Highly Chilled Habit #6: Be Careful

The 7 Habits of Highly Chilled Small Business owners

This is the fifth 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

Habit #6:

Highly Chilled Business Owners Find the Best Person for the Role

business mane rope balancing employment

In order to build a Highly Chilled business, you have to put great people on your team, give them every opportunity to shine and remove the ones that don’t fit.

BTW, You can read up on Chilled habit #1: Be dependable here

The Hard Stuff

Small business owners often lament the fact they can’t afford to hire great people because big corporates have so much deeper pockets. They also often complain that managing people (especially millennials!) is a nightmare because they think the world owes them a reward for turning up and as soon as you’ve finished training them, they leave again.

It’s true that finding, hiring, engaging and keeping good people is the hardest thing you’ll ever do in your business.

But it’s meant to be hard because employing people is also your greatest opportunity to build a Highly Chilled business that makes money. And generally, in business (as in much of life, I suppose), the hardest things are where the greatest opportunities lie.

Be Careful, Like Adrian

I know lots of business owners who have struggled with employees their whole life. I’ve also met a bunch of them who get it right. Adrian is one of those people.

Adrian owns a Highly Chilled retail design, development and store fit-out business in Sydney. This is his website. Things have been going incredibly well for Adrian since he started his business in 2010. He employs around 30 people and half of them are young millennials. They come and go, get paid the industry average and have their good and bad days. But they deliver. The culture of the place is buzzing, and they make lots of money for Adrian and his business.

Adrian’s secrets are simple:

  • Hire the best people, not just the ones you can afford.
  • Hire for cultural fit AND skills/experience.
  • Set high expectations.
  • Give everyone lots of encouragement and genuine personal attention.
  • Get rid of them early if they don’t work out.

A couple of years ago, Adrian’s business had grown to the point where he needed a general manager. The temptation was to promote someone internally to the role. That would have been the easy, economical solution.

However, he was aware of the Peter Principle that says: “People always get promoted to one level above their ability.”

And Adrian needed someone with experience in fast-growing national and international business.

The answer was clear. The person in the business he’d considered for the role didn’t have GM experience and although a great team member, promoting this person was not what the business needed. Adrian actually knew exactly the person he wanted to have on board, a good friend, but she had a high paying job at one of the biggest corporates in Sydney (with all the perks and trappings of corporate success). What could he offer to entice her away?

She Jumped at the Opportunity

Long story short, Adrian took his friend to lunch, took the plunge and matched her corporate pay. He also offered her other financial benefits and options in the business down the track. The friend jumped at the opportunity, and they’ve been working together for 3 years with great success.

Your business is only as strong as your people. Hiring someone based on whether you can afford them, or because they happen to be there already, is a recipe for stagnation.

Adrian’s is a Highly Chilled business and Adrian is a Highly Chilled small business owner.

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 #6:

You may not currently need to hire someone, but the next time you do need to find a new employee, resist the automatic temptation to consider promoting someone you already have on the team. First, take some time to visualise the person you’d ideally like for the role.

Are you a small business owner who’s feeling the heat? Explore Highly Chilled habit #7 as soon as it is live on my blog here 

More on this topic:

Highly Chilled Habit #5: Be Clear

clarity

The 7 Habits of Highly Chilled Small Business owners

This is the fifth 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

Habit #5:

Highly Chilled Business Owners Say "No" a Lot

be clear business habit 5

In order to build a Highly Chilled business, you must have a succinct, one-sentence answer to the question: “Why does your business exist and why would anybody care about that?”

BTW, You can read up on Chilled habit #1: Be dependable here

Getting Clear

In the early days of my building business, I basically tried to take on any building job that came along for any client that walked past my door. I was inexperienced in business, and I figured that we had to achieve at least 2 million dollars in turnover if I was going to have enough money left over. The upshot of this was lots of frustration and heartache (for myself and some of my clients), and very little money.

Luckily, I learnt from my mistakes. I realised what we were good at and what we weren’t so good at. Some years later, I decided to specialise and focus on renovations to old terraced houses in Sydney’s inner city. I had an affinity for them. I also understood the challenges and opportunities. We developed an expertise in these projects and offered a unique package of building and design services aimed at the owners of terraced houses.

Building Up the Courage

Picking this niche started turning my building business around. However, the biggest turning point came when I built up enough courage to start saying “no” to building projects that fell outside of our narrow speciality.

I became happier, as did our customers. We started making money. We even went well beyond the turnover target I had dreamt about early on.

That was the first time I understood how important it is to be able to answer the Big Question of Small Business: “Why does your business exist, what’s it on this earth for, and why would anybody care about that?”

Our Purpose (with a capital “P”) in the building company became: “To make the process of renovating your terraced house a joy.”

Be Focused, Like Jo

In the past 12 years, I’ve helped many small business owners become completely clear about the Big Question and then watched them build Highly Chilled small businesses. One of these people is named Jo and she has built a Highly Chilled web development business. This is her website.

When I met Jo, she was struggling on many fronts. She worked day and night, but she still made very little money. Essentially, Jo was in the same place I’d been in the early stages of my building career. She felt frustrated and stressed because she took on every job that came up.

Over a 6-month period, we set about discovering her strengths and weaknesses, what gets her out of bed in the morning and who her perfect clients are. We ended up with this Purpose statement: “We make it easy for companies to do business online.”

The day we nailed that statement, things started to turn around for Jo. It suddenly became easy to decide where to direct her focus, which opportunities to say “yes” to and most importantly, which to say “no” to.

6 months later and Jo is still working hard, but she’s having fun, her customers love her and she’s making money. Jo’s is a Highly Chilled business and Jo is a Highly Chilled small business owner.

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 #5:

Grab a coffee or a wine and a piece of paper and pen. Brainstorm 50 sentences that start with the statement: “In my business, we strive to X”. It doesn’t matter if some of the sentences you write down feel silly. Simply scribbling lots and lots of options will help you get closer to the Purpose of your business.

Are you a small business owner who’s feeling the heat? Explore Highly Chilled habit #6 here as soon as it is live on my blog here 

More on this topic:

The foundations of a Fun business

TTTMBF hedgehog professor

The Ten Truths for making business Fun

The Ten Truths for Making Business Fun

And building a business that sustains you for years to come:

This is the second article in a series on Making Business Fun: Building a fun business starts with Why; Purpose, Passion and Profit.

The first article in the series, explaining why Fun in Business is the key to building a business that sustains you for years to come is here

The articles are based on my book, The Ten Truths for Making Business Fun, published in 2011. All of my books and many other resources are available for free here

Building a Fun Business: The Foundations

Introducing the hedgehog

introducing the hedgehogOne of the greatest business management books of the last 20 years is called “Good to Great” by Jim Collins. The book explores what makes average companies become great, and a number of the conclusions translate just as well into the world of small business. In particular, I have seen time and time again with clients, friends, colleagues and in my own business that what Jim Collins refers to as the “Hedgehog Principles” are the absolute foundations upon which to build a Fun Business (and a business that sustains you for years to come).

The Big Question of Small Business: Purpose, Passion and Profit

I call it The Big Question of Small Business: Why does your business exist and why would anybody care? The answer is all about the three Ps: Purpose, Passion and Profit.

Jim Collins in his book talks about the simplicity and single-mindedness of the hedgehog.

In order to stay alive, hedgehogs do one thing really well: roll up into a spikey ball when under attack. They do this over and over again, never tempted to vary their approach. The Hedgehog Principles state that a long-term successful business must be able to answer three questions unequivocally and, like the humble hedgehog, never waiver from its commitment to the answers. The three questions are about Purpose, Passion and Profit and together they combine into the one big question I mentioned above, The Big Question of Small Business and

Many businesses can answer one of the three, some can answer two, but very few can satisfy all three. Long-term sustainable success is absolutely dependent on there being complete clarity for all three questions at once.

1) Purpose: A Fun Business Strives to be the Best in the World at ‘Something’

I'm the best there is Question 1: What will we strive to be the best in the world at, day in and day out, without fail?

In the 21st century, it is simply not good enough to answer this question the way most business owners do:

“I give really good customer service.”

“My prices are fantastic.”

“I provide great products and services.”

Why? Because all of your competitors are saying exactly the same thing. Customers want to know what makes you different to everyone else. If you don’t clearly communicate the answer to the first Hedgehog Question, you are essentially leaving it in your customers’ hands to work out what sets you and your competition apart.

Oh, and I know it might feel a little unrealistic to aim to be “the best plumber in the world”, but you can sure as hell strive to be the best plumber in your world (perhaps your suburb) and for your narrow niche or sub-speciality.

Remember, customers always want to know what’s in it for them.

2: Passion: A Fun Business is Passionate About That ‘Something’

passion in business Question 2: What are we absolutely passionate about and will happily jump out of bed for, day in and day out, year after year?

Many business authors have written about the importance of this question:

“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” – Simon Sinek (It All Starts with Why)

It’s Not What You Sell, It’s What You Stand For – Roy Spence

There is no doubt that there is deep truth in these statements. People want to know what you stand for: your core values and beliefs. It is this information, more than anything else, that helps them decide to do business with you over your competitors.

You can be passionate about so many things in relation to your business: making people smile, being a trendsetter, helping people achieve their dreams, building partnerships, or even seeing people improve their diet. These are passions that can be clearly connected to and expressed in the purpose of your business, and customers will understand why they’d want to do business with you.

If you don’t care about your business then your customers certainly won’t either, so you must honestly consider what gets you out of bed in the morning and how that relates to what your business does. Oh, and let me give you a hint: your passion for making money won’t do as the answer to this question (sorry!).

I promise, if your passion and your business purpose coincide, you will find it so much easier to take the next steps to building a Fun Business that sustains you for years to come.

Remember, it’s not what you sell, it’s what you stand for.

3: Profit: A Fun Business Makes Sustainable Profits from That ‘Something’

tttmbf profit Question 3: How can we create a long-term sustainable economic model around the answers that we gave to questions one and two?

This question is actually more complicated than it seems, and most businesses never really sit down to work it out properly.

Firstly, just because we are passionate about something and we are the best in the world at delivering that something doesn’t guarantee we can build a business out of it: Is there enough of a market to win consistent work in your area? Do you need to expand into other complementary services or build a flexible team that can manage peaks and troughs in demand?

Secondly, a business must make money to survive. How much money the business needs to make is a complex question to answer. Your business will likely need to provide for your financial needs, and it will also need to make enough profit to provide a return on investment to the shareholders or investors (even if that’s just you and your financial input). A business also needs funds to grow – actual cash that you can use to pay your bills. Businesses in a growth phase will be particularly thirsty for cash and the best way to quench it is by having profits.

Thirdly, it’s important to think about your business’ ability to generate steady long-term profit and cash flow. In other words, if you don’t think about the sustainability of your business model, you might end up with a flash in the pan. A good rule of thumb is to ensure that your business is not reliant on one customer for more than 10% of its revenue.

Finally, the last reason why a business must make profit: Making money is a lot of fun. It is simply a heap of fun to make money and to see the balance sheet grow!

Remember, a business that doesn’t generate profits and cash is a hobby.

Your Homework (The Fun Kind)

If you make sustainable profits from doing something you are passionate about and committed to being the best in the world at, all the steps towards building a Fun Business will fall into place – I promise. And the way I see it, if you are not in business to have a lot of fun then I suggest you find an easier way to make a living!

Still eager to stick with this messy-and-tricky-yet-incredibly-fun entrepreneurial stuff? Ask yourself the following question today:

  • What first steps can I take in the next few weeks to focus my business on the three Hedgehog Questions?

More on this topic:

 

The Ten Truths: Why does Fun in Business Matter?

TTTMBF fun dashboard

The Ten Truths for making business Fun

The Ten Truths for Making Business Fun

And building a business that sustains you for years to come:

This is the first article in a monthly series on Making Business Fun.

The articles are based on my book, The Ten Truths for Making Business Fun, published in 2011. You can access all of my books and many other resources for free here

When Business is Fun, Everything is Working

Fun as a business management tool.

what has fun got to do with it The reality is that most small business owners operate in a constant state of overwhelm and stress. We feel that, at some level, our skills don’t cut the mustard, and we often have no idea where to focus our (very) limited time when faced with seemingly endless priorities.

Sound familiar? This is why “Fun in Business” matters. If your business is fun, you won’t be overwhelmed. If your business is fun, everything is working: you’ve got time to do the things you enjoy, your staff are happy, you’re making money. Need I say more to entice?

Let me show you why Fun is an incredibly powerful business management tool that helps you build a business that lasts, sustainably.

Fun Is the Way Out of Overwhelm

Fun may seem like a very strange and whimsical concept to focus on when we’re talking about growing a business. After all, isn’t fun reserved for time spent socialising at the pub or lazing about on tropical islands? Events that happen outside of business hours. Experiences that are paid for by your business, but otherwise entirely unrelated.

Perhaps not. In fact, I believe that Fun in Business is actually a hard-nosed business management principle. It is that deep sense of reward and satisfaction you get to feel as a result of building a business that hums along like a well-oiled machine.

Anyone else tired of focusing on all the serious stuff? The things that get drummed into us by patronising business management books and gurus? IT systems, contracts, staff management, sales and cashflow are all very important things, of course, but – in my humble opinion – they’re not where we must start.

We must start with fun. Why? Because if your business is fun, it means you

  • are making money
  • have enough time to do what you need to do
  • are proud of the stuff your business makes or delivers
  • know exactly where you’re going and why
  • have happy customers
  • have engaged staff
  • have balance in your life.

In the beginning, when we are first getting started in our business, there is usually a high level of that kind of fun around. Everything is new, exciting, adventurous and challenging. However, after a while, the real world comes rudely a-knocking and we suddenly find that

  • we aren’t making as much money as we thought we were going to
  • we haven’t been able to take our daughter to soccer training
  • our clients haven’t all become our greatest fans
  • our staff aren’t the perfectly aligned human beings that we expect them to be.

When this realisation sets in, we start to feel like we have become a slave to the business. We get worried that the light at the end of the tunnel may not be sunshine.

We try telling ourselves that “Rome wasn’t built in a day” and we “have to take the rough with the smooth” because, like Churchill said, “Never, ever give up!”. We push harder and longer, holding onto the hope that good times will surely follow.

This is Business Hell, and it’s where most of us spend our time: Chasing our tails. Managing crises. Operating as a “Jack of all trades, master of none”. Living in a constant state of overwhelm.

After 30+ years in business (and working with lots and lots of business owners), I have come to believe that the only way out of this overwhelm is to ensure that business itself is fun. Deep and meaningful fun.

Competing Priorities

One of the greatest challenges for businesses, especially small ones, is that there are so many priorities competing for your attention on a daily basis. It feels almost impossible to decide where to focus next.

Many business owners also lack confidence in their aptitude for certain business development tasks. After all, you started this endeavour on the back of your skills as a carpenter, accountant or architect; not your background in sales, marketing, staff management, etc. Nobody taught you how to write an operations manual or create a cashflow forecasting spreadsheet, did they?

The result? Most of us revert back to “picking up the hammer” (because that is the one skill we know like the back of our hand), managing crises and being reactive to whatever is thrown at us. Like I said, Business Hell.

A New Tool for Your Toolkit

fun-o-metre The concept of Fun in Business is an incredibly powerful tool, designed to keep you out of reactive crisis management mode so that you can focus on what is most important for today, tomorrow, next week, next month, next year and beyond.

Here’s how to use it in practice.

Think of a scale from 0 to 10. Let’s call it the Fun in Business scale.

10 on the scale? This past week in business has been so much fun that you can’t wait to get up and go to work. You’ve gone home every day with a big smile on your face. You’ve achieved great things. You had a wonderful time with your co-workers. Everything at work (or in business) has been just brilliant.

0 on the scale? Entirely the opposite. Your week at work has been simply awful on every single level. Pass the vino now.

Now ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What number on the Fun in Business scale would you give your last week at work (or in business)? Let’s say 4.6.
  2. Thinking ahead, what number on the scale would you like next week to be? Perhaps a 5.
  3. What one, two or three actions can you (or we, as a team) take to progress from 6 to 5 on the Fun in Business scale, next week?

These questions, asked consistently, will cut through all of the crises and competing priorities, leaving you relentlessly focused on the next most important thing that must be done in your business.

These questions, answered individually or within a team (anonymously and with the results averaged), will set you up for having hugely productive conversations about how to make tomorrow just a little more fun than yesterday.

I promise, when you commit to building a Fun Business by regularly asking yourself these pivotal questions, you will have taken the first step to building a business that sustains you for years to come.

Remember, a business that isn’t fun won’t be around for long!

Your Homework (The Fun Kind)

Now, I’ve got a hunch that you’re a hands-on kinda person, so here are some actions for you to take that will help make your business more fun. Answer the following questions and start thinking about how you can make intentional changes. The results will be more illuminating than you might think!

  1. Make a list of the 20 most fun experiences or most exciting times you’ve had in your business.
  2. Write down the 3 things you like most about your business.
  3. Write down the 3 things you like least about your business.

More on this topic:

Next installment:

Read the next installment about the Foundations of a Fun business here

The key step to take control of your business and your life

How do I take control of my business
how do I take control of my business

Bang crash! Watch out! Duck! Hang on! Oh no! Here we go again!

My life as a business owner feels like a roller coaster ride, I’m hanging on for dear life half the time… How can I slow it all down a bit and take control of my business and my life?
Running your own business can feel like a constant juggling act and most of the time, all you do is hold on for the ride and try to make sure you duck at the right time. But it doesn’t have to be like that. Running your own business is never something you should because you want to have an easy life, because it’s never going to be easy. But you can make sure the business works for you rather than the other way round.

The Big Question of Small Business

It all starts with this question, The Big Question of Small Business:
Why does your business exist and why would anybody care?
Most business owners can’t answer that question clearly, in a single power sentence. And if you can’t answer that question, there is one really important thing you can never do, with confidence and clarity, and that is to say NO.

Saying NO is probably the one, most important thing that you have to learn to be able to do well in your business in order to to get off the roller coaster and to take control. I’ll give you an example from my own experience that happened to me only last week. That question, the Big Question I talk about above: Why does your business exist? My answer to it is this:
I help small business owners feel great about themselves and about their business, by helping them discover and build their own unique Beautiful Business and Life
That’s what I get up to do, each and every morning. So last week I received an email from the health and wellbeing officer of one of the Big Four Banks here in Sydney.  This person is running a personal wellness program for the entire staff of the bank in Sydney and she was looking for a coach to be involved with the program. The opportunity was enormous. This bank employs thousands, if not tens of thousands of people in Sydney alone and being offered a sponsored opportunity to get in front of all those employees is incredible… For the right person.

I wasn’t the right person for the job

And there’s the rub. I’m not the right person for the an opportunity. I work with small business owners, not with employees in the corporate world. Now I’m sure I could have done something for this wellbeing officer and made it work and I would have done a good job, I have no doubt about that, but I actually know someone who is much better equiped to take on this project. She specialises in working with employees in the corporate world to help them feel better about themselves and advance in their careers. So I thanked the Wellbeing officer and I introduced her to my friend and two days later, my friend had signed up the gig. There’s a good chance that this is the best gig my friend has landed in years and I am absolutely sure she’ll lay them in the isles… She’s brilliant at this kind of thing. I didn’t get the gig, I won’t make any money from the gig, but I also didn’t get the stress from doing something that wasn’t absolutely in my area of expertise. I’ve learnt over the years, that I’m really good at some things and not others, and I need to stick with those. My friend is really excited and will have a lot of fun with the project, probably make a lot of money and do really well. What’s more, she’s super motivated to return the favour and I have no doubt something will come my way at some stage that’s right up my alley. Learning what to say No to, and do it in such a way that means everybody is happy is absolutely a core skill if want to get off the roller coaster and take control of your business. So: Why does your business exist, and Why would anybody care about that? I’d love to hear, drop me a line. Cheers, Roland Hanekroot

Read more:

Would you like to download my 12 Question Cheat-sheet to help you find your next Coach? Click here.

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.

First Things First: What is the Purpose of your business?

big question purpose of business

The Big Question of Small Business

Purpose and the accidental small business owner

big question purpose of business

I’m often asked what the secret of small business is. I was recently asked this question by a new internet support service for micro and home based businesses called Brazzlebox . I told them there’s only one thing to get right and that is be able to answer the Big Question of Small Business, What’s the Purpose of your business?

It’s actually a really interesting question, and one that few business owners stop to think about before they get their business underway. I’ve also written about the Big Question here on Medium.com and in other pages on my website here as well as in this podcast for example. To be honest, I think that most business are started more or less by accident.

Of course there are startup entrepreneurs who plan the development of the next widget, they take a shared office space in some kind of incubator and plan to sell their widget to Facebook for 25 trazillion dollars one day, but I believe that those business owners are in a tiny minority.

The small business owners I meet everywhere (and the ones I support) start their business when an ever increasing level of frustration with their  job or career to date simply overflows the bucket and they decide to take control of their life in their own hand.

And when that moment arrives they run around doing the practical logistical things; bank accounts, business names, email addresses, business cards… the basics, but the really important questions are not usually addressed until much later, sometimes never.

Strategic Direction

The really important questions that we should all attempt to answer right from the word go are the questions about the strategic direction of the business, the Goals (short, medium and long term) and the biggest question of all:

Why does your business exists; What’s it on this earth for, and why would anybody care?

Purpose of small business Big Question Mission business card exchangeWhenever I am at a networking function talking to business owners I always ask them what is special, or different about their business, why I would want to do business with them and how I could refer business to them. It’s actually surprising how difficult most business owners find it to a give a clear answer to those questions. Mostly people try and tell me that they have a Great product (Our widget comes in 23 different colours) and they give Great customer service (We re smaller than the competition so we care more about our customers) and their prices are Great too (we’re really efficient and run a tight ship and we have few overheads and we’re committed to “adding value”).

These days I have hardened up a bit so I don’t feel the pain so much anymore and mostly I remain polite and nod with interest and make engaged noises, but deep down I think to myself: “Oh Please… not another one!”

D’OH

Of course you have a great product with a great price and great customer service, “D’OH” as Homer Simpson would say… I don’t think I’ve ever talked to a business owner who told me their product was average, their prices were average and they kind of looked after their customers in an average manner either. The competition has those three covered as well as you do (otherwise they wouldn’t be your competition in the first place) and your potential customers assume you will deliver them those three as a minimum, otherwise they wouldn’t be talking to you.

You have to find what sets you apart, what makes you different, because if you don’t, your customers only have one way to decide who they’ll use and that is by comparing your price and competing on price is a dog’s game, it might work for Walmart and Ikea but few others.

So… Why does your business exist, what’s it on this earth for, and why would anybody care about that?

  • I have a client who is an architect, he defined the purpose of his business as “Architecture that Inspires”
  • I have a client who owns a gym and he defined the purpose of his business as: “To build the finest resistance training community in the world”
  • I have a client who has a video production business and the Purpose of his business is: “It’s a joy to work with us”

Being remembered

When I meet someone at a networking function and I ask them what’s special about their business and they give me a powerful short statement like that, I sit up and take note and I’ll remember them and I will be able to introduce them to potential clients.

Also when your business rests on such a strong statement, it suddenly makes everything so much easier:

  • It’s suddenly easy to make decisions about which jobs to bid for and which opportunities to say No to
  • It’s suddenly clear which employees to hire
  • It’s suddenly clear what prices you should be charging
  • etc etc

Finding the Purpose of your business and being able to express it with complete clarity is absolutely the biggest step you can take to building a sustainable, fun and rewarding business.

Masterminds

masterminds As it happens I have run many webinars on this exact topic. Here is a link to a recording of a recent Small Business Masterminds on Purpose

So I hear you ask: “Ok smartie pants, what’s the Purpose of your own business then?”, and I am so glad you asked, because this is what I get out of bed for every morning:

To help family business owners feel great about themselves and about their business by making Business Fun again

How do you like them apples?… Does that work for you?

I thought so….

Check out the Masterminds webinar and I’ll help you take the first steps to discovering your own Purpose (with a capital “P)… You’ll never look back… I promise you.

Further reading

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

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

Here are some other insights on the Big Question of Business and the Purpose of Business:

Would you like to download my free 12 Question Cheat-sheet to help you find your next Coach? Click here.

Top 10 Secrets of Sustainable Small Business Growth

The – absolute – undeniable – must have – rockbottom – can’t do without – believe it or not …

Top-10 Secrets of:

Sustainable Small Business Growth

In good times or bad

When your favorite small business coach started devising this article and blog i had 10 secrets in mind, but as I was writing it grew to 21 secrets and maybe it will even grow some more, so now I will be delivering them to you in installment over the next few weeks… here are the first 7. (More about business growth strategies here as well)

PLEASE!: Take a few minutes and let them sink in. If you are not sure about any of them, drop me a line or call me or argue with me or shout me a coffee and pick my brain, but whatever you do, don’t just glance over them and put them aside!

PLEASE!: Do something with each and every one of these secrets. This is important stuff… believe me, I know what I am talking about here.

Follow these secrets and the ones I will reveal over the coming weeks andtrue sustainable small business growth beckons sure as night follows day…. I personally guarantee it (and to prove it I will even Twitterabout it so…it must be true!)

Here they are:

  1. Know what you are in this business for… and check in with yourself at least monthly that you are actually heading there.
  2. Decide what you are really good at, focus on it, get better at it, strive to be the best at it and do it again and again and again. (And please stop doing what you are not so good at!)
  3. State with absolute clarity to all and sundry what the truly inspiring thing is that your business is about (e.g. “We make the worlds most beautiful tables” or “Our plumbing installations are just plain sexy” or “We provide the best accountancy advice money can buy” or “Every customer smiles when they leave our shop” or “Our dresses will put you in the centre of the room”)
  4. Ask yourself: Are we a “dream come true” for your clients?
  5. Who exactly, precisely are those clients… ? and then become known to those specific clients as a true specialist and expert
  6. What precisely is the benefit those clients get from doing business with me?
  7. State with absolute clarity and conviction precisely what your business stands for (e.g. “Our customers are in safe hands”, “Never do anything to decrease our sense of pride”, “we are never more than 5 minutes late”, “Our installations are thoroughly tested for 24 hours, before handover”) publicise it widely and allow everyone to keep you and your staff acountable to that.

Those were the first 7 secrets…. in about a week the next bunch will be revealed…. in the mean time PLEASE…do something with these… and if you want to talk to me or email about them I’d love to hear…. I am sure that we can have some great discussions about this stuff and I am happy to explain to you in more depth what the meaning of the secrets is…..but whatever you do: Don’t just put it aside to do something with at some other time… Do Something Different…

Hope to hear from you soon.

Roland Hanekroot
New Perspectives Business Coaching
“Take Control of your Business and Your Life”

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