Michael as well as the new owners of Michael’s business will live happily ever after… The End

Lessons from Michael:

So let’s have a look at what we can learn from Michael:

  • First: There are many other numbers that we can focus on besides money in the bank
  • Second: Measuring intangibles like punctuality is actually quite simple.
  • Third: Measuring an aspect of business allows you to improve it.

Deserted island

deserted island Here is what I’d like you to do: Imagine that you are banished to a deserted Island. And for a period of time, say 6 months, the only information you get about your business comes from the weekly mail boat. The mailboat can deliver you only a single piece of paper with maybe 15 numbers on it and the mailboat will wait for 15 minutes to take your instructions back to your business for that week.

What are the 10 to 15 numbers that will tell you how healthy the business is and allow you to make quick management decisions and instructions that you can send back?.

Most businesses will have a couple of common numbers, such as bankbalance and profitability on their mailboat report, but beyond those common numbers every business owner has his or her own priorities that tells him/her what’s going on. For example, in my business I constantly need to know how many inquiries I have had in the past 6 months, because it gives me a really good indication of the number of new clients I’ll get in the next 6 months. In another business a critical indicator might be the average number of days it takes to get paid, because if this number goes up, the business will to run out of cash.

Don’t do it yourself

I mentioned in the ‘Good News’ that you don’t need to be the one who finds the numbers.

finger on the pulseThis is actually a critical point. You as the business owner are primarily responsible for keeping your fingers on the pulse, but I want to encourage you to delegate the production of the numbers to others as much as possible.

There are a whole lot of reasons why you should delegate getting the numbers to others. This article is not the forum to go into the  detail of those reasons, but let me assure you that business owners who truly manage their business by the numbers, get one piece of paper every week, with the critical numbers from their bookkeeper, one from their sales department and one from their production department. It is simply not the job of the business owner to dive into the bookkeeping system themselves to find the numbers; that is not ‘best use of your time’

So start thinking about that deserted island, what do you need to see on that single page mailboat report to enable you to manage the health of your business?

Your First Steps:

As mentioned at the start of this article, here are some resources and actions you can take right away, that will get you started on implementing the principles I discussed:

  1. Go to the resources page http://tiny.cc/numberslpage the following resources will help you start to manage the business by the numbers
  2. A sample dashboard with critical numbers of a past client of mine in the catering industry.
  3. Article about business dashboards by Valerie Khoo in the SMH

About the author and the Masterminds sessions

roland Roland Hanekroot is a business coach who works with Small business owners to help them have more Fun in their businesses and build businesses that sustain them for years to come. Roland is also the author of “The Ten Truths books for Business owners” (more about the books here: http://thetentruths.com.au)

Every month Roland Hanekroot runs a business development workshop as well as a webinar called “The Small Business Masterminds” more information here and to register for the next webinar or workshop, follow this link: http://smallbusinessmasterminds.com.au/ The first time is free.

 

How to Have More Fun in Business – Part 4 Summary

Wrap up… How to create more Fun in your Business

And what happens when you do

roland

In part 1 of this series of articles I wrote about how 3 letters, FUN, are the most important thing to focus on in your business.
In part 2 of this series I wrote about the 4 steps to take to create REAL FUN in your businessIn part 3 of this series I wrote how we can go about measuring how much Fun we are having on a day to day, week to week and month to month basis and how to apply that knowledge to the way we run our business and where we focus next.

Here is a link to read part 1

Here is a link to read part 2

Here is a link to part 3

So in part 4, I will summarise the whole idea for you and sketch out some real word examples of the concept and how to apply it.

Overwhelmed and stressed…

gates of hellAs I’ve said, most small business owners are overwhelmed and stressed; there are so many different priorities vying for their attention every day that they simply don’t know where to focus next. It is simply too much… everything is important and then there are the crises.

So what we tend to focus on instead are two things:

  1. The crises… the everyday brush fires. The crises have to be dealt with or else… so we don’t have to think about that.
  2. What we are best at, our actual skill…the thing we started the business for…carpentry, architecture, graphic design, IT development or whatever… we revert back to “swinging the hammer” in other words, because at least we know how to do that properly.

The stuff that falls by the wayside is the Stuff that Steven Covey in his book “The seven habits of highly effective people” refers to as “Quadrant 2” work… the work that is important but not actually really urgent… it can always be postponed for another day or another week.

The work of the business owner…

The problem is that exactly this work is what I call “The work of the business owner” as opposed to the work of the business, and hence the business stagnates and you as the owner of the business start to feel stressed, frustrated and overwhelmed even more.

So how about if there was one measurement that could tell you what the most important thing to do was in the coming week to move out of that stagnation and overwhelm.

And that is the concept of “Fun in Business”

Because when a business is Fun, it means that everything is working.

Raving Fans…

If your business is FUN, it means you are making money and staff are engaged and customers are Raving Fans, and all of that good stuff.

And most importantly, it is actually possible to measure Fun in business as a relative measurement and when you do so consistently and systematically; it can help you decide where to focus your time and energy next. Then what happens is that you will start to move out of overwhelm and stagnation and start to build your business that works for you again, instead of the other way around.

funometerSo if you ask yourself and your staff: “How much fun did we have last week on a scale from 0 to 10, where 10 is that we just couldn’t wipe the grin of our faces and 0 means the opposite?” you can find an answer. Let’s say that the answer is 6.5, for last week; you can then ask yourself (or your team): “What do we need to do to make next week a 6.6 on that same scale?” This last question can often lead to surprising and very narrowly focused answers…

Answers I have seen to this question have been as prosaic as: “Let’s make sure we collect some more of the outstanding invoices this coming week” or: “If we could all come in an hour earlier this week, then we can get this project out the door and that is just going to be such a relief for all of us”.

I wrote about my client Richard and his design business in part 3 of this series, and how he implemented the Fun scale in his team management.

John and his casual staff…

Another client of mine, John, has a small chain of cafés in the inner city of Sydney. John also incorporated the Fun in Business scale in the way he manages his businesses.

A problem John has is the transient and casual nature of a lot of his staff. Managing the business is therefore a headache, as he never knows how long his staff will stay and how committed they will be.

But John has taken the fun concept even further in an effort to engage his staff.
It is difficult for John to get all his staff together on the same day at a staff meeting, people might only work on aMonday and never meet half his other staff. So John has introduced a digital system that integrates with his time sheets.

Each staff member has to sign into his staff management computer system when they arrive for their shift and at the end of their shift they have to sign out in the same system but at the last shift of the week the staff member also has to answer a couple of questions in the form of a survey.

It’s all about the questions…

The questions are:

  • Question 1: “On a scale from 0 to 10 where 10 is that you have had the most fun you could imagine having at work this week, and 0 is the opposite, what score would you give this week?
  • Question 2: “What rating on that scale would you like next week to be?”
  • Question 3: “What can we, your manager, and the business as a whole, do to help you achieve that number?”
  • Question 4: “What can you do yourself next week to help you achieve that number?”

These questions were confronting at first for a lot of staff members, but slowly but surely people were starting to see the point, especially when shown that their manager (John in most cases) took their suggestions and requests seriously.

on the tarmacAfter a few months of consistent application of this Fun in Business system, John’s business truly became unrecognisable and his business started growing again.

And that is why deciding to take a determined focus on having more FUN in business may well be the most significant decision you make in your business.

You have a go now…

Thank you for reading this series of articles… Now it is your turn… I’d love you to start thinking about how to start measuring how much Fun you are having in your business… why don’t you call a staff meeting and discuss it… brainstorm it… see what people think?

You might be surprised how even a few conversations on these topics might start to introduce a little bit more fun for everyone in your business.

Cheers,

Roland Hanekroot

Call me if you’d like to explore how I can help you have more FUN in your business. Or come to the next Small Business Masterminds workshop… follow this link to read more and book in

1001 Business Bedtime Stories… Rebecca Builds a System

The system works! Rebecca gets systemised… Truth 8

Read on to find out how Rebecca learnt that systemisation = less effort + more profit.

Once upon a time… a long, long time ago in a country not unlike Australia… Rebecca ran a consulting business.

She had a team of six consultants and two administrative assistants.

While all her stafff contributed in their own ways, Rebecca was finding there was no consistency across their output. Some jobs would be completed with great results while others were done haphazardly with outcomes all over the place.

Rebecca was spending hours fixing the other consultants’ work and making sure the admin assistants were on track. She was becoming increasingly worried about the quality of the business’s output and concerned her clients might get fed up and leave her.

Rebecca felt she could never relax because she needed to check up on everyone and everything all the time.

She wondered, “How can I make sure everyone in the team is producing consistently good work?”

Rebecca was going nuts.

The Bootcamp

Working in The Bootcamp with me, Rebecca came to understand that she needed an overarching system so that everyone knew what they needed to do.

The biggest lesson Rebecca learnt was that once you put a system in place you don’t have to think about it again (well, not immediately at least!). Good systems free you up to get on with the real work of your business.

In the Bootcamp Rebecca and I talked about the principle of, “Do more of what works and less of what doesn’t.” She started tracking different jobs and looking at what was and what wasn’t working, and found that:

Result 1: Successful jobs always had more time in the briefing stages than jobs that were rushed in.

Result 2: Successful jobs always had a simple document register attached to the filing system for the project.

Result 3: Successful jobs had one person who was responsible for keeping the documents register up-to-date and the filing system organised.

From these findings, Rebecca was able to put in place the following actions:

Action 1: She created a series of minimum benchmarks for the briefing stage of any project, no matter how rushed the client was.

Action 2: She assigned one person as the responsible officer for the filing system and document register for each job.

Action 3: She implemented a monthly ‘systems meeting’ where she would go through each job with the responsible people and check on the briefing stages, the filing systems and the document registers.

The difference in just a few months was remarkable. Peace and calm reigned in Rebecca’s office because everyone knew what they should be doing, how they should be doing it and when they needed to have it done by. Happily Rebecca can now take a day off here and there to focus on her favourite hobby… photography.

Systemisation really does mean less effort and more profit.

Ask yourself… Where will you find the courage to build a remarkable business? 

1001 Business Bedtime Stories… Mark’s Great Sales System

Mark’s simple and effective sales system… Truth 7

So you’ve got a great product or an awesome service but where are all your customers? Read on to see how Mark found his customers and sent his sales rocketing.

Once upon a time… a long, long time ago in a country not unlike Australia…

Mark was a graphic designer.

In fact he was a fantastic graphic designer. He had put together a small team of other passionate and inspired designers and together they created beautiful, eye-catching, ground-breaking designs. Yet despite his and his team’s talent, the work coming in was sporadic and the business was only just making ends meet.

Sometimes potential clients made enquiries about design work, and sometimes leads just walked in the door. Every now and then Mark made a few phone calls and sent out some emails prospecting for work, but this was only occasionally and usually just when the need for work was greatest.

The result of all this meant that sales were haphazard and work fluctuated wildly. One week the team would be flooded with new projects, the next everyone would be heading home early.

The stress of wondering if the business would survive each month was beginning to affect the quality of the work produced. Mark was finding his staff turnover was high because of the constant insecurity and worry.

Mark wondered, “How can I smooth out the peaks and troughs of work coming in?”

Mark was going grey.

The Bootcamp

Working in The Bootcamp with me, Mark came to appreciate that he would need a consistent sales strategy and system if he wanted to build a healthy business. He came to see that the only way a business can grow is by making regular and consistent sales. Of all of the Ten Truths, Truth Number 7, that nothing happens until we sell something, really struck home with Mark.

So we got started developing a simple and manageable sales system, and worked on increasing the sales focus of both Mark and his staff. To turn things around Mark would need to not only implement the new sales system but to work consistently at it, week in, week out.

And he did… and it took a lot of courage.

Mark found an easy-to-use customer relationship management (CRM) system, that had great sales funnels and pipeline reports. Then he set targets for himself and his team for numbers of calls to make, emails to send out and proposals to write and follow up. Every week Mark and his team had a 20-minute structured sales meeting.

Very soon things started to turn around, and just three short months later Mark could see a difference. By the end of the financial year the business was at a completely new level.

Now, a couple of years later, Mark has a stable team of 10 designers whose talents are being fully utilised. The business has a great pipeline of work ahead, and Mark now knows with a certainty what his resources are and how much revenue and profit the business will generate in the next three to six months.

And Mark lived happily ever after… The end.

Ask yourself… Where will you find the courage to make profound things happen in your business?

1001 Business Bedtime Stories… When Courage Leads to Money to Spare

1001 Business Bedtime Stories… Truth 4: Cashflow

Ever wondered why sometimes we don’t succeed, even when we know how to solve a problem? Find out how Vivienne overcame her cashflow problem and now couldn’t be happier.

Once upon a time… a long, long time ago in a country not unlike Australia…

Vivienne owned a consultancy that helpe

Truth 4 – Financial Management

d businesses implement OH&S practices in their workplaces.

She worked hard and had plenty of clients. She knew her market and had priced her services appropriately, but found she was forever struggling to pay the bills at the end of the month. There was nothing wrong with her profitability.

Cashflow was the obvious problem. But knowing this didn’t solve it.

Each week Vivienne thought, “I know my cashflow is hurting the business but it’s hard to makes changes and I don’t know how to do it.”

Vivienne was losing sleep.

The Bootcamp

When Vivienne joined me in The Bootcamp two years ago she made a wish and committed to it. She said:

“I wish to have money left over at the end of each month, and I am going to do whatever it takes to get there.”

So we got underway…

Now it didn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that the first step on the path was to design a consistent debt collection strategy… We worked out a system of weekly actions and follow-ups and, most importantly, Vivienne vowed to stick to it with machine-like consistency.

So she did… and it took a lot of courage.

Vivienne started using the system, week in, week out, no matter how unpleasant some of the phone calls were or how yuck she felt getting debt collectors involved. She had the courage to honour her commitment to herself and to keep going until her cashflow problem was solved.

After six months of this relentless focus, it was clear that Vivienne’s business and her life would never look the same again.

Now… two years later, Vivienne is putting cash aside every month in an investment account and, I might add, she looks 10 years younger.

And Vivienne will live happily ever after… The end.

Ask yourself… Where will you find the courage to make profound things happen in your business?

1001 Business Bedtime Stories… Kelvin Astounds His Customers

1001 Business BeTruth 5 marketingdtime Stories…

Truth 5, Marketing

Kelvin realises that his bike shop has one great opportunity to carve out a niche for his bikeshop and build remarkable business.

Once upon a time… a long, long time ago in a country not unlike Australia…

Kelvin owned a bicycle shop in Sydney.

Selling bicycles is not easy. There is so much competition as people can buy bikes at specialist bike shops or at big retail stores like Big W and Kmart, and, like everything else these days, you can even buy bikes over the internet.

Kelvin’s bike shop was doing ok but he was worried about the effects of both the big box retailers and all the online stores. Kelvin felt constant pressure to make his prices competitive, and knew that his repair work was suffering because customers would often ask him to just fit parts they had bought themselves online.

“How can I possibly turn the ship around?” asked Kelvin.

Kelvin was worried.

The Bootcamp

Working in The Bootcamp with me, Kelvin came to appreciate that it was imperative he change his whole approach to doing business. He realised that he could never out-compete the big retailers, and that fighting over the crumbs with his fellow suburban bike shops would be a disaster.

Looking into Kelvin’s options for revitalising his business we came across a quote from Chris Zane, a bike shop owner in America: “The only difference between our competitors and us is the service we provide.”

Kelvin realised the obvious truth of this statement.

He knew there was no difference between the bikes he was selling and those sold by his competitors. He knew they were all fishing in the same pool trying to catch the same limited number of fish, and that the only way forward was to create a new pond and attract enough of the fish away from the old pond to enjoy the fishing again.

It took a lot of courage, but he did it.

Working in The Bootcamp Kelvin developed a whole new approach to running his bike shop, an approach based on providing astounding service. Kelvin was determined that the service customers received in his shop would leave them surprised and delighted.

How did Kelvin do this? A number of great ways: he implemented a life-time free flat tire repair service, he offered a no-questions-asked replacement guarantee for all bikes and accessories for up to six months after purchase, and he taught his staff that from now on the word “No” was banned and no customer request could be refused.

Soon the word started spreading about Kelvin’s astounding service, and people would come into the store just to check it out. The place was buzzing most days, and the staff loved doing whatever they could to amaze their customers.

A couple of years later, Kelvin’s business has grown so much he has just moved to a new location three times as big. With his great service Kelvin has succeeded in creating a whole new fish pond.

And Kelvin lived happily ever after… The end.

Ask yourself… Where will you find the courage to make profound things happen in your business?

1001 Business Bedtime Stories… Amanda Manages Her Finances and Makes Money

 

Truth 4 financial management
Truth 4 – Financial Management

1001 Business Bedtime Stories… Truth 4, Financial Management

Amanda Owns a boutique hotel and learns to manage her finances so that she starts to make money and have a lot more fun.

Once upon a time… a long, long time ago in a country not unlike Australia…

Amanda owned a small boutique hotel in the inner city.

Amanda’s hotel relied on five different corporate accounts for a significant percentage of its annual revenue. The room rates that Amanda charged these corporate customers was fairly heavily discounted, and payment arrangements varied widely between the five accounts, with some bills being settled on the spot and others on payment terms up to 90 days.

Even though her occupancy rates were very high, Amanda struggled to pay her bills and wages most months.

Clearly something wasn’t stacking up. Two obvious conclusion might have been that either her costs were too high or her rates too low. But Amanda knew that her rates were in line with similar properties in the city and she managed her costs tightly.

Each week Amanda thought, “If it is neither my prices nor my costs that I need to change, what else is open to me?”

Amanda was going grey.

The Bootcamp

Working in The Bootcamp with me, Amanda came to appreciate the difference between turnover, profit and cash, and that she needed to give equal attention to all three. Amanda also came to have a better appreciation of her ‘break-even’ point.

It was time for Amanda to set up proper controls for all three financial factors and to set in place a minimum break-even point below which it was simply not possible to go.

So she did… and it took a lot of courage.

Through working in The Bootcamp, Amanda developed a series of financial reports that showed her monthly cash was short because all her profit and working capital was tied up in corporate accounts that were paid between 30 and 90 days.

Amanda also worked out that the minimum room rate she could charge and still break even was $115 per night at 100% occupancy rate, or $145 per night at 75% occupancy, but only if the bill was settled on the spot. Rooms that were paid for at 30, 60 or 90 days would need to have significantly higher rates.

Armed with this knowledge Amanda was able to negotiate better terms and rates with four of the corporate accounts. The fifth one didn’t want to come to the party and, although it felt like the scariest thing she ever did, Amanda stuck to her guns and stopped doing business with this company.

In a matter of four months, things started to turn around and Amanda’s bank account now looks healthier than it has in years. Through the process Amanda has actually gained two new corporate accounts, both of which settle their bills weekly with a corporate credit card, further adding to the health of her business. Amanda and her staff can now focus on what they are good at: making their guests feel at home.

And Amanda and her staff will live happily ever after… The end.

Ask yourself… Where will you find the courage to make profound things happen in your business?

1001 Business Bedtime stories… Michael Cleans Carpets and Builds Dashboards

1001 Business Bedtime stories…… Truth 3, Finger on The Pulse

Truth 3, Planning
Little richard measures and plans his business

Here follows another one of the “1001 Business Bedtime Stories” … Every story comes straight from the New Perspectives Small Business Bootcamp, stories of business and courage and they illustrate an aspect of one of The Ten Truths… You might recognise some of them from your own experience.

Once upon a time… a long long time ago in a country not unlike Australia… Michael had a carpet cleaningbusiness …

Michael owned a carpet cleaning business in Sydney. Michael had 10 vans on the road with carpet cleaning equipment and Michael would book the jobs and do the marketing and generally run the company.

Michael’s life was full of crises, in fact most of his days involved extinguishing brush fires and he would never know where the next crisis would come from. Most of the crises involved his staff not delivering the customer service or quality that Michael’s clients expected and the only way to manage these issues was by Michael going out and fixing the problems himself.

There were many factors at play of course but Michael found it difficult to keep his staff accountable to specific performance criteria on quality and customer service. How do you measure the quality of a cleaning job and how do you measure the level of customer service and satisfaction you have delivered? But as the saying goes, you can’t manage what you don’t measure.

“If only I had a simple way to measure “Good Work” and “Good Service” that I can apply across the board and use to manage the performance of the guys ?” kept going round and round in Michael’s head.
Michael was at the end of his tether.

The Bootcamp

Working in The Bootcamp with me, Michael learnt that you can create relative measures for intangible things. For example If you were asked to give a score out of ten how happy you felt at this moment, where “10” was that you felt delirious and “0” meant that you were at risk of self harming, you might say “6”. If I were to ask the same question again tomorrow you might answer with “7”. This would lead us to reach a valid conclusion on your state of happiness tomorrow relative to today.

This same principle can be used to measure all sorts of intangible things in life and lends itself really well to measure quality and service and satisfaction levels.

We went to work to create a self scoring system, where a staff-member filled in a small form at the end of each job in which he gave himself and the just completed job a series of scores out of 100 on a number of different measures (for example: “Give yourself a score out of 100 for being punctual”)

The forms would be collated in a spreadsheet and the numbers averaged for each staff member and for the business as a whole. Every week on Monday morning Michael received a report from his admin assistant with the average performance numbers across the company for service and quality in the last week. At the same time Michael had his assistant call 10% of all clients every week and ask them to rate the completed jobs in a similar manner and these ratings were listed side by side with the staff member’s own ratings. The staff members would be given access to the customer ratings as well and as required Michael would sit down with individual staff members, compare notes and generally help the staff improve on their ratings and become more accurate in their self-scores.

This scoring system completely changed the way Michael thought about managing his business and he realised that the way to build a great company and great business value was to step back and create management systems, scoreboards and dashboards.

So she did… and it took a lot of courage… Michael created 3 different weekly dashboards: one for operations, one for marketing and one for finances.

Now 5 years later Michael is negotiating to sell his business. The price he is likely to sell for  is at least 3 times what he would have been able to sell it for a few years back, because now he is selling a business that operates almost independently from Michael himself.

And Michael as well as the new owners of Michael’s business will live happily ever after… The End

Ask yourself… Where will you find the courage to make Profound things happen in your Business?

Find out more about the Small Business Bootcamp here

Or follow this link to New Perspectives Business Coaching