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:

The biggest secret to growing your service business

secrets growing service business

secrets of growing service business

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

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

All you need to do is this:

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

Every time…

That’s all… Honestly

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

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

Scale-ability.

It’s easy when you’re small

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

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

Managing by keeping your fingers crossed.

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

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

Learn to say no.

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

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

Read more

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

The Ten Priorities; Priority #9: Managing Quality

Ten Priorities in Business, quality assurance

The Two Rules of Seth

This is the ninth post in the series of The Ten Priorities: Laying the Foundations for a Great Business and Life. The ninth Priority is about your Managing the quality of your Products or Services. The introduction to this series on The Ten Priorities is here.

One of the most insightful modern business gurus I know, Seth Godin, said it really well:

“To do well in business you only have to do two things:

  1. Deliver a great Product or Service
  2. Make sure lots of people know about it”

As usual Seth Godin nails it, and the last two of the Ten Priorities are about those two simple rules of Seth’s.

Because the problem is, they’re a lot easier said than done.

To have any hope of following Seth Godin’s 2 Rules, you have to have gone a long way to covering Priorities #1 through #8 first.

It’s really hard to be uncompromising about the quality of the thing you sell, in the face of the day to day challenges of business. The temptation to let a less than perfect widget go out the door, because a customer is screaming at you, can be hard to resist.

But resist it you must.

If you give the customer his widget and it turns out to be not quite right, the customer won’t be happy and tell his friends that the widgets you sell aren’t always quite right.

Come what may, your business must deliver what it promises. You don’t have to build Rolls Royce motor vehicles, but if your company name happens to actually be Rolls Royce, you better not build any Hyundais.

Not until you’ve mastered the arts of:

  • Looking after yourself
  • Giving yourself the time to think
  • Ensuring that business is Fun
  • Saying No
  • Planning
  • Money management
  • Asking for help
  • Having your people do great work

Will you be the kind of business owner who can build a business that delivers what it promises, all day, every day… I promise you

Next week, Priority #10: Manage your Publicity

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

BQ Business Growth

How can I grow my business?

business growth strategy

The 11 biggest business growth strategies:

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

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

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

Seth Godin

seth godin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Skip ahead to the following sections:

1. Grow your business with vision and purpose:

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

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

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

More about purpose here:

2. Grow your business by setting goals:

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

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

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

More about goal setting here:

3. Grow your business with marketing:

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

“Marketing is everything and everything is marketing.”

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

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

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

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

More about marketing here:

4. Grow your business with DIGITAL marketing:

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

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

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

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

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

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

More about digital marketing here:

5. Grow your business with sales:

“Nothing happens until we sell something.”

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

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

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

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

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

More about sales here:

6. Grow your business with planning:

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

Nothing in other words.

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

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

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

More about planning here:

7. Grow your business with customer service:

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

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

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

More about customer service here:

8. Grow your business with systems and quality improvement:

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

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

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

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

There are only two answers to this dilemma:

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

More about systems and quality here:

9. Grow your business with inventory management:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More about inventory management here:

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

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

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

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

More about hiring, firing and engaging people here:

11. Grow your business with innovation:

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

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

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

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

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

More about innovation here:

Your next step:

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

The high’s and lows of employing people overseas

inida outsourced worker

Your best employees may not all eat bacon and eggs for breakfast

The Shipbreakers of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh became famous after a documentary showed the other worldly scenes of the places in the subcontinent where the ships go to die. Here is an amazing video showing what goes on.

Shipbreaking is just one of the many professions that get outsourced all round the world. International outsourcing is big business in Australia too. More and more of the work we used to do here in Australia is being done in other countries where wage rates are lower.

A client of mine is a tax accountant and he has outsourced part of his operations to India. Another client of mine is an architect and he has started to outsource a lot of drafting work to the Philippines. It’s the way of the world whether we like it or not and I’d encourage you to put your toe in the water as well.

I have engaged various assistants and specialists overseas for the past 3.5 years.

  • I’ve hired a designer/ illustrator in India to help me with a couple of my books.
  • I have had various SEO specialists in India work on the ranking of my website in Google.
  • I have had someone translate one of my books into Dutch. (In the Philippines of all places)
  • And I currently engage a marketing specialist to help me with my content marketing and engagement strategy.

Some have been great and some haven’t been so wonderful and some could have been great, if only I’d understood the challenges better. Those challenges are what I’d like to talk about:

BRIDGING THE CULTURAL GAP

India, Pakistan, Indonesia, the Philippines are overflowing with highly skilled people who want to work. Some of them are incredibly cheap (like scary cheap) and some less so. You know this already of course. But here’s what you may not have considered. The gap in cultural understanding between you and a freelance contractor in the northwest of India, is real. Very much so. You need to be aware of that and you need to set your engagement structure up to suit.

A couple of years ago, I engaged Rajiv in India to do the typesetting and layout of my third book. Part of the project was to create 36 illustrations to be dispersed throughout the book. This caused me no end of trouble for a while, because I simply hadn’t foreseen that my visual reference points were so very different to Rajiv’s.

One example still makes me smile. For a particular illustration, I had in mind an image of a classic strong man in a circus, except instead of being dressed in a Hercules costume he was dressed in a business suit and instead of carrying a big weight above his head he would have a pyramid of office workers standing on his shoulders.

THERE’S NO CIRCUS IN NORTH INDIA

To me it was an obvious image. Rajiv didn’t get it. I had to send his drawings back several times, it just didn’t make any sense until I suddenly realised that Rajiv, who was born and raised in the country in north India, had probably never seen a circus nor a classic circus strong man. So I found a bunch of photos of strong men and old circuses and sent them to him and then he got it. The end result was great I think.

THE LESSONS I’VE LEARNT

So here’s a few of the lessons I’ve learned in engaging Rajiv, Jasmin, Aanchal, Sridhar, Oleg and various others over the past 4 years:

  1. Understand that even if your employee speaks English, they won’t necessarily have the same understanding of a situation that you have.
  2. Set out your expectations excessively clearly. When you’re working with someone who is 10,000 km and 6 time zones away from you, you can’t walk past their desk and look over their shoulder to see how they’re going. Agree how often you are going to talk in what format. Agree on what the key deliverables are, weekly, and how you measure and report on them.
  3. Before you hire someone, pay them to do a specific test job and see how they go. I recently got 4 new marketing assistants to rewrite an old article of mine to see how they went and I paid them 2 hrs each for the article.
  4. And then after you select someone based on the test job, still only engage them for two weeks and ask them to perform specific jobs in those two weeks and again compare.
  5. Accept that your first hire is probably not going to work out well. It’s ok. Freelancers are generally engaged on a week by week basis and you can simply let them go and find someone else and apply the lessons you’ve learned.

Outsourcing to overseas contractors can work like a charm and it can allow you to do things you might otherwise never consider. But if you want it to work, you have to start by accepting that not everyone in the world has bacon and eggs for breakfast.

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

Slow and Steady Wins the Race in Small Business

Small Business Competition

Get the boring stuff right in your business and make the competition irrelevant

Small Business Competition

It’s not hard to sell more, what’s hard is to deliver on your promises, week in week out

Early in my days as a business coach I read a book by Jason Jennings: “It’s not the Big that eat the Small, it’s the Fast that eat the Slow.”

Besides the unwieldy nature of the title, it became one of my bibles. There are various chapters in the book that I have re-read several times and I often find myself quoting from the book to my clients.

But I’ve decided that Jason Jennings and I part company on one specific idea about business. The premise of the book is that in the modern world, small fast business always outcompetes big slow business. Mr Jennings uses a number of examples to illustrate that every time a big powerful Goliath of a business comes up against a nimble little David, the Goliath gets defeated time and again, and hence the book encourages small business to grow fast and stay nimble.

I’ve stopped believing in fast growth as a strategy. These days, I believe in the “Slow and Steady Wins the Race” principle.

Growth is the easy part

As I have written previously on Smallville, growing your business is the easy part. If you do what you say you’re going to do, for the price you say you’ll charge, by the time you say you’ll do it, your customers will find you and flock to your door… guaranteed. The hard part is doing those three things… under-promise and over-deliver… every time, and make a profit… every time.

It’s relatively easy to deliver on your promises, and control your costs and your income, when it’s just you and a really small team, but once you’re not actually doing the work of the business yourself anymore and you don’t meet every client and see every job and you don’t know how your staff are doing the work every moment of the day anymore, that’s when it becomes challenging to continue to deliver your three promises and remain profitable.

Jane’s worried about the competition

Small Business Competition I’ve written before about my client Jane whose business sells flowers online in little bunches (Read about Jane here). Jane’s has a unique business model and when I first started working with Jane, she was nervous, because she thought others might, steal her business model. She was keen to grow really quickly, expand into other markets around Australia and move to the UK, Europe and the USA in the shortest possible time.

I helped her to stop worrying and to slow down. When we started working, the business wasn’t profitable yet. A lot of details in the business needed ironing out yet, nearly all of them in operations and cost control.

Boring stuff, like finding new couriers and negotiating better rates, working with her staff to increase their productivity, improving the work environment, developing better online systems, implementing better financial control systems, simplifying the admin.

Doing the boring stuff

None of it was very exciting, none of it got Jane’s creative juices flowing, none of it seemed important when seen against the threat of armies of competitors flooding in and taking away her markets.

And a bunch of different competitors did come into the Sydney market and at last count there have been three different competitors trying to get something similar off the ground in Melbourne.

But now, two years later, Jane’s business is consistently making close to $10K net profit every month (That’s after paying Jan and everyone else in the business a proper wage of course).

Because Jane knuckled down and dotted the I’s and crossed the T’s, all the boring stuff, and now the business is humming like a well-oiled machine. Everything that can be systemised is, from going to the flower markets, to making the bunches, to marketing, ordering, delivery and payment.

Jane’s customers love her business, the staff love working there, it’s growing steadily and the bank account is building steadily.

Read all about Money, Profit, cash flow and keeping your fingers on the pulse here

Making the competition irrelevant

The competition is irrelevant. Most of them started up and fell over again, or in any case are not heard from again. The ones that are still there are barely hanging in it seems. They haven’t dotted the I’s and crossed the T’s. If anything the competitors have prepared the other markets for the arrival of Jane’s business.

Jane will expand to Melbourne, and then she’ll make sure Melbourne runs like a well-oiled machine and making money, before she opens in Brisbane, and so on.

That’s how you build a Fun Business that sustains you for years to come… Slow and steady… 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

#smallbusiness #coaching #funinbusiness #businesspassion #secretstosuccess #CompetitionIrrelevant

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Outsourcing

vogons

Why the future is with Rajiv in India

If only he understood my jokes a bit better

outsourcing India

My third book

I’m getting close to finishing my book.

It’s my third book and I’m proud of it. I think it’s my best book yet. The Working title is “The Ten Truths for Making Business Fun and building a business that sustains you for years to come”

One thing’s very different from my first two books. To complete the book I’ve joined the globalisation movement and engaged with an illustrator and designer in India. Rajiv is creating all the drawings that will go in the book and he is carrying out the design and layout work to get it ready for the printers.

Fascinating process… I’ve never had so many of my jokes and double entendres fall flat on their face, but Rajiv’s work is excellent.

And let’s be quite clear about this. By engaging Rajiv, I’ve taken work away from an Australian designer and illustrator and I’ve done so because it’s cheaper… much cheaper.

Superspeed internet

Collectively, I think it’s clear that the world is going to go through a massive shift in the next few years. When the NBN finally gets connected to a significant portion of our homes and businesses or some other superspeed internet connection becomes the standard, the wave will become unstoppable. More and more of the work that can be outsourced to India, The Philippines, China or Tajikistan will be. Right now, there are still a lot of businesses who are resisting it, because it’s all too hard and the language problems and cultural differences etc etc.

vogons Resistance is futile

But in the words of The Vogons: Resistance is futile.

I was talking to an architect recently about this issue and although he hasn’t gone the route of overseas outsourcing yet, it won’t be long before he will be forced to. Cost pressures will simply force it on him.

Do I think this is a good thing? Yes and no. Obviously if I was a young architect, or designer or web developer or computer programmer, I would be worried… very worried for the future. My career is probably not going to be there anymore in 10 or 15 years, maybe even sooner, because architects in the Philippines will be doing most of my work.

That’s not great for our society here in Australia or elsewhere in the Western World.

But you could just as easily argue that it is a positive development for the world as a whole. It seems to me that over time the rates we will be paying architects and software programmers in India will get closer and closer to rates we pay in Australia, and maybe that’s not such a bad thing. There is clearly a great imbalance in wealth and cost of living between the West and the Third World. Maybe this kind of movement is going to redress some of that imbalance. I’m sure that is already happening. Rajiv advertises his hourly rate on his profile as $4.50 per hour, but I’ve actually engaged him for $8.50 per hour (yeah, I know, I’m being ripped off right!).

Wage inflation

I was talking to an Indian friend of mine the other day and he reckons that working in India, the designer would be lucky if he could charge $2.50 per hour. So contracts like mine are causing wage inflation already (on a miniscule scale, but you see what I mean).

So what would I be doing if I was a young designer or programmer, bookkeeper or architect or any other profession that is outsource-able?

Keeping your fingers crossed certainly seems like a bad strategy. The old saying: If you can’t beat them, join them, strikes me as the approach to take. You see, I think there is an enormous opportunity for people to provide go-between services for people like me and Rajiv in India. What would perfect for me is if I could engage an actual designer here in Australia who manages the process of getting the work completed easily in India or wherever. The problems I and Rajiv have faced in this project so far have largely been about language, culture and some technical glitches.

I think If I was a young designer coming out of college, I’d make sure I learn Hindi or Tagalog or Chinese and establish a network of designers in one of the prime outsourcing countries. Then I’d develop a service for people like me and the contractors that facilitates the process, so that instructions I have for my contractor actually get understood the first time. Rajiv and I find ourselves going back and forth quite a lot, because I use words and sentences that mean something very different to Rajiv than they mean for me. Having someone in the middle who understands design and has design skills and speaks Indian would be invaluable.

Not to mention that I’d love my brilliant jokes translated into Hindi and hear the raucous laughter clear across the Indian Ocean.

The world will change completely in the next 10 years. There really is no point hoping it won’t.