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:

A small business mentor will change your world

business mentoring

small business mentoring

Secrets of a great mentoring relationship

Many moons ago I started my working life as a cadet journalist. One of the senior editors on the newspaper became my mentor for the next 3 years. It was one of the most important relationships of my life.  Under his wings, I became a good young journalist and a (more or less) well-adjusted human being.

I have mentored many people in various forms myself since those days and I’m convinced that most entrepreneurs who’ve built great small businesses have done with the support of one or more mentors.

Being in a mentoring relationship with someone whether as mentor or mentee (strange word, I know) can be incredibly rewarding for both parties. It certainly has been that for me as much as for the people I’ve mentored.

Keeping it in the family

I have for example mentored my daughter-in-law for the past two years through the start of her landscaping and design business (Excelsa Landscapes). I know she has gained a lot in the process, but I have as well. I feel engaged, valued and acknowledged when working with her. I’m really proud to see how she and her business have developed over the past two years. Being in some small way part of her journey these past two years gives me as much enjoyment as anything else I do in my business.

I know my daughter-in-law has grown immeasurably as a business owner in those two years. Partly as a result of our mentoring relationship, she has become a true business owner, a person who takes control of her life and accepts responsibility for delivering on her client’s needs as well as the wellbeing of her employees and contractors. She stands in the centre of her world and doesn’t hide behind others. We’ve both grown and in the process we’ve also gotten to know and appreciate each other.

What more could any of us want in life?

Different forms of mentoring

There are many different forms of mentoring:

It can take whatever form suits you and your mentor.

A client of mine has four mentors. I am one of those four, he has another person such as me in New Zealand, his accountant is one of his mentors and finally there is a retired millionaire (billionaire even) who made his fortune in a similar industry to himself. They meet for lunch once or twice a year.

Some mentoring relationships are paid, some are voluntary and some have a payment in kind arrangement.

In other words, you can fashion the relationship to suit yourself and that brings me to the final point.

Taking control

You, the mentee, have to take control of the relationship. You have to decide what it is you want to get from working with your mentor and you have to ensure you get it. Do not make the mistake of instigating the relationship and then sitting back with folded arms wondering what happens next. Always enter every conversation with your mentor, able to clearly articulate what you want to walk away with from the session and what input you want from your mentor.

If you don’t yet have a mentor, as a small business owner or you’re not getting what you need out of a current mentoring relationship, it’s time to go looking for a new mentor.

Your world will change.

I promise you…

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

#SmallBusinessMentor #SmallBusinessDevelopment#FunInBusiness #Mentoring 

FREE Business Mentoring

If you would like to explore the possibility of a mentoring relationship, feel free to book in a FREE half hour discovery session below.

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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 Becoming a Corporate Refugee Is Good For You

Business owner, Corporate Refugee

Business owners are happier people

Business Owner, Corporate Refugee

Why scraping nasty chemicals from the bottom of boats beats working for a living

In 1984 I arrived in Sydney as a corporate refugee with my wife and daughter. Until that time, I’d trained and worked as a journalist on various newspapers in Holland. But it was time to change the corporate Smoke-filled, Alcohol-fuelled offices of a daily newspaper in Holland for the Sun-filled, Wholesome Great Outdoors of Australia. Specifically, I wanted to work on and around sailing boats on Sydney Harbour.

We had very little money when we got here (The Dutch money we brought with us, converted to Australian dollars, was precisely enough to buy an old Ford Cortina and pay the rental bond on a grotty little terrace house in Redfern, and that was just about it) and I needed to make sure I got a job quickly. So I jumped on the first thing I could and got a job at the old Dairy Farmers Factory in Ultimo, packing yoghurt beakers into cartons.

I worked there for a couple of months, and some of the gloss had started to come off our big immigration adventure, when I met up with an old friend at a typical Sydney backyard barbeque. I’ll never forget his words, he said: What are you doing working in that factory? Right now, while you’re not fully settled in yet, is the best opportunity you’ll ever have to create the future you’ve been dreaming of and the longer you keep working in that factory, the harder you’ll find it to get moving.

Walking on the dock of the Bay

He was right, the next day I walked out of the factory. I went down to the big yacht-marina in Rushcutters Bay, and simply asked anyone I saw around the docks if there was any work going.

I’ve not worked regular hours, taken home a regular wage, or been told what to do by a boss since.

Business Owner, Corporate Refugee

I won’t sit here and tell you it’s all been plain sailing (!!). Far from it. I’ve had to do some pretty unpleasant work from time to time (Scraping old antifoul paint (nasty chemical stuff that stops algae from growing on the bottom of boats) from the hulls of old trawlers in 40 degree Sydney heat is not one of my fondest memories), and I’ve stuffed up various contracts in those early years (The look of horror on the face of the owner of a boat I’d painted in entirely the wrong colour, still comes to mind from time to time), and I’ve naively been taken to the cleaners by unscrupulous customers at other times, but I’ve somehow managed to make a living, pay various mortgages and send the kids to school from 1984 to now.

Wild rollercoaster rides

Slowly but surely my work became a business and the business evolved away from boats to houses, it grew steadily and 20 years later I sold the building business to a junior partner. And in 2004 I started this thing I do now called business coaching and mentoring. And I feel good about myself and my life to date. It’s been a wild rollercoaster ride at times, but I am forever grateful to my old friend who shook me up at that barbeque in 1984. I am basically a happy chap.

Why am I telling you this?

Well, you see, I meet all kinds of people, those who work for The Man and those who work for themselves. And it’s become clear to me that people who work for themselves are nearly always happier than those who are employees, especially those who work for big companies. I believe this is because people are happiest when they feel they have agency, when they feel they are in control of their own lives.

As a business owner. when things go well you can pat yourself on the back for making that happen and when things go badly you know that the buck stops with you just as much, and that they have it in their hands to turn things around again. Business owners know they are largely responsible for the outcomes of their lives.

Dogs and electric shocks

Business owner, corporate refugee I read a book by Prof Martin Seligman a few years ago. Prof Seligman is the father of “Positive Psychology”. In the book Seligman describes a set of experiments run with dogs in the sixties. In the experiments dog A is given a light electrical shock every time a bell rings. The dog learns to associate the bell with the electrical shock, and knows the shocks cannot be escaped, it’s a fact of life. Then the dog is placed in a large crate that is divided in half. Half the floor is electrified and the bell is rung and the shock is applied. The dog could easily move to the other half of the floor to get away from the shock, but doesn’t and lies down on the floor shivering in fear.

Dog B is not conditioned beforehand and is also placed in the crate. The floor is electrified and the dog immediately moves to escape the shock.

The second dog has a sense of control over his life that the first one doesn’t anymore. Dog A has become depressed (if there is such a thing in dogs) and Dog B is full of vitality. Seligman referred to the condition of Dog A as “Learned Helplessness”.

I believe as humans working for large organisations we are also prone to “Learned Helplessness”. I am not saying that all people working for all companies have learned that they are helpless and are all depressed or that all depression comes as a result of having a job for a company. Obviously not. There are many different circumstances and many different strategies that people employ to maintain their vitality and sense of agency at work and in life.

The choice that changes everything

What I am saying, though, is that being a corporate refugee and starting your own business can absolutely be one of those strategies.

There is an enormous sense of reward and satisfaction that flows from building something you created yourself and that you are entirely responsible for. There is a wonderful sense of freedom in knowing that you can simply take the rest of today off if you choose to do so, but that you may actually choose not to do so, for whatever reason. You might be tired and grumpy and overworked and you’d love nothing better than go to the beach and veg out for the rest of the day, but you choose not to, because something else is at this moment more important to you.

That choice changes everything, because now you are at work, because you choose to be at work, not because your boss or your organisation has told you to be.

Business owners have agency

Clearly I am biased, I’ve worked for myself for more than 30 years and for the last 12 years supported those who do work for themselves. I can’t even remember anymore what it was like to be a journalist working for an editor in the hierarchy of a big corporate office. But I do know for a fact that none of the small business owners I’ve ever met show any of the symptoms of Learned Helplessness.

So, if you sometimes feel your job is draining your vitality, consider leaving the rat race, escape the corporate world and take control of your own life… The adventure is worth all the heartaches and frustrations … I promise you.

#FunInBusiness #Happiness #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: The Ten Truths for Raising a Healthy Bouncy Business for free!

FREE Download: The 10 Truths for Raising a Healthy, Bouncy Business

How to Raise a Healthy Bouncy Business

 

The 7 Secrets to Building a Fun Business

Small Business Growth Strategy

Why some business grow, hum along and make money and others don’t

Small Business Growth Strategy

The most successful growth strategy for your small business is found between your ears.

Owning your own business can be a lot of fun and it can be rewarding at many levels. But for many small business owners, the experience is one of frustration and confusion. You’re the first one in the door in the morning and the last one out the door at night, often you’re back at it after the kids have gone to bed and most weekends there is some admin or quoting that needs to be caught up on. The kids are growing up and not getting the attention you want to give them and money remains as tight as ever.

I know the feeling. I’ve been a small business owner for over 30 years now and since 2004 I’ve been a business coach supporting business owners to build Great Small Businesses, what I refer to as a Fun Business (with a capital “F”), you can read more about what a Fun Business is in my books and also in a number of articles on my blog such as this one here.

Also have a look at my page on business growth, including many resources on all the different aspects of business growth here

Breaking through

But some business owners break through that stage and actually build Fun Businesses. Their growth strategy works, they make money, their staff are engaged and motivated, their customers love them and they find the kind of balance in their lives that is important to them.

What’s their secret?

Over the years, I’ve met those who have broken through and those who don’t, and I’ve learnt to spot what sets them apart.

The Big 7

The business owners I’ve met who do break through and do build Fun Small Businesses, all have these 7 things in common:

1. They’ve come to understand that their own time is the most precious resource of their business. They constantly ask themselves: Is what I am about to spend time doing, the most important thing for me to be doing right now, or should I be looking for someone else to be doing it instead of me?

2. They’ve learnt that being a great plumber/ architect/ florist/ software developer/ shopkeeper is only a very small part of what it takes to build a great business based on those professions. It can help and smooth the path in the early days, but to build a Great Small Business, the owner must learn to focus on the work of the business owner, rather than the work of the business. (Business development work in other words)

3. They have found the answer to the question: Why does your business exist, what is it on this earth for and why would anybody care? And then they are 100% committed to the answer; it drives their decisions and actions every day.

4. They’ve learnt to understand and even love their numbers. If you don’t understand and love your numbers as a business owner, you’re managing your business by keeping your fingers crossed, and that is not one of the recognised management techniques. (When I talk about The Numbers, I refer to many other numbers besides the financial numbers alone. There are sales numbers and productivity numbers and quality numbers and customer satisfaction numbers, etc. The trick is to find the key numbers of the health of your business and learn to manage your business by those numbers).

5. They hire the best people they can possibly afford and they learn how to give those people every opportunity to love coming to work and to get ever better at doing their work. There is not much as silly as penny-pinching on staff. The only thing sillier is not making it your absolute focus to ensure that your people love coming to work and do great work every day.

6. They constantly ask themselves where the opportunities are for systemisation. Whatever can be systemised, is… That doesn’t mean every restaurant must aim to be a McDonalds, but if something can be systemised… Do so.

7. They know they can’t do it on their own. They find great advisers and they ask them for help. Just because you are a business owner doesn’t mean you will be an expert at all aspects of business. You can find great consultants, advisers, coaches and mentors to help you in tax and financial management, leadership, marketing, HR, IT, staff management, sales and every other aspect of business you are not 100% confident with. Great sports people all have great coaches on board.

Those are “The 7 Secrets”, that all business owners who build a Great Small Business have come to understand and strive to apply in their lives every day.

Salvation wears running shoes

Small Business Growth Strategy Now, just so we understand each other. Accepting these statements as true, doesn’t mean you will somehow automatically build a Great Small Business yourself.

To quote a religious friend of mine: “Salvation wears running shoes.”

In other words, it’s all about what we do with our insights.

But if you do print out those 7 Secrets as your growth strategy, laminate them, hang them above your desk and make it your mission to apply them to your life as a business owner, every day, you will start to build a Great Small Business, that sustains you for years to come…

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

#funinbusiness, #smallbusinessgrowth, #smallbusinessdevelopment, #SecretsOfGreatLeaders

Are there lies holding your growth strategy back? Download The 10 Truths for Making Your Business Grow, it’s FREE.

Small Business

How to make your small business not suck

Small Business, Business development

Business Development is the way out of the tunnel

Small Business, Business development Launching a small business is just like raising a baby and no -one can prepare you for it

I came across a question on a small business development forum the other day that caught my attention:

“I’m into my sixth month of developing my business and I’m making just enough to keep the company afloat. It’s a damn hustle and it sucks. Do most people who start small businesses feel this way?”

Great question and I started answering it in the forum, but realised after a few minutes of writing, that this is a question worth reflecting on in a bit more depth.

So the first thing to say is that the short answer to the question is: Yes, absolutely, most people do.

And the slightly longer version is: Yes, most people do, although some people experience that feeling in the first year and others experience in the second or third … But most people do “feel this way”, absolutely.

I’ll try and explain how the experience comes about in greater depth though, and what to do about it.

Business owners doing it for themselves

Most small business owners come to business because they arrive at a point in their lives where they say: I’m going to be doing it for myself, because I think I can do a better job of it than my boss.

And then they take the jump.

Detour

At this point I am going to take a little detour, with your permission: Have you ever heard new parents say: My mother and my aunt and my best friend tried to warn me, but I was still completely unprepared for parenthood. I simply didn’t appreciate what an incredible upheaval it would be to be a mother/father.

Small Business, Business development Most new parents will experience that feeling and they’ll try to pass the warning on to their own friends down the line. They’ll say something like: “Imagine how tough you think parenthood could be and then multiply that by 5”, to their friend who is contemplating starting a family. And when this friend has a child nevertheless, she remembers the warnings a year later and she’ll say: “I heard your warning, but I just didn’t understand”

It’s impossible to imagine what it’s like to be a new parent, no-one can tell you.

Raising a Healthy Bouncy Business

Here’s where the detour connects back with the main story again: A few years ago, I wrote a book called: “The Ten Truths for Raising a Healthy Bouncy Business”. (The title obviously makes a pun on Book-1_3D-250 raising a baby, and you can download the book as Ebook or Audiobook for free here). I do think that building a business has a lot of parallels with raising a baby. I believe that after creating a baby, creating a business is one of the greatest creative processes that human beings can undertake. The process starts with an idea in your head and then you go and give it a concrete form in the real world. And then you have to mother it along for years sometimes and finally you have to allow it to become independent; able to stand on its own two feet.

And just like new parents say: “We simply don’t understand what’s happened to us, everything has somehow gone to shit and yet we love our child and we love being parents”, most new business owners have a similar experience. The demands that a newly born small business can make on you as it’s parent can be shocking: Suddenly you come to believe that you must be the first one in the door in the morning, the last one out the door in the afternoon and that the only reasonable time to do the admin, the marketing, the business development, the quoting and the ordering, is at night after the kids have gone to bed, or on the weekends.

It’s all down to you

The thing that new business owners generally don’t appreciate, if they haven’t had previous small business experience, is that it’s all down to you. Every single decision is to be made by you, and every single decision you make has consequences for profitability and cashflow and development of the business. Often you’ll feel under-qualified to make those decisions and sometimes you’ll actually feel overqualified and frustrated to have to give time and attention to such decisions. (Do we have a coffee machine in the office canteen and if so what kind and where do we get the coffee from?).

It’s all on your shoulders and even if you have staff, you still have to make sure that someone actually deals with the coffee situation, not to mention the irate client on the phone or the supplier who wants to be paid or the council inspector who threatens to close your business down, because the new wheelchair ramp into your shop, doesn’t meet minimum specifications.

No-one can prepare you for what it’s like, being a small business owner. Once the initial excitement wears off, you may feel like a deer caught in the cross lights and many business owners become overwhelmed and feel stuck.

The light at the end of the tunnel

But the good news is this: There is light at the end of the tunnel (and it’s not a freight train).

Small Business, Business development The day you realise that you are like the proverbial deer and that you want to get out of those lights is the day you can start to move out of overwhelm.

The way out is with small steps and the first small step is always this:

Set aside 1 hr per week, during business hours, for the work of the business owner, as opposed to the work of the business. (Read more about the work of the business owner here). Every week for example on Monday morning at 10 am, turn off your phone, put on headphones, or go to a café and divert your email. Whatever it takes so you will not be interrupted. Take a notebook, and plan and think and strategise. Ask yourself, where do I want to be by the end of this year? To get there, what do I have to create and implement… By when… And what does that mean for this coming week?

Start small, give yourself some easy wins: very small little tasks, that take maybe 15 minutes to no more than half an hour to complete.

If you keep putting one foot in front of the other like that every week, you will get out of the tunnel and like the new parents, you will get to sleep through the night again… One day.

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

#FuninBusiness #BusinessDevelopment #Coaching #Smallbiz #Entrepreneur

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The Trouble With Goal Setting

goal setting and planning

It’s all fun and games until there’s roses to smell

goal setting planning small business the chesire cat

Confusions about Planning and Goal setting

I am confused.

I am confused about Planning and Goal setting. I don’t know anymore what’s right and wrong about Planning and Goal Setting. The more I read and the more experience I gain developing Goals and Plans with clients and for myself, the less convinced I am about them.

Goal Setting and Planning
Big Hairy Audacious Goal

I talk to my clients about Big Hairy Audacious Goals and I say to them: A Business without a Plan achieves everything in it, and I tell them that business plans must be ‘live’ documents and that we must forever be Planning, because Planning is a verb. I quote the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland, who says to Alice: “If you don’t know where you’re going any road will do”. And I explain that we must have a direction or we won’t know what decisions to make. And I have written articles stating that life is about journeys in which our goals are like our compass course and hence, without clear goals we’re doomed to sail around in circles on those journeys.

And until not long ago I also had myself one of them Big Hairy Audacious Goals myself, yessiree, and I felt I was “Walking the Talk”.

Now before I tell you about my BHAG and what happened with it, I have to give you a bit of the back story.

Getting from here to there

About 12 years ago, I started learning about coaching. At it’s most basic, coaching is the profession of helping people get from where they are now to where they’d like to be.

Typically, the process involves setting a Goal for where the client would like to be by a certain date and then developing a plan for getting there.

A simple but powerful process.

And over the past 12 years, I’ve of course set various Goals for myself. I practice what I preach after all. But none of the Goals I set ever really hit the mark and none of them ever really engaged me at a deep level, and consequently I never really achieved any of those actual Goals.

But 2 years ago, I hit upon a Goal that I thought ticked all the boxes.

I’d turned 5 goal setting and planning 5 by then and I’d published my third book, about Fun in Business and I decided that I wanted to get the ideas in the book to a wider audience; I wanted to step onto a bigger stage.
And so, I set a Goal to be delivering a TED-Talk about Fun in Business on an international stage before I turned 65.

Here finally was a goal I could get my teeth into. It met all the criteria for effective and engaging goals. It was big, scary, measurable, personal, time framed, inspiring… It ticked all the boxes.

Singing a solo in my choir

And for a while, maybe a year and a half, I started doing all the stuff I needed to do to make the BHAG come true in 10 years’ time. I joined Toastmasters and engaged a speaking coach. I started looking for opportunities to speak more and practice the craft. I took singing lessons and I put up my hand to sing a solo in my choir.

And it was fun, I stepped out of my comfort zone (especially that solo), I learned a lot, I became a better speaker, I honed my message and that’s all been good.

But now, two years later? I’ve lost all interest in becoming a speaker on global stages. It’s simply not important for me anymore. It was a great Goal for a while, but now I’ve let it go.

Other things have become more important.

There are those who read this and know me, who will be quite confused to hear me say I dropped the TED-Talk-Goal. They’ll wonder if I’m ok, if I’m depressed maybe, they’ll wonder if maybe I am afraid of failure, or they’ll wonder that maybe I don’t have what it takes to achieve big Goals.

I feeeeel good (cue James Brown)

To those I’d like to say: Don’t worry, I feel really good about dropping my Goal.

Setting the BHAG was useful for me two years ago. It got me out of a funk and got me moving. It meant I engaged with my business and my life in new ways. It renewed my enthusiasm. It meant I started having more Fun in Business again (boom boom… I couldn’t resist that one).

But now I have no need for that it anymore.

Things that are important to me at the moment (in no particular order) are:

  • My relationship with my wife
  • My grandkids (the girls… They are adorable… Honestly)
  • Doing great work with my clients
  • Being part of my communities
  • Developing my friendships
  • My family in Australia
  • My family in Holland
  • My sourdough starter (it’s my ‘preciousssss’)

So I am without BHAG at the moment. I have smaller goals such as baking a sourdough with more air bubbles in it, and getting my house in Holland ready for AirBnB, having the grandkids stay overnight at our place in the new year, and to ensure that I continue to have Fun in the work I do with my clients. But I really don’t feel the need to achieve anything Big and Hairy in the foreseeable future.

goal setting and planning The TED-Talk-Goal got me moving a few years ago, when I needed to get moving. But once I got moving, I suddenly noticed the roses along the way and I started smelling them. Who wants to focus on Big Hairy Audacious things if you can smell some roses instead?

Getting off your ass

I think this is what Goal setting should be about.

Goals are meant to be about getting inspired to get off your ass, and about directions to get off your ass into. Goals are not destinations to be reached (well the airholes in my sourdough are pretty important, but other goals? Not so much).

I get it now, achieving a Goal is not the Point, the Point is smelling the roses.

And that gets us back to the beginning of this article and my confusion.

I’m a business coach, I make my living from helping business owners achieve their Goals. It’s quite challenging to tell potential customers to: “Hire me, pay me lots of money and we’ll wonder off into the woods and smell some roses”.

Something tells me that isn’t going to be my most effective marketing strategy yet.

I don’t know exactly where these thoughts are going to lead me. But what I do know is that asking the question is important for me right now.

I’d love to hear your thoughts too. How do you think about Goals? Have you set big Goals, and actually achieved them? And then what? Is life about moving from one Goal to the next?

Thanks for tuning in to my confusion, and I’ll let you know how my sourdough develops from time to time.

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

 

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goal setting and planning

The Unstoppable Wave of Women in the Business Industry

Women in small business are doing it for themselves

The Unstoppable Wave of Women in the Business Industry

Careful you don’t cut your feet on the glass from the ceiling

The Unstoppable Wave of Women in the Business Industry At the end of July this year, the state of the glass ceiling became decidely precarious. Hillary Rodham Clinton became the nominee of the American Democratic party, to run for president of the USA.

Besides giving people the world over some hope that Donald Drumpf would not become the most powerful man in the world, women around the world are undoubtedly excited. Whether or not you like Clinton, her nomination by the Democratic party is a milestone on the road to gender equality in America and the world.

I’m hoping that by November, there will be glass flying everywhere and that I don’t cut my feet on the debris.

The biggest crack in the ceiling yet

HRC becoming the nominee of the Democratic party has made at least as big a crack in the glass ceiling as Margaret Thatcher made in the eighties in the UK, or as Gail Kennedy did in Australia when she became CEO of one of the four major banks. Even though I hated Thatcher she was at least in that respect a ground breaker, I hope the ceiling will finally be shattered in 3 months when the world is introduced to the first Madam President.

The glass ceiling in business is alive and well meanwhile. I think it’s going to take many years, probably not in my lifetime, before even in a country like Australia we’ll see as many women in executive roles as men. Understandably, many women are becoming disillusioned that they’ll ever reach anything like gender equality in the workforce.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel however and it’s called small business. Everywhere I look, in small business organisations and at networking events I see masses of women business owners. Many of my clients (small business owners) are women. And they are hungry and efficient and effective and creative and resourceful, possibly more so than men. Sure, there’s not a lot of women in the building trades, I’ve come across a few female electricians and painters, but not a lot of bricklayers for example. But aside from areas in the business industry that rely at least partly on physical strength I see women everywhere giving up on the corporate world to provide them with the opportunities they crave and decide to go and do it for themselves.

Businesses that last

And although I don’t have anything else than anecdotal evidence to back this up, I think women are more likely to build small businesses that last than men.

The most successful consultancy (Efficient Living) I’ve worked with is owned by a woman; The most successful copywriting and marketing agency I know is owned by a woman (my wife Cavalletti Communications… check them out), The most successful floristry business (Little Flowers), the most successful beauty business (Paddington Beauty Salon), the most successful architecture business (Entrance Hall), are all owned by women, and I could go on.

My own daughter in law started a landscaping business after turning her back on the bureaucracy of the Education system (Excelsa Landscapes). Two years on and she’s doing everything right. She’s focused, disciplined, smart and above all, she wants this, now. As a woman she knows she has an opportunity, that she must grab and there isn’t a moment to lose. In a few years she wants to have kids (and I’ll be grandpa again) and by that stage the business simply must be in a state that she can manage it at arm’s length while having the baby(ies). Men don’t always feel those imperatives, I can tell you I didn’t. As a result many men bumble along much longer I think; if it doesn’t happen this year, next year will do and if it doesn’t work out we’ll go and do something else. But for my daughter in law it’s now or never, and she’s rolled up her sleeves and she’s doing it now.

Women in Europe’s business industry

I’ve noticed the same thing the world over. I have spent the last few weeks in Western Europe, where my whole large family lives and there are a lot more women than men in that family in the 30 to 50 range that have started their own businesses of some sort.

The statistics in Holland are staggering. In the last few years, since the GFC, the number of self employed people has jumped from about 300,000 to more than a million and much more than 50% of those people are women.

Small business doesn’t care whether you’re male or female. If you do what you say you’ll do, if you respond promptly to your inquiries, if you charge a reasonable fee, people will find you and hire you.

As I mentioned, I’ve been in Holland for the past 6 weeks in relation to the illness and death of my mother. While I was there helping my mother through the last stage of her life, she was cared for by a number of 24hr nurses, doctors and other care givers.

  • And they were all women.
  • And they were all self employed, every single one of them.
  • And they were all fantastic.

‘Nough Said.

(And Dear God… Please don’t that disgusting demagogue Donald Drumpf become President… pretty please!)

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The Problem With Goal Setting

island

The Problem with Goal Setting

How to set goals that make a difference

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I’ve got a big goal:
TED In January 2024, I am delivering a talk to a global audience at a TED conference in either the USA or the UK, about Small Business, Overwhelm, Fun in Business and the Business Growth myth.”

I committed to this Goal a few months ago and let me tell you, as Goals go, it’s a big one. To achieve it I have to not only step outside my comfort zone, I have to shut the door behind me and stay there.

Until now I haven’t set many Goals for myself, and that may sound odd for someone who calls himself a business coach. Business coaches are supposed to be all about Goal setting and accountability.

And that is true, but most Goal setting operates from a flawed premise.

You see, the typical approach to goal setting goes something like this: Visualise what you really want to achieve and make it as real and concrete and measurable as possible and then create a plan to achieving that thing… And Bob’s your uncle.

What’s wrong

There are three things wrong with that approach:

1.    The world changes all the time.
2.    You change all the time
3.    And most of the Goals we set through that process are actually not very inspiring.

Let me explain:

Common examples of Goals are: “We’ve doubled our revenue” or “We’ve made $250,000 net profit” or “I can afford to buy myself thattropical-island Mercedes I’ve always wanted” or “I’m taking the family on a holiday to (insert tropical island resort)”.

Lovely Goals, wouldn’t you agree?

Sadly though, none of those goals are likely to have much impact on your business or your life.

Here is the problem:

Traditional Goal setting in business is crystal ball gazing. A Goal along the lines of: “100% profit growth in 2014” makes all sorts of assumptions about what 2014 might look like and about what your life might look like in 2014. It may be that the world economy dives back into a GFC type of crisis next year and a great achievement might simply be to survive. Alternatively the economy may experience a boom of some sort and doubling profit growth will hardly be much of an achievement.

And you yourself of course are even more likely to undergo change over the course of a year. The circumstances of your life can change radically, your health can change, you might fall in love or have babies. Any number of things can come up during a year and change what’s possible, desirable or important.

Aaron

I worked with a client some years ago who owned a design agency, let’s call him Aaron. We worked together for a period of 9 months covering the last three quarters of the financial year. When we started work, Aaron decided that he wanted the business to grow 20% in the year, make $150,000 net profit, grow from employing 5 to 7 designers, move to a new office, pay himself 25% more salary, and sign a contract with a big financial institution.

A few months in I started noticing that Aaron was losing his usual enthusiasm and I checked in with him about that. It turned out that Aaron was getting worried that his goal wasn’t going to be achieved, because parts of his Goal turned out to be much more challenging that he had imagined. Specifically, the company was currently on track to only make $100,000 net profit.

Also, the more time Aaron spent looking into opportunities with the big institutions, the less excited he was feeling about working with them. While on the other hand, Aaron’s business had recently landed a job with a mid-size engineering firm and the early signs were that this was exactly the kind of client, Aaron and his team enjoyed working with.

Yet Aaron was down on himself for not being able to stick to his Goal.

The unknowns

I explained to Aaron that the thing to understand about committing to a Goal is that it is designed on the basis of information we have available at the time we create the Goal. If it turns out later that the information was flawed in some way, it makes sense to adjust the Goal in line with the new information.

For Aaron to continue to chase contracts with big banks when he’d come to the conclusion that there were better opportunities available elsewhere would be stupid.

winston Churchill is reported to have replied when he was accused of changing his mind:
“Yes, I do that when I find I’m wrong… What do you do?”

Maybe Aaron needed to explore the engineering industry further instead of the big finance world, and maybe, feeling frustrated about making $100,000 profit instead of $150,000 was not all that useful either.

No more firm Goals?

Does that mean that we shouldn’t have firm Goals anymore? On the contrary. Well framed firmly defined Goals can be an enormous help to staying out of Overwhelm and into having more Fun in business and building a business that sustains you for years to come. However a Goal to make $150,000 profit, will not motivate you. It might sound exciting, but it is an arbitrary number and whether you make $100K or $150K is not interesting to your brain, especially not your sub-conscious brain.

Out of your comfort zone

The only truly motivating Goal, a Goal that pushes you out of your comfort zone and keeps you there, just like my Goal to talk at a TED- conference, is a Goal that is about your own growth as a business owner, as a manager, as a leader, and as a person.

comfort-zoneWhat that meant for Aaron was that he changed his Goal to this:

“On 30 June the business is humming, everybody is having a ball, our cash reserves are growing, our strategies are in place for next year and I am walking the talk of being a true business owner.”

As soon as we framed this Goal, Aaron found his enthusiasm again.

Aaron achieved all his Goals that year and threw a big party on the 30th of June.

The day after the party Aaron and I designed a new Goal for the next year that was just as inspiring as the last one and Aaron and his business have continued to thrive ever since.

Not ready

Back to me and my Goal. It has taken me a while to set and commit to such a big Goal. The reason it took me a while is simply that I wasn’t ready. Now I am and I’ve found the same level of enthusiasm about my Goal that Aaron had a few years ago about his Goal.

So… how far do you want to grow as a business owner in 2014, and what Goal are you prepared to commit to?

I’d love to hear… drop me a line, and… I look forward to seeing you in the audience in 2024.

roland Cheers,
Roland Hanekroot

Call me if you’d like to explore how I can help you have more FUN running 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 or webinars… follow this link