Nostalgia, Folk Festivals and Morris Dancing

jailer's pet

Do you like to dress in Medieval robes too?

How the past always looks so much more enticing from a distance

I had a lovely time on a recent weekend. I went to a country town a couple of hours south from where I live to take part with my choir in a music festival. In case you’re wondering, we brought the house down… as usual… more information about my choir and our gigs here: http://honeybeeschoir.org

morris dancing 800 The festival was a Folk festival. I’ve sung at various folk festivals with the choir before and a standard feature of Folk festivals (at least in Australia) are the Morris Dancers.

Have you ever watched Morris Dancing?

You haven’t?

You clearly haven’t lived.

What’s the best word to describe it… Let’s see… Odd, I think

Very Odd.

Since the 15th century

People clearly take their Morris Dancing very seriously and they have done since the 15th century (if we are to believe Wikipedia on the matter). I asked a couple of people at the festival if they knew much about it. Few people knew anything but most assumed it had something to do with fertility… I think we all assume that when some unusual tradition is kept alive it has something to do with fertility. Again, according to Wikipedia, Morris dancing has nothing to do with fertility. It’s just about whimsical imitation of exotic cultures… The word Morris seems to derive from the word Moor… In other words the people we in the English-speaking world have generally felt least comfortable living on the same planet with.

spinning I never saw that coming when I went to find out a bit more about Morris dancing to write this article about folk festivals. I wonder what other surprises lurk beneath the innocent facades of the various folk festival entertainments…. How about spinning? Patchwork quilting? (There’s always a few people in long medieval looking robes spinning wool on ye olde spinning wheels). Or those re-enactments (especially of the battle of Hastings) What’s really going on there?

Why do we get so excited about these pasttimes that have no relevance to us in 2014? I find it baffling. I particularly enjoy seeing someone in King Arthur costume pull out an Iphone and text his cohort to gather on the battle field… I bet Oliver Cromwell would have liked having one of those.

 

Nostalgia about adolescence

I was reminded by something one of my fellow choir members observed on the ride down. He said it’s interesting how we think nostalgically about things in our past that were no fun at all when they happened. It’s true… I think back to my Adolescence with a strong sense of nostalgia and when I meet up with someone from those days we rehash memories with big smiles on our faces and joy in our hearts… but really? I know rationally that most of my adolescence was far from fun… I had a pretty torrid and frustrating and angst driven adolescence and I think most of my school mates did too.

monty python dungeon jail jailers petI think we do the same when we re-enact medieval scenes… not many people who had to spend their days spinning in cold dank dark sheds in the 15th century were having a very good time. Not many children who were employed at slave wages working in the salt mines were having exciting child hoods. Not many heretics enjoyed being thrown into dungeons and being burnt at the stake.

There is actually no reason at all to get nostalgic about the Middle Ages. Human behaviour is fascinating isn’t it?

The Pyramids

I wonder if the peasants in medieval Europe put on enactments of life during the Roman Empire or if the peasants of the Roman empire re-enacted days in Egypt dragging 100 tonne blocks of stone up rickety wooden scaffolds building the pyramids?

But it seems the Morris Dancers (as well as the wickans and the druids) had a ball on Saturday… and so were we, blasting our Black American Gospel songs at the audience (cause we’re all so black and religious… not)

Business the Simple Way

lemonade kid

The Basics…

selling lemonadeKeep it Simple Stupid

In the next 6 months I will be writing a series of articles called ‘Business the Simple Way’… Marketing the Simple Way, Planning the Simple Way, systemisation the Simple Way, etc etc.

I’m inspired to talk about ‘Business the Simple Way for a couple of reasons.

  • I think we tend to get overwhelmed a lot in business, because we make things a lot more complicated than they need to be.
  • Seth Godin was in Sydney the other day and he always inspires me to simplify things.

Seth Godin

One of Seth Godin’s golden quotes is this one:

To be successful in business you only have to do two things:

  • Do great work
  • Make sure lots of people know about it.

seth godin Seth Godin is spot on…as so often… That’s really how simple it is.

But be careful. Don’t confuse the word ‘Simple’ with the word ‘Easy’. They’re not the same at all.

Einstein said (well allegedly anyway, more quotes are attributed to Einstein than any man could possibly have fitted in a life time, along with Mandela, and Churchill): “Make things as simple as possible but no simpler.”

So lets make business as simple as possible but no simpler.

At its most simple level, business is the process of obtaining something for a certain cost and then selling it to someone for an increased cost.

Don’t confuse that statement with the Purpose of business, but it does define the process of business. So if we want to practice business the simple way, we must constantly ask ourselves how we can stay as close as possible to that simplicity.

The simplest way

What is the simplest way to run the process of business?

I believe there are 10 key questions you need to answer as simply as possible to do Business the Simple Way:

  1. Why does my business exist? (Purpose)
  2. How do we make money in my business? (Business Model)
  3. Where are we going and how are we going to get there? (Goals and Planning)
  4. How do we manage our numbers? (Financial management and measurement)
  5. How do we find our customers and help them buy our stuff? (Marketing and Sales)
  6. How do we produce and deliver our stuff? (Products and services)
  7. How do we run the business as a consistent machine? (Management)
  8. How do we ensure consistency and continual improvements in our products or services (Systems and Processes)
  9. How do we find and keep the best people? (Staff)
  10. What does it mean to for me to run a business? (Leadership)

I think that the work of the business owner is to be constantly looking for the simplest answers to those ten questions.

John’s supermarket

To illustrate what I’m talking about, lets have a look at one of my favourite customers and how simply he answers the ten questions for his business.

supermarketJohn owns a small chain of supermarkets, and those of you who have read my books might recognise him from one of the business bedtime stories.

  1. The simplest answer that John has for question 1 is this: We make it easy for our customers to access a range of quality foods
  2. At question 2, John says: We make money by buying our many lines at wholesale prices and selling them at retail prices. We have extensive and ongoing negotiations with our suppliers to get the best prices from them so that we can maintain our margins while being competitive with other supermarkets.
  3. We want to have established 50 stores in NSW by 2030 and we plan to get there by expanding 1 store at a time and not moving forward until the last addition to the stable is profitable.
  4. We are always measuring and comparing against benchmarks across the whole of the business.
  5. We are established locally and each store operates in a small local area. New customers come to us by word of mouth because of how easy it is for them to access a large range of quality foods.
  6. We constantly look to find new suppliers with interesting and high quality foods that are not available in the major supermarkets
  7. We hold regular staff meetings and performance reviews at all levels and our systems are all geared for regularity and repeatability
  8. We have created manuals and systems for all jobs in the business and train staff in the use of the manuals. We have regular meetings to explore opportunities for improvement.
  9. My staff and customers know that we are always on the lookout for great new people to join the team. I pay my people well and give them lots of challenges and opportunities to develop. I also offer opportunities for career advancement within the business. I do not hire external managers, rather I train and promote from within.
  10. I see myself as a servant of my people. It is my role to give them the greatest opportunities to grow, develop and do well.

Your turn

I want to help you answer those questions yourself in your business. So in the series of articles and videos that you’ll receive in the next months I will explore each of the ten questions with you.

In the mean time… why don’t you pick one of the ten questions and see how you can answer it in the simplest way possible?

I’d love to hear what comes up for you, please email me with your thoughts and comments?

Marketing Made Easy

dr evil

The contradictions of growing your business

I’m confused… How about you?

dr evil I’ve read and thought a lot about marketing and sales in the past few years, as I suspect most business owners do. After all, as I say in my first book, “The Ten Truths for Raising a Healthy Bouncy Business”: Marketing is Everything and Everything is Marketing.

Marketing is one of the most written about topics by the business brains and gurus of the world and there are many grand theories about what works and what doesn’t and how things have supposedly changed in the past 20 years. But when you listen to all of them it’s like having your brain fried by Dr Evil, it’s all just so confusing.

All the theories

The problem lies with the many conflicting theories.

We are variously assured that:

  • People buy what’s in it for them (WIIFM)
  • People buy emotionally and justify rationally
  • People do business with people they know like and trust
  • Value is remembered long after price has been forgotten
  • We must sell online otherwise you can’t compete… on price.
  • We must give our best stuff away for free
  • Brand is everything
  • Relationship is everything
  • Content is King
  • Search engine optimisation is everything
  • Search engine optimisation is dead
  • Google and Facebook advertising is the future
  • Advertising is dead

And we are told:

  • To do blogs, Twitter, Linkedin, Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook
  • To produce content
  • To make videos and to podcast
  • To build relationships
  • To add value
  • To charge for value instead of price

Confused

confusedConfused?

I am.

I recently engaged an SEO expert to get me to the top of Google. The expert delivered. In a period of 8 weeks, I started appearing on page 1 for certain search terms.

Yet I sacked him a month or so later. Why? I learnt that Google frowns on many SEO techniques that until recently were considered good practice, and I came to the conclusion that my improved ranking was based on some of those techniques.

I talked to a number of other SEO experts and they assure me they can achieve the same results for me, using only currently accepted ‘safe’ techniques… At 4 to 6 times the cost per month of the previous SEO expert.

So I’m muddling along myself again now. (Let me know how I’m going, will you? Do a search for the kind of service I provide and see if I come up anywhere before page 25?)

Free stuff

I’m one of those who is convinced by one of the previous statements about giving your best stuff away for free, and I do exactly that. I do get lots of thank-you notes, but not much else.

Oh, that’s right, it’s all about content? Doing that, I’m all over it. Again, lots of nice comments on my newsletters and books and videos and webinars.

Giving

go givers I read a great book called Go-Givers and another one called “Give and Take” … wonderful books, great messages. The main message being that to market and sell our business successfully we must be Givers, rather than Takers and start by giving more value than we receive.

Love the concept, especially as it’s proven to work for about half the people who practice that mindset; half the Givers of this world are wildly successful … the other half? Sorry, they’re at the bottom of the heap.

How come I’m reminded about that joke: I have a magic coin that can predict the future exactly 50% of the time?

I am aware that I sound as if I’m whingeing… and that will never do.

I’m a business coach after all and we are always positive and optimistic… We are, honestly!

Actually I’m not complaining … it’s just that it’s all so dammed confusing.

And overwhelming.

Answers

I actually know what the answers are to each of the contradictions above, most of us business owners do, well in theory we do at any rate. Let’s look at the contradictions about price for example:

It’s true; people don’t buy on price, except if they have no other way to decide. Being the cheapest is actually a perfectly good strategy to market your business, as long you can maintain it. Walmart in America is the cheapest, consistently and it’s become one of the most successful and biggest businesses on the planet by being the cheapest. It’s what they do. Being the cheapest is their reason for being, and no one can beat them at that game. There are plenty of other businesses that base their marketing on price, and when appropriate I shop there too. But I bet anyone could beat your business on price if they decided to do so. We have to give our customers lots of other reasons to do business with us.

And that’s when we get overwhelmed with all the contradictions and the conflicting demands.

Nearly every client I start to work with tells me they think they need to ‘Do’ more marketing and they need a marketing plan. And you do. Accelerating the speed at which your business has been growing naturally so far can only come from increased marketing. But let’s not make it harder and more overwhelming than it needs to be.

Low hanging fruit

low hanging fruit kids I’m a great believer in always picking the low-hanging fruit first. So the question to ask yourself first is: What is the easiest way for me to generate more leads?

I bet you can actually answer that question just like that, without a marketing plan.

In my case it actually comes down to two things:

1)    Making it easier for people to obtain my books

2)    Implementing a consistent process of following up with the people who do download my books.

So I’m off to tweak some of the text and stuff on my website, implement a couple of small changes in my CRM, and I’m blocking time out in my diary to make 5 follow up phone calls every Tuesday morning from here forth.

What about you? What’s your easiest way forward to ‘Do’ more marketing?

See it’s not so overwhelming when you think of it, it just takes a little bit of focus.

Tell you what… pop me an email with your decision and I’ll check in with you in a couple of weeks to see how you’re going… nothing like a bit of accountability.

Fun in Business

Or why business doesn’t have to be like playing a game of ‘Whack the Mole’

Let me paint a picture for you… See if you recognise any of it:

Running your business is like playing a game of “Whack the Mole” you never know what is about to pop up next and where.

whack-a-mole You run around from crises to crises all day long, extinguishing brushfires along the way. And while you are dealing with the crises, you don’t get to all the business development priorities you know you should get to, marketing, sales, financial management, staff management, planning etc.

A switched-on Business Owner

It’s not that you don’t know what you should be focused on as a responsible, switched-on business owner, but:

1) You don’t have any time left to spend on any of those aspects of business.

2) When you do magically find some spare time, you don’t feel confident to decide which of all those priorities is the most important.

3) And even if you did know what to focus on next and you had the time… you actually feel quite insecure that you know how to do a good job at it anyway… It’s not as if you completed an MBA … nobody ever taught you how to write an operations manual did they?

So you run around from employee crisis, to client crisis, to supplier crisis, to compliance crisis to cash crisis and all the way back to the beginning again.

Your average Week

munch Have I just described your life as a business owner? Of course I have… The responsibilities that come with being a small business owner are daunting, it’s all down to you and you probably feel trapped in a state of Overwhelm a lot of the time in your business…

So let me tell you about Brian, who was one of my clients a couple of years ago and how Brian freed himself from being trapped and took his business from a single store to a healthy growing multi-store business in just 2 years.

The approach Brian and used is one I’ve used with many business owners over the years, because it is so simple and so effective and because the results have been astonishing … every time.

Brian’s Car Accessories

Brian was a client of mine who owned a car accessories business in Sydney.Brian’s business had slowly plateaued over the past couple of years and Brian was frustrated that he couldn’t seem to push the business ahead any further anymore.

Competing priorities

Brian’s head was exploding with all the different competing priorities that were screaming for his attention every day. All the challenges of managing inventories to cashflow, staff, marketing, systems etc etc
Brian simply didn’t know where to look and where to direct his focus.

Scale

Working with me Brian created a “Fun in Business” scale. A scale from 0 to 10, where 10 on the scale meant that he had had as much fun in his business as he could possibly have and 0 meant the opposite.

fun-o-meter Every week in our sessions, Brian would ask himself 3 questions:
1) How much Fun did I have last week on the “Fun in Business” scale

2) On the same scale, how much “Fun in Business” do I want to have next week?

3) What specific things must I do, what specific actions can I take this coming week to ensure I achieve that number on my scale?

Cashflow… staff training

One week, Brian reported that he was at 6 and wanted to get to 6.1 on his Fun in Business Scale and he decided to spend 1 hr in the coming week chasing up outstanding accounts to increase his bank balance and cashflow and hence to have more Fun in Business.

Another week Brian realized that the greatest opportunity to increase the fun number on his Scale would be to deliver some much needed training in the area of customer service to his staff etc etc.

Growth again

After a few months of this approach to managing his business, Brian’s business did start to grow again… slowly, steadily, month by month… quarter after quarter.

Now a few years later, Brian’s has opened a second store and warehouse on the other side of Sydney and when I last spoke to Brian he was looking for a site for his third store.

Lessons from Brian

That is the story of Brian… It may seem odd, that I got Brian to focus on Fun in Business instead of ‘Profit’ or ‘Systems’ or ‘Cash-flow’ or ‘Staff retention’ or ‘Customer satisfaction’ and other business concepts like that, but you see… Fun in Business is actually an incredibly simple yet powerful concept that has the potential to transform your business.

fun-is-good-dr-seuss Because when your business is Fun:
• It means everything is working.
• It means you are making money.
• It means you’ve got cash in the bank.
• It means you are proud of the output of your business.
• It means your customers love you.
• It means that your staff are highly engaged
• It means that you have the balance in your life you want.

A little more fun next week

So asking yourself how you can have a little bit more Fun next week, will help you focus on the most important aspect of your business to focus on next, while using the “Fun in Business Scale” will help you find the next simple steps rather than getting Daunted and Frustrated by the enormity of the tasks before you.

As I said before, I have used this approach with many clients in the past and I use it myself all the time of course. It is surprisingly simple… all it takes is to put 5 minutes aside for it every week at the same time.

So… get yourself a special little notebook and label it your Fun In Business Book, set the time aside and ask yourself these three questions every week; How much Fun in Business did I have last week? How much Fun in business do I want to have next week? and what simple small action can I commit to taking next week to move me along the scale to where I want to be?

If you do this every week and you commit to taking the small, simple actions that result from the third question…
Your business and your life will never be the same again.
(And the mole can take a break too)
I promise you.

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

 

About the author

Roland Hanekroot is a business coach and the founder of New Perspectives Business Coaching. He is also the author of the acclaimed “The Ten Truths” books for business owners. Roland runs a webinar called “The Small Business Masterminds” every month, on the 10 key aspects of business that all business owners face when developing and growing their businesses. First time is free, normally $99. Book in here.

If you enjoyed this article click here to get a copy of one of “The Ten Truths” books for business owners for free.

Masterminds observations… Small is the New Big by Seth Godin

 

small is the new bigI came across this quote by Seth Godin in “Small is the new Big”

 

“Too many companies believe that their owners would have them make schlock and alienate their customers for the sake of profit…”

 

Odd really… As human beings, we are prepared to make and do stuff that just isn’t all that remarkable, but when we are the customer ourselves, we expect even the item we’ve bought at a knock down bargain price to be perfect in all respects. Why do we allow ourselves to be tempted to think that “close enough is good enough”?

 

 


A new approach to getting the best from your teams

A new approach to getting the best from Teams

Putting imagination to work as a “hard edged” business tool for accountability and creating sustainable business outcomes

Imagination has long been thought of as a soft, “feel good” concept that has no place amongst the hard edged realities of the business environment. The latest developments in Neuroscience, Quantum Physics and Solution-Focused Brief approach to change make it clear that nothing could be further from the truth however.

Harnessing your and your team’s imagination, in other words, focusing on “what is possible” is proving to be one the most effective methods to achieve sustainable business outcomes.

Conventionally team building and facilitation work focus on “solving the problems” or the dis-functionalities of a team and by so doing aim to encourage the team to become more efficient and achieve ever greater things. This approach has often been found to have limited success for 2 main reasons:

  1. Energy flows where attention goes
  2. Sustaining change is hard work….

What do those statements mean, how do they impact people management and team building processes and what is the way forward?

To start with the first statement: Energy flows where attention goes:

One of the counter-intuitive but by now well established principles of Quantum Physics says that the act of observing an object affects the state of that object, in other words an object (an atom for example) does not exist in isolation from the input of the observer. So it is with the brain. The developments of new brain scanning techniques (FMRI for example) have led neuroscientists to conclude that the brain functions as a Quantum process. At a very simplified level, this means that when our brains have developed a map or circuitry around a “problem” and we decide to “work through” this problem we actually strengthen the circuitry. By focusing our attention on these “problem” connections we actually create more and more of them. In other words when we workshop a problem with someone or a team, we set ourselves up to fail in the long run, because all we are doing is making it bigger and stronger all the time.

The smallest Difference that Makes a Difference

Solution-focused and strength based work takes the opposite route. It asks you to imagine: “If this is the problem you don’t want to have anymore… what would you like to have instead?” It asks: “What is the preferred future?”, and “What is smallest difference, that makes a difference, that will move you one little step closer to the preferred future?” By doing so the brain starts to make brand new connections. The process of creating new connections releases lots of positive energy. Harnessing this energy by taking concrete steps and committing to new constructive actions starts to cement the new circuitry.

Sustaining Change

This brings me to the second statement above. It is all very well to have this rush of positive energy, but it doesn’t take long before the gravitational pull of doubt or habit drags us back to our old familiar ways and ancient problems and the beautiful new connections that we formed only a few days ago whither on the vine. Before we know it things are back to where they were and all we remember is that there was something very pleasant about that hour or that day during the coaching session. The hoped for sustainable change evaporates.

Solution-focused brief coaches and facilitators take the next step to nurture the new connections and help them grow big and robust and overgrow the old “problem” connections. We do that in a number of ways but first and foremost this is done through committing to action. What are you going to do from today, tomorrow, next week? What specific, measurable actions are you prepared to commit to, to move closer and closer to the preferred future. What are you prepared to experiment with, something small, but something different, something you haven’t tried before. We do this at every coaching session, and it is one of the crucial differences between Solution-focused Team work and other forms of team building. We write the actions and experiments down, and then we follow up. This is where accountability comes in. You and the team commit to specific measurable, achievable actions, and you know you will be held accountable to those actions at the next session, by the members of your team, by the coach, and most importantly by yourself.

It is this rigorous follow up and accountability that really sustains the change and nurtures the growth of the new circuitry in the brain. It will motivate you to keep moving forward to your and your teams preferred future, relentlessly transforming your imagined future into your day-to-day activities.

Further Reading:
  • Team Coaching with the Solution Circle by Daniel Meier
  • Quiet Leadership by David Rock
  • Brief Coaching for Lasting Solutions, by Insoo Kim Berg
  • Solution Focused Coaching by Anthony Grant

Your customers and Sabre-tooth tigers.

Your customers and Sabre-tooth tigers.

There is a small almond shaped region in our brains, called the “Amygdala”. It is one of the most primitive regions deep in the base of our brains. As business owners we need to get intimately acquainted with this lump of cells in your clients’ brains, and how it affects their decision making processes. It is your clients’ Amygdala, more than anything else that decides if they are going to become your customer.

One of the functions of the Amygdala is to scan everyone and everything it comes into contact with for threats and danger; it is constantly on the lookout for who can be trusted and who can’t. It is often referred to as part of our reptile brain and dates back to the times when survival depended on being able to assess in an instant if the figure coming towards you was about to kill you, take your food or your family.

And ever since the days of the dinosaurs, and sabre tooth tigers, when men were apes, (and just as dense as they still are), rocks were used as tools and women were dragged around by their hair, it has been performing this function for us.

The Amygdala knows that threats are constant and all around us, and so it makes instant gut level decisions, and then goes on to scan for the next threat.

How does the Amygdala connect to your business?

The Amygdala is very powerful; it has the power to override pretty much all other functions of the brain, instantaneously.

So when a potential customer has an interaction with you, his or her Amygdala does its thing, and comes back with a very quick decision: friend or foe. Once it has made this decision it sends signals out to the rest of the brain to become more or less guarded.

If the signal is positive, other parts of the brain, slightly higher up are activated to start looking for more positives. And here is the thing: this whole process takes place entirely at an unconscious level. The client has no idea that all of this turmoil is taking place deep inside his/her brain. He/She won’t even start to become conscious in some way of this process for somewhere between 15 to 30 seconds. But one thing is clear: The essential decision to buy from you or not is made in that timeframe (except that client doesn’t know it yet).

Pain and pleasure

When I say that the client has made the unconscious decision to become your customer, I am not talking about a decision in the way that we normally think of a decision. The word “decision” implies a conscious process. What it really means is that the client in his/her whole being has decided that you are safe, and a friend, and that either a pleasure will be gained from being with you or a pain will be relieved.

This is a very good feeling for the client. When he/she gets this feeling he/she starts looking for ways and reasons (or excuses) to prolong it. And the most obvious way to prolong this feeling is to do business with you. (Remember, we are still very much at the mercy of our primitive emotions, it is a scary world outside the cave, we crave this feeling of safety constantly and we are social beings, safety in numbers)

Confusion

But keep in mind that the client doesn’t actually know that this is what he/she is doing and what his/her primitive brain is leading him to, and hence it is very easy to confuse the client at this stage. As soon as he/she receives a message that doesn’t fit with his/her first primitive assessment of you, his/her brain will start to go around in circles, a bit like a computer that responds to some input with an error message “Does not compute”.

We don’t have to be neuroscientists to understand that a client in this confused state is not going to buy anything. A confused client will focus on getting “un-confused” instead. Being confused puts the Amygdala back in a heightened state of arousal, and while that goes on, buying decisions simply won’t be made.

That is the story of:
The customer,
The Amygdala and
The Sabre-tooth tiger

Awareness of this principle has many consequences for how we as business owners should approach our marketing. I believe the following 5 steps are the first ones to focus on:

Be absolutely clear in your own mind what pain it is that you relieve or what pleasure you give your customers.

Be clear in your own mind what the promise is that you make to your customers

Decide what basic emotions you want to evoke in the depths of your clients brain (safety, confidence, relief etc.)

Live and breathe the qualities that are most likely to evoke those emotions – the first 30 seconds – (what you say, what you ask, how you look, your handshake, your confidence, your passion and clarity has to shine through)

Explain your promise to the client and confirm the emotions you evoked in the first 30 seconds (this is about all the subsequent messages you send, your email, your website, your documents, the graphics, your logo, your voicemail message, every bit of information you give to the client will all be evaluated against his/her need to confirm her initial emotional assessment of you)

These steps will lead to clients becoming customers over and over.

Customers become advocates

From here of course the real work of your business starts. Now it is all about delivering on the promise you made to the client in the first place. If your business delivers on the promises you make, time after time, without fail, new customers will continue to do business with you for a very long time. Better yet, by delivering on your promise without fail, customers will become your advocates to everyone they know and meet. And when that happens, those first 30 seconds are largely taken care of before you even come in contact with clients. Your customer/advocate will already have put the clients’ Amygdalas at ease and they will be looking to confirm their decision right from the first moment they shake your hand.

Further reading:

Business Plans that work

A business without a Business Plan

achieves everything in it!

Yet, why do they have so little impact?

We all know the mantra: If you want to have a successful business, you need to have a Business Plan.

A truer word has n’er been spoken, yet does that mean that a business with a “Plan” will by default be successful?

All cows eat grass. This animal eats grass…

ergo it must be a cow!

No, obviously not. Most business plans don’t have much of an impact on the success of the business because nobody in the business feels the “Plan” has anything to do with “what gets them out of bed in the morning”. It is just one of those things that you “ought” to have, all the books say so!

You probably have a “Plan”. It might be based on a “Business Plan Template” you found. You filled in the blanks and fiddled with it a bit. It makes the bank happy. It looks great, it feels good in your hands, and when you finished it, you felt that warm and fuzzy feeling we often mistake for business achievement in the absence of more solid evidence. But when was the last time you even looked at the thing?

First things first

Let’s start at the beginning: Why is it again that we even need a “Business Plan”?

The purpose of creating and having a business plan is twofold:

  • To spell out exactly where the business is headed and how it will get there.
  • To have a fixed set of criteria to “test” every decision in the business against.

If your Business Plan meets both of those criteria, wholly, you can be sure it won’t be kept in the bottom of a drawer. It will sit on top of your desk; it will be dog-eared, and smudged; it will have coffee stains, scribbles and doodles all over it. You will look at it every day and so will everyone else who has anything to do with it.

Business Plans that live

So how do you create a “Plan” that will be so alive?

There are 6 key criteria that a Business Plan must meet for it to truly add to the success of the business:

  1. It must be a “live” document and be kept “live” by the people directly affected by it, today.
  2. It must have been created by the people directly affected by it, at the time of its creation.
  3. It must be created in ways and in terms that are meaningful to the people who have created it and who maintain it.
  4. It must be based on the “Guiding Principles” of the business.
  5. The “Guiding Principles” in turn must flow from the “Mission” or “Purpose” of the business.
  6. Finally the “Purpose” of the business must be a clear expression of the “Values” and “Aims” of the people who ARE the business.

As you can see, this means that before you even start to think about putting a “Business Plan” together, you need to focus inwardly, individually or as a team. You need to get very clear about what “gets you out of bed in the morning”, what the purpose of being in business is at all and how you decide what to occupy yourself with in this business.

Personal Values

A good way to start this process is to do an exercise to determine what your top personal values are. There are a lot of tools available to help you with that process. One of them, a personal values checklist is available on this site on the downloads page. Once you are really clear about your personal values, the values that you want your life to be about, right now, it is time to think about the “Purpose” of your business, and how that purpose or mission connects with your personal values.

Research all over the world clearly shows that a business “Purpose”, “Mission” or “Vision” that is solidly grounded on your own personal values is an absolute indicator of the success of your business. So: WHAT are you in Business for? What is THAT all about? It may be about money, but often it is about so much more than money: What will you get from having a successful business? What will that give you? How will you know that your business is successful, and what difference will that make to you? Or your family? Or your customers?

Guiding Principles

Then it is time for step 3. This is where the actual creation of a purposeful and impactful Business Plan starts. The “Guiding Principles” of your business are the principles that every decision and every action in the business is guided by. It will be the litmus test for everything you do.

If a decision you, or someone else in your business, wants to make conflicts with the “Guiding Principles” there are only two options:

  1. Don’t make the decision
  2. Amend the Guiding Principles

There is no alternative. Putting a set of Guiding principles in place will be one of the most powerful things you will ever do for your business, and once you have them in place they will form page 1 of your Business Plan.

Here are some random samples of “Guiding Principles” I helped clients design in the last year:

  • Our behaviours are: Open, Trusting, Professional and Safe
  • All our processes add value
  • We leave the environment better than we found it
  • We deliver more than expected
  • We deliver when we say we do.
  • Shareholder value is increased every year
  • All our employees will have a stake in the business
  • There is life outside the business for our people
  • We own our competitive advantages
  • We are a positive force in the communities we are a part of.

In future articles I will write about the next steps in the process to create Business Plans that make a difference.

Further reading:
  • “It is not the Big that eat the Small, it is the Fast that eat the Slow” by Jason Jennings and Laurence Haughton
  • “The E-Myth revisited” and “E-Myth mastery” by Michael Gerber
  • “The one-minute-manager series” By Ken Blanchard et al.
  • “First Break all the rules “ by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman
  • “The Fish series” by Stephen C Lundin et al
  • “Maverick, the success story behind the worlds most unusual workplace” By Ricardo Semmler

Profits are a liability

Profits are a liability

 

What do you want for your birthday?

My birthday is this month and what I want is my business to grow 50% this year. Would you like one of those too?

Ok that can be organised, but what about next year?

Ah, yes, of course we actually want our businesses to continue to grow next year and the year after…

If your business is growing by more than a modest inflation-like rate or thereabouts, there are 5 key “factors” you MUST continually address:

  1. Your market focus
  2. Financial foresight and plans
  3. Your management plan and organisational structure
  4. Understanding of your own responsibilities and what you bring to the business
  5. Outside advice and support

This article is the first in a series of articles about sustainably growing a business and I want to tackle point (2), financial foresight, first.

Readies

The one factor that stifles and destroys growing businesses more than any other, is money, cash to be exact, “readies”, money you have available day to day. To be more precise… the lack of it.

There are millions of stories around the world of businesses that experienced fabulous growth, that were the darlings of the investment community. Companies that had “The Next Big Thing”, with profit levels to make every other business owner green with envy, issuing staggering forecasts…..and failed. Small and large, businesses just like yours.

If your business is going to grow, heed this warning and heed it well: If you do not plan for cash, you will not have it when you need it. Even if you somehow survive that crisis, it will cost you an arm and a leg, not to mention years of your life!

A business cannot grow unless you feed and water it with money. When you grow a pot plant, it will outgrow its pot when the plant increases in size by 25%. A business is just like that: As the business grows 25% or more, it will need a different pot of money to feed in. The ferociously growing business will soon dry up your own resources and those of your partner, and your parents etc. What you might have been able to finance through your own funds, a personally guaranteed overdraft, credit cards, and cheap money like 30-day trade accounts with suppliers, is suddenly ravenous for more.

Rule of Thumb

A “Rule of Thumb” used by jaded bankers and accountants when assessing the financial needs of a growth business is: Assume that receivables, (what you are owed) will take twice as long to collect as expected and payables, (what you owe) will need to be paid in half the time you expect.

It can be extremely tempting to look at a Profit and Loss (P&L) print from your bookkeeping programme and be lulled into a sense of security because you are showing a healthy turnover and great profit levels, talk about an aphrodisiac! But profit means very little, it is purely a number on a piece of paper, and bears virtually no relationship to your bank account or your ability to pay people and the sustainability of your business.

Bad News

In fact, net profit in your company is a liability! Let me repeat that in case you did not get it: Profit in a growing business is BAD NEWS!

Come again? How can that be? Well that is very simple: Net profit means you have to pay tax, and that means taking money out of the business and sending it to the ATO. Don’t get me wrong I am all for a healthy tax system, I like the fact that I was able to spend a week camping in a National Park over Christmas, all paid for by the tax system. However, it is your job to build a sound and healthy business, one that will pay its taxes for many years to come, not just this year. Making profits in the growth phase of a business simply means you will be drawing money out of the business that you will have to replace from somewhere else.

Musts

So, what are the recipes for financial success when leading a growing business?

At a high level, there are three “MUSTS” involved:

Delegating the bookkeeping to others, DOES NOT absolve you from the responsibility to keep control of the outcome. You simply MUST keep your finger on the pulse PRO-ACTIVELY! You are accountable for the health of the business, no one else.

You MUST put an effective financial control system in place, and monitor it.

You MUST put a cash flow forecasting system in place, and monitor it.

Let me give you the critical steps for the implementation of (1) and (2) above first:

Get the best bookkeeping system that is available, keeping in mind that the system has to be plenty big enough to cope if your business doubles triples or even quadruples in size.

Make sure that you have at least one person (with a backup) onboard, (if that isn’t you) in-house or external who knows the system inside out. They must be able to produce the answer to any question you might like to ask of the financial control system of the business.

Spend the time to become very very (that is VERY) clear what you need to know on a daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly basis. What are the critical indicators of the financial health of the business? If you do not know talk to your accountant, and make sure you understand what he or she tells you.

Write down what those critical indicators are, in unmistakable language, in a schedule.

If you have delegated the bookkeeping to others (note the word “delegate” not “abdicate”) communicate this schedule to them, make sure they understand the requirements, keep a copy of the schedule yourself, confirm that they are happy to meet ALL the requirements of the schedule and ask what they need from you or others to be able to meet them. (See also my article on effective delegating in the archive on my website)

As a matter of absolute priority, put time aside daily, weekly and monthly to ensure that you get everything you agreed with the bookkeeper. Peruse, understand and act upon the reports and information. Do not get slack with this, ask someone to push you on it if you need the extra kick up the backside, make it easy for yourself, but do it!

Cash flow, the Leaders job

The previous two points all lead up to this one. As I have said above, cash flow is the killer.

To be able to do useful cash forecasting, you cannot rely on your bookkeeping system alone, at least none of the ones I know. It requires the use of your brain, primed with the information, reports and other data you get from points (1) and (2) above. This is the work that the leader is called upon to do, that is YOU!

Cash flow forecasting is a bit of an art and by its nature can be somewhat rubbery, and that is exactly why many businesses put it in the “too hard” basket. By doing it regularly it will become more accurate, easier and take little time.

The essential principle is simple. It requires a spreadsheet to set it up. You can buy spreadsheet templates that will do the job for you and that is a reasonable option. Of course, you can also get help; your bookkeeper, your accountant or your business coach will all be able to help, assuming they know their trade.

The basic recipe is this:
  1. Take the bank balance on day 1 of month 1
  2. Deduct regular expenses for the month
  3. Deduct what you know you will have to pay during the month
  4. Deduct what you reasonably expect you will have to pay during the month
  5. Add what you know you will be paid during the month
  6. Add what you realistically expect (not “hope”) to be paid during the month
  7. Calculate the bank balance by the end of the month.
Next month:
Add closing balance of month 1, as opening balance of month 2

Repeat the process above

And so forth for every month of the year

For some businesses, it may be necessary to do this forecast on a week-by-week basis, but for most businesses monthly will give you what you need.

Simple really and of course as you get further into the future there will be a fair bit of guesswork involved but even allowing for that I promise you that you will get a nasty shock.

But wouldn’t you rather have the shock now? 6 months out from the looming crisis it will be quite feasible to do something about it, but one month or even a week out, the best case scenario is that it will be a very expensive experience, and the worst case scenario ……….

Further Reading:

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

Books:
  • “The E-Myth revisited”, By Michael Gerber
  • “E-Myth Mastery”, By Michael Gerber
  • “The E-Myth manager”, By Michael Gerber
  • “The Essential Drucker”, By Peter F Drucker
  • “Classic Drucker”, By Peter F Drucker

How to get and keep great staff (2)

How to get and keep great staff (2)

Delegating and the brain.

In a previous article I wrote about how to get the right staff to fit into your team or organisation, see the archive on this site
In this article I want to talk about the basic principles of powerful delegating. How to make sure that you can get your work done because your staff are doing theirs.

I believe there are ten steps to effective delegating:
  1. Decide what the task and the outcome is that needs to be completed.
  2. Decide on the person or people most able or appropriate to carry out the task
  3. Delegate the complete task
  4. Explain what the need is, and what the task is
  5. Negotiate the best outcome of this task, not the process
  6. Ask the person if they are prepared to take the responsibility for the outcome of the task
  7. Ask what the person needs to achieve the outcome, and give them that. Agree on time frame for check up/ catch up/ progress report
  8. Give them the task and LET GO!
  9. Accept only finished work.
  10. Give credit, publicly and privately

Of course, most of these steps seem fairly obvious, yet it is surprising how many managers miss out on one or more of these steps entirely. Even the basic step of deciding who to delegate something to will sometimes be made on the basis of who happens to be standing near the water cooler at any given moment.All of the steps are important for effective delegating, but I want to focus on three in particular in this space.

Step 5

The first one is num 5, to delegate a task with the outcome in mind, not the process. The way you have always carried out a certain task is not necessarily the only way. It suits you and your brain to do it that way, but it may not suit others. Forcing people to follow your process rather than your own is not normally very efficient. Agree on the outcome of the task, e.g.: Analyse the data; write a report for the board on the data, maximum length 1.5 pages, by Friday lunchtime. Then allow the staff member to develop her own process for completing the task.

All of our brains are entirely different and carry out processes in entirely different ways. Even the simplest actions or processes will look entirely different in two different brains. So forcing people to follow a process that works for you can make the task that much harder for them to complete. Worse than that their brain will actively work against the outcome, in other words they will have a tendency to procrastinate and struggle with motivation.

Brain Research

The latest brain research, using MRI scanning techniques etc, is clearly showing that when a person makes new connections in their brain, when they learn something, gain an insight, that at that precise moment lots of “pleasure hormones” are released. The moment you actually work something out causes physical pleasure. If you allow people to create those pleasure moments themselves, they will want more and more of it and their motivation will skyrocket. Then you will be able to get your own stuff done, have your own learnings, and find your own brain pleasures.

Step 9

The second step I will say something about is step 9: Only accept finished work.

If you want to undo all the good work that I wrote about in the preceding paragraphs, try this approach: When your team member comes back with the report, and it is clear to you that the outcomes haven’t been met, for example it is 2.5 pages long, instead of 1.5 as agreed, take it from her, and say….”Ok that will do, leave it with me, I will rewrite it so it fits on a page and a half”

Despite what I said above, the brain is also a lazy organ, that is to say it is designed to minimise the use of energy. You may not think of the brain as a great consumer of energy in the body, but you might be surprised to know that it uses vast amounts of energy all day every day. The brain burns calories like you wouldn’t believe, (that is why, for example, the best way to stay warm on a cold day is to put a woollen hat on) and different parts of the brain use more or less energy. As it happens your “working” memory and processing part of your brain is one of the most energy expensive parts of your brain. The natural tendency for the brain will be to not use these areas of the brain when it can avoid using them; it is much “cheaper” to use the automatic parts, the hardwired parts, the parts where old habits reside, in other words. So when you tell your staff member: “that will do, let me do the rest”, they will happily pass it off to you, and conserve energy in their brain.

What it means though is that they don’t get the full experience of the pleasure hormones, they won’t take pride in their work, and you will not be able to get your own stuff done and get your own brain pleasures.If you simply will not accept anything less but finished work, work that meets the agreed outcomes, and give the support and assistance where necessary, everyone wins. Your staff become addicted to the release of the pleasure hormones and will go looking for more and more of it. You get staff that take responsibility for their work and you get your own stuff done.

Taking responsibility, 6 and 7

Finally, I am going to say a few words about step 6 and step 7.

There is world of difference between giving somebody the responsibility for a task or a person taking responsibility. Once you have gone through the first five steps of the delegating process and it has been agreed what the desired outcomes of the task are and why it is important, it is really powerful to stop and ask the staff member if they are prepared to take responsibility for the task and the agreed outcomes. If they are, ask them what they need from you in the form of support, or resources or assistance to be able to achieve the outcomes, and make sure you give that to them if at all possible.

What matters is that the staff member takes ownership of the task. If you simply tell them that you want them to do this thing, there is a real risk that they will take it on with a certain amount of resistance or resentment. In that frame of mind it is unlikely that they will perform at optimum.

So after you have dealt with step 5, stop, and ask: “All right Sarah, you understand the need for this report, and you know what is required and by when? Are you happy for me to leave this with you from here? Great, and what do you need from me to make it possible for you to get it done?”

Once you start implementing this approach in all your delegating at work, you will be amazed what a difference it makes. A workplace where everyone is motivated by their addiction to their brain pleasures is a wonderful place to be. You might even get that game of Golf in on Friday morning before the board meeting!!!

Acknowledgement

This article is based on my own experiences and insights as well as on the following books amongst others:

  • “Quiet Leadership – Teach people how to think, don’t tell them what to do” by David Rock
  • “The one minute Manager” series by Ken
  • “Learned Optimism” Prof Martin Seligman