I read a great article in Leaders in Heels, online the other day (read it here) about the reasons for taking on a business coach.
The article got me thinking about my profession, about what I do and why working with me and people like me can make such an enormous difference to your business growth and development, and hence why I firmly believe that taking on a coach from time to time is one of the best decisions you’ll ever make in your business.
There is one reason above all others, that you should know about and noone tells you about. And that is this… it’s not the brilliance of the coach, rather it is the commitment you make that makes the difference.
The conventional factors
The article by Ros Cardinal mentions a number of important benefits from taking on a coach, such as:
Time management and prioritisation, clarity, brainstorming and accountability. and those are absolutely great benefits you’ll gain from having a coach (a good one anyway) and there a bunch of others, depending on the coach and the relationship you and your coach may have.
But the biggest one is rarely mentioned, because it actually is not dependent on the qualities, knowledge and experience of your coach… It is the commitment made by you, the client. Obviously coaches don’t like to mention this too much, because they want you to think they are brilliant and that their singular brilliance is going to make you rich and successful… I’m no different really, I am similarly convinced of my genius… but in the depth of the night, when noone is listening, I know it hasn’t got anywhere near as much to do with my talents as I like to make out.
To take on a business coach costs significant time, energy and money. To sign a contract or shake hands with a business coach is not a decision to be taken lightly. It takes a lot of faith and trust and actually not going to make your life easier in the short term. I say to my clients that taking me on as their coach: “Is full-on, it’s intense, it’s made grown men cry… but it works”
And one of the reasons it works is that it is a big commitment, and once you make the big commitment it means you become highly invested to make it work for you by hook or by crook.
Once you make the commitment and I am up to the job of “holding the space” and being there for you every step of the way, the change becomes relentless and unavoidable.
It’s the reason I actually make it quite hard to engage with me (which doesn’t help my business model of course but then the dentists kids have holes in their teeth… maybe I need a new business coach!)
Next time you talk to a business coach who wants to make it easy to sign you up… go and find someone else… I promise you.
More about the various forms of business support, guidance and advice that are available to small business owners here
I picked up a great book the other day, more or less by accident: The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. Never heard of the author or the book but the title grabbed me when I saw it lying around somewhere… Some of my most inspiring reads have come to me completely randomly… try it out, I highly recommend random reading, as well as this particular book.You can always tell how much I enjoy a book by the number of folded pages. The one has many)
But it’s been a struggle getting through it, not because the book is boring but because I seem to give myself less and less time and space to just read, and especially to read anything longer than a couple of paragraphs.
I’ve started to become so used to reading short bites all over the place that anything longer than a couple of hundred words makes me impatient.
The Guardian online
I’ve noticed this same phenomenon in all the reading I do. I subscribe to the Guardian online and it’s got lots of wonderful writing in it … and sometimes the articles are long… really long and I find myself reading articles I enjoy except that I start to skim read them… just because I am impatient.
People say, that it is the negative effect of the Internet, Facebook and Twitter that is causing this phenomenon. It is thought that our focus on bits of text that are short to very short (140 characters in the case of Twitter) means that we losing our ability to focus on one thing for any length of time. We don’t pick up books anymore to read like we used to, because we are reading Facebook and Twitter. I do think that that is true, but I don’t think it’s the shortness of the Facebook messages rather the avalanche of messages, and news and information and material of interest that come to us constantly in overwhelming volumes.
Every day, the Guardian Online has more words, more articles and more information in it than the big Saturday papers like the Melbourne Age of even 10 years ago. I’m sure of it. It would take a whole day of solid reading just to read the normal daily edition and then only the stuff you find interesting. But at the same time I also have access to the Melbourne Age (as well as the SMH) and the Washington Post and the Frankfurter Allgemaine and Aljazeera. And that’s just the newspapers. There’s also the posts and articles in various groups on linkedin, your twitter feed and an ever-growing stream of blogs and online publications (I produce one of those myself and you’re reading it right now of course)
The more I read, the less I know
The Internet, the smartphone and Facebook haven’t killed reading; quite the opposite, I read much more now than I have ever read in my life. But a lot of it is shallow reading. I do still read books, but often I get to page 50 and I notice myself starting to skim read. I just don’t have anywhere near as much patience to read deeply as I used to. I want to move on to the next thing… what else is going on… what else do I need to know now.
Because if I don’t move on, I’m missing out. I’m constantly alerted to interesting blogs and interesting developments. The gurus in my field all write blogs (Seth Godin writes one every day) If I don’t read those I am falling behind; so quick, quick; read the opening paragraphs… scroll down the bottom and go on to the next article.
Here’s the thing though, we can’t read everything and we can’t be perfectly informed and besides world news and world developments are becoming so depressing that you’d do yourself an injury trying to stay up-to-date with it all. The danger of reading more and more, and shallower and shallower is that our knowledge and understanding becomes shallower as well… I know less about more. There are more and more things I know a tiny little bit about. I noticed myself quoting some wisdom the other day that came from a post on Facebook. Did I actually know what was going on? Do I have any understanding of what is going on in the middle east beyond what I see on Facebook and in the headlines in the Guardian (no time to read the whole article of course)
So here is my resolution: I am going to become much more selective. I am looking to find a very select group of people around the world who, I think, have something really special to say. I want to find a small bunch of people who will challenge my thinking and stretch my boundaries and who have something truly interesting to say and I will follow them and read them.
So here is my question to you: give me a name, a recommendation… who do you read, all the time, who makes you think, or gives you food for thought (Good food… not McDonalds) … If there was only one person in the world you could read regularly…who would that be? Now don’t give me a whole list of people… I only want to end up with a short list of 5 to 10 people maximum.
(Currently my candidates are: Oliver Burkeman at the Guardian, Brene Brown from Texas and Graham Long from the Wayside Chapel in Sydney).
Besides my limited bunch of gurus, I’m going to make time again, dedicated time, for uninterrupted book reading. As it is, most of the books of the world are going to remain unread by me, and that’s sad enough. Reading books whether online, in audio format or in actual honest to goodness book form, is and will always be the most effective and enjoyable way to really deepen your insight into a certain topic… Truly.
So I started my resolution this morning I got up at 6, lit a couple of candles, made myself a cup of tea and picked up the happiness project, a good solid two hours of it and I kept my phone at the other end of the room… It was great
So, please, send me your favourite guru or columnist or blogger, someone I absolutely must no longer live without.
For most small business owners, the crises never end. You have, staff, suppliers, and clients, inspectors, assessors, OH&S, landlords, councils, work-cover, insurance claims, license renewals, compulsory professional development points, tax, the bank, paperwork, marketing, IT, sales, quality assurance and the list goes on. You run around from brushfire to brushfire all day, and no one seems to be able to do anything without you. As a result, you just don’t get around to doing the stuff you would actually like to do. And to top it off, your health suffers, your family barely see you and even when you do take a holiday, you are always on the phone, just so the business will still be there when you get back. Most business owners feel overwhelmed and stressed and unsure where to focus their attention next.
Nobody “gets” it
Try and explain your life to someone who doesn’t run their own business and the chances are their eyes will glaze over before you’ve even finished the first sentence.
Nobody else “gets” it… You may be surrounded by well-meaning partners and friends, but they rarely understand what it is like to be in charge every day, wearing all the hats of marketing, sales, finance, customer satisfaction, quality control, tax, work cover, staff wellbeing, systems and innovation etc etc. etc The buck always stops with you and nobody else.
The feeling of being alone adds to the consistent feelings of overwhelm and stress and can cost the business owner dearly on a personal level, and on a business level from bad decision making and stifled business development.
Yet most business owners just “soldier on” regardless, because they don’t know what else to do and they often feel trapped.
Is any of this starting to feel familiar?
So what can you do to get out of this trap and start to build a Fun Business that sustains you for years to come?
As a business coach who specialises in working with people in trade businesses, I often ask my clients what they believe is the most valuable resources of their business.
The most frequent answers are:
In actual fact though, nothing will ever be as valuable to your business as your time and your health. Everything else in your business you can hire, buy or borrow more off, but your time and your health are the only truly limited resources that your business can not live without.
Time to look after you?
So take a deep breath and ask yourself: Is it time to treat those two key resources with the respect they deserve? Time to start to look after yourself and acknowledge that you just can’t do it all on your own?
The good news is this: There are other people out there who ‘Get it’ – honestly – they are called fellow business owners and getting involved with fellow business owners may be one of the most effective things you can do to lower your stress – and build your business.
One of the most effective ways to build a business that sustain you for years to come is to take the time to get involved with local business communities.
The benefits of doing this are well documented and include:
Support and feedback from others who do get it!
Shared Knowledge and access to experts.
Building relationships and alliances for future business development.
Support when you are struggling.
Assistance from those who have probably ‘been there and done that’ before.
Jamie gets involved
A client of mine, Jamie, has a small plumbing business based in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney. A few years ago Jamie’s life looked just like I described above, he wasn’t sleeping and was stressed and worn out.
One day a mate of Jamie’s with an electrical business invited Jamie to come along to a weekly business breakfast group. Although Jamie had never been much of a networker he decided to attend.
The meeting was a revelation for Jamie, because there, at the breakfast table, were 35 small business owners who were all ‘in the same boat’ and they met every week to support each other in the development of their businesses.
To cut a long story short, Jamie joined the group, and has attended the business breakfast every week for the last three years. The change in Jamie’s outlook on life and business has been amazing. He said to me: “I can see the light at the end of the tunnel again and for once, it’s not a train”.
Besides attending the breakfast meeting each week, Jamie also regularly meets with his fellow members one-on-one. He’s often asked for advice and for once, people’s eyes don’t glaze over when he talks about a pressing issue. On the contrary, they roll up their sleeves and want to know more.
One of the objectives of the group is also to refer business to each other, and by the end of year three of his membership, Jamie’s business has grown by 50%, largely as a result of joining the group.
The best news is that Jamie doesn’t feel so isolated anymore, he is even sleeping again and his family get to see him again as well.
Here are some options for getting involved:
Join your local professional body’s barbeques, trainings and other gatherings.
Join your local or State Chamber of Commerce and get involved.
Join a business referral group, such as BNI (BNI.com.au) and get involved
Join an advisory board program.
Surrounding yourself with like-minded people will reduce your stress levels and be one of the best business decisions you ever make… I promise you.
Jamie will be involved with his community for years to come… What will you get involved with?
Verne believes quarterly strategy meetings with your staff are not enough. You need to have a monthly, weekly and even daily schedule of meetings to ensure that the strategies and deliverables from the less frequent planning meetings are actually carried out.
I know that many management gurus would baulk at that statement, because the amount of money and time wasted in business in meetings is staggering.
But Verne is right. Strategies and plans without regular, formal and structured follow up meetings, never lead to the outcomes you’d hoped.
Do learn how to make your meetings super-efficient though (For example, I know of a company where all meetings are held standing up, so that the meetings don’t take a minute longer than absolutely necessary).
How to drive your business forward with an Advisory Board
By Roland Hanekroot, May 2013
Life as a business owner often consists of running from client emergency to cash flow crisis, extinguishing a “shoddy work” brushfire on the way, while juggling a supplier disaster and ending the day with a staff meltdown – only to do it all again the next day.
Most business owners feel overwhelmed, in information overload and at a loss of where to focus their attention next. Because as a business owner, there are very few people you can talk to about the challenges and opportunities you have from day to day and week to week.
Rarely do you get a pat on the back; rarely do you get encouraged to pull a little harder. Rarely do you get challenged about where your focus is and how you spend your time. And rarely do you get high-quality independent advice and input. It is all down to you.
How do Successful CEOs do it all?
Successful CEOs of big companies seem to manage to focus their attention on four aspects of business only, namely:
Strategy – Where to drive the business
Brand – How the business is perceived in the market
Performance – Making sure the business runs at maximum profitability, long- and short-term
People – Developing individuals and teams, for now and the future
The Lonely Road of the Business Owner
How good would that be? You’d like some of that, too, of course… right after you deal with this irate client…
What life is actually like for you in your business, is that you spend most of your time worrying about:
Making the right decisions
Focusing on the right things
How you compare against your competitors
If you are following the right strategy (or any strategy at all)
Having stretch-goals and if you are pulling hard enough
If you are micro managing your people or the opposite
If you have the business model right
If you spend enough time developing your people
If you spend enough time with your family
How would it be to…?
Instead of all of that, how much better would it be:
To feel confident that you were focused on the stuff that matters?
To feel excited about the direction you are steering the business?
To know that your team is all pulling in that same direction?
To make decisions confidently, knowing that they were the right ones?
To have powerful goals and strategies in place, and to feel yourself and your business making steps every day that get you closer and closer to those goals?
>> How large, do you think, would the impact of that on your business (and you and your personal life) be?
>> How big a difference would this make to the growth and bottom line of your business, do you think?
>> Pause for a moment – and imagine being in that blissful state every day, and picture what business and life will look like for you then. Nice, right?
So, how do they do it?
Successful CEOs in big corporations seem to be able to do it somehow, and they generally have many more crises to deal with on a daily basis than you do.
How do they manage to keep their focus, cut through the crap, and know what to delegate and what to hold on to?
This is how they do it:
CEOs have a board to support them; with executive as well as non-executive directors with lots of experience and knowledge.
Their shareholders, through the board of directors, hold them accountable to focusing on the right things all the time.
CEOs have one or more mentors, whom they rely on to brainstorm with and use as sounding boards.
They have executive coaches to help them stay focused on doing “the right things right” and they work with once a month or fortnight.
How can you get this support?
As a lonely business owner, this is what you can do to become one of those successful CEOs:
Get a Partner. Go into partnership with someone who injects new energy and brings with them specific skills, knowledge and resources that you don’t have. Sometimes a great way to create a partnership can be to talk to one of your competitors and suggest a merger of the two businesses. The whole may turn out to be greater than the sum of its parts.
Find one (or more) Mentors in your Industry. Often there are retired business owners and entrepreneurs in your industry who would love to mentor someone and who have “been there, done that”. Contact your professional association as a starting point, your local business chambers, or AIM, the Australian Institute of Management.
Get a Business Coach (a good one). There are lots of business coaches around these days. Good ones and bad ones. They have different methodologies, approaches and experience. Get referrals from friends, interview a number of coaches and even try out a couple of different ones – until you find the one with just the right mix of experience and everything else you want and need.
Put together a Voluntary Advisory Board. Again, often there are people who are retired or otherwise can afford to “give back” and enjoy doing so. Keep this to three to five people maximum. Sometimes you might offer people like that a minor remuneration.
Engage a paid Board of Advisers. This board could be made up of your accountant (as long as they can and will function as a financial management adviser rather than a tax accountant only), your favourite commercial lawyer, and an uncle or friend who is a business owner in a non-competing business.
What are the Benefits of engaging this Type of Support?
There is no substitute for external, independent input, advice and insight – and, possibly even more important, is to have external accountability.
A good coach, a mentor or an advisory board will pull you back every time you stray and get distracted from the path. Each of them will help you to focus on the stuff that really matters for the long-term success of the business.
With this support, you will start to:
Make better decisions
Focus on the stuff that matters
Learn to delegate more effectively
Fine tune your business model
Engage your staff more effectively
Have happier customers
Make more money
Enjoy yourself a lot more in your business
Good business coaches and well-structured advisory boards will help you develop strategies and business plans, and set short-, medium- and long-term goals with you. They will support you, work with you and keep you accountable to achieving those goals. Week by week, month by month.
Your Uncle on Your Board?
The five options above are excellent options, though they may not be appropriate for you right now, because:
Partnerships can also be fraught with danger
Working individually with a business coach can be demanding time-wise and associated costs can also be prohibitive
Finding an appropriate mentor or voluntary advisory board may be challenging
Relying on volunteers, either individually or on as a board, is sometimes problematic, because volunteers can’t or won’t always commit to give you as much attention and time as you’d like (or they would if they were paid)
Engaging a paid board can become a very expensive exercise
You have heaps of respect for your uncle, but putting him on your Board is an entirely different matter again!
One more Option for You
There is also sixth option you can explore.
A number of organisations run ‘CEO Clubs’ or ‘Virtual Boards’.
The essence of a CEO Club is that a small group of fellow business owners, who are at a similar stage of business development, get together with a professional facilitator/ business coach on a regular basis (monthly, for example). They then function as a board of advisers for each other’s businesses.
Each of the different organisations that run CEO Clubs have given them their own flavour, structure, format and frequency.
A well run CEO Club incorporate the best of all worlds. Members of a club get the benefits of an experienced business coach paired with a group of fellow business owners: peers who are supporting you and hold you accountable to your business goals. All at a fraction of the cost of some of the other options CEOs of large organisations can fall back on.
A simple Google search will lead you to a number of different CEO Clubs in your area.
Introducing the Business Growth Clubs
My own business-coaching clients asked me to create such a CEO Club-style group program a little while ago. As a result, I now regularly run two such clubs in Sydney, called “The Business Growth Clubs”.
These clubs have become a great support and success with all members agreeing that they are getting fantastic results and value from their participation.
I therefore have started to run regular, free information and introductory sessions for business owners who would like to explore whether being part of a Business Growth Club could be beneficial to them. Just follow the links below to find out where and when the next free information session will take place.
Roland Hanekroot is a business coach based in Sydney, and the founder of New Perspectives.Roland focuses on helping his clients grow their business, make more money, find more time and, above all, have more fun in their business.Roland is the author of the “Ten Truths for Business Owners” series of business books (see http://thetentruths.com.au).