The Ten Truths: Why does Fun in Business Matter?

fun dashboard

The Ten Truths for making business Fun

The Ten Truths for Making Business Fun

And building a business that sustains you for years to come:

This is the first article in a monthly series on Making Business Fun.

The articles are based on my book, The Ten Truths for Making Business Fun, published in 2011. You can access all of my books and many other resources for free here

When Business is Fun, Everything is Working

Fun as a business management tool.

what has fun got to do with it The reality is that most small business owners operate in a constant state of overwhelm and stress. We feel that, at some level, our skills don’t cut the mustard, and we often have no idea where to focus our (very) limited time when faced with seemingly endless priorities.

Sound familiar? This is why “Fun in Business” matters. If your business is fun, you won’t be overwhelmed. If your business is fun, everything is working: you’ve got time to do the things you enjoy, your staff are happy, you’re making money. Need I say more to entice?

Let me show you why Fun is an incredibly powerful business management tool that helps you build a business that lasts, sustainably.

Fun Is the Way Out of Overwhelm

Fun may seem like a very strange and whimsical concept to focus on when we’re talking about growing a business. After all, isn’t fun reserved for time spent socialising at the pub or lazing about on tropical islands? Events that happen outside of business hours. Experiences that are paid for by your business, but otherwise entirely unrelated.

Perhaps not. In fact, I believe that Fun in Business is actually a hard-nosed business management principle. It is that deep sense of reward and satisfaction you get to feel as a result of building a business that hums along like a well-oiled machine.

Anyone else tired of focusing on all the serious stuff? The things that get drummed into us by patronising business management books and gurus? IT systems, contracts, staff management, sales and cashflow are all very important things, of course, but – in my humble opinion – they’re not where we must start.

We must start with fun. Why? Because if your business is fun, it means you

  • are making money
  • have enough time to do what you need to do
  • are proud of the stuff your business makes or delivers
  • know exactly where you’re going and why
  • have happy customers
  • have engaged staff
  • have balance in your life.

In the beginning, when we are first getting started in our business, there is usually a high level of that kind of fun around. Everything is new, exciting, adventurous and challenging. However, after a while, the real world comes rudely a-knocking and we suddenly find that

  • we aren’t making as much money as we thought we were going to
  • we haven’t been able to take our daughter to soccer training
  • our clients haven’t all become our greatest fans
  • our staff aren’t the perfectly aligned human beings that we expect them to be.

When this realisation sets in, we start to feel like we have become a slave to the business. We get worried that the light at the end of the tunnel may not be sunshine.

We try telling ourselves that “Rome wasn’t built in a day” and we “have to take the rough with the smooth” because, like Churchill said, “Never, ever give up!”. We push harder and longer, holding onto the hope that good times will surely follow.

This is Business Hell, and it’s where most of us spend our time: Chasing our tails. Managing crises. Operating as a “Jack of all trades, master of none”. Living in a constant state of overwhelm.

After 30+ years in business (and working with lots and lots of business owners), I have come to believe that the only way out of this overwhelm is to ensure that business itself is fun. Deep and meaningful fun.

Competing Priorities

One of the greatest challenges for businesses, especially small ones, is that there are so many priorities competing for your attention on a daily basis. It feels almost impossible to decide where to focus next.

Many business owners also lack confidence in their aptitude for certain business development tasks. After all, you started this endeavour on the back of your skills as a carpenter, accountant or architect; not your background in sales, marketing, staff management, etc. Nobody taught you how to write an operations manual or create a cashflow forecasting spreadsheet, did they?

The result? Most of us revert back to “picking up the hammer” (because that is the one skill we know like the back of our hand), managing crises and being reactive to whatever is thrown at us. Like I said, Business Hell.

A New Tool for Your Toolkit

fun-o-metre The concept of Fun in Business is an incredibly powerful tool, designed to keep you out of reactive crisis management mode so that you can focus on what is most important for today, tomorrow, next week, next month, next year and beyond.

Here’s how to use it in practice.

Think of a scale from 0 to 10. Let’s call it the Fun in Business scale.

10 on the scale? This past week in business has been so much fun that you can’t wait to get up and go to work. You’ve gone home every day with a big smile on your face. You’ve achieved great things. You had a wonderful time with your co-workers. Everything at work (or in business) has been just brilliant.

0 on the scale? Entirely the opposite. Your week at work has been simply awful on every single level. Pass the vino now.

Now ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What number on the Fun in Business scale would you give your last week at work (or in business)? Let’s say 4.6.
  2. Thinking ahead, what number on the scale would you like next week to be? Perhaps a 5.
  3. What one, two or three actions can you (or we, as a team) take to progress from 6 to 5 on the Fun in Business scale, next week?

These questions, asked consistently, will cut through all of the crises and competing priorities, leaving you relentlessly focused on the next most important thing that must be done in your business.

These questions, answered individually or within a team (anonymously and with the results averaged), will set you up for having hugely productive conversations about how to make tomorrow just a little more fun than yesterday.

I promise, when you commit to building a Fun Business by regularly asking yourself these pivotal questions, you will have taken the first step to building a business that sustains you for years to come.

Remember, a business that isn’t fun won’t be around for long!

Your Homework (The Fun Kind)

Now, I’ve got a hunch that you’re a hands-on kinda person, so here are some actions for you to take that will help make your business more fun. Answer the following questions and start thinking about how you can make intentional changes. The results will be more illuminating than you might think!

  1. Make a list of the 20 most fun experiences or most exciting times you’ve had in your business.
  2. Write down the 3 things you like most about your business.
  3. Write down the 3 things you like least about your business.

More on this topic:

The Ten Priorities; Priority #3: Having Fun

ten priorities fun in business

What is the only measurement that matters in business?

This is the third post in the series of The Ten Priorities: Laying the Foundations for a Great Business and Life. The third Priority is about Having Fun. The introduction to this series on The Ten Priorities is here.

If you could only measure one thing to know how successful your business was at any one moment in time, what would you want to measure?

Most business owners will mention profit. And profit matters a lot of course, if you’re not making profit you’re operating a hobby, not a business, simple as that. But there is something even more important than profit in your business, and that’s Fun.

Fun is all that matters in business

Fun is all that matters in business

You see if Business is Fun, it means everything is working. (read more about Fun in Business here)

  • It means you’re making money
  • It means your customers love you
  • It means your staff are highly engaged
  • It means you’re proud of the products or services your business provides
  • It means you have created the kind of balance in work and live that is important for you
  • And it means you’re engaged in something meaningful, bigger than you.

By focusing solely on money as the indicator of success in business, you are doing yourself and everyone else who is touched by the business a disservice.

Obviously, measuring Fun in Business is not as simple as looking at your bank balance and you have to get creative about how you go about measuring it, but it’s quite doable and it will change the way you think about building a Great Business and Life… 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

Next week Priority #4: Saying No

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

BQ Overwhelmed and Stuck, take control of my Business

How can I be less overwhelmed and

feel happier in my business every day?

overwhelmed stuck fun in business

The secrets to getting Un-Stuck, take control and to make Business Fun again

Many small business owners feel frustrated, stuck and overwhelmed in business on a daily basis. They operate in crisis management mode, running around from this urgent problem to that emergency all day long, extinguishing brush fires along the way.

In the first years of business, you accept that all this running around and stress is par for the course, but a few years on, nothing much has changed, you’re still running around fixing everybody else’s problems and the stuff you really want to work on, for the long term development of your business, just keeps getting pushed back and back forever.

Fun in business Overwhelm and Stuck in business

Do you feel stuck as well?

Most business owners have experienced that sense of frustration and the secret to building a Beautiful Business and Life, is to find your way around this state of overwhelm and take control of your business. The first step to getting unstuck in business is to start thinking differently about your business than you have until now.

I’ve written a series of articles called “The 10 Priorities for building a Great Business that Stands the Test of Time” as a guide in the process of getting unstuck. There is a page with videos and other resources dedicated to mental health and personal wellbeing for business owners here

On this page I want to specifically go into more detail about Priority #3: Having Fun

Did you know that all that matters in business is Fun?

Fun is the opposite of Overwhelm and being Stuck. When you’re having Fun, you’re not Overwhelmed and when you’re in Overwhelm, you’re not in control and you’re having Fun. The two are mutually exclusive.

And when your business is Fun, it means everything is working:

  • It means you’re making money
  • It means your staff are engaged and doing great work
  • It means your customers love you
  • It means you’re proud of the product or service you deliver
  • It means you’ve created a level of balance in your life that works towards your wellbeing.

So Fun in Business ought to be a key focus to help you move from crisis management and overwhelm to taking control and building your own  Beautiful Business  and Life.

Overwhelmed and stuck in business I’ve also written a book about Fun in Business, The Ten Truths for Making Business Fun. You can download it for free as Ebook or Audiobook here.

Fun is serious business

It may seem strange to make Fun the key focus in the development of your business. We’re generally told that the function of business, the purpose of business, is to make money. Hence we should make “maximising shareholder value”, making profit and generating cash in other words, our key focus. But in many years in and around business, I’ve come to believe that to really build Great Businesses that Stand the Test of Time, we need to think differently about business than we’ve been taught for the past 200 years.

Click here to download my Free Guide to finding the perfect coach or mentor for you.

Conscious Capitalism and the Purpose of business

I like to quote John Mackey, the founder and CEO of Wholefoods markets in the USA. The company was recently bought by Amazon for US$14 Billion. Wholefoods made profit and paid dividends to its shareholders every year for its entire existence. In other words, John Mackey has established credentials where it concerns making money in business. Yet John Mackey wrote a book called “Conscious Capitalism” (more about the book here, as well as here), and in it he says this:

“Thinking that the Purpose of business is to make money, is as silly as thinking that the purpose of human beings is to eat food. We need to eat food, eating food makes us feel good, but we eat food so that we can do what we need to do on this earth. It is the same with business and profit. Business needs to make profit, and plenty of it, but it needs to do so, in order to fulfil its purpose, the reason it exists”

More about Purpose and Profit:

But, there’s a big but

So, yes, business must make money. The business must generate profit and cash flow, and it must work hard to maximise its return to shareholders. Undoubtedly… As I say in elsewhere in this website: “A business that doesn’t make profit, is a hobby.”

But:

  • If your focus is making money, there will never be enough. This year you might focus on making $100,000 profit, but as soon as you’ve made $100,000, you’ll want to make $200,000, and then $500,000 and so on, there’s always more money to be chased.
  • If your focus is making money, why pick $100K or $500K, why not $531,629,23? or $496,187.42. Any number you pick will be arbitrary, and hence meaningless.
  • If your focus is making money, your brain won’t cooperate. To your subconscious brain, there is no difference between $100K or $150K. Your subconscious can not think in concrete concepts, such as numbers, it can only get engaged by emotional concepts.
  • If your focus is making money, you’ll wonder what it’s all been about when you’re on your death bed. Nobody has ever lain on their death bed and thought: “I wish I’d made more money”. I guarantee you that much.

How do you get beyond money? Take these four steps;

So, if you want to get unstuck, stop being a crisis manager and move out of overwhelm in your business, you must start thinking beyond making money.

These are the big 4 steps to take to move out of overwhelm and into having Fun in Business:

  1. Ask yourself the Big Question of Small Business: Why does your business exist, and why would anybody care about that? (The Purpose question, more about the Purpose of Business here)
  2. Learn to ask yourself every week: How much Fun in Business did we have last week, and how can we make next week a little bit more Fun? (I’ve written about measuring Fun in Business in my book and also here)
  3. Develop a discipline around your time. Know that your time is the most valuable asset of your business. As a responsible business owner, it is your job to ensure that you look after your most important asset and get the best return you can from your assets. This means you must discipline yourself not to waste your time on things that are actually not all that important. (Read more about business owners and time management here)
  4. People: Get the right people on the bus, in the right seats, facing the right direction, and the wrong people off the bus. There is no greater cause of stress, overwhelm and frustration than people. (More about managing people here and here)

Further reading about overwhelm, taking control and Fun in business:

Click here to download my Free Guide to finding the perfect coach or mentor for you.

10 Rules for Happiness in Business and in Life

chocolate happiness

happiness

The Rules I’d have if I didn’t hate Rules

I’d love to hear about your Rules in the comments below

I hate Rules, as a Rule (!!), but if we must have Rules, I’d rather we had Rules about happiness than about eating chocolate or wearing helmets.

I recently watched a great video by Robert Waldinger about a 75 year Harvard study on Happiness (watch the video here). It’s a fascinating talk and a fascinating research project. It got me to thinking about the good life and happiness and I arrived at these 10 Rules. As a business coach who’s focus is helping his clients feel great about themselves and build great businesses, my perspective is tilted in that direction of course. Robert Waldinger talks about the value of relationships and at some point in the video he says: “On the whole, the people who do best in their lives as they get older are those who have leant into building relationships during their younger years”. I am completely convinced that he is right, and so I offer these 10 Rules as additional to the findings of the Harvard study.

BTW, they’re not really Rules of course, think of them as food for thought and conversation starters instead.

Also, you need to know, that for me, there is little difference between Life and Business, so I suggest you consider these 10 Rules in whatever context suits you best.

And I’d love to hear about your own Rules for happiness… Please share your thoughts in the comments below… I dare you!!!

So here goes:

Rule 1 : If you know where you’re going and you’re in control of the ship, it’s easy to get up in the morning.

I believe there are two reasons we get to feel overwhelmed and stuck in life. The first is when we don’t know where we’re going and the second is when we feel that life is living us instead of the other way round. The Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland told Alice: “If you don’t know where you’re going, My Dear, any road will do“. I’ve always loved that quote (as long as you keep Rule #2 below in mind as well), but what is just as important is that we have a sense of agency in our lives, of having our hand on the tiller. Nothing is more stress inducing in my experience, than feeling we are being pushed and pulled in directions that we have no input over. It is one of the reasons I believe we, as business owners, suffer from depression less than the average population, because even though business might be terribly stressful and frustrating at times, at least we have this sense of being in control of the levers.

Rule 2 : Goals are merely directions on a compass, not destinations to get to.

The self-development craze of the past 30 years has sent us up the garden path with it’s focus on goal setting. We’ve been told that you must set clear measurable goals in life and strive to achieve them (Remember SMART Goals?). But goals can never be anything else than a Hail-Mary: “Given everything I know right now and assuming my best efforts in the future, I am going to achieve XYZ”. You don’t actually know anything about the future. Tomorrow the world will be a different place than it is today; Tomorrow you’ll be a different person than you are today. You may well decide to change your mind about your Goal tomorrow. So Goal setting is indeed a very useful thing to do, as long as you treat the Goal as a direction, a course to travel in, not a destination. And when circumstances on the journey change, you should of course always be prepared to change your direction, if that is what’s required to keep your journey going.

Rule 3 : The smallest difference that makes a difference will change your life.

Forget Change with a capital “C”. Sustainable change in life or business happens by taking one small step at a time, one day at a time. Every day a tiny step forward is a much more effective recipe for effecting change than attempting to jump forward in big leaps. Small step change is much less risky, it allows for everyone to adjust to changed realities and if one of the steps doesn’t work out, it’s no big drama to take one small little step back again.

Rule 4 : Forget growth, concentrate on delivery.


The myth is that business must grow or else it dies. I’m not sure where the myth comes from, but it is a myth, and a dangerous one at that. Focusing on growth as the measure of success in anything is a recipe for disaster and many businesses have grown themselves right into oblivion. The trick is not to grow your business or your organisation, it is to do so while continuing to deliver the quality and consistency and reliability that you aspire to. Growth will follow automatically if you do what you say you’ll do by the time you say you’ll do it at the price you say you’ll do it for, every time, with a smile.

Rule 5 : If you want something you’ve never had before…. You’ve got to BE someone you’ve never been before.

Your business (your career, your relationships, your health) is what it is today, because of WHO you are today. It follows that if you want your business to be something else, you have to Be someone else first. Change in other words, personal Change with a capital “C” (don’t forget to take Rule #3 above to heart as well). You simply can not create the business you dream of and do so without putting your face right up close to the mirror, looking yourself in the eye until it gets uncomfortable, and stay there.

Rule 6 : Today’s plans are tomorrows toilet paper.

Someone once said that planning is guessing, and a famous general is quoted as saying: “No battle plan ever survives the first contact with the enemy”, and in my days as a builder I used to say that all project plans I’ve ever created were out of date before they’d come off the printer. But don’t ever make the mistake of thinking that planning is therefore a waste of time. Quite the opposite as a matter of fact. The conclusion to draw is that we must always be planning. Because planning is a verb, it is what we must do all the time. We must constantly ask ourselves “what-if” questions, imagining the possible scenarios we might encounter and how we’ll respond to those should they come to pass. The value of the plan is never in the piece of paper but in the work done to create it.

Rule 7 : Change is uncomfortable, and that’s OK.

Human beings don’t like Change, we’re scared of it. And that’s because change happens as a result of going on a journey. And going on journeys is scary. Think of the anxiety you feel before going on a big trip, especially a trip where not a lot has been pre-booked. And a journey of change is like a journey where nothing is pre-booked, it’s a journey out on the open ocean, out of sight of land. Journeys of change never take place in the safety of the harbour. It takes courage to leave the harbour behind.  After every visit to the harbour, we have to take a deep breath to push off again, set a course for the horizon and resist the temptation to turn back as soon as the first big swells hit. But then once the sails are set and the ship settles on its keel, we start to revel in the possibilities of the open ocean again (even if we might feel sea sick from time to time).

Rule 8 : Feeling fear and anxiety means you’re not a psychopath, and that is a good thing.

Fear, anxiety, nerves, worries… They’re normal human emotions. There is nothing wrong with feeling fear. Being nervous about the outcome of things is a good thing. Worrying about things means you’ll double check that your parachute is shackled on securely before you jump from the plane. Feeling anxiety before making a new investment, employing a new staff member or signing a contract is healthy. Love your anxieties I say; Seriously, they’ve gotten you this far, don’t knock them.

Rule 9 : Presence is a great thing to aspire to, but un-achievable for normal humans.

Yep I know, it is a great thing to be Mindful, to be “here and nowhere else” and to always remember that Now is all there is. I know it, I feel it, I hear you… and… I also know that I will not attain that state of mind until about 1.5 minutes before I die, and I suspect, nor will you. So by all means, remind yourself to be in the Now from time to time, but don’t give yourself a hard time when you’re not… Noone else is either.

Rule Last : You’ll never be as cool or as rich as Richard Branson, and that’s cool.

‘Nough said…

Here’s how I help my clients life and work by those 10 Rules

The Opposite of Overwhelm and How to Get There

overwhelm in business

How motorbikes and potholes make business fun

Most small business owners are overwhelmed on a day to day basis. They’re drowning in the daily demands of their business and they don’t get to the important stuff. Their families, health and social lives suffer, and even though they’re running around all day looking after the needs of their business, the business seems stuck, spinning it’s wheels.

This is not news.

Tell us something we didn’t know”, I hear all of you say. You’ve probably experienced this state of overwhelm for many of the days you’ve run your business and it’s certainly not the first time I’ve spoken about it either.

But what’s the way out?

Potholes and Motorbikes

I remember when learning to ride a motorbike, the instructor taught us how to avoid an obstacle on the road, a pothole for example. He said:

“Where you direct your gaze on a motorcycle is where the bike will automatically want to follow. When spotting a pothole, focus on where you want to go instead if you want to avoid breaking your fork.”

It’s a good analogy. I find that by focusing on how we want to reduce our Overwhelm, we often end up magnifying the pothole.

The trick is to focus on the opposite of Overwhelm

I refer to the opposite of Overwhelm as “Fun”, “Fun in Business” to be precise, because Fun and Overwhelm cannot exist side by side. When you’re having Fun you’re not Overwhelmed and when you’re Overwhelmed you’re not having Fun.

Flow

Of course you’re very welcome to use a different word than overwhelm, some people think about the concept of Flow, others talk about being fully engaged or you can call it buzzing if you prefer. What matters is that we put a clear picture in our minds of what we want life to be like, rather than focusing on what we don’t want anymore.

overwhelm in business So let’s do a little exercise. I’d like you to get out a piece of paper and pen and draw a horizontal line across the page and mark the line 0 at the left end and 10 at the right end.

I’m calling this line your “Fun in Business” scale, but if you’d rather call it the “I’m buzzing scale” that’s fine too.

Write today’s date beside the scale.

You’re buzzing

This is how we define the scale, 10 on the scale means that the week just past in your business has been as much fun as you can imagine. It’s been a buzz, you’ve been paid well, you’ve done great work, you’ve delivered on your deadlines, your staff are engaged and do great work and are efficient and making money for you, you’re customers love you and they’ve told you so, you’ve been able to get home at normal times and have had energy to give attention to your spouse and kids (if you have them), orders are looking good for the immediate future, you’ve met some important challenges, you feel creative, resourceful and in control of life.

That’s a 10 on the scale.

0 is the opposite of all of that.

Now, I want you to think about the following questions:

  • What number on would you give the past week in your business, on your Fun in Business Scale? Go ahead and mark that number on the scale.
  • Now that you’ve picked a number, ask yourself, and ideally write down, why you picked that number and NOT a lower number, in other words, what have you achieved already, to get yourself to that number on the scale. Important note: with all your might, resist the temptation to focus on why you are not at a higher number.
  • Now ask yourself: If I were to ask myself the same question next week at the same time, what number would I want to be on the scale then? Say you were a 4.7 this past week… Maybe you can get to a 5? Or a 4.8? Mark the number on the scale.
  • Last question: Having decided that you want next week to be a 5.3 for example, on the Fun in Business scale, what specific things must you do this week? What specific tasks, actions can you commit to, to get your week from 4.7 to 5.3? (I generally suggest to pick a maximum of three things and each of these things should take a maximum of 1 hr each to do)

A little less overwhelm, a little more Fun next week

And now comes the fun part. If you’ve gone through the little exercise above with me, you will have selected 1, 2 or 3 things to make happen in the week ahead and if you do these things, your week will have been a little more Fun than the immediate past week has been.

Of course that’s all well and good, but you’ve still got to find time for those three things and actually do them.

So, grab your diary, right now and block out time for those three things this coming week. I’ll run through a little example to illustrate the process:

Let’s say one of those actions of yours might be around planning your days better. So maybe an action might be to get up ten minutes earlier every day and before you pick up your phone or go to your email you think about the day ahead… The Big Rocks… What are the big things you need to get done today, and when can you realistically expect to be able to do them?

Such a ten-minute planning moment, before the craziness of the day gets under way, will in most cases improve your feeling of being in control throughout the day and hence increase your sense of Fun in Business. (Make sure you leave plenty of space to allow for the inevitable unforeseens and crises… Just plonk the big rocks in the diary… The rest will slot in around those)

New habits

Of course, your actions this coming week might be around entirely different aspects of business and life. Using the scaling approach is a really simple and effective method to help you focus on the preferred future rather than on the past you don’t want anymore. It will help you get into the habit of looking ahead and concentrating on what’s in your control, and to take small specific actions moving forward.

Don’t make the mistake of wanting to do everything at once. Taking one specific small action every week is much more sustainable than trying to take an enormous great big step. Big steps lead to big falls. People that take consistent small steps end up changing their lives … I promise you.

FREE eBook: The 10 Truths for Making Business Fun

The Ten Truths for Making Business Fun  


The 5 Things You Must Do At Every Networking Event

Networking business

Lessons from Master Networkers

networking business

How networking can work for you and be fun as well

I’ve written before about how networking doesn’t work… And I remain convinced that much networking is wasted time.

But developing our businesses still means continuously meeting new people, new suppliers, new referral sources, new clients. Obviously, networking is still one of the most effective ways to do so.

But there’s networking and there’s networking.

On the one hand is attending some kind of dedicated networking event, standing around making small talk with strangers in the vain hope they’ll buy something from you. And on the other hand is networking with strategy and focus. It took me some years to work out the difference, but once I did, networking actually started to work.

There are a bunch of lessons I learned over the years from master networkers about how to turn networking into an efficient form of business development, these are my favorites:

1)  Own the room:

The first lesson about networking, I actually learned from an acting and singing teacher, who I took some lessons from in 2005. Marriette Rups-Donnelly owns Powerhouse Presentations and one of the things she taught me is to own the room. Owning the room starts by getting there early. Being one of the first at the event allows you to greet people as they walk in, help them over their nerves and introduce them around to others. It is great strategy for them and it’s great for you as well. Being early means you are less likely to have to rudely cut in to small groups of people talking.

Successful networking starts even earlier though. Before you get to the event, owning the room means preparing your mindset before you even walk in the door. I remember Marriette teaching me to imagine I wore a big cape. She got me to visualise wearing a big swishing suave shiny red cape and to imagine sweeping into a room with it, taking up a lot more space than my physical body.

Imagining myself as a dashing Imperial Russian prince from the 1870s, making an entrance with my cape, was not something that came naturally. But around about the same time I was also studying NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming). NLP talks a lot about taking control of your mental state (see Anthony Robbins and other NLP practitioners). With the help of NLP and Marriette I did start to get more comfortable with walking in and owning the room and I am here to tell you those two “tricks” combined, started having an enormous impact on my networking exploits.

Next time you go to a networking event… Get there early, take a deep breath before you walk into the room and imagine yourself a latter day Count Vronsky with a big cape sweeping behind you before you walk in, it’s actually a lot of fun, trust me.

2)  A coffee is better than 20 cards

business networking Have you ever been accosted at a networking event by someone who just hands you his card and says: “If you ever need a web developer, call me” and walks off to spray his cards over everyone else at the meeting. It’s annoying right? How much business do you think that leads to for the webdeveloper?

David Jones from David Jones Electricians in Sydney has always understood the wisdom of the old saying: “People do business with people they know like and trust”. In other words, business comes about as a consequence of genuine personal connections. David attends networking and other events and he looks for people he can make a genuine connection with. He’d rather spend the whole evening talking with one person he connects with than hand out 20 cards to anyone. Afterwards, he always invites people he meets like that to something else, another event, a coffee or something he thinks this person might be interested in, not necessarily business related. And David has built one of the biggest and most engaged networks I know.

Giving someone a business card is worse than useless if you annoy them in the process and they throw your card in the bin on the way out.

Next time, when attending an event, set yourself an intention to meet just one person you’d enjoy having a coffee or going for a walk on the beach with, and invite them to do just that.

3)  Action speaks louder than words

business networking Wendy Lloyd Curley is a networking genius. Wendy owns “Wendy the Candle Lady” an incredibly successful business in an MLM system (Multi Level Marketing, also known as Network Marketing) selling candles, fragrances and home decorations. Wendy’s business is all about building relationships, networks and meeting new people. The thing I learnt from Wendy is her statement: If you leave a one-on-one coffee/ networking meeting without at least one committed action, the meeting has been a waste of everyone’s time. Wendy has lots and lots of coffee meetings with people and she always walks away committed to go and actually do one thing for the other person. She also encourages this person to commit to at least one single action on Wendy’s behalf. Actions like: “I am going to write one email tomorrow to this accountant I know and introduce you to him”. Single committed actions such as those are much more likely to have an impact than a generic: “Ok, Great I’ll certainly keep that in mind and be on the lookout for you”.

In your next coffee meeting with someone you meet at a networking event, make sure you find one small simple action that might be useful to the other person and go and do it.

4)  The hostess gets the mostess

Martin Paul owns More Strategic. More Strategic is a management consultancy that focuses on supporting Not for Profits and Charities to improve their fundraising.

Not long ago Martin spoke at a fundraising conference and at the end of his talk he invited all attendants to drinks and nibbles in a private room at the venue that evening to talk in greater depth about the implications of his talk. Some 25 executives from some of the major charities showed up. In the following year, several new contracts flowed from this initiative.

Being the host of an event bestows enormous benefits on you.

What event can you host?

5)  Focus beats Spray and Pray

business networking Geoff Anderson from Sonic Sight produces videos for organisations in Sydney. Some time ago Geoff decided that a great target market for his video production work is the private school system in the big cities of Australia. Investigating marketing options to this market, he found an annual conference in Australia that was well attended by many of the marketing directors in the private school system. Geoff decided to sponsor the conference and offer the conference organiser assistance in video production on the day. Geoff was the only video producer at the conference and connected meaningfully with some 50 of his prime clients. The project cost him some money and time, but it would have taken him years of attending random networking events, fruitlessly knocking on doors and being turned away by gatekeepers to achieve the same result.

The name of the game is focus.

How can you get to talk to a bunch of your clients all in the same room?

There are other tips I can give you to make networking more effective, such as:

  • Always follow up.
  • Dress appropriately and a little different than everyone else.
  • Experiment with different opening lines, and practice them.

But if you take the big 5 above to heart and practice them, networking will start to work for your business… I promise you.

For more resources, and reading on strategies for growing your business follow this link to the first of The 7 Big Questions that all small business owners want answered

#Networking #SmallBusinessNetworking #FunInBusiness #BusinessDevelopment

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Productivity Tips: How To Get The Important Stuff Done In Your Business

productivity business

When other people’s priorities are not yours

productivity business

The Work-of-the-business v the Work-of-the-business-owner

Small business owners often ask me if I can help them become more productive. Or rather the complaint is that there are always a thousand other things getting in the way of the stuff you would much rather spend your time on, instead of the never-ending emails, phone calls, crises, admin, quoting, employees calling in sick or needing help tying their shoe laces. No one ever seems to be able to get anything done without you.

It’s one of the great frustrations of small business. Everything is down to you, the owner. When a client is irate, when a supplier is unhappy, the bank has an issue or when the toilet paper runs out, it’s down to you.

And of course, you being you, you do fix it all, you are the ultimate juggler and the balls rarely ever crash when you’re on the job, but it means the work you actually want to do, gets put off and off and off.

No simple answers

All small business owners have to face this challenge and, sadly, I have no simple answers.

Move along folks… Nothing to see here.

I can suggest a few principles, though, that may help make you more productive and actually get the things you want to get done, done:

  • Other people’s priorities don’t always have to be your priorities.
  • The important work you want to get onto, the business development work is the only work in your business that cannot be delegated to others.
  • The important work you want to get onto can always be put off another day, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important.
  • If you don’t make the business development work your priority and set dedicated time aside for it every week, it will not get done and your business will struggle.

Covey and the 4 Quadrants

productivity business One of the classic works of personal development of the eighties is Stephen Covey’s book: “The 7 Habits of highly effective people”. In The 7 Habits, Covey talks about the 4 quadrants of time management (see the image).

Covey explains that all tasks can be put into one of 4 quadrants. Tasks can be:

  • Important and Urgent
  • Important and not Urgent
  • Not Important but Urgent
  • Neither Important nor Urgent

If you experience the problems I outlined in the first three paragraphs above, I know you have little trouble getting the tasks done that are in quadrant 1. The Quadrant 1 stuff is the stuff that must get done now, or else, and I bet you’re generally fine with that It’s the reason your business has survived as long as it has.

Mostly, small business owners don’t struggle too much with the Quadrant 4 stuff either, there’s not enough time in a day as it is, let alone spend time on stuff that is meaningless.

The problems are always in Quadrants 2 and 3. The Quadrant 3 stuff is all the tasks that are generated by other people. It’s the client ringing up and saying I need to have that quote first thing tomorrow morning, it’s the supplier saying I want to deliver this widget after lunch, can you be on site to receive it. Because the client and the supplier sound like it’s really really important to them, you set aside the thing you would have preferred to do and you make it happen. Other people’s priorities. They say “Jump”, your immediate response is “How High”? And when you jump you put aside the Quadrant 2 stuff. The Quadrant 2 stuff is the stuff that is important to you, but it can always be put off another day. The world doesn’t end if you start writing that business plan tomorrow instead of today and the world doesn’t end if you put off writing the new safety procedure for another day.

The world won’t end when you postpone

And the world really won’t end when you do that. After all you’ve managed alright without the business plan and the safety procedure to date… What’s another day? The problem is of course that tomorrow there will be another phone call and another crisis and the day after another one etc.

Obviously, sometimes when a client asks if you can do this thing for them by this afternoon, it really does need to be done, but many times it doesn’t. Often it’s perfectly ok to say: “Sorry I am busy this afternoon and tomorrow. I can get onto it on Thursday and have it to you by lunch time, would that be ok?” I can guarantee you that in most cases the client is going to be fine with that, as long as you are clear and decisive and as long as you actually deliver by Thursday lunchtime.

Other peoples urgencies

We are trained to respond to other people’s urgencies as if they are our own. They aren’t and it’s worth keeping that in mind.

I have worked with and met hundreds if not thousands of small business owners in the past 13 years. From my experience, I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt that the one key difference between the business owners who have built and are building Great Small Businesses and those who struggle, is how much time they manage to dedicate every week to building their business. I call it “The work of the business owner” as opposed to “The work of the business”.

If you start by dedicating as little as an hour per week to business building and business development, every week, regular as clockwork, no interruptions, phone off, email off, go to a café if you have to, block it out in your diary, nothing short of death is more important… You will start to build a Fun Business that sustains you for years to come… I promise you

#Productivity #Efficient #WorkOfTheBusinessOwner #BusinessDevelopment #Coaching

 

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You’re Never Too Old to Become an Entrepreneur

Ageism Entrepreneur Small Business Coach

If you think you’re too old to become a business owner, think again

Ageism Entrepreneur Small Business Coach

Small business doesn’t do “Ageism”

“Starting a small business is a young man’s game.”
“At my age, I couldn’t keep up with all those young entrepreneurs, I’m better off keeping my job.”

I used to think those thoughts myself… Getting a small business off the ground is not for people over 30.

But it’s hogwash

Complete and utter nonsense.

The opposite is actually the case.

Believe me: If you’re in your fifties, the kids have finished school and are doing their own thing, you’ve largely paid off the mortgage and you’ve started noticing that you are being treated as a senior citizen at work… Tell ‘em all to take a running jump and start your own thing.

We all know how much harder it gets to land a new job after you turn fifty. Ageism… it sucks and it shouldn’t matter, but it just does. Successfully getting through a job application process after you’ve turned fifty is hard, much harder than when you were 35, no matter how good your CV is and how suited you are for a role. But in business, your own business, grey hairs are a benefit. Trust me, since turning fifty myself 8 years ago, I’ve noticed I am being taken much more seriously by all and sundry. It’s quite funny actually, by default people assume I am the wisest person in the room. I have a distinct competitive advantage these days because of my age and grey hair.

Sick of office politics

If you have the opportunity to take a redundancy; if you are simply sick to death of always having to dance to the tunes of your inept managers or if the organisational politics are causing you to wish you were dead sometimes: Get out there and do it for yourself.

Let me be clear: life of an entrepreneur is not always a bed of roses. You may have plenty of worries and frustrations, but they are your frustrations and your worries… No one else’s.

I honestly believe entrepreneurship, becoming a small business owner, is a wonderful way to spend your fifties and your sixties and beyond. I’m fifty eight and I can’t imagine myself ever retiring. Sure, I’ll slow down, but being my own boss, standing in the centre of my life and knowing that it’s all down to me; The fact that I don’t have to report on my ‘deliverables’ and ‘targets’ to anyone, gives me a sense of freedom I never want to lose again. And why wouldn’t I want to continue doing what I do in my business? As a business coach. I get to meet and work with people who grab life by the scruff of the neck and give it a good shake… Much more fun than lawn bowling… For me anyway.

21-year-old consultant

Ageism Entrepreneur Small Business Coach Of course, the business you start when you’re 55 is not the same business you start when you’re 21. After all these years of experience you have something special to offer as a consultant or adviser or counsellor. You can’t start a business on the basis of that when you’re 21, you simply don’t have that kind of credibility. I would never engage a 21-year-old consultant, just like I probably also wouldn’t engage a 65 year old gardener. There’s a time for gardening and there’s a time for consulting.

So ask yourself. If you were made redundant tomorrow, and that in today’s world of work, as a 55 or 60 or 65 year old you’re going to find it hard to find a suitable job … What would you love to go out and create? What are you good at and passionate about and experienced in that you can build a nice small business in?

Got it?

Ok… So why wait for that redundancy?

Back yourself and get out there… You’ll never regret you did… I promise you

And by the way, I recently came across a great article with advice for seniors when starting a new business, here is the link.

#Seniorbusiness #MatureEntrepreneur #OlderBusinessOwner #BusinessOverFifty #BusinessAfterRetirement #RetirementBusiness #BusinessCoach #FunInBusiness

 

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I get a lot of people asking me for advice on when and how to start a small business. I do mentor 1:1, but I thought you’ll find my FREE eBook on The 10 Truths for Raising a Healthy Bouncy Business a great starting point. You’ll learn that in the end, it’s not age but passion trumps everything.

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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

Slowly

Ever so slowly…

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

#SmallTalk #conversations #FunInBusiness #Coaching #startup #entrepreneurmindset #realtalk

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What Does A Typical Business Owner Look Like?

business acumen

Business acumen, what is it and how do you know you have it?

Business acumen

In the end it’s all about stupidity

Are business owners born or made? Or rather, what does it take to become a business owner, Do you have business acumen? What does business acumen look like? How can you tell if you are a budding business owner or not?

I find it a really interesting question, I’ve thought about it many times, especially since becoming a business coach, helping small business owners turn their dreams into reality. I have also written about the Entrepreneurial types here and I have created a survey to help you determine what type of entrepreneur you are here.

To answer the question, we need to dispel one myth first of all, and that’s the myth that there is an “entrepreneurial type”. There may indeed be such a type, but it’s not just those types that become successful business owners. I think business owners are as varied in their types as there are people on the planet. Having said that, I do believe that there is one character trait that stands out as something unique to most entrepreneurs, and that’s this:

Business owners are people who cannot conceive of having their lives controlled by others.

For a business owner type, the idea of spending her entire working life having to report to others and being part of an organisation that does things, and takes directions that are outside of her control, fills him with dread.

Your most troublesome employee

business acumen I am certainly like that myself. I worked for a large organisation for 5 years in the early part of my working life, and found myself fighting the system every day. Having my boss, or his boss, or the bosses boss make a directive and being informed of such a directive and having to fall into line with the directive, whether or not I agreed with it, would simply make steam come out of my ears.

I was that employee you’d hate to have work for you.

And the thought that my days would be controlled like this for the rest of my life sent shivers down my spine. I was only 25 by the time I knew something had to change and I naively decided it was time to go out on my own. In hindsight, it’s a good thing that I was as naïve as I was. If I’d known then what I know now about becoming a small business owner, I might have held back and attempted to become a better adjusted and happier staff member instead. I say ‘a good thing’, because I am incredibly glad I made the step when I was young and stupid. I don’t regret anything about becoming a business owner and employer rather than an employee.

Standing in the centre of your life

I’ve loved standing in the centre of my life, knowing that I was equally responsible for anything bad that happened in my business (and my life) as well as for the successes. But it does get progressively harder and scarier to take the step to becoming an entrepreneur as you grow older.

People think that business owners are somehow braver than non-business owners, because they get out there and face the world on their own. I don’t think it’s courage so much; I don’t consider myself more courageous than the average person. Most people who start their own business, get to a point in their lives where they simply feel they can’t do anything else, they’re compelled. The mark of courage is not how fearless you are, rather it is in how you overcome your fears. I don’t remember feeling fear so much when I decided to become my own boss. I simply had to do this thing, there was no other option.

And hence, to answer the question: What is business acumen and what does it look like? Maybe the common characteristic of business owners is … Stupidity.

#StupidInBusiness #EntrepreneursAreBorn #FunInBusiness #BusinessAcumen

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