The Slippery Slope

November 23rd, 2017

Isn’t it so easy to let things slip? You set up a regime, get into a routine, follow all your systems closely for ages, and bit by bit you start to cut corners and let things slip, and before you know it, you’re right back where you started!

On a personal level, I have recently fallen into this trap with my weight. Two years ago I realised that I was starting to get decidedly ”porky”, and as a result wasn’t feeling on top form all the time, and got breathless playing sport. So I set myself a target to lose 1 stone over 3 months, which I did, and then for the next 18 months kept it around that level. However, I have noticed over the last couple of months I have started to let things drift a bit, and very slowly my weight has crept up 3-4 lbs. Fortunately I have people who hold me accountable to keeping to my BMI, and so I am determined to halt this trend, and will have things back on track by Christmas, with a view to losing a bit more in the New Year.

So you say, this is all pretty trivial, what has it to do with business? Well nothing directly, but recently I met with one of my clients who had not felt the need to see me for 6 months, and exactly the same sort of thing had happened to him. He had stopped maintaining his cash flows, stopped holding his sales teams to their targets, and allowed procedures and controls to slip. As a result his bottom line was starting to look a lot less healthy.

I am now back working with him on a regular monthly basis and we will soon have things back on track. We have put new measures in place, and got the whole team on board, so that everyone can help in growing the business and making it more profitable again.

The thing is, unless you are one of the unusual people who never need to be motivated or pushed; inherently we all tend to slip into our bad habits. So if you want to avoid this, why not speak to a coach?

Stepping Back

October 12th, 2017

I recently met a business owner who was a classic case with regards to time management, and finding that there is a limit to how much one person can do.

He has grown a successful, profitable business, but has now reached a point at which unless he takes a step back and gets more controls in place, it could all come crashing down around his ears.

When he started, as with most owners, he found that life was quite good, and he was time rich, on account of only having a few customers. He could spend time with his family and go on holiday with them, and he enjoyed all that. However, as things have expanded he now finds he is out of the door early in the day, doing the practical work all day long till 5 or 6 pm, and then going on to do visits and quotes for a further hour or more.

Finally when he gets home he has time for a quick meal, but then has to settle down until midnight to do all the admin and invoicing. Consequently he now seldom has any time for his family; he is behind on many aspects of the business, and his cash flow id starting to suffer.

Of course this is a very typical situation for many if not most business owners, and one which any of you reading this will easily recognise. In fact many will be experiencing this scenario right now, and no doubt wondering how can this ever get better?

However, it can and will improve, providing you address these issues, sooner rather than later. As a coach I can help business owners to analyse their situation, provide solutions, and then take you step by step to a place where once again you can enjoy your business, and have time to spend with your family.

Knowing Your Market

September 28th, 2017

I was recently working with one of my clients, and having reached a stage where we had got the key controls and base in place, we were starting to look at how we would grow the business.

Now this is a pretty secure business, which has been bringing in a lot of new business through word of mouth, and there is also a lot of repeat business from long established customers so there were a number of things to consider.

First, if he grows the business significantly or too quickly can he deal with it and ensure he continues to provide a high quality service, and high standards of work. He has recently taken on a new team member, so for the time being he is confident that he still has spare capacity so that is OK (but he will need to watch this, and we have already put plans in motion for taking on a new employee next year).

Secondly, who are his target markets? This is a vital consideration to take into account, because if he is not clear on who he wishes to get increased business from, he runs the risk of getting his “How” wrong. In other words if he uses the wrong marketing strategies, he will miss his intended market. So analysis of his ideal customers is essential so he makes the right decisions as to what marketing he will do initially.

Thirdly he needs to know his numbers. How many leads is he already getting, what are his conversion rates for the different leads he gets, and what is his average sale to each type of customer? This will not only help him to ensure he is targeting the right markets, but it will also help him to set increased numbers in each of these areas, thereby securing the growth he requires.

Grow, Manage and Protect

September 21st, 2017

This week I want to let people know about a workshop we are presenting on 5th October. We are holding this at the Weston Homes Community Stadium, from 7.15am to 9.00am, so as with most networking meetings it will be done and dusted before the day has started.

There will be 3 x 20 minute presentations, on how to grow, manage and protect your business. I will be speaking about the coaching process which I take business owners through. Explaining how to set goals, so you know where you are taking the business to and why, how to get a business structure in place to support your goals, and how to get control over time, team and money, so the business can work without the owner.

This will be followed by Steven Burton (Accountants) who will be explaining how clients can manage their financial and tax responsibilities. He will also explain how “real time” accounting is becoming more the norm, especially as it is only a matter of time before we will all have to do tax returns on a quarterly basis.

Finally Lee Parker of Coversure, will be going through how to protect your hard earned money, by keeping your business insured, in which, you may be surprised, there are many aspects to consider.

This is our 2nd workshop, and we already have attendees who have benefited hugely from the knowledge they gained.

We can therefore highly recommend coming along to this meeting, where we guarantee you will learn at least one gem of information.

Surely that’s worth getting up a little earlier for, and perhaps making the difference to your business and your life.

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”.