Highly Chilled Business Habit #1: Be dependable

7 habits woman relaxed

The 7 Habits of Highly Chilled

Small Business owners

This is the first article in a monthly series on small business owners I have met or worked with over the years who developed beautiful successful businesses.

Stories of successful real business owners

In 35 years of doing business and working with some of the most inspiring people I’ve ever met, I’ve learned a very important lesson: Success in small business starts by building great habits. I call these practices the “7 Highly Chilled Habits” and I find they’re best illustrated with the stories of real business owners who I happen to have had the pleasure of coaching.

The articles are based on my E-book, The 7 Habits of Highly Chilled Small Business Owners. All of my books and other resources are available for free here

Highly Chilled Habit #1:

To be successful in business, be Dependable

7 habits trust

I can’t sell what I don’t stock… Colin

A client I once worked with imports wine from Europe and sells it to restaurants around Australia. One day, a particularly cheeky rosé from his range sold out and his Italian suppliers were running behind with fulfilling orders. The situation wasn’t going to be resolved for at least a month and some of my client’s favourite eateries were going to have to put a different rosé on their menu. Not only were sales lost in that month, some of the substitute rosé from other distributors stuck. My client lost several big accounts and tens of thousands of dollars in revenue throughout that year alone. When working through this challenge with my wine importing client, I was reminded of Colin. I first met Colin in the eighties during my early days as a builder in Sydney. Colin owned a builder’s timber and hardware store in the inner city, and I became a regular customer of his. This is his website: http://www.swadlingstimberandhardware.com.au/ . Colin was a grumpy bugger, but he ran an incredibly successful business that was far superior to most of his competitors.

It’s All About Trust

One of the things that made Colin’s business so successful was that they always had what we needed in stock. The team virtually never ran out of their product lines and on top of that, they generally provided same-day delivery. I asked Colin once about the enormous range and quantity of stock he carried. It looked, to my inexperienced self, like an expensive business to run. All that money tied up in stock. Colin’s response was brilliant in its simplicity and I’ve always remembered it: “I can’t sell what I don’t stock,”. Colin continued to build a Highly Chilled business as a Highly Chilled small business owner. By the time I left the building industry, he had 6 massive stores in locations all across Sydney and most local professional builders had a trading account with one of them. We all relied on that simple philosophy of his. My wine importing client now holds at least a 3-month supply of any label he sells because Highly Chilled business owners make a habit of making great promises to their customers. What’s more, their customers know they’re in the habit of keeping them!

Your Homework (The Chilled Kind)

Here’s a short exercise you could carry out to start the process of making this habit your own. Practice Highly Chilled habit #1: Take a look at all of the promises you make to your clients. Ask yourself: Do I go to every length I can in order to fulfil every promise I make? Do I, like Colin, have everything that my clients expect me to have in stock? Or, if I say that I deliver in 24 hrs, do I actually deliver in 24 hrs – every time? Hungry for less Netflix, more chill? Explore all 7 habits. you can download the whole E-book for free here

Next Month, We’ll talk about Habit #2: Be Specific and my brother Sebastiaan in Holland

More on this topic:

Five Rules for Growing your Building Business in Australia

building business growth

Growing your building business is not as hard as you might think.

Some of you will know that I used to have a building company. It’s been a while now, I founded the company in 1983 and I sold the company to my junior partner in 2003, but I have many fond memories of my building days (and some not so fond).

Because of my background I am often asked how to grow a building business, while keeping margins up. In my experience, business growth in the building industry comes down to implementing Five Golden Rules:

  1. Be empathic
  2. Be predictable
  3. Under-promise and over-deliver
  4. Say No
  5. Communicate

Probably not the Rules you were expecting, so let me explain:

Muddy boots and cream carpets

The building industry in Australia is a strange beast. On the one hand, because of it’s widespread system of contractors and sub contractors, I believe it’s probably one of the most efficient building industries in the world, but on the other hand I also believe it is one of the unruliest building industries in the world. Most of us know one or more horror stories of builders going bankrupt, subbies walking off site, costs spiralling out of control, tradies walking muddy boots through cream carpets, leaking bathrooms, disputes before tribunals and indecipherable quotes on the back of enveloppes.

I’ve certainly have my fair share of war stories from my 20 years in the building industry in Sydney. And to be honest, I’ll even admit that I and my company might even have been at the root-cause of a couple of those stories.

It’s not easy running a building or building-trades company in Australia. But there’s two sides to that coin. There’s great opportunity in the building industry to grow your business and make good money, because there are so many drongos out there and customers are desperate to find professional reliable businesses to deal with.

Laying out the red carpet

It was that way in my days as a builder. The good, professional, reliable, tilers, bricklayers, carpenters, painters, plumbers, electricians, concreters, renderers and roofers were always busy. I would have to book them in 6 weeks in advance, I’d have to pay them well and lay out the red carpet for them, or they’d go somewhere else. And I learnt that I’d better do all of that, and then some, because getting the cheaper, available tradies always led to disasters of one kind or another and most importantly, unhappy customers.

The Golden Rules:

Hence my Five Golden Rules for Growing your Building Company above, because this is what I learned about developing a growing Beautiful Building Business (and Life):

  1. Be empathic: Building contracts are big things, in dollar terms as well as scope. Customers enter into building contracts with great trepidation, because it’s usually the biggest contract of any type they’ve ever signed and they can’t even see what they’re buying yet. You need to be sensitive to that anxiety, that all customers experience at some stage in the journey. You deal with big contracts and big turnover every day. For your customers it’s a great source of stress. Stress makes people behave irrationally… Make allowances for that.
  2. Be predictable: People are happy to pay your price if they feel confident they’ll get what they are expecting. If they don’t have that confidence, they’ll shop on price because that’s the only thing they can control.
  3. Under-promise and over-deliver: If you say you’ll be ready with something by Friday, surprise them and finish by lunchtime on Friday and then take some time to really clean up, dot the I’s and cross the T’s. Don’t ever tell the customer you’ll be all finished by Friday and then when they come home from work on Friday it’s still unfinished and a mess… That’s just asking for trouble.
  4. Say No: Don’t take on work you don’t feel confident you can deliver, fully, properly, on time, profitably and with a smile. Say yes, only when you are 100% confident you can do it how it’s meant to be done.
  5. Communicate: The three C’s: Communicate, Communicate, Communicate. If you come to the conclusion on Wednesday that you can’t complete the job on Friday as you promised… Tell them… on Wednesday… By email, by letter, by carrier pidgeon, by SMS, or by Whatsapp or Twitter… But for Pete’s sake, tell them. They won’t know, they expect to have a Barbeque on the new deck on Friday evening and they’ve invited their friends to celebrate. Similarly… If you strike something unexpected, you hit rock where you didn’t expect it, asbestos in the roof, an aboriginal artifact in the footings, a conflict on the drawings, you find out you’ve made a mistake in your calculations, ordered the kitchen benchtop 100 mm too short, or forgotten to order it at all… TELL THEM. Seriously. They’ll understand. They’ve made mistakes in their life as well.

And if you do all of that… If you live and breathe those rules, every day, and you hammer those rules into the heads of your employees and subbies, your business will grow and grow and grow, because your customers will be your Raving Fans and they’ll do your marketing for you. They’ll tell their friends all about how you finished the deck early on Friday, cleaned and tidied up and left a bottle of wine to have with the barbie on the deck when you came home from work. They’ll talk about you to their work-mates and convince their neighbours to have their own decks built by you as well, even though they’ve had cheaper quotes.

The alternative means you’ll have to endlessly compete on price and competing on price is a dog’s game… trust me on that.

Read more business growth

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The biggest secret to growing your service business

secrets growing service business

secrets of growing service business

Do these 5 things right every time and your business will never stop growing

I’m often asked by clients to help them grow their service business. I nearly always tell them that growth is easy in a business based on services, anyone can grow a small business.

All you need to do is this:

  • Deliver what you promise
  • At the time you promise it
  • For the price you promise it
  • For a profit and
  • With a smile.

Every time…

That’s all… Honestly

If you do those 5 things, every day, customers will break down your doors, because so few small businesses do.

Most small businesses fail doing those 5 things consistently and stunt their growth, because of the classic problem of small business growth:

Scale-ability.

It’s easy when you’re small

You see, when your business is small, you and a couple of people delivering all the services, be it plumbing, washing machine repairs, fixing cars, bookkeeping, designing websites or building houses, then it’s easy to manage and be in control of everything. You can make sure things happen the way you want them to happen.

Once you start to grow with 5, 10 or more employees, and you have a number of teams, or vans on the road, suddenly you’re not in touch with everything that goes on anymore. You don’t even get to meet all the customers and you won’t personally see all the services that get delivered. You have to rely on others, and hope they do things the way you want them done. That they communicate with customers they way you expect them to and that they take their dirty boots off before they traipse in through the house.

Managing by keeping your fingers crossed.

And guess what? It doesn’t work. Your customers start being less than happy, they start looking elsewhere, you’ll believe you need to lower your prices to keep them and it all becomes a dog’s game.

So here’s the biggest secret of all to growing your business:

Learn to say no.

Learn to say no, until you can handle the growth. Never taken on any work, any new business, unless you are confident you can deliver it to those 5 standards above.

If you do that, you’ll be in control of your business, you won’t have to compromise on price and you will build a Beautiful Business and Life. And the customers? They’ll keep coming. There is never a shortage of customers for businesses who deliver on all of their promises, with a smile… I promise you.

Read more

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BQ Business Growth

How can I grow my business?

business growth strategy

The 11 biggest business growth strategies:

Growth is the most enduring topic of the 7 big questions of small business. There are literally thousands of business growth strategies bandied about by business experts and gurus. Every business owner that ever was has felt frustrated and stuck at some stage while wondering how they can grow their business to the next level. Which are the growth strategies that are going to work for your business?

This page lays out the 11 most important strategies to grow your business to where you want it to be. All of the 11 growth strategies are solid and proven, it’s up to you to mix and match. It’s a bit like baking a cake. Most cakes have eggs, flour and sugar in them, but you can’t make a cake just with flour or with nothing but eggs, you need a mixture of ingredients. So it is with building and growing your business. You may not need all the 11 business growth strategies, but you certainly need a mixture of them.

So … Get yourself to the kitchen and bake something beautiful.

Seth Godin

seth godin

Everybody’s favourite business guru, Seth Godin, once summed up the solution perfectly:

“To build and grow a great business, you really only have to do two things:

  1. Build a great product or deliver a great service.
  2. Make sure lots of people know about it.”

(I’ve also written about Seth Godin’s two rules here)

In other words, easier said than done. Thanks, Seth!

Click here to download my free guide to finding the perfect coach or mentor for you.

Those two simple statements cover many different aspects of business growth, but I believe we can keep things much simpler than they may seem at first glance. Let’s break each one down.

Skip ahead to the following sections:

1. Grow your business with vision and purpose:

If you want to grow a beautiful business that stands the test of time, you must be able to answer the question: Why does your business exist and why would anybody care?

Most business owners can’t answer that question succinctly and powerfully. That’s bad because:

  1. If you don’t know why your business exists, your customers certainly won’t either and that makes price the only differentiator. Competing on price is a dog’s game (unless you’re Aldi, where price is your purpose).
  2. If you don’t know where to focus your energy, you will never master the greatest skill of effective business owners: the ability to say “NO”.

More about purpose here:

2. Grow your business by setting goals:

We’ve all heard that the first step towards business growth is goal setting. However, effective goal setting is more complicated than you might initially think.

Most of the goals we set for ourselves are ineffective at best, and at worst, actually hinder our progress. They’re often arbitrary, unrealistic and unrelated to what truly matters in our lives.

For instance, a goal to make $2 million revenue is meaningless. Why $2 million? Why not $1,956,384.13? And what happens when you reach that goal? Will you be better off somehow? What if you fall short by $100 or even $100,000? Does that mean you are a failure? Goal setting only makes a difference if you understand that goals are like a compass; they provide a direction on your journey, they are not the destination.

More about goal setting here:

3. Grow your business with marketing:

Marketing is about creating opportunities to sell your stuff. As such, I fervently believe that:

“Marketing is everything and everything is marketing.”

That’s why, if you want to grow your business, you must analyse every aspect of your business.

Yes, marketing is about branding, advertising campaigns, social media and your website, but it’s also about how you answer the phone, your pricing policies and ensuring your customers are happy with what you sell them. It’s about how you dress, how you present your quotes, your PR strategies and your warranty return policies.

In fact, one of the most powerful marketing strategies is maintaining a relentless focus on quality in everything the business does in order to create “raving fans”. Why? Because if your customers are all raving fans, they will do your marketing for you.

Click here to download my free guide to finding the perfect coach or mentor for you.

More about marketing here:

4. Grow your business with DIGITAL marketing:

business-growth-strategies I don’t mean to imply that digital marketing is something wildly different from all other forms of marketing. However, it is useful to pay special attention to the online space because it has become such a critical component of any growth-driving marketing strategy.

Whether your business serves food, builds houses, crunches numbers, imports widgets or makes whatsits, you can’t ignore digital marketing activities, like email marketing, content marketing, social media and influencer/affiliate marketing, search engine optimisation (SEO), pay-per-click advertising (PPC) and online PR. The list is almost endless and constantly changing with emerging technology, such as artificial intelligence, voice search, chatbots, virtual reality, drones, and progressive web apps.

You could easily argue that the core principles of marketing haven’t changed, we’ve simply got a bunch of new tools to use. At one level that’s true because people still want to get to know, like and trust you before they will do business with you. However, on another level, things have changed drastically.

Ten years ago, you’d give someone a business card with your web address on it and they would immediately want to know if you also had a bricks and mortar store. These days, people want to know you’ve got a high-functioning, active web presence, including a Facebook and Instagram page, a Google My Business listing and ideally, a bunch of 5-star ratings on all the major review platforms.

The reality is, often your physical presence doesn’t even matter anymore. If you want to be taken seriously today, online engagement across all mediums and channels must be at the heart of your marketing strategy.

Click here to download my free guide to finding the perfect coach or mentor for you.

More about digital marketing here:

5. Grow your business with sales:

“Nothing happens until we sell something.”

That’s a quote I once saw hanging on the wall at a big office. And it’s true. You won’t achieve any business growth (or even have a business!) without sales. No matter how great your product is, how beautiful your logo is, how smart your website is or how wonderful your employee culture is – if you’re not selling, your business will cease to exist. Simple.

Sales is often seen as a subset of marketing, but I’m giving it a solo section because I think of marketing as getting the customers to your door and sales as getting them to hand over the money. Lead generation vs lead conversion.

Sales is about skill, mindset and systems, but above all, it’s about making things easy for people. And that last word is the key to the whole shebang: it’s always about people. The old saying goes:

“People do business with people they know, like and trust.”

It’s especially important to remember this in small business because people do business with people. Your entire approach to sales must be built on a people-to-people philosophy.

More about sales here:

6. Grow your business with planning:

“A business without a plan achieves everything in it.”

Nothing in other words.

Your business growth depends on planning. No human endeavour ever amounted to anything without a plan. Yet planning is guessing. It can never be anything more than guessing, because we can not know the future. So if planning is guessing, why does it matter so much and how can we do it so it works?  There are two important answers to those questions:

  1. You must understand that there are two entirely different types of business plans: internal plans and external plans.External plans are designed to impress others about your business. They form part of the documentation to obtain a loan (or other type of funding) or make a proposal to a third party. Internal Plans are designed to help the business focus. They are drawn up using meaningful goals (see above), and they help people with their day-to-day decision-making processes.
  2. Planning is a verb. It’s not static, it’s an activity that never stops. As soon as one plan is created, we start again.John Lennon once said, “Life’s what happens when we’re making other plans,”. Planning is like that. We make a bunch of assumptions and map our actions accordingly. Next, we check reality as it unfolds and make changes to suit those new realities – every day, every week, every month and every year.

The bottom line? Business plans that truly work and make a difference are living documents.

More about planning here:

7. Grow your business with customer service:

Customer service is also a subset of marketing, and if done well, it leads to more business from those customers (plus, as I said above, everything is marketing and marketing is everything). However, it’s worth mentioning separately because of the concept of “raving fans”.

Ken Blanchard wrote a little book called “Ravings Fans” that talks about how your business should always be working to do one better for your customers than they expect. If you do so successfully, your customers will become advocates that go out of their way to help your business grow. They will talk to their friends about you, drag their colleagues to your door, defend your business against the competition and best of all, they won’t quibble about the price. If you focus on turning your customers into raving fans, you will ultimately be able to slash your marketing budget in half and achieve a long-lasting competitive edge.

Click here to download my free guide to finding the perfect coach or mentor for you.

More about customer service here:

8. Grow your business with systems and quality improvement:

making monye from death and hamburgers business-growth-strategies My clients often ask me to help grow their business and I often tell them to stop worrying about that. Getting more customers is the easy part. The hard bit about business is delivering what you say you will by the time you say you will for the price you say you will at the quality you say you will… with a smile!

If you can do that all the time, even as your business grows, then customers will come flocking to your door and you won’t need to spend much money on marketing (largely because you’ll be creating raving fans !).

I can’t tell you how many businesses I have seen struggle and fail because they couldn’t maintain their product/service quality, dependability and price once they scaled.

When your business starts to grow and you are no longer in charge of every step in the process, things often start going wrong. Quality becomes inconsistent, delivery times become unreliable, prices go up or profitability suffers – and your smile disappears. Once the rot sets in like that, your reputation nosedives and customers begin to look elsewhere.

There are only two answers to this dilemma:

  1. Stay small: Don’t grow and learn to say “NO” often.
  2. Systematise: Develop systems for all aspects of your operation, including estimating, quality checking, calendar management, inventory management, callbacks, warranty repair, marketing, hiring, firing and even how the phone is answered. Systems allow you to create continuous improvement loops in your organisation (and that’s the Holy Grail of business. It’s what made companies like Toyota great).

More about systems and quality here:

9. Grow your business with inventory management:

Inventory management is a big, specialised topic. It’s really a subset of the systems section above. There are whole management libraries written about the various philosophical approaches to managing stock when building and growing a beautiful business that stands the test of time.

My earliest inventory management lessons came from Colin, the owner of a large hardware store who I dealt with a lot during my days as a builder. One of the reasons I bought so much of my material from Colin was that he always had everything in stock. Colin clearly knew what it took to create business growth because his business was booming.

I once asked Colin if keeping such high stock levels of everything that a builder might need from time to time was economical for him. I imagined that it was a very expensive way to run a business, having all that money tied up in timber, hardware and bits and bobs. His answer was:

“If I don’t stock it, I can’t sell it.”

I have often thought about that statement, particularly now that most operations run on the principle of “just in time”. Supermarkets have made an art form of stocking just enough and not a jar more than required in order to minimise shelf space and inventory cost.

I don’t know what the answer is, but I do know that Colin got all my business for 20 years and most Sydney builders had an account with him because everything we needed was always ready to collect.

Click here to download my free guide to finding the perfect coach or mentor for you.

More about inventory management here:

10. Grow your business with hiring, firing and engaging people:

staff engagement business-growth-strategies In his famous book “The E-Myth”, Michael Gerber wrote that it is impossible to manage people, so great businesses focus on systems and manage those instead. That’s certainly what grew McDonald’s into the enormous business it is today. And as I’ve written elsewhere before, if you set out to make as much money as possible from selling restaurant food, it is undeniably the case that the McDonald’s model is the one to emulate (that doesn’t mean I like it!). This philosophy can be applied to any industry.

If you’d like to build and grow a unique business, a business with an individual character, you’re going to have to manage people. You’re going to have to get good at putting the right people on the bus, sitting in the right seats, facing the right direction while also knowing which others should get off. If you don’t learn how to find (and keep!) the right people and get them to do great work, your business will always struggle. That means:

  • Developing strategic hiring policies
  • Being prepared to employ people who might be better than you at certain things
  • Learning how to conduct great interviews
  • Implementing meaningful induction and development training programs
  • Learning how to coach, encourage and hold your people accountable
  • Getting better at delegating
  • Doing HR admin and compliance effectively
  • Writing job descriptions
  • Scheduling performance reviews
  • Learning what it takes to be a leader
  • Making tough decisions when required (quickly and respectfully)

More about hiring, firing and engaging people here:

11. Grow your business with innovation:

If you want to build and grow a beautiful business that stands the test of time, you can’t afford to get left behind. The pace of change and innovation is relentless. What was acceptable even a few years ago is no longer acceptable now.

Not long ago, it was still okay for a cafe to have a sign that said, “cash only”. Today, you’ll lose a lot of business if you don’t accept card payments. Even with a business as simple as mine, people still expect the option to make online bookings. Cloud computing combined with smartphone technology and advanced GPS systems mean that customers now even expect to be informed that their plumber is on the way and will pull up in front of their house in 13 minutes.

You don’t need to be Uber or Airbnb to implement new technology or come up with new ways of doing business. A few years ago, I bought a house in a different state of Australia. The real estate agent gave me a private showing of the house via Skype. I engaged the conveyancer, the building inspector and a surveyor all without setting foot in the house or even the state.

A client of mine with a creative marketing agency has a team of designers, copywriters and marketing assistants all over the world and she rarely even meets her clients face to face. Another client with a small supermarket chain has technology in his stores that allows him to see what’s going on in every area as well as getting live access to each of the store’s point-of-sale (POS) systems. He’s also put a bunch of tablet screens in his stores that allow people to find dinner recipes incorporating the fresh vegetables he has on special.

And all this stuff is only the beginning. It won’t be long before artificial intelligence is integrated into doctor’s surgeries, lawyer’s offices and copywriting agencies. If you think that technology and innovation won’t have a massive impact on the way you do business and how you create business growth, you are kidding yourself.

More about innovation here:

Your next step:

Click here to download my free guide to finding the perfect coach or mentor for you.