Guiding Questions

September 7th, 2017

I have recently had a number of my newer clients get in touch with me to ask what I think about an action they are considering taking. On each occasion this has happened I have found myself thinking “they know the answer to this”, and are simply asking for re-assurance. Sure enough by the time I have asked a few questions surrounding the query, invariably the answer is staring them in the face, and the right decision is made.

Now I don’t mind my clients asking me questions or my opinion on things (in fact I actively encourage it) but the secret is never to just give them the answer, but to ask them questions, so that they are led to their own logical conclusions, which was invariably what they were thinking in the first place.

There are two key benefits of this. First it makes them think for themselves, and learn to ask themselves the questions so that they feel more and more confident in their ability to lead. Secondly they learn how to use this same technique with their own teams, so that their staff become gradually more empowered, and learn how to take responsibility for their own decisions.

Of course we don’t all know the right answer to everything (my clients or me) and part of my role as a coach is to act as a sounding board, so between us we examine the options and hopefully take things in the right direction. Ultimately, however, it is all about helping people to grow in their abilities, and in their self-confidence, so they are able to make the right decisions on their own more often than not.

A Leap of Faith

August 8th, 2017

Are things slowing down in the economy now Brexit negotiations are underway, and the levels of uncertainty begin to grow? Sadly it still seems that there are those around who are hoping that things will start to go badly just so they can say “told you so”. In reality I am still seeing lots of positives everywhere with businesses in many different sectors forging ahead.

Building work, joinery, electricians, blinds, transport, computers and lawn mowers to name but a few all seem to be thriving, and on the whole it is still a matter of getting them to find time to see me, rather than sitting there wondering where the next piece of business will come from. The longer good things continue, hopefully the less likely it will be that the “nay-sayers” get their way, and we will then perhaps start to move forward as one, rather than half the population longing to see what happens once a whole raft of new opportunities arise, while the other half is doing everything in their power to stop it.

The phrase “cut off your nose to spite your face” springs to mind all too readily at the moment. Of course I understand that people have concerns, and may well in some instances be justifiably worried about the future. However it is incredibly difficult to learn how to swim whilst holding onto the side with one hand (trust me I know from bitter experience, literally rather than metaphorically). If we continue to hold onto the past (which I should point out was never that great for us in terms of what we got from the EU) we are never going to be able to benefit from the opportunities which lie ahead.

It is no doubt a bit of a leap into the dark, but speaking for myself, who took a chance to become a business coach, and the 250 or so business owners who have worked with me, and also let go, I believe sincerely it will be well worth it for all of us.

Maintaining Momentumn

July 27th, 2017

Sometimes when I have been working with a client for a while, they start to feel almost too over-confident in their situation and complacency can creep in. They are no longer worrying about cash flow, or where the next piece of business is coming from, and essentially they relax into a new comfortable place, having worked, and been pushed, hard to get to this situation. The trouble is that if this is still not their end goal it can be very hard to stir them to move to the next level.

Essentially people in this situation have had to do and learn all sorts of new disciplines, and have therefore found themselves out of their comfort zone for a good amount of time while they have been changing things. This can be extremely tiring both mentally and physically, so when they reach a level of relative “success” and calm, it is often very tempting to stay there. It is my job as a coach to help them not to get too comfortable at that stage, as invariably this is not yet a position which will allow them to have the lifestyle and the money they are after to achieve the goals they originally set down.

So how can this be done:
1. Remind them how they felt when things were tight on the cash flow front; get them to put themselves back in that position of stress.
2. Keep dangling “the dream” in front of them so they can see the life that they are striving to achieve.
3. Emphasise the positives of their business, and again remind them of the excitement of landing great new deals or contracts.

Of course there is only so much a coach can do, and in the end it is the business owner alone who decides if he or she really wants the life they envisaged at the outset.

Team Organisation

July 11th, 2017

Do you ever feel that your team are ignoring you, or not listening to you? Time and again you tell people what to do, or what to expect of them, and they continually seem to get things wrong. So what can you do to change their behaviour?

Here are 5 suggestions of some actions you can take.

1. Write down your organisational structure, with clear roles and responsibilities to clarify exactly what you expect of each of your employees, and who they are answerable to.

2. Get clear systems written for each of the tasks which they are responsible for, make sure they understand them, check they know how to follow them, and then make sure they adhere to them.

3. Hold your team accountable for their actions. If they continually fail to do what they have been asked to do, or do things in the wrong way, explain there will be consequences, and take them through the disciplinary procedure.

4. Write down instructions, or perhaps better still, get your staff to write things down. Most people communicate visually, so they need to be able to read not just hear what they should be doing.

5. Stop team members from getting involved in tasks which are not their responsibility. This should give them more time to concentrate on what they are responsible for, and get it right first time.

By implementing these steps you will quickly see a change in your team’s behaviour, overall an improvement in their productivity levels, and a reduction in mistakes and problems.

Moving Forwards

June 19th, 2017

So how are businesses going to react to all the uncertainty which is flying about at the moment? Brexit negotiations about to start, a severely weakened government in power, and an ever increasingly divided populace.

The answer of course, is “who knows”. We can all speculate as to what we think may happen, but that is largely guess work. So what do we need to do to ensure our businesses continue to thrive, or at the very least maintain stability?

Having control of your business is the key thing. Keep a watchful eye on your cash flow, and if necessary check bank accounts on a daily basis so you can for see potential problems which lie ahead. Manage your team carefully, and make sure they are following systems, doing what you expect of them and hitting their targets. By this you can ensure that time management is also under control, and that you keep productivity levels up. Keep an eye on costs as well, and make sure that your cost of sales (COS) and wages are watched carefully so you can maintain or improve your margins.

From my point of view, we continue to pick up new business, and most if not all my clients appear to be growing and flourishing. So it would seem that the future is very positive, and despite the turmoil all around, if you concentrate on your own business, and manage it carefully, you have every chance of weathering the storm, and coming out the other side stronger.

Letting Go

May 4th, 2017

No doubt I have written about this on many occasions before, but it is something which is an issue for so many business owners, and it makes such a difference when they finally start to let go.

I was recently with one of my clients, a husband and wife business, with one other employee, and the husband was busy complaining that not only did he do everything on the sales front, but he had to do things which he expected his wife to do as well. The trouble is that because he is a classic business owner who wants to keep control, and because he was often in the car between sales meetings he would call his wife to check on her and his employee sometimes 5 or more times a day. His wife pointed out that whilst this was not eating into his time because he was in the car, it was taking probably an hour or more out of her time, and that was a large part of her reason for not being able to do the tasks which were her responsibility.

We are now working on stopping him from making disruptive calls, and getting him to focus on the key things he should be doing, whilst trusting his wife and employee to get on without interrupting them.

If you are a business owner who is wary of letting go, because your team “can’t” do what you have charged them with, ask yourself is it really them or is it you that is the problem?

If it is you, and you don’t know how to change, why not get a business coach to help you to “let it go”.

Keep Learning

April 13th, 2017

One of the things I often say to the prospects I go to see, is that I assume as business owners they know what they should be doing, especially if they have been running a profitable business for a while. However, the difference between knowing something and actually doing something is considerable, and one of the reasons why business owners get a bit stuck, and the business stagnates, is because they simply don’t do the things they know will make a positive difference to how their business moves forward.

Another thing which many business owners fail to do, is to keep on learning and developing themselves. The same complacency which lulls them into not taking continuous positive actions, also convinces them that they already know all the answers, and they don’t need to learn new things. This inward looking, perhaps slightly over-confident attitude, can often be the start of a business stalling and then bit by bit regressing while others take their market share and gradually ease them to the back of the queue.

So I always urge my clients to keep an open mind on things, and constantly look for new sources of knowledge and ideas. Networking is often a good way of doing this, as there are different people with different opinions who can challenge your way of looking at things.

Seminars and workshops also help to remind you of things you already know (but don’t do), and of course give you new ideas, and often teach you things you never knew. So don’t cut yourself off from the outside world because you think there is nothing more to be learned. Find meetings and seminars which you can go to, and pick some here and there which will teach you and inspire you. You never know it could change your business. If you would like to start the process with an interesting and varied early morning presentation, keep your eyes peeled and come along to our next event.

No Stone Unturned

March 2nd, 2017

One of my favourite cartoons, possibly in Punch magazine or some such publication was a picture of a whole load of sea birds sitting on some rocks beside a packet of drugs which had washed up on the shore, with the punch line underneath, “No tern, unstoned”.

The reason I bring this up is because, I have recently had the phrase, “no stone unturned” drawn to mind a couple of times by clients who were trying to achieve something really important to them without perhaps investigating all the options.

What I always coach my clients to do, is to examine any given situation as fully as possible, decide on what needs to be done, and then do everything you can to make sure the right outcome arises. For example if you are chasing after a new client, don’t just call once and immediately take no for an answer. Think about what else you could say or do, and keep going back until either you get a positive outcome, or you genuinely exhaust all the options you have considered. Of course things don’t always work out exactly as you had planned or hoped, but you should always be able to think “well I did everything I could” rather than “if only…” or “I wonder if….” Because that will leave you feeling cross with yourself, or that you have let yourself down (and potentially your team).

So remember, what ever it is that really matters, and could make a significant difference to your business or your life, make sure you leave “no stone unturned”, and at least then you know that you have done your best. If you find it hard to push things to the limit, then get yourself a coach who won’t let you off the hook.

Clear Direction

February 21st, 2017

What do you do when you have an employee who you believe is potentially a real asset to the business, but who is clearly under performing, and even showing signs of apathy or laziness? Well, you can take them through the disciplinary procedures, and ultimately sack them, or you can persevere, and try to get them to realise their potential.

The second of these two options is clearly the better one, but for many the time and effort it can require to change their ways can be too much, and so in the end they become another victim of taking the easiest route.

I was recently working with one of my clients who has just this issue. They have a young employee just below management level, and whilst he clearly has many of the ideal aspects they need, he is simply lazy, and does things to the barest minimum, just to get by. Part of the problem lies with the line manager who has not made it clear where his responsibilities lie, and also that the line manager is too quick to take things off the young persons hands (because it is easier and quicker to do so). Unfortunately this gives out all the wrong signals, and it just encourages laziness, and re-inforces that that type of behaviour is acceptable.

To be fair to the line manager, he is trying very hard to improve this person’s performance levels, but so far has met with stubborn resistance.

So we have decided to change things, both in terms of where people sit physically (so it is harder to pass work over to the line manager) and also to work out a bonus system which should encourage him to take on more responsibility. If he hits his targets, it will significantly improve his monthly income, and it will therefore be beneficial to him, his line manager and to the business as a whole.

Manage and Direct

February 7th, 2017

While coaching one of my clients recently, I was reminded of the importance of managing your team, and not simply letting them get on with things. This particular client has done extremely well, and has moved things on significantly, in fact so much so that she now has a General Manager in place, and feels very strongly that the business can largely run without her. Getting to this stage is the aim of most business owners, but just because the business runs without them, doesn’t mean that they should take their hands off the steering wheel completely.

The thing is unless you have taken the view that you really want nothing to do with the business at all, it is essential that as Managing Director (which most business owners are) you must continue to do just that i.e. manage and direct.

In this particular instance there were already a few warning signals appearing, whereby despite there being clear actions for the General Manager to have carried out, none of them had been taken forward, and my suspicions were that this was because no-one was being held accountable.

When I asked the business owner if the actions had been completed she was unsure whether they had been or not, and in the end I had to ask the question of others to see what had and had not been done.

Providing the owner changes their ways and starts to hold regular meetings checking what has been completed in terms of actions agreed, then no harm will be done, and they will move forward efficiently, and at the pace set by the owner. However, if this situation is allowed to continue so that it becomes the norm, standards could quickly start to slip, sales targets could be missed, and it will be harder to get control back in place.