BQ Personal Development

leadership

How can I become a better

business owner and leader?

leadership personal development change

Business Change follows Personal Change

I believe personal development is integral to developing your business. The two always go hand in hand. It’s the reason I refer to myself as a Business – Life Coach, rather than a business coach. It all boils down to one word: Leadership.

Most business owners, in the deepest dark reaches of their mind, are afraid they’re not quite cutting it as entrepreneurs. Oftentimes, as business owners, we start our business on the back of a profession, a trade, or a skill we have learnt (plumber, architect, accountant, software developer, designer, mechanic, chef, retail manager) and we feel confident in that particular skill. Starting a new business is an enormous buzz. But once we start a business based on that profession, we suddenly realise it takes a lot more than being a great plumber to build a great plumbing business.

Time to think, doing nothing

Where’s the toilet paper?

Few business owners have studied to be a business owner, and even those who have attained an MBA or similar qualification, find they’re not prepared for the realities of life as a small business owner. Suddenly everything is down to you, the big decisions about whether or not to bid for that contract, or hire that expensive employee, or sign the lease for the new office, as well as making sure the toilets are stocked with toilet paper and that there’s ink for the printer. To top it off, your people look to you to have Vision, to have the answers and to be the leader.

Three pieces of good news about your leadership

It can be a frightening place to stand in the middle off, but there are three pieces of good news:

  1. You got this far and you’re still standing, so you must be doing something right.
  2. Your people actually want you to be the leader and they’re ready to forgive you just about any stuff up you’re going to make along the way.
  3. Leadership is something you can learn, practice and get better at.

What is leadership then?

Leadership starts with this statement:

Your business is what it is today, because of WHO you ARE today.

That may seem obvious. But what may not be so obvious is what follows.

Because what it means is this:

If you want SOMETHING you’ve never had before,

First, you’ve got to BECOME SOMEONE you’ve never been before.

Systems and knowledge are never enough

Many business coaching companies sell a “system” that will supposedly deliver a business that generates a million dollars of profit every year. Those systems are often well thought through, well presented and well worth looking into, but they rarely work, at least not by themselves. The reason they don’t work is that Change, business Change or personal Change, is never about systems and knowledge. Just like we all know the system for losing weight (eat less, and exercise more), most of us business owners already know most of what we need to know to Change our businesses.

Click here to download my Free Guide to finding the perfect coach or mentor for you.

And just like losing weight means becoming the kind of person who commits to a regimen of eating less and exercising more, changing our businesses means having to become the kind of person who commits to a regimen of developing as people, as managers, as communicators, as coaches… As leaders in other words.

We have to become leaders, the kind of people, who do what needs to be done, to build the kind of businesses that make a million dollars net profit (or substitute whatever figure is relevant for you).

It’s often referred to as the Be, Do, Have model.

Couldn’t I just flick a switch?

Becoming that kind of business owner, that kind of leader, who builds that kind of business, doesn’t happen overnight. You can’t flick a switch and suddenly become that person. Change is a Journey, an adventure, a process of growth. It takes time and commitment, and nobody can know, on forehand, what your adventure is going to look like or what the outcome of your Journey is going to be. Every business owner has his or her own Journey to make, and every Journey is different.

The one thing we can be sure of is this:

Change won’t happen unless you get on the Journey.

Getting on the Journey means stepping out of your comfort-zone and then staying there. You have to push off from the shore, get out onto the ocean, set a course for the horizon and not come back, because Change never happens in the safety of the harbour.

And you know this already. Take a look back over your life to date: It’s all been a Journey. Ten years ago you couldn’t have done what you do today.

But sometimes we just get stuck for a while in the safety of the harbour. Stepping out of your comfort-zone, leaving the harbour, is hard. The day-to-day of scrubbing the decks, repairing the sails and polishing the brass work gets in the way. And before you know it, the day-to-day is all there is.

The two questions you need to answer

That leads to two questions:

  1. How do you know you’re ready to get on the Journey?
  2. How do you get on that Journey?

The first question is the easiest as well as the hardest to answer:

You’re ready when you feel you’re ready.

More about the connection between personal and Business Change:

Being in the harbour

Do take a few minutes to watch this gorgeous TED talk by David Whyte, on past and future and journeys of Change.

There’s nothing wrong with being in the harbour for a while. We need to make sure the ship is seaworthy and safe, we need to make sure we know how to sail the ship, we need to learn to navigate and we need to get clear about the compass course we’re going to set once we get under way. The harbour is a great place to do all those things. But there comes a moment when the pull of the wide open ocean becomes irresistible. That’s when it’s time to go. And when you do: Set the course, hoist the sails, put your gaze on the horizon, and don’t look back.

How do you get on the Journey?

And the second question: How do you get on that Journey?

There are many ways to strike out, but one way to get onto such a Journey of discovery, is with me. I take my clients on inspiring journeys like that all the time. You could think of me like the captain of the ship. I know how to keep the ship safe, I know how to navigate, how not to hit the reefs and how to get safely back into harbour at the other end.

And I’d love to come on your next adventure with you.

Click here to download my Free Guide to finding the perfect coach or mentor for you.

This is what the Adventure looks like with me:

Once you’ve decided that it’s time to push off and get under way, the process I will take you through is this:

  1. We’ll get very clear about the state of your business and life as it is at the moment. What are the strengths of the business? What are your strengths as the business owner? Where are the stresses in your life? What are the areas in the business that are falling behind? What are the areas you need to develop in as leader?
  2. We take several small steps first. You’ll get to put your toe in the water, feel what it’s like working with me. It’s called the Five Steps to Discovery Process, and it’s mostly free.
  3. We’ll get equally clear about what we want the other end of the Journey to look like. In 6 – 9 – 12 months what do you want your business and your life to look like, in great detail? We’ll develop an enormous set of Goals and picture of the desired future. The Goals will include tangibles, and intangibles. It will include financial targets, and KPI’s across all areas of the business and your life. It will include your state of mind and your health and wellbeing, and everything else that you need to explore and discover to build the business and the life you dream off.
  4. We’ll develop a strategic plan for the achievement of the Goal, with a wide range of monthly milestones.
  5. We’ll shake hands and commit to the Journey, get on board, set the compass course for The Goal, push off, and not come back.

Ultimately, making the decision to Change, to get on the Journey, is Fun. It may not always appear that way, when looking out onto the vastness of the ocean at first, but it will be the most satisfying decision you’ve taken in a long time… I promise you.

Further reading:

Click here to download my Free Guide to finding the perfect coach or mentor for you.

Making Money from Death and Hamburgers

making money

making money from death

How to build a great businesses that create not only money

McDonalds is the most effective business model to make lots of money from selling food in a restaurant setting.

I think we’d all agree with that statement.

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

Does that mean I’m a fan of McDonalds? No not much, I am an admirer of the model and I make use of McDonalds from time to time, but I’m really really glad there are many other types of restaurants out there, besides McDonalds, even if they don’t make as much money or are as efficient. It would be a poor world if all restaurants were running a business model based on that of McDonalds. But if your aim in life is to make as much money as you possibly can from selling food, you can do a lot worse than read everything you can about the history and business philosphy of Ray Kroc and  The Golden Arches.

And the same goes for any other type of business you can think of, from funeral parlors to medical practices and everything in between. Ray Kroc, was a genius, there is no doubt about that and Michael Gerber and many other business gurus since have analysed the McDonalds model and explained how to apply it to every other Small Business out there.

Making money from death

If you own a funeral parlour and you want to absolutely make more money than anyone has ever made from burying people, read “The E-Myth” and apply every word Michael Gerber wrote about the lessons from McDonalds to your business with single minded focus and you’ll never look back … guaranteed.

But if you believe there are other things in life that are important to you besides making money from selling mince meat patties… Read on my friend.

But just like I would be sad (and we would all be very unhealthy) to live in a world where the only restaurants we can eat at are McDonalds, likewise I’d hate to live in a world where all the funeral parlours were run by 18 yr olds who were trained to ask me: “Do you want roses with that?”

The disconnect lies in the misunderstanding most business owners have about the Purpose of Business. Most business owners, business analysts, gurus and advisers will repeat the manta that the purpose of business is to “Maximise Shareholder Value”, to make lots of money in other words.

But if, like me, you believe that making money is a sad and short sighted reason to be in business, all kinds of things become possible instead of McDonalds.

Breaking the law

Don’t get me wrong, a business must make money. There are many things a business must do in order to survive however. It must operate within the law for example, but we would never maintain that the Mission of our business is to not break the law.

Similarly the notion of making money, the business must make money so that it’s able to do what it is meant to do. In other words, a business that delivers on it’s promise has a reason for existing far beyond “Maximising Shareholder Value”.

In the restaurant industry it may be that the reason for the existence of your business is that you are passionate about unexpected cuisine combinations, French with an Australian twist, for example, or maybe you’re passionate about the sustainability of food, or maybe your passion is about educating disadvantaged youth in the hospitality industry.

There can be many reasons you have started your restaurant. As long as the business makes enough money to be sustainable in the long run, it doesn’t mean you have to turn it into a McDonalds for it to be a great business. Your business is a great business, when it delivers you what you want from it, month in month out, year in year out.

Anchovies and chocolate

So please do yourself (and my stomach) a favour: don’t listen to others’ judgements about your business, and ignore the little voice on your shoulder that tells you to build a McDonalds, because I’d much rather come and eat your pig trotter rolls with anchovy and chocolate sauce than be forced to eat another Big Mac.

Here is the Big question (with a capital “B”) I’d like you to think about: Why does your business exist, what’s it on this earth for, and why would anybody care about that?

Answer that question, decisively, in one bold sentence, and your business and your life will never be the same… I promise you.

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

Family business: Husband and Wife as business partners

Family business husband and wife business partners

Family business husband and wife business partners

How do you ‘leave work at work’ when you sleep with your business partner?

Creating work-life-balance is the holy grail for all of us small business owners, but for husband and wife family business partners, being 100% ‘not-at-work’ can feel like an unattainable dream.

Husband and wife business partnerships can be really satisfying, they can be great vehicles for making money while allowing a couple to grow and develop together. But family businesses come with a unique set of challenges. (More about husband and wife family businesses here on Medium.com)

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

Clients of mine, let’s call them Bill and Lauren, have built a construction company together that turns over about $10M per year. Bill completed a carpentry apprenticeship straight out of high school and went back to school in his late twenties to get a building diploma, before starting his building company and Lauren is a qualified accountant. Bill and Lauren got married 10 years ago and Lauren joined the business to take control of the finances, the admin and HR systems. Now, they’re both getting to their forties, they have two young children, a dog and a rabbit.

Bill and Lauren have an office away from home, but neither of them have been very successful at closing the office door behind them at the end of the day. Lauren generally goes home around 3.30 and organises things at home and Bill makes it home around 5.30 most days. The conversations around the dinner table are all about the various crises and challenges of the day at work and planning and worrying about the ones they see in the immediate future.

After dinner laptops

After dinner, both of them tend to sit on their laptops, to complete the stuff they’ve fallen behind on during the day. Bill to finish quotes and Lauren to manage the rosters and budgets.

In the morning, Bill has to be at the office or on site at 7.00 am every day (the building industry starts early), so he generally leaves home around 6 am and Lauren organises the kids before heading for the office around 8.00 am.

On the weekends, there are the usual commitments around the children’s activities and shopping, but most minutes that aren’t taken up by ferrying the kids from soccer to birthday parties or standing in line at the Woolworth’s checkout are occupied with work. Bill and Lauren’s conversations, their time and their brainspace is rarely completely free of some preoccupation with work.

Bill and Lauren never used to mind working hard and doing long hours, they’ve both always felt they’re building something valuable and important for their family, but over the past couple of years they’ve started to become worried that the best parts of family life are passing them by, that by the time they’ve finished building that valuable and important thing for their family, they will have missed out on what actually matters.

I often work with family business owners and this experience of not being able to ‘leave work at work’ is a never ending refrain.

Two sides to the coin

To be fair, there are two sides to this coin. Knowing that your husband or wife really gets what goes on for you in your role as a business owner can be a great feeling and help you deal with your challenges and stresses more effectively. Some of my other clients can only dream of really being able to share their work challenges with their partners regularly. The most often repeated complaint I hear from single business owners is that they feel alone and overwhelmed.

But that doesn’t make Bill and Lauren’s challenges any less important.

In the past Bill and Lauren have tried to set rules around bringing work home. But usually one or the other will have a crisis within a week of setting the rule, and before you know it it’s back to the old patterns again.

A new approach

We took a different tack 6 months ago. I’ve told them that it is unrealistic to imagine they’ll ever be able to close the door to the office behind them completely. What’s more, that’s not even desirable. It’s actually not so bad spending a bit of time after the kids have gone to bed catching up on some work, or preparing for the next day and it can be quite pleasant discussing the strategy for the week ahead with each other, on the couch on Sunday evening with a glass of wine in hand. This is the other side of the coin I mentioned above, it’s one of the things that can make family businesses special and effective, as much as they can be stress inducing. It’s all in the balance.

This is what we did 6 months ago and with few exceptions Bill and Lauren have been able to stick to the system.

  1. All Sunday until after dinner is a work free zone. Family breakfasts, outings, picnics, watching movies, playing games, walking the dog, catching up with family and friends. Sunday during the day is sacrosanct.
  2. On Sunday evening, the two of them plan their week from a work, family and personal perspective together. The only rule is that one of the evenings of the week is to be work free and just about the two of them. They can go out or stay in, but one evening per week is just for them, no kids no work no nothing else.
  3. Weekday dinners are family time, the 4 of them eat together at the dinner table, no TV and no work talk, until dinner is over and cleaned up

Permission to fail

The keys to the success of this system are its flexibility, the Sunday evening planning time, and the allowance in the system for failure. By acknowledging that in their life, every week is going to be different, by taking 15 minutes to plan each week, and finally by allowing that sometimes plans go awry and that when they do it’s not the end of the world, it just means you need to make a new plan again; Bill and Lauren’s life has transformed.

Being in business together is Fun again.

As I mentioned above I work with Husband a Wife business owners a lot, because I lived the husband and wife business partner experience myself. I have written about my own experience here. I only ever work with people I enjoy working with, but helping turn a family business around give me the greatest buzz of all. Have a look at my web page about Family business here and download the 10 point check list about marrying your business partner. If you are in a family business you might also want to have a look at Family Business Australia here. The website has some great resources for couples who are in business together. I have also created my own family business resources page here.

Please also feel free to check out some of my testimonials from husband and wife family business owners here. You may also find my article about laying the foundations of a great business interesting here

I also really like this infographic on the Business Families Foundation website here

Growing your business is the easy part

small business growth

make your business grow

Worry less about growth and more about how you keep your customers happy all the time

I have a client who owns a car mechanics business in Sydney, let’s call him Garry the Grease Monkey (not his real name, in case you were wondering). Gary is around 30, and he took over the garage from his mum and dad some years ago. For the past few years, it’s been him and his dad doing the work and mum doing the books. Gary and his dad make ends meet, just, but dad is ready to retire, and Gary wants to build a business that gives him the opportunity to work a bit less than 60 hrs per week and afford him the income to start a family and more of that good stuff.

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

So Gary found me and asked me to help him grow the business. (Read more about growing your business here) You need to know, that Gary is a great mechanic and that Gary and his dad do great work, significantly cheaper than the major mechanic’s workshops and dealerships, and that they do everything in their power to make your life as easy as possible. Gary and his mum and dad are nice people, they’re the kind of people you’d love to give your precious car to for a service or repair, because you know they’ll look after it as if it was their own.

Keeping the clients happy

So the first thing I did was that I told Gary to stop worrying about where the extra clients were going to come from. Getting new clients was going to be the easy part. The hard part is ensuring that when he doubled and tripled the turnover of the workshop, his clients would continue to be as happy as they are now while maintaining and improving his profit margin on jobs.

How do you keep delivering consistent quality and reliability, day in day out when your business doubles and triples?

A year later, that’s exactly how it played out: the easy part was getting the clients. Gary joined a local business referral group, launched a new website, improved his local SEO, developed strong referral relationships with a few chosen businesses in the local area and the phone has started to run hot with new clients, the kind of clients who ring up to book in their car without even asking about price.

What’s been much more complicated for Gary is managing the extra work. There have been three big challenges for Gary in the past year, and these are the three things that challenge all Small Business owners in Gary’s position:

  1. Finding, hiring, training, motivating and keeping the right staff.
  2. Developing and implementing systems and processes that create regularity and predictability in the business.
  3. Finding and implementing business management software and applications.

Bad experiences with small business

In a city such as Sydney, most people have had bad experiences with Small Business of all kinds. Tradesmen turn up late or not at all, work is shoddy, they leave a mess when they leave and charge unexpected fees for all kinds of spurious reasons. If you do what you say you’re going to do, for the price you say you’ll charge at the time you say you’ll do it, consistently and with a smile, the customers will break down your door. We as consumers are desperate for people who offer such simple dependability and trustworthiness, and when we find someone like that, word travels fast.

But that’s exactly where the problem lies. Most Small Business owners start their business with great intentions and when they do most of the work themselves they offer exactly that kind of dependability, but when the business starts flooding in they lose the ability to manage the extra workload, they have to rely on employees that they haven’t trained and mentored properly, they have little or no established systems in place, and they don’t know what goes on between their employees end their customers.

Keeping your fingers crossed

I call it management by keeping your fingers crossed… It doesn’t work and it leads to unhappy customers and customers that go off looking for the next small business to put their faith into.

Gary and I spent most of our year together on the three challenges above. It’s what I call the work of the business owner, as opposed to the work of the business. Gary has made major strides, and he’s found a couple of great employees already and is giving them every opportunity to stay great; he’s started writing down a lot of the systems in the business, and he’s found and started implementing a big piece of software that is designed specifically for the management of mechanic’s workshops.

The clients are starting to flood in and they tell their friends about the cleanliness and efficiency of the workshop and at how easy Gary makes it for them to have their car serviced at their convenience, and those friends can’t wait to have their car serviced by Gary’s business, and they tell their friends, and so on.

Getting clients is easy, how you deal with what comes after is what differentiates the business owners from the hobbyists… Just ask Gary the Grease Monkey.

Why I don’t believe in business coaching and why it works

Why coaching works

Why business coaching works captain the in the storm

Don’t talk to me about the storms and the reefs, Coach,  just tell me we’ll be safe

I was working with a business – life coaching client recently, let’s call him Peter. Peter set a big Goal for himself as part of our work together.

Peter’s Goal was so big, in fact, that I was bothered by it. You see, I know from experience, that setting Goals that are too big are likely to have a demotivational effect and worse, can lead to disappointment.

I challenged Peter and asked him if he felt confident the Goal was realistic, and if he felt he could make it happen in the time we had. Peter was adamant. Although he wasn’t sure if he could do it, he wanted to stretch himself and “set it out there”. Peter has done a lot of self-development work and he believes in a version of the “Law of Attraction”, which loosely states that you get what you focus on in life and in business.

Goal blown out of the water

3 Weeks later, Peter rang me unexpectedly. He’d just signed a new contract that meant he’d blown his Goal out of the water two weeks early.

Wonderful news, very exciting and I truly feel Peter deserves every dollar of that success, because he is one of the nicest guys I know.

Peter said: “There you go, I knew it, when you set it out there, the Universe will provide”.

And it’s such a comforting idea, isn’t it? The idea that there is some greater power that’s going to look after you in your time of need. It’s lovely that Peter felt confirmed in his beliefs. It will no doubt help him to remain motivated to move forward in his business and that was his biggest problem prior to coming to see me.

But it confirmed my growing confusions.

I don’t believe

You see, I do not believe in the “Law of Attraction”, or it’s many variants. I don’t even believe in traditional Goal setting anymore. As a matter of fact, there are a whole bunch of foundational principles of my profession of coaching that I have stopped believing in. Consequently, in the past years, I’ve adjusted the way I work with my clients to rely only on well-established scientific principles.

And my clients achieve great things in their businesses and their lives and I am excited and proud of the work I do with them. But the experience with Peter recently makes me wonder if I’m doing the right thing for my clients.

You see, Peter is an old hand at being coached and mentored. I’ve known him for years and we have done a lot of work together. Also, Peter moves in a world where he comes across self-development gurus of many ilks all the time, and he’s convinced by the self-development messages he hears from them. What’s more, Peter and I have become good friends over the years, so he felt comfortable enough with me to push back and set the Goal he wanted to set. It worked out great for him, but not everyone has Peter’s confidence or clarity.

The many contradictions

It’s all very well for me to question myself and my beliefs. I don’t believe anything in life or business is ever black and white, there are no simple rules. Here’s just a few of those contradictions in business:

  • A business must make profit or else it’s a hobby… but… Making profit is not the Purpose of business.
  • A business must have a plan to move forward… but… Planning is guessing
  • Goalsetting is important… but… Goals are not destinations, just directions.
  • Great leaders are fiercely ambitious… but… Not for themselves
  • Systemisation is critical for developing your business… but… I’d hate to live in a world where all restaurants are McDonalds.
  • Knowing how to “close” a sale is a key skill in business… but… The most successful people in business and in life “Give without expectation of return”.
  • Growing your business is fine… but… Don’t focus on growth (focus on delivery instead).
  • Change your business, make it grow, make more money… but… Not unless you yourself change and grow first.

Life is full of contradictions such as those. Sure, it would be easier if it wasn’t and we all like the idea of winning the lottery, but even winning the lottery turns out not to be as great as we thought. (Read about lottery winners and happiness here)

And so I believe questioning myself is healthy, it keeps me sharp and pushing the boundaries. But it’s not necessarily what my clients need from me.

The shortest route

business coaching The experience with Peter has shown me that most clients simply want to get from point A to point B, via the shortest route possible, with as few detours as possible. And they look for someone to help them get there.

Maybe, when they come across me, they hear my questioning, my lack of certainty and start to wonder if getting my help might take them up the scenic route to point B, and so they’ll move on to someone who promises to take them up the freeway instead.

And that’s a shame, because the thing is, I know I transform people’s lives and businesses. I have literally hundreds of past clients who will attest to that fact.

So what I need to do is to communicate that you can trust me to take you on an amazing journey and adventure, and that like the captain of the ship, I know how to handle the storms when they come up. You don’t particularly want me to talk about the reefs we might hit under way, you just want to know we’ll be safe.

And this blog post?… It’s doing exactly the opposite… isn’t it?… Ah well, Peter loves me anyway.

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

Further reading and research

You may be interested in taking my ”Are you ready for Change” survey. It takes 10 minutes to complete and I promise it will give you plenty of food for thought. I’ve written more about Change (with a capital ”C”) here.

Here is the link to my webpage about all my coaching, mentoring, guidance and training services

There is a lovely guest post from one of my clients, Geoff Anderson from Sonic Sight about his experience with business coaching here

Here is an article I wrote about how to go about finding the right coach for you and here is a link to my webpage about all forms of business support that are available to small business owners.

And here are three articles on how to go about finding the right business coach on Inc.com , on Entrepreneur.com and on Fastcompany.com. All worth a good read if you’re considering the idea of getting a business coach soon.

I’ve also written here, about the power of great conversations, which is how I fill my days as a business coach.

More about my own coaching background here

 

Small Business Innovation and My Beautiful Laundrette

This is a guest post by Bruce Allison of Commscloud, more details at the end of this post.

laundry innovation in business

A story about innovation turning stumbling blocks into stepping stones

In my experience, in business, you will always come across stumbling blocks and it is the ability to turn these into stepping stones that has the greatest effect. Successful entrepreneurs I have known have always focused on the solution not the problem. 22 years ago I needed a sea change after spending many years building a successful insurance business. I bought a struggling laundry business in Maroubra called Lucy’s.

I had no experience in retail services and soon came across a real hurdle, a lack of revenue and a small market. The laundry was located in an area where using a laundry was a luxury and the former owner had reduced the price of services to an unsustainable level to try to get people through the door.

The laundry had a 2 shop frontage and a huge operating area and was operating way under capacity. That revenue hurdle was compounded by the cost associated with the underutilised area.

The first thing I did was turn it into a laundry café to add value to the customer experience as they had to spend 2 hours to do their own laundry. It offered a point of difference to competitors in the area and encouraged them to spend their money at Lucy’s. I partnered with a local dry cleaner to expand my offering. Initially I knocked on every gym and hairdresser door building a steady business and still the business was just breaking even as long as there were a few days of rain each month. I needed a new approach.

Getting the city to come to Maroubra

I needed to focus on a solution, on the positive things about the business. It still had a lot of available capacity, the rent was very good and it occurred to me we were only 20 minutes from the Sydney CBD. I remembered that in my research when looking for a laundry I had looked at businesses in the CBD.  They were too expensive. The rent was too high but the turnover looked great. The big question was how I could get the great turnover of a city laundry in Maroubra. The stumbling block appeared to be being located in Maroubra but in fact that became my stepping stone. All I had to do was create a way to collect laundry in the CBD and get it out to Lucy’s to process and return it.

That’s when Lucy’s Laundry Bins was created.

While putting some clothed in a recycle bin, I had an epiphany.

Why couldn’t I install a bin into every apartment block in the city to collect laundry to wash or dry clean? I set up a trial service into the Connaught Building in Sydney’s CBD cutting a deal with the building management to split a percentage with them for the use of the common area, Installed the bin into their garage area where customers could deposit the clothes in bags with their apartment number included by 8:30am to be returned by 6:00pm that night. I installed lockers which I rented to the apartment owners for the cleaned clothes to be returned to.

Offering something valuable

The service was a real value add to the apartment block, promoted by the building management and direct to the occupants. It was more successful than I could have hoped for and proved there was market demand for the service that added value and encouraged me to expand to other apartment blocks in the city.

The stumbling block I had of being in the wrong location for local laundry services was the reason the rent was good. This became the stepping stone as the low rent provided me with the cash to be able to invest in laundry vans for laundry runs into the city.

I am a restless soul so after 5 years I sold Lucy’s to concentrate on a new passion – Technology.

17 years later my communications business Commscloud provides real value to clients requiring an independent broker that understands the applications for business messaging solutions using SMS, voice broadcast, email and fax. We provide VoIP and internet connectivity solutions from a number of providers.

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

www.commscloud.com.au


Successful Entrepreneurs are Resilient People

Successful entrepreneurs and Resilience

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

resilience tree in business

Nervous Entrepreneurs and Bouncebackability

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

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

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

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

The two principles of resilience

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

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

Successful entrepreneurs and Resilience Nervous Nellies

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

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

Positive Thinking is Nonsense

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

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

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

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

Resilience is About How You Recharge, Not How You Endure

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

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

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

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

Further reading

More about Personal Development and Leadership here

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

FREE Download: The 10 Truths for Making Your Business Grow

Immense resilience is what you have to draw upon going forward whatever difficulties you face when you are striving for business growth. My FREE eBook will give you a much needed boost right now or will be remembered next time you feel you are up against it.

Small Business

How to Make a Family Business Work

Family Business

Family business the godfather

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

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

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

The business owner’s dream

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

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

4 Secrets

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

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

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

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

#FunInBusiness #Happiness #FamilyBusiness #ClarityInBusiness

Btw, if you want to be guided on how to make your family business work, I have created The Fun in Business Intensive program to make it safe for business owners like you to go on a great journey of change in their business, their family, and life. Click below to learn more!

Fun in Business Intensive


When Buying a Business is a Bad Idea

Escaping the rat race and buying a business

The safest route out of the rat race

Escaping the rat race and buying a business

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

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

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

Disappointing advice

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

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

Business is about managing risk

But my advice to John was all about managing risk.

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

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

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

No compelling reason to buy a business

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

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

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

Investing in himself

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

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

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

A lot less risk after the rat race escape

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

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

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

#FunInBusiness #BuyingABusiness #ControlOfYourLife #LeavingTheRatRace

 

Btw, If you’d like to know more about what it takes to get a business off the ground, you can download my first book below for FREE.

FREE Download: The Ten Truths for Raising a Healthy Bouncy Business.

How to Raise a Healthy Bouncy Business

 

How Becoming a Corporate Refugee Is Good For You

Business owner, Corporate Refugee

Business owners are happier people

Business Owner, Corporate Refugee

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

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

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

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

Walking on the dock of the Bay

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

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

Business Owner, Corporate Refugee

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

Wild rollercoaster rides

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

Why am I telling you this?

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

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

Dogs and electric shocks

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

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

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

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

The choice that changes everything

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

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

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

Business owners have agency

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

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

#FunInBusiness #Happiness #ControlOfYourLife #LeavingTheRatRace

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

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

How to Raise a Healthy Bouncy Business