The 5 management truths for building a Fun business

TTTMBF the revolution

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 third article in a monthly series on Making Business Fun: This article is about the 5 business management Truths

The last article laid out the foundations of a fun business and you can read it here

The articles are based on my book, The Ten Truths for Making Business Fun, published in 2011. All of my books and other resources are available for free here

Building a Fun Business: The five building blocks

And the hard hitting truths about business management

TTTMBF the management truths Would you like to move out of overwhelm and start building a Fun Business that sustains you for years to come? The truth is that once you’ve laid the foundations (using the Hedgehog Principles), it’s all about learning to manage your Fun Business properly.

I won’t lie, you will need to focus on a few fundamentally dull things, small business management in other words, like goal setting, team management,  planning, systems and measuring. However, I have a few shortcuts and strategies up my sleeve that make the process markedly more exciting…

A Fun Business Has Flexible Goals

TTTMBF goal setting Everyone knows that goal setting is a good idea. It engages your team. It improves your decision-making. It helps your business deliver on its promise. What’s more, I don’t believe your business will ever become Fun if you don’t practice goal setting effectively. To manage your business well, to build a great Fun Business, you simply can’t avoid Goal setting.

Still, goal setting is surprisingly difficult to do well. It’s hard to get people onboard. It’s even tougher to keep everyone accountable. Our world is also changing every day, so goals must be continuously adjusted to suit new realities.

SMART is a well-established tool for creating impactful goals:

  • S pecific
  • M easurable
  • A chievable
  • R elevant
  • T imeframed

I like the idea, but I believe that adding three more letters to the acronym makes it exponentially more powerful:

  • S tretch (you can just see yourself reaching for it)
  • I nspiring (for you)
  • P ersonal (about your personal achievements and growth. Read: not about achieving a particular profit level or buying a Porsche because unfortunately, those material things won’t motivate your subconscious brain!).

I always invite my clients to decide on a large, visionary goal for the future (Jim Collins refers to this as the BHAG or “Big Hairy Audacious Goal” in his book, Built to Last) that meets the SMARTSIP criteria and then break it down into a medium-term goal and a goal for the year.

A Fun Business Engages Everyone

TTTMBF helping hand Lots of businesses proclaim that their people are their greatest asset (and to be honest, whenever I read that statement on someone’s website, I run a mile), but most of them generally belie their beliefs with their actions.

Most companies prefer not to think about the fact that a business IS its people, and your business only gets to make money if your people let you. Business Management is about people first and foremost.

If your employees are only interested in their paycheck, you will always struggle to make a dollar and business will feel anything but FUN. On the flip side, if your whole team is enthusiastically pulling in the same direction then your business will move mountains.

So, how can you achieve said nirvana?

  1. Hire the brightest: Find people whose attitude, energy, enthusiasm and resourcefulness matches your culture and team dynamics.
  2. Move beyond money: Listen to people, recognise their achievements and give them the right tools to do a meaningful job well.
  3. Get the team involved: Bring your people into all the processes, planning meetings and rhythms of the business.
  4. Remember that employees are people too: Don’t just dictate – get people involved in developing their own goals.
  5. Play the game of business: Get your people to start thinking like team members who are playing a game that they all enjoy and want to win.

A Fun Business Has a “Living” Business Plan That Drives It Forward

TTTMBF looking into the future, planning Human beings don’t accomplish anything without a plan. In fact, some say it is our ability to plan that sets us apart from other animals. However, most small businesses do not have a formal business plan, and if they do, it generally lives in a dusty bottom drawer.

Having a written plan (AKA one that exists outside of your head) allows other people to engage with it and understand where the business is going. It allows you and others to check progress, brainstorm, make good decisions and maintain focus on the important stuff.

Most business owners know this. I’m sure you do too.

The sticking point comes from a simple misunderstanding. It comes from believing you are expected to develop an externally focused plan in the format we are taught by accountants, consultants and government bodies (read: not designed to be useful for you, the owner) when an internal business plan is what you need.

An internal business plan is a shareable and succinct “living” document. It is created collaboratively and revised frequently. It is designed to support decision-making and internal communication about the direction of the business.

Trust me, once you let go of your idea of what a business plan “should’” look like and just get around a table with a flip chart and a group of your people, you’ll find that business planning is not actually daunting at all, but instead really powerful and Fun.

A Fun Business Has Rhythm and Regularity

TTTMBF rhythm Entrepreneurs are the busiest and most guilt-ridden people on the planet. They work long days, dream about their businesses at night and repeatedly scorn themselves for not living up to some impossible standards laid out by a critical inner voice [HYPERLINK TO BLOG POST 1].

As a result, most business owners operate as crisis managers. This situation has many undesirable consequences: dropped balls, neglected business development, burnout, missed family time, stomach ulcers, or all of the above. An atmosphere of stress and last-minute problem-solving also starts to develop company-wide, leading to low morale and high employee turnover. You get stuck in a loop where you don’t have time to foster predictability, develop systems or train people to handle the crises themselves and because of this, there will always be another crisis.

The way through this dilemma? Building rhythm and regularity into your business.

One of the best first steps you can take is to start a weekly operations meeting where everyone reviews the previous week and plans for the next one (a better one). Want to make it effective? Start and finish on time. Follow an agreed agenda. Ensure everyone is present. Don’t allow distractions. Focus on solutions.

Next, you might decide to look at the systems in the business because systemisation is an important contributor to a sense of calm predictability. This could be as simple as creating a script and a standard form/checklist for inbound office calls.

Remember, people want to feel safe, and safety starts with knowing what the future holds.

A Fun Business Measures the Fun

TTTMBF measuring fun Beyond the most obvious measurements, every business has different priorities. However, there is one key measurement that all business owners should consider starting with: Fun.

Fun is the only success factor that cuts across and influences every aspect of business.

One of the reasons Fun doesn’t usually get measured is that most people believe you can’t because it is intangible. But you can measure intangibles such as Fun. Quite easily and accurately as a matter of fact.

Let’s say you asked your team every Friday afternoon to give an anonymous rating on your Fun in Business scale from 0 to 10, with 10 being the most fun you’ve ever had in business and 0 being the opposite. Next you collate and average those numbers and come up with a single “Fun number” for the week in business.

You could then have a staff meeting every Monday morning and share last week’s Fun number, asking the team what you could all do to get the number just a couple of points higher in the coming week.

The first few times you do this, your team will make silly suggestions about doubling their wages and paintball outings because it is all such a novel idea. However, I guarantee that soon enough it will become obvious to everyone exactly what real business Fun is all about and you will start having practical, productive conversations that make exciting things happen.

Your Homework (The Fun Kind)

Here’s a couple of steps you might take in the coming week(s) in respect of each of the management truths:

For Goal setting:
  1. Thinking about the SMARTSIP structure I describe above, pick a date, ideally no more than a year from now and no less than 6 months away ad create a Goal (or set of Goals) for you and your business that inspires you and is both a stretch, yet achievable,specific and  measurable and meaningful to you personally and motivating for your staff
  2. Create a rough draft monthly plan for achievement of your Goal with monthly milestones
For your team:
  1. Get your team involved. Organise a meeting with your team and introduce the Goal and draft plan to them and work with them to firm up the plan
  2. Assign specific tasks from the plan to team members or groups of team members
  3. Agree on monthly meetings with your team to update the plan, and agree on next months actions and responsibilities
For your business plan:
  1. Incorporate your Goal in a longer term plan. Where do you want your business to be in 5 years, what is it going to look like, what is its focus, how big is it, what new developments have taken place.
  2. On your own or with your team (or part of your team) create a SWOT and create actionable targets to address the top 3 items from each of the sections (see more about SWOT here  and also here )
For Rhythm:
  1. Start by blocking out a small amount of time each week for yourself (as little as an hour each week or as much as you can manage), to do nothing but think and plan and develop new ideas. Phone off, can’t be disturbed, go off site to a cafe if you need to make sure you’re not disturbed.
  2. Implement a weekly half hour meeting with your staff to set up the week… Celebrate the wins from last week and plan to have more wins this week. Make sure it’s quick, efficient and doesn’t talk about why certain things went wrong last week, simply acknowledge the things that went wrong and focus on making sure things go right this week instead.
For measuring the Fun:
  1. In your weekly and monthly meetings, start by asking everyone for one small tiny little thing they can do themselves to mak the week ahead more Fun
  2. In your weekly and monthly meetings ask the staff for one thing you can do to make business more fun for everyone in the week ahead
  3. Start recording the fun suggestions and the fun number (more about measuring Fun in business here)

Next Month:

Next month’s post will be about leadership in a Fun business. Here’s the link

More on this topic:

 

The Ten Truths: Why does Fun in Business Matter?

TTTMBF 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:

Next installment:

Read the next installment about the Foundations of a Fun business here

No business without sales

car sales man

car sales man

Forget all the sexy stuff… Focus on the three S-es first

I love walking into an office supply store and getting the sexiest looking pens or clips or gadgets for my business desk. I get excited over developing more smart and beautiful stuff for my website. I can obsesses over a new design for my business cards or my logo. Many of my clients are that way inclined too. All of that stuff can be highly satisfying and give us a feeling of satisfaction… Build it and they will come… We think.

But it doesn’t actually do much for your business, does it? Ultimately the only thing that gets your business to develop is sales. The three S’s: Sales, sales and sales. If there’s no sales, there’s no business.

I thought of this maxim recently when working with my client Mark in 2009.

Mark is the owner of a small consultancy working with charities to improve their fundraising. One of Mark’s goals at the time was to double the size of his business by the end of 2011. So we developed a business plan and a marketing plan, and he got going.

Mark started blogging and sending out a beautiful newsletter. He redesigned his website and became active on LinkedIn. He joined the Australian Institute of Management and attended all their functions and networking events. He engaged an SEO consultant to improve his Google ranking and installed CRM software. In short, he did everything the modern “attraction marketing gurus” tell us to do, and he did it efficiently and consistently.

All the KPI’s are moving up

Mark’s Google ranking did go up and Mark’s database doubled and tripled in size and Mark went from 375 LinkedIn connections to over a 1000 in a year, and he got great feedback and comments on his blogs and articles and posts and newsletters and whitepapers. Exciting stuff.

Mark and I did a lot of back slapping and congratulating each other. Every KPI we measured was moving up steeply. All of them that is to say, except one… his revenue. Sales stuck more or less where they’d been for the past three years.

We’re all getting frustrated

By the end of 2009, Mark was getting frustrated, and he was ready to throw in the towel. I was pretty confused myself by this stage. Everything I knew told me that the marketing work that Mark was carrying out week in, week out, should have led to a steady increase of business by now… but something was missing.

I remember one day, asking Mark about the feedback he was getting from his potential clients. What were they telling him, how were they responding to his proposals and his quotes? Mark looked at me with a confused look in his eyes and said, “I don’t know”.

I asked, “But you must get some sense of their reaction when you talk to them, right?” Mark replied, “Well, I don’t really get to talk to them much unless they call me”. And I was silent for a while.

Picking up the phone

It turned out that Mark had a block of picking up the phone and talking to prospects unless they initiated the phone call themselves. He never just picked up the phone and called a prospect and said: “Hi I’m Mark, I saw your comments on my articles, and I wondered if you’d like to have a coffee and discuss how I can help you improve your fundraising targets in 2010”.

Nothing happens until we sell something. 

Once we identified Mark’s problem, we set about fixing it. I got Mark to identify one person every week, who had commented or engaged with one of his articles and to call that person. Because he only had to concentrate on one person and he and I customised a strategy for every one of those people, Mark was able to overcome his block.

He ended up having a coffee with a new prospect nearly every week, and Mark’s business started growing again.

No matter how amazing your website, your collateral, your service or your product, at some stage you must go out and talk to the customer, make them an offer and ask for the sale. Sales simply do not happen by themselves… I promise you.

You can watch one of my recorded Small Business Masterminds Webinars called “Making Sales Fun” HERE. and don’t forget to download the other sales resources on the same page anytime.

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

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

Why I don’t believe in business coaching and why it works

Why coaching works

Why business coaching works captain the in the storm

Don’t talk to me about the storms and the reefs, Coach,  just tell me we’ll be safe

I was working with a business – life coaching client recently, let’s call him Peter. Peter set a big Goal for himself as part of our work together.

Peter’s Goal was so big, in fact, that I was bothered by it. You see, I know from experience, that setting Goals that are too big are likely to have a demotivational effect and worse, can lead to disappointment.

I challenged Peter and asked him if he felt confident the Goal was realistic, and if he felt he could make it happen in the time we had. Peter was adamant. Although he wasn’t sure if he could do it, he wanted to stretch himself and “set it out there”. Peter has done a lot of self-development work and he believes in a version of the “Law of Attraction”, which loosely states that you get what you focus on in life and in business.

Goal blown out of the water

3 Weeks later, Peter rang me unexpectedly. He’d just signed a new contract that meant he’d blown his Goal out of the water two weeks early.

Wonderful news, very exciting and I truly feel Peter deserves every dollar of that success, because he is one of the nicest guys I know.

Peter said: “There you go, I knew it, when you set it out there, the Universe will provide”.

And it’s such a comforting idea, isn’t it? The idea that there is some greater power that’s going to look after you in your time of need. It’s lovely that Peter felt confirmed in his beliefs. It will no doubt help him to remain motivated to move forward in his business and that was his biggest problem prior to coming to see me.

But it confirmed my growing confusions.

I don’t believe

You see, I do not believe in the “Law of Attraction”, or it’s many variants. I don’t even believe in traditional Goal setting anymore. As a matter of fact, there are a whole bunch of foundational principles of my profession of coaching that I have stopped believing in. Consequently, in the past years, I’ve adjusted the way I work with my clients to rely only on well-established scientific principles.

And my clients achieve great things in their businesses and their lives and I am excited and proud of the work I do with them. But the experience with Peter recently makes me wonder if I’m doing the right thing for my clients.

You see, Peter is an old hand at being coached and mentored. I’ve known him for years and we have done a lot of work together. Also, Peter moves in a world where he comes across self-development gurus of many ilks all the time, and he’s convinced by the self-development messages he hears from them. What’s more, Peter and I have become good friends over the years, so he felt comfortable enough with me to push back and set the Goal he wanted to set. It worked out great for him, but not everyone has Peter’s confidence or clarity.

The many contradictions

It’s all very well for me to question myself and my beliefs. I don’t believe anything in life or business is ever black and white, there are no simple rules. Here’s just a few of those contradictions in business:

  • A business must make profit or else it’s a hobby… but… Making profit is not the Purpose of business.
  • A business must have a plan to move forward… but… Planning is guessing
  • Goalsetting is important… but… Goals are not destinations, just directions.
  • Great leaders are fiercely ambitious… but… Not for themselves
  • Systemisation is critical for developing your business… but… I’d hate to live in a world where all restaurants are McDonalds.
  • Knowing how to “close” a sale is a key skill in business… but… The most successful people in business and in life “Give without expectation of return”.
  • Growing your business is fine… but… Don’t focus on growth (focus on delivery instead).
  • Change your business, make it grow, make more money… but… Not unless you yourself change and grow first.

Life is full of contradictions such as those. Sure, it would be easier if it wasn’t and we all like the idea of winning the lottery, but even winning the lottery turns out not to be as great as we thought. (Read about lottery winners and happiness here)

And so I believe questioning myself is healthy, it keeps me sharp and pushing the boundaries. But it’s not necessarily what my clients need from me.

The shortest route

business coaching The experience with Peter has shown me that most clients simply want to get from point A to point B, via the shortest route possible, with as few detours as possible. And they look for someone to help them get there.

Maybe, when they come across me, they hear my questioning, my lack of certainty and start to wonder if getting my help might take them up the scenic route to point B, and so they’ll move on to someone who promises to take them up the freeway instead.

And that’s a shame, because the thing is, I know I transform people’s lives and businesses. I have literally hundreds of past clients who will attest to that fact.

So what I need to do is to communicate that you can trust me to take you on an amazing journey and adventure, and that like the captain of the ship, I know how to handle the storms when they come up. You don’t particularly want me to talk about the reefs we might hit under way, you just want to know we’ll be safe.

And this blog post?… It’s doing exactly the opposite… isn’t it?… Ah well, Peter loves me anyway.

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

Further reading and research

You may be interested in taking my ”Are you ready for Change” survey. It takes 10 minutes to complete and I promise it will give you plenty of food for thought. I’ve written more about Change (with a capital ”C”) here.

Here is the link to my webpage about all my coaching, mentoring, guidance and training services

There is a lovely guest post from one of my clients, Geoff Anderson from Sonic Sight about his experience with business coaching here

Here is an article I wrote about how to go about finding the right coach for you and here is a link to my webpage about all forms of business support that are available to small business owners.

And here are three articles on how to go about finding the right business coach on Inc.com , on Entrepreneur.com and on Fastcompany.com. All worth a good read if you’re considering the idea of getting a business coach soon.

More about my own coaching background here

 

The Most Important Reason for Taking on a Business Coach

shhhhhhhhhhh

A business coach will change your life

But here’s the secret no coach will tell you

shh hush shush secret red sexy lips I read a great article in Leaders in Heels, online the other day (read it here) about the reasons for taking on a business coach.

The article got me thinking about my profession, about what I do and why working with me and people like me can make such an enormous difference to your business growth and development, and hence why I firmly believe that taking on a coach from time to time is one of the best decisions you’ll ever make in your business.

There is one reason above all others, that you should know about and noone tells you about. And that is this… it’s not the brilliance of the coach, rather it is the commitment you make that makes the difference.

The conventional factors

The article by Ros Cardinal mentions a number of important benefits from taking on a coach, such as:

Time management and prioritisation, clarity, brainstorming and accountability. and those are absolutely great benefits you’ll gain from having a coach (a good one anyway) and there a bunch of others, depending on the coach and the relationship you and your coach may have.

But the biggest one is rarely mentioned, because it actually is not dependent on the qualities, knowledge and experience of your coach… It is the commitment made by you, the client. Obviously coaches don’t like to mention this too much, because they want you to think they are brilliant and that their singular brilliance is going to make you rich and successful… I’m no different really, I am similarly convinced of my genius… but in the depth of the night, when noone is listening, I know it hasn’t got anywhere near as much to do with my talents as I like to make out.

The commitment

To take on a business coach costs significant time, energy and money. To sign a contract or shake hands with a business coach is not a decision to be taken lightly. It takes a lot of faith and trust and actually not going to make your life easier in the short term. I say to my clients that taking me on as their coach: “Is full-on, it’s intense, it’s made grown men cry… but it works”

And one of the reasons it works is that it is a big commitment, and once you make the big commitment it means you become highly invested to make it work for you by hook or by crook.

Once you make the commitment and I am up to the job of “holding the space” and being there for you every step of the way, the change becomes relentless and unavoidable.

It’s the reason I actually make it quite hard to engage with me (which doesn’t help my business model of course but then the dentists kids have holes in their teeth… maybe I need a new business coach!)

Next time you talk to a business coach who wants to make it easy to sign you up… go and find someone else… I promise you.

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

 

Sales, Profit and Cash Podcast

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What sinks more business than anything else?

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Fun in Business

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

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

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

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

A switched-on Business Owner

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

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

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

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

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

Your average Week

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

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

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

Brian’s Car Accessories

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

Competing priorities

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

Scale

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

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

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

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

Cashflow… staff training

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

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

Growth again

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

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

Lessons from Brian

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

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

A little more fun next week

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

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

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

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

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

 

About the author

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

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

Masterminds Observations…Passion and Purpose

rework

Masterminds Observations…Passion and Purpose

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

One of my favourite books is “Rework” by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, founders of software company 37Signals. In the reworkchapter “Building to Flip is Building to Flop” they say this: “When you build a company with the intention of selling it, you focus on the wrong things. Instead of focusing on getting customers to Love you, you worry about who is going to buy you. That is the wrong thing to obsess over”

That is exactly what I think when I hear all the gurus and business coaches talking about the exit strategies and the need to focus on that.

There is only one thing to focus on every day when you want to start a business, and that is: How do I build something that my customers will love more than any other business out there?

All the greatest and most Fun small businesses that have ever been built, ask themselves one question, every day: “What else would my customers love?”

If you focus on that and nothing else, everything will fall into place and you’ll have as much Fun as you can handle

Overwhelm and The Small Business Owner

chimp

October 2013

Overwhelm and the small business owner

How to get more of the good stuff done

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

The Oxford dictionary defines Overwhelm as: “Bury or drown beneath a huge mass of something”.

ape This is my definition: When we are in a state of overwhelm, we have a sense of being ill-equipped to deal with the demands that are placed on us, in other words, we feel like there is too much to deal with right now.

Being in a state of overwhelm is no picnic. Overwhelm is a major cause of stress, anxiety and depression in our society, and small business owners experience overwhelm more than most.

Being a Builder

A long time ago when I still had my building company, there was one feeling I experienced more than anything on a day to day basis, and that feeling was overwhelm.

There were so many different business development priorities jostling for attention in my brain that I simply didn’t know which one to focus on. On a daily basis, there would be financial management, marketing, customers, systemisation, planning, quality assurance, sales, staff, contractor issues, etc etc.

Some days this sense of overwhelm became so great that I would become quite paralysed and waste the whole of the day surfing the internet (remember this was over 10 years ago, before Facebook came along to make life even more distracting) Other times, especially when I was still actively “on the tools”, I would spend days doing stuff I could have delegated to the labourers on my team, instead of wielding the shovel and hammer myself.

Overwhelm stymied the development of my business and I know that if I’d managed to find a way to manage myself better, the business would have developed further and sooner.

The paradox of choice

paradox-choice It is a well-established fact that too much choice leads to overwhelm and decision paralysis. Here is a quote from a 2009 TED talk called “The paradox of choice” by professor Barry Schwartz:

“A colleague of mine got access to investment records from a gigantic mutual fund company of about a million employees and about 2,000 different workplaces. And what she found is that for every 10 mutual funds the employer offered, the rate of participation went down two percent. You offer 50 funds — 10 percent fewer employees participate than if you only offer five. Why? Because with 50 funds to choose from, it’s so damn hard to decide which fund to choose that you’ll just put it off until tomorrow.”

100 colours white

And I’m sure we’ve all experienced how much harder it is to decide on the new paint colour for our living room when the average paint store has a choice of 100 or more different shades of white alone.

As small business owners we are not unique in experiencing overwhelm, stress and anxiety, but there are some aspects to running a small business that are unique:

  1. We simply do not have the resources in time and money to be able to address all the business development priorities that are vying for our attention; they will always have to be culled ruthlessly.
  2. But generally we don’t feel well enough equipped to be able to decide what to cull.
  3. And besides that, even if we did, most of the pressing issues relate to aspects of business that are well outside our specific skill=set (The skill-set that is the foundation on which we started the business: carpentry, architecture, cooking, widget-making, etc.)

This is the reality of being a small business owner: more stuff to do than you can poke a stick at, all of it really important, but most of it out of your comfort zone.

Procrastination

No wonder we procrastinate.

My clients will often tell me that they are the world’s worst procrastinators and that they are lazier than anyone they’ve ever met.

But laziness has nothing to do with it, more often than not procrastination and “time wasting” comes from a lack of clarity about what the most important thing to do next is and feeling insecure that we’d know how to do it if we did know.
tool-man

Besides procrastination, the other default response we have to this sense of overwhelm is to pick up our trusted hammer (scale rule, cook’s knife or widget machine) and do some more hammering instead.

Do you recognise any of that?

Do you spend more time than you should “hammering” and not enough time addressing the business development issues? And when you do put down the hammer, do you find yourself procrastinating and not getting as much done as you think you should?

Trust me, most of us do, all the time.

The way out

So what is the way out? Given that I don’t believe in easy answers and one-size-fits-all solutions, let me give you a 5-ingredient recipe to put on the stove and experiment with that will start to take the sting out of this challenge for you:

stop-sign Step 1: Stop beating yourself up, you are not the world’s laziest business owner. (I am… obviously). Seriously, start by accepting that the challenge you have in this area is really common, we all face it every day, it’s normal.

Step 2: Write down what the major business development priorities are for you at a high level (marketing, cashflow, etc)

Step 3: Ask yourself this question: If there was one priority I could do something with today that would move my business forward one single step, what priority would that be? Lock in the first answer that comes to mind, trust your gut feeling on this.

Step 4: Ask yourself a second question: What specific action(s) can I take today in relation to that business development priority that will make a real difference in my business?

Step 5: Block out a specific time in your diary today to carry out that specific action(s)

Experiment

What makes this recipe such a nice one to experiment with is this:

  1. That there are a few skills you have achieved mastery in, “beating yourself up” is one of those, you don’t need to practice it anymore, it wastes precious creative energy and time, and makes you feel like crap.
  2. Actually forcing yourself to make a choice between all the different priorities is challenging, but your gut feeling (the unconscious) will actually know the answer, and you can trust it.
  3. Breaking the major priority area down into a small, specific action that you can block out a specific time in your diary for, can make it a lot easier to cut through the overwhelm and help you focus.

If you get yourself into a habit (and remember habits take 28 days of consecutive practice to cement) to go through this process every day, I promise you that your business and your life will never be the same again.

Cheers,
Roland Hanekroot

Call me if you’d like to explore how I can help you have less Overwhelm and more FUN in your business and build a business that sustains you for years to come. A great first step is to come along to one of my monthly Small Business Masterminds workshops… follow this link

Masterminds observations… Love over Hate

Love over Hate

Love over Hate Business Masterminds Observations

 

The illusion of “The Power of One”

I am reading “Love over Hate, finding life by the wayside” link to the book by Graham Long, pastor and CEO of the Wayside Chapel in Sydney .This is a passage that stood out for me particularly:

“The idea that the basic human unit is a solitary individual is the established orthodoxy of the Western World. It’s an illusion and an attractive one at that, often presenting itself as “The power of one”. The power of this illusion is in its promise to an insecure individual that a dream and some willpower is all that is required to overcome life’s obstacles. It promises an individual can triumph over adversity as well as any competitors who get in the way of the prize of justice, fame, wealth or whatever other virtue is implied by the dream.”

It’s all upside down

What this says to me amongst many other things is that we (and I include myself firmly in that “we”) have got it all wrong. The library of work in books, blogs, seminars, videos and everything else by the gurus of the business growth, as well as personal development world repeat the refrain of the Power of the individual and that “The answer is within”… even in the world of religion we hear “The Kindom of God is within”… All of that is nonsense.

To me, that paragraph and the rest of the book and several other books I have been reading in the last year, have convinced me that I have to throw out the rule book, and start again… let me know what you think!