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:

Business Partnerships Are Disasters Waiting To Happen

partnership in business

What to do when it’s lonely at the top

partnership business

The 4 things to consider before you team up with someone else

Business partnerships are a disaster.

If you’re considering partnering up with someone:

STOP RIGHT NOW
DON’T DO IT
RUN FOR THE HILLS

I hope I’ve got your attention. I’m serious; before you jump to the conclusion that you should invite someone into your business as a partner, or offer a partnership to an employee, there’s a bunch of questions and alternatives to consider.

I know I know, you’ve probably come across examples of partnerships that work. Most law and accountancy practices operate as partnerships after all, and they can’t all be wrong. True enough I suppose, and some might say that my opening paragraphs are a bit extreme.

But consider this: Business partnerships are by definition intense affairs, you spend more time with each other than you do with your spouses, they can last for the whole of your working life, all the while having to work together towards a common set of objectives and you don’t actually love each other like you do your spouses.

People change

In my experience, ultimately many business partnerships fail because people change. When you get into the partnership you may well be at a similar stage in life and for a while it all goes smoothly, but over time, lives change, priorities change. There is no guarantee that 5 or 10 years down the track you still want to pull in the same direction. You might have young kids and your business partner has decided not have kids. Your children need a lot more of your attention than your partner’s; Your spouse has decided to stay at home with the family, but your partner’s spouse is going back to a full time career. These changes in life’s circumstances can have an enormous impact on the functioning of the partnership.

A client of mine, Chris, was a fifty percent partner in a 3 year old business based in Sydney, when he and his wife had a baby. 2 years later, Chris’s wife decided to pick up her university career again. The perfect job was offered to her at a university in Singapore, and Chris and his wife decided she needed to accept the offer and move the family to Singapore.

The decision caused a rift in Chris’ partnership. Now, a year later, Chris and his business partner only speak through their respective lawyers, the break-up of the partnership has cost buckets of money, the business has suffered and Chris wishes he’d never got into a partnership to begin with.

Many business partnerships are ill-fated from the start:

  • They’re started for the wrong reasons.
  • Alternative options aren’t considered enough.
  • The likelihood of changing circumstances of the partners is not acknowledged from the start.
  • There are no clear agreements about how to go about dissolving the partnership.

Each of these 4 issues are worthy of an article in their own right, and I might very well decide to write those articles, but let me try and sum up the essence of each of the 4 points:

1) Partnerships start for the wrong reasons:

Many small business owners feel alone and overwhelmed, everything is down to them and no one else “Gets It”. Often they fantasise, that having a partner will address the loneliness.

WRONG

There are many wrong reasons to start a partnership, but this is the big one in my experience. The only reason to consider a business partnership is to bring certain skills and experience into the business, that you yourself lack and can’t obtain through other means.

2) Alternative options not considered:

Many business owners have one or more favourite employees who they are afraid will walk out one day, leaving the business high and dry. The temptation is to offer such employees a partnership. I also often see that people offer partnerships to others in the same industry, because it might lead to less competition and cost improvements because of economies of scale.

WRONG

There are many other ways to skin such cats. Offering employees increased engagement in the business through a system of structured bonuses and involvement at the strategy level of the business (see Open Book Management) for example. Joint Ventures are another effective way to join forces, for a specific purpose and a defined period of time.

Partnerships should only be considered as a last option and then, ideally in a separate vehicle (e.g. your business and the other party form a separate partnership company, turning your main business into the mothership that has interests in one or more satellite businesses)

3) Consideration of changing circumstances down the track:

Many partnerships start between two people who want the same things out of life and business. There is a connection and shared dreams and goals and life stages. When the question of longevity comes up, both partners commit to open and honest communication and shake hands trusting each other to be able to deal with whatever hurdles might appear down the track.

WRONG

As they say the only certainties in life are Death and Taxes, but I’d like to add Change to the list. There will be Change in your life as well as in your partner’s. You can count on it. At this moment you may have the same dreams and goals, but down the track that’s much more likely to change than remain the same.

If at all possible, negotiate your partnership agreements in 5 year blocks: “You and I are about to enter into a partnership for 5 years. At the end of these 5 years we will dissolve the partnership and divide the business exactly and definitively. Once the split is completed, we may decide to commence another 5 year partnership and negotiate from scratch, if we both want to”.

4) No clear agreements about how to dissolve the partnership:

Many partnerships are started without a formal partnership agreement and those that do have an agreement have ill-defined and unrealistic clauses about how (and when) to break the partnership up (also see the previous point above). The belief is that because you are both people of good will, and commit to open and honest communication at all times that you’ll work it out when push comes to shove.

WRONG

As long as the partnership operates as intended and the partners are working together happily, they will generally not need a partnership agreement to operate the business happily. But at the point of dissolution, the agreement becomes the roadmap for the partners. The agreement needs to be absolute and watertight, no confusions. It needs to spell out in plain English what the steps are that are to be taken when, for whatever reason, either or both of the partners wants out. It must be clearly stated that the partner who decides he or she wants out does not owe the remaining partner(s) an explanation or justification of any kind. All that is required is that one or both of the partners says: “I am stepping out”.

The document must detail each of the steps that are to be taken at that point, by whom and by which time frames, including the steps that come into play if one of the partners does not meet his or her obligations as laid out in the roadmap.

THAT’S IT

If you must have a partnership, take the time to consider all 5 of these points seriously, very seriously.

It’s time well spent… I promise you.

#businesspassion #businessowners #FunInBusiness #BusinessPartnerships #JointVentures #OpenBookManagement

 

NEED MORE BRUTALLY HONEST PEOPLE IN YOUR LIFE?

Join the exclusive Small Business Masterminds Facebook group!

It’s a private group of small business owners that tackles challenges and problems together. Members lean on each other, give advice, network, share connections and do business with each other when appropriate. It’s very much peer-to-peer mentoring and if your request to join is lucky enough to get approved, you will most likely see a marked change in yourself and your business!

Small Business Masterminds Group

The Skinny on Online Marketing in 2017

online marketing for business

Old fashioned marketing principles in the digital world

online marketing for business

How to build your business with social media

I wrote an article titled “Talking to your neighbours in the days of Facebook” a year and a half ago about how to engage with your target market and why static websites don’t cut it anymore.

What I wrote then is just as true today, but more so… Much more so.

Because no longer is it just about your website and how good it looks, it’s all about online engagement and integration with the social media outlets. The old saying holds just as true today as it did 50 years ago: “People do business with people they Know, Like and Trust”. If there is no Trust, there will be no business. The quickest way we build trust is through word-of-mouth (that’s when someone I trust, a friend or family member, assures me that I can trust you). And these days, social media is where word-of-mouth happens. Social media is where people get to Know, Like and Trust you.

Sure Google searches to your website are still important. You do have to be able to be found on Google and you’ve got to have an active and well laid out website, but your clients are going to be looking for you on Facebook and Instagram and LinkedIn and Tripadvisor and Yelp and any number of other social channels. They want to see that your star rating is way up there, they want to see that others have done business with you, they want to see that you are solid, credible and experienced.

My clients know what I had for dinner

online marketing for business For years I was a member of a business networking and referral group. We got together for the purpose of referring business to each other every week. Most of my new clients came to me through this group for 7 or 8 years. But in the last couple of years, that started changing. 3 years ago, more than half of new business came to me via my business referral group and the rest came to me via Google searches for the keyword: “Business Coach”. But now, nearly all my enquiries come to me online and I’ve noticed that even if people find me on Google rather than social media, they read my reviews and my Facebook and Linkedin interactions and check out my testimonials before they even contact me. By the time they actually send me an email or pick up the phone, they know what I had for dinner last night, and by then, they’re ready to buy.

In the old days (the dim distant past before 2014) it sometimes took several years between meeting people for the first time, getting to “Know, Like and Trust” and being engaged. Now, my last 6 new clients all signed up within six weeks from our first contact.

Bricks and mortar is so last year

I got serious about the internet as a marketing channel around the end of the nineties. (We were still mostly using dial up modems). In those days, people were happy to find your details online, but you had to have a bricks and mortar presence to be taken seriously. Unless your business had walls, a roof and a door, you were not to be trusted. In 2017 it’s the other way round. People want to know that you’re all over the digital world. If you don’t have lots of reviews and star ratings and videos, eBooks, white-papers, blog posts and every other damn thing, you’re obviously flaky.

At the same time, the social media companies are looking for opportunities to generate more money. Increasingly organisations like Facebook are making it difficult for your business to be found unless you pay them. So far I’ve managed to avoid paying Facebook, Linkedin, Google and Twitter, but I know it won’t last. I predict I’ll start having to pay for the privilege of being found this year or certainly next. The thought annoys me intensely, and I’ll resist it as long as I can, but Mark Zuckerberg is going to end up with some of my hard-earned dollars in his pocket, as sure as night follows day.

Don’t get left behind in 2017

So I think 2017 is the year we, the small business owners of the world, must come to terms with online marketing, properly. Soon you’ll simply be left behind unless you start to take online marketing for your business seriously. And I think you should consider engaging an online marketing assistant. It’s starting to become too complicated to do it all yourself and it’s arguably not your best use of time anyway.

The hard part of online marketing for business, is working out how best to engage with your audience, so that they get to “Know, Like and Trust” you as quickly as possible. How do you start the conversations? What can you offer your audience that is useful for them and that engages them?

I’ve experimented with every kind of content you can imagine (Have a look at my website and you’ll see what I mean) and I’ve learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t.

One-Minute Business Tips

online marketing for business

One experiment that looks to be working well, is a weekly email I send out called the “One-Minute-Business-Tips”. (You can sign up to receive my weekly tips yourself on my website here). They’re super short emails that take no more than a minute to read with a tip for a small simple action that will make a difference to your business, if you go and carry it out. The whole of each weekly tip can be read and acted upon there and then. Clicking through to a website or a blog is not required.

It’s too early to know if it’s going to work for me over time, but for now I am getting feedback that tells me the tips are hitting the right note.

Another online marketing experiment

online marketing for business As of the beginning of 2017 I have also started another experiment. I’ve created a group in Facebook called Small Business Masterminds (Come and join us here). The idea is to encourage discussions and questions and build a supportive community of small business owners in Australia especially. The theory being that by being in the middle of this community, being the hub of the community as it were, I demonstrate my bona fides and credibility, increase my visibility and ultimately gain some of the people in the community as new clients. Again, it’s an experiment and far too early to tell if or how it’s going to work.

The reason I am telling you about these two recent experiments of mine, is not to impress you with my brilliance, but rather to illustrate that online marketing for business is all about experimenting, and change. What worked last year may not work so well anymore this year, and what works for one business won’t necessarily work for another. But these are the facts:

  • Your clients are time poor and overwhelmed with information every day.
  • Your clients are online and on various social media outlets, every day if not all day.
  • Your clients want to get to Know, Like and Trust you and your business before they’ll spend any money with you.
  • They want to do so online.

In 2017 and beyond, your most important marketing job is to make that last one as easy as possible for them… 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

#OnlineMarketing, #SocialMediaMarketing, #SmallBusinessMarketing, #FacebookMarketing, #DigitalMarketing, #FunInBusiness


Join the Small Business Masterminds Facebook group!

We’re a private group of small business owners that tackles challenges and problems together. We lean on each other, give advice, share connections and do business with each other when appropriate. It’s very much peer-to-peer mentoring and if your request to join is lucky enough to get approved, you will most likely see a marked change in yourself and your business!

Small Business Masterminds Group

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:

Purpose:

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.

Planning:

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

 

FREE Download: The 10 Truths for Making Business Fun

It’s very easy to get caught up in your business, especially when you are working hard to make it work. Learn to have more fun in your business with my start-of-the-year freebie– The 10 Truths for Making Business Fun. Because you created your business to live life on your terms – so do it!

The Ten Truths for Making Business Fun


How To Make Your Business Hum Along In 2017 With The Right Apps

Software and Apps for Business

Are you still relying on whiteboards, post-its and spreadsheets to run your business?

Software and Apps for Business

The Must-Have and the Nice-to-Have Apps for Business

Do you know:

  • How much profit you made on that job for Mrs Smith? The one the boys finished yesterday?
  • How long it takes you on average to get paid?
  • How much business you will do next month?
  • Which of your team members makes you money and which ones lose it for you?
  • How happy your customers are?
  • Whether or not the new guy on the floor in the store in Newtown has completed his safety induction training yet?
  • If you can afford for both Johnny and Carla to be on holidays next week?
  • The top 10 key indicators of the health of your business?

Managing by keeping your fingers crossed

Software and Apps for Business These are the type of questions every small business owner must know the answer to, every day, every week and every month. If you can’t answer them in your business, you’re managing with your fingers crossed, hoping everything will be alright.

It won’t be… Trust me.

And in 2017 these questions cannot be answered with whiteboards, yellow stickies and spreadsheets anymore, handy as those tools can be.

The name of the game is Apps, software in other words. So let me give you the “must-do’s”, the “general must haves”, the “specialised must-have” and the “nice to haves”

These are the must-do’s:

  • Any business apps that doesn’t live in the cloud… ditch it. It’s so much more efficient to have your information synched across all your different machines and to know that if your computer blows up today, you simply log on into your data from any another machine.
  • Whatever software you have, make sure it’s device independent. In 2017, all the good stuff runs happily on Mac, PC, Android, Iphone.
  • Don’t ever click on any link in any email from anyone unless you know for sure it’s safe (a trick that’s saved me a few times: When you hover over a link in an email you should be able to see what the actual link is (Possibly in the left bottom of your browser window)… if it looks dodgy, run away)

The general must-haves:

  • Software and Apps for Business Dropbox, Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive. Doesn’t matter which one… Get a paid account for one of them that’s appropriate for the size of your business and the number of people who have to access everything, and stick all your data in it. It’s safe and it works.
  • The absolute best antivirus, malware, ransomware, firewall, general anti-nastiness software you can get… Paid version… Automatic updates every day… I have used Kaspersky for the last 4 or 5 years myself (there are others). Touch wood, I haven’t had anything truly nasty get through (also see point 3 above). And don’t think you’re safe cause you’re on Apple either.
  • An external harddrive that you back your whole system up to or better yet an official “In the cloud” backup solution (paid), and test it once every couple of months or sooner depending on the business you’re in.
  • Bookkeeping software: Xero, Quickbooks Online, Saasu, MYOB Live, in that order as far as I’m concerned… If your business is bigger than 20- 30 employees or it has special complications, then you may need to at other software (talk to these guys)… But most SME’s will run fine on those. I am a convert of XERO, I think the former industry standard MYOB has come too little too late to the cloud and is still lagging seriously Xero. Quickbooks Online is surprisingly good, and Saasu used to be in the fight with Xero but looks like they’ve lost the race.
  • Cloud based office software, Either Microsoft Office or Google apps. It’s simply crazy not to use the latest versions by subscription, And it makes everything device independent (see 2 above)
  • Document, task and project sharing apps for business: I have gone completely paperless myself recently and I know a number of other business that have as well. I use Microsoft OneNote to keep all my notes and task lists and resources and everything, combined with DropBox (see above). It’s incredibly good to use. But I know others who use Evernote with great success for the same purpose and I see that DropBox themselves have recently brought out new functionality that might compete more directly with Evernote and MSOneNote. Other great options in this area are Trello and Asana…The last two are even more useful if you need to manage projects and tasks across a team.

The specialised must-haves:

The specialised stuff is:

  1. Workflow/ business process management
  2. Customer relationship Management (CRM)/ Sales pipeline management
  3. Marketing automation systems (MAS)
  4. Project management (PM)
  5. HR Management (HR)

A bunch of the questions I asked at the beginning of this article, you’ll only ever be able to answer with one or a combination of these specialised software systems.

For example if your business is in plumbing and you want to answer the very first question I posed about the job for Mrs Smith, you can effectively only do so if you use a workflow management system, in which all the costs and all the income of each job are recorded, instantaneously. If you organise that the right way, you’ll be able to push a button as soon as the boys leave the job and see if they’ve made or lost money and how much.

There are many business apps out there that can be used for this purpose and it’s incredibly challenging to find out which one is right for you. Personally, I refer most of my clients in service based businesses to a program called WorkFlowMax, because I know it works. Some others to look at:

There are specialist consulting companies in this field who can advise you on various options. (If you are in the building trades in Australia, check out Tradiepad)

Workflow is the Hub

Software and Apps for Business I always suggest you decide what workflow/ business management system to implement first, because it will actually become the hub around which everything else in the business turns. CRM, Marketing Automation (MAS), Project management (PM), HR all need to integrate tightly with the workflow system (as does the bookkeeping system of course, don’t forget that)

Many industries have specialised requirements, and the generic workflow systems such as WorkFlowMax won’t do the job. In those cases I have found there are often business management systems available that are specifically created for your industry. I am currently working with a removalist company and because of the complications in that industry of storage and transport, generic software is not much use to them. Luckily we’ve found a beautiful program that’s specifically created for the removals industry. Also, I worked with a mechanic, recently, and we found specialist software to manage motor mechanic businesses, that works very well.

In some cases you may actually have to create something from scratch. A client of mine who is a funeral undertaker has had to take that route recently.

The others

Many of the workflow management systems actually incorporate some or all of the other specialised programs, CRM, MAS, PM and even HR. However, my experience is that the five functions I listed are highly specialised and software that tries to do everything, often doesn’t do any of it very well. As I said, start with workflow management and once you have that in place you can assess whether the CRM functions of your workflow software are adequate for your needs. The workflow software company will in all likelihood publish a list of CRM and other programs that integrate well with it.

Whether or not you can simply buy the business app you need from the shelf or you have to create apps from scratch, as in the case of the undertaker, the cost of doing so isn’t prohibitive anymore these days. Although I have no doubt that you’ll end up with a few more grey hairs by the time the systems are fully implemented, your life will never be the same again… I promise you.

PS… Nice-to-haves:

I haven’t spoken about CRM and MAS yet, largely because this article is long enough as it is and also, because I want you to get on top of the other stuff first. Once you’ve got all of that covered… You should absolutely dive into CRM and MAS as your next project.

Check out some of these:

And there are many many others. CRM and MAS are not for the faint hearted, they will take slice off a piece of your life, chew it up and never give it back, that’s how it goes, but the two incredible opportunity to transform your business… And that’s a fact.

Transform Your Business in a Month

If you find yourself in a midst of a business challenge, I want to help you. My One-Month Business Transformation Programs are short, sharp, fun and intensive 4 week programs designed to tackle one specific business development priority in your business, in one month, and implement a series of effective and simple strategies that will start to transform that specific aspect of your business.

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

Take a FREE, No-Obligation 30-minute Discovery Session with me via Skype to learn more. And decide which is the most important issue for you to tackle right now!

Free Discovery Business Coaching Session

Successful Entrepreneurs are Resilient People

Successful entrepreneurs and Resilience

Prepare for the bad stuff in your business and back yourself to get through it.

resilience tree in business

Nervous Entrepreneurs and Bouncebackability

Famous entrepreneur Richard Branson wrote an international bestseller with the title: Screw it, let’s do it. It’s a great book and I am a fan of Sir Branson. I wish more of the giga entrepreneurs were like him (as opposed to some whose name shall not be mentioned in this blog, but whose new office has no corners). But the title of the book has done much to confirm the myth that successful entrepreneurs are wild risk takers. I think that’s a shame, entrepreneurs actually take as little risk as they possibly can, and from what I’ve seen in 30-odd years in and around business, it’s all about mental strength instead.

Business owners who do well are resilient people (more on resilience here), they have mental fortitude, they have the ability to bounce back from adversity and set backs.

When growing a business, adversity is part of the package, it gets thrown in for free. Being a business owner is not for the faint hearted. The highs and the lows can follow each other in quick succession. I always think getting a business off the ground, is a journey out past the horizon of an unexplored ocean, and I have yet to meet a business owner for whom it’s been smooth sailing. Sometimes we’ll receive favourable winds and sometimes we suddenly find ourselves in the midst of an unexpected storm.

I’m reminded of the joke we used to make in the early days of the PC revolution: “You can divide the world in two camps: Those who have experienced a catastrophic hard drive failure, and those who are about to.” The business owners of the world can be divided in two camps as well: Those who’ve had a significant setback and those who are about to have one. And so it follows: entrepreneurs who have achieved a measure of success, have bounced back at least once after facing setbacks; Successful entrepreneurs are resilient people.

The two principles of resilience

There are two principles of resilience that are characterised by the following two quotes:

Accepting that anything could happen, good stuff as well as bad stuff, doesn’t make one a pessimist. There is a big difference between pessimism and being an optimistic realist. Pessimists will imagine the worst and not be able to see a positive way out. Optimistic realists on the other hand, acknowledge that bad stuff will likely come their way. They simply accept that it is part of the adventure, but they back themselves to be able to manage their way out.

Successful entrepreneurs and Resilience Nervous Nellies

Successful entrepreneurs do not walk around with their fingers crossed, hoping it will all be ok, somehow. They know that anything can happen, and they prepare for it. Great small business owners are generally ‘Nervous Nellies’ with active imaginations. But that doesn’t make them pessimists, far from it. They’re constantly on the lookout for what may go wrong and they plan for those eventualities. They ask themselves: If XYZ were to happen, how could I respond to minimize the impact of it? And they trust themselves to be able to get out from under the hammer when it falls. (More about planning here).

I cannot stress enough how important it is in business to look all possibilities straight in the eye. Positive thinkers, personal and business development gurus alike, often beseech us not to visualise the bad stuff in life. Instead, they say, we must focus on the positive things we want to manifest and we’re assured that because of the universal “Law of Attraction” and our “Abundance Mindset”, it will all fall into place, and if not, we’ve somehow not thought positively enough.

Positive Thinking is Nonsense

Successful entrepreneurs and Resilience Believe me: Positive Thinking is nonsense. Instead, accept that the bad stuff will hit you at some point, as it undoubtedly will, plan for it, learn to trust yourself that you’ll have what it takes to weather the storm, remind yourself that the storm is not caused by an intrinsic shortcoming in your personality and finally, take the quote from Ms Grotberg above to heart.

Why I like Edith Grotberg’s quote so much is that it reminds me that we can all become more resilient. If resilience were a character trait that only special people like Steve Jobs, Larry Page and Warren Buffet are born with, there is no hope for the rest of us. But just like we can learn to manage our anger better, become more assertive, or teach ourselves to become better listeners, we can also learn to become more resilient.

These are some of the steps that will lead to improving your resilience over time:

First of all, it’s really important to understand that Resilience is not about being unaffected by the storms;

Resilience is About How You Recharge, Not How You Endure

You will be knocked sideways when the bad stuff happens. That’s ok, what matters is what you do next. Ms Grotberg suggests three statements to repeat to yourself and to remind yourself off often:

  • I Have: strong relationships, community and structures; these are external supports I can rely on;
  • I Am: a person who has hope and faith, cares about others, is capable and proud of myself; these are inner strengths that can be developed;
  • I Can: communicate, solve problems, gauge the temperament of others, seek good relationships—all interpersonal and problem-solving skills that I have acquired.

These statements are what are often referred to in various psychology disciplines, as a “Reframe”. While simply reading them here won’t turn you into a resilient rock overnight, they are powerful nevertheless. I suggest printing those three statements out and hanging them above your desk and read them out to yourself regularly. If you do, you will slowly start to strengthen your optimistic realism and change your self-belief, especially when combined with a focus on self-compassion, being kinder to yourself (more about kindness in business here).

Optimistic realism, reminding yourself of the “I Have, I Am, I Can” statements combined with practicing Kindness to yourself will mean you’ll recover from the bad stuff, quickly, and continue build a Great Small Business… I promise you.

Further reading

More about Personal Development and Leadership here

#BusinessResilience #startup #entrepreneurmindset #realtalk #motivateyourself #NeverGiveUp #Resilience #FunInBusiness

FREE Download: The 10 Truths for Making Your Business Grow

Immense resilience is what you have to draw upon going forward whatever difficulties you face when you are striving for business growth. My FREE eBook will give you a much needed boost right now or will be remembered next time you feel you are up against it.

Small Business

When Buying a Business is a Bad Idea

Escaping the rat race and buying a business

The safest route out of the rat race

Escaping the rat race and buying a business

Business is all about managing risk, it’s not about keeping your fingers crossed

A friend of a friend (let’s call him John) asked me for my advice the other day. John has a job in a marketing department of a big city corporate. John is good at his job, but he can’t see himself ever getting to the top of the ladder and in the mean time he just hates not being in control of his career and his life.

So John wants to become his own boss and he is considering buying a small business on Sydney’s North Shore. The business he is looking at is healthy, it has good established, profitable contracts and solid trading history, happy customers, and John can afford the purchase price of about $500,000 by borrowing against his house.

Disappointing advice

John is keen as mustard, he’s chomping at the bit to become corporate rat race escapee and take control of his own future. If you’ve read some of my previous articles about happiness and being in control of your own life (here for example), you might be surprised to hear that I strongly advised John against buying the business.

John was surprised too. Given I am a business coach, he’d assumed I would have told him to go for it. And let’s be clear about this: I do think it is a great idea for John to get out of the rat race. I do think that John is going to become increasingly frustrated in his current career. I do think John is the kind of guy who will do really well as a small business owner, and I do think the business John is looking at buying is healthy.

Business is about managing risk

But my advice to John was all about managing risk.

Business is about managing risk. Smart business owners are masters of managing their risk; They know you can’t do it risk free, but they look for every opportunity to postpone it, spread it or lower it.

The risks for John in buying the business are immediate and significant. These are some of them:

  • After a few months of being a business owner and after the first gloss has rubbed off, John might realise he actually hates his new life. John hasn’t run a small business before and he may well have an unrealistic notion of what it is like.
  • Currently happy clients may leave as soon as the previous owner leaves (In fact that nearly always happens after a change of ownership).
  • John may find it tough going to renegotiate some of the regular contracts when they come up for renewal.
  • Either or both key employees simply decide to leave, taking all their business knowledge with them, leaving John in a pickle because he isn’t trained in the actual work of the business, himself.

No compelling reason to buy a business

Escaping the rat race and buying a business Most problematic of all though, is that in a business purchase such as this, there is little or no connection between the Purpose of the business and the values, beliefs, and passions of John himself. In effect, John would be getting into this business for no other reason than that it happens to be for sale and that he believes he can make money from it. In my book, that is one of the least compelling reasons to be in any business. Great Small Businesses, businesses that stand the test of time and create sustainable value, have a compelling reason for existing that connects deeply with the personal values and beliefs of the owner.

If you were to ask the owner of such a business: Why does your business exist and why would anybody care? You would get an immediate, succinct and clear answer. John doesn’t have this clarity and without it, I believe the risk that the business is going to flounder is too great for John.

John was deflated when I advised him to steer clear, he was all set to finalise things with the bank and move ahead. He knew it was time for him to become his own boss, and he’d figured that buying an established business was the least risky option.

Investing in himself

So I asked him to run a thought experiment with me: “You told me that you’re prepared to invest $500,000 into buying an existing business. Now imagine that, instead of buying an established business, you’d start your own business and that you go to your bank and borrow half that money, $250,000, against your house and on day 1 of the launch of your business you deposit all of that money into it’s brand new bank account.”

“Now, suddenly you are the owner of a business with significant assets and cashflow is not going to be the first thing you need to worry about. With that money you can employ an assistant and pay a rental bond on an office and you can pay yourself a salary for a year and as you’ll start to generate some income during that year, you’ll have money left over to subsidise your salary into the second year. That would give you two full years at least to get the business to a breakeven point.”

As I said before, John’s a smart guy and I have no doubt that if John started a Marketing agency for example, he could get to breakeven, long before the money ran out.

A lot less risk after the rat race escape

Comparatively, the risks are small. John will know if it’s going to come together for him after 6 months, and if it doesn’t, he can wind the whole thing down and get a job again. If so, he will have lost only a fraction of his money. And if it all goes well, he’ll have more money available to invest in his business over time.

Not every business can be started with little or no investment, if you want to get into the restaurant business for example, you have to pay for fitouts and commercial kitchens and all that stuff, and it may actually be more economic to buy a going concern, but most small business can be started small and slow (Read my article “Slow and Steady Wins the Race in Small Business”).

Taking risks you don’t need to take is called “Managing by Keeping your Fingers Crossed”… Not a technique I suggest you master in your journey to being a Great Small Business Owner. (I spoke to John last week and I am happy to report he hasn’t bought the business and is considering what kind of business he may start up and how to go about it)

#FunInBusiness #BuyingABusiness #ControlOfYourLife #LeavingTheRatRace

 

Btw, If you’d like to know more about what it takes to get a business off the ground, you can download my first book below for FREE.

FREE Download: The Ten Truths for Raising a Healthy Bouncy Business.

How to Raise a Healthy Bouncy Business

 

What I learned about business and myself in 2016

Careful what you wish for, Business

Careful what you wish for in your business, you might just get it

Careful what you wish for, Business

The weary traveler makes a wish

December has come around and we’re officially in the silly season, end of 2016 in sight. I think it’s time to do some reflecting.

I learned a couple of big lessons this year about myself and business.

First, I learned that Kindness is a key success factor in small business. I published a whole newsletter on the topic of Kindness in October. It’s a nice collection of articles and videos from some great writers, as well as some of my own musings on the matter. Learning to be more Kind to myself and everyone else is one of my projects now, maybe for the rest of my life.

And second I learned the value of the old warning: “Careful what you wish for, because you might just get it.”

Here’s what that’s about:

Three and a half years ago, I decided I wanted to spend a lot more time with my family in Holland every year. Until then I’d do the regular family visits, but those were expensive, and exhausting, and you don’t really get to develop your relationships on those kind of annual flyin – flyout trips.

Reorganising my business and my life

I decided that what I wanted to do, was to reorganise my business and life in such a way that would allow me to travel to Holland and live and work from there for 3 months every year. It’s been my project over the past 3.5 years to make that come together, and I did it.

This year I’ve been in Holland for a total of 4 months, in two trips, and my business hasn’t suffered… If anything it’s healthier now than it’s been for years.

I have a really great marketing assistant in the Philippines now who continuously improves my findability. I have created lots of useful articles, videos, webinars, newsletters and my three books. I have implemented two sophisticated Marketing Automation Systems to connect with and build relationships with my audience. My clients are entirely happy to work with me via Skype and because of VOIP telephony I can simply make phonecalls to Australia from anywhere in the world.

It’s taken a lot of effort, time and money, and I wasn’t always sure if it would work out in the end, but it did, and now it simply doesn’t matter where in the world I am anymore.

I have so little to do

And that’s what is such a strange experience for me, because suddenly, I have so little to do. I stopped nearly all of my previous marketing activities. I resigned from the business referral group I was a committed member of for 10 years. I stopped going to networking events, I’m not doing “coffees” anymore and my online activities are nearly all automated. All I do, in terms of business development, is that I write articles and read interesting blogs in order to offer my audience useful Food-for-Thought, but that’s it. And as a consequence I have all this time available; time to do with as I please.

It’s a mighty weird experience, because I haven’t had time like that for such a long time. I’ve always had work to do, business to generate, quotes to complete, networking, sales follow up, proposals to write, admin to carry out… Never enough time in a day to get everything done as a matter of fact.

But now, I’ve found myself considering what kind of hobbies I might take up, or if I might volunteer somewhere. I didn’t truly appreciate what was going on most of this year; I struggled with myself a lot this year. I felt I was procrastinating and lazy and ill-disciplined and distracted most days. I’d sit down behind my computer determined to do some work, but I’d waste whole days doing nothing much at all.

Stuck in the procrastination swamp

Careful what you wish for, Business I’ve written about procrastination before and I said in the article, that one of the reasons we procrastinate is that we aren’t clear on what it is we are meant to be doing. I suddenly realised a few months ago, that I was stuck in the middle of exactly that kind of procrastination swamp. I didn’t know what I was meant to be doing, because there was nothing to do.

Since that realisation I feel great about myself. I actually achieved what I set out to do in 2013 and now I have to learn how to live in this new reality.

Have you ever set yourself a challenge and then when you’ve achieved it, made it work, you suddenly find yourself wondering: So What’s Next?”

And so we go from challenge to challenge in life, but I tell you what, I’m up for this challenge!

#FuninBusiness #dreamscometrue #YourWishInBusiness #feelgood #secretstosuccess #Coaching #Smallbiz #Entrepreneur

Sign Up to Receive My Weekly Tips Email!

I publish a weekly “One-Minute-Business-Tips” newsletter which is designed to help small business owners take these very small simple steps every week… Each tip I send out on Friday morning, is designed to take less than 15 minutes, but taking those little steps every week will start to change your life… I promise you.

One Minute Business Tips

Slow and Steady Wins the Race in Small Business

Small Business Competition

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

Small Business Competition

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

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

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

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

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

Growth is the easy part

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

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

Jane’s worried about the competition

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

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

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

Doing the boring stuff

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

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

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

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

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

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

Making the competition irrelevant

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

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

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

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

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

Sign Up to Receive My Weekly Tips Email!

I publish a weekly “One-Minute-Business-Tips” newsletter which is designed to help small business owners take these very small simple steps every week… Each tip I send out on Friday morning, is designed to take less than half an hour, but taking those little 10 minute steps every week will start to change your life… I promise you.

One Minute Business Tips