Highly Chilled Habit #7: Be Systematic

florist

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 #7:

Highly Chilled Business Owners are Systematic

systematic accuracy

In order to build a Highly Chilled business, you must always be on the prowl for parts of your processes that can be turned into repeatable systems

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

If McDonald’s Did Flowers

Amanda sells bunches of flowers. It’s a simple concept, but she manages the process in a way that no one else thought of before she came along. Amanda wants her business to be the McDonald’s of floristry by keeping repeatability, dependability, expandability, speed, convenience and price at the heart of what she delivers.

In order to achieve this, Amanda has had to invent her whole business model and production process from scratch. It had never been done before in her industry because, as is the case with restaurants and chefs, the success of a floristry business relies on the creative vision and genius of the florist. Besides, flowers are natural products and one night’s unexpected frost can leave said creative vision in tatters.

florist

Be Analytical, Like Amanda

In Amanda’s business, a limited number of different bunches of flowers are created and produced in large quantities every day, 7 days a week.

The composition of each one is determined by the market purchaser on the day.

The purchaser makes decisions dependent on that early morning’s availability and market prices.

Getting the day’s bunches right was historically a hit and miss affair – and something that gave Amanda sleepless nights.

So, Amanda set about creating a database of every bunch produced in a year. By the end of the year, there were hundreds and hundreds of bunches recorded.

Each record held photos of the completed product, a list of the components, the cost of the ingredients, the total cost of the bunch and the time taken to create each one. The bunch records were further categorised by month, by the person who created it and its popularity with customers.

Making it Easy

A year later, Amanda can send her purchaser to the day’s markets with simple instructions relevant to the season and state of the markets. All the purchaser has to do is pull out a tablet with the records of previous bunches from the same season and compare what’s in stock at the right price that day. The result? Making precisely the right flower purchases for that day’s production.

What was previously a hit and miss affair has become one of the simplest aspects of Amanda’s business.

That’s because even something as creative and dependent on external factors as flowers can benefit from systemisation. Many times, you might have to imagine your own systemised solution to a problem. However, getting into the habit of looking for opportunities to systemise your business is what will turn an ordinary business into a Highly Chilled one.

Amanda’s is a Highly Chilled business and Amanda 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 #7:

Your business consists of many, many processes (from answering the telephone and sending invoices to building the products and delivering the services you sell). Start by creating a list with as many repeating processes as you can think of in your business. Now, go and pick the low hanging fruit first.

Ask yourself: What’s the easiest process to create a simple system for? What’s the next low hanging fruit?

Don’t panic. You don’t need to tick them all off at once. Just do this exercise once a week or even once a month – but do get started this week! And remember, building a Highly Chilled business isn’t rocket science. All it takes is baby steps, time and consistency. Keep at it and you’ll be surprised by how different your business and life will look.

Next, you might like to carry out my business owners self assessment survey, I’m sure it will give you some food for thought

More on this topic:

SBRS Are You Overwhelmed

Are you overwhelmed and stuck in a whirlpool?

stuck in a whirlpool maelstrom

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 #3: Be on top of the Numbers

The 7 Habits of Highly Chilled Small Business owners

This is the third 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 #3:

Be On Top of the Numbers

In order to build a Highly Chilled business, you must keep your fingers on the pulse of all your business’ key health indicators, every week

BTW, You can read up on Chilled habit #1 here. And Chilled habit #2, here

Be Nerdy like Narinder

met!) is Narinder. I could tell a story about Narinder to illustrate almost all of the 7 Habits of Highly Chilled business owners, but this one about numbers is probably the most important. More than 15 years ago, Narinder started his first small supermarket business in Sydney. This is his website. Over time, the business has grown enormously, and his stores are starting to pop up across the inner city. Each of Narinder’s stores is profitable, his staff love working there and when he opens a new store, customers bring flowers to welcome him to the neighbourhood. As I said, there are many things Narinder does well, but the habit he’s developed to an art form is that of being on top of the numbers religiously, every day and every week.

Investigate the Numbers

Narinder was awakened to the power of numbers early on. He and I concluded that his first store was not performing to its full potential and we wondered what was wrong, so we decided to investigate. We started by measuring which products and categories sold well and which didn’t. We also analysed which sections of the store realised most of the sales he made. Narinder divided the store into 12 different sections and (with the help of his staff and some simple checklists) set about getting deeper insight into the shopping behaviours of his customers. A month later we had the stats. It was immediately obvious that 2 sections of the store were visited much less than any of the others. The numbers made it very clear that people simply didn’t walk through those areas. We decided that the store needed to be re-organised and reconfigured. The 2 struggling sections needed lower shelving, more lighting and a different mix of product categories. Narinder pulled out all stops and within a week, the store had a completely different look and feel. After just a month, we were looking at a 9% increase in turnover. 6 months later, sales had grown by 25% with an improved gross margin.

Become a Devotee at the Church of Business Numbers

These days, Narinder measures everything on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. He has developed the habit of having his teeth in the numbers – and he’s never letting go. Remember, if you want to become a Highly Chilled business owner, you must learn to love the numbers and regularly measure the ones that matter most to your business.

Your Homework (The Chilled Kind)

Here’s a short exercise you could carry out to start the process of making this habit your own. Ask yourself: What would be the 15 (or so) key indicators of the health of your business? Next, ask yourself: How could you have each of those indicators expressed as a number on a scale? Practice Highly Chilled habit #3: Instruct someone else in your business to get you those 15 numbers every week and every month for you a in a single report. Are you a small business owner in need of a chill pill? Explore Highly Chilled habit #4: Be Thrifty (with your time).

More on this topic:

The Truth about Leadership for Building a Fun Business

leadership

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 fifth article in a monthly series on Making Business Fun: This article is about the Leadership in small business Truth

The last article laid out the five building blocks of management of a fun business and you can read it here

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

Building a Fun business: Leadership

What does it take to be the leader of a Fun business

leadership in a fun business

Great leadership in business can (for a while at least!) compensate for less than perfect scores when it comes to profit, passion, planning and many other pivotal aspects of running a Fun Business that sustains you for years to come.

If you are a great business leader of your people, then you’ve taken the Leadership Truth from my first book (download it for free here) to heart: “Your time, your health and your brain cells are gold,”. It’s also likely that you live the Truth from my second book (download it for free here) about leadership: “You have passionate beliefs, you walk the talk, and you are not afraid to dream,”. If so, you will more than likely have a business that does better than most.

I also once wrote that “a leader is simply someone we trust, and who is courageous, authentic and passionate.” This is clearly a great starting point because if your people don’t trust you, then no amount of systemisation, marketing or planning will get your business past a subsistence level. Inversely, when your people do trust you, see your courage and feel your passion, you will be forgiven for many other shortcomings.

Now, I’m going to invite you to take this thinking one step further.

Fun for Everyone

A Fun Business should be Fun for everyone involved. It should also sustain everyone – not just the owner – for years to come.

When I say everyone, I actually do mean Everyone (with a capital “E”): you, your family, your staff, your staff’s family, your suppliers, your contractors, your customers, your investors and even your community.

In fact, I am completely convinced (from everything I’ve seen and studied over the past 35 years!) that truly great small businesses are founded by and built around a leader who is committed to building such a business, for everyone.

Servant First, Leader Second

TTTMBF helping hand In his book “Good to Great”, Jim Collins talks about the concept of “Level 5 Leadership”. Leaders who operate at this level are passionate, authentic, driven and ambitious – but not for themselves.

Level 5 leaders are ambitious for their organisation and their people. Their ego doesn’t get in the way of how they run their businesses. They might be heading up massive global corporations, but they still fly economy (like the founder of Ikea) or do their own shopping at the supermarket on Saturdays (like the founder of Walmart) or answer their own phones (like the CEO of Nucor Steel).

This concept has a lot of parallels with “servant leadership”. Robert Greenleaf at Harvard University coined the term in the 1970s, but the idea has been around for much longer (a famous Chinese general wrote about something similar thousands of years ago). As Robert Greenleaf explains: “The servant leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead… (versus one who is leader first…).”

In my experience, every small, medium and large Fun Business that sustains all for years to come is run by a leader who sees their role as servant first and leader second.

Small Supermarket

A great example of this “leader as servant” notion comes from a client of mine who owns supermarkets. I remember the day we were discussing the structure of his business and we had drawn a new organisational chart in the traditional hierarchical model – the classic pyramid structure.

My client sat on top of the pyramid as the CEO. He had two different top managers below him, a bunch of store managers in the middle and all the shop staff at the bottom. We spent a lot of time talking about the structure and it became clear that my client was feeling uncomfortable.

We got up and walked around the room a little and suddenly his eyes lit up while he was stood on the opposite side of the table. “That’s it,” he said, “I am going to turn the pyramid upside down! I see my role as being at the bottom, not the top. My role is to support everyone in the business to do great work and grow as people.”

My client had that insight in 2010 and now his company has grown into a Fun Business that sustains everyone and will undoubtedly do so for years to come.

There is a quote by sales guru Zig Ziglar that illustrates the same principle: “You can get everything in life you want, if you will just help enough other people get what they want.”

Your Homework (The Fun Kind)

Think about some of the greatest business leaders of the modern era. Don’t imagine the rock star leaders who are household names for a while and then cash out and let everything fall apart behind them. Focus on the quiet, enlightened leaders of businesses that grow and develop year after year without fanfare.

In order to build a Fun Business that sustains you for years to come, you need to strive to become an enlightened leader. These leaders are committed, driven and ambitious. However, they don’t do it for themselves. They do it for the business and its people.

What can you do to embody enlightened leadership? It could be anything from regularly sharing helpful insights and nuggets of wisdom with your team to honing your emotional intelligence in order to find more empathy for others. No guru necessary – I promise!

Remember, if you want to have something you’ve never had before, you’ve got to be someone you’ve never been before.

Next Month, I’ll be talking about the myths of business growth, click here

More on this topic:

The 5 management truths for building a Fun business

TTTMBF the revolution

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 third article in a monthly series on Making Business Fun: This article is about the 5 business management Truths

The last article laid out the foundations of a fun business and you can read it here

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

Building a Fun Business: The five building blocks

And the hard hitting truths about business management

TTTMBF the management truths Would you like to move out of overwhelm and start building a Fun Business that sustains you for years to come? The truth is that once you’ve laid the foundations (using the Hedgehog Principles), it’s all about learning to manage your Fun Business properly.

I won’t lie, you will need to focus on a few fundamentally dull things, small business management in other words, like goal setting, team management,  planning, systems and measuring. However, I have a few shortcuts and strategies up my sleeve that make the process markedly more exciting…

A Fun Business Has Flexible Goals

TTTMBF goal setting Everyone knows that goal setting is a good idea. It engages your team. It improves your decision-making. It helps your business deliver on its promise. What’s more, I don’t believe your business will ever become Fun if you don’t practice goal setting effectively. To manage your business well, to build a great Fun Business, you simply can’t avoid Goal setting.

Still, goal setting is surprisingly difficult to do well. It’s hard to get people onboard. It’s even tougher to keep everyone accountable. Our world is also changing every day, so goals must be continuously adjusted to suit new realities.

SMART is a well-established tool for creating impactful goals:

  • S pecific
  • M easurable
  • A chievable
  • R elevant
  • T imeframed

I like the idea, but I believe that adding three more letters to the acronym makes it exponentially more powerful:

  • S tretch (you can just see yourself reaching for it)
  • I nspiring (for you)
  • P ersonal (about your personal achievements and growth. Read: not about achieving a particular profit level or buying a Porsche because unfortunately, those material things won’t motivate your subconscious brain!).

I always invite my clients to decide on a large, visionary goal for the future (Jim Collins refers to this as the BHAG or “Big Hairy Audacious Goal” in his book, Built to Last) that meets the SMARTSIP criteria and then break it down into a medium-term goal and a goal for the year.

A Fun Business Engages Everyone

TTTMBF helping hand Lots of businesses proclaim that their people are their greatest asset (and to be honest, whenever I read that statement on someone’s website, I run a mile), but most of them generally belie their beliefs with their actions.

Most companies prefer not to think about the fact that a business IS its people, and your business only gets to make money if your people let you. Business Management is about people first and foremost.

If your employees are only interested in their paycheck, you will always struggle to make a dollar and business will feel anything but FUN. On the flip side, if your whole team is enthusiastically pulling in the same direction then your business will move mountains.

So, how can you achieve said nirvana?

  1. Hire the brightest: Find people whose attitude, energy, enthusiasm and resourcefulness matches your culture and team dynamics.
  2. Move beyond money: Listen to people, recognise their achievements and give them the right tools to do a meaningful job well.
  3. Get the team involved: Bring your people into all the processes, planning meetings and rhythms of the business.
  4. Remember that employees are people too: Don’t just dictate – get people involved in developing their own goals.
  5. Play the game of business: Get your people to start thinking like team members who are playing a game that they all enjoy and want to win.

A Fun Business Has a “Living” Business Plan That Drives It Forward

TTTMBF looking into the future, planning Human beings don’t accomplish anything without a plan. In fact, some say it is our ability to plan that sets us apart from other animals. However, most small businesses do not have a formal business plan, and if they do, it generally lives in a dusty bottom drawer.

Having a written plan (AKA one that exists outside of your head) allows other people to engage with it and understand where the business is going. It allows you and others to check progress, brainstorm, make good decisions and maintain focus on the important stuff.

Most business owners know this. I’m sure you do too.

The sticking point comes from a simple misunderstanding. It comes from believing you are expected to develop an externally focused plan in the format we are taught by accountants, consultants and government bodies (read: not designed to be useful for you, the owner) when an internal business plan is what you need.

An internal business plan is a shareable and succinct “living” document. It is created collaboratively and revised frequently. It is designed to support decision-making and internal communication about the direction of the business.

Trust me, once you let go of your idea of what a business plan “should’” look like and just get around a table with a flip chart and a group of your people, you’ll find that business planning is not actually daunting at all, but instead really powerful and Fun.

A Fun Business Has Rhythm and Regularity

TTTMBF rhythm Entrepreneurs are the busiest and most guilt-ridden people on the planet. They work long days, dream about their businesses at night and repeatedly scorn themselves for not living up to some impossible standards laid out by a critical inner voice [HYPERLINK TO BLOG POST 1].

As a result, most business owners operate as crisis managers. This situation has many undesirable consequences: dropped balls, neglected business development, burnout, missed family time, stomach ulcers, or all of the above. An atmosphere of stress and last-minute problem-solving also starts to develop company-wide, leading to low morale and high employee turnover. You get stuck in a loop where you don’t have time to foster predictability, develop systems or train people to handle the crises themselves and because of this, there will always be another crisis.

The way through this dilemma? Building rhythm and regularity into your business.

One of the best first steps you can take is to start a weekly operations meeting where everyone reviews the previous week and plans for the next one (a better one). Want to make it effective? Start and finish on time. Follow an agreed agenda. Ensure everyone is present. Don’t allow distractions. Focus on solutions.

Next, you might decide to look at the systems in the business because systemisation is an important contributor to a sense of calm predictability. This could be as simple as creating a script and a standard form/checklist for inbound office calls.

Remember, people want to feel safe, and safety starts with knowing what the future holds.

A Fun Business Measures the Fun

TTTMBF measuring fun Beyond the most obvious measurements, every business has different priorities. However, there is one key measurement that all business owners should consider starting with: Fun.

Fun is the only success factor that cuts across and influences every aspect of business.

One of the reasons Fun doesn’t usually get measured is that most people believe you can’t because it is intangible. But you can measure intangibles such as Fun. Quite easily and accurately as a matter of fact.

Let’s say you asked your team every Friday afternoon to give an anonymous rating on your Fun in Business scale from 0 to 10, with 10 being the most fun you’ve ever had in business and 0 being the opposite. Next you collate and average those numbers and come up with a single “Fun number” for the week in business.

You could then have a staff meeting every Monday morning and share last week’s Fun number, asking the team what you could all do to get the number just a couple of points higher in the coming week.

The first few times you do this, your team will make silly suggestions about doubling their wages and paintball outings because it is all such a novel idea. However, I guarantee that soon enough it will become obvious to everyone exactly what real business Fun is all about and you will start having practical, productive conversations that make exciting things happen.

Your Homework (The Fun Kind)

Here’s a couple of steps you might take in the coming week(s) in respect of each of the management truths:

For Goal setting:
  1. Thinking about the SMARTSIP structure I describe above, pick a date, ideally no more than a year from now and no less than 6 months away ad create a Goal (or set of Goals) for you and your business that inspires you and is both a stretch, yet achievable,specific and  measurable and meaningful to you personally and motivating for your staff
  2. Create a rough draft monthly plan for achievement of your Goal with monthly milestones
For your team:
  1. Get your team involved. Organise a meeting with your team and introduce the Goal and draft plan to them and work with them to firm up the plan
  2. Assign specific tasks from the plan to team members or groups of team members
  3. Agree on monthly meetings with your team to update the plan, and agree on next months actions and responsibilities
For your business plan:
  1. Incorporate your Goal in a longer term plan. Where do you want your business to be in 5 years, what is it going to look like, what is its focus, how big is it, what new developments have taken place.
  2. On your own or with your team (or part of your team) create a SWOT and create actionable targets to address the top 3 items from each of the sections (see more about SWOT here  and also here )
For Rhythm:
  1. Start by blocking out a small amount of time each week for yourself (as little as an hour each week or as much as you can manage), to do nothing but think and plan and develop new ideas. Phone off, can’t be disturbed, go off site to a cafe if you need to make sure you’re not disturbed.
  2. Implement a weekly half hour meeting with your staff to set up the week… Celebrate the wins from last week and plan to have more wins this week. Make sure it’s quick, efficient and doesn’t talk about why certain things went wrong last week, simply acknowledge the things that went wrong and focus on making sure things go right this week instead.
For measuring the Fun:
  1. In your weekly and monthly meetings, start by asking everyone for one small tiny little thing they can do themselves to mak the week ahead more Fun
  2. In your weekly and monthly meetings ask the staff for one thing you can do to make business more fun for everyone in the week ahead
  3. Start recording the fun suggestions and the fun number (more about measuring Fun in business here)

Next Month:

Next month’s post will be about leadership in a Fun business. Here’s the link

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