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

More on this topic:

 

BQ Business Growth

How can I grow my business?

business growth strategy

The 11 biggest business growth strategies:

Growth is the most enduring topic of the 7 big questions of small business. All of us business owners have felt frustrated and stuck at some stage while wondering how we can take things to the next level.

seth godin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Skip ahead to the following sections:

1. Grow your business with vision and purpose:

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

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

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

More about purpose here:

2. Grow your business by setting goals:

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

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

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

More about goal setting here:

3. Grow your business with marketing:

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

“Marketing is everything and everything is marketing.”

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

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

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

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

More about marketing here:

4. Grow your business with DIGITAL marketing:

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

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

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

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

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

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

More about digital marketing here:

5. Grow your business with sales:

“Nothing happens until we sell something.”

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

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

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

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

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

More about sales here:

6. Grow your business with planning:

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

Nothing in other words.

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

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

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

More about planning here:

7. Grow your business with customer service:

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

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

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

More about customer service here:

8. Grow your business with systems and quality improvement:

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

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

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

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

There are only two answers to this dilemma:

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

More about systems and quality here:

9. Grow your business with inventory management:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More about inventory management here:

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

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

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

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

More about hiring, firing and engaging people here:

11. Grow your business with innovation:

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

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

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

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

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

More about innovation here:

Your next step:

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