The 5 Things to Master in your Small Business in 2017

2017 new year

New Year’s advice from your business coach

5 P’s for your Small Business

As your favourite small business coach, I am supposed to tell you how to start the new year off with a bang. We’re already a few weeks into 2017, but in Australia the year never starts properly until after the Australia Day weekend of 26 January (also known as the Invasion Day weekend,) so I have a bit more time to give you my top 5 things to do in your business in 2017.

It’s not that there is anything particularly special about 2017, but the start of any year is a good place to set some powerful intentions.

These are the five intentions you should set for yourself at the start of 2017:

  • Purpose
  • Planning
  • Your fingers on the pulse
  • Systems, systems, systems
  • Social media

If you nail those 5 in 2017, you’ll truly start to build a Business that is Fun and that sustains you for years to come.

Here’s the low down on each one of the five:


The most important question any entrepreneur must be able to answer in his business is this one:

Why does your business exist, what’s it on this earth for, and why would anybody else care about that?

Small Business Coach Entrepreneur Obvious? Maybe, but let me tell you: the answer to that question will have nothing to do with money. (Money is never the Point, it’s a by-product at best). Neither will the answer be a variant on “We deliver a Great product with Great customer service for a Great price” (because everyone else does that too), and nor is the answer: “Because I need to pay the mortgage” (Your customers do not care about your need to pay the mortgage, they really don’t, sadly)

Nobody, but you can tell you what the answer is, but once you answer it in one short powerful statement, in a way that sends a shiver down your spine, 2017 will be a great year.


No human endeavour has ever amounted to anything without a plan. At the same time however it can be said that all plans are out of date the moment they’re created. Planning is guessing, but that doesn’t mean we might as well stop planning. On the contrary, the secret is to always be planning. Planning is a verb that must continuously be carried out. Plan every week, every month and every year. Ideally on one page, no more.

If you are focused on planning with regularly, I guarantee you that 2017 will be the most exciting year you’ve experienced in your small business.

Finger on the Pulse:

Small Business Coach Entrepreneur In 2017, make it your focus to start to measure the important functions of your business. What gets measured, gets managed is the old saying and that wisdom holds true as much in 2017 as it did a hundred years ago. Think about the 10 or 15 key indicators of the health of your business and how you might get a weekly and monthly single measurement of those to look at. Obviously, a few of those numbers will come directly out of your bookkeeping program, such as your bank balance and gross and net profit and your revenue figures. But there are a bunch of other numbers that will give you powerful insight into how your business is going, as well.

Keeping your fingers on the pulse of the key indicators of the health of your business, I call it. If you want your business to start humming in 2017, focus on learning to measure the key numbers.

One tip though: You as the entrepreneur should not be involved in obtaining these numbers yourself. You should delegate getting the numbers to others and ensure that those key numbers land on your desk every Friday afternoon for the week just past. Delegating the reporting on the numbers to others in your business is a really important part of the process.

Systems, systems, systems:

I suppose it goes without saying, but systemisation is the secret of any entrepreneur. It’s all about predictability. I’m not suggesting that every small business must go through a process of McDonaldisation, far from it, but we shouldn’t ignore the lessons from McDonalds either. When you send one of your plumbers out to do a job, you want to feel confident that he’ll do the job smoothly, safely and profitably and that he leaves a satisfied customer behind. And when someone in your business answers the phone, you don’t want to have to hold your breath hoping they’ll not annoy the person on the other end of the line because of bad phone manners.

Systemisation is about the opposite of “Managing by keeping your fingers crossed”. Systemisation can be about small things such as answering the telephone with a simple little script as well as big things like a complete safety management systems. Only you can decide the balance between the cost of developing and implementing a system and the cost of not having one. Some things will always have to come down to common sense, but not all of them.

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

Social Media:

Facebook is here to stay

Small Business Coach EntrepreneurSo is Twitter and Instagram and Pinterest and YouTube and Yelp and TripAdvisor and LinkedIn and Google and a whole bunch of others that haven’t even really been though about yet. They will become more and more important and you simply must get on board with them if you still want to have a business a few years from now. People ask their Facebook friends for recommendations to plumbers, restaurants, holiday accommodation and accountants and then they expect to click straight to a Facebook page of that business and see reviews and opening hours and star ratings.

You may still be getting the bulk of your business outside of social media, but if you are, I bet it’s already getting harder and in 5 years I guarantee you’ll be left behind eking out a living in the margin.

20 years ago you effectively couldn’t run a business without an ad in the Yellow pages… These days the same goes for social media, whether you like it or not.

Don’t resist it any longer, make it a priority to really learn how to maximise your opportunities in social media and you’ll have great years from 2017 onwards… I promise you.

#FunInBusiness #Coaching #Entrepreneur #SmallBiz #Goalsetting #TopFiveThingsNewYear #NewYearsResolution


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How to transform an ordinary conversation into an extraordinary one

Conversations Listening Business Coach

Beautiful things can happen in the meeting space between two people

Conversations Listening Business Coach

Powerful conversations lead to unexpected outcomes

I talk a lot… I get paid for it actually… Specifically, I have conversations… Powerful conversations with my business coaching clients, so I do as much listening, as I do talking.

You may have heard it said that we have two ears and one mouth and that we ought to use them in that ratio.

Obviously, the math’s doesn’t really add up. Unless your conversations involve three people, it’ll lead to a lot of awkward silences (sorry that’s a dad-joke). But the point is valid. Most of us listen for the opportunity to speak next. I sat in a large gathering once and the facilitator announced that there would be no questions, because, she said, the moment we put up our hands to ask questions, we stop listening.

I think our conversations are like that a lot of the time. We look for an opportunity to put our own two-bob’s-worth in and while on the lookout for that, we cease to listen to the other half of the conversation.

Listening Between The Lines

One of the greatest skills we can all learn is listening, deep listening. Listening between the lines as someone once said to me. What is person who is talking really saying; What are they feeling; What is underneath the words they use; What are they looking for from the conversation; How can we take the conversation up a notch?

Not long ago I sat down with a client to do one of my trial business coaching sessions. Both the client and I had more or less decided that at the end of the trial session she would sign a coaching agreement with me and that we would be working together for the next year. At the start of the session, I reminded the client and myself that it was important to be open to whatever the outcome of the conversation might be, no attachments, no agendas. We spent an hour and a half digging and exploring and opening up every box we found and examining the contents. Slowly but surely it became evident for both of us, that engaging in a coaching agreement with me was not what the client needed at this point in her business. A bunch of other things needed to be seen to first.

The Conclusion Comes From The Middle

The conversation was incredibly powerful, we both lost track of time and it felt we reached entirely the right outcome for her. We both felt the conclusion was unavoidable, it simply presented itself in the space between us. Although it was an outcome that was contrary to the interest of my business, I felt right and the client was energised and grateful.

Conversations Listening Business Coach A hero of mine, Graham Long, minister of the Wayside Chapel in Sydney, often tells me that the greatest thing we can do for our fellow human beings is to “meet” them. He refers to a meeting than can sometimes be allowed to occur in the space between two people. Graham says that this is the only space where the holy fire burns. I’m not particularly religious, so I find it difficult to think in terms of holiness, but I do know that the outcome of the conversation with the client above came neither from my brain nor that of the client, it came out of space between us.

The client and I were committed to let the conversation go wherever it wanted to go, neither of us had an agenda other than to have the most powerful conversation we could have, and amazing things happened.

It has taken me many years to learn not to be attached to the outcome of a conversation. As a matter of fact, it continues to be one of the greatest challenges of my life. Whenever I go into any conversation the temptation immediately rises in me to give advice, to help, to fix things, to tell people what I think, how to do life differently, and impress them with my wisdom, experience or cleverness. But every time I give in to those temptations, the conversation goes nowhere.

The Siren Voice of the Smart-arse

Conversations Listening Business Coach From time to time I do catch the siren voice of being the smartarse who’ll fix things. When I do, as I did in the recent trial session with the client, beautiful things happen.

I remember I first started learning about the value of simply being with people when I was a volunteer crisis counsellor for Lifeline in Sydney. Every now and then I experienced that “meeting” that Graham Long told me about later. True “Meeting” would normally only come about at 3 am on the midnight shift, when I could barely keep my eyes open. In those moments, I think I simply forgot to be clever and “useful” and was just there for the caller.

There was a call once that went for nearly 2 hrs, just me and the voice of the caller in the middle of a Sunday night. I don’t know what happened for the caller afterwards, Lifeline calls are anonymous, but for me the call was life changing. We “met” as Graham describes it and something truly special happened for both of us, I have no doubt.

The conversation with the client a few weeks ago, wasn’t life changing in the same way, but it left me glowing deep inside and I know the client felt the same way.

The best conversations in life are that way. We remember them forever, if not for the detail of the conversation, but for the feeling it created between us.

I wish I could force those “meetings” to happen, but I can’t and nobody can, that’s the point of them. The harder we try the less successful we are. In the early days of my coaching journey I used to have a reminder hanging on the wall in front of me that said:

The harder I try to be useful, the less useful I am.

The only way to make true “meetings” happen is to be open to allow them to happen, and that requires us to have no attachment to the outcome of the meeting, to practice deep listening, listening between the lines, and to be in the conversation, nowhere else.

Easier said than done, but I’m learning


Ever so slowly…

More about the various forms of business support, guidance and advice that are available to small business owners here

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A rose by any other name… Is Your Business Coach Really A Consultant?

Business Coach Australia

The difference between business coaching, life coaching, mentoring, consulting and training

Business Coach Australia

As always, in the end it’s about people

I’m often asked about the difference between business coaching, life coaching, business consulting, business mentoring, business advising and business training. I tend to confuse people with my answer. So let me see if I can make more sense of it all for you here.

First of all you need to understand that there are actually no accepted definitions of the terms coaching and mentoring. Many people call themselves coaches who would have called themselves consultants, advisers or counselors prior to 2005 when coaching became a very trendy idea.

I myself trained in various coaching and counselling disciplines and was a member of one of the private coaching bodies called the ICF, the International Coaches Federation. It was and is one of the most serious bodies trying to regulate the coaching world, but I would hazard a guess that not even 10% of professionals that refer to themselves as coaches are members of the ICF or any of the other professional coaching bodies.

Business coaching is even less defined as a specific profession and most business coaching companies have simply created a set of programs that they believe will help their clients get ahead in business. They use the “business coach” label because it seems like the best descriptor. I refer to myself as a business – life coach and to be honest I’ve never come across another business – life coach and so, what I do is anybody’s guess 🙂 (But my clients all tell me it works incredibly well, so I’ll just keep doing it).

More about the various forms of business support, guidance and advice that are available to small business owners here

Coaching is one of the tools

To be fair, that’s not all that different for me either. I gave up my ICF membership more than 5 years ago, because I concluded that I don’t ascribe to the coaching model that the ICF tries to regulate anymore. Coaching, in the ICF certified way, is just one of the many tools I use to support my clients.

I refer to myself as a business coach and mentor. But to be more accurate, I should really call myself a business coach, mentor, adviser, hand-holder, sounding board and backside kicker. At different times, I step into all those roles. Besides, the way I work with my clients is entirely different to how most other business coaches work with their clients. Many of the business coaches are part of larger organisations such as ActionCoach or Shirlaws, or Fish Coaching. Those organisations have specific business development programs that the coach or consultant helps the business implement. The programs might include training and workshops and group coaching and are based on specific philosophies of business. They are the same for all clients.

It’s all about the relationship

Business Coach Australia Over the past 12 years, doing what I do with my clients, I’ve seen that an engagement with a coach, mentor or adviser is only as good as the relationship that develops between the coach and the client. When I realised that it wasn’t whether I applied a certain coaching technique or followed a certain program that changed my client’s business and life, but that it was all about my relationship with the client, I gave up my ICF membership and decided to totally customise my approach for every client.

So last week I might have been a counselor and offered nothing but deep empathy for the client’s challenges, this week I might tell the same client to pull his finger out and get his overdue admin up to date and next week I might help him understand the vagaries of the balance sheet or start writing a social media marketing plan with him.

These days, when someone asks me what the difference is between coaching and mentoring, consulting and training, I tell him that it’s the wrong question to ask. The only question to ask is: Do I think I can Do Great Work in my business with the support of this person.

Nothing else matters… I promise you.

More about the various forms of business support, guidance and advice that are available to small business owners here

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Time Management, Procrastination and Laziness

Procrastination, Business Coach

Procrastinating My Life Away

Procrastination, Business Coach

The nonsense in my head and what I do about it

Today, I’m writing about procrastination, laziness and time management. Well, I say “today”, but that’s a relative concept, isn’t it. “Today” was meant to be last Monday, it’s now Thursday. And in unrelated news, my desk is as tidy as it’s been for weeks, my email inbox is empty and I just pulled a magic looking sourdough from the oven an hour ago.

Your business coach wonders: “Am I really the right person to write about procrastination? It’s clearly not one of my strength areas.”

Procrastination, time management and laziness… Tricky topic. On the one hand I’ve written before (here for example), that laziness doesn’t actually exist as a character trait. On the other hand however, some people just seem to get so much done and they’re disciplined and they get their heads down and don’t come up for air until the job is done and then they jump straight into the next thing and get that done too. I even know people who are so disciplined, they consistently don’t look at Facebook until after dinner and every day turn their email off for large blocks of time. Those people are on the Marvel Super Heroes Team in my book: Doctor Discipline or somesuch…

Time to get some nibbles

Procrastination, Business Coach Hang on, I’m about 200 words into this article… Time to jump up and get some nibbles from the kitchen.

Hi there, I’m back, 2 hrs later, but still.

You see in this case, part of the problem I’m having is that even as a business coach, I’m not sure yet exactly what I’m going to write. I’m searching for inspiration. I’m waiting for the Muse to strike me. One of my heroes, Oliver Burkeman from the Guardian, however, says in this interview  that waiting for the Muse is futile. Just do the thing, sit down and write, and see what happens, says Oliver.

It’s a technique I’ve used, with some success, in the past… But today… Not so much.

Procrastination and perfectionism

Procrastination makes me feel inadequate. There are some fascinating thoughts on procrastination, in this article by Costica Bradatan in the New York Times. According to Costica, procrastination is all about perfectionism. Our Vision is more perfect than the reality can ever be. We fear that the thing we want to create, build or write is going to be a disappointment compared to our vision of it and so we resist creating it. I can sort of understand that, but I don’t think I am a perfectionist. “Close Enough is Good Enough” has generally been my motto in life and consequently I “Get Shit Done”… Not as well done as some others might Get Their Shit Done maybe, but Done nevertheless. I pride myself on my ability to make things happen.

But some things don’t get done that way. The difficult stuff is always the stuff you can’t get done by rolling up your sleeves. The stuff we procrastinate over is the stuff that requires us to be courageous, the stuff that requires us to expose some of our weaknesses and vulnerabilities.

Young Grasshopper gets a kick up the backside

Procrastination, Business Coach So what’s difficult for me about writing this article and why I think I’ve been procrastinating over it for such a long time, is that I don’t feel qualified to talk about procrastination, because I do so much of it myself. Me writing about procrastination, inefficiency and wasting time is like a junkie writing about heroin addiction.

But hang on… Stop right there young grasshopper. By that logic we should not be allowed to talk about anything we haven’t gained a PHD in. Nonsense, clearly. Maybe being a procrastinator is precisely what qualifies me to write about it. Let’s face it, who wants to get weight loss advice from a supermodel? I’d much rather listen to someone who’s struggled with weight loss as much as I do, and who may have found something that’s helped him. One of the things that makes AA so effective is being with a group of people who “get it”.

So let’s start this whole thing again:

At the AA meeting

Hi my name is Roland and I am a procrastinator…

Here’s what has helped me sometimes, and sometimes not (and then at least I end up with a clean desk)

I’ve learnt is that procrastination is always, a sign for me that there is something else, something unexamined, in the way.

It’s either:

  1. I don’t know what the actual thing is I’m supposed to be doing
  2. I’m not sure how to actually go about doing this thing
  3. The prospect of doing this thing doesn’t excite me
  4. The consequences of not doing this thing at this moment are not all that bad.
  5. I don’t have enough confidence in my own abilities, or skill or experience.

(In the case of the procrastination I went through over writing this article it came down to numbers 1 and 5.)

Knowing that that’s how it works for me, I’ve learned that I first need to become aware that I am procrastinating, because sometimes I am avoiding the thing so much I don’t even realise I am procrastinating. And then, once I’ve realised I am procrastinating, ask myself which of those 5 hurdles is getting in my way. In nearly all cases, once I clearly verbalise what is getting in the way of doing the thing I’m supposed to be doing, it disappears. The moment I verbalised my fear of not being credible, because I am procrastinator myself, I realised how silly that fear actually was, the hurdle disappeared, and I could sit down and finish the article into the form you are reading now.

Most procrastination hurdles we throw up for ourselves fade when brought out into the light… I promise you

#TimeManagement #Procrastination #FunInBusiness

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